Category Archives: Iceland


All of our previous trips to Iceland, we had based ourselves in Reykjavik and did day trips from there. But this being our 5th (and Ellen’s 6th) trip, we decided to do something a little different. So after the race, where we were joined by Margaret, a friend we met on the Cuba trip, we flew to Akureyri, a city in the north. It is Iceland’s second largest city, with a whopping population of 19,000.

We flew from Reykjavik’s city airport, which is just 5 minutes from downtown, to Akureyri’s little airport. A short cab ride brought us to our Airbnb, which was just a block from the central downtown area.

Our first stop was the botanical garden, up top a hill which afforded a nice view of the fjord. 

The botanical garden was beautiful, we strolled around and marveled at what can grew in a cold and short summer season. 

The other major site in Akureyri is the church, also on the top of the hill. After the church we visited both of the 66 North stores and the rest of the shopping area.

Along the water, Akureyri has a sister statue to the Sun Viking in Reykjavik.

Ellen of course did her research and booked a reservation at the nicest restaurant in town, Rub 23

We are not really sushi people but we enjoyed great seafood. 

For our second day, we booked a day trip to the Lake Myvatn area. We were in a van with a total of 9 sightseers. The first stop was a hill above Akureyri.

Next stop was the Godafoss waterfall. Just spectacular.

We had visited Blue Lagoon when we arrived in Reyvjavik. We got a chance to try out another bath, the Myvatn Nature Baths. Not as fancy but just as relaxing.

Flying back to Reykjavik, we had time to visit the art museum before heading back home. 

We had a wonderful trip, enjoying seeing new areas of Iceland. Pretty sure, we will be back!


Reykjavik Half Marathon

We came to Iceland because we love Iceland, but we used the Reykjavik Marathon as the excuse. I don’t like running in hot weather, so if you are going to run a race in August, it should be in a place like Iceland. This was my 3rd international race, after Havana and Budapest. It’s fun to see how races are different around the world.

The half and full both started at 8:40am. I got to the start about 20 minutes before race time, which is as early as I like to arrive. We lined up by expected finish time, but there was just a single continuous wave. The start went about the same as anywhere else. Except there was no national anthem, mayor speeches, or hyped music. Just a countdown and we were off. The beginning part of the course left downtown and entered a neighborhood. It seemed everyone was out cheering us on. This group was standing on their stairs, banging pots. I wasn’t thrilled that the sun was out at the beginning, but it did make running by the water awfully pretty.

Harpa, the arts center, is my favorite building in Reykjavik, so it was nice to run past it.It was also nice to run by the Sun Voyager sculpture.

The thing I like the best about international races is they are marked in kilometers, so you get more frequent confirmation that you are making progress. A half is just over 21 kilometers. There were water stations every 4 kilometers. After passing the sculpture, we did a long out and back that eventually brought us back downtown.

Having only trained in hot humid weather over the DC summer, I had been running at just under a 10 min/mile pace, so my goal was to do 2:10 or better. While it was cooler, with a race time temperature of 61°F, I like it even cooler. I kept a steady pace and officially finished at 2:06:13. I was pleased with the time and enjoyed taking pictures and soaking up the scenery rather than pushing for a better time.

Here’s a happy half marathoner!

Iceland Thanksgiving Day 4: Last Day


Entrance to Art Museum

Here’s finishing off the trip, so this recaps Sunday. Was too tired to write when we got home last night.

Sunday morning we got up in the dark, which of course you have to do it it’s before 10:30. Ellen had selected a place for breakfast in the centre city, Bergsoon Mathus. We arrived around 8:45, to get a very nicely delivered explanation that while they opened at 8, their chef had not made it into work yet. I guess it was Sunday morning! So they said they could put a plate of bread and meat/cheese/tomatoes together for us. We weren’t looking for a big breakfast, so took what was available. Just wondering how much longer that chef will be employed.

Our destination for the morning was the Reykjavik Art Museum. The museum has 3 locations, we went to the modern museum, Hafnarhus, which is right on the harbor. There was an awesome exhibit on the ground floor Erró. The cartoon style belied the heavy theme of war in his art. erro

Yoko Ono had a participatory display, where you could put a wish on a tree, write about your mother, paint and pound a nail. Never will get her art. yoko

It was definitely a museum worth visiting.

We hustled back to our AirBnB to gather our stuff, caught the FlyBus to the airport, and then had plenty of time to file for our VAT tax refund, get through security, and do some duty free shopping. We picked up some more Havana Club rum, now that it’s legal to bring it into the country from countries other than Cuba. I bought a few 66° North hats. We had lunch with Robyn and then said our goodbyes.

