First Day in Iceland

I woke up at 5:45am. I had a shower and quietly got dressed so not to disturb my dorm mates, then went up to the kitchen for breakfast. I sat down with a bowl of granola and skyr, making myself two cups of tea. I looked over the maps and pamphlets I’d picked up on art and design in Iceland. It was lovely to sit with my steaming cup of tea and watch the ships in the harbour.

person holding a cup of tea on a balcony overlooking a harbour
When I left the hostel, the streets were empty. I wondered around with my camera exploring the city, taking pictures of whatever took my fancy.

The Search for Coffee

I fancied a coffee, so went to the grocery store. Their coffee was 290 ISK, and it didn’t look too appealing, so I decided to search for alternatives. The hot dog stand had coffee for 390 ISK and a couple other places were the same. The Reykjavík Roastery was the most interesting cafe I came across, but so busy I figured it would be impossible to get a seat. Similarly with the Laundromat Cafe. Everyone was getting their 11am fix!

I ended up going to the Café Paris – if I was going to pay a premium for coffee, I might as well make an occasion of it! Seemed wrong to go to a ‘Paris’ cafe while in Iceland, but here I was. At least I wasn’t at the Brooklyn or American down the street!

I got a Swiss mocha with whipped cream and wrote a postcard. Dappled sunlight danced on the wooden table as I wrote. I really felt like I was on holiday!


I got a hot dog from a stand by the port. Apparently its the best cheap food option in Iceland! It came with two unknown sauces (maybe some sort of mustard?), finely chopped onions, and something crunchy – I wasn’t sure what. It was good – and only 400 ISK!

icelandic hot dog
I went to the Red Cross, which I was told was Iceland’s version of Value Village. It was awful! There was nothing I would consider wearing, and most of the warm clothes seemed 4000 ISK+. WTF?!

I thought I best draw out some money as I was heading to the countryside this afternoon. I got out some money from the ATM by the post office for a 188 ISK service fee. I felt a lot better knowing I had a decent amount of cash in my pocket – Iceland was proving to be very expensive! I knew it would be, but coming from Germany and Prague where I could get beer and cheese for under $1 CAD, I was having trouble adjusting.

colourful houses

National Museum of Iceland

I continued my search for the National Gallery of Iceland. The walk took me past many grand lilac bushes that were still abloom, past City Hall where a great picture of the past mayor had been taken in his pink suit, and around ‘the pond’ where ducks swam and people sat by the water.

I ended up at the National Museum of Iceland instead of the Gallery. It was on the University of Iceland campus. It was a very good museum – hands on exhibits, traditional displays, and immersive environments. I quite liked it! Also had a lot of jewelry, manuscripts, and information on common life which I always find interesting.

I bought a print of a medieval map of Iceland from the gift shop and headed back to the hostel to pick up my bags. I walked around the far end of the pond, admiring the wildflowers and ducklings… and found the National Gallery! Bah! No time to stop.

Bus to Laugarvatn

I went to the hostel and picked up my bags from baggage check. I got to the bus stop in good time and realized… I’d forgotten my phone! I ran back to the hostel, found it where I’d left it charging, and ran back to the bus stop – just in time to see mine drive away.

Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long for the next one. I had a lovely moment while waiting though. A very smartly dressed one lady with a white cane got off a bus and came to sit next to me. She spoke to me in Icelandic and then perfect English – like the queen! She asked me if I’d been in Iceland long. She had lived here for 91 years! She was a lovely lady – I would have liked talking to her more, but then my bus came.

I took the the number 3 to Mjodd, the main station (400 ISK). I got a transfer ticket from the friendly bus driver (listening to rock music nonetheless) who told me I’d get a discount at the main station if I showed that. The bus had audio and visual stop announcements like at home – an accessibility feature I always find most helpful!

I bought 6 tickets at the station. It came to 2600 ISK if I remember correctly. The clerk tried to explain when to use the transfer and the ticket, but I got totally lost and confused with the instructions, and there was a line behind me, so I said thanks and shuffled to the side.

The platform for the 51 was not marked, but she told me to go wait where the 52 sign was. To my amusement it was opposite to the bus to IKEA. It had its own Stræto bus in Iceland!

The 51 bus was a proper coach bus, minus a washroom in the back. The driver took 3 tickets from me and my transfer, giving me a second transfer ticket. I put my backpack underneath and off we went!

