Icelandic Presidential Residence

Icelandic Presidential Residence

Friday 8.3.2024

This morning we have a tour of the capital and commence by heading out to the Presidential Residence at Bessastaðir which is important in that it was a Royal property during the period when Iceland was part of Norway.  It later became the location of the Danish official residence, although the current building is far more recent having been extensively reconstructed in the last years of the twentieth century during which a significant archaeological survey found evidence dating back to the earliest settlements in Iceland around 874AD – although Irish monks may have been here even earlier.

Whilst initial settlement may have been from Norway, the states of Norway, Sweden and Denmark were united between 1397 and 1523 following which the island was under Danish control.  In 1941 with Denmark having fallen to Germany the local residents politely requested a British invasion and Churchill responded by sending 25,000 troops to safeguard the island.  We are told that much of the subsequent development of the country can be attributed to our friendly involvement (we are a group of British travellers after all) – with independence being granted from Denmark in 1944 and with Churchill even suggesting tapping the geothermal energy which the country uses – this may be stretching matters a little far!

Sun Voyager sculpture

Sun Voyager sculpture

We return to the capital and drive along the sea front to inspect the Sun Voyager sculpture – which is almost impossible to photograph without people in front of it and a typically moody sky behind as can be seen!  Further along parts of the area have been significantly redeveloped to give Iceland a modern concert hall and other facilities expected of a European Capital City.  At the other end of the town is the old port area which has largely lost ship building but sees an awful lot of fishing as that remains a major enterprise with large boats with very small crews undertaking factory style fishing.

Our onward journey takes us to Perlan – but mainly to take advantage of the views and a brief rest break.  The final tour destination is Hallgrimskirkja – a huge and fairly modern church, completed in 1986, with some distinctive architecture which can be seen from all around the capital.  Outside is a statue of Leif Erikson a 1930 gift from the USA in celebration of 1000 years of democracy.



After lunch our second excursion is to the Sky Lagoon.  It is on the edge of Reykjavik and is completely man made with heated sea water.  I could not find much about it online so have written these notes – just in case anyone else wishes to visit the place to provide details on the practical arrangements as these do not seem to be readily available.  There are currently two levels of access – Pure and Sky – and we were on the Pure level so I cannot comment on the benefits of the enhanced level (Sky).

Prior to entry we were given a pink wristband and a black band, the latter applies to entry to the “Rituals” which form part of the booking.  If booking direct you have the ability to associate a credit card with the pink wristband (although we did not have any means of payment with us).

Shoes need to be removed prior to entering the changing area – reasonable but you may also wish to remove socks as areas can be wet inside – this may be obvious but is worth noting.  There are numerous lockers and those available have a green light.  The lockers appear to be pretty secure but we had removed all jewellery and watches before setting out.  My watches are getting on a bit in age so I was not carrying one – the last time I had a holiday swim one of my watches had a watery intake and ticked its last!  There is a lack of any clocks visible – I could only establish the time later by using the credit card terminal in the café!

It is communal so you may wish to arrive wearing swimming attire under your clothes.  Once changed all items can be secured in the locker, door push closed and the lump on the pink wristband applied to the light which turns the light red and the door is locked.  My belief is the same locker can be opened and closed more than once until the band is returned on departure, although I did not try this, others did.

Some people were certainly carrying mobile phones in a water protector and apparently taking photos.

At the exit from the changing rooms towards the lagoon area there are towels for your return later and little cubicles for the storage of flip flops or similar.

Descent into the lagoon is down some steps with a handrail. The water depth is under 4ft and fairly consistent.  The surface underfoot is not completely flat and therefore not slippery but it is not at all uneven.  Temperature is maintained above body temperature so it always feels warm and most people will largely walk around knees bent to avoid exposing too much skin to the chillier cold air.

The lagoon twists first to the left and then to the right before opening up to a wide area with distances harder to judge.  Facing out to sea at this point away to the far right is a waterfall. Around to the left almost behind you is a pool bar where drinks can be obtained.  Given that we had not brought means of payment I cannot advise on cost.

Sensibly you can charge drinks to your wristband and then settle up with a credit card stored in your locker whilst in the lagoon.  I believe we were over cautious in not taking card or phone.  The latter needs proper protection with a waterproof case but the lockers appear completely secure and so the opportunities for a more relaxed approach is possible.

Obviously we manage to join the return coach – the most difficult problem without a watch or phone was knowing how long we had left!

Dinner this evening is taken in Jorgensen Kitchen and Bar which is a short walk from the Klettur Hotel where we are staying.  A decent meal and the only drawback is that it is uphill back to the hotel!