Reykjavik’s foundation is equally romantic and beguiling as its location, set on the fringe of the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by a lunar volcanic netherworld, with the shadowy hulk of Mount Esja in the background. Legend has it that ‘Arnarson’ a viking leader named the place Reykjavik (‘Smokey Bay’) after the steam rising from the hot springs . Today, these numerous geothermal springs, running beneath the city, provide almost all the heating and water in the city. The only by-product of this system is a faint odour of hydrogen sulphide, especially evident when showering. But the low level of fuel emissions gives the city clean air and crystal clear skies. The lack of pollution is also due to the comparatively small size of the capital.
The city’s nightlife is perhaps fuelled by the fact that most Icelanders let go of their weekday Nordic calm and instead reveal the fiery Celtic side of the their heritage (the Vikings kidnapped many Scots and Irish on their way over), especially evident in their friendliness and openness to foreign visitors.
During the day, Reykjavik is a far more sedate place with trim houses, rubbish-free streets and an easygoing pace of life. There are bountiful cultural attractions, countless cafés, six geothermal swimming baths and a myriad of day trip opportunities into the stunning hinterland. One of the most charming things about Reykjavik is that everything visitors would want to see is handily located within walking distance. Cultural festivals are also currently multiplying and maturing, as Iceland begins to establish its cultural identity.
The vast, beautiful landscape of Iceland lends itself to innumerable outdoor activities. Visitors to Reykjavik will be impressed by the city’s proximity to nature and struck by the cleanliness of the city itself. There are plenty of possibilities when planning outdoor excursions during your stay in the capital.
With the increase in numbers of international travellers in the past years, Iceland has assimilated many outdoor sports from other countries and adapted them to its own natural environment. Sports such as kayaking and white-water rafting are not native to Iceland, but they fit perfectly with the natural surroundings.
Nightlife in Reykjavik is legendary for its energy and stamina. It is not uncommon at the weekend to spend the whole night partying at one of the city’s many nightclubs, known for their cool atmosphere and stylish patrons. There are nightclubs to suit a variety of tastes in terms of decor and music.
Those looking to see the sights are recommended to take one of the many available tours with many different themes: seeing such sights as waterfalls, spouting geysers and glaciers, horse-riding, whale-watching, sea-angling.. there’s something for everyone.
Epicures will find plenty to keep them happy when wining and dining in the nation’s capital. Icelandic cuisine, like many things in Iceland, benefits from the open-mindedness of the Icelandic people and the willingness of the culture to adapt foreign tastes to its own. Icelanders may be modest about many things, but food is not one of them.
Reykjavik offers a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses to cater to the needs of visitors. Icelanders are known for their warm hospitality, reflecting their recent roots in old rural society.
All the main hotels are well situated within the city, with easy access to all the attractions of the downtown area.