“Please ensure that your seatbelt is fastened, your seat back is in the upright position and your tray-table is stowed…”
This is always the best bit, especially when you’re landing in a country like Iceland. I crane my neck to make sure I get a good view – I know what’s coming. Part of me envies the first timers here, but an even bigger part of me doesn’t, as this is a place always full of surprises.
The plane begins to tilt from one side to another, teasing us with glimpses of Keflavík town, the coast, and a strangely beautiful, baron plain. Depending on the time of year you go to Iceland, the view from the sky can vary. During the winter it’s coated with thick, fluffy snow, and the summer months boast luscious greens that many wouldn’t expect from a country bordering the Artic Circle. But this time it’s spring, and the snow has only just finished melting, leaving a brown, dusty, post-apocalyptic look to the land.
I can’t tell what the weather is like from this side of the window. The sky is as blue as the sea below, but Iceland isn’t exactly known for its heat waves. What it is known for though, are powerful winds, but there isn’t a single tree from where I am to the bleak horizon facing me.
Keflavík Airport is like no other airport I’ve ever been to (and that’s quite a few!). You could, quite literally, hear a pin drop. The usual hustle and bustle, or constant buzz of voices simply doesn’t exist here. It’s almost as if you’re in a church (which may as well be the case because, believe me, you’ll be thanking god you came here!).
Unless you’re renting out a car, or willing to pay $100~ in a taxi, you can take the Flybus into Reykjavík. You buy the tickets inside of the airport, you can’t miss the stall. The coaches are really regular as they’re matched up to every flight so there should always be one when you arrive. It costs 2,200 Icelandic Krona each way or 4,000 (approx. €28, £22, $32) for a return. It costs a little extra, like $3, if you want to be dropped off at your hotel or guesthouse rather than at the BSI bus terminal, but, to be honest, I think Reykjavík is small enough to walk across if you don’t mind wheeling your bag up a slight hill or two.
So then it takes 45 amazing minutes from the airport to the main bus terminal. The bus has free Wi-Fi, but after Whatsapp’ing your family that you arrived here safe and sound, I don’t think there is much need for it. You have stunning views for the entire trip. There are moody skies, small colourful towns and lava fields. Yes, you read that correctly. Lava fields! And if you just stop and think about that for a second, it’s an absolutely crazy thought! As far as the eye can see, there’s grey and black rocks covering the whole landscape. Sometimes they have moss on them, sometimes they don’t. That’s cool enough in itself, you feel like you’ve landed on the moon, or left earth realms at the very least, and then you wonder how they got there.
I’m sitting there, all cosy and excited on my way to the big smoke (no pun intended!) and I realise that these fields in front of me, these very fields, were, at one time, soaked in red hot lava from one of the many volcanoes lurking within the mountains. Now not a lot grows there, it’s just solidified black lava. And this isn’t a one-off, there are lots of these fields scattered around this beautiful country. It’s mind blowing.
Then, just as you think you’re getting used to the idea of the lava surrounding you, you notice pipes running across the ground and steam coming from the ground in the distance. Hmm, a bit odd, but whatever. No! This is how the eco-friendly Icelanders get a lot of their hot water and electricity – geothermal energy! You see, because Iceland is located over a rift where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet, and there’s a load of volcanoes around, the heat of the magma is brought closer to the surface of the earth. Seriously clever stuff.
All of that crazy thinking must have passed the time because we’re now approaching Reykjavík! You’ll know when you’re almost there because there are two small towns (Hafnarfjördur and then Kópavogur) right before it so to the untrained eye you’d think we were already there. This is when you can begin to tell that an Icelandic “city” isn’t like an anywhere-else-city. (But in a good way!)
The first thing you’ll probably see when you’re on the outskirts (or anywhere else in Reykjavík for that matter) is the famous (and once controversial) Hallgrímskirkja. At 73 metres high, it is the largest church in Iceland. Because of it’s unique design (it’s light grey and it’s shaped sort of like a rocket, although it was originally inspired by the shapes formed as lava cools into basalt rocks) and this was quite a few years ago, a lot of Reykjavík’s residents didn’t like the idea of it, especially as it sits up at the top of the city, in plain sight. However, as far as I know, everybody is fine with it now, and you can pay 900 Krona (€6) to go up the elevator and see everything in Reykjavík, including the mighty Mt. Esja, the Atlantic ocean, and the cute streets dotted with even cuter, colourful, iron-clad houses.
By the way, it’s not expected here to tip the bus driver (although he probably wouldn’t refuse).
Please remember to collect your luggage from the storage compartment below and we wish you a safe and memorable time during your stay in Reykjavík! I’ll update you shortly with a list of must-do’s while you’re here!
As they say in Iceland…
(See you soon!)