Whales and Quad Bikes, oh my!

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Reykjavik is one of the most beautiful and cosy – or to steal a term from the Danes, Hyggeligt – cities I’ve visited.

From the main streets lined with traditional lamp posts, strung together with pretty ropes of fairy lights following the Scandinavian-style buildings in a row, to the more secluded areas just a few blocks back from the main hub, decorated with greenery and flowers next to a frozen pond, to the cosy interiors of the cafes and bars along the city’s streets, there is plenty to admire from an aesthetic point of view in Reykjavik.

It’s all of these things which make Iceland’s capital such a snug place to be. It feels homely, almost – which is a rather large feat for a capital city.

These were the observations I made whilst walking from one side of the city to the other during day two of our Iceland adventure, as we ticked a few things to see off our list.

The first for the day was the Whales of Iceland Exhibit.

If you’re visiting during the summer months, you may not feel the need to visit this particular attraction as you have a good chance of spotting some of these marvellous oceanic animals during a whale watching tour.

But for us, visiting at the beginning of February meant we had little to no chance of seeing any whales, so we decided to skip on booking a whale watching expedition in favour of heading to this indoor exhibit to learn more about these incredible creatures we share this planet with.

The Exhibit consists of 23 life size models of the various whale species found in Icelandic waters throughout its natural history Рincluding a 25-metre-long blue whale, a
full-size sperm whale, and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale

These models are hand-painted and personal characteristics can be found on each model that assembles a real whale in the ocean.

The exhibit also provides a multilingual audio guide and interactive information stands throughout.

It’s open every day of the year, except Christmas Day, 10am-5pm. Tickets are 1,500ISK for children and 2,900ISK for adults.

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As I began saying earlier, Reykjavik is a fairly gorgeous city. Whilst walking from our first stop of the day to our second, I couldn’t stop myself from taking photos of things I found aesthetically pleasing.

By the end of the day, I’d racked up a whole collection of images of seemingly random (yet pretty) things.

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Street art is popular in Reykjavik, we noticed as we walked the neighbourhoods.
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An iced-over park in Reykjavik
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An iced-over park in Reykjavik
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Yes, I took a photo of this cemetery. It was pretty, ok?

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Somehow Dan managed to capture this photo without anyone else in the frame whilst the Sun Voyager was surrounded with people. How, I will never know.

Our second stop of the day was the National Museum.

I’m an old-school traveller. Whilst I don’t find museums thrilling, I do find myself compelled to visit the major museums when I’m visiting a country.

I guess I subconsciously feel the need to learn about the history of the place I’m visiting, as if in order to fully appreciate it.

I’m going to blame all those museum school trips as a kid. And my teacher mother.

As compulsions go, it’s certainly not a bad one for a traveller. I do find that I always find out something extremely intriguing that I never realised when I visit a museum.

So, of course, I had to take a trip to the National Museum of Iceland to learn about the colonisation and subsequent history of this Scandinavian island, thanks to their permanent exhibition, Making of A Nation: Heritage and History in Iceland.

For those travellers who also like to visit museums – be you somewhere between my semi-historically-intrigued self and a history buff – the National Museum is one place you’ll most definitely want to visit in Reykjavik.

The National Museum of Iceland is open daily from 10am-5pm. Tickets are 2000ISK for adults. Children under 18 are free.

Included in your ticket to the museum is a ticket to visit the Culture House in Reykjavik.

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Whilst on our exhibition adventure for the day, we were keeping tabs on the weather, as we had an ATV Northern Lights tour booked for that evening.

Now, we knew a week before heading off to Iceland that our chances of actually seeing the Northern Lights were very slim, due to the weather conditions at the time, but that didn’t bother us too much.

We always knew that spotting the Aurora was something very hit and miss – and we didn’t want to finish a night disappointed, so we decided to book a Northern Lights tour that would leave us satisfied even if we didn’t catch the lights.

We landed on a tour through a family-run business that would see us quad biking up a mountain by night, which was sure to be a load of fun

However, we got word from the ATV company that morning that due to the bad weather, the tour might be cancelled completely.

Luckily for us though, Mother Nature decided to calm down a little during the course of the day, and by night we were able to strap on some (extremely attractive) puffy, high-visibility, coveralls over our layers and layers of warm gear, and put pedal to the metal for a few hours of absolute delight

As we imagined, we didn’t see the Northern Lights, but we did have massive smiles on our faces the whole evening, which was a great night of fun, if not a little (and by little, I mean UTTERLY AND EXTREMELY) cold.

I made three errors during this activity, however: 1. Because we knew we wouldn’t see the Northern Lights, I left my backpack with my DSLR at the ATV base, and armed only with my now-ageing GoPro, I realised how low quality the night capture was, resulting in a severe lack of good photos or footage 2. I realised some of my “winter gear” wasn’t so much as “winter gear” as “Australian-cold-weather-gear-but-not-actually-going-to-keep-you-warm-and-dry-in-a-European-winter gear” and 3. I got on the quad bike for my turn to drive so quickly that I forgot to switch my GoPro to record. I then struggled to switch it on whilst driving (don’t do this at home, kids), and once I saw the blinking light I thought it was recording. Nope, I got home and realised I’d set it to multi-photo-capture mode, and that blinking light was not telling me I was recording, it was to mark a useless photo that it took every 2 seconds. I ended up with hundreds of blurry, blacked-out photos of my stupid face thinking I was recording.

Despite the low-quality footage I ended up with, it would have been nice to have captured some of the time I was behind the wheel. But I was pleased I managed to get some clips of Dan behind the wheel. They will serve as good memories down the road.

Ah, travel. It helps us to live and to learn.

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Puffy, high-visibility, winter coveralls: Great for quad biking in winter at night, horrible for blog-worthy photographs.
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Dan managed to take this fantastic photo of Reykjavik from the top of a mountain – ON HIS PHONE!!
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A very happy (but cold) Marnie post-quad bike adventure

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