Series: Planning for 36 Hours in Reykjavik, Iceland

Planner’s Travel Series 

About the series: Welcome to our ongoing travel series. These are all posts written by planning students and professionals about what to do in a given city when looking for Brunch/Nature, a Brew, or a good idea on a Budget. To cap it all off, we include a fun planning fact!

By Nicholas Stover


About the visit: I visited Iceland as part of an independent study to understand large scale geothermal energy systems and absolutely fell in love with this country. I have not been back since this expedition, but my heart will always remain. Here are some of my favorite haunts and top recommendations:

Nature  

Gullfoss Falls.

My favorite place to visit as part of the Golden Circle Tour. Gullfoss Falls, a very accessible trek, is one of Iceland’s most iconic stops. Look closely in the background and you can see some people understand scale. This gorgeous scene was made all the more beautiful by winter’s touch. The Golden Circle tour is a popular option to see some of Iceland’s unique countryside, including one of a handful of places in the world you can see the convergence of the North American and Eurasian plate tectonics above water. Gullfoss is within about a 2-hour drive of most of Iceland’s population including Reykjavik.

Brew  

One of Reykjavik’s more unique dives.

Reykjavik is a unique city with a pretty laid-back atmosphere. It has been developing recently in its tourism industry with an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants. My fandom of The Big Lebowski was majorly satisfied when, among numerous pleasant surprises, I came across this watering hole, with great music. Spinning the wheel at the bar is a must. You can pay for a shot at winning up to 6 pints of brew for the cost of one. It is worth it. 

Budget 

Sundhollin.

The Sundhollin geothermal baths are a must, particularly during winter nights!  For 1100 Icelandic Krona, or about 8 bucks, you get hours of enjoyment in 100 degree water under the stars.

The Blue Lagoon, and other similar springs have garnered strong reputations, and the prices that come with it. The Sundhollin geothermal baths are a great way to socialize if you are on a budget. It is an amazing experience to socialize in geothermal wells against the backdrop of freezing winter air, or even just to relax and let your mind wonder. The best part is the location in the middle of Reykjavik. So go out to eat, and then end the evening in a hot spring. There really is not much that can beat that.

Fun Planning Fact

Iceland’s energy grid is powered almost completely by renewable energy sources. The vast majority of generation, 73 percent, comes from hydropower, while just under 27 percent comes from geothermal sources. The reason for this stems from two causes: energy being predominantly imported, and volatility in energy markets roiling the small country during the 1970s. Government-planned development of domestic sources of energy generation led to policies that favored renewables, particularly geothermal and hydropower.

Harpa Concert Hall interior, Reykjavik. 

I always love a good concert whether musical or otherwise, but time constraints left me wanting in this case. The expansive Harpa Concert Hall is a positively spectacular venue nestled in the heart of the capital region. It is a flex arena that incorporates shops and conference alcoves in addition to its primary intention as a concert hall. The architecture represents the finest in style and functionality and is a highly recommended stop.

Featured Image: Harpa Concert Hall. Photo Credit: Karitas Kjartansdottir.


Nicholas Stover is a first-year master’s student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the Department of City and Regional Planning. At UNC, he concentrates on land use and environmental planning with an interest in the intersection of design and policy. In this area, he is most interested in the effect of policy outcome on resilience in the built environment, and sustainable development. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking, movie going, and drinking good coffee.