I did like the Dyson combination sink and hand dryer in the bathroom, have not seen this in the US yet. img_1825

The 6 hour flight allowed me to watch 3 movies. There was a 2016 movie called Reykjavik, so I thought I should watch it. It was really good, I recommend it. Here’s the trailer.  I then wanted something light, so watched Caddyshack. Pretty much as I remembered it. Lastly, had never seen Bonny & Clyde.

Global Entry again breezed us through Immigration. Almost too fast as we needed to wait for our luggage, which came out in the latter half. But then we could get through Customs quickly too. Had to wait for shuttle to our car, but were home just after 8:30pm EST.

Iceland once again was inviting, pleasant, friendly and fantastic. We didn’t have any difficulties, everyone we came in contact to was nice, and we enjoyed everything we did. Seeing the Northern lights was a real bonus, as we heard they had been elusive lately with cloudy weather and we snuck in just when the skies cleared.

I think we’ll continue to go back, maybe throwing in a day trip to Greenland and a trip all the way around the island.


Iceland Thanksgiving Day 3: Golden Circle


Today, we took the Golden Circle tour, which hits the “must see” natural attractions in western Iceland. For the 3rd time, we used the small tour operator, Iceland Horizons, which we continue to recommend.

The tour includes 2 waterfalls, the spot where the North American and Euroasian continental plates meet and the geyser Geyser, which gave all geysers their name. I’m just going to share all the pretty pictures.

I’ll start with a video of the Strokkur geyser eruption, followed by a waterfall video, then highlight pics.


We arrived back in Reykjavik  around 4:30 and stopped for coffee/tea/beer. Dinner was a 15 minute walk to Kitchen & Wine, where Ellen and I both had trout and Robyn had lobster.

We have time tomorrow for one more museum, before returning home. We’d definitely enjoy a few more days and are pretty sure that our 4th visit to Iceland will not be our last.

Iceland Thanksgiving Day 2: Harpa and Northern Lights


We had never spent a full day in Reykjavik before on our short visits, so that was the focus today. We headed out in the dark, with sunrise at 10:30am today. We first hit Reykjavik Roasters for coffee for Ellen and Robyn and tea for me. I’m told the coffee was very good.

You can’t spend a moment in Reykjavik without noticing Hallgrímskirkja Church. Set high on a hill, it soars over the city. Distinctive on the outside, plain on the inside, we wanted to make sure Robyn saw it.

Heading to our next stop, we passed by Braud & Co. The smell outside DEMANDED that we go in. There were cinnamon buns coming out of the oven that had to be eaten. The bread looked amazing too. dsc_0217

For reasons we are not sure of, our next stop was The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

We now have finally done a museum in Iceland, and we really enjoyed the National Museum of Iceland. It did an excellent job of telling the story of Iceland, from settlement to the present time.

We then walked into the center of town. We needed lunch and just happened to stumble upon one of our mandatory stops every visit, Icelandic Fish & Chips. How can you not enjoy organic, fresh fish?img_1746

Our next sightseeing destination was Harpa, the concert hall on the water. img_1789

We took a tour of the facility, which took us into several halls and other interesting spaces.

Robyn and I made a quick walk in the wind before the tour to the Sun Voyager sculpture by the water. img_1749

We walked through town to pick up a few things for dinner. The city is so pretty right now, with Christmas approaching. dsc_0251

We received an email during the day that our Northern Lights tour was on. We got picked up around 8:30pm in a van and headed north of town. We stopped below a mountain and were told to watch. We saw occasional pillars of light but they didn’t turn into anything. Then, after about 20 minutes, the pillars grew larger and lights appeared that shined above the mountains and continued all the way to the middle of the sky. I did not bring a tripod and was unable to get a picture. After about 15 minutes, the lights faded, clouds came up and we had to move.

We then moved to another spot, where the lights were already clearly visible. There was a tourist sign there that I could rest the camera on, and got a few 20 second exposure shots that showed light. So I’m declaring victory there!dsc_0252

We didn’t do everything we wanted to, but the National Museum, Harpa tour and northern lights were all wonderful experiences. We’ll squeeze more in in the next day and a half!

Iceland Thanksgiving: Day 1


When visiting a country you have been to 3 times previously, it’s pretty easy to hit the ground running. We got on the plane and slept. We landed and knew just where to get our SIM cards (Arrivals Duty Free store, ask the cashier, Nova cards). We knew where to catch the FlyBus to the Blue Lagoon.

