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CruiseDirection - Magazine May 2019

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Any traveller to Reykjavik should be aware that in some ways, there are two Reykjaviks for tourists: the summer Reykjavik, and the winter Reykjavik.  

Reykjavik in the summer loves tourists. The Gulf Stream keeps it relatively warm, though cloudy most days; there are lots of hotels, camp sites, museums, and a wonderful bus system that runs every day, 07:00 to 24:00.  

From the end of August until December, the city’s tourist sites gradually close up; the museums offer reduced hours, and the bus schedules get restricted. All the same, there are some great parts of Reykjavik that can only be experienced in the winter. The Christmas season is a city wide celebration, and the aurora borealis is probably the most amazing light show in the world. And again, thanks to the Gulf Stream, Reykjavik isn’t as cold as many travellers might expect - average winter temperatures are around -1 C. If you do go to Reykjavik in the winter, be prepared for darkness. While Reykjavik doesn’t ever lose sunlight entirely, two hours of twilight a day doesn’t feel like daytime to those of us from further south!

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Why visit Reykjavik ?

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A fascinating city

There are two Reykjaviks for tourists: the summer Reykjavik, and the winter Reykjavik

Reykjavik itself is a fascinating city. A hundred years ago it was a sleepy fishing village, and some of the older buildings still stand in the city’s Old Town. Modern and futuristic buildings dominate the skyline - Icelanders have an apparent fascination with architecture, and even someone who knows nothing of architecture can spend several happy hours on a walking tour of the city’s more original and unique buildings.  

And don’t forget that Reykjavik is a party town. Every weekend the city’s many bars, clubs, and hot spots open their doors for a two-day long celebration, called runtur, of song, drink and more adult-focused entertainments (warning, these parties are generally not suitable for children).  

Getting around Reykjavik, you are probably best taking the bus or walking. There are also car rentals available, but the aggressive local driving makes it a less then comfortable option, and bicycles can also feel a little risky for the uninitiated! The bus system is comprehensive, and has accommodation for disabled passengers - speaking of which: like many old cities, Reykjavik has some narrow streets and doorways, even in and around hotels and tourist attractions. A disabled traveller should plan ahead to be sure that the hotel and planned trip highlights could accommodate his or her needs. While the scenery is not in itself a listed tourist attraction, the landscape surrounding Reykjavik is breathtaking. Dried lava fields, surrounded by nearby volcanoes (some of which are still active), beautiful geothermal springs (Caribbean blue in the middle of a snow covered forest), and of course the harbour are all well worth a visit.  

Reykjavik is definitely a city worth exploring. As modern as any city in Europe, with reminders of its past, and the Icelandic culture still holding strong, its appeal is in the fascinating architecture, the museums and parks, the runtur, and the wonders of a near Arctic country.

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