Thursday 14 September 2017

Reykjavík, Iceland

The world's northernmost capital of a sovereign nation is Reykjavík.  As capitals go, it is relatively small.  The greater metropolitan area is home to around 220,000 people, of whom 120,000 live in Reykjavík itself.  There is an absence of high-rise buildings, and population density is relatively low.

Buses form the public transport network in the Icelandic capital - there are no trams, nor a metro.  The bus network is provided by Strætó, using vehicles in a yellow livery.

All of the buses I saw during a weekend visit to Reykjavík in July 2017 were single-deck vehicles with three sets of doors.


Some destination displays are abbreviated.  

Route 3 serves the districts of Seljahverfi and Fell, while "Hfj", shown below on route 1, refers to Hafnarfjörður.


As well as two-axle buses, I also noted a small number of longer, three-axle buses in use.



A few of the buses I saw carried smiley face logos on the front.  This appears to be in connection with the "Besta leiðin" (best way) slogan carried on the sides of many of the buses.

All of the buses I saw carried the yellow fleet livery, with one exception.

I noted one vehicle in a gold vinyl wrap.  This also appears to be to promote the "Besta leiðin" slogan.


There are several bus interchange hubs around Reykjavík.

This one, at Hlemmur, is on the edge of the city centre.  Fourteen routes converge here.

At the time of writing, a single ticket within greater Reykjavík costs 440kr irrespective of the distance travelled.  Transfers are permitted for up to 90 minutes, although you may need to ask the bus driver for a transfer voucher.  Single fare tickets can be bought from the bus driver, but you will need to have the exact money as drivers do not give change.  They can also be bought from a number of agents, either singly or in packs of 20 (at a discount).  A one-day pass costs 1,560kr.  There are also three-day, monthly and longer period passes.

Strætó also provide a small number of longer-distance services which extend well beyond the Reykjavík metropolitan area.  Different fares apply on these services.  Three of these services start from a suburban interchange hub at Mjódd, and do not serve the centre of Reykjavík.  One service, route 55 heading westwards out of the capital onto the Reykjanesbær peninsula, starts from Reykjavík's long-distance bus terminal.  Buses on these services carry a blue and yellow livery.

Outside the Reykjavík area, Iceland is sparsely populated.  Nevertheless, in addition to the Strætó services, several other operators provide long-distance coach services.

Many of these operate only in the summer season, catering primarily to travellers wishing to experience Iceland's natural wilderness.

Some of the coach routes operate along unmade tracks, or wade through streams.

These routes are only passable with four-wheel drive vehicles.
Some of these "all terrain" coaches have two axles, but I also noted a three-axle vehicle.

Reykjavík's long-distance bus terminal (BSÌ) is a short distance from the city centre.

This is the hub for long distance bus and coach services.


Iceland's public transport website has details of all scheduled public transport services within Iceland.

Although Reykjavík has a domestic airport close to the city centre, the main international airport is at Keflavík, around 50 kilometres west of the capital.

At certain times of day, it is possible to travel between Keflavík and the capital using Strætó route 55.

However, a faster dedicated coach link is provided by two competing operators, Reykjavík Excursions (Flybus) and Gray Line.

Both operators offer transfers to and from hotels throughout Reykjavík, at a slightly higher fare than the basic airport to/from city centre terminal price.

In some cases, the airport coach will provide the transfer, in others, a connecting minibus will be provided.


Airport Direct also links Keflavík with Reykjavík.  This operator uses minibuses to provide direct transfers between the airport and hotels in the city.

As well as scheduled public transport services, there are plenty of coaches operating on guided tours and excursions.

Some tours require four-wheel drive vehicles.

Some are operated with minibuses, while for others, minibuses provide pick-ups at hotels.

I also found a minibus operating a free service linking Reykjavík city centre with a suburban shopping centre.

Occasional visiting cruise ships provide work for bus and coach companies, taking cruise passengers to see the sights of Reykjavik.

A hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour of Reykjavík operates all year round.  This operates under the City Sightseeing brand.

The buses I saw on the City Sightseeing tour had retractable roofs.

These double-deckers had originally operated in normal service in Copenhagen.

Several boat operators offer tours from Reykjavík harbour.  These include puffin and whale watching excursions.

Public cycle hire schemes are appearing in growing number of cities.  Reykjavík introduced WOWcitybike in summer 2017, sponsored by an Icelandic low-cost airline.

Iceland's sparse population and challenging terrain mean that a railway network has never been developed.  Nevertheless, there have been railways in Iceland, on a very limited scale.

An industrial railway was built during the construction of Reykjavík's harbour.  Trains carried stone from a quarry to the waterfront.  One of the engines is displayed at the harbour during the summer months.