Country: Iceland
Currency: Krona (ISK)
Peak Season: July-August
Shoulder Season: April-May, September-October
Median Temperature: 5.00 C / 41 F
Main Languages: Icelandic, English, German, French
Primary Modes of Transportation: Bus, taxi, car rental, bicycle rental
Recommended Duration of Stay: 5 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $150.00/day
Tourist Passes: Reykjavik Welcome Card
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Metropolitan Reykjavik’s quality of life and modern infrastructure surpasses that of most European cities, but its unorthodox position in the freezer that is Iceland makes it an interesting place to visit—far different, to be honest; with summer temperatures at 10-15 °C and winters at subzero, who wouldn’t be baffled? You’ll also be surprised to know that like Toronto and New York, the city is host to a cosmopolitan population and its neutrality on foreign issues has made it a top offshore banking companion of the world’s wealthiest.

Its young economy was emancipated when it supported the Allied Forces of WWII, who in return for the then-commune’s allegiance, built an airport and offered a series of diplomatic aid to boost Iceland’s southeastern city’s then-droll economy. The funny thing about Reykjavik is it does not get mentioned in the international presses too often, which may have led to its stellar economic run and relatively so-so tourist figures. Despite the overcast weather, the city is brimming with activity, most notably that of whale-watching, intense nightlife, thermal baths, and many quirky finds on the countryside.

Capitalizing on the international success built overnight, Reykjavik now tiers itself with Tokyo and Paris with regards to cost of living. A seafood meal costs as much as a hundred dollars, while a hotel room may funnel your wallet of at least two hundred dollars. Of course, if you’re out to see something out of this blue (suppose a uniquely-built church or a bar made of ice), or just wanting to engage in a few worldly pleasures, then Reykjavik will keep you hoisted for a while. Otherwise, the entirety of Iceland is a great place to explore.

Packing List

  • Credit cards, extra cash and a good tolerance against hunger and over-the-top spending; there have been a lot of complaints from tourists due to high meal and hospitality expenses incurred here
  • A sweater, parka and jacket for the weather variation from cold to unbearably cold; summers are mildly warm, but layers of clothing, as well as a cardigan, would also help those who prefer warm and toasty
  • Smart and stylish day clothes, as well as snappy evening apparel for intense late-night partying; the “in” fashion is generally dictated by Parisian trends, and don’t be surprised if women can get a bit feisty
  • Essential medication and toiletries—groceries and pharmacies carry most international brands; if you really want to save up, pack snacks or at least try to learn how to make DIY sandwiches before visiting
  • A decent camera, plenty of film and batteries; accessories aren’t any cheaper here than in London, and keep your equipment insulated and don’t immediately pull them out to prevent permanent lens fogging

Things to Do

  • Visiting Hallgrimskirkja (or Hallgrim’s Church), known throughout Iceland for its unusually tall steeple, twice the size of its prayer hall; it is the city’s tallest building, and its nave can hold up to 1,200 people
  • Soothing in the Blue Lagoon, known for its sulphuric baths, with springs topping in at 39 °C; the 40-minute drive from the city is perfect for those seeking recluse from the cold temperatures of Iceland
  • Witnessing a diverse collection of plush, subartic flora in these seemingly frigid plains once inside the Reykjavik Botanical Gardens; its amiable Café Flora is famous for serving coffee and waffles during summer
  • Appreciating the surreal art of Einar Jonsson in his eponymous museum (which was also his home); it displays his commissioned works onto his latter productions, highly depictive of Icelandic Mythology
  • Watching the whales plunging in and out of the water at Reyjavik Harbor; due to seasonal variations, whales are sometimes too far off the coast to be seen, but the harbor is a nice place to walk around in

DON'T

  • Hesitate to shop for handicraft, vodka and woolen apparel—the recent financial crisis has affected the country dearly, resulting in lower prices for commodities and specialty products; be discerning, though
  • Shop for things that can are manufactured elsewhere in the world, and don’t spend too much (or at all) on restaurants/cafes; it is best to shop for produce and canned goods at groceries and supermarkets
  • Take their belief system too seriously nor too humorously; most Icelanders believe in fairies, dwarves and other creatures; there are schools—like the Icelandic Elf School—that research on these beings
  • Mistake Icelanders to be any different from Europeans in terms of punctuality, appearance and manners; they value courtesy and decorum greatly, appreciate compliments and detest sarcasm
  • Pass on a conversation with locals—they may look a bit stoic, but they’re actually fond of conversations about the weather, Icelandic folklore, natural attractions, and of course their forte: business