Located halfway between the UK and Canada, nestled in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is the once forgotten island of Iceland. Explore the wild outdoors before heading back to explore Reykjavik’s fantastic restaurants and range of cosy bars.
This sparsely populated nation isn’t a gay travel hotspot in the typical sense, don’t expect to be spoiled for choices when it comes to gay bars, but liberal attitudes prevail here and the kitsch and queer crowds adorn the cosy bars regularly looking for a good time. Since the financial crash of 2008, Iceland has refocused its economy on tourism. Today the country is on course to 2.5 million visitors. Given Iceland’s population stands at 350,000, makes that figure all the more impressive. While the economy seems to be booming once again, concerns over development and how they want to negotiate such an influx of foreign visitors is a hot topic for locals – something they’re happy to discuss in their overly competent English.
Gay Iceland Bars
There are only two gay bars in Iceland both situated just off the main street on Laugavegur. Kiki Queer Bar is the livelier of the two places and has more of a club vibe than its neighbour, Bravo Bar. Both have daily happy hours with substantial savings on drinks available until around 11 PM.
What to See and Do in Reykjavik
The free walking tour, which departs 364 days a year (the day of the annual Gay Pride celebration is the only exception) gives an excellent introduction to the city. As well as providing a broad overview of Iceland’s history, the tour also gives visitor’s plenty of tips for making the most of the rest of their stay. Beyond what you see on the walking tour, the Hallgrímskirkja Church and the Old Harbor waterfront are a couple of places worth visiting autonomously.
Exploring Beyond the City
So, is the Blue Lagoon worth the hype and the expense? In a word, yes. Despite being almost an hour from the capital and packed with tourists, the large lagoon never feels overcrowded and is simply a must. The lack of public transport in Iceland means an over-reliance on bus tours to see the rest of the island. A Golden Circle tour is the best way to see the highlights if you’re on a quick visit. However, if you have time, head further into the wilderness and visit one of the numerous glaciers, such as Vatnajökull National Park, go whale watching off the western coast or visit the other earthly landscapes of Landmannalaugar.
Seeing the northern lights is one of the biggest draws for tourists to Iceland. Booking on a tour gives you the greatest opportunity of spotting this natural phenomenon. However, these can be pricey and you’re not guaranteed to see anything on your 5-hour jaunt from the capital. It’s possible to see them in the city especially if you head out to the lighthouse in the far west of the city. It takes about an hour to walk or you can take the number 14 bus.
Hints and Tips
Appy Hour – Download this handy app which locates your nearest happy hour drinks deal.
Euro Shopper – Head to the cheap supermarket and pick up some snacks to save some cash in this pricey country.
Tap Water – Don’t bother with bottled water. All bars and restaurants automatically serve some of the world’s best tap water.
Liquor Store – If you want to have a few drinks at your accommodation before heading out to explore gay Iceland should note that the only shop that sells alcohol is the state-run shop near the parliament building.