Posted by: Ryan | October 7, 2007

Norway-Iceland, Day 7

We took the Flytoget from Oslo to Gardemoen Airport and boarded our IcelandAir flight to Reykjavík. We were very excited. Iceland! I had the window seat on the plane, and I took the picture below as we flew over the island’s wild southeast coast. This is probably the first part of Iceland the original Viking settlers laid eyes on centuries ago. The large sheet of ice is the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest in Europe, and the barely-visible oval lake between it and the coast in the right-middle of the photo is Jökulsárlón (“glacier lagoon”), which we’ll visit in two days and was probably the highlight of the entire trip. This was a great chance to see the incredible Icelandic landscape spread out beneath us.


We landed at Keflavík International Airport and boarded a bus to the capital 30 miles to the northeast. It was a sunny day with scattered high clouds and a cold, biting wind. The landscape between Keflavík and Reykjavík was mainly a flat expanse of brown lava, with brown hills in the hazy distance; a rather disappointing introduction to this place I’d always heard was so very green. We had to transfer to a van to get us to our hotel in the center of the “party” district of Reykjavík.

After we settled in to our new Icelandic surroundings, we decided to walk a couple of blocks up the hill to the iconic Hallgrímskirkja (Hallgrímur’s Church), the most famous building in Iceland. The church is named for Hallgrímur Pétursson, 17th-century Icelandic priest and poet. Below is a photo of the church, beautiful in its stoic and cement starkness, and in the foreground a statue of Leifur Eiriksson posed on a foundation shaped like a ship’s prow. The statue was a gift from the U.S. in 1930, commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament (Althing). Beautiful architecture.


And another picture of Hallgrímskirkja, from an angle, and with some colorful flowers. Constructed 1945-1986.

Icelandic Gothic

We went inside and took the elevator to the observation deck at the top (above the clock face in the pictures). Narrow windows encircled the entire observation deck, so we could see the city from every angle around us. It was extremely windy and cold at this height, and I had to stop taking pictures to warm my hands and face quickly before moving onto the next window and angle. Below is my favorite photo from here of Reykjavík, looking west to the coast; our hotel is somewhere to the right side of the main street. Population of the Reykjavík area is 150-200,000 Icelanders. What an adorable European city.


And this is the view inside Hallgrímskirkja, below. Note the 25-ton, 5,275-pipe church organ in the front. I always feel stupid and somewhat sacreligious taking pictures in intimate holy places such as this, as if I’m not respecting the sanctity of the site with my camera lazily swinging around my neck. But what am I to do? I really love photographing churches and cathedrals! Sheepishly I look around, compose the picture in my mind, look around some more, then pull out my camera and snap a photo while God isn’t looking, and turn around and walk away as if nothing ever happened…

Inside Hallgrim's Church

We left Hallgrímskirkja and meandered along residential streets until we reached the green shores of Tjörnin, a famous pond in central Reykjavík famous for its waterfowl that flock there in the summer. We ducked into City Hall and saw a visually interesting relief map of Iceland, dozens of feet wide in the main lobby. Below is the map section featuring Höfn and the coastline near the area seen from the airplane (above). The elevations were exaggerated by a factor of three on the map, but it still gives you a sense of the wild coast we were heading toward.

Glacier Country

We continued our walk through windy Reykjavík and reached the sculpture below, the Sólfor Suncraft, whose design was based on an old Viking war ship. The wind was really blowing by the time we got here, so we didn’t stay too long despite the wonderful views. Tomorrow we would leave Reykjavík for our trip around the island.

Sólfor Suncraft

More pictures here (Ryan) and here (Kim).



  1. I’ve been there before. Lived in Iceland for 4 years. It’s so much more beautiful up close, I can’t wait to return there some day; I think i’ll retire there.

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