Rob and I had an overnight flight to Iceland and we were luckily able to check-in at our hotel first thing in the morning. We arrived at the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura at about 8 a.m. and I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to check-in that early. As much as I wanted to get out there and start exploring Reykjavik, Rob and I both agreed that we needed to nap before we tackled touring the city.
After sleeping a bit longer than anticipated, we ventured into the city. It was a very windy day and therefore, it was quite cold. I was desperately wishing that I would have worn my thermal leggings under my jeans, but I was certain that I wouldn’t make that mistake again during the rest of our trip!
My favorite spot in Reykjavik was Tjornin, which is a small lake in the city center. The lake was completely frozen except for one small area where they pump geothermal water into the lake to make a spot for the local water birds year-round. Rob walked straight out onto the ice, but I was a bit more hesitant to do so. After a few minutes of contemplation, I was convinced that the ice was thick enough, so I joined Rob in the middle of the lake for a photo op.
The Hallgrímskirkja is the largest church in Iceland and it is named after an Icelandic poet and clergyman. In all of my travels, I have never seen a church that looks quite like this one. The design is said to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape. The statue in front of the church is of Leif Eriksson and it was actually a gift from the United States to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament.
All of this exploring made us thirsty, so it was time to taste the local beer. We stopped at a bar and I enjoyed a delicious seasonal Viking Christmas brew, while Rob drank an Icelandic stout. Both were quite good!
After trying the local drinks, we were ready to try the local food as well (at least I thought we were ready). Rob asked our waitress about Icelandic specialties and she recommended he try the appetizer sampler (pictured below).
From left to right: Dried Fish, Minke Whale, Puffin, & last, but certainly not least….Rotten Shark!
Rotten shark, called kæstur hákarl, is a traditional Icelandic dish that dates back to the Vikings. The Greenland shark, when fresh, is quite poisonous due to a high concentration of urea. In order to safely eat the meat, it is buried for a couple of months to allow the chemicals to drain from the meat as it ferments. Then the meat is hung to dry for several more months. The finished product = quite disgusting! But seriously…what else would you expect when eating something rotten? Please note how the shark was served in a sealed mason jar, so as not to taint the rest of the food or allow the foul odor of ammonia to burn your nasal passages! Our waiter joked with us and said you don’t have to be afraid of sharks because we can eat them instead of them eating us. Ummm…no thanks. I’ll keep my shark phobia if it means never having to eat rotten shark again. Check out these videos about rotten shark:
Thankfully our entrees were both quite delicious. I had the Icelandic Cod and it was the best I had ever had. Rob tried a freshwater fish called Arctic Char and he said it was the best fish he had ever eaten.
With specialties like Dried Fish and Rotten Shark, it’s no wonder Reykjavik’s most popular restaurant is this hot dog stand!
After an exciting and freezing evening in Reykjavik, the perfect way to end the night was to relax at our hotel spa. This was definitely the best way to warm up my chilled bones.