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A big part (120.000) of the Iceland population (327.000 which is already few) lives in the the most northern and “the nearest to the pole” capital of the world, Reykjavik, around on 64th latitude. When you consider İstanbul with population of 15 million and Kadıköy with of 500.000, these numbers seem to be so unreal.

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Well, Iceland actually is an unrealastic land. While another scandale is witnessed everyday in our country, we see news on social media that are almost like ‘viral campaigns’ of Iceland. Iceland has become one of the top options on our “where to migrate immediately” list in the light of the news like Iceland police -accidentally- killing someone and apologizing to the victims family, having one of the most transparent political system of the world, using the most environmentalist energy in the world, their high qualified education system, marriage news of the prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir that announced being gay and elected as the prime minister for the first time in the world.

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Of course it is not only the peaceful atmosphere, the environmentalism, good education that make you want to pack your things and move to Iceland. Natural phenomena like glaciers, active volcanos, incredibly cold weather and the amazing heat comes from the center of the earth, earthquakes, waterfalls, northern lights, geysers meet on these lands. Extremely cute Icelandic horses, rye bread cooking under the ground, cold ocean fish…. Your soul rests, refreshes here.

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In Iceland, nature sets all rules and it is always done as she says. It is so simple: Icelanders don’t fight against the nature, they adopt themselves to it, to the conditions that nature gives. I’m talking about a climate that no kind of vegetables or fruits can grow. Hence the Icelanders are strong and flexible. They have to be: Plans change according to the weather.

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People believe in elves & trolls. There are people who are in charge of the communication with elves working in the official governmental institution that builds highways. They get the permission from elves when a new highway is going to be built. This situation that seems to be nothing but a superstition to us who live in cities  with millions of populations but it actually expresses the naive perspective of life of Icelanders that leave their babies in the stroller outside when they’re at home or a restaurant, to make baby’s immunity system stronger, not afraiding anyone would kidnap or hurt their baby. Well, I would believe in elves too if I was raised up under the magical Northern Lights and didn’t know what crime is.

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Even though it is placed on the edge of the North Atlantic Region, Reykjavik is a coastal town with rather warm climate thanks to Current Gulf-Stream. I must warn you here that warmth is a relative concept depending of which part of the world you come from:) It is a challenge to be a tourist here in winter but it has its rewards and you get your share.

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End of February – beginning of March, which is the time I’ve visited Iceland, is the best period to see the Northern Lights aka Aurora. Reykjavik could be visited only for this natural phenomenon, the the result of the interaction between magnetic field of the Earth and energetic particles come from the Sun. But there is much more to experience.

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How to go to Iceland?

Iceland is in Schengen region. I went there with my visa I received from Greece earlier. There weren’t any problems. I couldn’t find a direct flight to Iceland from İstanbul so I flew with the low cost airline of the country “Wow” from Copenhagen (By the way they’re a really good company, I recommend it. They’re young and funny. Funny sentences are used like “enjoying the view?” on the wing, “you shall pass” on the on board tag. Service is also fine. Meal on the plane, luggage are charged but not on high prices) It takes 3 hours 20 mins from İstanbul to Copenhagen and another 3 hours 10 mins from Copenhagen to Reykjavik.

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What to wear in Iceland?

Because of my limited luggage and the weight of the winter clothes I took one coat with me, my heaviest snowboard coat. I had to walk in my snowboard coat for a night in the most stylish city of the world, my layover city, Copenhagen, where girls have the best coats. It wasn’t a pleasant experience I must say. I felt like a tiny Hobbit came to the wrong place to snowboard :) But when I arrived in Reykjavik, I felt better! Here, everybody wears snowboard coats. Downtown Reykjavik reminds you of a little ski town in every detail. It is like the center of Sankt Anton with the stores, restaurants, people’s clothes.

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If you’ll be here in winter, news flash: it is cold! You need to wear thermal underwear, a semi coat made of goose feathers and another heavy coat on it. You can’t survive even for a minute without barret, gloves. Also, a pair of durable, good boots and socks for your feet. Especially, if you’ll join a tour to see Northern Lights, be ready to freeze. You’ll walk on ice and snow so also get yourself durable, warm shoewear.

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But don’t get “coldfeet”. Even though it’ll be very cold outdoors, indoors are well heated (energy is cheap, heated water comes directly from underground, they produce thermal energy more than they can comsume). You’ll get warmer inside as much as you get cold outside.

