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Reykjavik, Iceland

by Debra C. Argen
Iceland - Geysers
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Iceland - Gulfoss Waterfall With RainbowReykjavik is the northernmost capital of Europe, and the topography is as rugged as the Vikings who founded Iceland, and as gentle as the Irish monks who were the island's first inhabitants.


Created from volcanic eruptions, this 39,750 square mile island is located 180 miles east of Greenland and 600 miles west of Norway, and the topography varies greatly as you drive around the island with its black sand beaches, where lava formations give way to moss covered rocks, to green valleys, and snow capped mountains, and then of course there are the glaciers. It is land of natural beauty with 10,000 waterfalls, geysers spouting steam up from the earth's core, 17 active volcanoes, 10 million puffins, and thousands of hot springs.

In April 2007, when most people in the northern hemisphere are dreaming of taking an island holiday to someplace warm, Iceland LandscapeEdward F. Nesta and I traveled to the island of Iceland, and it was nothing like we had ever imagined, and yet it was so much more. First of all, contrary to most people's vision of Iceland, it is not completely covered with ice, although glaciers do cover one-ninth of the surface. The glacier Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe, is the size of Rhode Island, covers 3,300 square miles, and despite its chilly name, Iceland has a temperate climate with temperatures ranging from .5° C (32° F) in the winter, to 11° C (52 F°) in the summer, assisted by the Gulf Stream and the southwesterly winds.

Eager to begin our Icelandic experience, we flew Icelandair with its convenient 5 hour 5 minute direct flight from New York (JFK, Terminal 7) to Reykjavik. Gracious service began at the check-in counter, and continued in the lounge, which Icelandair shares with British Airways in New York. When I saw the Moulton Brown Spa in the lounge with complimentary treatments I immediately made an appointment. I left completely relaxed and ready for my journey to Iceland. We boarded the plane and for the first time ever, I think I fell asleep before we even left the runway and awoke just before landing; which for me, constituted a perfect flight.

101 hotel Library, Reykjavik, IcelandWe stayed at 101 hotel, a trendy boutique 38-room and suite hotel that opened in 2003. The owner, a graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York, has created a comfortable and chic hotel featuring Icelandic art. Located next door to the opera house, across the street from The Cultural House (National Center for Cultural Heritage), and steps away from the main shopping street, the hotel is perfectly located for easy city access.

The hotel has a combination bar and restaurant, aptly named 101 bar and restaurant, where Chef Gunnvant creates modern Icelandic and international cuisine with Indian influences, and the bar features a creative cocktail menu. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the hotel and our dinner at the restaurant with its innovative cocktails and the atmosphere. Read more about 101 hotel in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, and Chefs' Recipes sections.

101 hotel, Reykjavik, Iceland
101 hotel
Hverfisgata 10
IS-101 Reykjavik
Telephone:      + 354-580-0101
Fax:                 + 354-580-0100

The Icelandair flight arrived at 6:20 am, which meant that when we arrived at the hotel it was still too early to go out adventuring. Instead, we snuggled under the comfortable duvet and slept for a few hours, and awoke feeling refreshed and ready to experience the famous Icelandic "hot pots."

Spas are an important part of Icelandic culture, with the main emphasis on natural, therapeutic geothermal waters. Described to us as "liquid sun" by Sigmar B. Hauksson, Project Manager of Reykjavik Spa City, Reykjavik is one of the Spa cities in Europe and has the most spas per capita.

Laugar Spa and Health Center, Reykjavik, IcelandWe visited Laugar Health and Spa Center, the largest spa in Europe, where we were impressed not only by the size, (18,000 square meters), but also by the state of the art technology at the facility. From their fitness equipment and classes at the gym, spa treatments, saunas, swimming pools, and hot pots, this Spa was the perfect place to begin our introduction to Icelandic Spa culture.

We spent the afternoon there and had our first experience with "hot pots," which are small outside pools heated to temperatures varying from 37- 42° C (98 – 111° F). Imagine going outside in your bathing suit in April, when the summer temperatures are only 11° C (52 F°); needless to say, we almost ran to the hot pots. Leaning back against the rim of the hot pot, soaking neck deep in thermal waters and looking up at a spectacular blue sky, we learned how they could easily become addictive. Read the article on Laugar Health and Spa Center for more information on this truly unique spa in the Spas section.

