The world's northernmost capital, Reykjavik (which means "smoky bay") sits on the southwest coast of Iceland. Surrounded by a ring of mountains and Faxafloi Bay, Reykjavik is immaculately clean, and visitors will find that it's easy to explore on foot.

The capital city is full of artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers, as well as the rugged fishermen who ply the North Atlantic Ocean and unload their catch on the city's docks. Reykjavik is the political and cultural epicenter of Iceland, home to the nation's parliament.

Reykjavik remains one of the world's top travel destinations, the number of annual tourists now far exceeding the country's total population. Tourists once found exorbitant prices, but the economic upheaval the nation faced in 2008 devalued the Icelandic krona, and what was once one of the most expensive cities in the world has become a relative bargain. With unrivaled nightlife and pristine nature surrounding the city, there has never been a better time to visit Reykjavik.



Sights—The white church, Hallgrimskirkja; the Sun Voyager sculpture overlooking the bay.

Museums—The National Museum of Iceland for a thorough overview of the country's history and culture; Rekjavik Art Museum for its consistently excellent rotating exhibitions; Culture House for its centuries old manuscripts.

Walks—The walk up Oskjuhlid Hill to Perlan, through a small forest and mossy fields; a hike at nearby Esja Mountain.

Especially for Kids—Slakki Petting Zoo; interactive exhibits and 23 life-size models at Whales of Iceland.


The highlights of Reykjavik can be seen in two days, but we recommend staying longer, if time permits. And be sure to take the time to talk with the city's residents; they're very friendly.

Because the city is old, streets are laid out in strange ways, and it's possible to become disoriented. Find a landmark, such as the church spire or the city pond, and keep it as a reference point.

The two main areas of Reykjavik encompass the harbor and the small pond. The harbor, teeming with boats and fishermen, provides a pleasant stroll and a glimpse into the life of a fishing nation. Stop in for afternoon tea at the Hotel Borg, just across from City Hall, and you may spot local lawmakers or even the president.


The local food, consisting primarily of all types of seafood (salmon, cod, shrimp, haddock and dried fish) and lamb, is fabulous. Among our favorite dishes are hakarl (raw shark), graflax (cured salmon with herbs), hangikjot (smoked lamb), skyr (similar to yogurt) and hverabraud (rye bread baked underground). This bread can be bought everywhere, even in gas stations. With a local cheese, it makes a good lunch.


Dos & Don'ts

Do be aware that many secondary roads outside Reykjavik are unpaved. Use caution while driving, particularly during the winter months, when days last only a few hours, and weather and road conditions can change very quickly.

Don't expect to see Eskimos or penguins—they don't exist in Iceland, much less Reykjavik.

Do take along waterproof clothing if you plan to go hiking.

Do take a steam bath at the geothermal pools, and do take along swimsuits. Swimming in the natural hot springs is a grand experience.

Don't think about taking your pet along. A six-week quarantine period is required before entry.


Passport/Visa Requirements: A passport is required for a stay of up to 90 days. Reconfirm travel document requirements with carrier before departure.

Languages: Icelandic. English widely spoken.

Predominant Religions: Predominantly Christian.

Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time, Daylight Saving Time is not observed.

Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.

Telephone Codes: 354, country code; 5,city code

Travel 42

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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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