Best things to do in Capital Region and sightseeing in Capital Region
Reykjavik - Capital Region
I largely covered the first day and the trip out in an earlier post, and given England got knocked out of the World Cup that night, I don’t think any more needs to be said. The next day we had a wander to the big concrete church (Hallgrimskirkja), and up the tower to great views of the colourful city below. As with almost everything in Iceland (except the amazing natural sights once you get away from the city), there is a fee, but it’s slightly less than a pint to get up there, so it’s not too unreasonable and I think the view is well worth it. After a coffee, and some food we decided to head out towards some hills for a bit of a walk. After poring through a couple of maps, we decided on a hill a bit to the north of the town that would do for a bit of a wander round. Mosfell, as it turned out to be called, ended up being about a 2-and-a-half mile hike, starting from a beautiful little church (with pretty mMosfell Churchuch nothing else around), and going up quite a pleasant path (with quite helpful orange route markers ever 100 metres or so), through lupins and around huge volcanic rock formations, until the summit. The next day, back in Reykjavik, we headed for the National Museum, which accounted across two floors for the thousand-or-so years of Icelandic history. As national museums go (having seen a few across several countries now – and they’re always worth a visit!), it was quite good, and although it could have done with a bit more depth in parts, it still took most of the morning to get around, especially when the free (English language) tour was included.
Sun Voyager - Capital Region
To quote Wikipedia, "Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun. Intrinsically, it contains within itself the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom." With no map, I relied on the directions provided by the locals who speak English very well. Funny thing, when I arrived at the sculpture there was a group of about seven photographers with their tripods taking photos of the sculpture. I waited about fifteen minutes and they weren't budging. Finally, I photobombed their shot. Sorry fellow photographers but I was tired and in a rush to get home and make pasta!
The Pearl - Capital Region
We drove around a few neighbourhoods and then up to the "Pearl". This is actually six huge hot water storage tanks overlooking Reykjavik, and they have built a restaurant and lookout on top of the tanks. It's actually a pretty neat place and there are also quite a few short hiking trails in the land surrounding the Pearl.
Rejkjavik - Capital Region
Downtown Reykjavik – Even the city center of Reykjavik is well-endowed with mother nature. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean with waterfront paths stretching around the entire peninsular. There are many beautiful places to stop and admire the scenery on these coastal paths, which are very popular among joggers and cyclists. It is also home to the striking Sun Voyager – the symbol of Reykjavik, a massive steel sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason which may resemble a Viking ship, but is in fact a dream boat and ode to the sun. From here, we can spot the view of Mount Esja standing tall and mighty. Do walk over the Old Harbour. Apart from it being a beautiful place to walk with stunning views across the bay to Mount Esja, the Old Harbour area is where the majority of marine activities, such as whale watching and puffin tours are concentrated; it’s also home to the excellent Viking Maritime Museum. Visit Hallgrímskirkja church, Reykjavík’s main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. So if you are lost in the city, spot for the its tower. Remember to chill along Tjörnin pond. Tjörnin, which is surrounded by the impressive Reykjavík City Hall and numerous beautifully coloured old houses, is a natural pond and home to countless ducks, swans and geese that even stay for the entire winter season thanks to a little geothermal heating.
Reykjavík - Capital Region
Reykjavik Excursions - Capital Region
We were up early again yesterday because Reykjavik Excursions was picking us up at our hotel at 8:30am for the Golden Circle day tour. This is one of their most popular tours, and if you only have a short time in Iceland then it's a good way to see some interesting sights that are fairly close by. This tour takes you about 120 kms (75 miles) inland from Reykjavik, heading pretty much straight east. First stop along the way is a greenhouse where they show you how they are growing their own tomatoes and cucumbers here in Iceland, and they are doing it year round! Iceland is fairly expensive in a lot of ways, but two things that are cheap and abundant are hot water and electricity. So these greenhouses have tapped into the natural hot springs and the water supply keeps the greenhouses at a constant temperature year round. The lighting is all computerized to make use of the short periods of natural daylight that occurs during winter as well as the long days of summer. Computers also control humidity and CO2 which are important for perfect tomatoes. The tomatoes are totally natural and no pesticides of any kind are used.