Laugar Health and Spa Center is open Monday – Friday from 6:00 am – 22:30 pm; Saturday from 8:00 am – 10:00 pm; and Sunday from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm.

Laugar Spa and Health Center, Reykjavik, Iceland
Laugar Health and Spa Center
Sundlaugavegur 30a
105 Reykjavik
Telephone:      + 354-553-0000
Mobile:           + 354-898-0000

101 bar and restaurant, 101 hotel, Reykjavik, IcelandAfter spending the afternoon literally soaking up Icelandic Spa culture, it was time to experience Icelandic cuisine. We had dinner at 101 bar and restaurant since we had heard that it was a Reykjavik hot spot. We found the restaurant filled with a hip, fashionable crowd, which came as no surprise after experiencing Chef Gunnvant's cuisine and the bar's innovative cocktails. A few of the selections we enjoyed 101 bar and restaurant, 101 hotel, Reykjavik, Icelandincluded Langoustines with Codfish Roll; Halibut on a bed of arugula; and Icelandic lamb. Beginning with their signature cocktail, 101 Naughty, it was definitely an enjoyable evening. Read the articles on 101 bar and restaurant in the Restaurants and in Chefs' Recipes sections where Chef Gunnvant shares his recipes for a three-course menu in English and in Icelandic, and Barman Einar Valur shares the recipe for the 101 Naughty.

101 bar and restaurant, 101 hotel, Reykjavik, Iceland
101 bar and restaurant
101 hotel
Hverfisgata 10
IS-101 Reykjavik
Telephone:      + 354-580-0101
Fax:                 + 354-580-0100

Reykjavik, IcelandReykjavik is a fashionable city where Icelandic designers are creating truly innovative fashion statements. The main shopping streets are Skólavörðustígur, Bankasræti, and Laugavegur, and where we explored the fashion scene. We visited Eggert the Furrier shop, owned by the renowned furrier Eggert Jóhannsson, to learn about the fur culture in Iceland. What we learned is that Eggert Jóhannsson is a Eggert Jóhannsson, Eggert the Furrier, Reykjavik, Icelandpassionate man of vision and creativity who always seems to be one Viking-size leap ahead of the fashionable crowd with his designs.

Eggert creates bespoke furs for men and women looking for a true luxury experience, as well as offering prêt-à-porter. Belonging to the elite The Kopenhagen Purple Club, (top 100 furriers in the world) his quality and reputation stands behind his luscious creations. Edward and I enjoyed trying on and experiencing Eggert's classic as well as truly trendy designs. Whether you are looking for a fabulous fur coat, hat, or fashionable accessory, you will definitely enjoy visiting Eggert the Furrier. Read the article about Eggert the Furrier in the Fashion section.

Skólavörðustígur 38
101 Reykjavik
Telephone:      + 354-551-1121
Fax:                 + 354-551-1355

Gubjörg Kr. Ingvarsdóttir, aurum, Reykjavik, IcelandWe also visited the atelier of the jewelry designer, Ms. Guđbjörg Kr. Ingvarsdóttir, the owner of aurum. Guđbjörg started her jewelry company in 1999, and seeks her inspiration from nature. She told us that many years ago, she went to see a glacier, and when she saw small flowers growing in those impossibly difficult conditions, she was amazed at how they could possibly grow, and Gubjörg Kr. Ingvarsdóttir, aurum, Reykjavik, Icelandused that inspiration to create one of her designs. Working mainly in silver she also likes to incorporate important Icelandic heritage into her creations while weaving a modern story. In her talented hands, a beautiful piece of old, Icelandic tatting was transformed into a design for an elaborate necklace.

Inga R. Bachmann, Reykjavik, IcelandWe also met with Ms. Inga R. Bachmann, jewelry designer (www.IngaBachmann.com) who works with Ms. Ingvarsdóttir at the atelier, and specializes in gold, and her latest pieces include handcrafted cufflinks. Pieces from Ms. Bachmann's collection may be found at aurum. 


Bankasræti, 4
101 Reykjavik
Telephone:      + 354-551-2770
Mobile:           + 354-821-2770

The Cultural House, Reykjavik, IcelandWe visited The Cultural House (National Center for Cultural Heritage) and had the opportunity to see their Medieval Manuscripts (Eddas and Sagas through the Ages) exhibit, which provided an informative look into Icelandic history. An interesting note is that the people of Iceland speak Norse (now called Icelandic), which is the same language as their Viking ancestors. The language is the oldest living language in Europe and with Iceland's small population is the least used language in the world. Due to Iceland's relative isolation from the rest of the world, the language stayed pure.

