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Friday, September 15, 2017

9 Days Iceland Summer Road Trip Itinerary: Day 1 - Reykjavik

Iceland, an idea became reality on August 2017. 

Our flight from Heathrow was around 8pm, our bodies beaten from yesterday's 10-hour wedding photoshoot and the earlier shopping trips, but the thought of embarking on this adventure excites us. We booked a round trip with Icelandair for approximately SGD$500 each. They even have a simulation of northern lights within the cabin.

We landed at Keflavik at about 11pm. The skies were still dimly lit because of the midnight sun. The weather? Freezing. Everyone was literally trembling while waiting to board the buses. Surprisingly, you can still see people donned in shorts and carrying shit tons of beer. Here's a tip: Get your trip's alcohol at the airport, but remember, if you drink, don't drive.
Here's how to get to Reykjavik from Keflavik airport.

1. Most car rental companies have the airport as their collection point. Depending on your itinerary, I would suggest this because it can be cheaper to self-drive to Reykjavik.

2. Bus companies provide regular services from the airport to Reykjavik. We chose Flybus, which took us to BSI terminal in Reykjavik and then a taxi to our Airbnb. Just a warning, cabbing is very, VERY expensive in Iceland. We took a 4-minute cab ride of 2.2km, and it was like SGD$23. Like WHUT.

We checked into our Airbnb in a quiet neighbourhood of the capital, Stigahlíð, for our night's rest.

Before continuing with the itinerary, I felt that it is a responsibility to share this.

The rotten egg smell of their water.

Previously I was reading reviews for an Airbnb host and a one-star review read "the sulphur odor of the water is too overpowering and smelled terrible, what a bad start to my trip". First, that was rude. Second, the person would be surprised to find that most water in Iceland smells like this. Okay, here's the thing with their water. It smells like rotten eggs because of its sulphur content. I am not even kidding. It takes some time to get used to the smell. Although the water has apparent health effects and is beneficial to the skin, Lady M and I had rashes every single time after bathing. 

In fact, Iceland has one of the cleanest waters. It is totally safe and drinkable from the tap.

Don't say you have visited Iceland unless you visited Hallgrimskirkja

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and is home to most Icelanders. Despite being the largest city in Iceland, this place is not huge and is totally walkable from point to point. After breakfast at our Airbnb, we took a 30-minute stroll to Hallgrimskirkja, the largest cathedral in the country. You can also choose to pay a small fee to head up to their viewing deck.
The altar of Hallgrimskirkja 

According to Wikipedia, the pipe organ at Hallgrimskirkja has 102 ranks, 72 stops and 5275 pipes. I have no idea what are ranks and stops, but 5275 pipes sound pretty badass.

After visiting Hallgrimskirkja, we head north-west for a stroll along the coast of Iceland. The sun was shining, the seas were blue, seagulls cawing. Transquility, if it wasn't for the cold that froze us to bits. Well, not surprised to see some locals (I assumed) jogging in their exercise shirts and shorts.
Trying to look afar while freezing our asses off

One of the attractions along the coast is the Sun Voyager, a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. It represents the promise of undiscovered territory, and a dream for hope, progress and freedom. How apt. Here we are, two Singaporean Chinese, wandering to the other end of Earth. 
The Sun Voyager

Living in the urban jungle of Singapore, sceneries like this are non-existent. A large canvas of blue seas, white clouds and green mountains accompanied by the sounds of waves crashing lightly against the shore. It is at times like this, I give thanks for my senses, that I am able to see, breathe, hear, touch, and more importantly - feel. Not with the skin, but with the heart. 

Walking westwards along the shore, we found hundreds of these stones stacking on each other like stone pillars. Lady M thought it had some religious meaning, to her disappointment, these man-made sculptures are known as steinvarða (or cairns in English). They are used as landmarks before the internet age.

The next stop was Harpa, a concert hall and conference centre, serving as a distinguished landmark in Reykjavik. There's a nice restaurant where we stopped by for our coffee break. If you are looking for overpriced souvenir shops, Harpa has a few, but it doesn't harm to take a look. It is also at the Harpa that we were truly convinced that credit card is accepted everywhere in Iceland, even as an entrance fee for the washroom. You swipe your card to pee. High-tech.

The map of Iceland that we got is really pretty, it's crazy how correct and detailed the buildings are. That's me pointing to our next stop - Bonus, one of the must-know supermarket, as it is possibly the cheapest place you can get your food.

Unfortunately, it was their commercial holiday and long weekend, so a lot of shops were closed, including Bonus. Even without holidays, most shops (excluding those in malls) close pretty early. If everywhere is closed, there's always the petrol kiosk.
A pig that looks like it's on drugs - yup, that's Bonus

We ended getting our groceries from Samkaup. To be honest, Bonus is better in many ways. To start off, Bonus has more variety and is way cheaper. We got the following, and it costs us 3179 ISK, which is close to SGD$42. Here's what I learn if you are exploring the island with a car and Airbnb along the way. Get microwavable food for one or two day's worth. Chances are, there would be a supermarket in the next town you are heading to. Do not get the pizza or a dozen hot dogs, for example, if you are not finishing within a day or two, because it will spoil without a refrigeration. For your road trip, stock up on bread, cereal, energy bars and liquid (water, juices, etc.)

We ended Day 1 early, ready to embark on the Ring Road tomorrow. Click here for the next day's itinerary: Day 2 - The Golden Circle