January 23, 2010

Iceland Report, Part 1: Reykjavik

Filed under: Not Tech, Travel — Chris @ 12:40 pm

Here we are, just five months since I got back from Iceland, and I’m already prepared to blog about it. First up, some random tips on vacationing in Reykjavik..

  • Be prepared for schizophrenic weather. I’m pretty sure not a day passed that it wasn’t sunny and warm and one point and chilly and wet at another, oftentimes alternating between the two several times through the day. (This was in August. Can’t vouch for the other 11 months of the year.)
  • I didn’t go to Iceland expecting to eat anything particularly delicious—what I expected was to choke down some rotted shark or dried herring—so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover the lamb “boat” sandwich, a delightful combination of thinly sliced grillled lamb, crispy fried onions, various pickles, and the mysterious hlölli sauce (some kind of jazzed-up mayonnaise). You can get these at Hlölla Bátar, right in the center of Reykjavik, or at any number of takeout joints all over the place and they’re always pretty damn good even when they’re not great.
  • Crispy fried onions! They should be on everything!
  • Despite the all-important Bill Clinton endorsement and long lines of tourists and relentless hype from the world media, I’m not sure I’m on board with Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. It’s just a pretty good hot dog, albeit with lots of tasty crispy fried onions.
  • Skip the whale meat. It tastes like environmental exploitation (i.e., chewy and gamey).
  • The Nauthólsvík geothermal beach in Reykjavik isn’t particularly well advertised in the tourist literature, because it is publicly owned and absolutely free of charge. It’s a bit of a pain to get to if you don’t (as we didn’t) figure out the municipal buses, but it’s not that big a deal and it’s worth a trip. Walk South from the BSI bus terminal around the airport. You’ll pass a ball field, a University dorm (or something), and a discouraging shipping container or two. (You could, if you like, go by way of Perlan, which would probably make more sense.) They have a changing room and showers at the beach, with bins for your clothes (no lockers). The beach surrounds a small geothermally heated lagoon—the water is cool to warmish and doesn’t get deeper than 4 or 5 feet. There’s a hot tub built into the beach that spills over into the lagoon, but that seems to be given over to the splashing children. The adults congregate in a long, shallow hotter hot tub up near the changing rooms (though there’s quite a bit of splashing up there too, to be honest).
  • A lot of Icelandic beer is light beer (2.5% alcohol or less)—I think light beer is all you can buy in grocery stores and certain cafes. If you want a real beer, it’s safer to order one of the widely available imported brands, e.g., Tuborg or Grolsch.

[UPDATE] Also, you might be wondering: is the Blue Lagoon a tourist trap? Is it worth the money? Yes and yes! You should go! It’s totally fun!


Create a free website or blog at