There are a couple of different modes of transport available for tours in and around Reykjavik which will give you the best possible view of the city as a whole… You won’t regret it and it’s a great way to fill a full day.
The Skies Over Reykjavik
Whilst helicopter tours are always fairly expensive (no matter where you do one), they are certainly a way to experience the area in a whole new and unforgettable way… This is especially true for the Reykjavik area, with Nordurflug being a great company to use. They have a great selection of tours, and if you’re on a tighter budget or have never flown in a helicopter before, a great place to start is the Reykjavik Summit tour.
The Summit tour is meant to head over to Mount Esja to the North of Reykjavik to give you a view across the bay towards the city – however the weather up there wasn’t great and we headed South instead, landing near Reykjanesfolkvangur giving a great view across a crater lake. This was pretty much the only snow which we encountered whilst in Iceland, and it was pretty nice to actually not see the city (or any civilisation at all for that matter)… But we got a great view and fly-by tour of the city on our way back anyway!
A really nice touch by the pilot was for a gentleman who accompanied us celebrating his birthday – what better way to do so than to enjoy a glass of champagne in the morning, with one of the best views you can imagine.
The Seas Off Reykjavik
When you’re in Iceland the wildlife might not always be that obvious to see but one place where you shouldn’t miss out on seeing the countries “big game” as it were, is off the coast… And there are loads of different companies in the marina offering tours but we went with the largest boat in the whale watching fleet, owned by Special Tours. The main reason for this is that I suffer from seas sickness… I tried to combat this by partly choice of boat but also with some sea sickness pills – which worked a treat! Be warned that the seas out there can get choppy, but the guys on the boat really do look after you.
We were on a 4 hour tour which took about 40 minutes to get to the main spotting grounds, and after heading out a little further following some of the animals we went there to see, it took about an hour to get back to the marina.
There are a few different species off the coast of Reykjavik with the most common being minke whales, white beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises and humpback whales… The first ones we saw were the white beaked dolphins – of which we managed to see 3 different pods, one of which was hunting! If you want a good view go upstairs, as close to the front as possible, as they always point the boat straight on rather than turning to let the people stuck at the back get a better view.
Just as we were going to head back in we saw a minke whale… It was there and then gone again in a second and we only saw the lower part of its back (the most common part of a minke whale to see – they don’t show their fluke when they dive). Everything about the trip can be fast moving, between the boat following the animals, the waves moving you up and down, and then of course the animals themselves (especially the minke whale which I had no chance of getting a photo of)… So getting a decent photo is not easy – especially when you don’t have a decent zoom lens, as these animals don’t necessarily get THAT close to the boat.
Back on Solid Ground
You can do both of those tours in one day, seting off for the airport at about 8:00am after a hearty breakfast and finishing at just after 5:00pm. There is even enough time to grab some dinner in the city afterwards – we ate at Café Paris, and to be honest it’s not got the greatest or most varied menu… However the food is pretty good and the servings are a great size, so its definitely a nice way to finish the day. The most important thing however was lunch between the two tours… You need to grab something quick as we didn’t have a huge amount of time between them, and had to park slightly out of the center at the Harpa concert hall. Ingolfstorg Square is home to 2 places right next to each other which give you the best option for grabbing a bite to eat!
The hot dog is like the adopted new national dish for Icelanders, and boy do they know how to make one, especially when it comes to the sauces… and nowhere shows this off better than hot dog house on this square. Right next to this fighting for room in your belly is hlollabatar which serves some of the best subs you will ever have… forget subway – this is how they should look and taste, they really are brimming with fillings and flavours! Both are brilliant places to eat but if I had to choose – I’d say hlollabatar just about pips it, with their huge variety of fillings!