After a rather cosy sleep at Skuggi Hotel, we woke up refreshed after possibly the best welcome to Iceland anyone has every experienced… and in total darkness. Thanks to being within the Arctic Circle (by some definitions…) Icelanders only get to relish in about four hours of daylight a day. And thanks to sitting near on top of the world, even when it is light, the sun barely scrapes over the horizon.
So, with darkness still covering the Reykjavik sky, we put on whatever clothes we could find and sleepily headed downstairs for breakfast.
Eating scrambled eggs on rye bread at 9:30 in the morning, with it still being night-like outside is an experience. Because everything in your body is screaming ‘THIS IS WRONG!’ but your head is telling you you’re an hour away from an early lunch.
The breakfast laid on by the hotel was pretty amazing. A selection of meats, fish, cheeses were all a little heavy for me, but with yoghurt and cereal in mason jars, shots of fish oil for healthy types, and comforting warm dishes, we’d never felt fuller after eating such nutritious food.
After gulping down my dose of omega-3 and washing the taste away with a creamy coffee, it was time to head back to our room, get dressed in our many, many layers and explore.
The monsoon shower woke our sleepy selves up fairly promptly, and after layering up with thermal tights, woollen leggings, a pair of jeans and two pairs of ski socks, as well as jumpers, fleeces and a lovely Roxy jacket (for a 14-year-old girl) David and I were set and ready. The sun had started to rise, so we could get a better look at our surroundings.
Initially thinking we were on the fringe of the city in a residential Reykjavik street, we realised we couldn’t have picked a better location to stay. Far away enough from the centre to be away from noise, near enough that we still had a Domino’s pizza within walking distance.
The street ended by the gorgeous shoreline and outskirts of city centre, and we spent the morning in awe at our surroundings. Although the sun had broken up the darkness, it was casting a pink haze over everything, meaning the mountains in the distance looked truly unreal.
Cold. And unreal.
Walking through the snow, we managed to slip and slide across a main road onto the relative safety of a salted pathway. It’s unbelievable how much your muscles ache when your feet are inching over slippery ice. But the view was so worth it.
Not that view.
We stood in awe, watching gulls and ducks dive into the icy water for food, wondering how their little feet could tolerate the below freezing temperature. Amid the strategically placed boulders, steam rose warming up the rocks and melting the snow. It’s surreal, really.
Heading towards an interesting glass honeycomb building, we spotted the Sun Voyager, a huge steel sculpture of a ship right on the water’s edge. It was so slippery and cold, David decided to explore further while I was happy to keep my distance.
Walking on further, the stunning building we’d spotted was a concert hall, and a meeting point for lots of Northern Lights tours. With a gorgeous little shop selling all manner of Icelandic goodies (including Fabulous Jimmy and Greg… more to come on them later) we picked up a few little souvenirs and gifts for family back home. We did fancy stopping for a coffee, but with the centre’s cafe full to the brim, we carried on.
And good job we did! After being completely befuddled by a very odd flea market, selling everything from Barbie knockoffs, Beatles memorabilia, fermented shark, and horse cheese, we strolled into the town to pick up our Reykjavik Loves The City cards from the visitor information centre.
These would give us access to all manner of thermal pools, museums, galleries and travel around the city for the rest of our trip. Not bad for £12 per day.
We also decided to book a Northern Lights tour with Sternatravel, to see if we were going to be as fortunate as we were when they danced our welcome the night before.
With maps and cards to hand, we wanted to eat something very warm. My legs were getting numb despite my layers, so we hopped into the first cafe we saw, The Laundromat. It was so pretty – with a dedicated kids’ area downstairs (thank goodness) and shelves upon shelves of books to browse through – very Shoreditch.
The service was a bit rude at first – we were near-shouted at by a woman with a severe bobbed haircut for sitting in a booth – but with an apologetic man-bunned bartender pointing us to an empty table, we settled down with the menus.
After our reindeer soup the night before, and a typical Icelandic breakfast, we decided on comfort food – coffee, toasties and chips.
After a short wait the food arrived, and was promptly devoured in record speed!
With the skies getting darker, we started a slow trek back to the hotel to get ready for the evening’s excursion – more on that to come. The light was fading fast, turning the sky a vivid blue, pink, purple, before fading to black.
We were in love with Reykjavik. And with all kinds of activities that fascinated us, we resolved to come back in summer. With near 24 hours of daylight, and a to-do list the size of my arm, we can’t wait to get packing again!