The landscape on the was to Selfoss was quite impressive! It was like being on the moon! Everything was covered with moss – I’d love to see it after the rain! There were little waterfalls and lots of Icelandic ponies. White steam rose from the ground in places and the rock formations were unlike anything I’d seen before. The scent of sulphur made me think of hard boiled eggs though, making me hungry. I hadn’t brought any snacks on board…

The bus to Laugarvatn arrived right as I arrived and left promptly after. I understood that it was the only bus into Laugarvatn that day, so its lucky I didn’t miss it! Icelandic buses sure keep tight schedules.

There were only 3 of us on the bus. The driver didn’t respond well to my English, but a young dad (who had excitedly been taking pictures on the bus from Reykjavík) helped me out. I had read online that there was no where to buy groceries in Laugarvatn, and was concerned as this was the only bus into the area. He assured me there was a small store I could buy some food at, then offered me something to drink. He was very kind.

The drive was a little less scenic, although we had a good view of the snow capped Hekla volcano for much of it, and a lone sheep crossed the road in front of us at one point.

The bus dropped me off in a parking lot by a little grocery store and diner. I was a little confused as there was no sign for anything ‘Laugarvatn’ related. The people working in the diner weren’t locals, so didn’t know. They directed me to the grocery store where I asked a cashier. To my delight, my hostel was a couple doors down!

Laugarvatn Hostel

The Laugarvatn Hostel was empty. There were two people waiting in their cars. I asked one woman where the reception was and she said the receptionist was on the way. She came promptly and drove me down to my building, which was down by the water. I was delighted by the sight! It looked like a seaside resort at the base of a mountain at a bay with wildflowers, long lush grass and birch trees all around. There were classic wooden lawn chairs outside, just like an Agatha Christie novel, with laundry blowing on the line.

The hostel was next to a public swimming pool and Laugarvatn Fontana, a private geothermal spa. I was ecstatic! And to boot, only 6 people were staying in my building, so it would be ice and quiet. There was a young German woman staying in my dorm, also traveling alone.

I plugged in my phone to charge and climbed the hill to the grocery store. I stopped in the spa to check out their prices – it was cheaper than the Blue Lagoon and hostel guests got 10% off!

I got a small assortment of groceries, munching on blue cheese, licorice, and drinking black current juice on the way back to the hostel. I was famished!

I explored the hostel some more, discovering a rooftop balcony and sauna. I wrote a list of questions for the hostel staff (including how to operate the sauna) and headed back up the hill to the main hostel building. The receptionist wasn’t there, so I decided to go in search of a trail.

blue sky, mountains, and wildflowers


I wandered back down to the water and saw Linden, a little waterside restaurant with pale blue walls and white trim. I climbed the steps and poked my nose in. It was chalk full of people and looked a bit more posh than I could afford, so i turned around and headed back down the stairs.

I heard someone call out to me in Icelandic and I turned around to see a man on the porch. He invited me inside and handed me the bistro menu. He went on about how they had a budget friendly menu for Icelanders and those not looking for a fine-dining experience but who wanted good quality food… The went on a little rant about the high prices and low quality of food in other parts of Iceland. I wasn’t quite sure if he was trying hard to make a sell or just being uber friendly, but I found him charming nonetheless.

I asked what the catch of the day was and he got out an illustrated guide to Icelandic fish to show me a long, slender silver fish called something like a ‘lynx’. He described it so passionately that I couldn’t say no! He seated me down at a bistro table and handed me off to a young waiter.

The waiter was absolutely miserable. He couldn’t even fake a smile. The food was very good though and I washed it down with an Einstök toasted porter. They played dinner jazz and Nina Simone on the speakers above me. I was quite pleased. (The waiter reclaimed himself when I got confused by the currency and over-tipped a ridiculous amount)
fish, arugula, and a red sauce

Goodnight from Iceland

The temperature had dropped considerably by the time I left. I had planned to go for an evening hike and drink my Laphroaig on a mountain overlooking the bay, but it was far too cold for that now! I zipped up my coat and headed home along a lovely little path bordered by yellow and purple wildflowers. The restaurant was surprisingly close to where i was staying – closer than the grocery store! This could be dangerous…

My dorm mate was sleeping when I returned, so I went upstairs to the common area that overlooked the water. I FaceTimed with mum and worked on my blog post, heading back downstairs around 11pm to get ready for bed.

Tomorrow, geothermal spa and hiking!

geothermal spring at Laugarvatn

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