"That's on my list!"
If I had to pick an Iceland motto, it would be that--since mention the Nordic country to just about anyone and they'll tell you how badly they want to visit. I was among that group, daydreaming about majestic fjords and skin-enhancing hot springs but never really making a plan to do anything about it. But when the Atlantic Ocean island was deemed the It weekend destination in our October issue, I decided I didn't want it to be on my to-do list anymore; instead, I booked a flight, circled the country, and came up with the ultimate itinerary for anyone else who has it on their list. Here's how to spend 100 well-spent hours (that's four days--just enough for a long weekend) in Iceland.
REBECCA WILLA DAVIS
6:30am: Land in Reykjavik--yes, that time looks mighty early, but take advantage of the overnight flights from New York to maximize your time in Iceland. Pick up your rental car and head north to the West Fjords--there will be time to see Reykjavik later!
12pm: Sit down to a bowl of a mussels--fished that day--in the front office before exploring the endearingly wacky Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft
in Hólmavík ("Home of necropants!").
2pm: Just up the road is one of the country's many "hot pots"--these are natural, geothermal hot baths that dot the countryside and promise to cure all sorts of ailments. This one in particular, up the hill from the Laugarhóll Hotel
, is named after 13th century bishop Gudmundur "the Good" and has probably been used for just as long. Peel off your clothes and no matter how cold it is, go for a dip. It is surreal.
2:30pm: Get back in the car and continue driving north--you're taking what is a glorified dirt road in and out of awe-inspiring fjords to Djúpavik. The main monument in this population of two town (no really--the only people who live there are the owners of the cozy Hotel Djúpavik
) is the shell of what was once a herring factory; it was too costly to tear down when it closed in the '50s, so it's since been used as an art gallery space and venue for the Icelandic band Sigur Ros.
4pm: Drop off your bags at Hotel Djúpavik
but grab your swimsuit and continue driving north until the road ends at Krossnes--this is about as northerly as you can get on this nearly-Arctic Circle arm of Iceland. There you'll find yet another hot spring, this one piped in to a pool that's literally hovering above the Atlantic Ocean.
8pm: Enjoy dinner at Hotel Djúpavik
and then pull on a hat and head outside: If the sky is clear,you'll be able to see the Northern Lights. One word: mindblowing.
8am: Get an early start to the day's drive towards Heydalur, a horse farm with accommodations at the mouth of Mjoi Fjord. At one point you cross this crazy ice field (we're in glacier country, people) so please, no speeding.
1pm: You'll know you've arrived at Heydalur
if a friendly black-and-white dog greets you. Unload the car and then have him lead you to the natural hot pot. It requires crossing a river--not once, but twice--but is so worth it. It is nestled at the base of a mountain and feels like you're living out Lord of the Rings
or something. Also, your skin will feel amazing once you get out. Spend the rest of the afternoon riding horses, kayaking, or just running around the property searching for their pet Arctic fox. (Yes, you read that right.) Then enjoy the best meal of the trip cooked up by Heydalur
's lovely owner.
8am: Start your day with a dip in Heydalur
's other hot bath, this one inspired by a Japanese onsen. Then continue your drive up north towards Isafjordur.
11am: Believe it or not, Isafjordur is the largest city in the West Fjords. The best way to see it is from the water--arrange a kayak trip with Siggi at Borea Adventures
. If you're lucky, you'll get some playful seals following you along.
1pm: Warm up in Edinborg
, a restaurant with a special eye towards utilizing local ingredients. The pan fish is finger-licking good.
3pm: Re-energize at Braedraborg
, a retro-cool cafe above Borea Adventures
. Nab a seat in the back room so you can commandeer the record player.
5pm: Leave the car at the airport and fly back to Reykjavik.
7pm: In the capital city, check in to Kex Hostel
. This is probably the coolest budget spot we've ever stayed at; besides the stylishly appointed rooms, there's a barber shop and a restaurant that serves up the city's sweater-wearing hipsters.
8pm: Enjoy dinner at the Asian-Icelandic fusion restaurant Rub23
, before getting a night cap at port-side Slippbarinn
(I'm still dreaming about their Double Jointed Honey Daiquiri).
8am: After a buffet-style breakfast at Kex
's restaurant (don't miss skyr, Iceland's version of Greek yogurt), pack your bags and head towards the airport.
10am: But you're not done yet! No trip is complete without a visit to Blue Lagoon
, the country's famous white volcanic mud-lined geothermal spring. If you have time, book a massage; as part of the experience, you lie face up in the water, wrapped in a fleece blanket, as someone reaches under you and works out your knots. Otherwise, scoop handfuls of the white silica mud and spread it all over your face and body for a quick infusion of minerals.
2pm: Hop on a bus that winds its way through barren, black volcanic fields to the airport. While you wait to board, cross Iceland off your must-see list. You've done it.