You could travel a lifetime and never find a city as uniquely situated as Reykjavik. With an urban population that has yet to breach the 125,000 mark, the world’s humble, northernmost capital has managed to capture the intrigue of travelers from every (populated) continent, migrating en masse to this once-quiet port city in numbers that more than quintuple its citizenry on an annual basis. To put things in perspective, that’s just slightly under NYC’s per capita tourism rate (including domestic travel), and remember this is Iceland we’re talking about: you know, that frigid, lonely island in the North Atlantic that periodically receives just over four hours of sunlight per day. So why all the fuss? What makes a former fishing village such a hotbed of transient interest? Well, for the benefit of anyone who may have been living under a(n igneous) rock for the past decade, let’s take a minute to run through some of the incredible features that account for Reykjavik’s inescapable appeal.
First and foremost, this quaint city has become widely recognized as the gateway to one of planet Earth’s most fascinating adventure locales (no hyperbole). Forget for a minute about places like Hornstrandir, Borgarfjördur Eystri, Mt. Hlíðarfjall and the myriad other natural wonders that are scattered throughout the far side of the Icelandic landscape; within no more than a 4 hour drive in any direction (except west), adventurers here will be privy to just about every spectacular sight they could imagine, and a few they likely couldn’t. Rock climbing? Yep. Glacier super-jeeping? Why not. Want to hike up the outside of a volcano? Great. Want to hike around the inside of a volcano? Even better. Does scuba diving between tectonic plates tickle your fancy? Neat. How about ice climbing, whitewater rafting, canyon trekking, or taking a dip in a geothermal smoking valley? You get the point. No matter which way you slice it, Reykjavik’s about as well positioned for adventure as any city you’ll ever come across, and there’s no putting the cat back in this 75-liter hiking bag.
But like any forward thinking metropolis, the Icelandic capital hasn’t let its newfound geographical popularity go to waste. Over the last 30 years, new architecture, renovated museums and annual festivals have sprung to life throughout the city, bringing with them that air of cultural significance one has come to expect from a thriving European municipality. There are theaters and a symphony orchestra, landmark structures like the Hallgrímskirkja Church and the Harpa Concert Hall, and celebrated art events like Iceland Airwaves and the Reykjavik International Film Festival just to name a few. Add to these an exceedingly friendly population and a small but surprisingly vibrant nightlife scene centered around Laugavegur Street and you begin to understand what makes this city so remarkable. If any place has found that perfect recipe for personable size, rich cultural atmosphere and limitless potential for adventure, this is it. All that’s left to do now is book your ticket and experience it for yourself.