After two weeks of driving around Iceland and exploring what the country had to offer, we had hit a lot of the highlights: eating hot dogs, whale watching, visiting the Arctic Circle, checking out the waterfalls, hiking in the national parks, horseback riding, shopping in the market. And yet, on one of our very last days in the capital city of Reykjavik, we did something that seemed like an odd choice at the time but ended up being one of the absolute highlights of our entire trip: We learned about the city from two wheels with Reykjavik Bike Tours.
The company offers a number of bike tours in Reykjavik and the surrounding area—along the coast, through nearby Golden Circle, even on the nearby Westman Isles—but we chose the Classic Tour, a two-and-a-half ride through the city that includes highlights such as Reykjavik’s south facing beach, the University of Iceland campus, Nordic House, the Catholic cathedral, the Parliament building, Reykjavik’s Old Harbour and Tjörnin City Lake.
Reykjavik Bike Tours is the brainchild of Stefan, an Icelandic native, and Ursula, who was born and raised in Germany but has been living in Iceland for ten years. Ursula served as our guide through the city, and she was nothing short of absolutely stellar. Though the tours can accommodate up to 25 people (they then split the group into two separate tours), most groups remain small at about five people. Our group, which topped out at five people plus Ursula, was the perfect size to zip around the city on two wheels.
The Classic Tour hit 15 spots, all of which offered some sort of cultural, historical or personal look at Reykjavik. At each of the stops, many of which aren’t mentioned in guidebooks, Ursula shared information about Iceland in general and Reykjavik in particular while answering our questions and adding her own perspectives as someone who isn’t from Iceland but who has lived in the country for a long time. Though the tour would been a beneficial addition at the beginning of our trip in order to provide an overview for the things to come, I actually think it was a great decision to make this one of our last activities. We already had a frame of reference for many of the things Ursula mentioned, it gave us a fantastic overview of a city we’d just barely experienced and it was a good opportunity to ask questions and close the gap on anything we were wondering about from the trip we’d taken over the previous two weeks. I really appreciated the fact that Ursula was able to provide a balanced perspective of a local and a foreigner, and she was incredibly open when speaking about her insight from that viewpoint.
The bike ride itself was fairly simple, and I was surprised by all the paths that wound through the city. It was an easy ride even through the city isn’t really built for bikes. And, given the fact that it’s the country’s largest city, I was impressed at how conveniently and easily we were able to see much of Reykjavik in such a short amount of time.
Though I honestly enjoyed everything about the ride—the route, the stops, the bike itself, the information—some of my favorite highlights were:
> Stopping in the oldest neighborhood in Reykjavik. There is a large rock here that is believed to house a family of elves, so the neighborhood is built around it.
> Our conversation on the tour about Björk, one of Iceland’s most famous musical talents, and her black house. There is no paparazzi standing out front or people hassling her. She just goes about her daily life.
> Checking out the Parliament building. We were in the city the day before a major election. I thought there’d be a lot of hustle and bustle, but instead it was business as usual. It looks like you can just walk right into the building if you want to. There’s none of this crazy security like you might see in Washington, DC.
> Learning about the stories and sagas that are at the root of Iceland’s history in the plaza square.
You probably know by now that I’m a big believer in splurging for quality experiences when you travel. Signing up for a cycling tour with Reykjavik Bike Tours is certainly no exception. I would recommend it for anyone who is going to Iceland for the first time or who would like to see a familiar landscape through a different set of eyes.
Please visit Reykjavik Bike Tours website for more information about what is offered and when.
My Classic Bike Tour with Reykjavik Bike Tours was comped but these opinions are entirely my own. Seriously, this tour really was perfect in every way imaginable.