Perlan is it worth the visit?
We visited Iceland in December and Perlan was one top attraction we have seen in Reykjavik’s. It’s a new museum with lots to see and learn. Like everything here it comes at a steep price, however we decided to visit it. Here you can read about our experience and learn if Perlan is worth it.
Perlan Location and history
Located on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill, Reykjavik, 61 metres above sea level, Perlan is surrounded by a forest of more than 176,000 trees. The new Perlan exhibition building was built to an Icelandic design, influenced by the thoughts of Jóhannes Kjarval an Icelandic artist who had published his vision for an iconic building on this site in 1930 and was opened in 1991. A water tank was built on this site in 1939, Later another five tanks were added, and in the nineteen-eighties, all six tanks were demolished and rebuilt to form the foundation of the present building. Each tank can hold four million litres of hot water which, because of the elevated site, delivers geothermally heated water to the whole city.
We started our sightseeing in an exhibition of photos by Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson – one of Iceland’s best-known nature photographers. The exhibition features some amazing shots of erupting volcanos.
The planetarium was opened just last month (December 2018) It is not really a planetarium as we were expecting – Tania is very hot on star constellations – it houses a movie about Iceland and its natural beauty, including the aurora borealis. It is all done with great cinematography and narration but I would rather name it a 360-degree cinema than a planetarium. Perhaps this will change, as I hear that Perlan will premiere a new show next month (Feb 2019), where visitors will take a virtual tour around the Solar System and the Galaxy.
Wonders of Iceland exhibition
A visit to The Wonders of Iceland hall starts with a movie and sound and light presentation showing Icelandic nature, geysers and volcanoes. Then there is a series of interesting boards and exhibits to describe and illustrate how Iceland was formed only about ten million years ago (40 Million years after the dinosaurs became extinct) and how life in this very young island evolved on a terrain which is still actively moving and rebuilding itself with active volcanoes and earthquake zones.
Replica of Látrabjarg cliff
Part of Wonders of Iceland show is a realistic replica of Látrabjarg cliff. It has life-size of models of birds, which you can admire through binoculars. though when you look into them you can see different virtual stories about the birds and their adventures.
For me, it’s a bit of a stretch to describe a projector screen showing a loop video of sea life as a “Virtual Aquarium”. However, you can enjoy it as a calming break before visiting the Ice Cave.
The main feature of the wonder of Iceland exhibition is a man-made ice cave. You walk along a 100-metre tunnel with side passages all made from about 350 tons of Icelandic ice brought from different glaciers. The temperature inside is -10 C and they offer you an insulated poncho to wear in case you do not have your own warm clothing. The Ice Cave is very photogenic as the pre-visit video points out when it suggests that you should take a selfie and post it on social media with a suitable hashtag. It is also fascinating – showing the different kinds of ice, ranging from diamond-clear through white and also some extremely dirty ice where strata of frozen volcanic ask are incorporated into the structure of the tunnel walls. Our kids were fascinated by the temptation to lick the walls, wondering whether they would find themselves permanently stuck there by their tongues.
After this there is an interactive exhibition about glaciers; their history, future and other mysteries. You can find there an interactive “Time Table”, It is literally a roundtable with a map of the island which was fun to operate – as you turn it you can see the great glaciers as they were in history and as they will be before global warming sees them off altogether in less than 200 years from now.. The scariest part of the exhibition for me was a short time-lapse movie showing how glaciers in Iceland and Alaska has already shrunk over the past ten years.
Water in Iceland
The last exhibition and a new one in Perlan is the Water in Iceland room. It takes you through the water cycle, with emphasis on Iceland’s special situation with some of the purest (cold) groundwater on the planet, its numerous beautiful (and beautifully named) waterfalls – actually there are so many waterfalls that there are not enough names to go around and many of them share some of the most popular names. And of course, the exhibition also shows the many types of geothermal water. The exhibition covers flora and fauna as well as the water itself. This part is probably the most interesting for kids as it includes the most interactive opportunities (not only screens). Kids can look through the magnifying glass at the aquarium to spot almost invisible cold water marine life, they can draw clouds and learn as they are doing so.
On the 4th floor, you can go outside onto the peripheral viewing platform which gives you 360 degrees view of Reykjavik from the highest point in the city. We were aiming to see the sunrise (at 11:15 on that day) but our day was so gloomy that even it was 11:30 everything was a uniform grey. We had to rely on panoramic picture panels to imagine what we might have seen if the weather had been clearer.
On the platform are sets of binoculars and by pressing a button, explanations in foreign languages about what you might be looking at. We didn’t use them since there was nothing to see and it was so windy we could hardly have done so anyway.
The Cafeteria and Gift Shop
The Cafeteria in the dome above the winter garden is open between 11:30 and 22:00. It offers an assortment of courses and snacks – though all a bit overpriced for European standards – we couldn’t bring ourselves to pay £7-00 for a side dish of chips! You can sit and just have a coffee (495 ISK) and a slice of cake (990 ISK). From 16:00 the restaurant is open. A gift shop on the 4th floor sells postcards, stamps and an imaginative selection of expensive mementoes
Free Shuttle Bus – Perlan to Harpa
Perlan Museum offers a free shuttle. It goes every half hour to and from Harpa (the new concert hall in the historic town centre). Buses run from 10 am till 7:30 pm
Entry prices to Perlan Wonders of Iceland exhibitions – prices from January 2019
Adults (16+) – 3,900 ISK ( $33/ £26)
Older kids (age 6 – 15) – 1,950 ISK ($16,5/ £13)
Younger kids (age 0 – 5) – FREE
Family tickets (2+2) – 7,800 ISK ($ 66/ £55)
You can buy tickets here.
Perlan Is it worth the visit?
Probably by now, you can make up make up your mind. But if you need my answer, then Yes, Perlan is worth the visit. It gives you loads of information about Iceland nature and everything connected with it. Price is steep, but everything in Iceland is expensive It would be very beneficial to start your time in Iceland with a visit to the Perlan museum to better understand the beauty that you will be admiring during your stay. And guess what we did after a visit to the museum – we went for a swim in our favourite geothermal swimming pool in Alftanes.
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