Iceland will always have a special place in my heart. The volcanic island welcomed and nurtured me during my first job right out of university. Allowing for me to learn about myself, about others, about teaching, and about living a life full of childlike wonder.
Currently Iceland is recieving an uptick in tourism, and I could not be happier. It is my strong belief that everyone should experience the Icelandic landscape, culture, and lifestyle at least once in their life. If you are planning a trip to Iceland soon, or you're contemplating where to travel to next, I've created a brief list of my favorite places to visit.
Side note: *I worked in Reykjavik teaching photography workshops and leading excursions around the island for 4 months. However, I didn’t get the chance to fully experience the summer months, so I asked my friends there for advice on a few items listed below! *
WHERE TO GO:
• Golden Circle: This is a must, but only takes about 2 hours so I’d recommend touring the circle around 5pm and ending in Pingvellir National Park for dreamy evening views. They have a scuba tour to swim between the tectonic plates at Pingvellir, but honestly all of the beauty is just walking around the Park!
• Jökulsárlón: INSANE. I’d recommend sleeping in your car/tent over near the ocean side (across the road from the glacier lagoon) and in the early morning when no one is around go skinny dipping… You won’t regret it. There is nothing quite like swimming in glacier water (especially in your birthday suit!).
• Dimmuborgir: This is said to be where the elves and trolls live up in the North near Akuryri. It’s not a main stop, but if you are doing a roadtrip up north to Myvatn then you should stop here. We spent the day sliding down the snow and playing like little kids. Once again, there is something in the air that leaves you feeling like a child again.
West Fjords: The West Fjords are on the Northwest side of the island, and are the most picturesque view you'll ever see of Iceland. Usually the roads are too snowcovered to get to the fjords during the winter months, but once summer rolls around it is a green wonderland. If you are extremely lucky then you can catch the northern lights while in the fjords in March or April, but only if you are extremely lucky.
CAFES IN REYKJAVIK
Live music is a huge deal in Reyk and there is live music every night at nearly every bar, café, or hole in the wall. If you grab the “GrapeVine” magazine at any hostel or bar, it lists where and when music is going on around the city.
• Vínyl: THE BEST. Go here for an almond milk latte and to put on your favorite record. They have a huge selection of records and the owner is the coolest.
• Café Babalu: The espresso is the best here, but you have to make sure you go upstairs and sit on the couch, it’s a hidden gem right near the main church.
• Reykjavik Roasters: Once again great espresso, but limited seating.
• Hurra: This is a great bar! And it’s one of the few bars that have reggae nights. Icelandic reggae is the craziest thing you’ll ever hear. Take a listen here of one of my favorite bands, AmabAdamA.
WHERE/WHAT TO EAT IN REYKJAVIK
• GLO: Raw/vegan/gluten free incredible goodness here. If you’re looking for a health spot this one is my favorite place!
• Skyr. This is a traditional Icelandic yogurt (similar to greek yogurt but thicker and way better). My favorite flavors are vanilla, banana, and cinnamon.
• NO ONE EATS WHALE. PLEASE DON’T ORDER IT OR THINK IT IS A LOCAL DELICACY. Not that you would, but it is a huge scandal with Icelanders over the past 6 years. There is only one or two restaurants that still have it on the menu, but just so you know it’s sort of a “black market” item now.
• Brennivín: Icelandic licorice liquor. Kind of gross but also kind of incredible.
WHERE TO STAY
And last but not least, where to stay while in Reykjavik:
Kex Hostel:This place is the best for booking a room in Reykjavik. It’s close to the water and the main downtown. It also has a café connected and concerts/events most nights.