J udging from the throngs of foreign tourists stopping every minute to consult their guidebooks in Reykjavik Iceland it would seem few have the will or nerve to just go with the flow.
Perfectly understandable in large metropolises like Tokyo, Cairo or Mexico City but Reykjavik Iceland is as tiny a city as they come. Likelihood of getting lost here or not finding that recommended museum is absolutely zilch.
Be that as it may. Guidebooks can in many instances tell you a whole lot and some actually point out places or things off the beaten track so to speak. But the problem with foreign guidebooks is they are published years apart and always written by foreign peoples. They don´t know this place as well as locals.
Thus, to put things right we offer here five places in Reykjavik that may or may not be featured in your guidebook should you get the urge to just be free and take your chances. As always in Iceland these options are mostly only possible over summertime.
- Swimming in Ellidaa river
- Ellidaa river is a genuine salmon river within the borders of Reykjavik city which in itself is pretty remarkable although not unique. It flows from a lake in neighboring Kopavogur town between two sleepy suburbs before it flows out to sea. Around the river a fine forest has been growing here these last years and this is an excellent site for plain walking, picnic or most other outdoor activities. While the river is in most places rather shallow the pièce de résistance is the tiny part of it flowing between large rocks in one place creating a marvellous small pond where you can soak or play should the temperature go high enough. Surrounded by lush forest this little gem is impossible to find unless you know the area and is not even visible until you get to it. A very fine place to relax for a while but only if weather is sunny and nice. See map for details.
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- Enjoying the Botanical Garden
- Laugardalur valley is a popular spot for locals. On much the same spot you´ll find the main Reykjavik campsite and youth hostel alongside Laugardalslaug swimming pool. Further you´ll come across a small zoo and hidden nearby is the small but nice Botanical Garden. Now, Iceland being a next-door neighbor to the Arctic, it goes without saying that only the toughest flora thrives here and most of those on show in this place. But after the ten minutes or so of looking the best part is to grab a seat outside the small greenhouse-turned-café and unwind with drinks. The trees around shield for the constant wind and on a nice day the scent of the flowers will engulf the place. Sadly, the café is very expensive and service way below adequate but even this will not diminish precious moments here.
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- Reykjavik panorama
- Some would have you believe there are no greater spots for panorama photographs of Reykjavik than from the top of Hallgrimskirkja tower or from the top deck of the restaurant Perlan. Those are nice but not the best. For the best view you should head up to the highest neighborhood in Reykjavik; Breidholt. Two places especially are great for 360° sights. One is in front of the tall housing complexes on Vesturholar street (bus no.11). From there you´ll see most of Reykjavik and neighboring towns and the mountains too. An even better option is on top of Vatnsenda which houses an abandoned signals station. From the top you can practically see forever in most directions. Take bus no.12 and five minutes of walking will get you there. See map for details.
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- Reykjavik Central Park
- A tiny bit of an exaggeration since no such park with such a name exists in Reykjavik. However, the first steps for a large green park smack downtown in Reykjavik have been taken and although too close to major roads to be a true paradise it certainly is worth your time. Make your way to the Nordic House right by the University of Iceland and after checking the weird architecture find the small greenhouse. This is easily located and here you can try to imagine what kind of nature´s paradise this once was and perhaps will be again. Nice place for bird-watching within the city limits and they serve coffee and food here too.
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- Hallsteinsgardur Sculpture Park
- Reykjavik city is not a mecca of cultural activity and outside of a small area downtown one would be hard pressed to find even statues, fountains or any other remarkable symbols anywhere. Unless you somehow happen to stumble upon a weird desolate area in Grafarvogur suburb called Hallsteinsgardur. There, practically in the middle of nowhere, stand sixteen rather large and impressive sculptures made completely of aluminum. The surroundings are far from nice although the beach nearby can be nice for a stroll but most of this area used to be the city dumps for decades. However, the sculptures are a nice surprise. A kind of a beam of light in an otherwise grey and lifeless area. See map for details.
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