Day 6 was our last day in Iceland. We planned to spend the morning exploring Vik and its environs, then head to Reykjavik for some sightseeing, then drive to the guesthouse motel close to the airport. We also had to return the car that night and be ready for an early morning flight the following day.
We made use good use of the facilities at the cottages that morning. After breakfast and coffee, we packed a meal of pasta for the evening, in the event we weren’t able to find a restaurant near the airport. We checked in with the hostel office, paid for both the cottages (ouch, that hurt a lot to pay the extra $400 for the second cottage) and headed out for the day. The town of Vik is very charming and at any other time, would have been great to explore by foot.
We first headed to the famous Reynisfjara Beach as the sun started its ascent. This black sand beach is home to the hexagonal basalt columns that look stunning! How nature has formed these amazing rock formations is beyond comprehension. It was fun to spend some time climbing them and posing for pictures. Halsanefshellir cave lies along this beach and its roof and sides are again formed by several basalt columns lain both horizontally and vertically in a near fan like arrangement and is really cool to see.
The Reynisdrangar rock formations are quite iconic of the Vik area. They rise black and stoic at the end of the beach, silhouetted against the blue skies. Legend has it that they are trolls converted to stone. Bewitching!
The waves at this beach are quite strong and capable of pulling one under easily. There are signs posted warning of the power of these waves and urging visitors to exercise caution. Best not to turn your back on the ocean. This beach is one of the most beautiful we have ever visited. One could spend a while here marveling at nature and her antics. Pondering the meaning of life and enjoying the sounds of the pounding waves. Enjoying the shiny black sand beach that stands in sharp contrast with the jagged edges of the columns that line the shore.
Reluctantly, we joined the hordes of visitors leaving the beach and made a short pit stop at the local gas station for (what else) coffee and gas. Then we headed back to Reykjavik city and the Hallgrimskirkja church.
This largest Icelandic church in the center of the city, is built of basalt columns, a shout out to the natural beauty that covers Iceland. The church is dedicated to Hallgrimur Petursson, renowned Icelandic poet and has a soaring tower evocative of tall mountains. Inside, the nave and altar are rather simple but elegant and the massive organ is the largest in the country and is well utilised. The church offers concerts during summer.
We then took the elevators to the top of the tower for some of the best views of Reykjavik. The wind chill at the top was a bit of a deterrent but we pressed ahead and enjoyed the 360 degree panoramic views over the rooftops of the houses to the mountains and the ocean in the distance.
Walking down to the front of the church we paused to admire the sculpture of Leifr Eiricsson, who according to the Icelandic Sagas, was the first Norse to discover North America and settle in Vinland, near today’s Newfoundland. Apparently, he did this nearly 500 years before the time of Christopher Columbus!
By now we were hungry and started the search for a suitable restaurant. As we walked down towards one, we came across the storefront of Cafe Babalu. I had read great reviews about this place so we ate here instead. The restaurant is small but very quirky, colorful and alluring. Their tomato soup and carrotcake are famous, so we tried them in addition to vegetarian chili, lasagna, and sandwiches. There are currency bills from all over the world hung from the ceilings. The coolest part of this restaurant was the Star Wars themed bathroom that totally rocked. Sonny JJ is a huge fan of Star Wars and he was very thrilled! Prices were very reasonable.
Marching on, we made our way towards the administrative end of Reykjavik, to the Althing, the Icelandic Parliament. The building is very unassuming and simple. After parking our cars nearby, we walked to the harbor area to see the futuristic and shiny Harpa Opera House.
This imposing steel and glass structure at the edge of the land bordering the harbor, stimulates all the senses and is a visual delicacy. Modern and stylish, the columnar glass panes are reminiscent of the basalt columns so plentiful here. Several of the glass windows are colored and that adds a layer of interest and color. The roof of the large foyer is colored black. If I were to attend a concert here, I’d have to arrive early just to admire the building itself. This is a definite must-see in Reykjavik!
Enjoying the afternoon sun, we walked along the harbor front to the Sun Voyager sculpture, dedicated to the sun and designed to be a dream boat that would carry one away. The gleaming structure, with its clean lines and perfect location looking out on the water and the mountains, speaks volumes.
By now, it was around 6 pm and we had a 90 minute drive to our guesthouse for the night. So we headed back to our cars and bid goodbye to Reykjavik, a bit sad. Our stay that night was at Alex Guesthouse near Keflavik Airport. We stopped to fill gas near the Guesthouse, then checked in for the night. The Guesthouse is a no frills place but the location is a couple of minutes from the airport. The guesthouse offers rides back from the airport after dropping off rental cars. There is free breakfast in the morning as also free shuttle to the airport. Showers are shared and there is small area to eat, although we couldn’t locate a microwave to heat our food.
The rooms were clean, towels were provided and the beds were comfortable. We finished packing while the men dropped off the rental cars and returned. After showering for the night and finishing our pasta meal, we turned in for the day, sad about leaving Iceland but looking forward to our Norwegian adventure.