The manuscripts show that Icelandic poets were at the Royal Courts, and that the skaldic poetry resembled courtly poetry of Ireland. The exhibit also included information on runic carvings, which dated to as early as the 4th century AD, and are the oldest records of the Nordic language.

We found the preserved vellums of the sagas of the kings, the saga of Greenland relating the tale of Leif the Lucky's explorations of Vinland (North America), and St. Margaret's Saga for women in childbirth to be very fascinating.

The museum is open daily from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission is charged. There is free admission on Wednesday, and anytime with the Reykjavik Tourist Card. There is an elevator in the building for easy accessibility.

The Cultural House (National Center for Cultural Heritage)
Hverfisgata 15
IS-101 Reykjavik
Telephone:      + 354-545-1400
Fax:                 + 354-545-1401

101 Gallery, Reykjavik, IcelandMs. Ingibjörg S. Pálmadottir, the owner of 101 hotel, is a passionate collector of Icelandic art; so much in fact that after furnishing the hotel, she opened 101 Gallery in 2004 to feature more contemporary Icelandic artists. During our visit, there was an interesting exhibit "Stólar" by the artist Hjalti Geir, of chairs that combined artistic form and function.

The gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm.

101 Gallery
Hverfisgata 18a
IS-101 Reykjavik
Telephone:      + 354-580-0101
Fax:                 + 354-580-0100

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, IcelandHallgrímskirkja located at the top of Skólavörðholti is the largest church in Iceland and an impressive landmark in Reykjavik with its soaring white peak. We took the elevator to the 73-meter tower where we had a bird's eye view of the city and the carillon of 29 bells and 3 coordinated bells. With the wind whipping through the tower and the pelting rain, we had a true Icelandic weather experience. The elevator to the tower is open daily from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission is charged; free entrance for children under 6 years.

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland

Although architect Guđjón Samúelsson (1887-1950) was commissioned to design the church in 1937, actual construction began in 1945, with completion 38 years later. Of particular note are the two organs, a small chancel organ built by Th. Frobenius & Sönner of Lynby, Denmark added in 1985, and a large concert organ made by Johannes Klais organ builders of Bonn, Germany added in 1992. Also of importance are the sculptures by Einar Jónsson and the stained glass by Leifur Breiđfjörđ.

Skólavörðholti, 651
121 Reykjavik
Telephone:      +354-510-1000
Fax:                 +354-510-1010

Einar Jonasson Sculpture - Reykjavik, IcelandI love sculpture for its tactile beauty, and the talent and vision of the sculptor to create a work in stone or cast in bronze. Einar Jónsson (1874-1954) was Iceland's first sculptor, and although The Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum was closed, despite the wind and the rain, we did stroll outdoors through The Einar Jónsson Sculpture Garden a glorious exhibit of the talent and the genius of the artist.

The Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum is open from June 1 – 15th September, on Tuesday – Sunday from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm. September 16 – May 31, on Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Einar Jonasson Sculpture - Reykjavik, Iceland The museum is closed for the months of December and January. Admission is charged for the museum, free entrance for children under 16 years and ICOM members. The Sculpture Garden is open daily year round. There is free admission to the garden. Entrance to the Sculpture Garden is located on Freyjusgata.

The Einar Jónsson Sculpture Museum
Eiríksgata (across from the Hallgrímskirkja)
Telephone:      +354-551-3797
Fax:                 +354-562-3909

Icelandic Horses The Icelandic Horse is probably the most beloved symbol of Iceland. Dating to the days of the Viking, there are now 100,000 horses in Iceland, and half of them are wild so we had plenty of opportunity to see them as we drove around the island. Small and sturdy, these gorgeous horses come in a multitude of colors. Read the article on Riding Icelandic Horses in the Adventures section.

We ended the day having dinner at The Gallery Restaurant located at Hotel Hólt, where the artwork collection nicely complements the artistry of Chef Friđgeir I. Eiríksson, formerly of Philippe Girardon's Michelin-star restaurant, Domaine de Clairefontaine in France. He who rejoined The Gallery Restaurant as Executive Chef and business partner in April 2007.

