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A snow-covered Pearl

Perlan ('The Pearl') is a museum and rotating glass dome built on top of six water tanks that together store 24 million litres of Reykjavík's hot water. Surrounded by trees, Perlan stands on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill and is one of the capital's most distinctive landmarks.

History & Construction

The building was originally designed by architect Ingimundur Sveinsson and in 1991, the hot water storage tanks that had stood on top of Öskjuhlíð since the mid-20th-century were updated when the hemispherical glass dome structure was added on top.

The project was largely curated by politician Davíð Oddsson, during his term as mayor of Reykjavík.

One of the six water tanks does not store any water. From 2002-2014 it housed a Viking-history museum, but currently, the tank envelopes an exhibition called 'Jöklar og Íshellar' ('The Glacier Exhibition of Iceland') which showcases Iceland's glaciers and ice caves.

An adult ticket to the exhibition costs 2,900 ISK and includes complimentary entrance to the viewing platform (until recently, this was free, although there is now a charge).

At night, the water tanks are lit up by floodlights that illuminate the construction for all of the city to see. On top of the dome is a rotating light which serves to signal the aeroplanes that fly to and from the nearby Reykjavík Domestic Airport.

Museum & Sightseeing

The Pearl, or Perlan, is growing as a museum.Photo from Reykjavik Observation Deck

The very first Glacier Exhibition of Iceland opened in Perlan in July 2017. The project features a replica of an ice tunnel, where visitors are offered a glance into the past, present and future of the Icelandic glaciers.

To see the actual inside of a glacier, you can visit the ice caves in Vatnajökull between November and May, or else visit the manmade ice tunnel in Langjökull.

Further plans for the site are to create a grand-scale museum of natural wonders, with several ambitious nature exhibitions expected to open in the coming years. Already, the Forces of Nature exhibition has opened, featuring a virtual aquarium.

Future projects include Iceland’s first planetarium, which will make use of the 360° dome to offer an immersive experience of the stars of the night sky.

Additionally, exhibitions called 'Land, Coast, Ocean' and 'Northern Lights' are set to open in 2018.

Currently, the observation deck on top of Perlan offers an impressive and panoramic view of the city and its surroundings, with Adult tickets available for 490 ISK.

The venue is one of the best spots to see the city, but it is quite difficult to reach from central Reykjavík without a car.

If you don’t fancy an hour-or-so walking, an option is the hop-on City Sightseeing bus that goes between all the major sights of Reykjavík.

On the fourth and fifth floors of the building, the dome itself hosts the restaurant Út í bláinn, the café Kaffitár and the gift shop Rammagerðin.

Outside the entrance, there is a man-made geyser, Strokkur, named after its real-life counterpart in the geothermal valley of Haukadalur.

The surrounding woodland of Öskjuhlíð boasts of several scenic hiking trails and cycling routes, along with the remains of multiple military bunkers that were built by the US army during its WWII occupation in Iceland.

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