I just got back from a fabulous spring break trip to Reykjavik and now I'm thoroughly convinced that everyone should travel there at least once. Here are some reasons that it's really an ideal (if often overlooked) vacation spot:
With the recent collapse of Iceland's banking system, the US dollar now is worth double its usual value in Icelandic Krona. To top it off, IcelandAir is offering great travel deals to entice more tourists to visit. It's a win-win situation for curious travelers and Icelanders alike. For $480, I got a round trip flight from Boston and two nights of hotel stay (including taxes). Many similar deals are available on Icelandair.com
Iceland has a lot of natural beauty and the residents don't seem eager to spoil it with pollution. Nearly all of the hot water in Reykjavik is heated naturally in Iceland's geothermal pools. The city's power is generated by a geothermal plant. The grocery stores have a hefty $1 plastic bag fine. Some of the takeout restaurants will even lend out metal utensils as long as you promise to bring them back.
Vegan Restaurants Galore
In spite of the fact that the national dish of Iceland is hakarl (spoiled shark meat), there are many restaurants with delicious vegan options:
A Naestu Grosum is an all-vegetarian restaurant with daily vegan specials and vegan coconut barley cake. It's the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Reykjavik and its one of the few places that serves raw foods.
Gardurinn (Ecstasy's Heart Garden) is a small all-vegetarian cafe that makes a different soup and entree each day. The soup is served with homeade bread and hummus. There is always at least one vegan option.
Graenn Kostur is a vegetarian restaurant with an emphasis on health foods. Many of the dishes are wheat-free and there is always a vegan daily special.
Kaffi Hljomalind is a hip vegetarian coffee shop that has a large number of vegan baked goods available each day. Better yet, they don't charge extra to add soy milk to your coffee! Its also a favorite hangout of the lead singer of Sigur Ros.
Yggdrasil and Madur Lifandi are two health food stores in the area that have an excellent selection of vegan products (including individual servings of soy ice cream).
Many other vegan-friendly restaurants in Reykjavik can be found at Vegguide.org
Ok, Reykjavik isn't the tropical destination that many would choose for spring break, but the climate is much more temperate than one would imagine for the capital of ICEland. In fact, Reykjavik is warmer at this time of year than most of Northern New England.
Unique Cultural Experiences
There are a number of art galleries and museums dedicated primarily to the works of Icelandic artists throughout the city of Reykjavik. There are three museums in Reykjavik that are dedicated to viking-related paraphernaila:
Reykjavik 871 +/- 2 contains an actual viking longhouse and makes use of innovative technology
The Saga Museum has a collection of wax vikings in gruesome poses and an excellent audio tour describing highlights of Sagas of Icelanders
The National Museum has artifacts from throughout the history of Iceland
Going to outdoor geothermal pools is a national pastime. You can find these pools in most of the larger towns in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon is probably the most famous. With its lava rock "beaches," picturesque bridges and ethereal mist, its no wonder that the Blue Lagoon was voted "best location for a marriage proposal" by a majority of British women in a travel magazine survey.
Other important details for American tourists:
-English is spoken everywhere in Iceland
-Tipping is not customary in restaurants in Reykjavik
-The hot water in hotel showers comes from geothermal pools, so it smells like sulfur. You will get used to the smell and stop noticing it after a few days.
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