Checking out Reykjavík

Ok so here we go with Iceland blog posts! One trip directly to another, but I promise I will do a few summary posts from previous trips one of these days so the actual itinerary is easier to see. But for now, I can’t wait to share our amazing experience in Iceland! We met up with our 2 friends Katie and Thatcher at a bright and early 6:45 AM (12:45 our time) and hit the ground running exploring Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik. 
First stop: The Harpa Concert Hall.

As far as is this a MUST SEE? for the city… probably not, but for the 2 photographers in our group, this place was Heaven as far as architecture goes! So many fun places to take photos and we were there early enough to grab an easy parking spot right out front. (There were no signs but now I’m learning those are only for quick drop offs… oops) 
The concert hall took a few years to build (from 2007-2011) but officially opened and had it’s first concert in 2011. It is obviously known for the incredible windows that were inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland. 
The area of the concert hall that is open to the general public includes a gift shop and free toilets (though you have to really look for those) however most of halls are closed off. There are tours available to learn more about construction and events as well as see the closed areas of the concert hall for around $15 pp.
There is also a parking garage for the concert hall that costs 2.50 an hour from 7AM to 2AM. 
From the concert hall, it is a short and easy walk to the next stop on our list: The Sun Voyager Sculpture or Sólfar in Icelandic. Above photo: The cairns that sit right next to the concert hall and mark the way. 
After a short, but need I say, COLD walk we reached the Sun Voyager. I only got 2 photos in before my lens had water spots on it and the group was chilled to the bone and ready to run back to our car. Let’s just say after this short walk, we were ready for some INDOOR activities. 
BUT I will say seeing this sculpture was very cool for me and I do recommend the short walk to see it. The sculpture was presented to the city on August 18,1990 to commemorate Reykjavik’s 200th birthday. 
So as far as indoor activities, there are a few museums in Reykjavik, with the Culture House being a top recommended item. So without even knowing what this museum was about, we paid it a visit…. And an interesting visit it was indeed. Let’s just say the above photo is the only picture I took in the museum as the art was fairly abstract… The description for the museum: “The exhibition gives visitors the chance to delve into the collections of six different cultural institutions: from thousand-year-old treasures to the latest in Icelandic art. Its focus is on the visual expression of the ideas we have about the world, our environment and ourselves. The materials and techniques may change over the years, but the viewpoints remain the same. This is a unique journey through Iceland’s visual legacy, offering an innovative guide to a nation’s cultural history.”
In short, NOT my favorite museum, especially considering the cost for an adult 
Luckily the expensive price tag that came with the admission to the Culture House also got us into the National Museum of Iceland. (The admission goes both ways) and we were much more appeased with the National Museum’s displays! Loads of history, information on the culture, and even bones! I enjoyed watching a film on how they constructed the turf homes and navigated the seas back in the day. If you were to pick a museum DEFINITELY pick this one and go here first… then use any left over time to visit the Culture House. Unfortunately we were all tired out of walking and starving for lunch once we got here… so we didn’t stay too long. 
Practical Information for BOTH museums: 
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 10-5
Cost: $20 for adults (at the Culture House they had a student discount for $10)
*Children 18 and under are free 
Following our cultural house experience we went for the next big cultural experience: eating. A hot dog to be exact from the most popular stand in Reyk: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in downtown. While these dogs WERE on the cheap end at $4, they didn’t exactly blow my mind. (likely because I hate all condiments and so eat them plain) but since it’s a thing here, do as the Icelanders do and get yours with a mixture of onion, fried onion, mustard, and a mayo type sauce. We ate ours while wandering the close by market (inside YES!). Then it was a quick stop to get groceries from a BONUS grocery store and it was off to our next big experience:
HORSE BACK RIDING
