The Viking Adventure Tour
Sail like a Viking on this tour from Reykjavik’s Old Harbor around Reykjavik Bay in an authentic replica of the Gaukstad ship from 900 AD. This is a unique experience for sailing enthusiasts, history buffs and Viking fans alike. It’s also the perfect way to get off the island and feel the wind in your hair!
You’ll feel like a true Viking as you set sail. You'll be accompanied by a crew consisting of Vikings and up to 12 passengers 1 - 1 1/2 hours on the Reykjavik Bay. Private tours are available upon request.
You will learn the Viking way to navigate on sea and how to maneuver the sail like Ingólfr did when he settled in Reykjavik in 874 AD. Or you can imagine yourself to be Kjartan Ólafsson, the hero of the famous Laxdæla saga, who sailed from nearby Breiðafjorður Bay and journeyed to Norway to seek his fortune, bringing back many fine gifts from the king himself.
The Gaukstad ship, from which this replica is made, was discovered in Norway in 1880. The original is an excellent example of a trading or transport ship from the faraway Viking past, built of strong oak which stood the test of time. Originally, it had room for 32 oarsmen and could reach speeds up to 12 knots on the open sea.
While you are on the water, be sure to look over the nearby cliffs and islands for the distinct orange beaks and black-and-white feathers of puffins. Cast your eyes over the waves to spot whales and other marine life breaking the surface. It is easy to imagine how sailors in the Viking Age would have welcomed these uplifting sights after many days at sea.
Seize your chance at this unique experience now - there is limited seating on the ship! Check the booking availability by pressing “Choose a date” above.
- Duration: 1,5 hours
- Activities: Sightseeing, Boat Trip, Cultural Activity, Bird watching
- Difficulty: Easy
- Minimum age: 3 years old
- Languages: English, Icelandic
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.
From the Skarfabakki pier at Sundahofn harbour in Reykjavik (around 5 km from the center) you can take a ferry to Videy island in Kollafjordur bay.
Videy is best known internationally as the location for the Imagine Peace Tower, envisioned and built by Yoko Ono, widow of musician and ex-Beatle John Lennon. Videy had a monastery in the Middle Ages and Skuli Magnusson, often called 'the father of Reykjavik' resided here. His house, Videyjarstofa, now displays paintings by renowned Icelandic artists.
A great sculpture by one of the world's most renowned sculptors can be found on the west side of the island, Richard Serra's Milestones.
Videy is an important historical site and has beautiful nature, with spectacular rock formations along its coast. Over 30 bird species breed on the island.
Many well-known Icelanders rest in the island's graveyard, among them the great author Gunnar Gunnarsson, who wrote such masterworks as Fjallkirkjan ('The Church on the Mountain'), Svartfugl (The Black Cliffs) and Adventa ( The Good Shepherd).
The Sun Voyager (Sólfarið) is a large steel sculpture of a ship, located at Sæbraut by the seaside of central Reykjavík. The work is one of the most visited sights in the capital, where people gather daily to gaze at the sun reflecting in the stainless steel of this remarkable monument.
The sculpture serves as an ode to the sun where it gracefully faces north across Faxaflói Bay. A popular misconception is that the Sun Voyager represents a Viking Ship. However, that is not quite the case. According to the sculptor’s vision, the piece rather accounts for a vessel of dreams; a premonition of the promise land, a plight for hope, pursuit, progress and freedom.
The sculptor is Jón Gunnar Árnason, who described his vision as one of the possible origins of the Icelandic people. When Jón visited the island of Bockholm in Finland, he claimed to have experienced an uncanny feeling that he’d been there before, many centuries ago.
The story goes that as ancient explorers from the centre of the known world set out to the four different cardinal directions, some set out towards the rising sun and made port at Mongolia. There, they settled down, until discovering the scribes of the explorers from the original journey who had ventured out west. With the discovery of another fatherland, the people yet again set sail, but this time they headed back towards the setting sun. After having followed the sun for years, they eventually ended up on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
When Jón was looking out to sea from Bockholm, he envisioned a vessel of dreams that would take him the rest of the way home; to the newfound promise land of the setting sun. He carved his vision into a granite rock by the sea, and thus the sun ship was born in his mind.
