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Iceland is a study of contrast -- isolated, yet completely westernized and technologically advanced; desolate, yet architecturally and naturally beautiful; ultra-modern, yet mysterious and mythical. And this can be especially true for the capital city of Reykjavik.

Reykjavik blends all of the culture and chic trends of a major European city with the stellar beauty and ruggedness of the volcanic landscape just south of the city. Sidewalk cafes, world-class restaurants, culturally-rich museums and galleries, cutting-edge fashion and shopping, a wild and late-night music and entertainment scene, and ultra-mod geothermal pools are found throughout this cosmopolitan city.

And, just south of the city, snow-topped mountains, dramatic waterfalls, glacial icecaps, folk museums, traditional seaside towns, and the ever-famous, frequently photographed, Blue Lagoon all beckon tourists.

A stay in Reykjavik of several days makes for a great base. Exploring the city on foot is the way to go and the treasures of the Hallgrimskirkja church, Einar Jonsson Museum, National Gallery of Iceland, shopping along Laugavegur, and the galleries and artists’ street of Skolavordustigur are all easily accessible.

A rental car or a tour with Reykjavik Excursions can get you to all the farther destinations including the hot water spouts of Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfalls of the Golden Circle Drive, the natural phenomenon of the Skogar waterfall and Solheimajokull glacier of the South Shore, and the healing and restorative waters of Blue Lagoon.

A study of contrasts, indeed. But contrasts that lend themselves to the experience of travel.