Typically riding on a tour is less than exciting as most tour groups ride nose to tail and you wind up in groups with people who’ve never ridden before (heck I’ve been that person!) But as Katie is a seasoned rider, and I love horses to the point that falling off one twice  over the course of a year of lessons has yet to deter me, we both conceded that lame tour or not, we HAD to try out this Icelandic Horse TOLT. 
But… what is the tolt you might ask? 
The Icelandic horse is a VERY special breed of horse as it has FIVE natural gaits. (other horses typically only have 4: the walk, trot, canter, and gallop) The Icelandic horse has the walk, trot, TOLT, canter, and Flying Pace. For those who have ridden horses before at a trot, the tolt is most similar to that, only it is supposed to be very smooth and comfortable to ride in comparison. The Icelandic horse is also known as the most PURE breed of horse in the world. The horse was introduced to Iceland by the vikings and in 982 AD Iceland banned the importation of horses, meaning they would have to do all their breeding and horse raising within country. Thus 1000 years of being isolated in Iceland with no other horse breed gives us the most PURE breed. It also makes disease control imperative, so any horse that is exported to another country, can NEVER return to Iceland. 
Last fun fact of the day is the sheer NUMBER of horses in Iceland today. There are 80,000 horses, an incredible number for a nation that counts only 330.000 people.
So we signed up using Viator for a ride that was the cheapest while giving us the longest ride time and we ended up with Ishestar for our riding tours. There are MANY riding tours available all over Iceland (later we even stayed at a lodge situated on a horse track) but in the interest of scheduling, this place fit best and would give the boys traveling with us a chance to rest while we braved the cold elements to ride. 
The overall property you ride on for Ishestar is beautiful. Amazing views of lava fields, lakes, and hills. Our big group of about 15 people was split up into 2 groups after about 30 minutes of riding. One group would walk the entire time, and the other group would get to tolt. We obviously went with the faster group… along with another 10 people who had never ridden before… Oh boy. All in all it was a good ride and the weather actually held off  raining on us until the last bit. The tolt was nice when my horse would do it but for the most part I got a lazy horse who wanted to go as slow as he wanted and would trot to catch back up to the group. TROTTING on an Icelandic horse, in full rain gear, and with an odd saddle wasn’t the most pleasant, not going to lie. It was very bouncy and if I didn’t have some training on how to hold myself on with my legs, I imagine I’d have fallen off pretty easily. It also would’ve been nice to try another of the gaits like the canter, but I digress… next trip to Iceland I’ll do a more intense trekking tour (and hopefully be even more prepared for it by then)
To check out the barn and tour we took, visit Ishestar horseback riding tour
So after something like 1.5 hours of riding we ended at the barn with some hot cocoa/ coffee provided by the tour and boarded our bus to take us back into the city. We arranged to be dropped off just next to our Airbnb spot for the night where the boys had already checked in and crashed. We were lucky enough to snag this stunning apartment for our first night in Iceland. It had 1 bedroom with a double bed, a pull out couch, and great little kitchen with lots of light. Both Katie and I relished a hot shower and some dry clothes for a bit and then made dinner with the groceries from the store (ground pork, spaghetti sauce, and pasta!) 
And even though some of us had no sleep or naps for over 24 hours we couldn’t end the last day without a quick trip to explore the city at night. (though with how cold it was and how tired we were, we didn’t last long) All in all a rough first day weather wise, but a great first day for ADVENTURE.
To stay in THIS stunning apartment in Reykjavik, follow this link: Airbnb
and for a $40 off your first stay, you can sign up HERE

Day 1 Costs:
Rental car breakdown: Roughly $1195 for 9 days split between 4 people, so per day for Braden and I: $66.4
Gas cost breakdown: $321 for entire trip split between 2 couples and spread out over 9 days = $18/day for Braden and I
Airbnb night 1: $117.50 for Braden and I 
Breakfast on plane free 
Lunch was hotdogs at stand for $10
Dinner+ groceries: $28 Cooked that night  
Parking on street in Reyk- $2.00
Horseback riding $109.41 pp
Day 1 total: $349.31 

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