Impressions of Reykjavik (Iceland)


Tjörnin (lake) and the City Hall in the center of Reykjavik.

Most of my friends thought I was insane when I announced I was flying to Reykjavik, Iceland, considering London has been blessed with beautifully sunny and warm weather as of late. But since the hubby and I had always wanted to visit, we packed up our long forgotten winter gear and headed for the Icelandic capital. Upon arrival we were greeted by snow, dark clouds, rain, sun, hail and a chilling wind - all within a span of an hour. I would soon realize that if I didn't care for the weather at the moment, I'd only need to wait five minutes. Unfortunately it never really got close to warm, but considering summer in Iceland translates to an average of 15°C (59°F), I wasn't really that surprised.

I knew little about Iceland and Reykjavik before my visit, apart from the usual musical references (Björk, Sigur Rós etc.), the aforementioned cold climate and that unpronounceable volcano Eyjafjallajökull, who's eruption grounded all those flights last year. While I expected Reykjavik to be very creative given its famous musicians and its love of design, I was a bit surprised by the relatively monotone architecture. A local guide later informed me that Iceland only started booming around the 50s and after, which is when most of the houses and buildings were constructed. This explains why you won't find a lot of traditional historic architecture as you would in other European cities. By contrast, you will see its history in the volcanic, glacial and mountainous landscape, some of which was used by the Vikings as settlements.

More modern than historic - typical houses in Reykjavik (lower right image:Bjørn Giesenbauer via Wikimedia).

What also stunned me a little was how few people I would see during the day, out on the streets. It never occurred to me that a national population of roughly 320,000 (120,000 live in the capital) in a country slightly smaller than the size of England (with over 51 million inhabitants) would translate into a distinct lack of crowds. It also doesn't help that Reykjavik is such a sprawling city, so most locals will be in their cars - though traffic jams are virtually non-existent. But many cafes and restaurants were buzzing with activity and if there's one thing that had my heart beating faster than the incredible Icelandic scenery, it was the abundance of local independent fashion designers... many of them with their own boutiques on the main street Laugavegur - I counted at least 20 if not more. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on some of them. I was also pleased to see that locals were very stylish and didn't dress like clones. I have a theory this might be due to the lack of high street retail chains, of which only a few can be found in two outlying malls. In addition, I was informed that prior to the financial crisis and recession, Iceland was a very wealthy nation - and it's still very expensive - with a population that loves to splurge on art, design and clothes; something that might explain their sartorial preferences.

Would I visit again? Definitely. But next time, I'm going in summer...


Hallgrímskirkja - the largest church in Iceland.

Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station. Thanks to the high concentration of volcanoes, Iceland can take advantage of geothermal power - a renewable energy source.

Jewelry containing local lava stones were incredibly popular.

A smaller waterfall in the Golden Circle area around Reykjavik.

Reykjavik's main high street Laugavegur in the old town center. Note the lack of people on a Friday afternoon.

Kerið - volcanic crater lake.

Icelandic Horses (almost as small as ponies) were very amicable and adorable. They kept trying to eat my coat and jeans. I also had major hair envy - look at those manes.

The very active geyser Strokkur.

If you want something local, Icelandic wool is popular. If you want something local that will get a bit more attention - there's always fur (what's up with that scary animal hat?) and fish leather (those are ties and purses).

The rift valley of Þingvellir, which marks the Mid-Atlantic Ridge - the tectonic plate boundary between Eurasia and North America. Geographically, Iceland is actually closer to America (Greenland).

Pretty but man-made. The 'glitter' stems from coins thrown in the water by tourists.

Tasty delights: The famed lobster soup along with seafood (above), Icelandic fish & chips (lower left) and more interesting meat options which I didn't get to try out (right).

Gullfoss waterfall.

Viking boat sculpture along the shore of Reykjavik.

Overview of the Þingvellir National Park - the site of Iceland's first assembly and parliament as chosen by the Viking settlers. The continental drift between North America and Eurasia is visible via the cracks in the landscape, many of which are filled with water.

50 comments:

  1. i would love to visit iceland!

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  2. I have always thought Iceland would be a great place to visit.
    Thank you for sharing and have found out more about this fascinating place and loved seeing your wonderful photographs.
    Aren't the horses fabulous! ... love the manes.
    I do not like the choice of meat, whale or puffin!
    Fish and chips for me please.

