24 Hours in Iceland
It's officially been a week since I had the best layover of my life. If you're a cheap, flexible traveller accustomed to no sleep, layovers are your best friend, no joke. Prime example: I was able to score 20 hours in Iceland for the price of a round trip bus ride into Reykjavik. Below is a play-by-play of everything I did in Iceland besides eat oatmeal out of tupperware. (Official warning and not an exaggeration: everything is twice the price you're used to. Even oatmeal).
1. Coffee and Cathedrals
It took a lot to not fall asleep on the 45 minute bus ride into Reykjavik. Our bus driver did make it a little easier; a native to Iceland, he explained the intricate thermal heating system of the island, powered by the volcanic energy. In Iceland, several major geothermal power plants produce around 30% of the country's electricity. They also provide the hot water requirements of around 87% of the nation´s housing, and of course, the famous thermal pools. While I didn't make it to the Blue Lagoon, an infamous thermal spa, on my trip, I did drink the best tap water of my entire life.
My fist stop, after coffee obviously, was Hallgrimskirkja. (Please don't ask me how to pronounce that. There's a reason I'm writing this). Hallgrimskirkja is Reykjavik's main landmark and can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the small city. The artist (Guðjón Samúelsson. Again, no idea on that, pronunciation wise) was inspired by his observation of lava cooling into basalt rock, and Hallgrimskirkja was completed fifty years after it's original design in 1986. It's entrance is graced, of course, by the one and only Leifur Eiriksson – the first European to discover America. Little known fact, he beat out good old Christopher Columbus by a solid 500 years. Love you long time Leifur.
In case you were wondering, a very nice german tourist took this picture of the two of us together. Peep my seven dollar coffee.
2. 'Hiking' aka getting severe Icelandic windburn
The best part about Reykjavik, by far, is the coastline. If you are in Iceland and not spending at least 80% of you're waking hours outside, you're doing it wrong. Tempature wise, Iceland can be pretty brutal, even in mid-August. And the air smells like fish in a weird way. But it's so so worth it. The landscape is unreal, otherworldly and totally mind blowing. To sum it up, The Brother's Grimm, aka the father's of modern fairytales, are from Iceland, and I'm not surprised.
3. The Sun-voyager, Harpa, and the nicest public restrooms I have ever Experienced
After spending the majority of my day hiking the coastline of Reykjavik with some fellow layover-adventurers I was ready for a sandwich and a hot chocolate before my bus back to the airport. I just had a few more spots to hit. The Sun Voyager could not be missed. The statue is amazingly not a Viking Ship, but a "dream boat and ode to the sun". Sign me up. The Sun Voyager was the winner of an artistic competition celebrating Reykjavik's 200th birthday and is said to hold the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom. This actually really hit home for me in our current global climate. It turned out to be the perfect place for a sandwich.
Harpa, home to the Icelandic Opera House is another gorgeous spot along the coastline of Reykjavik. Situated right in center of the harbor, this infamous concert hall was designed as a collaboration between Henning Larsen Architects and the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. It's contains four gorgeous concert halls, an observation deck and the most beautiful public restrooms you'll ever set foot in. I'm talking free lotion, deodorant and q-tips. Thank you, Harpa.
In conclusion; Iceland, I will be back. Hopefully next time I'll befriend some fairies, swim in a geothermal pool, or at least bring more outdoor gear than a pair of nikes and a denim jacket. Thanks for not raining.