Did you know? Iceland is a popular tourist destination. It is known for its unique Scandi culture, which includes beautiful waterfalls and picturesque chapels. The fun is made possible by the friendly locals, many of whom have a wicked sense for humor and proud heritage. It is also close to England and the States, so there are many English-speaking expats. This helps to lessen the language barrier, making it easy to navigate the country on your own. The unique combination of beautiful wilderness, vibrant cities, and delicious culinary adventures makes it the perfect family vacation that is not too far away.
Even with the new Delta variant, the number of cases is still low. At the time this article was written, there were 55 new infections. You should expect to be tested before entering the country as well as upon your return. This will take place in the most efficient and sleekest medical center. You can also expect to do everything outdoors, which adds to the safety of the experience.
How you choose to explore Iceland comes down to personal preference. You can travel around Iceland on the popular “Golden Circle” route. However, you will need to be prepared to hotel hop between destinations. If you’re looking to soak up a few areas, we recommend the South, which is known for its black sand beaches and lush mossy fields. The West is renowned for its fjords and volcanoes. You’ll find periwinkle Lupine, a beautiful flower that can be found almost everywhere, as well as many Icelandic horses and plump, cartoon-like sheep wherever you go.
Start in Reykjavik
You’ll land in the capital, pick up your rental car (all are equipped for harsh weather conditions, but make sure to get one with GPS navigation), and begin your journey. Reykjavik has a unique vibe. It feels like a mix of a Scandinavian fishing community and a mountain town with a touch of Brooklyn. The city was established by the Vikings around 870 AD. Its once-gable-fronted houses were replaced with farm and Swiss chalet style homes that are still in use today. After a terrible fire in 1915, an Icelandic architect returned from Denmark with a vision for a modern appearance. This is evident in the tall, towering buildings. The city is home to just 120,000 residents. This keeps the energy up and the nightlife alive. If you stay downtown, make sure to bring some headphones for your sleep.
The Design Hotel Group offers stylish rooms with luxurious beds and extra-comfy beds for those who suffer from jet lag. The Icelandic Opera House is right next door for a cultural splash.
Enjoy the best sushi on the island with Israeli-inspired dips and kebabs. The charming florist shop is the perfect spot for healthy lunches. It features coconut-sweet-potato soup, fluffy frittatas and a Northern Cal chef. A bakery that was started by a French expat. The cinnamon rolls are always in high demand. If you’re interested in learning more about Icelandic cuisine, such as traditional dishes like fermented shark or smoked sheepshead, you can take a cooking class. You will learn how to make a delicious meal using morning-caught Arctic char and crepe-like Icelandic pancakes. Side note: Vegans can try the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand.
While you can buy a backpack online, Reykjavik has the mother ship. Here you will find beautiful painted options as well as large travel bags. This home store has beautiful neutral throws and herb and spice containers. If you have children, this is the place to go for all things candy. The Omnom chocolate bars are beautiful and gift-worthy.
Two hours spent in the Icelandic countryside with its wild horses and wooliest sheep is not the same as two hours driving on the turnpike. Once you reach the South, it’s a magical place.
Get your warmest beanie on and you’ll be ready to experience everything, from glacier hiking to ziplining with a surprising bungee-like ending (without the near death part). Vik is a charming fishing village that attracts people from all walks of the globe. Make sure you visit Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Bring waterproof jackets! You can take a ferry ride to reach the Westmann Islands.
Check the wild ride water safari to see puffins clinging to cliffs, elephant rock formations, and ancient caves (whales and seals are for the lucky). The main island was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. There is a small museum that explains the history of the island. You can also rent bikes in the center of town to see the island for yourself. Skalakot Manor also has horse stables. Take a morning ride to the closest waterfalls and snap a photo to make it look like you are living in a fairytale.
Head to the West (driving time: four hours)
The restaurant “Glass Room” main floor is a fine-dining establishment that draws visitors from all over the region. It serves world-class wines and high-end food. Hotel favorites include the “loaded” fries and fresh-caught fish. The “Glass Room” is a great place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery while you play Bananagrams or watercoloring. This is editorial layout at its finest, so make sure you take some photos with your crew before you leave.
Visit the Snaellfell Penninsula to see the golden sand beaches and the black pearl. Hike up the volcano crater and go caving if you are strong enough. You can ride horses through the meadows to the beach in the afternoon. It’s as idyllic as it gets.
Back to City Life (driving time: two hours)
You’ve heard it all: This tourist spot is actually a private spa. The spa is clean and elegant with lockers and beautiful showers. Tickets are required so it’s not too crowded. One word of caution: The minerals in the geothermal bath stick to hair and make it hard for several weeks. You can either condition your hair well before and after the soak, or put it in a bun. Make sure you take advantage of the many pore-sucking masks available at “the bar”.
Tidbits to know before you go!
It’s almost light all year round, even in summer. Bring your melatonin, even though the hotels have black-out shades. Also ….it is cold. You will definitely need your puffers (it’s a great break from the oppressive summer heat), but you can always go to the stores in the city for more layers.