And now, finally, the last stop on my trip, Reykjavik. This was my first time in Iceland and it seems like it’s been all the rage in the last few years for people I know, so I was pretty jazzed for it.
My flight from Berlin didn’t land until nearly midnight on a Thursday night so it had been a long day, but the trip from the airport to Reykjavik itself takes another 45ish minutes so it wasn’t over yet. That, of course, is after you get your bags and get on a bus. By the time I arrived at my Airbnb, it was nearly 2am and I was beeeeeeeaaaaaat 😴😴😴😴😴😴. Luckily, it was easy to find from where the bus dropped me off and the key to get in was in a lockbox outside so there was no issue getting in. I crashed immediately.
The Airbnb was super centrally located in downtown Reykjavik, within 5-10 minutes walking distance from almost everything I did while there. And my window gave a beautiful, though partially obstructed, view to the north. The room was very tiny, but it was more than adequate for my needs.
One of the first things I noticed was the hot water smelled strongly of sulfur. I didn’t know this ahead of time, but this is because the it’s naturally heated in Reykjavik—though, some other parts of Iceland heat the cold water instead. The cold water is very crisp and clean, though! Still, the sulfur-smelling hot water is very safe to use for showering and such.
Downtown Reykjavik is pretty small so getting around on foot is very easy and most of the things to see in the city are right there for you. Anything outside of the city requires renting a car or taking a bus tour.
Thanks to nice, cool weather, in the 40s and 50s, running in Iceland was great. I felt strong and fast, despite how exhausted my body was.
My first run was 10k-ish based on a couple routes I had found on sites dedicated to running in Iceland. I ran along the water on the northern part of the city and up to Harpa, then up through part of the city and around Hljómskálagarður and its lake, Tjörnin, and Reykjavik City Hall. From there, I ran up to the domestic airport and did a loop entirely around it, running along the beaches there and by one of the hot springs. There were so many amazing views from here! Finally, I looped back towards Hljómskálagarður and finished up there.
My second run was the Reykjavik Half Marathon. Since I already wrote about that separately, I won’t go into much detail, but it was a great race and a ton of fun! I can’t wait to go back one day for the full marathon.
Before the half marathon, I did a four mile warm up to make sure I’d hit my 17 scheduled miles for the day. This run was mostly along the northern shore of the city. I ran east first, and up along part of the course, and then turned around to head back to the west and around Harpa again before turning up to the start of the race.
In general, Reykjavik felt like an amazing place to run. Though, I can imagine it gets pretty tough in the winter.
I had SOOO many places on my list to check out for meals. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit them all up, but I wanted to do my best.
I’ll note right off the bat, eating in Iceland is expensive. You probably have heard this before, but this is coming from someone who lives in Jersey City / NYC. Meals were quite not cheap!
First up was The Laundromat Café for a late breakfast / early lunch. This place was super yummy with a great atmosphere and friendly staff. I followed it up with my first of two trips to Valdís for ice cream. Did I mention that I ate ice cream every day of my trip? Well, I did!
Late lunch / early dinner that day was at Lemon, a juice bar and healthy style sandwich place. Their menu had so many great options and I wanted to try them all! I ended up going with the Pescado (tomato, mozzarella, avocado, and pesto) and a Good Times juice. Holy shit that sandwich was amazing! It was so simple, but so fucking good!
After Lemon, I met up with my brewery “tour” to go to Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson ehf. I put tour in quotes because this was less a tour and more a drowning in beer. The tour part was very short, about ten minutes. The rest was sitting in a bar at the brewery while learning about the history of beer in Iceland—it was illegal until 1989!! Ölgerðin is Iceland’s oldest brewery and actually opened 1913, two years before prohibition went into effect. They survived by producing soft drinks and such.
The moment we walked into the brewery, we were handed pints of beer and told those pints would be endless. They weren’t kidding! As soon as you’d finish, they’d fill it back up. We also tried a number of their other beers, including their Pride beer which they were very proud of, and a brew that was a collaboration with Cigar City brewery in Florida. Each beer we tried was about 6oz each. Considering I was running a half marathon the next morning, this was not the smartest way to spend my night, but it certainly was delicious!
After the tasting, I went to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for hot dogs with some of the people I’d been chatting with at the brewery. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur was recommended to me as pretty much the best place for hot dogs in the city, which is already known for its hot dogs. Their menu is basically…hot dogs and a few topping options. That’s all they do. And they were fantastic!
The next morning, after the half marathon, I got a danish from Köku Kompaníið and then hit up Kaffitár for coffee. From there, I was off to the Secret Lagoon where I enjoyed a fish and chips after my wonderful soak.
Dinner was at Sushi Social. Sushi Social used to be called Sushi Samba until Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes went there and led to them being sued by an American restaurant of the same name. The atmosphere was like a fancy lounge kinda vibe and it was quite busy still, even though I was rolling up around 11pm. I ordered a chef’s special prix fix option from the menu to try a few different things. The menu didn’t say what would be included, just that it would be chef’s selections. However, the menu did include minke whale and whale was not something I wanted to eat.