Some Useful Information

Their currency is Icelandic króna. 1 Turkish Lira is 53 ISK, 1 Euro is 147.5 ISK. 1000 Krona is around 20 Turkish Liras or 6-7 Euros. For example, you can drink a cup of coffee in a cafe for around 550 ISK, you can eat in a restaurant for 2000-2500 ISK on average (35-40 Turkish Lira). Do not buy water from supermarkets, buy only once for the bottle, because cold tap water is one of the most delicious waters you can taste.

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Downtown Reykjavik

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It is a pretty small and touristic center. There is one main shopping street. Bars, cafes, cute design & concept stores are in here. And there are also stores that sell the heaviest coats, thermal underwears you wouldn’t wear even if you go skiing in Europe. 66 North is the brand that stands out and advertises the most. Its products start to look good to the eye after you spend some time in Iceland and of course when you get really cold. But they are way too expensive. We already have some loss because of the rate. If you live in Iceland, it is okay but -I think- it is too much to spend to wear them just for a few days, only when you’re in Iceland.

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Accommodation

Reykjavik Downtown Hostel

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As you can tell, it is a pretty hostel in Downtown Reykjavik. I was their guest for 4 nights & I liked it there. It is possible to walk to go sightseeing, grab a bite. Employees are helpful and very nice. Rooms are warm and clean. There is open buffet breakfast in the morning for extra charge. There are dorms for groups of 4-6-10, rooms for 2. Price range starts from 20 Euro -it is a good price for Iceland.-

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Sightseeing

There are amazing places around Reykjavik you can see by joining tours that lasts for one or a couple of days. You can organize it yourself taking your available days on account. If you have experience in driving under the tough winter conditions, you can rent a car and get into roadtrip mood. But most of the adventurers are stranded that’s why towing cars away is a big business in Iceland. If you’re a lone ranger like me, or you’re not looking for adventure there are lots of nice tours offered by Reykjavik Excursions. Take a look at their website. Now I’ll tell you about the tour I joined.

 

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The Golden Circle Tour

It is one of the most popular tours of all. If you buy it on Reykjavik Excursions, they pick you up from yor hotel/hostel and transfer you to you tour bus in BSİ terminal. They have wifi in their tour buses. Golden Circle Tour starts 9 am and continues to 5 pm. You can add a visit of an hour to Fontana Welness to your tour after 5 pm. So that makes 6 pm.: https://www.re.is/day-tours/the-golden-circle-fontana-wellness they take you to these stops listed below:

Þingvellir National Park

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This is a region that became a national park because of its geological, natural and historical importance and it is the first stop of Golden Circle Tour. The Alþingi was founded here in 930. This region is also where you can observe the continental drift. It’s like we’re on top of the world, America on the right, Eurasia on the left!

Gullfoss

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Second stop is Gullfoss (Golden Falls). I was very lucky and that day was sunny so I could see the rainbows from the splashing of the water. Daughter of the “owner” of the river, Sigríður Tómasdóttir is told to be demonstrating and saving this wonder from being destroyed and turning into a power plant. There is a monument of the activist mentioned. Gullfoss is now under protection. There are two observation terraces, one from above, one from below.

Geysir

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Geysir means “to gush” in Icelandic language. This natural phenomenon resulted from underground water’s going deep and getting heated by touching the magma and squirting back to the surface is called gayser in English and “gayzer” in Turkish. Iceland is volcanically active so since there are broken faults there are lots of gaysers here. The Golden Circle Tour takes you the site where The Great Geysir is. It is possible to watch Gayser Strokkur that ejects water every 4-5 minutes.

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Restaurants

 Geysir Glima

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When you arrive in the gayser area, it is around lunch time so there’s a longer break held here. In Gaysir Glima Restaurant you can have some fish soup. It is delicious and presented nicely. There is also a shop from which you can buy souvenirs, cosmetics and clothes (all very expensive though)

Laugarvatn Fontana

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After the Geysir, you pass to the road to turn back. If you buy Golden Circle Tour + Wellness like I did, you can get relax in natural spa in Laugarvatn. When you come here you are welcomed with themally cooked rye bread. So here’s how it happens:

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An Icelandic young man who doesn’t get effected by the cold in any way and is able to survive with just a t-shirt welcomes you with a pot in his hands, that has rye bread dough in it. We walk together to the ‘thermal’ point he marked where he buried another pot yesterday.

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First he digs out the pot he buried yesterday with a shovle from the marked point and then he buries the new one with fresh dough, he just brought, to the extremely hot ground & after that he marks the point again to find tomorrow. We take our freshly baked bread that was buried 24 hours ago and now ready to be eaten & go inside. We say that this bread looks like a cake. The handsome Icelandic  Redhead objects to us saying that it is not a cake it is a bread because his mom says so. Okay, it is a bread. And it is warm & delicious. For some, it is nothing but just an excuse to eat delicious butter with.

