The land of fire and ice welcomes visitors again.
Many a traveler dreams of the day when they can enjoy a boat ride between the glaciers, feel the mist of the most magnificent waterfalls as they walk toward them, or pet beautiful Icelandic horses in the wild. The pandemic certainly pressed pause on many such hopes but now Iceland has opened its doors to all visitors once more, and everyone that had the country on their bucket list is vying a spot to fly into Reykjavik, the capital, to finally realize that goal. Summer is the season that many first timers are advised to visit as the weather is much more favorable even if the extremely long daylight hours cause some disorientation!
For a feel of the lay of the land, a walking tour around the downtown area is recommended. CityWalk Reykjavik is a well-known provider of a variety of themed tours including options for a pub crawl and one on the financial history and economy of the country. But the original offering of the company is a free walking tour, and they continue to offer that despite their success. Stroll along residential areas with homes in different styles and colors, lots of murals and tulips fighting for your attention, and friendly welcomes from passers-by. Explore the Grandi Harbor District, Reykjavík’s historic harbor area that has been booming lately—think hip restaurants, boho boutiques, museums, and cafes. It’s popular with locals and visitors alike—an area of open spaces significantly more peaceful than the central tourist area around the busy Laugavegur street. Some of the must visit sights include Harpa Music Hall, Sun Voyager sculpture, city pond and parliament, and then some. Many tours are made available at hotels such as the stylish and industrially designed Grandi Center Hotel, which is conveniently located at the center of Reykjavik’s booming creative quarter and just within walking distance of many attractions.
Another way to familiarize yourself with Iceland is to head to the Flyover Iceland experience—an immersive simulated flight ride that not only gives you insight into the history and heritage of the people but also an understanding of the pride with which they view the natural beauty of the land they are honored to call home. The ride is an experience that many Icelanders themselves find stunning as it gives you the impression of a bird’s eye view flying over some of the most well-known but also some of the most remote parts of the country—parts that even residents do not have access to because of the harsh terrain and weather conditions for most of the year. For the visitor that is new to these parts, the ride is an eye opener to land and water masses that are truly magical. Launched in fall 2019, the pristine scenery and landscapes captured and presented in such an awe-inspiring manner show why the attraction is one of the top-rated.
How better to get to know a new country than by the hospitality of its people? Icelanders pride themselves on the staples they can nurture on land and sea with the limited resources they have in terms of weather conditions. Head to any of the restaurants and you will notice ingredients and preparations unique to the country. In Reykjavik, Hedinn Kitchen and Bar; Grandi Mathöll, a street-food hall with eight great food vendors using fresh Icelandic produce to deliver an array of great dishes; Monkeys Restaurant featuring Nikkei-inspired cooking, where Japanese cooking traditions mix with Peruvian culminating in a large selection of exciting small plates that please every palate; and Baka Baka, with all its baked goods—all provide a taste of local delicacies and the unique offerings of chefs that like showing off the produce they get to work with. Depending on the duration of your visit, you can opt for a Reykjavik City Card, which gives you easy access to several museums, galleries, thermal pools, and unlimited travel by bus within the capital area for between 1-3 days at a time. Reykjavik Excursions also provides several convenient half-, full- and multiday trips to ensure you make the most of your time in the country.
The lagoons of Iceland and thermal bathing venues are a recommended addition to the itinerary. This is truly one manner of immersing yourself in the country’s culture. Not to mention, how absolutely relaxed and rejuvenated you will be when you are done. Sky Lagoon is one such geothermal spa venue and the latest in the lagoon experiences to be offered in Iceland. Also, one of the best given the Ritual that is offered here— a seven-step experience crafted by generations of authentic Icelandic bathing culture that helps you unwind. Aside from access to soak in the lagoon for the whole day, this will sway you in favor of the lagoon bathing experience if you have any hesitations.
It begins with indulging in the healing warm geothermal waters, then a quick dip in the cold outdoor plunge to stimulate your immune system, and then a visit to the sauna to not just cleanse your skin but also enjoy breathtaking views through the largest single window in Iceland. This is followed by a rejuvenating cold-fog mist, and exfoliating body scrub, and finally a visit to the steam room before showering away and heading back to the open lagoon again. While the structure is built with much consideration for the environment and any resulting impacts, there is also a lot of thought given to the interiors and creating a sanctuary of sorts for guests, so the relaxing experience of the baths doesn’t come to a sudden halt once outside the spa area.
As with this and many other experiences in Iceland, you will wish it never comes to an end.