You’ve headed up north to Iceland and although you’re excited about the country itself – and you should be – you are most looking forward to seeing the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. There’s a little apprehension about the weather for your trip, but you hold out hope that somehow the skies will clear and the lights will shine, or shimmer, or well – you’re not sure exactly what they do because it turns out the weather’s not getting any better and you’re not seeing the lights, on this visit at least. It might seem all is lost, until you remember – you’re in Iceland. There are a lot of other fascinating things to do…
So, you went out last night in Reykjavik. Where was it? Kaffibarinn or Vegamot – of course it was Kaffibarinn, the London underground sign sucked you in? Yes, us too. Famously dubbed ‘the nightlife capital of the north’ by people in the know; spend a night in Reykjavik and no doubt you’ll spend it partying the, well, the night, away. But, that doesn’t mean you can slack off during the day – in fact spending 24 hours in Iceland is one of our favourite ways to spend a day on earth.
When you wake up there is no better place to go than the Blue Lagoon, it is the ideal spot to rest your weary limbs and pamper yourself. No matter how cold it is outdoors, the water averages a lovely 37 degrees celsius in the natural geothermal spring. Those looking for a little luxury, and peace and quiet; the Exclusive lounge will leave you feeling truly pampered with therapeutic treatments including rejuvenating massages and steam baths.
Swimming of any kind, even if it’s more of the lounging around in a gorgeous thermal pool variety, will always leave you with an appetite. Undoubtedly the trendiest place to grab some brekky in Iceland is The Laundromat Café. Serving everything from American pancakes to English full breakfasts, and all with a side of delicious steaming hot coffee, patrons short on time can even pop downstairs and wash their laundry.
When you tell your loved ones you’re off to Iceland they’re obviously going to be impressed – and then all clamour for a souvenir. So while you’re there it makes sense to do a little shopping. Oh, who are we kidding? The main street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur, is one of the most charming boutique shopping strips in the world, and we’re quite happy to admit it. Our pick is to stop at Suomi Prkl for trinkets, and, of course, admire the exterior of the shop. Those looking for more of a treasure hunt should visit the Kolaportið Flea Market. Held in a huge industrial building by the harbour each weekend, it is a Reykjavik institution and definitely worth a visit, particularly if you have a lust for antique-ing.
FISH ‘N CHIPS
Hungry again? Well of course, it’s lunch time and that means it’s Icelandic Fish and Chip o’clock. The organic shop has fresh fish on the menu, so the catch changes every day, but regular fish include Cod, Haddock, Wolf Fish, Blue Ling, Tusk, Pollock and more. Order a side of garlic potatoes and fried cauliflower and broccoli and you’ll leave one satisfied customer.
Take a drive in a super jeep out to the glacier lagoon that is Jökulsárlón. Feel like you’ve been here before? That’s because it’s been a feature in plenty of Hollywood blockbusters, and we’re giving you access to the set. Cruise between precariously placed icebergs on a boat ride out onto the electric blue lagoon and get so close you’ll be able to skim your hands across the ice. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and native Icelandic wildlife including the Great Sku.
For a pre-dinner drink we recommend Reykjavik’s first boutique hotel, 101. Owned by Icelandic designer, Ingibjorg S. Palmadottir, the clean lines, modern design and elegant furnishings, not to mention signature cocktails, offer a stylish sense of comfort and make it the ideal place to begin the night.
Interested in staying at Hotel 101? Find out more here
TABLE ON FOUR
Home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, the Harpa building hosts concerts and a myriad of events. The fourth level is also home to Kolabrautin – and it’s delicious. We would recommend coming here even if it were underground in a cave with no ambience, just for the food. When we visited the goose ravioli and ocean perch were fabulous, but with helpful wait staff, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The fact that the views include the gorgeous harbour and the glass building itself is designed by renowned artist Olafur Eliasson, is simply, a huge bonus.
If you travel to Iceland between the 30 October and 3rd November you will get the chance to enjoy what Rolling Stone Magazine calls the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar, Iceland Airways. One of the best annual showcases for emerging music everyone from Florence and the Machine to Fat Boy Slim and The Shins have played here. This year Electronic Pioneers Kraftwek will close the festival.
Need a sweet treat after dinner? Now it may sound ludicrous suggesting ice cream in Iceland, but hear us out – Eldur and Is, is one of the cutest dessert bars we have been too. Full of crepes, premier ice cream, sorbets – you, that is, the shop has even more goodies including a delightful drinks menu. This is a lovely place to spend the evening.
SCUBA SUIT UP
It has hit midnight and we have one more surprise in store, why not go scuba diving between tectonic plates? Dive into the – okay, freezing – water (don’t worry, your dry suit will keep you warm) and you’ll become absorbed by the dramatic and craggy sharp rocks and crystal clear waters where visibility is like nowhere else on earth. During summer a midnight dive means the sun will be still shining brightly, making this a completely out of this world experience.
We’re a travel company after all, so we were not about to leave you wandering the streets dripping wet in your scuba gear without somewhere to rest your head. Beyond recommending where to spend your time and what to do we always want to make sure you stay within some of the best, chicest and most luxurious hotels in town. One of our favourites at the moment just happens to be in Iceland – Hotel Borg.
Combing old-time elegance with modern contemporary Art Deco style; custom-made furniture and all modern amenities make every room the perfect setting for a break in Reykjavik. Plus, the hotel is literally steps away from the renowned shopping street Laugavegur, a shopaholic’s dream, and popular restaurants and bars that will keep you busy into the night.
For more information on Hotel Borg click here.