by Lydia Schrandt for USA TODAY 10Best

Virtual tour: Explore Reykjavik from afar

Reykjavik, a city of some 230,000 people (two-thirds of the entire population of Iceland), is the world’s most northerly capital and a popular base for outdoor adventure.

The Perlan Museum, also known as The Pearl, ranks among the capital’s most recognizable landmarks, thanks to its distinctive hemispheric mirrored dome.

Bessastaðir, the official residence of Iceland’s President, is also an important historic site in the capital area. The site was first settled in 1000, and in the 13th century, it become the royal stronghold of the King of Norway.

Reykjavik sits on the shores of a bay on the southwestern coast of Iceland. Many of the town’s concrete houses are painted in bright colors, and almost all are heated naturally by geothermal hot springs.

You don’t have to stray far from the city to start enjoying Iceland’s legendary scenery. Grótta lighthouse on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula was first built in 1897. These days, it’s a popular nature reserve.

Photo courtesy of Ragnar Th/Visit Reykjavík

In 1986, Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. president Ronald Reagan met inside a whitewashed building on the Reykjavik waterfront, known as Höfði House, to end the Cold War.

Musician Yoko Ono designed the Imagine Peace Tower in memory of her late husband John Lennon. The monument emits a beam of light into the night sky, powered by geothermal energy.

Laugavegur doubles as the city’s main shopping street and go-to destination for nightlife. The name of the street means “wash road” in Icelandic, as it once lead to the natural springs where locals would go to launder their clothes.

Reykjavik grew around its Old Harbour, thanks in large part to the thriving trawling industry of the early 20th century. These days, you’re more likely to see whale watching boats than fishing vessels.

Photo courtesy of Ragnar Th/Visit Reykjavík

UNESCO has designated Reykjavik as a City of Literature, the first non-native English-speaking city to achieve this title. The literary scene here ranges from Norse mythology and medieval Icelandic Sagas to modern-day classics.

One of the best places to experience Iceland’s geothermic features in the Capital Region is at Seltún. A boardwalk takes visitors on a tour of bubbling hot springs, mudpots and steaming volcanic vents.

Designed in 1937 and completed in 1986, Hallgrímskirkja Church is the city’s most recognizable landmark. Take the elevator to the top of the tower for unbeatable views.

One of the newer features of the Reykjavik skyline is the Harpa Music Hall & Conference Center. Opened in 2011 along the city’s waterfront, the concert hall serves as home to the Icelandic Opera and the Iceland Symphony.

“Sólfar,” or Sun Voyager, is a steel sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. This famous art installation depicting the skeleton of a Viking ship has become one of the city’s most popular photo ops.

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