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After we taste this amazing bread, we have one hour to enjoy and relax here in natural pools with different remperatures, accompanied by the perfect calming view of snowy mountains.

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The Golden Circle tour ends here and we are dropped to our hostels/hotels as we were picked up in the morning.

Blue Lagoon (Bláa Lónið) 

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Iceland is an ice-cold place but under ground is full of the hot water comes from the depth of the Earth as you notice. This huge facility, Blue Lagoon is not actually a natural bath. Water overflew because of an accident happened in a silicon factory nearby, so this lake was formed and then a lightning hit the Icelandic entrepreneurs: Accidentaly formed Blue Lagoon located 15-20 mins away from Keflavik Airport became the most visited touristic attraction on the country.

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Pool is not natural but water comes naturally from underground. Silica -a substance in the water- is said to be softening the skin. The cosmetic products named after Blue Lagoon, that are priced 30 Euros for a tiny tube, promises eternal youth, well for that price it should! There is a bar in the natural spa part of Blue Lagoon. There is this foamy drink with strawberry taste, i forgot the name but I recommend it. Blue Lagoon is a resort on the way of going to / coming from the airport. You can see the Blue Lagoon tours that fits your time of flight here: https://www.re.is/day-tours/blue-lagoon-tours But they also pick you up and drop you off from/to the city.

Northern Lights

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The best time to see Northern Lights which are one of the most amazing tourist attractions of Iceland is between September-April. Because nights need to be dark enough to see the Lights and you need to be in winter for this. (There’s this thing called “midnight sun” during summer) Well, but dark is not enough all by itself. Luminescence should be active and there should be no clouds. In Iceland, you may spend 2 weeks under the circumstances I just counted but you may not see anything. Just as you may be there just for a night you may witness an amazing light show. So, it is unpredictable. (7-8 years ago I spent a week in Lapland but I could not see anything because it was very cloudy)

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I was so lucky this time. I was lucky enough to follow and photograph the Lights that can be seen even from the city after a very sunny day. Let alone photographs, they danced! It was incredible. Words can’t express about that experience. My photographs weren’t that good since it was the first time that I took photos of the Lights but at least I could’ve taken them! I’m thinking of writing about tips on taking photographs of the Northern Lights (in a language that starters like me can understand).

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You can follow the Aurora event here: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/  and buy a Northern Lights tour from here: https://www.re.is/day-tours/northern-lights-tours

The day I didn’t have tour on, it was very sunny & clear, so in the night, the lights could be seen even from the city. Without the tour, I followed and saw them individually -well, with a policeman I met there. Funny story. Anyway, by following I mean driving out the city for around 15 mins. The less artificial  lights there are, the more you are likely to see the Aurora. I saw them, they were dancing, it was a magical moment. I was very lucky. And then I cancelled my tour which was on another night -I’m glad I did because it was cloudy that night even I didn’t cancel, I wouldn’t see anything-

Eating – Cafes

Kaffifélagið

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It is the best take-away coffee of Reykjavik. Well, at least that’s what the certificate says that they hang up on their wall. I’ve never been a coffee expert. I drank my cappuccino and kept on moving. It is a pretty shop. They have wifi like every other place.

The Laundromat Café

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I saw the Laundromat Cafe for the first time in Copenhagen. That branch really started as a laundry and then added coffee shop to socialize and things got bigger later on. Reykjavik branch is a good place for breakfast. I didn’t see any washing machines in there though. Walls are covered fully with huge world maps <3 -There’s a cute story about the strangers in the photo above: I accidentally took a photo of the brother of one of my followers on Instagram, and his fiance while they were on their honeymoon; you can check out the story from the link https://twitter.com/cizenbayan/status/574346910078754818/photo/1

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Stofan Café

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I came here, drank a cup of hot chocolate and worked with my laptop by the window, since it was close to my hostel. Servers are young and really sweet :) Lovely atmosphere and worth a try.

Kaffibrennslan

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This is another place to have a pleasant time with a cup of hot chocolate.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

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The famous hot-dog joint of Reykjavik. There’s a long queue at night. Hotdog is not so very incredibly delicious but it is quite delicious. And also its price is reasonable. Well, I ate it because it was famous. If a place like this is so famous in a city I always think it’s worth a try.

