Visiting Iceland was nothing short of incredible. I arrived late afternoon and after missing my bus to The Blue Lagoon (make sure you’re on the right bus!), the Flybus company was kind enough to arrange and pay for a cab there. Yup, I was not only going to visit–but going to stay the night–at the world famous Blue Lagoon. Chances are you’ve seen the Blue Lagoon in movies and music videos. It’s one of The 25 Wonders of the World: a giant, blue, geothermal spa, heated by underground lava.
Staying at the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel was worth every Euro. It was hardly occupied–I only saw a handful of guests. The rooms were nice and modern with “Blue Lagoon water” coming right up against your room window/porch. But without a doubt the very best part of staying there was that I had use of the property’s own miniature “Blue Lagoon.” When I took my first dip around 7PM, there was only about eight or nine other people using the spa. It must have been around 35 degrees outside, but the water was toasty warm. The lagoon was about four of five feet deep, and the floor was a gushy, fine, smooth and silky white mud. Pure white…cocaine white! It was amazing!
Bathing with Strangers
Still jet lagged, I was up and wide awake at 2AM and finally went back to bed at 8AM for a few hours before checking out and heading down to the main Blue Lagoon, which was a ten minute walk down a cool, lava-pebble filled trail. When you arrive at The Lagoon, you’re given an electronic wristband to keep track of charges (drinks, etc.), a towel and a robe. You change into your suit and shower in their locker rooms and then it’s time for a dip. The lagoon is huge and filled with people enjoying the lava-heated water. There’s a bar, a waterfall, and buckets of that white mud on the banks for swimmers to apply to their face (mud mask). The guests were from all around the world and it was cool to hear all the different languages. While the water was Jacuzzi-level warm, and the fact that it started snowing pretty heavily just added to the experience. It felt soooo good, however, getting out of the lagoon without freezing your willie off was the challenge. It’s like you’re in a freezer…wait, you are in a freezer…wet and almost naked! Coldest I’ve been in my life!!! I headed back inside, to shower and change, before catching the 2:15 bus to Reykjavik.
Reykjavik exceeded my expectations–what a cool town! I spent about two hours wandering the streets of this interesting city to see scores of cool shops, coffee joints, pubs and restaurants. The streets were adorned with Christmas lights overhead and Christmas trees were seen on both sides of many business entrances. I stopped in to Café Babalu for some cappuccino and a slice of Nutella cheesecake, which was amazing!
Reykjavik’s most noticeable landmark was definitely Hallgrimskirkja, a huge towering church and tower than looked like an old cathedral had a baby with the Los Angeles City Hall or the Empire State Building. It was so tall, dark, gray, beautiful. Something you’d see in a Batman movie–think Gotham City. I ventured through the open door and rode the elevator to the very top to see amazing 360-degree views of Reykjavik and the bay.
There was a waffle stand near the church I was very tempted to stop at, but I stayed strong–Thanksgiving dinner was still in my future tonight. I made a complete loop around the city, including a visit to the local grocery store to buy some snacks for later. One of my favorite things to do when I visit foreign lands is to browse the aisles at their local supermarket. So many weird and interesting brands that I’ve never heard of. I bought a tasty orange soda to drink on the spot and some yogurt and chocolate for later.
Thanksgiving dinner took place at The Beer Garden or, Bjórgarðurinn, at my hotel. The atmosphere was cool, yet not pretentious. High ceilings, vintage furniture, barrels (wine?) adorned the walls, with big windows to take in a glorious snowfall. It was pretty crowded, I couldn’t find a seat–and just as I was about to leave, a smiling waiter greeted me among the chaos and proceeded to welcome me and describe tonight’s beer selections.
Soon I was at my table drinking a tasty something-or-other and ordering my official Thanksgiving meal. The Beer Garden was known for their hot dogs (weird, right?), but they were the gourmet kind and they must have had eight or ten differently decorated dogs. I chose the one with fresh dill and peppers, but the fish and chips entree and it was on. This was probably (no, definitely) the most unconventional Thanksgiving dinner I have ever had and I was very okay with the whole thing.
Back to the hotel for some shuteye. Same thing happened that’s happened the past three nights in Europe…asleep by ten and wide awake at 2AM. This is getting frustrating. I sleep like a baby back home…I think my body clock is just super out of wack. What can you do?
A note about my hotel: I really dug The Foss Hotel Reykjavik. It’s at least a half-mile from the “action” of downtown and the main drag, but if you don’t mind the stroll, this is a great place! Nice rooms, quiet, modern, new…but it was the Bjórgarðurinn (Beer Garden) that tipped the scales for me. I’d stay here again!
RAMBLIN’ TIP: One of the best tips I could ever give you is to book a flight with a long stopover in a new country that you haven’t been to yet; anything over six hours–that way you can leave the airport and experience the city and mark off another country on your list, basically for free, since you’re not paying for the layover. The trick is finding a stopover long enough to be able to leave the airport and come back in time without missing your flight. You have to take into account the taxi in and out of town, airport security, etc. You certainly don’t want to miss your second part of the flight–as booking a new flight day-of can end up costing you a fortune.
Just Plane Awesome
Well the good folks at Icelandair actually invite you to make a stopover in Iceland, for up to seven days, at no extra charge, and that is absolutely fantastic! The longest stopover I ever had was about 24-hours in Panama City…but the fact that Icelandair will let you chill (pun intended) for a full week before you hop on the second leg of your flight…that is amazing! So next time you plan a trip to Europe, fly Icelandair and take advantage of a free stopover in Iceland on the way to your final destination.
Finally, just wanted to note how awesome Icelandair is. Besides their super “stopover” options, I gotta give them props for the overall flying experience with them. They are the first airline I’ve even flown on that offers free WiFi. God bless them! They’ve earned a customer for life. They also have great entertainment: TV screens in front of every seat and a USB port. That’s how you do it.
I was blessed with an unexpected night in Reykjavik in August 2023, while traveling from Paris to Nuuk, Greenland. I deplaned in Iceland to connect to my next flight, only to to be informed my final leg was canceled due to weather. Besides the stress from the uncertainty of when that next flight might happen, it was nice to enjoy some time back in Reykjavik, this time during the summer. It was kind of like visiting an old friend – a little less “exciting,” and little more comfortable. The airline gave me taxi vouchers and agreed to cover lodging and meals, so I looked at this minor setback like a little bonus gift.
I started with a stroll up to the towering Hallgrímskirkja church before settling on Latin fare at Tacos Selva for dinner. I couldn’t believe I found Venezuelan arepas in Iceland…of all places, wow!
Reykjavik Rise and Shine
In the morning I took a stroll over to a part of town I hadn’t yet visited and ended up at the harbor enjoying coffee and Icelandic pancakes at Reykjavík Röst. Then, a walk past the Parliament building and back over to Laugavegur street where all the action was at.
Equal Opportunity Eater
Luckily, I soon got a notification that my flight was scheduled to depart that day at 4PM. I breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated with a plate of tacos at La Poblana. My takeaway from this unexpected 24-hours of summer in Iceland, was how big the international food scene was here. I don’t remember it being like this just six years ago. Perhaps I didn’t notice it – but I was blown away at the variety and multi-cultural spread of dining choices in Reykjavik this time: Mexican, Venezuelan, Vietnamese, Nepalese…who knew? And though I was sad I didn’t get to squeeze in a dip at The Blue Lagoon this time, the arepas made up for it!