It’s not unusual for me to be sleep deprived, but today was my first, and definitely not last, day to be sleep deprived in Iceland. We landed around 7am and after some time spent in the lovely Keflavik International Airport and one Dunkin ‘Donuts coffee later, we were on our way.
The photographer in me struggled watching my first sunrise in Reykjavík from the bus to the hotel, but even though I was unable to capture it on film the awe striking views were enough. Once we arrived, we quickly dropped off our things and our professor gave us a tour of the city. A few of our destinations included the beautiful, glass palace turned music venue, Harpa, the famous record store 12 Tónar, the huge Lutheran church, Hallgrímskirkja, and City Hall, where we met Heidi Einarsdóittir, The International Relations And Marketing Manager with Visit Reykjavík. Heidi gave us insight into the tourism industry, Icelandic culture, and all five official festivals organized annually by the events department including The Winter Lights Festival, The Secret Solstice Festival, The Reykjavík Children’s Culture Festival, Reykjavík Culture Night, and Yoko Ono’s The Lighting Of The Imagine Peace Tower. A special thank you goes out to Heidi for being so welcoming and accommodating, much like most of the Icelandic folks I’ve encountered thus far.
After our tour, we were lucky enough to take a plunge into an Icelandic tradition, Geothermal pools. Of course, we weren’t just going to go to just any Geothermal pool, we went to the Sundhöll, the oldest public pool in Iceland. This pool is a great spot for those looking to get away from the overly crowded and touristy pools in Iceland, like The Blue Lagoon, because at the Sundhöll we were some of the only international guests. For me, swimming laps was a bit reminiscent of high school gym class, but after a bit of exercise to wake me up, I braved the Reykjavík winds to jump into the 37° C (98.6° F) “hot pots.” It was well worth it.
By this point it was 6:30pm and I had been up for nearly 36 hours, but the day wasn’t over. It was time to chow down at a local hamburger, or veggie burger in my case, joint, Hamborgarabúllan. The food was delicious and just the kind of greasy meal I needed before heading out on our next excursion, a hunt for The Northern Lights. We optimistically boarded a bus and headed out to the edge of an Icelandic national park in search of the dancing light spectacle. Unfortunately, after quite a few minutes exposed to the sub zero cold, right around midnight we gave up seeing the lights in their full glory for today, but hope is not lost! With six more sleepless nights in Reykjavík ahead of us, there will be abundant opportunities for us to stumble upon The Northern Lights. Even though I’m both mentally and physically exhausted from our first day in Iceland, we were able to accomplish more than I could ever have imagined, which sets the tone for the rest of this stressful but rewarding week we have ahead of us.