The Gallery Restaurant, Reykjavik, IcelandIn January 2007, Chef Friđgeir I. Eiríksson competed as Iceland's Candidate in the 2007 prestigious Bocuse d'Or competition in Lyon, France, and after experiencing his cuisine,  I know that this young and talented chef will definitely be putting his culinary mark on Reykjavik. A few of the selections that we experienced were Jerusalem Artichoke Soup; Halibut with Capers and Olive Oil; and Tenderloin of Beef "Rossini" with Glazed Root Vegetables and Madeira Sauce.

The Gallery Restaurant is open daily for lunch from 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm, and for dinner from 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm. Read about The Gallery Restaurant and recipes from Chef Friđgeir I. Eiríksson in the Restaurants and Chefs' Recipes sections.

The Gallery Restaurant
Hotel Hólt
Bergstadastraeti 37
101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Telephone:      +354-552-5700
Fax:                 +354-562-3025

Since we would be driving around the island, we thought that it would be a good idea to stop at a bakery and pick up beverages and sandwiches to take on our ride, as we often get sidetracked stopping along the way to photograph the countryside. We went to the Bernhöftsbakarí, open since 1834, where the pastries looked so inviting that in addition to the sandwiches that we bought, we had to sample their delicious pastries, accompanied by cups of coffee. Although we wanted to sample the entire selection, we settled for experiencing "Ostalaufa," twisted bread with sesame and poppy seeds and gratinated cheese; "Pistasiusnúđur," a type of large coffee roll with pistachio cream, glazed with caramel, and sprinkled with baker's sugar; and "Sérbakad vinarbaud," puff pastry filled with pastry cream. We enjoyed the bakery so much that we returned the next day for breakfast, thinking that if we lived in Reykjavik, this would become habit forming. The bakery is open weekdays from 7:30 am – 6:00 pm, and on weekends from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Bergstađastræti 13
101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Telephone:      +354-551-3083
Fax:                 +354-551-3088

Geyser in IcelandWe wanted to experience Iceland at our own speed, or in Edward's case, his driving speed, with an emphasis on the word speed, and rented a car from Hertz to experience the waterfalls, geysers, and the natural beauty of the island. We visited the Geyssistofa Geysir Center in the Haukadalur valley, located one hour and thirty minutes from Reykjavik, and watched the Multimedia Show to learn about the geothermal fields and the geysers before we walked across the road to witness "Great Geyser" and "Strokkur" magnificently spouting water and steam with the smell of sulphur lingering in the air.

Hours vary throughout the year. Check the website for a complete list of hours. Admission is charged to the Geysir Center Multimedia Show.

Geysir Center
Geysir Center at Geysir
Telephone:      +354-480-6800
Fax:                 +354-480-6001

Gullfoss - IcelandOur next stop was to the spectacular Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall) on the Hvitá River, where we watched spellbound as the water rushed at a breathtaking speed into a steep crevice. Rain mixed with sun, and the result was an incredible rainbow spanning the waterfall. Edward and I took turns posing under the rainbow, and when Edward was not looking, I went in search of the elf and his pot of gold. Settled by the Vikings and the Celts, the Icelandic people have many legends including elves and trolls. There is even an "elf school" in Iceland, although we did not visit there.

In the evening, we went to The National Theatre of Iceland to see LEG – visindasöngleikur (a science fiction musical) by Hugleikur Dagsson; Music by David Thór Jónsson and Co; Directed by Stefán Jónsson, Set Design by Ilmur Stefánsdöttir, Video by Gideon Kiers; Lighting Design by Björn Bergsteinn Gudmundsson; and Cast: Jörunder Ragnarsson, Stefán Hallur Stefánsson, Dóra Jóhansdöttir, and Valur Freyr Einarsson. Although a bit difficult for us to follow at times since the play was in Icelandic, we enjoyed laughing along with the Icelandic audience when we could follow the humorous plot.

The National Theatre of Iceland
Hverfisgata 19
101 Reykjavik, Iceland
Telephone:      +354-585-1200

Blue Lagoon IcelandSince the famous Blue Lagoon Iceland is on the way to the airport we decided to spend a few hours there before returning our rental car to Hertz. The morning began with bright blue sunny skies as we walked to our favorite bakery to have a quick coffee, and twenty minutes later, it started hailing, which lasted for a full two minutes before the weather reverted to sunny blue skies. They say that if you don't like the weather in Iceland, just give it a few minutes, and as we drove the 45 minutes to the Blue Lagoon, we experienced every type of weather imaginable.

