In between diving, we had a little bit of time to explore Reykjavik. Despite it's position in the North Atlantic, it's long winters, and blustery weather, Reykjavik is quite a colorful city. We were no where close to exhausting Reykjavik, but did find a couple of gems that we wanted to share with others. We've also included some travel information in case you're planning your own trip to Iceland!
We flew to Iceland with Iceland Air. It was our first time flying with them and I have to say, I'm impressed. Each person flying within Europe gets a free checked bag and if you are flying between the US and Europe (except for Iceland), you get two bags. I'm pretty sure all flights route though Reykjavik, and when combined with the fact that they allow people to do a stopover in Iceland for up to 7 days, for no additional cost, it's a pretty good deal. Next time you're flying between the two continents, check out Iceland Air and take a couple of days to do a stopover in the Land of Fire and Ice!
Our first morning there, we had some time to explore before being picked up for our dives at Garður. First stop was the iconic Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church sitting on a small hill overlooking Reykjavik. In side, the church looks Scandanavian modern. I'm not sure if this is an actual architectural and design style, but it's the best way to describe it. The floor is a dark stone tile while the walls and ceilings are white and unadorned. The minimalistic nature of the church is not cold though, with the use of wooden pews and a seriously impressive, 5000+ pipe organ. Once inside, for a small fee, you can ride to elevator to the top. From there, you can get a stunning birds eye view of Reykjavik and it's colorful houses and roofs.
In front of the church is a statue of Lief Erikson, the viking responsible for discovering the America's, hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus did it. While technically not connected with the church, the statue is pretty cool. It was a gift from the US to Iceland on the 1000th anniversary of Althing, the Iceland parliment, which is also the oldest in the world.
This is a restaurant recommended to us our dive guide Jammi. We took his suggestion and headed out. Thinking we were a little late for the dinner crowd (it was about 8:30 when we got there), we figured finding a table wouldn't be a problem. Boy were we wrong! Thankfully, it's just the two of us, and it's easy to find a spot for 2. After a short wait in their bar downstairs (we both ordered one of the local Icelandic beers to try), we were shown to our seats by the grills. Not normally the ones to order an appetizer, we decided to try the Minke Whale. Oh. My. Gosh. It was seriously the best meat that I have ever eaten. It was incredibly tender and had a flavor similar to a mix between beef and oyster with a slight metallic component to it (minke whale is high in iron, so I guess if you're anemic, it might be a good option!). For our main course, Aaron ordered the Meat Gourmet (solid Man meal right there) which came with Icelandic lamb, Rib Eye Steak and Duck. I opted for the Fish gourmet which came with cod, salmon and red fish. All three were absolutely delicious. The salmon literally melted in your mouth. If you're looking for a good restaurant in Reykjavik, give Grill Market a try. I cannot say enough good things about this place. Word of advice though, if you don't want to wait or have a large group, make a reservation a couple of days in advance.
If you've been following along, you know that we used Dive.IS as our dive guide. We had two guides over the course of the three day tour - Patrik and Jammi. They were awesome dive guides and gave us some great information not only about diving, but also the local area, local customs (did you know that in Iceland they have 13 Santas?!), and places to go in Reykjavik. Making reservations were easy and the staff were fairly attentive. They offer a ton of different diving options, from day snorkles in Silfra, to full on 10 day liveaboards in Iceland and Greenland. There is most likely a tour that is right for you, but for groups, they do offer private tours where you get to make your own schedule.
It's no secret that Iceland is expensive, including the hotels. That's why I jumped at the chance to book an apartment-hotel when I saw a good price. Not only did it save us on accommodations, we also saved money on meals. We had a fully equipped kitchen that allowed us to buy some groceries and make breakfast in the mornings. In turn, this allowed us to splurge a little more at dinner time since it was usually the only meal we ate in a restaurant.
This hotel is structured differently than many other hotels. It is basically a ''serve yourself'' hotel. There is no daily maid service, no receptionist (although they are easily available by phone), and you help yourself to fresh towels every other day if you want. The idea is that they want it to be more like home and less like a hotel. This was great, except for the fact that the light next to my side of the bed was broken and the shower drained slowly. Having a receptionist would likely have resulted in those issues being addressed quicker, but for the price and convenience, I can't be too upset.
The Lebowski Bar
Our last night there, we wanted something simple so we went to the Lebowski Bar. We had heard that they had good White Russians, and wanted to try them. Aaron loved it. I am not a milk or vodka fan, so I thought it was just ok. Their menu is small and consists mostly of burgers with some small appetizers also available. Regardless, the burgers we got were pretty tasty. If you want a low key, laid back bar experience, this would be the place to go.