Iceland was totally off my radar.
Yes, I’d seen some of my Facebook friends post some pictures and I’d heard a few rumblings about “Iceland is cool”. And of course, because I cross the Atlantic so often, I’d seen that Icelandair advertisement about “#stopover”.
But I didn’t really know very much about Iceland.
Where to start?
We packed so much into a long weekend, but there is so much more to see and do. Despite being a small island with a population of around 330,000, Iceland has a long and rich history.
Visiting in high summer, the first thing I noticed was that during our overnight flight, there was no ‘night’. Departing from the east coast of the U.S., it was nearly dark when we took off, but we quickly caught up to the sun and before dropping down below the heavy cloud cover to Keflavik airport, the sun was blazing in the window of the plane.
While only a tiny island portion of Iceland actually lies inside the Arctic Circle, the country is far enough north that around the summer solstice, it never gets completely dark. Remarkably, we sat at an outdoor café sipping a beer at 11:30 at night – no lights on. So cool.
First Stop Iceland: Viking World
Upon landing in Reykjavik, our guide said out first stop was breakfast. That sounded great since our flight, unexpectedly to me at least, didn’t serve any food. He said we were going to “Viking World”. For some reason, probably in my hungry and sleep-deprived state, that struck me as seriously funny.
Despite the ‘unique’ name, the museum was really quite informative. I learned some history of the Vikings, their arrival to Iceland from Norway and their raids on Ireland (about which I already knew a bit). You can board the model of the Viking ship, Icelander, which is ideally suspended with the bow facing out over the harbor. As you gaze out through the massive glass window, it’s easy to imagine sailing off towards the sea to fish, raid and pillage.
The ship is an exact replica of an actual Viking ship, built in 1996 to scale and with similar methods and materials. She is a seaworthy vessel; she crossed the Atlantic to New York in 2000 for the millennial celebrations.
Notwithstanding the fact that no self-respecting Viking ever wore a helmet with horns, there are multiple plastic horned helmets available for picture taking. There is even a gift shop, where you can buy your own!
Viking World is open early and makes a great ‘first-stop’ in Iceland. They provide a traditional Icelandic breakfast of cereals, bread, cheese meat and yogurt. And, after a trans-Atlantic flight, much needed coffee and tea.
For more information on visiting Viking World go to their website here.