Reykjavík sits on the edge of the Arctic Circle and has become a very popular port of call. The number of cruise passengers visiting Iceland increases each year.
It was a Norwegian fugitive, Ingólfur Arnarson, who became the first Icelandic citizen in 871 AD. It is reported that when he saw land, he threw his high seat pillars into the sea. The Nordic gods allowed them to wash ashore in what is now Reykjavík. With the steam rising from geothermal vents, the region has been dubbed the ‘land of fire and ice’.
The country’s Viking past can be explored at the National Museum of Iceland. Founded in 1863, this museum contains artifacts dating back 1,200 years ago. All of the objects have been specially chosen as representatives of Icelandic culture and there are over 3000 pieces to look at.
Artistic beauty can be found at the National Gallery of Iceland. While some pieces of international art are featured, the main focus is Icelandic art from the 19th and 20th century. This museum has no permanent collection but consists of rotating exhibits and has done so since 1884. Some of the most valuable works of art are located here and guided tours are available.
Hallgrímskirkja Church in the old town should not be left out. This is the main landmark of the city and its iconic tower is visible from almost every place in Reykjavik. It was designed by Guðjón Samuel in 1937 who took inspiration from the shapes of basalt rock. The tower was completed before the church which only finished construction in 1981. Inside the church, there is one of the largest pipe organs in the world that has been used in many different recordings.
Outside the church is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson, the Viking explorer who discovered America in the year 1000.
The Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach is located in the heart of the city. As cold as it gets in Iceland, the water in the lagoons are geothermic. For those who find it a bit too warm for their taste, can take a dip in the adjoining cold-water sea.
No trip to Reykjavík would be complete without visiting the Blue Lagoon, the world famous outdoor spa which has dozens of thermal pools. A perfect place to release stress, the hot water combined with the crisp air can be just the thing to rejuvenate yourself. Apart from the thermal water treatments, there is also a series of massage treatments performed on mattresses.
Passengers won’t have to travel far from the city to explore some of the most exciting areas Iceland has to offer.
Check out the assortment of excursion packages available from the ship’s tour desk. See all or a portion of the Golden Circle region to view the unique terrain of Iceland. The three main stops on the tour are Strokkur Geyser which has enormous jets shooting up in a regular intervals, the Gullfoss (or Golden) Falls which is the largest waterfall in Europe with a 32 metre cascade and Thingvellir, a national park that was the location of Europe’s first Parliament, the Althing back in 930 AD.
The summer months provide the opportunity to experience the Midnight Sun, when the sun remains up for nearly 24 hours. Its hues of pinks and oranges mixed with the dark blues of the sky create a wonder of illumination so have the camera ready.
The period that cruise ships visit the gateway to Iceland’s stunning natural wonders normally is late spring to early autumn. Cruise ships normally dock for around 12 hours, giving passengers plenty of time to focus on their interests. Some cruise lines also offer an overnight stay in the port.
Written by Veronica Shine