Turning 30 in Reykjavik

by erinohsays


The last time I visited Iceland was nearly 10 years ago when I was 20 years old. I was camping with an activist group of about 50 people from all over Europe and the U.S. and we were stationed illegally on the construction site of an aluminum smelter for the better part of the summer. It was 2018 right before the economic collapse in Iceland.

Today I turn 30 and I’m visiting Iceland along with an estimated 1.5 million tourists this year. That’s a lot for a country with a population the size of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! I’ve been reading in the papers here in Iceland that the tourism bubble is predicted to pop like the banking bubble popped back in 2008. Tourism to Iceland has tripled in the last few years with airlines like WOW offering cheap, direct flights from Pittsburgh to Reykjavik.

We arrived in Reykjavik at 5am Icelandic time (Midnight EST) on Friday after a 5 hour flight. We picked up our rental car and drove it 45 minutes from Keflavik airport into Reykjavik. We grabbed a few pastries and sandwiches from Illy cafe, found our apartment, and napped until about 1pm. During our first day in Iceland we went to the grocery store, ate dinner at a swanky, dimly lit restaurant on the harbor, drank a bottle of wine, went back to the grocery store at 4am (with our 3 year old in tow) and ate a frozen pizza as the sky went from dusk to dawn in about 2 hours.

On Saturday we stopped by the Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pool in our neighborhood. The skies were overcast and it was chilly outside but the geothermal pool, hot tubs, and steam bath were perfect. At first we weren’t sure if it was ok to bring our toddler into the hot tub but then we saw a few moms nursing their newborn babies in the hot tubs.

After swimming we grabbed fish and chips takeout from the “Nice Price” restaurant in the harbor and took a nap at the apartment. With our inner clocks thoroughly confused at this point we stayed up until about 4am in the broad daylight (did I mention the sun never sets during Icelandic summers?!) and when we finally woke up on Sunday afternoon we walked to the “Nice Price” restaurant and got a fish buffet for the three of us for $100 (did I mention the food is really expensive here?!).

We then walked around the harbor, visited the Northern Lights Museum where Eliot viewed the Northern lights through a virtual reality headset and Erik bought a book called Sorcerer’s Screed which includes a bunch of Icelandic magic spells. From 8-10pm we went swimming in another heated pool called Laugardalslaug along with hundreds of tourists from all over the world. At 11pm in broad daylight we bought hotdogs from a stand outside the pool, went grocery shopping, and settled in for the night.

Today, on my 30th birthday, we will visit the Reykjavik City Library then drive to the Reykjadalur Hot River and go for a 3km hike. It’s sunny here for the first time in 4 days so we don’t want to squander it! Also I am such an old person but I kind of love it.