A unique capital city that is both lively and laidback, Reykjavík is home to some of Iceland’s most spectacular tourist destinations, including Harpa—a prismatic concert hall located near the city’s stunning harbor. The structure, which was designed by Danish design company Hanning Larsen Architects in cooperation with renowned Icelandic-Danish designer Ólafur Elíasson, strongly resembles Iceland’s basalt rock formations, and has dazzled visitors and locals alike since it first opened in 2011. While wandering through the building’s spacious foyer, we met American couple Cory Padin and Britaney Acome-Campbell, who decided to take a stopover in Reykjavík on their way to Paris and London. Despite having been in Iceland for just twelve hours, it didn’t take long for this jetlagged couple to realize that the small island nation is a charming and striking place that lives up to its growing international hype.
Following a Passion for American Football
For Cory and Britaney, residents of Arlington, Virginia, Iceland represents the first stop on an exciting European vacation that will culminate in attending an NFL (National Football League) away game in London. “We haven’t taken a vacation yet this year, and we were thinking how could we make the trip really fun and have different legs involved with it,” says Cory, an employee at a design management firm who plays guitar for the Latin/folk fusion band La Unica in his free time. Positive feedback and recommendations from friends ultimately convinced the couple to look into visiting Iceland. “We kept hearing a lot about Iceland—they promote it a lot in the Washington D.C. area…Some of our friends went and then we found some really affordable flights here…We definitely thought this was going to be an amazing place. We like doing outdoorsy stuff, as well as learning about new places and new cultures.”
Britaney recently completed her second degree in Health Science and Human Performance and plans on becoming a physical therapist. She most looks forward to exploring Iceland’s otherworldly nature and relaxing in some of the nation’s soothing geothermal pools.
“We definitely want to go to the Blue Lagoon…our plan is to rent a car for a couple of days and take the Golden Circle Tour ourselves,” she says. “We don’t mind guided tours, or things like that, but we also like to venture out and do things on our own, to see some waterfalls—awesome stuff like that.” Cory, who shares Britaney’s passion for independent exploration, smiles and nods in agreement.
Cold Country, Warm Welcome
Opting to rent a room from a local instead of booking a hotel, Cory and Britaney received a generous welcome from their Icelandic host, who insisted on picking them up by car at the BSÍ bus terminal instead of making them walk to their destination. “The people here have been really friendly so far,” Cory explains. “Our host is amazing and was telling us about the legendary troll Grýla and her thirteen children—the Christmas Yule Lads—as well as other Icelandic traditions. It was great.”
After taking a short nap to recover from jetlag, Cory and Britaney hit the ground running and started exploring the city, wanting to make the most of the four days they’re spending in Iceland. “I like that the city is really quaint, and you’re able to get to things pretty quickly,” Britaney says. “Everything’s so accessible; there are a lot of different shops in the area. The place where we’re staying is fairly close to the water, so we can walk along the ocean and see things that we normally would not have seen.”
Worth a Return Visit
“Don’t let the cold scare you away.” That’s Cory’s advice to anyone who might be indecisively considering a trip to Iceland. Although both Cory and Britaney are natives of Buffalo, New York—a city known for its brutal winters—the couple believes that the cold and cloudy weather is no reason to miss out on Reykjavík and the vibrant adventures that await travelers here. “When are you going to have a chance to come again?” Britney asks, smiling. She thinks that Iceland, though off the beaten track, is a friendly place for even the most reluctant tourists to visit.
“I will definitely recommend the city to other people,” Cory confirms. “Everything has been spot on with descriptions about how beautiful it is.” The couple has already been thinking about how they will return to Iceland in the coming months: “Now that it’s a bit more affordable flying from Baltimore, we’d like to come back this summer when the days are longer. I definitely think we’ll return soon.”