Icelandic Phallological Museum
As they put it so delicately on the t-shirts, "this museum is all about dicks" and "this museum is not for pussies". Well, you can also get a t-shirt that says "I'm not a donor". Whatever works for you.
* Wow, I got censored for using the term! I shall call them "p's" from here on.
This is a strange museum. Whoever curated this collection mixed in samples of penises from the animal kingdom with avant garde phallic-inspired art. One minute, you are looking at a sperm whale p taller than you, the next minute, you are looking at a p-shaped whiskey bottle holder. Or the artistic piece depicting the members of the silver medal winning Icelandic handball team. Then there is the room with the letters of intent to donate, including pictures and molds of the donor's "piece", p-shaped vegetables photos. There is another room devoted entirely to mythical members, such as trolls and the elusive huldufólk (hidden people). [It looked just like an empty jar filled with water, but what do I know.] Finally, there's the masterpiece, a human sample donated by a particularly well-endowed farmer who died a few years ago.
The museum is quite small and frankly won't take too long to go through but it is an off-beat place to visit. Oh, the museum is cash only. Make sure you have enough Kr, euros, or USD. Oh, the admission was 8 euros, but the guy let me and my friend in for 15 euros, as that was all the cash we had.
Journey to the Inside of a Volcano
Since 2012, you can join this unique tour and venture into the magma chamber of the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano. This is currently the only known volcano in the world where you can go inside, and come back out alive, as our helpful guide added. It was first discovered in the 60's but soon forgotten as it was dismissed as uninteresting. Interest was only renewed when National Geographic did a documentary about it. Fast forward to 2012, the tour company decided to do a trial run and see if there are any interest in this sort of tour. The tours were sold out.
2013 was the first full season of this tour, so apparently, when we visited in September, there were still more people who've summit Mt. Everest than been inside. In order to get there, you get dropped off at a ski area near the turn off for the road to Thingvellir. From there, we hiked about 3km to the base camp (and crossed continents, no less!) through the lava fields. Once we get to base camp, we were split into groups of about 6 people and waited our turn.
When it was our turn, we had to hike up to the mouth of the crater, then walked the plank (harnessed in, of course) into a window washing lift and were slowly lowered through the hole to the magma chamber 120m below. The team lit up the chamber with portable lights and you can see the full glory of the chamber. I included some pictures, but they didn't do the place any justice. My only complaint is that I wished we get more than 30 minutes to explore. Because the floor was really rocky, it took us forever to reach the back wall.
After our tour, we went back to base camp and were treated to a very welcoming bowl of Icelandic meat soup before hiking back to the car. We checked out an accessible lava tube on the way back. The whole trip took about 5 hours and there is a bit of walking on rough ground.
The policy is that nothing gets left behind after the season ended, so the team actually installed the lift and equipment at the beginning for the season in May and took everything with them in September. I think they also do research on site. If you want to learn more about this volcano, visit their website and watch the video on there.
I should mention that the tour is quite expensive at 37,000 ISK per person. We were extremely lucky that the weather was beautiful. I can imagine how rough it could be to walk through the lava fields in rain.
- National/State Park
The Chapel of Holy Barbara.
There are ruins of a small medieval Catholic chapel in a lava field in Hafnarfjörður town. It is The Chapel of Holy Barbara (Kapella Heilagrar Barböru).
The chapel is by an ancient road through the lava field. Here travellers could pray or seek shelter in bad weather.
The lava here is from an eruption sometime between 1100-1300 and is called Kapelluhraun or Nýjahraun (New lava field). It is thought to be good to pledge on Saint Barbara for protection against fires and that is maybe why a chapel was erected here in this lava field. It is not known exactly when the chapel was erected, only that it was before 1550, the year of the Reformation here in Iceland.
The ruins were investigated in 1950 and amongst other artefacts a small clay statue of Saint Barbara was found. The statue is of Dutch origin. There is a replica of the statue in the ruins of the chapel, a little bit bigger than the original statue. The statue holds a tower, which is the emblem of Saint Barbara, but she was locked in a tower. The original statue can be seen in Þjóðminjasafn Íslands, our National museum.
The chapel is opposite the aluminium smelter "Álverið í Straumsvík" Alcan by road 41. Turn on road 42 and one can drive almost up to the ruins.
Elliðaár A salmon river in the middle of Reykjavík
The salmon river Elliðaár is situated in East-Reykjavík in Elliðaárdalur and originates in Bláfjöll-mountains and runs to the Elliðavatn-lake in Heiðmörk (a beautiful big nature reserve area east of Reykjavík). There are two rivers, the big salmon river and another smaller one with 2 waterfalls but no fishing. You can buy a fishing permits from The Angling club of Reykjavík (Stangaveiðifélag Reykjavíkur) which leases the river.
