I arrived at Keflavik airport at about 2 AM. I was planning on spending the night at the airport, but unfortunately the airport is very small outside of the main terminal. I ended up taking the airport shuttle in to Reykjavik and arrived in the city center at around 3 AM. I went to 4 different hostels before finding a place with any vacancy. The place I ended up at, Reykjavik City Hostel, is about a 30 minute walk outside of Reykjavik. It was interesting because the average age of the people staying there was about 30. Iceland is an expensive place; apparently even people in their 30s can’t afford hotels there!
The following day I explored Reykjavik. I started off the day by going to a coffee shop. The great thing about Iceland is that the coffee shops have free refills. This was a welcome relief from the Icelandic prices. I walked around Reykjavik for a bit, and ate salmon kebab and lobster soup at Sægreifinn.
After that, I walked up to Hallgrímskirkja.
It’s a very impressive concrete cathedral.
It looks futuristic in a sense.
Inside, an organist was playing.
On the way back down the hill, I stopped inside Mokka Kaffi and had a waffle and a cappuccino.
I walked around Reykjavik a bit more, bought some groceries, and made the long walk back to the hostel.
The next day was similar to the first. For breakfast, I enjoyed “The Truck” (pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, and coffee) at Grái Kötturinn. For dinner, I had the best hot dogs in the world at Bæjarins Bestu.
These hot dogs were probably the best food I purchased on the entire trip. In Iceland, you’re supposed to order a hot dog with everything (ein með öllu).
When Bill Clinton came to this hot dog stand, he ordered one with only mustard. Today, they serve the “Clinton”, which is a hot dog with only mustard. No one ever orders that, though.
When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more I took the bus to go hiking at Esjan, a popular day hiking spot outside of Reykjavik. I missed one of the buses, so I ended up spending a couple hours at a bakery about 10 miles away from Esjan. I had a nice cinnamon pastry and a cappuccino (and internet), so it wasn’t a problem. When I got to Esjan, it was about 4 PM.
The guidebook said that the Esjan hike takes about 3 hours to complete, so I was worried I might not make it back in time to catch the last bus of the day. I proceeded swiftly up the mountain, passing several people along the way.
A couple of locals passed me, but they were jogging up and down the mountain.
It was extremely damp at the top of the mountain, probably because the top of the mountain was inside a cloud.
I was hiking with my brown loafers so I decided not to climb the last 50 meters to the top. Still worried that I might not catch the evening bus back to Reykjavik, I ran all the way down the mountain. I almost caught up with the locals who passed me earlier. The hike ended up lasting a little over an hour.
There was a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain called Esjustofa, where I had a coffee and some carrot cake.
I caught the final bus of the day without any problems.
The next day, I took a bus along the spectacular Ring Road to a place east of Reykjavik, called Vik.
Vik is a small village by the coast.
I was extremely lucky to get the last bed at the tiny hostel in Vik. I’m honestly not sure what I would have done had I not gotten that bed, because it was pouring rain outside and there didn’t seem to be any other options within my budget for miles.
I got up the next morning and went for a walk along the seaside cliffs.
I passed by a rock formation that looks kind of like a submerged stegosaurus. This was a really nice hike.
Several sheep grazed alongside me.
On the way back, the rain and fog returned with a vengeance. It was literally raining sideways. When I made it back to the hostel, I was completely drenched. I took advantage of the free food shelf at the hostel, making an interesting combination of cous cous, salami, and alphabet soup. I made a trek through the rain to the gas station, where a westbound bus was departing. I took the bus to a port where I took a ferry to the Westman Islands, a group of volcanic islands south of Iceland.
When I arrived in Heimaey (the main Westman Island), I had to find a place to stay. The guidebook didn’t have too much to say about Heimaey, as it is a bit off the beaten path. It did mention that Heimaey is Iceland’s most important fishing town.
I went to the main hotel on the island, but it was way out my price range. They didn’t have any space in their hostel either. Fortunately for me they called a friend of theirs who ran a gistihús (guesthouse) on the outskirts of town.
The guesthouse price was decent, about twice as much as the Reykjavik hostel. Inside the guesthouse, I met a German family drinking vodka and eating fermented shark (Iceland’s equivalent of surströmming). The fermented shark was actually not too bad. I walked into town to grab some dinner, and ended up with an overpriced pizza.
The next day, I set out to explore the island.
The first thing I did was hike up one of the volcanic hills that surround the island.
It was pretty steep; you had to use ropes to climb up.
There was a nice view at the top.
Also, this wasn’t climbing on solid ground. This was climbing on volcanic sand, so it was like climbing on a diagonal beach. The great thing about this was that you could “surf” the whole way down. Very exciting. From there, I walked into town in search of some lunch. I went to the grocery store and purchased a roasted chicken and two liters of Coke. I found a picnic table in town and devoured the chicken. I ate the chicken with such savage haste that an Asian couple actually came up to me and asked if they could take a photograph. Who knows what strange corner of the internet that photo ended up at. After that, I walked over to the lava fields on the other side of town.
The lava was already solidified, of course. For some reason I was expecting to see some flowing red lava, though. Maybe in Hawaii.
I also hiked up a volcano.
It was interesting because the volcano was still warm. If you dug down a bit I’m sure you would burn your hand. It was cool to see clouds forming as wind blew over the top of the volcano.
I took the ferry back to the mainland and took the bus back to Reykjavik.
It was quite late when I got back, so I wasn’t sure whether or not to book a hostel for the night. The bus company sold the tickets at half price if you took the bus at 4:30 AM, which was reason enough for me to just spend the night at the bus station. I withdrew my handy silk travel sheet from my suitcase and slept for a few hours until it was time to leave. Most of the people on the bus had been partying all night. I wish I had thought of that idea, but maybe next time. After a few flights and a car ride, I was back home in Maryland. It was without a doubt the best summer I’ve ever had.