At 11pm, sunlight streamed into the white kitchen of our Reykjavik hostel as if it were noon. Neil and I with our bottle of Maker’s Mark made quick friends with four flat mates who’d contributed gin and Viking beer to the festivities. Our three rooms flanked the common area which had a refrigerator, microwave, espresso maker and toaster. The common room is simple but the perfect setting for building new friendships. In the little room, we totaled four New Yorkers, one Dane, and one Scot, Ciorstaidh who’d come to Iceland to begin an internship with one of Reykjavik’s top designers. We spanned three generations of travelers and the conversation never lulled. We knew Iceland would be a great trip especially with four days slotted for the capital and a pair of days set for a south coast Iceland roadtrip. But then someone spotted the red sun sinking low into the sky. This sight is a rarity during Iceland’s summer.
Chasing the Midnight Sun
Quickly we jumped to the hallway window for a look. The crimson sunset stained the western sky and the bay. Gray-blue clouds slashed through the red brilliance. At ten to twelve on our first full day in Reykjavik, the clouds had thinned to reveal the midnight sun. “Let’s go!” Our Brooklyn friend, Lucey, grabbed his Viking beer.
We mobilized, layered scarves on top of jackets, refilling our drinks to the brim and heading to the shore. Three blocks away, we perched ourselves around the Sun Voyager, a metal sculpture of a Viking ship by Jon Gunnar Arnason. And there it was, stretched wide across the bay, blood red and beautiful:Iceland’s summer sun.
As we snapped pictures and jockeyed for the best light, other people arrived for the same spectacle. Couples and solo travelers posed for pictures, asking us for help. When we asked where they were from, many said “From Reykjavik!” They laughed, pointing to the sun and commenting on its beauty.
People with smart phones and SLR cameras and point-and-shoot cameras took their iconic shots and it amazed me how locals would come out for the sunset too. Even though they lived in the city, even though they saw it every day, they didn’t take the midnight sun for granted. So while it was technically the middle of the night, everyone was strolling around, with friends and cameras, as if it were 1pm. And we got our first perfect sunset just below theArctic circle. It never truly turned dark. The hues of the fading sunset bounced off the metal sculpture and dark flooring resting beneath it. We never did see the sun set again during our time in Iceland. We felt lucky to experience the midnight sunset and felt rejuvenated for the rest of our stay. After boarding our outbound flight to Amsterdam, Neil and I agreed that with all the road trip possibilities and the free stuff we managed to get, Iceland sits in our top 10 of places to see.