Iceland TravelIceland - Break the Ice
Iceland was once a banking haven hot on the heels of Switzerland. But after a certain currency crisis, this tiny Nordic country had to come up with an alternate tourism draw. As they say, when one door closes, another opens. Unless, of course, it’s always been open – to the stunning view of Viking parliaments and epic waterfalls. You just have to walk through it.
Reykjavik has made quite the name for itself though as a full-on party town. Summertime daylight for 24 hours and a sizeable population of flaxen-haired, supermodel-esque beauties helps this cause. And yes, it may be expensive, but we’re willing to pay for a good time – and good food. Case in point: the chef at Dill, who’s pioneering the new Nordic gourmet movement, and who previously worked at Denmark’s two-Michelin-starred Kommandanten. But while you could spend all your time in this fun-loving city, the real beauty of Iceland is getting out in the countryside with its black-sand beaches, glaciers, Geysir and Gullfoss. Really, who needs a bank when you’ve got the Northern Lights?
Good for: Couples, groups of friends, the solo traveler, families with older children
- Ascending a glacier with some help from Iceland’s most exclusive transport provider. Mountain Taxi was one of Iceland’s first purveyors of luxe adventure tours, and many still see it as number one. Like a VIP friend, your specially outfitted jeep smuggles you to the hardest-to-reach stops that no one else gets to. And also like a VIP friend, it knows how to effortlessly blend in. Mountain Taxi vehicles make a minimal impact on the environment and are optimized for mountainous terrains. And most importantly, they take you straight to the top.
- Eating at Dill. If Iceland wasn’t a culinary superstar until now, that’s because it was waiting for Gunnar Karl Gíslaslon to work his magic. The prolific chef cut his teeth at Saison as well as Kommandanten (yes, that of the two Michelin stars) – among others – before opening up Dill in 2009. Seven years into its game-changing run in Reykjavik, the restaurant has hit its stride reimagining Icelandic ingredients and traditions for, well, the same gourmets who patronize Saison and Kommandanten. Minus the formal setting, because Iceland’s answer to high-end dining is a rustic, casual atmosphere. Book a table now before the restaurant becomes overrun by rabid Foodstagrammers.
- Experiencing the condensed version of the lengthy Skogafoss excursion in the south of Iceland. A full day of intense hiking won’t disappoint, no matter what. But completing the capsule tour gets you up-close and personal with nature (including that stunning waterfall, your first stop) in a quarter of the time: two hours instead of eight. That’s pretty wild, in both senses of the word.
- Bar-hopping in Reykjavik. The sun (almost) never sets over this city that feels more like a college town. Due to its size, Reykjavik may have less of a proper scene than its more metropolitan counterparts. But college-type towns always know how to party ‘til the sun comes up. Or, in the case of semi-Arctic zones, ‘til the sun comes down. And Reykjavik is no exception.
- Exploring the country on the Golden Circle Tour. There’s a good reason this one is touristy: It’s a perfect package of Iceland’s most quintessential nature experiences. Encompassing the cliffs and lake of Thingvellir, the geysers of Geysir, and the epic waterfalls of Gullfoss and the Blue Lagoon, the tour has it all. There’s no better way to get the lay of the land.
- Looking out at fields of lava rock. They’re not just stunning and unlike any other kind of landform; they’re ancient. Many of these rocks haven’t changed for thousands of years. You can almost feel their history as you drive through the lava fields.
- Washing down Icelandic lobster at Grillmarkaðurinn with Icelandic vodka cocktails. That lobster might be the freshest you ever eat, and that vodka the purest you ever drink: Iceland’s premium vodkas are distilled from glacial water that trickled through 4000-year-old lava. Indulging in these treats isn’t just delicious, it’s almost spiritual.