The Laugavegur in the City

I just finished detailing our Laugarvegurinn Trek through the Icelandic interior in recent posts, but it turned out that our trekking days were not over. We returned to Reykjavik and our AirBnB host for about a day and a half of big city exploration after our hike. Our main goals were to see the sights, buy souvenirs, and eat something other than hot dogs or pasta. It just so happens that the main tourist/shopping street in Reykjavik is called Laugavegur, so we embarked on an entirely different sort of trek in the city. We wove in and out of stores, took photos of the graffiti parks, and zig-zagged back and forth along the hilly street.

Tourist shops aren’t particularly interesting, so I’ll spare you the details about $10 lava rocks and $800 66 North jackets. Souvenirs are a necessary evil. Mike and I picked up a few things for friends and family, and we bought candy and some art to frame for ourselves.

The boat harbor through Harpa's windows

The boat harbor through Harpa’s windows

The graffiti was a bit more interesting, and it’s a tourist attraction in its own right. Reykjavik is known for its graffiti artists. There are varying opinions and shifting attitudes regarding graffiti in the city, but the current state of public opinion seems to be one of reluctant tolerance. The Grapevine, Reykjavik’s English-language alternative magazine/newspaper was featuring several articles discussing the matter while we visited. Some of Iceland’s noted artists are Chulo and Sara Riel who both have several pieces around the city.


Reykjavik graffiti

Reykjavik graffiti

Reykjavik graffiti

Reykjavik graffiti

We also had a few culinary adventures while in the capital. Mike finally had a bowl of the ubiquitous “meat soup” that we’d been seeing throughout our travels. He held off for quite some time since the soup costs $12-15 most places (for soup!), but then we found it for only $8, and he gave it a try. His reaction was underwhelming. Unhindered by the disappointing meat soup, Mike next wanted to try some exotic seafoods unique to Iceland. We found ourselves at restaurant Lækjarbrekka for an Icelandic appetizer tasting menu. The menu consisted of wind-dried fish, seaweed, Minke whale tataki, smoked puffin with crowberries, and fermented shark with Brennivin (Icelandic schnapps). As the menu suggests, food has often been hard to come by in Iceland, especially during the long, cold winters in the days of Vikings. The presentation of our appetizers was mildly unsettling, as the tiny cubes of fermented shark were served in tightly sealed jars (presumably because of the smell). Nonetheless, we tentatively ate our fare, saving the shark and the alcohol for last. I wouldn’t say that anything tasted good, but nothing was absolutely dreadful either. Mike thought the seaweed was the worst because it was incredibly tough and salty. We thought that the puffin and whale were not bad, though most of their flavor came from the sauces. The fermented shark was all hype — it really wasn’t as horrible as the presentation implied. All in all, I could have done without the experience, but I suppose it was interesting.

Tasting Menu

Tasting Menu

Exotic foods

Exotic foods

The day after our city trek, we loaded up our bikes for the last time and hit the road for the stretch back to Keflavik. We biked about 30 miles, much of it in the rain. It seemed a fitting end to our Tour de Iceland. We were greeted in Keflavik by our gracious couchsurfing hosts, and then we spent the evening packing up our bikes and bags.

Our flights back to Arizona the next day were long but uneventful, save for one highlight. A while after we took off from Iceland, our pilot announced that we were flying over Greenland and could see it out the windows. The white dots indicating what must have been enormous icebergs and the vast stretches of glacier were breathtaking. Since Greenland may be at the very bottom of my travel list, I doubt I’ll set foot there anytime soon, but it was very cool to see.

As Mike puts it, "This may look like a typical airplane view of the clouds, but it is actually a clear, cloudless day in Greenland."

As Mike puts it, “This may look like a typical airplane view of the clouds, but it is actually a clear, cloudless day in Greenland.” What you’re seeing is pure, uninterrupted glacier.

Icebergs in Greenland

Icebergs in Greenland

Although this post wraps up my trip narrative, bringing us full circle, I still have a few final thoughts and Iceland extras to post in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

One Response to “The Laugavegur in the City”
  1. Correction: Mike wanted to make it clear that he thought the soup was good but probably not worth $15 and maybe not even $8. Soup is rarely worth that much.

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