Elliðaár is ca 5 kilometres long counting from the dam and to the ocean, with the ocean being only a few metres from Sjávarfoss-waterfall (see my first photo). The angling season is from the middle of June - the middle of September and there are 4-6 rods allowed per day and ca 1.000 salmons are caught in Elliðaár river every summer.
Angling is a very popular sport in Iceland, and there are quite a few lakes and rivers where you can buy permits and go angling near Reykjavík or around Iceland. I add the website for The Angling club of Reykjavík.
Take a foot-bath in a hot-tub by the ocean.
I don´t know if this can be added under "off the beaten path" as so many people visit Grótta, but I add this here as this area belongs to Seltjarnarnes, which is the town adjacent to Reykjavík in the west, although one has to be a native to know where Reykjavík ends and Seltjarnarnes begins. I refer to my tip on Grótta.
By the ocean just before you enter the parking lot by Grótta there is a small round geothermal hot-tub on the northern shore, Norðurströnd, in a place called Kisuklappir. It is quite surreal taking a foot-bath there, the water is hot and so nice and the ocean is just beside you. And the view of the bay and the mountains and Grótta is ever so nice. I highly recommend it. The hot-tub is an art-work/sculpture by Ólöf Nordal and is called Kvika. It was opened here on this spot on Culture night in 2005.
In October and November in 2011 Iceland has a special happening so to speak, to welcome foreigners to Iceland. One of the events was that one of our ministers invited foreigners to take a foot-bath with her in the hot-tub.
The hot-tub is behind the shed called Hjallurinn, and there you will also find a bench, a drinking fountain, an anchor and an information video of the flora and fauna on the shore.
I use this foot-bath often. On occasion is has been too hot to use.
Elliðaárdalur - the smaller river.
Through Elliðaárdalur run 2 rivers, one big salmon river and another one where angling is not allowed, and only very few salmons stray there. It runs almost unnoticed at places but has got 2 small, beautiful waterfalls, one of which is called Kermóafoss waterfall, situated in what we call the Indian passage (Indíánagilið). Kids love to play there and it is a breathtaking place where you can sit and relax and feel like you are far away in the countryside, even though you are just a few minutes away from a very busy street, with a lot of traffic.
The other smaller waterfall is also a popular place where children play. On a sunny summer day it gets crowded by this small waterfall and kids jump in the water, so it gets quite lively here.
I used to live for 28 years withing a 5 minutes' walking distance from Elliðaárdalur, so I know it very well and it is very dear to me.
There was an area between Lagavegur and Hverfisgata which was covered in pretty artistic graffiti. It is allowed to graffiti here in the hope it will cut down graffiti elsewhere. There was music here and people were dancing. There were also kids skateboarding and playing on scooters. One man was painting over a vast area of graffiti to create a blank wall to graffiti again, so I guess the 'decor' is always changing. A place to sit and relax or people watch.
An interesting half-day trip is a boat ride to the small island of Viðey in Reykjavík Harbor. A ferry departs hourly from Sundahöfn Harbor, about a 15-minute bus ride or 90-minute walk from town. Cost of the ferry is Kr 800 for a round trip. One direct ferry per day departs Reykjavík Old Harbor for the island at 12:00. In addition, the 15:30 departure from Viðey goes to the Old Harbor.
Once on the island, you can enjoy lunch at the Viðeyjarstofa. You can also walk around the island to enjoy spectacular views of the harbor and downtown Reykjavík.
- Sailing and Boating
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Hiking and Walking
Garðabær - Hofsstaðir Settlement Age farm.
A Settlement Age farm was found in Garðabær in 1986. It is a Viking long-house dating back to ca 870-930, and an unusually big one, 8 x 30 m, which is the second largest long-house found in Iceland. We don´t know who lived here, this was the land of Reykjavík´s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, but it looks like a wealthy farmer lived here. It is believed that 20-30 people lived at the farm. An unusual broach was found here, pins, knives and instruments.
One can see the ruins of a long central fireplace, which were typical in these long-houses. There are remains of a weaving room, and many spindle whorls and loom-weights were found here. All cloth was woven in this way back then and during the Middle-Ages in Iceland woven cloth was the biggest export in Iceland.
There is also a pantry here. And 2 boling holes were found filled with burnt animal bones from sheep, pigs, cattle and horses. It was last used in the 10th-11th century. What is unusual about these boiling holes is that they were outside, but usually they were inside. I wonder why.
There are also remains of a pantry here and a smithy.
