Virtual Vacation: ICELAND
How to travel to Reykjavik, Iceland! Whether Iceland is high on your bucket list or an upcoming destination after quarantine, this virtual vacation is what you need to make a plan and get a taste of Iceland! The Land of Fire and Ice is hard to plan a bad trip to, but it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics. So I decided to share my experience, favorite spots, and tips on how to have the best trip of your life!
Iceland, as a bucket list location for many, is home to an array of magical phenomena. Iceland is home to over 30 active volcanoes, geysers, steaming hot springs, and for the largest glacier in Europe by volume. Iceland during winter time days are record breakingly short with less light because of the country´s high latitude. That means that the longest day in December has only about 5 hours of daylight. With the sunrise around 11 AM and sunset around 3 or 4 PM. We took our trip in February and had about 7 hours maximum of daylight. A bit better than December but it was crazy to wake up to the dark and the sunrise at 11AM!
Iceland is one magical place. Visiting Iceland made such an impact on me that I am counting the days until I return. This unique culture situated in extreme conditions is wildly interesting how they have accommodated their civilization to create livable conditions and activities. The kindness of the Icelandic community and attitude made all the difference on my trip. I can't wait to go back and visit!
THE BLUE LAGOON
It's 5:30am and we just touched down at the Reykjavík–Keflavík International Airport. As my first stop, fresh off the plane from San Francisco, was the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is as unreal as it looks. With it's aqua blue waters, heavenly white steam clouds rising from the heat it's an unearthly magical scene. I can not tell you the feeling I experienced when I first stepped into the waters and emerged outside with a pitch dark sky above me at 7am into a crisp, freezing, steamy dream. The water was incredibly warm and cleansing. The sulfur smell was strong but nothing could change my perspective as we floated through the aqua blue. As a health and beauty freak like myself, I was head over heels for the face masks they served to us along with a drink of choice, while never stepping outside the pools! Icelanders love to sit in hot springs and pools, and often you can find lively discussions, debates and meetings in the tubs, especially before noon.
The Blue Lagoon has been named one of 'The Top 25 Wonders of the World' by National Geographic. This experience was probably the most magnificent experience I have ever encountered. Being wrapped in the natural warmth of the earth surrounded by breathtaking scenery is something you don't easily forget.
If you're not a fan of the cold or don't need to explore Iceland yourself you could always plan a layover in Reykjavik. 6 to 8 hours is approximately the perfect amount of time for a quick trip to the blue lagoon about a 45-60 minute ride with the fare of 2,750 ISK ($23) to the Blue Lagoon from the airport. They run roughly once every two hours, starting either at 6:25am or 7:30am depending on season. So you can dip in then dip out of Iceland wonders all on your way to your final destination. Not to mention, the Reykjavík–Keflavík airport is usually extremely reasonable to fly through and into.
THE CITY OF REYKJAVíK
Reykjavik is by far the largest civilized hot spot of Iceland as the capital city of the country. About 100,000 people live in Reykjavik's city proper. On our trip we stayed in an inner city suburb in an Airbnb. Staying in a neighborhood of locals is the way to go to get the full Icelandic experience! The homes lining the inner city are of marvelous architecture styles and so incredibly inviting and cozy inside. Everything in the city is so easily accessible and within walking distance. Our walk to the downtown area from our Airbnb was only around 12-15 minutes.
The capital of Reykjavik is a growing city and very much alive! Whether you visit Iceland in the summer or winter, there will always be so much to do. From the abundance of city tours to choose from, glacial excursions, markets, farms, museums, art galleries, to theater and concerts, Reykavik has something for everyone. During my trip here we never fell short of something to do!
Reykjavik surprised me with the diversity of foods they had available. From Japanese food, to German, to traditional Icelandic food it was a very pleasant surprise having feared a lack of edible foods. My two top spots include Jamie's Italian and IDNO (a short walk from our Airbnb, which also serves as a music hall). Another one of my favorite places to go to was the top bakery in Reykjavik, Brauð & Co. This colorful bakery has the most exquisite delights, with my favorite being a pastry similar to a cinnamon roll. Brauð & Co is a must try when in Reykjavik. Another famous spot in Iceland is a small hot dog stand, called Bæjarins bestu. Please, don’t forget to stop by, and try out this very special Icelandic hot dog. Even Kim K herself has stopped by this famous stand for their glorious dog! Open late!
