ParadIceland – A Techno Tourist Review of Iceland

If you hadn’t already put Iceland on your “To-go-list”, do it now, and place it high.

The Techno Tourist recently went on a one-week Iceland adventure, and we could not possibly give any higher recommendations. Not only can Iceland offer you the natural adventure of a lifetime, Icelanders will also take any opportunity to party like Ragnarok is coming.

Our weeklong adventure started in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, a city of roughly 200,000 highly educated, art-loving, fully modernized icy Viking descendants. We flew into Keflavik international Airport, about 30 minutes outside Reykjavik, from JFK in NYC after a pleasant five-hour flight with Icelandair. A relatively low cost trans-Atlantic airline, and formerly known as the “hippie link” between the continents, Icelandair operates in a rather interesting way: Flights from all over Europe and North America converge at Keflavik around the same time every day; passengers then re-board onto another plane to their final destination after about an hour-long layover, thus making connections between otherwise uneconomical destinations in Europe and North America possible. The kicker, however, is that Icelandair allows you to make that layover up to one week long, with no extra cost. We jumped on that opportunity, and believe me, so should you.

After a late night arrival in Reykjavik and a good nights sleep, we rented a car and set ourselves up for adventure. Iceland is an Eldorado of natural wonders, and we wanted to see as many as possible. During our first two days, marvels of nature were lined up like pearls on a silky string: Þingvellir, where the Eurasian and North American continental plates separate in an ever-expanding crack (which you can walk in! [and we did]), and first site of the Icelandic AllÞing, the oldest continuous democratic assembly in the world; Geysir, the spectacular and reliable geyser from which all others are named; Gullfoss, Iceland’s answer to Niagara Falls, and site of an ever-present rainbow (if its not sunny at your time of visit, just wait five minutes, as they say in Iceland); Seljelandsfoss, a spectacular waterfall coming right off a cliff side, and set among emerald green pastures featuring adorable Icelandic fluff-ball numero uno: the sheep; and last but not least Reynisfjara, a black volcanic beach figuring massive basalt and lava cliffs set against giant rock formations out in the ocean that are the ancient remains of trolls caught in the sunlight. There is no landmass between this beach and Antarctica, making the beach wide open for attack by huge Atlantic rollers. We can solemnly attest to this as one of our Techno Tourist staff members were almost swept away by the ocean waves and eaten by the shrimp.

During our road trip excursion to the south of Iceland we experienced excellent accommodation at the guesthouse Steig near the coastal town of Vík, a modern, homey place with the feel of a quality hotel, and featuring three volcanoes within 20 km (12.5 miles). The guesthouse is situated at the foot of a grassy green mountain, at the foot of the glacier Mýrdalsjökull. Furthermore, we had an excellent dinner at Strondin Bistro and Bar, where they graciously extended their opening hours upon hearing about travellers arriving hungry in town (despite the fact that “in Iceland we eat dinner at sevven thurrty”), and served us a glorious homemade gourmet dinner at a price that still makes us smile.

Ending our road trip back in Reykjavik, our attention switched to nightlife, spa treatment and gastronomic experiences. After eating (unanimously voted) the best seafood meal we have ever had at a restaurant in Hafnarfjörður right outside Reykjavik (restaurant reservations and suggestions are available as a service from The Techno Tourist), we spent an entire day at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. There is not much to say about Blue Lagoon other than that it is an absolute and irrevocable must to go there at least once in one’s life. Appearing as if out of nowhere in the middle of the Icelandic Evil lava (so named because of its sharp, rugged and hardly traversable nature), the silica-rich, turquoise waters of Blue Lagoon are heated at extreme pressures and temperatures deep down in the porous volcanic crust, before rising to ground level and heating the spa waters to a perfect 36-42˚C (97-108˚F). The spa facility also features saunas, steam baths, massage facilities, water bar, café and a gourmet restaurant. The waters of Blue Lagoon also features rare and unique algae and bacterial species that have been shown by their research center (!) to have significant anti ageing properties on human skin. Do we suggest you make this a reoccurring destination? Yes we do.

Being a somewhat small city, the nightlife in Reykjavik will naturally never come close to party giants such as NYC, London or Barcelona. That being said, the party scene in the Icelandic capital is still very much vibrant and pulsating. There are a number of bars and clubs available, most of them situated in Reykjavik city center, and most importantly: the Ice Vikings know how to party.

We started our Saturday night at Íslenski Barinn. As the name might give away, this is an arch-Icelandic place with a “grandma’s house” feel to the interior. They serve excellent authentic Icelandic cuisine in the evenings (we tried Mink Whale—prepared in 3 different ways), before turning into an electronic music oriented bar after 11 pm. Its location puts it right in the center of Reykjavik nightlife, and we highly recommend it as your first stop for a night out. The locals recommended three clubs to us as being musically down our alley: Dolly, Factory, and Kaffibarinn, and this was good advice indeed. The music was groovy and chill, with heavy hitting base lines and crystalline percussion. After spending a weekend in the Sunday School Grove at Electric Zoo a couple of weeks ago, we can attest to the fact that Icelandic DJ’s keep their track lists more than current.

Now, when we call these places “clubs”, we might actually be a bit out of bounds. For whereas they all have DJ booths and dance floors (except Kaffibarinn which is straight-up a bar that might as well have been someone’s house), they have a distinct loungy feel to them. Dolly and Factory are rustically decorated, with untreated wood, random awesome artwork, couches and lit candles. The clientele is laidback and friendly, and at Factory in particular, it is clear that the crowd is there purely out of love for the music. During our night out there was no cover at any place, and no carding at the entrance, just a friendly smile and an opened door. There is no pre-set closing hour during the weekends, and many clubs will stay open way into the early hours.

In summary, we recommend Iceland in the highest degree possible. And although Reykjavik is a popular weekend trip destination, we must all but insist that you spend at least a full week on the Saga Island. From the spectacular glaciers and volcanoes, the countless hot springs and geothermal spas, geysers and black beaches, to the pulsating nightlife, stunning architecture and gastronomical adventures, Iceland can offer you anything you could ever want in a vacation.

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