The Settlement Age Farm was discovered in 1986 when a kindergarten was to be built here. In 1989 further excavation was done and from 1994-2000 some serious excavation was done, supervised by The National Museum. That should have been done earlier, but we Icelanders didn´t think much of these Viking remnants in earlier days. Now a multimedia exhibition has been installed there with very good information on the Settlement Age farm - thanks to Garðabær town. To me the Settlement Age farm is the jewel in the crown of Garðabær town - which is located between Kópavogur (next town to Reykjavík) and Hafnarfjörður.
The Settlement Age farm is always open and there is no entrance fee. It looks like a small park. There are turf walls around it, which were erected later on to show the outer limits of the farm.
This is so interesting, a Settlement Age farm kind of hidden away between the houses and church here in Garðabær. I know that many Icelanders don´t even know that it exist. I stumbled into it on my way to Hafnarfjörður back in 1994+. Back then I had to take 14 years off traveling and my trips consisted of walking from Reykjavík to Hafnarfjörður and back.
Behind Vídalínskirkja church and the shopping complex Garðatorg. Bus no 1 stops on the main road. Walk east towards Garðatorg and turn left.
I have the same tip under my Hafnarfjörður pages, as that is the nearest town to Garðabær - but I fear that this info is kind of lost there, as not many people look up Hafnarfjörður when they want information on Iceland.
Reykjadalur valley - a beautiful walk.
Reykjadalur valley is a beautiful place north of Reykjavík. It is located in Mosfellsbær village and is very dear to me as there my Aunt lives so I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up. I have got so many relatives in Varmárdalur :) My grand-parents owned a summer cottage there when Reykjadalur used to be so far from Reykjavík. It has changed since I was small, Reykjavík has spread, and there are a lot more houses now than there used to be in Mosfellsbær. At one point Reykjavík and Mosfellsbær almost touch each other, that is how much Reykjavík has spread. The inhabitants of Mosfellsbær were 8.631 in 2012.
When I go for a walk there I start by the small waterfall by Álafoss (see my tip) and follow the river Varmá by the woods. I love this walk as it seems like one is alone in the woods even though there are a lot of houses there close by. Reykjadalur is a geothermal area, thus the name "Varmá" which means Hot river. And there are some eels in it, thus the name "Álafoss" which means The falls of the eels. You will then walk past a heating-utility (see my last photo) as this hot geothermal water was used for heating houses and a geothermal swimming pool was also built here.
After walking through the small woods there you arrive by the rehabilitation hospital Reykjalundur and can enjoy their big lawn. This hike is not long - so I usually go back to the main road and walk upto Reykir where I have relatives as well and I visit my cousins on the way to there. By Reykir there is a farmer who sells vegetables at certain times of the week.
There are lovely houses in Reykjadalur and they stand side by side, we call them the Canadian houses, as they come almost ready made from Canada :) One of my relatives lives in one of these houses.
Reykjadalur is north of Reykjavík and can be reached by bus 15 how to get to Reykjadalur by bus
Walking by the seashore of Grafarvogur bay.
There is a lovely walk in Grafarvogur bay which takes you along the seashore in the north - and into Mosfellsbær village if one wants to walk this far north.
On a sunny day it is so relaxing walking here with the view of Mt. Esja, watching the seals - there are always some inquisitive seals here. They will follow you and get very close to you while you walk there, especially if you stop and catch their attention. I have had a seal coming almost up to the shore and then following me until I turned away from the shore. It is quite lovely :) It is believed that they hang out here because of the salmon in the rivers Korpa and Elliðaár river. The place is called Leirvogur bay, where you can find the seals.
There are golf-courses here above the path and I am always a little scared of being hit by a golf ball. And I have found several golf-balls on the shore...
By Geldinarnes island one can see people kayaking. And by Mt. Úlfarsfell one can see people gliding.
45% of Grafarvogur is nature - so there are many lovely walks here - but I especially like this walk.
Jokulsarlon - Glacial Lagoon
One of the most amazing places I have ever been was Jokulsarlon, the Glacier Lagoon.
Located just off the highway in South Eastern Iceland, it is such a bizarre sight when you first see an Iceberg sticking up over the black sand dunes by the road side!
The lagoon is over 200 metres deep and has a small river flowing from it into the nearby ocean. Filled with icebergs, it is a very special place! There is a colony of seals that live here and we were lucky enough to see one doing some fishing close to the mouth of the lagoon.
Jokulsarlon has been used as a filming locations in a few well known movies in recent years, including 2 James Bond movies and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Besides just looking at the lagoon, you can also go on it - in an amphibious (wheeled) boat. It costs around 2,000 kroner and the trip takes 40 minutes (first departure was at 10am) You board the strange looking car/boat just near the visitors centre, and it then trundles along the road for a couple of hundred metres, before plunging into the lagoon.
You cruise amongst the icebergs, taking way too many photos and hoping to spot a seal or two. The guide spoke a little about the lagoon and icebergs.
