Reykjavik – the Smokey Bay

Reykjavik’s Origin

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland with a population of around 200,000 is one of the cleanest, greenest and safest cities in the world.

The very first settler of Iceland was Ingolfr Arnarson. The story goes that he sailed from Norway and when land was in sight, he threw his high seat pillars overboard and told himself that he would settle where the Gods brought the pillars ashore. In 870 AD, he set foot on the shore of a small bay where those pillars were found and saw smoke rising from the ground when he named it the Smokey Bay or Reykjavik.

The smoke is attributed to the many hot springs in the area which emit steam at all times. This geothermal energy contributes to around 25 % of Iceland’s electricity requirement and hot water requirement of around 90 % of the buildings. Apart from Geothermal energy, Iceland’s electricity requirement is met by hydro power making it almost completely fossil free. How amazing is that!!

Stay in Reykjavik

With the growth of tourism in Iceland, the number of hotels and hostels have also grown significantly. I stayed in Kex hostel, one of the highly rated hostels in the capital city. The hostel used to be a biscuit factory, hence the name ‘Kex’ – meaning biscuit. Kex had a decent kitchen with pretty much all amenities and essentials, so I was pretty relieved that I carried ready to eat food/instant food packets (Food in Iceland is super expensive)

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Picture was taken outside Kex!

For budget travelers – Get food from Bonus stores which you can easily find all over the city. One is even located right behind Kex. Bonus stores are the cheapest in the entire city and have a good spread of food items.

Places to see in Reykjavik:

  • Sun Voyager – A sculpture located in downtown Reykjavik, which is an ode to the sun. It is meant to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom. People also believe that the sculpture resembles a Viking ship or a whale.

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  • Presidential house with church – Bessastadir, the official residence of the President of Iceland is around 13 kms from the Reykjavik city centre. Its been the President’s residence since 1941. The house doesn’t even have any fencing and is not even guarded which is proof of the fact that Iceland really is the safest country. The main building was built in 1761 and the church at the site was consecrated in 1796.

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The front building is the church.

  • Perlan – One of the major attractions. It is a set of five huge tanks which were earlier used to store hot water. Later, a dome was placed on top of the tanks. This dome now has an observation deck, which is accessible for a small fee and gives a 360-degree view of the city of Reykjavik. It also has several exhibitions on the wonders of Iceland and a newly built planetarium.

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  • Harpa – This glass structure is a concert hall and a conference centre in the city. The structure consists of a steel framework clad with geometric shaped glass panels of different colours. This appears in the Netflix series Sense 8 and Black Mirror.

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  • Parliament – The national parliament of Iceland is called the Althing. It is the oldest parliament in the world as the same was founded in 930 AD and held its earlier sessions at the Thingvellir National Park. The Althing then moved to Reykjavik in 1844 and is now located in the building called Alpingishus, built in 1881 of hewn Icelandic stone.

 

  • Reykjavik Old harbour – The old harbour is the heart of Reykjavik as the city expanded around the harbour. Beautiful place to walk around with a number of restaurants to try the Icelandic fish and lamb soup. The Saga museum and the Viking maritime museum are also located there. In the recent years the majority of marine activities like the whale, puffin and northern lights watching tours are concentrated at the Old harbour thereby replacing the fishing vessels.

 

  • Hallgrimskirkja church – A Lutheran parish church. Being the largest church and the tallest one in Iceland, it is visible throughout the city. Originally it was not intended to be this tall but the leaders of the Church wanted it to be taller than the catholic Church in Iceland. The Church is also used now as an observation tower. The statue of explorer Leif Erikson in front of the church predates its construction. It was a gift from the United States in honour of the 1930 Althing Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament at Thingvellir in 930 AD.

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Apart from these, one can just walk around the city and explore various places to see, eat and shop. I had chosen Gray Line as my travel operator for the local sightseeing tour and considering the amount charged by them, there services were pretty good.

Stay tuned for further posts!

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