Visit to Iceland — Day 1

We met my parents, sister and brother-in-law halfway: in Iceland. We finally managed to get the six of us together on vacation in the same place, scratch off another country on our list (and crack into Scandinavia along with it), and see some really cool (and cold) stuff.

We opted for a travel company’s package instead of doing all these things ourselves:

  • accommodations and breakfast
  • car rental and driving
  • admissions, scheduling
  • POI-selection based on weather, etc.

We had a limited amount of time and the travel agency packed in quite a lot to see for the time available. I don’t think we could have done that better than they did. But that also meant a lot of time spent on the bus. Was it worth it? I think so, but I also think next time we would

  • go in the summer
  • stay in a place where we can cook
  • do the driving ourselves
  • spend more time in the places that interest us


We were mostly well-prepared. We knew it would be cold. We knew it could be rainy. We planned in removable layers. I didn’t predict some of the warmer, wetter days. I thought I would only need my ski pants, and they were great at Gullfoss, but overkill on warmer days and I really needed some rain pants (non-insulated, just waterproof) for the rainiest day.

Day 1: City Tour and Northern Lights

We arrived in Reykjavik the afternoon before my family. They flew in from Toronto (no direct flights from Detroit) and got to the hotel with only an hour to spare (they really could have used a nap) before the city tour started.


It’s a hot water storage facility perched above Reykjavik that affords visitors some lovely views.

Northern Lights Center

Skip it. Wikipedia,, or the internet in general can give you the info you need. They have nice Postcarda Borealis, but so does every other shop in Iceland.


Much Luther. So spartan. Wow.

P.S.: Leif Ericsson was not Lutheran, but he still welcomes you to the church.


Iceland’s population is about 2.3 Regensburgs and 0.4 Macomb Counties. So yeah, you can just waltz into the seat of their legislature and charge your devices via USB.


We got out of the bus to admire the scenery down at the harbor and hear about whale-watching and -hunting activities.


It’s a concert hall slash opera house down on the waterfront.

Northern Lights

Somewhat unfortunately for the North America-based contingent of our party, the best night for skywatching happened to be their very first night in Iceland. So after a long travel day to the airport, getting on the plane for an overnight night flight, not sleeping well on it, and taking a bus tour of the sights aroun Reykjavik, they also had to stay up late to catch the electromagnetic lightshow. But it was worth it.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the trip!

3 thoughts on “Visit to Iceland — Day 1”

  1. Steven

    I did many of the same things as you, but I didn’t go inside Harpa. Did you take the elevator to the top of the church? The views from up above are pretty great.

    Super jealous of your northern lights viewing, btw- I’ve never managed to see that from anywhere.

    1. cliff1976

      Hey Steven! We did not take the elevator to the top of the church. I don’t remember if that was not an option for our visit, or we just ran out of time — that day was very tightly regimented with (what felt like) something else to learn every 15 minutes. We got our city views from the Perlan viewing platform.

      The Northern Lights stuff was extra cool, and apparently those conditions were “just okay” compared to what’s normal for that region and time of year. I figured out too late that I was not focusing on infinity — I was turning the focus ring on my digitally focusing m43 lens in the wrong the direction for most of the outing. Given another chance (we were not, on that trip), I’m pretty sure I know what to do to get crisp foregrounds and soft glowy backdrops. I’d really like to see some reds or yellows in those photos instead of the just the more typical greens. But I’m not unhappy with what I got!

      1. Steven

        For focusing the wrong way, they still look pretty great.
        I took competing pictures from both the Perlan and from the church- the church had the better city view, imo though-

        I only did the one regimented tour while I was there, the Golden Circle tour- the rest was me doing my own thing. I actually took a city bus to and from the Perlan. Adventure! (But without all the extra learnin’ you got.)

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