Iceland Adventures Part Two: Reykjavik, Fontana and Northern Lights

Of all the days of our trip to Iceland, Wednesday was the only one where Meghan and I had a chance to sleep in. After our exhausting 36+ hour day on Tuesday, we figured we’d need all the sleep we could get. But with the time difference we woke up at 8 a.m. anyway. After grabbing breakfast in our hotel, we set out to explore the rest of the city of Reykjavik.

downtown Reykjavik

Reykjavik is a pretty small city, so everything we wanted to see was within a 15 to 20 minute walk. That made it easy for us to cover a lot of ground. We saw lots of the things that were on our list of sights to see, but also had plenty of time to divert down interesting looking streets and explore some of the neighborhoods we wandered into.

Our first stop Wednesday morning was to Hallgrímskirkja church. This Lutheran church is the tallest church in Iceland, and it’s probably the most iconic building in the city — easily recognizable and visible from almost everywhere.

Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik

The church has an observation tower at the top, which offers beautiful views of the city of Reykjavik and the surrounding mountains.

View of Reykjavik from church

View of Reykjavik from church

There’s also a very prominent statue of Leif Eriksson right out front. This statue was actually a gift from the United States to Iceland.

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From the church we left to get a little bit of culture while in Reykjavik, and we visited the sculpture garden right across the street. Since neither Meghan nor I wanted to spend time inside many art museums on this trip, we decided seeing these sculptures let us check the “art” box.

Sculpture garden Reykjavik

After spending some time exploring the sculpture garden, we visited perhaps one of the most ridiculous museums I’ve ever visited: the Iceland Phallological Museum. Yes, we went to a museum dedicated entirely to the male reproductive anatomy.

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I have no pictures from the inside, but suffice it to say this museum was a bit out there. I’m sure there’s perhaps some scientific reason to preserve all of the various reproductive organs of different male animals (humans included), but overall, Meghan and I were a bit underwhelmed by this pretty small museum.

We didn’t end up spending very much time there before setting out to our next destination — the National Museum of Iceland. This museum traced Iceland’s history from the earliest settlers up to modern times.

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I thought overall this museum was kind of interesting, but the layout was confusing and I kept jumping forward hundreds of years in exhibits without realizing how that had happened. I actually thought some of the most interesting stuff in this museum was how Iceland has tried to modernize in its more recent history.

Needing a break from museums, Meghan and I decided to spend most of the rest of our afternoon exploring outside. We walked through a very old cemetery in Reykjavik, where some famous folks are buried.

We found the Catholic church in the city and from there somehow ended up on a road with many different embassies. We explored the embassy neighborhood for a little bit before strolling back to the pond and stopping to grab some hot dogs from one of the more famous hot dog stands in Reykjavik.

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I’m not sure what exactly made this hot dog stand famous, but lots of people have eaten there, including Bill Clinton. Plus, the hot dogs were pretty delicious.

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Our last stop in the city was to visit the Culture House. This museum is part of the National Museum of Iceland, and I ended up finding it really interesting. You could view some of the ancient Icelandic manuscripts and also see some more interesting art and cultural things from Iceland here.

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By about 2 p.m. we had seen just about everything we had wanted to see and had explored things that weren’t on our list. We decided it was the perfect time to go back to our hotel and take a breath before heading to the Fontana geothermal spas and going to search for the Northern Lights at night.

Fontana is a geothermal spa about 45 minutes outside the city of Reykjavik. It’s situated on a natural lake and includes several geothermal baths of varying temperatures. Meghan and I think the warmest one was about 100 degrees. We had a couple of hours here to just relaxing and soak in the nice warm water, which felt lovely after two pretty busy days on the go.

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It was such a strange sensation to have my lower body be all warm and toasty in the water, while my ears were freezing from the wind blowing and the air temperature only being in the 30s.

To mix things up, you can alternate time in the hot pools with freezing cold plunges in the lake. There are supposedly some various health benefits to this or something, and if you watch the Bachelor you know this was something Nick and Vanessa did in Finland.

Not typically one to back down from a challenge, I obviously decided I had to try taking a dip in the lake. Holy Moses was that water cold. At least the first step in…after that it wasn’t so bad because you just stopped being able to feel your legs.

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I actually went back and forth between the hot pools and the frigid lake more than once. It was weirdly fun. If you go to Iceland, stopping at Fontana is actually one of the things I’d highly recommend. You don’t need to spend a ton of time here, but a couple of hours was really nice.

Our Wednesday night wrapped up with a hunt for the Northern Lights. It was so, so cloudy during this part of the trip that we’d been warned that we most likely wouldn’t get to see them. While I was a little disappointed, I wasn’t totally crushed since I had seen them from the airplane on Monday night.

But on the drive back to Reykjavik, the super dense and thick clouds miraculously parted over a field in the middle of nowhere, and we could see stars and then all of a sudden these green lights dancing across the sky.

It was pretty magical.

The lights weren’t bright enough for us to get any pictures on our iPhone cameras, but they were definitely a sight to see. We probably stood in that field for a solid 45 minutes just watching them move across the sky.

And that was how we ended our second day in Iceland.

FitBit steps: 18,427. Miles: 7.8

And Wednesday’s Snapchat story:

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Comments

  1. Fred and Tina says:

    What a great city and country to visit! As usual, you guys do a brave amount of sightseeing in a sliver of time! 🤓🇮🇸

  2. Did you like Fontana better than the Blue Lagoon? I like the Blue Lagoon, but it’s definitely super touristy.

    And the Penis Museum – it’s so ridiculous and definitely a tourist trap (and something like $10 for something that takes maybe 30 minutes to walk through? They’re making a killing!).

    So glad you got to see the Northern Lights! None came out when we went. 🙁
    Susan – Nurse on the Run recently posted..Trigger Point Injections for a Stubborn CalfMy Profile

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