Close your eyes, imagine a place as green as Ireland, with the most dramatic water falls like Iguazu or Niagara. Think of the most beautiful sheep of England, simple beaches and a volcanic landscape like no other, with peaks and valleys. Open your eyes and you will be in Iceland.
There are so many interesting and a vast variety of things that make Iceland such a wonderful experience that I don’t know where to begin, but I shall try. This past June while visiting the breathtaking country, the sun apparently did set but it never became dark. One glorious evening, we were casually strolling exploring the hot spots of the region, and we stopped at one of the local restaurant and ran into a bar at 12:00am; we couldn’t conceive that it was still daylight outside nor that it could possibly be that late.
Two of the most alluring things about Iceland are Reykjavik (pronounced rey-ka-vik) as a city and the beauty of nature all around you in Iceland. Reykjavik is the capital and a harbor city which boasts the most spectacular views, but although being a city, it provides you the comfort of a small town. Iceland is a nation of 32,000 inhabitants. Everything from fine dining to fish skewers to Thai food is available. While we had consistently good dining experiences, the main surprise was the cost. While their main exports are wool and lamb, almost everything else is imported, hence the incredible cost of everything there. Be forewarned, prepare yourself for an expensive but worthwhile trip!
The natural environment will blow your mind. It is an active volcanic island comprised of sand, lava fields, mountains and glaciers. The most alluring part of Iceland has to be the landscape. The natural beauty is astounding from the terrain of volcanic moss to the hot and cold thermal waters that are hard to describe but beats any jacuzzi you’ve ever sat in.
The famous Geysers, which derive from the Icelandic verb to gush, eruptions can happen infrequently depending on the geyser but will often gush boiling water metres high in the air.
One of the strangest experience is walking on the moss-like greenery that has grown over the volcanic rock and feels like stepping on broccoli but with a sinking effect. The juxtaposed views of green landscapes and ice capped mountains is exhilarating.
The country has made a significant recovery since its meltdown in 2008 – no pun intended. There is evidence of this when you see the number of tourists, fine dining restaurants and a booming clubbing and bar scene that was fraught with people queuing to get into the various venues.
Reykjavik has just hosted the world’s most unique music festival, Summer Solstice which reigned over Reykjavik, for the first time from June 20-22, 2014. What made it different? The sun did not set over the three days and there was straight sunlight for 72 hours. The festival attracted over 10,000 people to their Icelandic shores to listen to the likes of Massive Attack, Banks, School Boy Q, Disclosure, Múm and close to 150 other artists.
The Reykjavik fashion scene is cool, trendy and stylish all wrapped up in one. Along the main road Laugavegur there is plenty of shopping for those of us who cannot resist.
One of my favorite stores, Kiosk, is also located on the main street, Laugavegur in the heart of Reykjavik. This store is a co-op collective with creations of 9 Icelandic designers, all who take turns to work the counter and sell their designs. Their gorgeous clothes and accessories range from silk to organza to quirky prints. Pop in, you are bound to meet one! Kiosk, Laugavegur 65, www.kioskreykjavik.com. There are many fabulous designers, too many to name but one that made a distinct impression is Eggert, http://www.furrier.is/photo-anders-engstrom/ a furrier with edgy designs, colors and stunning outerwear.
Fine dining exists here just as it does in most major cities.
Mar Restaurant http://www.marrestaurant.is/ is located not far from the waterfront and serves a great seafood soup, delicious fish and good lamb.
Nauthóll, http://nautholl.is/ has the most idyllic view of the beach, cool but relaxing décor and the best gin and tonics I’ve had in sometime with a little pepper added for garnish! The food is straight from the farm to the table. Healthy but sophisticated. Be sure to order any of the salads and the fish is pretty amazing too. It’s a little outside of the city center but well worth the ride.
Thursdays are American vintage car day where you will see bikers dressed like hells angels and cars from “back in the days” that will peak your interest. Let’s not forget their piece de resistance, the largest church in Reykjavik, the Lutheran church, Hallgrímskirkja. The design, is said to have been built to resemble lava.
Grill Markt, http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is/ presents a décor that is both cozy and welcoming, a beautiful bar downstairs along with cozy booths around the back and nice size tables for groups. You could have mistaken the ambiance for any trendy New York restaurant even playing some rap songs from the 90s. But the menu was the most adventurous with Whale, Reindeer and Lobster mini burgers. Puffin is eaten here as well but it seemed to be out of season therefore not on the menu. The grilled red fish was firm and yet full of flavor.
If you are non-European and more specifically non-Scandinavian, you will be inclined to find the costs of everything outrageous. That being said, this is an experience you are unlikely to experience anywhere else and worth every penny or in this case every króna.
Photos courtesy of Aimee Sealfon and Michelle Lowe