What was different this time was it was dark. We landed at 6:30am, were on a 7:30 bus to the lagoon, arrived there at 8, and got out of the water just around 10:30am…when it was just starting to get light. It was cold and windy and rainy, but with 100ºF water, it was still really comfortable and relaxing. But you miss seeing the moonscape-like lava fields on the way in from the airport.


We then bussed into the city, found our AirBnB (our first time using it), met up with our friend Robyn who had arrived one day early, and headed into town. It’s never a mystery what my first desired stop is. img_1737

Got to visit the new flagship store. But since I own 3 jackets, a shell, a hat and a t-shirt, there really wasn’t anything compelling to buy. So I bought a pair of socks.

We walked more through town, which just feels like home at this point. Like seeing City Hall. img_1733

The Christmas decorations are up, and since there are only 5.5 hours of light now, they get to be lit up a great deal. img_1738

Ellen had picked a tapas place that Ben had recommended to us, Tapas Barinn. Fairly traditional tapas, a good amount of fish offered.

We were supposed to do a Northern lights tour tonight, but it was canceled due to the weather. Although the lights were a big part of coming in November instead of our traditional summer visits, we had read that the weather can be uncooperative, so you shouldn’t have your heart set on seeing them. So we don’t. We have two more shots the next two nights, but we’ll see what happens.

We have museums scheduled for tomorrow and the Golden Circle tour for Saturday. On the way home from dinner, we had to walk by the hot dog stand made famous by Bill Clinton. img_1739

Hope everyone back home is having a happy Thanksgiving!


Denmark/Iceland Day 10: Home and Wrap-Up


You can wake up in Reykjavik and 6 hours later be back in DC. We had a smooth trip home, not much really to report. Filed for our VAT refund, spent some remaining Icelandic currency in the duty-free shot (saving some for Ben and Courtney’s New Year’s Trip), grabbed a quick bite in the Icelandic Air lounge and flew home. Global Entry helped smooth the process although the longest wait was for the luggage to come (but it did!). We had parked at a nearby hotel using Spot Hero, just $30 for 10 days.


We liked Denmark. It didn’t have the natural beauty of Norway or the people warmth of Sweden, but the people were nice and accessible, it was easy to get around, both with public transport and driving.

Ellen, as always, gets huge praise for her trip planning skills. We worked well together, changing our itinerary for the first time I remember, to drive further and see more.  Aarhus was the highlight of Denmark for me, and that was the city we added.

Technology wise, US chip credit cards worked well. We got a BarclayCard with a pin specifically so we could use a card in automated machines (gas pumps, parking meters, etc), and it helped out in several cases. We had good experiences with SIM cards in both Denmark and Iceland. Spoiled so much that our 1/2 day in Sweden felt jarring that we didn’t have data. Impressed that Waze continued to direct us in Malmo even when we lost data coverage.

Found a great use case for the Apple Watch. When trying to find a store or restaurant, instead of carrying the phone around for directions, I used Apple Maps and then put my phone in my pocket. The watch then displayed the directions and tapped appropriately when it was time to turn. It worked well and felt much safer not to have the phone out.

We did notice that many establishments have added surcharges on credit cards in general or foreign cards specifically. Still better than carrying a lot of cash, but there always seems to be some gotcha to get travelers to cough up more.

We used Tripadvisor and Yelp to help select restaurants, and that produced some great meals. That and we repeated meals at The Little Apothecary in Copenhagen and Icelandic Fish & Chips in Reykjavik.

Iceland was as wonderful as always. It was nice to have a car and do the traveling on our own. That allowed us to pick our sites and visit towns and restaurants too small for even a 16 person tour group to visit.

We had some of our best conversations with locals in stores, especially Skagen in Aaarhus, Thomas Sabo in Malmo and 66° North in Reykjavik. We ask questions of the retailers and find they are more than willing to share some of their background and viewpoints to interested travelers.

The biggest advantage of travel in my opinion is how it opens your eyes. Not just to how others live, but taking you out of what your normal is. Things like air conditioning. Copenhagen doesn’t have it because it is rarely hot, but when it is (like when we visit), they deal with it. The stores, the restaurants, the subway cars were hot. But when a rail car is unairconditioned in DC, all of a sudden #hotcar is trending. We are spoiled in the US, with comfort, big cars, and huge portion sizes. At many restaurants, a soda or sparkling water was 250ml, a little over 8 ounces. And that was it. No free refills. And you made it last because it was already $4.

I hope to keep that perspective with me of seeing the world differently and challenging the normalcy we get used to.

Thanks for reading along, I’ve enjoyed the questions and comments. If you enjoyed it (and got this far), do me a favor and like on Facebook or WordPress, or favorite on Twitter, just so I know you were reading.

Until our next big trip, which is….CUBA!