    Happy week
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  3. Ooooh, beautiful! :) Thanks for sharing!

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  4. oh my, this is beautiful. my sister's been there a couple of times for work (can you imagine, she saw Sigur Rós live!), so i've seen many pictures already, but yours just reminded me again, that i definitely wanna go there one day (oh, and do the people really have such a cool style as i was told?) really beautiful pictures!

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  5. Part of me thinks you are insane to want to go there (COLD!!!) and the other part of me think that it was such a great experience. :) So... Russia in February next year? ;)

    xxx

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  6. everything but crowds - i'd love to be there. i hope you caught some streetstyle fashion on film?! love this post. i like the haunting guitar riffs of sigur ros.

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  7. Gorgeous post, darling!
    Those horses are amazing!

    xoxox,
    CC

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  8. This is such a beautiful place. Love the colors of the towns and the raw geography. I can't think of anything better than traveling and lately it's just dreaming about it as I devour your posts and photos.

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  9. hey love! did you get my comment about the blog award i gave you!?
    i just want to say thank you so much for inspiring me everyday!!!
    xx
    fashion provocateur

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  10. Now this is a place I wouldn't mind living in for awhile. Everything is so quaint, charming, and colorful - j'adore! :)

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  11. I just loved reading about your time in Iceland! And the photos are spectacular! It has been on my wish list to visit for quite some time-the scenery looks just breathtaking! Interesting how empty the streets are!!

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  12. How cool! But I was under the impression that "Iceland" was the warm one and "Greenland" was the cold country? Or Greenland pretty much like Antartica? From the photos, it looks lovely. I chuckled the horses' mane! It's like they are rocking a mohawk!

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  13. I'm so jealous! I've always wanted to visit Iceland.

    These photos are amazing...it definitely looks cold, but I'm sure it was still worth it!

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  14. Thank you for sharing these incredibly interesting pictures.

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  15. Wow!! These images are gorgeous, and I'm so glad you shared them because I have never been there! However as you know very well, I do love to travel and so I may have to add Iceland to the list. The waterfall, crater lake, and horses are all so beautiful! Also, I'm pretty sure that I would have to purchase jewelry containing local lava stones because that is pretty awesome. :) Oh, and the lobster soup along with seafood look delicous!

    xo
    Rachel

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  16. What a beautiful place. Thanks for the tip. Summer it is. Xxxx

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  17. How amazing!!! I've always wanted to go to Reykjavik! J's parents went on their honeymoon almost 50 years ago and they still talk about it to this day. Thanks for sharing the beauty, sweetie :)

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  18. @十十f十: Most of the streetstyle was reduced to the indoors, since the few people out and about were wearing heavy coats. I would have loved to capture it otherwise, but sitting in a crowded cafe isn't the best way to snap someone's style.

    @Maddy: Greenland is the colder island, but Iceland is still colder than say Norway or Sweden. I do think their winters are actually quite mild though, because supposedly the temps never go far below freezing.

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  19. Did you take any street style photos? Iceland seems like a very cool and unique place to visit from what I've heard. It's certainly wildly beautiful! How is everyone (normally) so wealthy?

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  20. What a beautiful country! I can't imagine living in a place with such a small population though.

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  21. Informative insights of the Icelanders.. it's pretty cold there for a summer to be at 15°C! Here's about 27°C-32°C! i am so eager to see more of your upcoming shots from this Icelandic trip. Street styles of Iceland will be something to look forward for. It was amazing, i love the furs and infact am into furs of late.. Bjork was amazing, i have collected some of her songs too, very artistic indeed. The coins on the rock looks as if it's a glitery rock's suface.. to later understand that it was coins..! haha!

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  22. The photos are gorgeous!! So pretty. I'm more the sunny type of girl, but these pictures are really neat. I'm not a fan of fur, unless it's faux.
    Oh, and the jewelry is amazing.

    xoxo,
    melrod

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  23. very beautiful pictures! thanks for sharing. I'm sure it would be very very interesting to know! I have to go!

    xx

    www.sickbytrend.com

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  24. I always wanted to go, but the constant cold (15 degrees in summer doesn't really cut the grease, does it) put me off. Would still love to soak myself in one of the warm geysers though.

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  25. Cold, but beautiful! Cannot wait to see the independent designers posts!
    christine
    http://un-stitched.com/

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  26. yes seems like it's very cold from the photos :) those flamboyant roofs and buildings are so adorable!

