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Iceland: Hiking On an Active Volcano then Sightseeing in Reykjavik

Summary: On our last day in Iceland, we had to make a quick change of plans because a storm canceled our planned ice trekking trip. We decided in the opposite direction of the storm, towards Reykjavik. As luck would have it, we hiked Mt. Fagradalsfjall merely weeks before a series of significant volcanic eruptions. Turns out the smoldering rock we saw was ready to blow! After our hike, we made our way to Reykjavik where we spent a rainy afternoon exploring this City museums and other sightseeing highlights.

[This blog is part of a our 4-days in Iceland itinerary, which is part of our 15-days in Northern Europe trip].

When one door closes another one opens. A large storm on the southeast side of the island canceled our ice trekking tour. This led us to scramble for new plans. We decided to hike Mt. Fagradalsfjall, the same area that is now closed off due to volcanic eruptions that began just weeks after we left. So while we were disappointed in our change in plans, we definitely had the "No way - we were JUST there!" reaction when we heard the news of the eruption. We even drove threw Grindavik, the now deserted town that suffered significant lava flow damage, making us appreciate all the more the hardship suffered by them.

Drive to the Volcano. The day started with an early 90 minute drive to the volcano site. We put serious miles on our rental car during our four days in Iceland but each drive was scenic especially in June. One of our favorite things to see were these adorable Icelandic ponies.

Arrival. There are more than one parking areas that will take you to the same hiking area. Each require you to pay about $8 USD. Hiking trails are well marked and easy to follow in this barren landscape.

Shortly into the hike, the trail takes you to a valley previously filled with lava flow. Pockets of steam were rising from all over the valley floor.

Next we climbed up above the valley, seeking views of the coastline and volcano area.

With the storm coming in, it was fairly windy at the top.

Lava rocks happen to make good stacking rocks. Side note, who knew stacking rocks was so controversial? We know now!

Rainy day in Reykjavik. After our hike, we made our way to Reykjavik to enjoy a rainy afternoon exploring more of Iceland's largest City. After parking near the waterfront, we traveled on foot to see Hallgrímskirkja, the City's iconic Lutheran church. Photo below is of the Harpa concert hall. In the basement of this building are public restrooms that are accessible at a modest fee.

Hallgrímskirkja. This relatively new Church, by Europe standards, was completed in 1986. Known as an Expressionist art piece, Hallgrímskirkja's exterior design resembles the two massive pipes organ housed inside. Admission is free and with all active churches, be sure to keep quite and take hats off when admiring the interior architecture.

Einar Jónsson Art Museum. Next door to the Church is the Einar Jónsson Art Museum and sculpture garden. The Garden is free to visit and taking advantage of this, we skipped the museum portion and enjoyed a stroll through this unique garden.

Next, we walked through neighborhoods and the waterfront to National Museum of Iceland. We didn't take many photos inside but the museum is as expected in that it gives a nice overview of Iceland history. Students pay less than 50% of adult admissions so be sure any students with you bring their student IDs.

Happy Hour and Shopping. As with the first day in Reykjavík we stopped at Posthus Food Hall, this time for a quick happy hour before heading out to do some shopping. The City is very safe so we split up into two groups (parents and teens). The parents had to stop by to see Reykjavík's infamous Phallological Museum because, you know, why not? Truthfully though, we got the idea just with the entrance hallways and the funny gift shop. So rather than paying the fee to see the rest of the museum, we headed out to souvenir shop.

After shopping, we enjoyed dinner at a surprisingly inexpensive and tasty, all-you-can-eat soup shop called Icelandic Street Food. This was a perfect meal for a rainy evening. Patrons can try a variety of soups served either in a bread bowl on regular bowl. Sweet waffles made to order are also included in the meal.

Where to Stay. Iceland's countryside is sparsely populated. Miles of green fields (in the Spring), are dotted with homesteads that are sometimes situated next to cattle or sheep barns and sometimes out on their own. Homesteads are often given the name of the family that owned them rather than a street address. For our time in Iceland, we rented an Air BnB, the former farmhouse of the owner's grandparents. Build in 1939, this modest home was typical of its time. For us, we loved the experience of waking up to views from the kitchen like in the photo below. Yes, it required a little extra driving each day but the trade-off was an authentic Icelandic experience.


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