Last month, I had the chance to visit Iceland for the first time ever — here’s my experience!
I’d heard so many rave reviews about Reykjavik but in reality, I barely knew anything about the place. When Gala began excitedly emailing me about our annual Virgo getaway late last year, we’d initially agreed on Vegas. But, within a week, that plan had quickly morphed into a doubled-up doozy of Paris AND Reykjavik. What a shift! But, I’m usually game for pretty much anything and decided that it was worth it to give up the sun for shivering European city-hopping instead.
After stays in both New York and Paris, I was glad that we had the chance to come down off of the visual overload before heading home. The first thing that stands out when you arrive in Iceland is the environment; everything is very rocky and has the appearance of a volcanic moonscape. It really is otherworldly and unlike anyplace I’ve ever seen.
After a $130.00 USD cab ride (yes, seriously) from the airport into town, we arrived at the minimal, modern 101 Hotel in downtown Reykjavik.
I’d mistakenly assumed that the architecture throughout Reykjavik would be much older but was surprised at how thoroughly modern the city was. A huge Scandinavian design influence is intertwined throughout the overall aesthetic. The downtown area is small and super easy to navigate.
Gala and I wandered about Reykjavik through shop-lined streets and visited boutiques, grocery stores and coffee shops. Everyone was polite and the women were gorgeous with their blonde hair and stylish outfits. I soon discovered my favorite coffee shop in Reykjavik, Kaffitar, just a block from our hotel. It featured the best hot chocolate as well as homemade veggie-friendly snacks.
What really surprised me about Reykjavik is how Americanized it was. I’d hoped to get away from any American influences while visiting European cities but it was impossible. We flipped on the TV in our hotel room and there was American Idol, in English. A few channels later, we fell upon the NBA All-Star game. American brands were readily available and everyone we encountered spoke perfect English. The world really is much smaller than I realized.
The 101 Hotel: Modern Perfection
While in Paris, Gala and I had stayed in the visually stimulating Hotel du Petit Moulin, our room complete with lime green walls and a massive Christian Lacroix wall mural. I think that we were both secretly relieved to have a chance just chill out and have a few days of quiet time before heading back to New York.
The 101 Hotel was the perfect place to unwind and conveniently located near the best shopping area in Reykjavik. The hotel itself is a calculated study in modern perfection. I think that Gala compared it to the equivalent of a fluffy white cloud. The palette of the entire hotel is white with a dash of black. The rooms feature a claw foot tub, a glass-walled shower, comfy beds and a beautiful view of the city below. The restaurant / bar has a fantastic breakfast spread in the morning and if you’re feeling inept, room service can deliver your favorite hot chocolate to your door.
Other small details that I loved about the hotel: the toiletries are all Aveda, the modern furniture throughout is amazing, the hotel is pristinely clean, the desk area inside of the rooms is spacious and there are iPod docks so you can play your own tunes.
The Blue Lagoon: Bikinis, Ice Cream and Blizzards.
After two full days in Iceland, I was still unsure what to think — it was so different from Paris that Gala and I were having a difficult time adjusting. But, there was still one big to-do on our list that we were sure would be a game changer: The Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is exactly what it sounds like: a lagoon of the most intensely bright water imaginable. It’s legendary.
We woke up on our last full day in Iceland, ready for an adventure. But, there was one little issue: a snow storm. Alas, when the clock is ticking, you just have to go with the flow.
When I’d first seen ads for The Blue Lagoon a few days before, I was a bit of a pessimist. I kept thinking, “There’s no way in HELL that the water could naturally be this blue. They must’ve Photoshopped it.” I am happy to report that I was so so so wrong. When our Mercedes bus pulled up, my jaw dropped. This place was the real deal!
We excitedly hopped out of the bus and ran along the pathway to the Blue Lagoon’s entrance, followed by a pack of foreigners from every country imaginable. When we entered the main building, we were led to the locker rooms where it’s necessary to shower before and after you enter the lagoon. I didn’t have a swimsuit so Gala loaned me one of her Forever 21 bikinis. We stood out as I spun around and noticed all the other women wearing very smart, standard one-pieces. Practicality doesn’t seem to rate high for us most of the time!
As we wandered out to the lagoon, it was snowing pretty hard. Freezing cold + snow + bikinis = not ideal. We self-conciously ran and slipped into the water. The water is amazing — an intense, milky blue that is instantaneously soothing. You basically float around in water that is about 100 degrees throughout with different pockets of the lagoon that feel toastier than others.
As you wander about, your feet sludge through silica on the base of the lagoon and it feels soft and malleable. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can pick up handfuls of the silica and smear it on your face. We spent at least an hour just floating around, soaking up the atmosphere. I can totally see why people come to Iceland specifically for this — it was the best experience of my entire visit. The Blue Lagoon is so thoughtful; on your way out, there’s an eating area. We’d already floated though the lagoon in bikinis while it was snowing so we thought we’d top the ridiculousness by indulging in ice cream cones. Delicious.
Our chill-out time in Iceland was wonderful and left Gala and I feeling refreshed — which is what vacations are for! Iceland is very expensive but worth visiting at least once for the Blue Lagoon. If you’re a nature lover, there are tons of other things to do as well. Iceland truly is magical — it’s one of those places that you have to see in person to believe.