Wrap up warm and feed your travel bug as this week we’re jetting off to a place with a name meaning ‘steamy bay’ from the impressive steam rising from its geothermal springs. Chilly it may be, but with so much to see we reckon it’s worth it.
Boasting an impressive title of the ‘worlds most northern capital city’, Reykjavik in southwestern Iceland (latitude 64°08′ N to be exact) is surrounded by a coastline scattered with islands, coves and peninsulas. The city was thought to be largely engrossed by a large glacier during the ice age, with other areas covered by sea water, later to be shaped by landscape changing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Originally settled by Norweigan and Celtic immigrants in the 9th and 10th centuries AD, it is said that the first settler built his farm on the peninsula that Reykjavic stands on and the town started to built itself around it. Receiving official town charter recognition in 1786 it grew steadily to become the country’s capital and home to 60% of Iceland’s population.
Hallgrimskirkja Church is one of the most commonly known images of Reykjavik‘s architecture and can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city. Its concrete 73 metre high tower boasts an amazing view, built originally to resemble volcanic basalt rock formations by architect Gudjon Samuelson.
Viðey Island is just minutes from the city centre by boat and is the best place around to see unrivalled wildlife in its natural habitat. With hiking trails scattered around the island, the island also houses archaelogical excavations, an Augustine monastery and one of the most varied selections of bird life in Iceland.
The island also home to the Imagine Peace Tower, a light installation set up by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. Made up of 15 searchlights with prisms acting as mirrors, a column of light is reflected vertically into the sky from a 10 metre wide wishing well. On a clear night it can reach an altitude of 4000m and can be seen penetrating the cloud cover. To celebrate the 43rd anniversary of John and Yoko’s honeymoon and the first week of spring, the tower will be lit up every night from sunset until midnight between 21st-28th March, with future dates to be confirmed.
Mount Esja is a popular place for hiking and climbing, and watches over the city at an impressive 2,999 ft. It’s 10km out of the city centre and part of a volcanic mountain range made from basalt and tuff-stone. If steep ascents aren’t your thing, there’s a walking path available to take you to the summit in approximately 3 hours.
What first springs to mind when thinking of visiting Reykjavik for most people is the Northern Lights. Also known as Aurora Borealis, they are natural lights that glow bright in the sky and can be seen at night time.
Produced by electrically charged particles that enter the earth’s atmosphere, they appear like fluorescent lights that group in belts around the geomagnetic poles and form high above the earth’s surface where the atmosphere is extremely thin, around an altitude of 100-250km. Although not a guaranteed sight that can be affected by cloud cover, moonlight and urban light pollution, cross your fingers for meteorological luck and head to Iceland September to April for the best chances.
Although Iceland has the advantage of a warm Atlantic current so is generally warmer than places of a similar latitude, the temperatures is cool and winters mild and windy. For ladies, a Creenstone coat is ideal day wear to keep you warm but still stylish. Finish with a staple pair of Armani Jeans that will go with everything in your wardrobe, and a comfortable pair of Ash trainers for exploring. For men, Napapijri is the king of outdoors wear and ideal for a hiking up Mount Esja. Team with Cerruti 1881 jeans and Cruyff trainers for city exploring.
When in Reykjavik, visiting the famous ice bar at Restaurant Reykjavik which is made entirely out of ice is a must- including tables, chairs and glasses! Before entering you’re handed a warm coat to wear to ensure to don’t become a permanent feature…and it’s a great place to drop by for a drink before dinner. If your feeling a little chilly afterwards, we’re sure one of the city’s geothermal pools will warm you up.