Tapas Barinn

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Don’t go like “I am in Iceland where TF tapas came from?!” Well, situation goes like this: No kind of fruit-vegetable grows in Iceland.(I wouldn’t grow in Iceland if I were a fruit-vegetable. Even your butt may freeze.)  Therefore Icelanders try to get everything from the nature since nature didn’t give them anything to grow on earth. They eat any kind of meat they can find. (It is so easy to be a vegan in Turkey. Icelandic vegans have what it really takes. Well let’s not get out of our point) With God as my witness fish is really good here. But the icelanders don’t only eat normal fish like we do, in order to survive that had to eat whatever they could kill, so they eat whale meat & meat of a tiny poor bird called puffin. If you want to try these meats without having to eat a whole portion, tapas is a good idea.

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You can taste a bit of everything in 7 -not that small- portions without being so full and make your curiousity go away by ordering Icelandic Tapas Menu in Tapas Barinn. So you wouldn’t say that you didn’t try Puffin or Whale. I think 2 people can be full with 1 tapas menu. By the way I didn’t like the whale meat -don’t consider it a a fish since it is a mammal its meat is red meat and it is solid, hard to chew- I tried shark meat in another place which is not something touristic or tourists usually try. I’ll tell it on my Akureyri post.

Sakebarinn

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There’s nothing like cold sea/ocean fish. That’s why you definitely should eat sushi in Iceland. Sushi is amazingly delicious since salmon is amazingly delicious. Generally prices are high in this country but sushi’s price is relatively good. I like the sushi of Sakebarinn. It is for your benefit to make your reservation if you don’t want to sit on the bar and want a table.

Prikið

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Prikid is one of the oldest cafes of Reykjavik. I ate an amazing dish of fish with sweet potatoes on upper floor. It costs 2000 ISK with wine, which is pretty reasonable for Iceland. I recommend it really hard :) The bar setting downstairs is also good. There are concerts at nights. It is a really really good place and the prices are really really affordable. Eat fish eat fish!! :)

 

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Concert – Bar

Café Rósenberg

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They have live performances on Friday and Saturday nights. It is a nice place. Since I like Icelandic music, I went there as soon as I saw the poster of the Icelandic band. I can’t pronounce the name if someone asks, I’m copying and pasting: Ljotu Halfvitarnir. The woman on the door said that they were good at Icelandic folk music and the concert would be sold out soon, so I bought the ticket giving 3000 ISK -it was a good amount- Well, it was more of a stand-up show than a concert. And of course they were speaking in Icelandic language. The music was too loud and the place was crowded, people who laughed to death at the stand-up comedy between songs…. At first I thought “How did I get here?!” Thank God, later I made a friend. He tried translating me some of the jokes (i didn’t ask he volunteered) but of course  it didn’t work. I got out of there before waiting for the end of the show. You can take a look at the bands before going maybe. But At least go to Cafe Rosenberg for a beer. It’s a nice place.

Kex Hostel, Bunk Bar, Lebowski Bar

The main place to discover Icelandic bands that are in my style was Kex Hostel. Also its breakfast and beer chats at nights are supposed to be good. I think they organize little festivals there too. Besides Kex Hostel, Bunk Bar and Lebowski are on my to go list for my next visit.

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Stores – Shops

Aurum

It is an amazing shop. They sell clothes in Urbanoutiftters style. Lots of designer items and ‘I don’t need this but it’s so cool that I want this’ kind of inventory. If you didn’t quite understand the rate of Icelandic Krones, be careful. I loved a scarf, that was 200 Euro that I realized later, and I almost bought it without calculating the rate. 0_o

Hrím Eldhús

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If I were an Icelander or at least lived there, I would furnish my house from Hrim Eldhus <3. Everything is so good. There are two shops across each other. Eldhus one is more for the home. You can find notebooks, pens, jewellery and souvenirs in the other one. You should go and see it even though you don’t buy anything. They’re like galleries.

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Finnskabudin Suomi PRKL! Design

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A pretty shop that sells things from Finland – can be considered as neighbour country- You can find collections of Marimekko and Hai boots. ( Hai boots are really good. When I saw them on every girl’s feet in Finland I wanted them so bad. First we found the name of the boots and then we found an address on Internet. It was the headquarter’s address,and we made a fool of ourselves going there to shop boots hahaha. After this incident I found them in a mall, there were only the navy ones left but after all those things I had to buy them.)

Tiger

The “everything for a dollar” shop of Denmark, Tiger makes people who see its Reykjavik branch go nuts. Prices are crazy!

Eymundsson

A very beautiful multimedia shop (books and records) You can discover Icelandic music, buy souvenirs etc.

Kolaportið (Flea Market)

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A flea market is set up in a place near the harbour at weekends in Reykjavik -you can access the address by clicking on the title) It is not like Berlin or London’s fela markets though. Don’t have high expectations. It is small, it is expensive despite being a thrift shop. But it is interesting to see.

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