N'Iceland, as I know it....
N'Iceland, as I know it...
Iceland is a fantastic place filled with great culture, people and amazing scenery. A total must for any form of traveller, unless at the moment you find yourself on the green peace 'war against whaling' list. Despite that Iceland has something for everyone. There is a real feeling of being in the wild anywhere outside of Reykjavik or Akureyri, the two largest communities in Iceland. It really does depend on what your looking to get out of this island country, but I feel that it is in a transition right now, especially towards tourism. It really has the potential to become the New Zealand of the northern hemisphere, but without the larger cities. That is possibly why there is feeling of movement surrounding the country. Movement in a general sense of expanding, and I'm not talking about lava expansion.
Almost like an adults playground, this country will leave you awe-inspired and speechless more times than you can imagine. From lava fields, to Geysers (the original actually been located not far from Reykjavik), to bathing in hot springs, listening to mythical stories of trolls and elf's, this country will keep you captivated long after your trip ends, and make you want to go back more and more. If whales are your thing, then its all about heading up to Husavik to watch the graceful giants on a tour of the bay area. If trekking and adventure sports are your thing then you will relax into a home from home. From the famous Landmannalaugar trail which people flock here to complete, to the annual invasion of circle cyclists, like myself whom invade every year.
If your looking to party in Iceland then Reykjavik and Akureyri are your main places to let loose and hit the bars until the wee hours day in, day out. The country really doesn't pop out as one of Europe's party capitals, but they definitely know to throw it down in Reykjavik and Akureyri. If you find yourself in the smaller communities then you will more often than not, be invited to a summer party, or be shown around to the cool places to hang out. In many of the smaller places in Iceland, we woke up with soar heads the day after a brilliant night out with genuinely friendly locals. If festivals are what your looking for then Iceland has plenty! From family folk festivals such as the annual lobster festival held on the first weekend of July in Höfn, to the Vestmannaeyjar (English: The Westman Islands) festival which is held on the first weekend of August. We heard so much praise about these festivals from both locals all over Iceland to foreigners like ourselves hoping to get there in time to party in the back of beyond. Another up and coming festival is Iceland Airwaves festival (Reykjavik) which this year will take place from 13-17th of October including the annual Iceland Airwaves 'Blue Lagoon Chill' (Keflavik) on the October 16Th, featuring top DJs.
While in Reykjavik, and Akureyri I did some extensive research into the bar and club scene, in the purest journalistic form possible, and have come up with treats for you to explore. Enjoy!
Reykjavik Night life......
* Hemmi & Valdi, Laugarvegur 21 - A bar which I absolutely loved in Reykjavik. Literally a home from home, I was told it was actually a converted house by the two owners Hemmi and Valdi. This place oozes uber cool and cosy vibes! It was left in its charming and rustic state (wooden floor boards, charming furniture, big 'people watching' windows etc). The staff here were brilliant, very informative on where was cool to move onto during the night, and also just up for a laugh. The nights we managed to catch were ace. Twice they had live dj's playing ambient to progressive music, and throughout the week we dropped in to an acoustic night, where we saw the lovely Myrra Ros (http://www.myspace.com/myrraros) and more talented musicians. This was also one of the cheaper bars we went to in the whole of Iceland which is always a positive. If your looking to start your night off, or just looking for a few relaxed drinks, this is the place to be.
* Cafe Rosenberg, Klapparstígur 25-27 - is where we were directed to go if we wanted to attend live gigs. We didn't make it there ourselves but were strongly recommended by a friend.
* Bakkus, 1-3 Hedinsgotu - "opens when you show up, closes when you leave". This was a fantastic little place. The type of place you would expect to hear groovy beats and see people dancing on the tables having the time of their lives. Probably the coolest place to move onto in Reykjavik. We were told at Hemmi & Valdi, that this was the place to go, and sure enough it was. There was no nonsense about this place, no unneeded arrogance, just the right amount. Serving up pocket happy prices on beer, and also having a good selection of vodkas, this place has definitely found the correct mix of clientele. I would strongly urge you to check out this place, if your looking to party.
* Danska kráinn, Ingólfstræti 3 - was full with people every time we turned up at this little bar, tucked away just off of Laugarvegur. Brilliant place to meet people and drink outside on those warm summer evenings/nights.
* Hressó, Austurstræti 20 - was were we actually watched some of the world cup. The bar itself is easy to get served at even on busy Saturday nights. There was a large dance floor, and plenty of place to sit and chat, both inside and out. There seemed to be a very relaxed clientele and also very youthful. This bar is also one of the cheaper beer halls in town!
You will find most of the chilled out bars along Laugarvegur, Austurstræti and Bankastræti. There are bars along here to cater for everyone, from an English bar, to swish clubs. With there been no door charge at any of the venues you can pick and choose the right place for you, and it doesn't cost you a Krona to check it out! If the clientele is not up to scratch, OR too much up its own ass, feel free to leave and meander else where. That's the beauty of the Reykjavik night life scene.
To check out more bars see http://www.icelandguest.com/dining/cafe-and-bars/.
Akureyri Night life.......
* Kaffi Akureyri, Strandgata - was a great place to sit and chat with friends. Through the week we saw live sing along events, which was great. There was a really good atmosphere to this bar. They even had drinks offer wheel, which you pay to play, spin the wheel to win drinks deals. The weekend we managed to blag our way in for free it wasn't actually that busy, but we were told this is usually the busiest place in town. No frills bar/cafe but pure good fun.
