Despite traveling all over the world, I always find that Iceland remains my favorite destination. About six hours on one non-stop flight from JFK, Iceland is the land of spectacular scenery, delicious, local and fresh Nordic cuisine, geothermal spas, breathtaking scenery and non-stop nightlife.
When most people think of Iceland, two things instantly come to mind: Jon Snow and the night watch, in Game of Thrones or Bjork in her quirky and memorable swan dress. While both are a perfect depiction of Iceland, there is yet, something more.
After several stays in Reykjavik and the surrounding area, I have created a balanced itinerary to allow myself the opportunity to explore the delights of this exotic and beautiful land.
As most people from the states take a brief overnight flight and arrive early in the morning. While there are many buses and shuttles that take passengers from the airport to city center hotels, I always recommend purchasing a hotel and transportation package through Icelandair. I have found they have always been organized, friendly and cost effective. In addition, I have also purchased tour packages through them as well. Otherwise, you have to feel comfortable driving on glare ice throughout this island country. I personally prefer to let the locals to take me around.
Some of my favorite tours include:
- The Blue Lagoon. The thermal hot springs are such a treat. Your body feels refreshed and you feel a little bit Nordic frolicking in the warm water even when it is below zero outside!
- Whale watching. There is nothing more exciting then seeing a whale just feet from your boat.
- A visit to the Gullfoss, the gigantic waterfall. Whether summer or winter, this is a sight to behold. I cannot recommend this enough.
- Northern Lights. There is nothing like watching the mysterious and breathtaking Aurora Borealis appear in the sky.
- The Circle Tour. Wonder where the land beyond the wall scenes in Game of Thrones are filmed? This is the tour! Do you see the White Walkers? You can imagine Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch running through the rocky landscape. The stunning Gullfoss waterfalls and Geysir is the geyser with the hot, steamy water shooting up every few minutes.
While Tom Cruise tells Jon Stewart that he enjoys climbing the volcanos in Iceland, I prefer to avoid that sort of adventure. Instead, I enjoy relaxing in the cafes in downtown Reykjavik. The coffee is strong and smoky and the baked desserts sweet and flaky. Dinner is often fresh salmon or lamb, both locally caught or raised. Served with local potatoes, creamy sauce and root vegetables, this is elegant and delicious Nordic cuisine.
Where to stay? I have two favorite spots that are centrally located:
Hotel Borg is a sophisticated hotel that is all about elegance and service. Located next to the cathedral, this hotel is in a central location to everything. The rooms are all individualized and have heated marble floors and Phillippe Stark fittings. Rooms start at $199.
CenterHotel Klopp is conveniently located near the city center of Reykjavik. This 46-room hotel has a clean, Scandinavian-style decor with private full bath. Although there is a breakfast bar, restaurants and bars are within walking distance of this hotel. Rooms start at $139.