When the first course came, the server told me what it was, but I couldn’t hear her. It looked and tasted like beef, but what she said didn’t sound anything like it could have been “beef” or “steak.” Still, I didn’t think anything of it until two courses later when what I was served was definitely beef (which I clearly heard her say). Now, I don’t know what whale tastes like, but it is a mammal so I’d expect it to taste similar to land-based mammalian meat. And it’s unlikely that two of the courses would have been beef. Though, I guess it’s also possible it was horse meat, but I don’t remember seeing horse on the menu and I also really don’t want to eat horse. Sooooooo yeah, I think I ate 🐋 and I’m kinda not too happy about it.
My next meal was at the Black Beach Cafe while on a Southern Iceland tour. This was mostly like a tourist kinda stop, but the soup and sandwich I had were both pretty good.
For dinner, I hit up Noodle Station for a GIGANTIC spicy noodle bowl with a couple of people from the tour. It was delicious! And then we followed that up with my second trip to Valdís for ice cream.
On my last morning in Iceland, I stopped at Brauð & Co for a delicious cinnamon roll to nom down while on my way to the airport.
I packed my first day in Reykjavik with a bunch of things and really had to hustle to see them all. First up was Whales of Iceland. This is a museum exhibit thing dedicated to all the types of whales found around Iceland. It was a nice learning opportunity, but if you don’t know what it is ahead of time, it could be easy to be disappointed. Because I knew it was mostly plastic (I guess?) molds of whales hanging from the ceiling with displays telling you all about the species, I was properly whelmed with what I expected. The molds are all life size so it really does give you a good sense of scale.
After the whales, I went down into the Icelandic PUNK Museum. This was an interesting but cool experience. The guy who runs it (or at least the one that was there when I went) is this old crusty punk rock guy who clearly hasn’t changed his aesthetic in 40 years. He was super friendly though! The museum walks you through the history of punk bands and the scene in Iceland in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and was much like reading books like Our Band Could Be Your Life and The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting. It was also really interesting to see, in addition to the stuff that was internal, the influences from US and English punk scenes that affected their scene. And I should also mention the museum itself is in an old public restroom and…well, yeah, it’s obvious because the toilets are still there. The whole place is crusty and dirty and punk af. I was into it!
Next I hit up the expo for the race and then went to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Yes, this is what it sounds like. It’s a penis museum. This was weird, but really cool at the same time. Basically, you walk in and there are dicks all over. The cocks are a mix of actual animal penises in jars (hundreds of them), molds of penises, penis art, and penis paraphernalia. There are a lot of dicks here, including molds of the penises of the entire national handball team.
The next day, after the half marathon, I rented a car and drove part of the Golden Circle, mostly hitting up the highlights.
I started off with about an hour and a half just soaking and enjoying the Secret Lagoon and getting my hot spring on. After 17 miles, this was a nice bit of recovery. That is, after I actually got into the water. I was completely unaware that the locker room and changing area was just one big open space without any private changing rooms. At gyms, I always go into a private space to change because, as a transgender woman, changing out in the open is terrifying. The reality of it wasn’t that bad, though, as I changed quickly and just sort of kept to myself. Anyway, the lagoon itself was relaxing and everything I wanted it to be.
From there, I hit up Strokkur and Geysir. I was able to see Strokkur erupt 4 or 5 times while walking around the geyser park here. From there, I went on to the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.
Following up Gullfoss was Thingvellir National Park. In the park, I hiked around for a good couple of hours and checked out Öxarárfoss waterfall and Almannagjá, where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. Coming out of Thingvellir, I nearly hit a herd of while sheep on the road!
Last up on my self-guided tour was Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. I really only just made it before the sun started going down, but I’m glad I did. I did a lap around the top of the crater and then went down into it for a lap around the lake.
On my last day in Iceland, I took a guided tour of South Iceland. This tour picked us up in Reykjavik and drove us down through Selfoss and to the southern coast. Along the way, we stopped and made friends with some Icelandic horses and laid on the mattress-like moss covering old lava fields. I would have never guessed that moss could be so soft and comfy!
The first of two waterfalls we saw on this tour was Seljalandsfoss. This is the waterfall you can walk behind and see THE BACKSIDE OF WATER! While really neat, it was also cold and wet. The second waterfall was Skógafoss, which is another beautiful waterfall and typically has a double rainbow in front of it.
Next up on the tour was Reynisfjara, the black sand beach. Now, here, what was most important to me was to see some fucking puffins. I was ready to throw a fit if I didn’t see any puffins while in Iceland, but luckily for everyone, no fit was needed! There were hundreds and hundreds of puffins flying around. I didn’t get to see any up close, but it was still pretty cool to see so many of them.
The last bit of the tour was a hike on Solheimsjokill Glacier. This was a guided tour walking around on the ice and seeing some of the features of it while also learning about the glaciers themselves.
After the tour, I grabbed dinner with a couple of the other people from the tour and we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights! Typically, August is too early so I didn’t expect to see them on my trip, but apparently they were out a bit early. Now, here’s the thing, when you see photos of the Northern Lights they look super saturated or you see time lapses where they’re moving and such. In reality, that’s not quite what they look like. I fully expect they look more intense later in the season, but mostly it was just a light glowing in the sky. It was still awesome to see, but it wasn’t life-changing or anything like that.
Iceland is great! I’d love to go back and see more. There are so many different things to see and the time of year you go can really change the experience of those things. All the people I interacted with were incredibly nice.
Below are my check-ins on Swarm. Some of them aren’t places I went into, but instead were just places I was at or walked by. Some places I was just stealing wifi or using a bathroom. And some, I checked in multiple times as I passed them more than once.