Fish Market (Fiskmarkaðurinn) - Capital Region
Located in the city downtown area of Aðalstræti, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland, we came to know of Fiskmarkaðurinn through visitor guides and subsequently made our way down for a special meal at this lavish restaurant one fine night. Loosely translated as 'fish market', the restaurant offered a repertoire of exotic Icelandic meat, ranging from puffin to whale to cod. Each dish was presented beautifully, and the service was great! Although it was a pretty lavish restaurant, it seemed really popular and we waited close to an hour for a table for 8. We were told that we were lucky to have been able to get a table without making reservations, so I'm guessing booking beforehand would have been a good move. I can't remember which dish is which, but we had appetizers to share like puffin, whale, beef,, our main courses were a good mix of monk fish, cod, bass, volcano maki, etc. They were all pretty decent, but our Singaporean taste buds had us concluding that puffin tastes like char siew and whale tastes like fishy beef.
Aðalstræti - Capital Region
As mentioned, even the downtown streets have a peculiar quiet charm about them! Commercially, there are the usual international brands that are housed here as well as local craft shops which support Scandinavian designers. There are also tons of souvenir shops in the belt of Kringlan, which stocks merchandise from puffin plushies to viking hats. We were amused by a restaurant logo which resembled the London tube logo, which caught our eye almost immediately. There's a small tourist office located at Adalstraeti 2, 101 Reykjavik if you happen to get lost. You can also get glimpses of the mountain ranges or the Hallgrimskirkja church, which is a tall building with staggered step-like architecture with a bell tower (you can pay 6 Kronas to get to the top for a panoramic view of the city.)
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur - Capital Region
If you type "Iceland hot" into Google, the second keyword you get is hot dogs, and boy are they right! I'm no fan of hot dog buns but this really made it in my good books. If you happen to travel down to Iceland, please do yourself a favour and go down to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur to grab a standard hot dog snack. Serving them for more than 60 years, the stand's name can be loosely translated as 'Town's best'. The bits of crispy onion and honey mustard blends well together to bring out the flavour of this humble snack, we loved it so much that we snagged some last-minute ones en route to the airport. They cost 280 ISK.
Centerhotel Plaza - Capital Region
This is the largest of the CenterHotels group of five hotels in downtown Reykjavik. It has 180 rooms and it's located (as the name suggests) right in the plaza of downtown. The rooms are large and the view over the plaza is bustling with activity. CenterHotel Plaza rates are between €75 and €100 ($94 to $125) per night if you book in advance. This is pretty reasonable for downtown Reykjavik, and once again there is added value because of the great breakfast. We had no complaints with our visit to CenterHotel Plaza. If we had to think of a downside, it might be that it can be fairly busy at the plaza itself so you might get some outside noise on weekends. We had no issues though.
Centerhotel Arnarhvoll - Capital Region
Our second night in Reykjavik was spent at the CenterHotel Arnarvholl, a slightly more upscale hotel in the Reykjavik downtown area. This hotel is right on the waterfront, and a lot of rooms face the water. This room was a deluxe double...slightly larger and with an beautiful view. It's a little more expensive than our stay at the CenterHotel Klopp, at €115 ($143.75) per night. A standard double room can be had for €90 ($112.00) per night. The CenterHotel Arnarvholl also has a classy restaurant on the 8th floor overlooking the water. A stunning view, and that's where the breakfast buffet takes place. Once again, breakfast is included in your room rate.
Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre - Capital Region
Elding Whale Watching - Capital Region
So, we got to the boat on the south shore and everybody got on board. As soon as we got going, they explained the safety rules and also said that we might be warmer and more comfortable with one of the "overalls" they had available for us to wear. It can get pretty cold out there, even though it was a bright sunny day. The temperature was about 10C (50F), but it was still really windy. I figured I was okay with what I had on, but Ruth decided to put on the suit they offered.And then the excitement started. No, I couldn't get any decent pictures. But everyone was scooting from one side of the boat to the other and then to the front while Sunna was directing us to look out for a pod of harbour porpoises. Sure enough, we did see these small marine mammals a couple of times before they disappeared, but the strong winds made getting a photo of these guys pretty tough. These porpoises average between 5 and 6 feet in length. And then, as we were getting close to the harbour, we spotted a group of white beaked dolphins. We think there were four of them, and they played and swam around for a while, but they are pretty quick, and again no decent pictures. But we had fun watching these slightly larger creatures. Still not as big as a whale, but the white beaked dolphin grows to between 7 and 10 feet long. We had a fun time, despite the fact that the whales didn't co-operate. Elding knows what they're doing with this whale watching stuff, and they make every effort to make sure you can see something. We stayed out there for almost four hours and they investigated every possibility. It just didn't happen. Glad we did see the porpoises and dolphins though, so that made it all worthwhile.
People who've been to Capital Region
Kevin and Ruth