The Magic of Reykjavik
I don’t have a bucket list per se, but if I did, a trip to the Icelandic – and world’s northernmost – capital of Reykjavik would certainly feature highly. As lava-covered shores exist in the same environment as icy glaciers, waterfalls, and some of the most thrilling (and talked about) phenomena known to man, Iceland is a country like no other. And this January, I was lucky enough to ‘tick’ it off.
by Gemma Dunn
Iceland is dubbed the ‘magical island’ for a reason. From its self-styled vibrant culture to its enchanting folklore, there’s an air of mystery waiting to be unearthed – and with good reason. Without giving too many secrets away, here are just some of my highlights.
One for the daytime…Blue Lagoon
Slipping into some swimwear might be the last thing on your mind when you’re packing your thermals, but it is a necessity if you want to visit prized visitor attraction, the Blue Lagoon. Nestled in the heart of the Icelandic landscape, this geothermal spa more than warrants its title as one of National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World.
Celebrated for its geothermal seawater, not only was lazing in the lagoon incredibly relaxing, but its healing power and active ingredients – silica, minerals and algae – did wonders for my skin too. In addition, guests have access to steam baths and a sauna, plus in-water massages and spa treatments if desired. A booking at the award-winning LAVA Restaurant is highly recommended – an unforgettable setting, serving exceptional Icelandic cuisine. www.bluelagoon.com
One for the history…The Golden Circle Tour
Requiring little introduction, the ever-popular Golden Circle Tour follows a broad circuit east from Reykjavik in its bid to cover many of Iceland’s best-known features and breathtaking sites. From the hot spring, Strokkur, to the magnificent Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall, Pingvellir National Park, and the idyllic Fridheimar greenhouse cultivation centre, there is a lot of ground to be covered – but then there’s a lot of magic to be discovered too. An unforgettable day, this is an excursion not to be missed.
One for the evening…Northern Lights Mystery Tour
There are so many fabulous tours available when it comes to seeking out the Northern Lights that it doesn’t matter which company you book with – as long as you do. On this occasion, I took one of the mystery tours, which much like the others, quite literally has you chasing a clear (very dark) night sky in the hope of witnessing the phenomena. And while a sighting is not guaranteed, the excitement and experience is worth every minute – just wrap up warm.
I was incredibly lucky to return having seen the Northern Lights – a somewhat surreal moment that I will never forget.
One for dinner…The Grillmarket
Recognised as one of – if not the top restaurant in Reykjavik, The Grillmarket is world-class in every sense of the word. From its innovative menus and professional team, to its distinctive décor, it’s the ideal destination for the discerning diner.
Serving up high quality, seasonal and locally sourced produce, The Grillmarket offers a fusion of contemporary and traditional Icelandic cuisine. A keen advocate of ‘when in Rome’, I opted for the recommended tasting menu with accompanying wine. A delectable selection of dishes chosen by the chef, the surprise element certainly didn’t disappoint, and neither did the five-star fare. www.grillmarkadurinn.is
One for lunch…Gamla Island/Old Iceland
Amidst the plethora of artisanal coffee houses, vibrant shops and unique bars, sits Gamla Island/Old Iceland – unassuming, yet almost certainly my number one foodie find of the trip. Under new ownership, this local retreat prides itself on serving up locally sourced Icelandic produce across the board, meaning there is always something new and fabulous to try on its seasonal menus. I can personally recommend the in-house cured salmon (I’ve never had better), and the meltingly tender fillet of lamb.
Not just one for lunchtime diners, this charming eatery now serves food throughout the day and into the evening – so there are no excuses not to get it booked in! www.oldiceland.is
One for a winter warmer…Reykjavik Roasters
If you’re looking for a winter warmer (trust me, you will need one), look no further than Reykjavik Roasters. Run by three coffee connoisseurs, this hidden gem attracts legions of regulars and tourists who are looking to enjoy its speciality, hand-brewed coffee, and its relaxed, friendly, and novel atmosphere. www.reykjavikroasters.is
One for the day off…Exploring Reykjavik
Although much of my time was spent napping on the coach between excursions, I felt it was important I freed up some time to explore Reykjavik itself. Boasting all the pleasures of a modern European city, almost all places of interest are within walking distance of one another and easy to locate. Reykjavik’s unmissable and perhaps most striking landmark is Hallgrímskirkja, an imposing church which can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. If you’re interested in Norse and Icelandic culture, head for the National Museum, which houses religious objects, folk relics, and tools dating from the period of settlement.
Shopping along the high street was fabulous too, with many independent boutiques and characterful stores in which to have a browse. When it was time for a drink (and a cake, perhaps), Tiu Dropar was my local spot of choice. One of the oldest cafés in Reykjavik, and hidden away in a basement, this quirky venue is loved by all who discover it.
Just a snapshot of the fun to be had in Reykjavik, there is so much more to this dazzling city and I, for one, will undoubtedly return to relive the magic.
For more information on Iceland’s capital, visit www.visitreykjavik.is.