As melancholy set in about the impending end of the holiday, we explored the upbeat city of Reykjavík. It is small, convivial and easy to navigate.
The town of Hveragerði is located 45 km east of Reykjavík. We stopped by on the way from Selfoss to Reykjavík. It has a geothermal park in the town centre which is a little run down and many hot springs and mud pools are not active anymore. But it does give you the chance to boil your own eggs in geothermally hot water. Nice activity if you have children.
Apart from that, there is a one hour hike starting northwest of Hveragerði that leads to a hot river. We really wanted to end our Iceland trip with a dip in it but it was raining cats and dogs. So we skipped it.
We spent the day exploring downtown Reykjavík, buying some souvenirs and Icelandic supermarket goodies we had gotten used to in the last two weeks.
Settlement in Reykjavík first began in 871 and since then the greater Reykjavík area has become home to more than 60% of the country’s population. Reykjavík means “smoky bay”. The name probably came from the steam rising from a hot spring.
The big, white, modern church has become synonymous to Reykjavík. The lutheran church was named and built in memory of Iceland’s greatest devotional poets, Hallgrímur Pétursson. Apart from writing devotional poems, Hallgrímur was appointed to refresh the christian faith of Westman islanders who were kidnapped and taken to the largely muslim nation of Algeria in 1627. Some of the hostages were released and needed a “refresher course in christianity. Hallgrímur fell in love and later married one of his students from the refresher course, Guðríður Símonardóttir.
Guðjón Samúelsson, the architect who designed the church, wanted it to resemble the basaltic columns that are common in the Icelandic landscape. After 41 years of construction, the church was consecrated in 1986. Interestingly, 60% of the building costs were from the parish’s own resources and the remaining was funded by the government. Perhaps that explains the long construction period.
We highly recommend climbing up the clock tower for views over Reykjavík.
Every major city has a landmark concert hall and in 2011, Reykjavík got its own. The 2008 financial crisis did delay the completion significantly but today the Harpa is a piece of architecture that people instantly relate to Iceland.
The Sun Voyager
A short walk from Harpa is the Sólfar or the Sun Voyager. The elegant stainless steel sculpture sits majestically at the waterfront. It was designed by Icelandic sculptor, Jón Gunnar Árnason and presented to the city in 1990. It signifies a dreamboat and an ode to the sun. A boat, a dream boat, shining under the sun and with it symbolizing a glimmer of hope. It only seems fitting for a country like Iceland. A country like no other.
We departed early on day 16. Extremely heavy winds sent us off at the airport. The gruelling weather made it a tad bit easier to say goodbye to this amazing country!