Visit Perlan, and you'll get a little bit of all the best Iceland has to offer: views, museum exhibits, architecture, and food. Self-described on its website as a "Nature Exploratorium," Perlan offers three types of admission: Wonders of Iceland, Áróra, or both Wonders of Iceland and Áróra. (More on what each has to offer below.)
Perlan, which translates to "Pearl," is surrounded by forests on the top of Öskjuhlíð Hill. It's also the site where a massive amount of Reykjavik's water supply is housed, as the building was constructed above six massive water tanks with room for 24 million liters of liquid.
Ahead, you'll find everything you need to know about the museum, as well as the best times to visit.
History and Background
As mentioned above, Perlan is much more than a museum. In fact, it does what so many other Icelandic museums set out to do: connect the past and present with its current-day functions and homage to the processes and culture of days long gone.
The site was designed in 1991 by Ingimundur Sveinsson, and it was constructed while David Oddsson served as the mayor of Reykjavik (1991 through 2004). The aforementioned water tanks were there from the beginning of the plans—they were updated when Perlan's iconic glass dome was added to the design.
Aside from the water tanks, there's another less obvious function of the dome: At night, a rotating light helps guide airplanes into Reykjavik Domestic Airport.
What to Do and See
There are two different kind of experiences at Perlan, and you can choose to see either of them, or both in the same day. Wonders of Iceland guides guests through all of the geological features you can find around the country: volcanoes, glaciers, earthquakes, areas of high geothermal activity, and the local tectonic plates. You can also explore the Látrabjarg Cliff—one of Iceland's biggest bird watching areas—via augmented reality. There's also an indoor ice cave, underwater exhibition, and an interactive glacier exhibit waiting to be explored. Entry into this exhibit will cost you 3990 Icelandic krona ($32).
Áróra is a lesson in the Northern Lights—the science behind them, stunning footage, and more—in the form of a 22-minute 8K Northern Lights planetarium show. You can see this show on its own for 2690 Icelandic krona ($22).
For 4490 Icelandic krona ($36), you can experience both exhibits. There is also a gift shop onsite called Rammagerðin, which stocks local designs and products.
There is also an observation deck you can check out for an added fee of 890 Icelandic krona (about $7). If you purchase an observation deck ticket, you'll also get a discount of 890 Icelandic krona to any exhibition ticket within Perlan and a free ride (both ways) on the Perlan shuttle bus.
What to Eat and Drink
Don't miss out on grabbing a meal or drink at Perlan's restaurant, Út í bláinn, which is located in the building's glass dome. There you'll be treated to a rotating, 360-degree view of Reykjavik and its surrounding areas.
The bistro-style restaurant serves up simple dishes with local ingredients for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you're looking to grab a cup of coffee, head to Perlan's cafe, Kaffitar.
How to Get There
Once you're close, Perlan is hard to miss with its unique glass dome. Located at Varmahlíð 1, the museum and restaurant are easy to get to from Reykjavik. Just east of the Miðborg neighborhood (where you'll find the Reykjavik Domestic Airport), Perlan is surrounded by walking paths, making it easy for locals to access, as well as travelers looking for a natural respite from the capital city.
As mentioned above, there is a shuttle bus that picks passengers up from four different locations: Harpa, Snorrabraut, Natura Icelandair Hotel, and, of course, Perlan. You can find a shuttle bus schedule on the Perlan website. All ticket holders also get free access to the shuttle bus.
If you're taking the local bus, Strætó, Line 18 will get you the closest to Perlan.
Tips for Visiting
Note that the last museum admission happens an hour before closing time, at 9 p.m. The gift shop closes down at 7 p.m. every day, and the coffee stops serving at 8 p.m. at the cafe.
The museum is wheelchair accessible, and there is one wheelchair available on premises for visitors.