I live in Pittsburgh, and the thing that was all the talk over the summer was how our airport was going to be bringing WOW Airlines to Pittsburgh. The budget airline is known for cheap flights to major domestic and international cities, the most exciting one in my opinion being Reykjavik.
The bustling yet cozy capital of Iceland has experienced a boom in tourism in the past few years. The country has dedicated much of its resources to attracting tourists, and how they do so is with cheap airline tickets and free long stay overs.
So what’s the attraction? Reykjavik offers a Scandinavian feel, with colorful houses, cobblestone streets, and well-designed storefronts that draw in any passer-by. The rest of the country is sparsely populated but hosts some of the world’s most incredible waterfalls, hot springs, and glaciers. Ever seen Journey to the Center of the Earth? That was shot in Iceland. Oh, and Icelanders speak Icelandic, but they all speak English, too. As my tour guide said, only a handful of people in the world speak Icelandic, so naturally, everyone learns English.
Essentially, the small island (where the country gets its name–it was just us dumb Americans who poorly translated “Ísland” to “Iceland”) has a unique combination of sights for every type of adventurer.
Here are 10 things to do in Iceland:
1. Visit Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s most famous church. Pay $10 to take the elevator to the top (so easy!) to get a great 360 view of Reykjavik and its colorful houses.
2. Get coffee and a pastry from Brauð & Co. It’s a hard spot to miss–colorful graffiti covers the exterior and the smell of fresh bread reels in every pedestrian.
3. Skip the Blue Lagoon and visit the “Secret hot spring” instead. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to some mystical elfin land.
4. Take a tour of Reykjavik. I highly recommend the tours offered by I Heart Reykjavik. The four Icelanders who run the blog also offer tours. Or, do a self-guided tour. Try and find ten murals on the side of buildings you can! It won’t take long.
5. Venture out into the countryside to the Þingvellir National Park. This is the spot where the world’s first parliament was held.
6. Not too far from the national park is the Geyser hot spring. This tourist attraction is famous for the “most reliable” geyser in the country. Watch the bubbling spring for five minutes and you’ll see it erupt.
7. If you’re really looking for an adventure, do a glacier tour. It’ll require some gear and a hefty amount of cash, but if you’re a thrill-seeker who loves the cold and exploring ice caves, it’ll be right up your alley.
8. Ice caves sound too much? Take a quick walk down to the shore in Reykjavik and see the Sun Voyager sculpture. It’s hard to miss. You can get a great view of the mountains, and at sunset, it’s an especially great photo op.
9. Iceland can be expensive, but reasonably-priced souvenirs are easy to come by at Flying Tiger. This target-dollar-section-meets-party-supply-store shop is Danish but has many European locations, and one is right in Reykjavik. It’s hard to resist the bright colors and Scandinavian modern packaging. Check out the candy section for an array of Icelandic treats, and black licorice in every shape you could imagine.
10. Ok, for those who have looked into visiting Iceland before, you’re probably surprised I haven’t mentioned the hot dogs yet. So yeah, get yourself an overpriced hot dog. Unless you’re a vegetarian. Cause these dogs are lamb dogs, topped with mayonnaise, dark mustard, and some sort of other kind of gravy thing. I’m still not entirely sure. They’re not to everyone’s liking, but they’re just about as Icelandic as you can get.
Check out these websites for more on Iceland and what do do there: