Published August 11, 2016
“All good things…” mutters my friend after many of the late nights this summer, “…must come to an end.” If Icelandic winter is long and dark, then Icelandic summer is short and bright—a flash. You can hear the frustration in someone’s voice if they miss just one of the few sunny days here.
“It was sunny and 16°C for 4 hours this afternoon? Why did my daughter have to be born today?” This is not a direct quote, but I’m willing to bet it’s been said—probably in Icelandic.
One of the rare treats of Reykjavík is to picnic outside. There are fewer bugs in Iceland than most countries and a lack of basket-stealing bears makes picnicking not only safe, but also relatively hassle-free. Before you head out, make sure you have a blanket, food and drink (I recommend red wine so you don’t need to haul a cooler), and maybe a book to read while you bask in the sun, digesting.
The list of places is in order of proximity to downtown:
1. Hljómskálagarður—This popular park sits on the south-east corner of Tjörnin, Reykjavík’s Pond. There are little public BBQs available all over, making this the perfect place for burgers or hotdogs. Not only is there a lot of room for sports or spontaneous group yoga, but there’s also art. This area contains sculptures from five different Icelandic sculptors.
2. Grasagarðurinn—This is the Reykjavík Botanical Gardens! The admission is free and there’s even a cafe if you forgot to bring food. This is a great place to go by yourself or with a group. It’s particularly beautiful in the summer, bringing out the romantic and floriculturist in anyone. I recommend light, cold food, such as simple sandwiches or salads. The natural floral scent in the air will accent any simple dish you’re enjoying, so there’s no need for a strong-flavoured dinner.
3. Elliðaárdalur—This place is legendary. Imagine a place downtown where you can climb waterfalls or chase semi-wild rabbits? It’s a little bit away from downtown, but the trip is worth it. It’s located next to Árbær Museum. There are also crowberries (krækiber) and blueberries around for picking. My guilty pleasure: having a KFC picnic here. Grab a blanket, a bucket of chicken and leave your shame at home. This is Árbær, baby. No one will see you.
4. Heiðmörk—This is the furthest picnic spot from downtown, but it’s with the ambitious travel. It’s a nature reserve with a great recreation area and walking trails. This place is for serious berry-pickers or birdwatchers (over 30 different species of breeding birds have been spotted here). You can enjoy the bushes and trees or take a gander at the lava formations, such as the Rauðhólar or Red Hills, which are what’s left of the pseudocraters formed in a lava field. Make sure to pack lots of food and water and be prepared for the elements. It’s not always a sweltering 16 degrees and the weather can change abruptly.