I call myself a vagabond. Iceland was my 27th country. Traveling, researching, being in nature, learning, exploring, sharing, tasting and physical activity are my soul food. I highlight the value of feeding your soul in my book, Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest, Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being. Three nights in Reykjavik was enough time to get the great Iceland vibe. With just five hours of daylight, we were ambitious in planning. Though we tried to schedule our trip for peak viewing of the Northern Lights, the rain overshadowed them.
Here are the top 13 things I enjoyed.
- With a 6:35 am international arrival, Reykjavik Roasters was the first destination. The turntable and vinyls add to the cozy feel, but the coffee drinks encouraged me to have a second cup, and return for more. It’s just down the street from the Hafnarfjörôur church.
- The cold water is fresh tasting, pure spring water right at the tap. Unlike other countries you may visit, Iceland’s water tastes fresh and they claim to be one of the purest in the world. Iceland is abundant in geothermal activity so the hot water is always hot and rich in sulphur, so you might notice and odor. About 85 percent of Icelandic homes are heated with geothermal energy.
- Harpa Concert Hall is a crown jewel. Even if you don’t attend a performance, the design and lighting are stunning. Take an elevator to the top to enjoy the view both inside and out. Be sure to check out the staircases.
- Not limited to museums, art is all over. In the harbor, Pufa, a green man-made mound represents the agriculture and fishing heritage of Iceland. Independent artists leave their mark on nearly any flat surface, but walls get most of the attention around Reykjavik. From how to tie a tie to a powerful fist, keep your eyes open. Along the waterfront, near Harpa look for Sun Voyager, a sculpture. Action figures perched on street signs and animated Santa’s danced on buildings.
- Lava fields. Iceland has 30 active volcanoes and moss covered lava, “mosi,” covers the lava fields like a soft, green carpet. It looks like you might be driving on the moon when you leave the airport.
- The Golden Circle allows you to explore geysers (the original one for which all others are named), the amazing rift Almannagjá where tectonic plate movement is happening (Pingvellir National Park) and waterfalls. Gullfoss is a cool waterfall about 1.5 hours from Reykjavik.
- A walking food tour by Wake Up Raykjavik gave me the inside scoop as we ate our way through town. Horse, anyone? Owned by a former chef and mixologist who spent so much time telling customers where to eat, he and his partner formed their own company.
- Friendly people. From the coffee shop to the museum, I did not encounter a sourpuss.
- Named after the former long-time occupant, a pharmacy, Apotek’s pastry chef produces desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Go for a special-priced midafternoon dessert and coffee/tea. The bartenders are called “pharmacists.”
- Lobster soup, fresh and bright with gently poached langoustine at Sægreifinn (Seabaron).
- Rye bread ice cream at Café Loki.
- This is the land of Skyr, this fresh cheese is similar to Greek-style yogurt. Served at breakfast and in desserts, there’s also drinkable versions.
- Hot dogs “pylsa” are considered the national fast food. At nearly 80 years old Bæjarins Betzu is an institution. It seems the line never ends though it moves really fast. Order it with everything and you’ll get this lamb-based hotdog with fried onions, raw onions, mustard, ketchup and remoulade. The fried onions make this a top dog – and I’m not even a hot dog fan, but a few years ago The Guardian named this the best hot dog in Europe.
As they say in Iceland “Takk takk”…thanks (for stopping by)!
Plan your own trip
Let me know your favorite Icelandic things.