Iceland is known for their fish so the basic meal of fish and chips was incredible at any spot you went to due to the freshness of the catches, caught not far from the city! There is also many options of traditional Icelandic dishes if you're feeling adventurous. Some of these tasty delights include:
Kjötsupa – Traditional Lamb meat soup
Svið – Sheep's head
Harðfiskur – Dried fish jerky
Hákarl – Fermented shark
Hrútspungar – Sour ram's testicles
Don't let these specialties scare you! You can choose from multitude of restaurants or coffee-houses. Whether you’d like to try out Icelandic cuisine or are in the mood for fast food.
One of our tour days we were bold and took a 6am Golden Circle excursion through the countryside of Iceland. In a suited up van we patrolled into the tundra where our first stop was a natural hot spring. Geothermal heat is known to be present at over 700 sites in Iceland. Most hot springs in Iceland are around 34° to 40°C or 95°-104°F. This natural hot spring with natural rocky floors, has some incredibly hot spots! We were able to indulge in yet another indescribable experience with locals side by side with us. After this delight, here we redressed, with sulfur water still in our crunchy hair and headed out to lunch at a tomato hothouse with...Bumblebees!
Iceland has learned creative and efficient ways on how to generate enough food for their population on their own frozen soils. Through the use of geothermal technology, the greenhouses of Fridheimar, located one hour east, easily produce 370 tons of tomatoes throughout the year approximately 15% of their tomato market.This tomato hot house was an incredible sight with bees flying around above pollinating as we indulged in gorgeous ravioli with tomato sauce, tomato soup, and delectable tomato-mozzarella pizzas. This hot house was situated on a farm with other native species of animals such Icelandic ponies. These original Viking horses are one of the purest horse breeds in the world. The breed has been isolated on the rugged island over 1000 years ago, without any genetic input from other breeds. The sweet horses were a lovely surprise greeting outside.
Next on our excursion route was a hike through a historical site to a site of yet another bubbling hot spring and geyser! The geyser was an exciting sight to see with many visitors gathered around to witness this powerful release. When it does erupt, the water can shoot up in the air as high as 70 meters (230 feet). This hike through the hilly landscape was rewarded by enjoying some warm drinks in little log cabin together with other visitors. Many tourist actually stay in Reykjavik but embark on day tours like these to see the surrounding area. You can go on a simple day tour (like we did due to the weather) or a multi-day road trip across Iceland. We embarked on a Golden Circle day tour which was cut short of the excursion to see the northern lights, due to limitations of the storm arising over Iceland at the time. There are many day tours to choose from like the Golden Circle, a visit to the South Coast, The Glacial lagoon, The Blue Lagoon or the Black Sand Beach.
THE CITY OF REYKJAVíK CONTINUED...
There are many amazing sights and attractions in Reykjavik so you should definitely find the time to see the city. You won’t find the towering skyscrapers of America or the age old narrow streets like Europe, but Reykjavik is somewhere in between and yet miles away, with its small colorful houses and many open spaces.
I would recommend a visit to Hallgrimskirkja church not far from the famous bakery Brauð & Co, which can be found standing on a small hill downtown Reykjavik. A statue of Leif Eiriksson, the Icelandic Viking that found America, stands in front of the church. Hallgrimskirkja church is a popular tourist attraction, just don’t forget to enter the tower and go to the top! It will offer you a great view of the entirety of Reykjavik with a view through the churches giant clock.
The Reykjavik nightlife is great, especially during weekends and there are plenty of bars and clubs to visit. Every weekend there are concerts and shows and each year there are music festivals in Reykjavik such as the Secret Solstice Festival in late June and Iceland Airwaves in November.
Reykjavik is also famous for its old harbor and shipping yards. The yards of the Stálsmiðjan-Framtak have been converted and remodeled into hopping, new boutiques, museums, restaurants, bars and bustling market places. This was one of my favorite parts of Reykjavik to explore due to all the unique and modernized renovations done to the historical yards. There are great museums in the harbor such as the Reykjavik Maritime Museum, Aurora Reykjavik, the Living Art Museum, Gallery ART67, Reykjavik Art Museum Kjarvalsstadir, and the extremely unheard of, Icelandic Phallological Museum (look it up). Its incredible how even in this unusual part of a frozen land, there is art, culture, and life.
Iceland was a trip of a lifetime and I would highly recommend traveling there yourself. I hope you enjoyed this virtual vacation to Iceland! Feel free to shoot me an email below with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have. Have some advice of your own? Leave a comment below! To help ensure all of us lead gorgeous, extraordinary lives.
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