Sculptures in IcelandAs we drove, we noticed the landscape, which is as variable as the weather, with areas so flat you can see for miles, mountains with fingers of glacier snow, rocky, craggy, moss covered fissures, in contrasting colors of yellow grasses, green moss, deep black rich earth, gray rocks, and white roofed colorful houses shining in the sunlight against a brilliant blue sky, and the sculpture that dotted the highway.

Blue Lagoon IcelandThe Blue Lagoon is an outdoor spa where we soaked in geothermal seawater in a surrealist landscape that felt like we were on the moon. We soaked in the warm water until the skin on our fingers were absolutely prune like, had an enjoyable lunch at their restaurant, and it was the perfect way to say "goodbye" to Iceland, until we can return again. Read about the Blue Lagoon Iceland in the Spas section.

The Blue Lagoon is open daily, hours vary throughout the year; September 1 – May 14 from 10:00 am – 8:00 pm; May 15 – May 31 from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm; and June 1 – August 31 from 7:30 am – 9:00 pm. Blue Lagoon IcelandAdmission is charged; free admission for children 11 years and younger, and reduced admission for senior citizens (67 years and older) and teenagers (ages 12 – 15 years).

Blue Lagoon Iceland
240 Grindavík
Telephone:      +354-420-8800
Fax:                 +354-420-8801

View from Plane of Iceland

We arrived at the airport and after a quick check-in at the Icelandair counter, we went to the Icelandair Lounge, had a glass of wine, and caught up on our email before boarding our 5 hour 45 minute direct flight to New York. Saga Class service was very attentive, and with individual DVD players, Edward and I finally had the opportunity to watch a few movies that we had wanted to see. We enjoyed aperitifs of Jacquemart champagne, and an excellent dinner created by two highly regarded Icelandic chefs, Siggi Gisla and Stefán Viđarsson of restaurant Vox at the Nordica Hotel. Before we knew it, we had landed.

Important information for Iceland:

The currency of Iceland is the Icelandic Krona. As of April 2007, the exchange rate was 65.41 Icelandic Krona (ISK) to 1 US Dollar, and 87.48 65.41 Icelandic Krona (ISK) to 1 Euro (EUR).  Icelandic Krona coins come in denominations of: 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 Krona. Banknotes come in denominations of: 500, 1000, 2000, and 5000.

The electric current in Iceland is 220 volts, so it is helpful to bring your own converter, and it is important to note that Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time year-round.

Although many Icelanders speak English, it is always helpful to have some basic vocabulary when traveling. Icelanders still speak the language of the Vikings, (Old Norse), so listening and speaking the Icelandic language will capture the history of this most unique country.

One of the more unusual things that we learned about Icelanders is that they use a patronymic naming system, using their father's first name with the suffix "son" or "döttir (daughter) after their own first name. Example: Stefán Stefánsson is Stefán, the son of Stefán.

Guide to pronunciation:

Á, á is pronounced like "ow"
ð is pronounced like "th" as in "the"
Þ, þ is pronounced like "th" as in "rather"
Æ, æ is pronounced like "i" as in "high"
J is pronounced like "y"
Ö, ö is pronounced like "u" as in "burn"
Ó, ó is pronounced like a long "o"









Good morning

Góðan dag

Good evening

Gott kvöld

How are you?

Hvernig ert þú?

Fine thank you, and you?

Fínn þakka þú, og þú?



Thank you

Takk fyrir






My name is …

Minn nafn er …

What is your name?

Hvaða er þinn nafn?





How much is this?

Hvernig mikill er this?

























I am sick.

ÉG er veikur.

I need a doctor.

ÉG þörf a læknir.

I need a dentist.

ÉG þörf a tannlæknir




falla í yfirlið



Heart problems

hjarta vandamál

High blood pressure













Hot chocolate

heitur súkkulaði






























































Please other articles on Iceland in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, Spas, Fashion, and Adventures sections.

For information on Iceland, please visit the website: Icelandic Tourist Board: www.IcelandTouristBoard.com.

For information on Icelandair, please visit the website: Icelandair: www.icelandair.com.

For information on Hertz, please visit the website: www.hertz.com.

© June 2007. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.

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