The dreamy Nordic island nation of Iceland is celebrating a swell in international tourism, so much so that the recent snowball in yearly visitors is credited with saving its national economy. Traveling to Iceland comes highly recommended by celebrities such as Aidy Bryant and Seth Meyers, who regularly boast about its arcane magnetism on social media. From its Geothermal pots and hot springs with well-documented healing properties, to its preserved culture and customs, Iceland provides visitors the opportunity for revolutionary vacation anecdotes. Its capital and largest city, Reykjavik, is the pivot on which the country’s time-honored and contemporary mores converge. Featuring a collection of both idiosyncratic and traditional activities, restaurants, and attractions, Reykjavik, is dressed to impress. Located in coastal Southwest Iceland, the rugged landscape of the region was shaped by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, some just a few thousands of years ago. If you’re looking for an ocean getaway with fewer palm trees and more heart, Reykjavik’s low-maintenance character has it.
Art and Culture
Immerse yourself in Iceland’s art and architecture in one of Reykjavik’s many museums. The country’s most influential and recognized artist, Jóhannes S. Kjarval, is honored with the Reykjavik Art Museum, home to contemporary paintings, sculptures, and mixed media by established local artists.
The Living Art Museum, or Nylo, houses contemporary works for local and international artists. Nylo is non-profit, artist-run organization, so your visit goes directly to the country’s makers. Film connoisseurs will appreciate Iceland’s National Film Archive, a complete history of film under one roof, as well as the National Theatre, Reykjavik’s primary theatre scene.
Lennon-Ono Imagine Peace Tower
Fans of The Beatles and history buffs alike will geek out over the Imagine Peace Tower, erected by Yoko Ono in honor of John Lennon’s birthday in 2007.
It’s lit yearly from Oct. 9, Lennon’s birthday, until Dec. 8, the day of his death. The blue-lit tower stands as a beacon of world peace. Just a seven-minute boat ride from mainland Reykjavik on Viðey Island, it’s easily accessible and open to visitors.
Geysers, volcanoes, and dazzling starlit nights are just a slice of the available recreation and sightseeing near the city. Iceland is home to some of the most exotic wildlife species on the planet, including Puffins, Humpback Whales, and Dolphins. As one of the country’s premier tourist attractions, dozens of private companies offer an array of viewing tours. The Puffin Express Cruise, for example, takes travelers on a one-hour, educational boat tour to see native seabirds in their natural habitat from a safe, sustainable distance.
Just a short drive from Reykjavik are a collection of spas and mineral baths, including the famous Blue Lagoon. Considered one of the top natural wonders of the world, the geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The spa’s warm mineral waters are rumored to help visitors struggling with acne and skin diseases such as psoriasis. Its man-made lagoon is heated using geothermal technology, or vented water near a lava flow used to generate electricity.
Once you’ve immersed your body in the healing powers of minerals such as sulfur and silica, it’s time to engage your psyche under Iceland’s first-rate northern lights. Your chances of catching a glimpse, or hours-long spectacle, greatly increases the further north you travel, but the Northern Lights Center in Reykjavik will serve as your light-chasing guide.
Food and Nightlife
Long, cold nights and locally made schnapps are a regular vista in Reykjavik’s nightlife scene. Considered a top up-and-coming place to party in the world, the metro region features dozens of distinct bars, restaurants, and live music venues.
Trendy hangouts like B5 offer Philippe Starck lampshades, massive white leather sofas, and sizable drinks lists, whereas more traditional pubs like Bar 11 offer a local flair and ingenuity. Due to its relatively small size, mingling with locals and travelers from all over the world awards the opportunity to swap stories with the truly riveting among us.
*Featured image: Sun Voyage sculpture in Reykjavik, Iceland