Pukaar Magazine’s Jessica Challoner-Sterland discovers the cultural charm and breath-taking scenery of the Icelandic capital.
Even though it’s one of Europe’s smallest and remote capitals, Reykjavík is full of invigorating landscapes, buzzing cafés, a lively music scene and top-notch restaurants. The Icelandic capital is the perfect fusion of old and new city vibrancy. Good news for the carbon conscious traveller, Reykjavík is one of the eco-friendliest cities in the world. It has a small population of around 120,000 and over 99% of the city’s electricity comes from hydro-geothermal energy sources.
Reykjavík is an adventurer’s paradise filled with a wide range of outdoor pursuits; this includes everything from whale watching to horseback riding, trekking and even stepping inside a glacier (www.visitreykjavik.is).
The Golden Circle is the ultimate tourist route and a must for those keen to explore the city’s magnificent sights. Spanning approximately 300km, the trail loops from the capital into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. Stop off at the primary spots of Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, home to the geysers, Geysir and Strokkur.
Fancy a little rejuvenation after lots of exploring? Then Reykjavík’s Blue Lagoon Spa is the perfect retreat. Built upon a rugged lava landscape, the spa offers spectacular views allowing you to relax and unwind amongst the natural elements whilst breathing in the pure Icelandic air. Revitalise your skin and bathe in the 37-40°C self-cleansing geothermal water made-up of three active ingredients, silica, algae and minerals.
No trip to Reykjavík is complete without a glimpse of the mystical Aurora Borealis aka the Northern Lights. The best time to see the iconic spectacle is between September-April when the nights are full and dark but you should still get a chance to catch a good glimpse of them during the winter months. There are many tours on offer in the city, but for something unique, try The Elding Northern Lights Cruise which promises to be a truly magical experience. Set sail on the waters of Faxaflói bay and watch the magic of the beautiful lights unfold on the open decks of the boat with the calm of the sea beneath your feet.
If you’re in Reykjavík during December, then you’re in for a treat. The city comes alive with joyous decorations and an array of events and concerts. Get in the festive spirit by visiting one of the capitals Christmas markets located on Ingólfstorg and downtown Hafnarfjörður. Immerse yourself in the wonderful sights and smells and sample a selection of Icelandic delicacies whilst browsing for Christmas gifts and learn about the 13-Yulemen, famous figures from Icelandic Folklore.
Holding the islands first Michelin star, Dill is Iceland’s take on New-Nordic cuisine. Under head Chef Ragnar Eiriksson, the restaurant is inspired by the preservation of simple, local ingredients. Ragnar and his team focus on Reykjavik’s ancient produce from root vegetable to dry fish and uses traditional processes combined with modern techniques to create a menu that’s positively innovative. Adding to the experience, the décor at Dill features low hung lighting, exposed concrete and mismatched wood – the restaurant simply oozes contemporary sophistication.
Foodie will love the Reykjavík Food Walk might just be the tour for you. Providing a delectable introduction to some of the capitals tastiest offerings, you’ll get to spend approx. 3-4 hours visiting Reykjavík’s finest restaurants, family-run businesses and secret hangouts, whilst indulging in everything from Icelandic lamb to homemade ice cream. This food walk is the perfect excuse to sample some of the capitals unique cuisines whilst making new friends.
For something a little more traditional, Prir Frakkar is a must. This cosy hub ran by owner-chef Úlfar Eysteinsson and his family since 1989 has built up an excellent reputation within the city. Expect fermented shark, one of Iceland’s delicacies as well as roast whale and smoked puffin breast. For those less adventurous, other options include cod and salmon.
Situated in the heart of downtown Reykjavík, 101 Hotel offers a touch of luxury. The sleek 1960’s monochrome décor along with its delicious restaurant, spa and art gallery certainly makes the hotel a comfortable place to stay. Boasting spectacular views of the blue-tinted mountains, 101 Hotel is within close to shops, museums, bars restaurants and opera house.
If you’re looking for somewhere outside of the city, then Hotel Laxnes might just be the place. For those who love nature, the hotel is ideally located in the Mosfellsbær area which is great for hiking, walking and has cycling paths, sports centres and Laxnes Horse Farm. It’s also the perfect spot to see the Northern Lights. The hotel offers a mixture of 26 rooms from twin/doubles to studio rooms with cooking facilities.
For the avid backpacker and those on a budget, Reykjavík Downtown Hostel a cost- effective choice. A short stroll away from the lively Old Harbour area, it provides not only a comfortable and stylish place to stay with a range of dorm options but Reykjavík Downtown Hostel is also committed to sustainability and is recognised as a gold level GreenLeader by TripAdvisor.