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The Pearl of Reykjavík: Perlan

The Pearl of Reykjavík: Perlan

If you visit Reykjavík you’ll probably notice a large glass dome building perched up on top of a hill Öskjuhlíð. Well that’s Perlan, a former water reservoir and now cafe, natural sciences museum and viewpoint, and it’s well worth a stop. Built in 1988 and designed by Ingimundur Sveinsson, Perlan was originally just a hot water reservoir, designed to hold 1 million gallons of geothermal hot water and in 1991 the glass dome was added. Recently I stopped by to check out the new Glaciers and Ice Cave exhibit, which is a perfect rainy day stop.

Starting with a superb photographic display of Icelandic nature, you don your thermal jackets – this exhibition also recreates the cold at a chilly -10ºC. After exploring the cave – which isn’t too long you move into an informative interactive exhibit explaining the impact of ice and glaciers on Iceland. Now I admit I couldn’t always get this to work but basically you stand on circles on the floor and point at things that make them pop up and zoom like you’re in an unrealistic sci-fi film so that’s pretty cool. The simulation of the effect of global warming on the glaciers is particularly thought-provoking. And scary.

Controversially Perlan is now also charging an admission fee to the wonderful viewing platform outside. I’m not sure I fully agree with this decision, residents are particularly put out having to pay for something that was previously free – and there are a few places I would visit often enough where I kinda resent being charged every time, but having said that it’s still well worth a stop. The view of the city, Mount Esja and – if you’re really lucky on a clear day – even Snaefellsjokull, are superb and there’s also telescopes available to see the details. Even when it’s closed it’s a good spot to see the aurora if they’re active in the city during the winter months.

Expansions plans for May 2018 include a Planetarium exhibit within a 360º dome; a Land, Coast, Ocean exhibit with a replica cliff,  simulated earthquakes, fish and birdlife; and a Northern Lights exhibit. My only gripe is that at 3000 ISK for an adult it’s pretty expensive and when the other exhibits open the price is going up even more. If it were 3000 ISK for all the exhibits it would actually be good value. That being said it’s definitely one of the best-designed museums I’ve been at.

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