It truly is a must see!
Located on the main highway/ring road between Skaftafell and Hofn, around 4 hours drive South East of Reykjavik
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
The Golden Circle
Only got a short time to visit Iceland ? Well to get a taste of what this fabulous country has on offer, you can spend the day doing the "Golden Circle" tour. Either with a tour group by bus, or with a hire car, the attractions on route are fantastic!
First stop is Pingvellir, home of the first parliament in Iceland, the largest lake in Iceland and the place where the two continental plates of Europe & North America meet.
Second up is Geysir - home of the worlds ORIGINAL geyser! Here you can see the incredible hot water spurting Strokkur doing its thing every 5-10 minutes.
Third stop is the most powerful waterfall in the world - Gullfoss. It is a two-tiered fall, spectacular to see - and you can walk right down and stand on the rocks right by the falls - a wet weather jacket is suggested - the spray is pretty impressive!
For more details on these 3 sites, visit my Iceland page.
- Historical Travel
- Adventure Travel
- Road Trip
Grótta - the island. A nature reserve.
The island Grótta is just outside the town of Seltjarnarnes which is adjacent to the west part of Reykjavík and there is no boundary between these two towns, one has to be a native to know where Reykjavík ends and Seltjarnarnes begins.
At the very end of Seltjarnarnes is the ever so popular Grótta. This is such a popular recreation area and by the parking lot you will see a lot of people, jogging, cycling, walking their dogs and playing by the ocean. During solstice at Grótta it is crowded there. And during the summer time there are so many arctic terns by Grótta I added a tip on the arctic tern with a lot more pictures from the shore at Grótta.
From May 1st-July 1st access to the Grótta island is forbidden as birds are nesting there and after that time it is strictly forbidden to remove eggs from their nest. Grótta has been a nature reserve since 1974.
One can walk to the island on an isthmus but watch out for the high-tide coming in as one can get stuck there. Read the information sign at the shore on when the high-tide comes in.
There is a café on the island during the summer time and a study-center. There is a lovely lighthouse, Gróttuviti, which was built in 1947. There was another light-house there from 1897. One can walk up to the top of the lighthouse and from there you have an astounding view of Faxaflói bay, the surrounding mountains and Reykjavík. On sunny days one can see as far as the town of Akranes.
On a cold starry winter night Grótta is the best place in Reykjavík/Seltjarnarnes to see the Northern lights. I went there with a VT-friend and the sky was lit up with awesome Northern lights as Grótta is a bit away from the light pollution.
Opposite the island is a lovely, old (1763), black and white house which was the home of the first Director General of public health in Iceland. There was the first public pharmacy and a midwife worked there as well. It now belongs to The National Museum and displays the tools used back then!
Directions: Say you are on Miklabraut, the street which splits Reykjavík in two, then drive west until it turns into Hringbraut. Drive to the end of Hringbraut which will take you right down to a roundabout by the ocean, on your right there is Grandi, but you have to take a left turn on the street Ánanaust and keep driving by the ocean, Ánanaust turns into Eiðsgrandi which then turns into Norðurströnd (always the same street though). You will see the light-house on the Grótta island.
Here is a a 360° view of Grótta.
Nauthólsvík - Reykjavík's geothermal beach!
Nauthólsvík - geothermal beach is open from May 15 - August 31 from 10-20. It is really popular and on sunny days it gets filled with people. Approximately 120.000 people visit the beach every year. Reykjavík city owns this beach and bathing and showering is free, but you pay ISK 200 for using the changing rooms. There is a service center where you can buy refreshments and an on-site barbeque which can be used free of charge. In front of the service center there is a pool with 30-35 degrees C geothermal water.
This site was redeveloped in year 2000, it had been a popular beach when my parents were kids, and there was a creek there carrying hot run-off water from the city central-heating system (from the hot-water-tanks at Perlan) and we used to bathe in that until it was closed in 1985. What they did was that they raised seawalls and brought in yellow sand (the sand at the beaches in Reykjavík is black). Now it is a beautiful beach with a lagoon where the cold sea (it is really cold) and the hot geothermal water flow together, see my pictures. The water in there is 18-20 degrees C. But it is only heated during opening hours so take care not to get in at other times as you might get hypothermia.
The geothermal beach is situated by the ocean at the bottom of Öskjuhlíð, the hill where Perlan is situated, and you can reach it on foot by walking from Perlan and down the hill through the forest. Or take bus nr. 19 from Hlemmur, the main bus-stop down-town. The drive to the beach will take you along our domestic airport.
The Univesity of Reykjavík was built by Nauthólsvík in 2009-2010 which makes this area even more lively. By the university there is a lovely restaurant called Nauthóll.
One can visit this area even when it is not open, I go there often in the winter time just to walk around.
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