- Learn more about the origins of the Icelandic people here: Where did Icelanders come from?
- Get acquainted with the whales of Faxafló Bay on this Whale Watching Tour from Reykjavík.
As the city of Reykjavík celebrated its 200-year anniversary in 1986, the town council of Vesturbær held a competition for works of exterior art. The Sun Voyager was deemed as the winner, and an aluminium prototype was donated to the city of Reykjavík. In August 1990, shortly after the death of Jón Gunnar, the final piece was revealed at its current location by Sæbraut.
The site of the sculpture was considerably disputed. Many have pointed out the fallacy in the ship’s mast facing north, as opposed to west; to adhere to the original concept behind the artist’s vision. Jón originally wanted the ship to be situated in the western part of Reykjavík, or by the coastline of Ánanaust. Eventually, and with the artist’s consent, the small headland on Sæbraut got chosen. Although the headland has no name, the artist comically referred to it as Jónsnes—or Jón’s Peninsula.
- Visit the Sun Voyager and other Reykjavík Landmarks on this walking tour with a local guide.
- See a full list of Reykjavík Tours here, for exciting adventures that set out from the capital.
Below, you can see a time-lapse video of a day in the life of the Sun Voyager sculpture.
Harpa is Rekjavík’s premier concert hall and conference centre. Opened in 2011, it was designed by a collaboration between Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, and the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects.
The idea for a purpose-built concert hall in Reykjavík had been tossed around since the 1880s, but it wasn't until this millennium that it began to gain traction. Construction finally began in 2007.
It’s future, however, was left uncertain in the wake of the financial crash of 2008, when it was left partially constructed and the funds to finish it were lacking. The Icelandic populace was divided between having a half-finished construction site facing their downtown or spending money no-one was sure they had.
The Icelandic government, however, decided that it was the only building in the country that warranted being raised, in spite of the dubious future of the economy, and fully financed its completion.
- Find out more with Nanna's blog on Harpa
Harpa won the prestigious Mies van de Rohe award in 2013, otherwise known as the European Prize for Contemporary Architecture, and is featured heavily in any tour of the city. Its structure is beautiful and unique; it has a facade of 714 glass panels, all of which are a different shape and built with an LED light that allows for shows whenever the sky is dark.
Olafur Eliasson is world-renowned for his large-scale installation art, and for the influences he takes from the natural world. This is clearly exhibited in Harpa; it reflects the basalt landscapes of Iceland and the dark coloured glass creates beautiful effects with the natural light.
Studio Olafur Eliasson employs 90 people, from architects to graphic designers, craftsmen to art historians. Based in Berlin, they work across the world, and are well-known for works such as London's 2007 Serpentine Gallery Pavillion and the annual event Life is Space.
Henning Larsen Architects are similarly successful. They have collaborated on the construction of dozens of buildings in over twenty countries, such as the Copenhagen Opera House and Uppsala Concert Hall in Sweden. They are currently working on the creation of thirteen buildings around the world, many of which they scored the opportunity to work on due to their competition-winning designs.
Today, Harpa is one of the jewels in Reykjavík’s crown. The hall hosts exhibitions, concerts, cultural events, meetings, and festivals such as Airwaves, Sónar and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival. Home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the offices of the Icelandic Opera, it is a centre of culture in Iceland’s capital.
Many internationally known artists from around the world have performed here, including people such as Eddie Izzard and Cyndi Lauper. It also regularly showcases native talent, such as Björk and Of Monsters and Men.
- Find out more about the Music of Iceland
Below, you can see a video showing Harpa's construction.
Reykjavik Old Harbour, Ægisgarður
What to bring:
Warm outdoor clothing and proper walking shoes
Good to know:
The trip includes a guided tour around the bay and island around Reykjavik where you follow the wake of the Icelandic settlers for one and a half hour.