16 Mar 2015

Iceland Part 2: Reykjavik Centre & Dog Sledding

We awoke to a very snowy Reykjavik and decided to kick start the day with, what I think was, a traditonal Icelandic breakfast at Cafe Haiti - scrambled eggs with ham, gouda-like cheese, toast and jam, followed by a second course (!) of pancakes, maple syrup, cream and jam. Yup, you heard right, a two course breakfast. Obviously we had to walk around the city for rest of the day to work it all off! The first stop was KolaportiĆ°, Reykjavik's flea market. It was packed full of stalls selling all sorts - clothes, shoes, records, ephemera, fresh fish, popcorn but, most importantly, knitwear. Friends, if you go to Iceland and fall in love with one of their handmade woollen jumpers, you must be willing to part with about 140 quid to take it home. At the flea market the jumpers were a mere £80-ish! Sadly, this was still beyond my budget. The market is only open on weekends and well worth a look if you're nosy like me. Next, we followed the harbour towards Reykjavik's concert hall, Harpa. As you can see from the pictures, it's a giant (and beautiful) glass building. We went up to the top floor to take in the views before heading back out into the cold to snap a few pictures of the snowy mountains.

We left the harbour behind and made our way to Laugavegur, one of the main shopping streets in Reykjavik. Warning: this city is full of cute little shops selling lush Scandi design items - clothes, bags, ceramics, jewellery, art - you name it, they've got it. It's all v.tempting but they all come with a hefty price tag. It's no secret that Iceland is expensive but I wouldn't say the food is that much more than London. The prices in the shops however, are pretty dear. We did some window shopping none-the-less and I even found two v.excellent wool shops – The Hand Knitting Association of Iceland (some wool but mostly ready made glorious knitwear) and Storkurinn (loads of wool and pattern books). Incidentally, Icelandic wool was actually v.reasonably price, I may have bought some... :)
Moving on from wool lusting we continued up-hill towards the impressive HallgrĆ­mskirkja church aka, one of the coolest-looking churches I've ever seen. What was also pretty ace about it were the views from the top of the tower. Unsurprisingly, I took a lot of pictures. By the time we climbed down the tower our stomaches were rumbling and so we stopped for some delicious noodle soup at Noodle Station. It doesn't look like much from the outside (or inside to be fair) but trust me it is, and excellent value for money too! The only downside is that Noodle Station doesn't have a loo, but luckily the cafe across the street let me use their amazing toilet, complete with fairy lights and life-size star wars posters.

After walking back to the hostel to layer-up (so many many layers) for the evening's dog sledding expedition, we headed back out to grab a bit of dinner and to see the sun voyager sculpture. It was pure ice around the base which is why we're not standing closer to it, I'd already fallen on arse trying to do so a few minutes before! The dog sledding people picked us up from the hostel (around 9:45pm) and drove out of the city to the ski resort, Skalafell. At the bottom of the mountain we were transferred into a car with the biggest tires I've ever seen and driven to the top where the team, sleds and dogs (!) were waiting for us.

The snow up there was insane and came up to my knees at least! Thankfully the dog sledding team gave everyone thermal jumpsuits (I probably would have died without it) and goggles before assigning us to a sled (three plus a driver on each one), hooking up the dogs (8 to a sled) and off we went! Throughout the ride, our driver told us lots of stuff about our dogs – their names, personality traits, if they'd raced – and about dog sledding in general. Fun Facts: 1. All the dogs want to be picked for sledding as they all love to run 2. The dogs at the front are the lead dogs and the most intelligent, the dogs nearest the sled are the brawn of the operation.  3. The dogs can withstand the cold up to -50°C and dig out holes in the snow to sleep in. After about 20 minutes or so we stopped to stroke and pet the dogs before heading back to camp. On the way back an almightily hail storm started and to make matters worse, we were travelling against the wind. That was quite easily, the coldest I have ever EVER been (I'm talking me imagining the loss of my fingers and toes) and there were times when I could only just see, through the swirling ice and snow, the last four dogs pulling our sled let alone the other sleds further ahead! It sounds like it would've been scary but I whole-heartedly trusted those dogs to get us back and, obviously, they did. As our driver told us, the dogs (having been fed and watered) were better than any technical navigation equipment in a below freezing, snow storm. Back at base we had a proper cuddle with the dogs. I cannot put into words how adorable they were and SO friendly too! Mitch played "paw" with one of them whilst I was giving belly rubs to another. Even after we gave back the thermal suits we were still cuddling those dogs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we were the last ones back to the snow car waiting to take us back down the mountain :)

Due to the cold, snow and general blackness of night, our pictures were pretty rubbish but I have the most awesome memories from that excursion. We booked through this site and would again, though for a day excursion rather than at night as you'd probably see more. Words of warning: if you want to go dog sledding, book in advance. We arranged it three weeks before and this was the only tour (across a number of companies) not fully booked, and we filled the last two places. Yes, it was hella expensive (the most expensive thing we did in Iceland, bar flying there) but by god it was worth it.

Still to come: the Golden Circle Tour and chasing the Northern Lights.

7 comments:

  1. Aww, those dogs look like furry little bears! And I totally want to climb into that bowl of noodles.

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    1. It tasted damn good and the dogs were so incredibly lovely, I want one so bad!

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  2. I've never been to Iceland and now I want to book a flight IMMEDIATELY. It all looks amazing.

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    1. :) you should definitely put it on your "to go" list, it's amazing!

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  3. I've never been to Iceland and now I want to book a flight IMMEDIATELY. It all looks amazing.

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  4. The flea market is awesome isn't it? We went there and bought a load of cakes and food for a picnic then took it all out with us in our hired car to do our own Golden Circle tour. In the picture you took at the top of the church, the white building at the front was the hotel we stayed in for our honeymoon! :-) xx

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    1. Ah that's so cool, great location! The flea market was great, v.glad we were there on a weekend to see it X

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Ta v.much :)

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