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  27. Oh! I loved reading about this! Great images! I would love to travel to Iceland! The nature is so beautiful, and even if the weather was bad you got some amazing photos!! The Gullfoss waterfall looks amazing!!! I think you did the right choose, london is cool, but not as beautiful as iceland, in my opinon :)

    hugs and kisses
    johanna

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  28. Such a cute little place.. I want to go there now..
    Great photos by the way
    lee x

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  29. Hi my dear-what gorgeous photos and it certainly sounds a fabulous place to visit, so pleased you had a wonderful time! Have a great weekend too xx

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  30. WOOOOW these photos are blowing my MIND! What an incredible place.

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  31. Wow indeed...Iceland looks breathtaking, it must have been a fantastic experience!

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  32. You know, as strange as it may sound (although my family wouldn't be surprised if I tell them), Iceland is the kind of place I would love to visit and stay for a period of time. I hate crowds and I like to be pretty much alone. The food looks delicious (want to try that lobster soup badly!). And I can't help but think that if I ever need some spare change, I can always go swim in the water, haha :-) xoxoxoo

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  33. Iceland? Well that is quite the unconventional trip. On the other hand, I'd love to go to London! But anyway, it looks a bit too chilly for me to want to go, but it does look, at the same time, like a cozy place. A unique trip!

    http://red-soledfashionista.blogspot.com/

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  34. Wow, the volcanic crater lake looks gorgeous; incredible photos! I also love the colorful houses. Looked like a great trip!

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  35. how awesome- you went to see this magical land! i've been fascinated by iceland for a couple of years now. the natural beauty almost seems unearthly to me. it's on my travel list, but i'll probably go in summer.
    wonderful photos in this post. and fish leather- i would never have guessed!

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  36. Thank you for your wonderful picture! I also have hair envy of the horses' manes and would love to try the soup. I have a friend whose husband is Icelandic and have heard about the gorgeous scenery (alas some day I'll visit!)

    xoxo,
    Chic 'n Cheap Living

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  37. p.s. You made pad thai recently - how fun! I've made it once and while it wasn't exactly like the one at restaurants, it was very tasty!

    xoxo,
    Chic 'n Cheap Living

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  38. What a magical country.Iceland..sounds like a land full of snow and dimonds! Thank you for this etrordinary article, it had me glue to my computer for a long time. Something in this pictures full of grey shadows made me want to be there...in my red hat! I am sorry I have been such an absent Blog friend lately - I was going through the rough patch lately...I would like to wish you Happy Easter and hope that you are celebrating it surrounded by loved ones. I am sending you million of happy Easter sun bunnies your way. With much love!

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  39. ♥Nice post.) Love your blog.))♥

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  40. Beautiful post. I love all of the pictures especially the horses. I would love to visit Iceland.

    We have finally started a twitter account. Please check it out and let us know if you have an account.

    http://twitter.com/#!/SunnyDaysBlog

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  41. Iceland - have yet to visit - though I'm enjoying this stroll through your pictures.
    The cathedral is quite impressive - and I love the other fanciable photographs, too. You back in Paris? ;-)

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  42. I have always dreamed of going there, even when I was younger learning Icelandic :) I have forgotten much but still remember enough ahha!
    Gorgeous photos, I am so glad to be back in the blogging world!!
    xx

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  43. wow that IS a small town, no wonder there are no one on the streets! But I guess it makes a nice sectunary to get away to, and the pics are beautiful! love the fur coat and the boots in that one pic hehe

    totally agree with you about Dov Charney from American Apparel, just go into porn already haha

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  44. id definitely want to visit thiss placceee <3

    thanks for stopping by at my blog !

    im having a shoe giveaway of your own choice at the moment :D
    glisters and blisters

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  45. oooh! i would love to visit, particularly in the summer!

    and the little horsies?!?!? omg! i would hang out with them any time!!!!!!!

    and no traffic?!!? holy hell, i might need to move there. with a sun lamp. :)

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  46. i so badly wish to go to iceland. so thanks for sharing your story and photos of this magical country.
    it is so amazing what talents have come from this small country. and how stunning is the nature..
    once again. thanks for sharing. i need to go there soon!
    hope you had a wonderful weekend too
    x

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  47. Oh, what a wonderful places! Beautiful jewelry! And sweet animals! :)

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  48. I've always wanted to go as well. And now I want to go even more, after having seen these pics!!

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