* Café Amour, Ráðhústorgi 9 - was the place that really stood up and shouted out to you in Akureyri. We headed here on the Friday night and Saturday night and had an awesome time both nights. Great vibes, and decor and a good mix of music throughout the week! Places available to let you sit, chat and relax or shake up on the dance floor until the early hours.
These were the two main locations that we hung out in, whilst in Akureri, however we did take a few pints in some other bars, but in my haze forgot to write their names down at the time. Most of the bars tend to be around the main street in Akureyri. If your downtown, you wont miss out on a thing. There are also two cinemas in Akureyri, Borgabió (Hólabraut 12) & Nyja - Bió (Strandgata 2) both show movies for slightly different audiences.
The Back of Beyond..... is a list of places to check out and visit all over Iceland. Not just towns but natural specticles. This country litterally has no end to it........
* Reykjavik - great party, good place to start/finish a dream trip in Iceland. Not far from the golden circle but also home to some amazing 'sight seeing' features. Give Reykjavik a go and you wont be disapointed, its one of the cutest and most relaxed capital cities in the world.
* Hvalfjörður - a beautiful fjord located near Akranes, and not far north from Reykjavik. This really is a beautiful place to come and totally feel away from it all. There are a few guest houses around the bay and also some amazing scenery which cant be missed. Give yourself a treat when visiting Reykjavik or the rest of Iceland and drive/cycle around the fjord, rather than useing the tunnel that dives under the mouth of the fjord. You get an idea glimpse of the Icelandic beauty. Awe inspiring!!!
* Borgarnes - a nice little town located not much further up the coast from Akranes and Hvalfjörður. The town itself is a good example of some of the smaller communities that are well serviced. There are some beautiful views from around the town and a very good local museum located at the library. Ask her for any information.
Snæfellsjökull - commands a mighty respect. The views of the mountain are amazing! It is one of the most visited locations in Iceland, mainly due to the novel ' A journey to the center of the Earth' (1864) by Jules Verne.
* Stykkishólmur - is a fantastic little seaside community. A beautiful location, and surroundings. Every year since 1995 the popualtion has held a festival called "Danskir dagar", Danish Days in English. This occurs the third weekend in August, and celebrates the towns historic connections with Denmark. The town is deffinetly a pleasure on the eyes with its many charming pretty little wooden buildings.
* The Western Fjord lands - we didn't get to see as much as we wanted to, however the terain and stunning scenery makes me wanted to visit this particular part of Iceland again.
* Akureri - is a brilliant place to visit. Smaller than Reykjavik by quite an amount it is more of a cute town than a city. The town itself is surrounded by sooo much natural beauty. If you fancy a very cheap tour, jump on one of the local buses throughout the week and ride them for free. Feel free to hop on hop off, because the bus service in Akureyri is run by volunteer drivers it is free, but get this, Non-existent during weekends. There is lots to discover in the great little capital of northern Iceland, and great place to stay if your discovering the northern beauties.
* Húsavík - is the place you want to go if you really want to go whale watching! Apparently a charming little town.
* Goðafoss - or Water falls of the Gods. This is a brilliant natural waterfall located not far from Akureyri. We found that the best time to see the water fall was either ridiculously early in the morning, or late evening (it doesn't matter in the summer as its light all day round). The reason for such weird hours, is that nobody else is there, and you can relax, soaking up all the stunning surroundings have to offer!
* Mývatn - actually translated to midge lake. We didn't find it to be that bad, and there was deffiently no need for the special head covers you see some of the tourists buying! Massive waste of money if you ask me. The lake itself is awesome. Jaw droppingly beautiful and well worth a visit. It is best to stay at Reykjahlíð on the shore of the lake. There is soo much to explore in this region that its well worth staying a few days. There is a European style health spa just outside of town, or if your brooding adventurer like myself, ask a local where the natural hot spring caves are and get yourself involved for no charge!
* Dettifoss - europe's most powerful waterfall.
* Egilsstaðir - is the gateway to the east coast. A charming little town with a mythological creature hanging around in the lake!
* Höfn - hosts the great lobster festival on the first weekend of July. It is also a nice little town and a great place to base yourself while visiting local wanders!
* Jökulsárlón - is the best known and largest floating glacier in Iceland. It is stunning and slightly haunting at the same time. Once again its one of those locations that can be visited at night in summer, to escape the tourist sight seeing crowd and enjoy the view with chosen company.
* Skaftafell - is the Alps of Iceland. Stunning scenery and a great place for hikers, or just day dreams like myself. Relax and dream away!
* Vík í Mýrdal - a relaxing small town, with great views out to the ocean, black sands and charming locals.
* Skógafoss - was personally my favourite waterfall in Iceland. Meaning The Forrest waterfalls. It is a charming waterfall and if your lucky enough you will be able to see two rainbows forming in its mist.
There are so many towns to explore that are off the beaten track in Iceland. We didn't get to see a lot which we would have been able to if we were travelling by car, but were very happy with what we did see. Amazing country, amazing people, amazing experience!
One last note before I end this, something which might interest you. *If you spend over ISK4000 in shops offering 'Tax Free Shopping' you can claim back to 15%. Save you receipts and make sure to get a form from the tourist information.
I hope you have enjoyed Cycling Around Iceland with me, Tom Cartledge. Enjoy Iceland.