Adventure Travel with a Luxury Twist
Iceland is an intrepid explorer’s dream. A volcanic island encircled by glittering black sand beaches, where the earth spouts explosive geysers and therapeutic thermal springs. Amazingly, you can get your fill of these dramatic, isolated landscapes before returning to the country’s cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavik, by dinnertime; it only takes around 13 hours to drive the entire circumference of the island. If you’re lucky, you might even catch the shimmering arc of the Northern Lights.
Iceland’s beaches don’t lend themselves to sunbathing (even summer temperatures hover at around 55°F), but the country’s coastline is some of the most striking anywhere in the world. Case in point: Diamond Beach. Wrap up warm and head southeast to Breiðamerkursandur, where chunks of nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon wash ashore, decorating the black sand with gleaming blue and white ice. When you’ve finished gazing at this otherworldly landscape visit the little cafe near the lagoon parking lot and thaw out with a cup of creamy hot chocolate.
At Reykjavik’s Ion City Hotel a palette of soft grey, taupe, and mauve reflects the moody, melancholic ambiance of the city itself. Clean Scandinavian decor gets the "hygge" treatment with fuzzy woollen throws, fluffy bathrobes and – if you book the Junior suite – a softly lit sauna on your own private balcony. If you’re too tired to venture out again after an adventure packed day, head downstairs to Sumac. The spiced Lebanon and Morocco inspired dishes cooked by Head chef Hafsteinn Ólafsson, who was awarded “Iceland’s Chef of the Year” in 2017, feel extra comforting on a chilly night.
Iceland’s beautiful, frozen landscape isn’t conducive to growing fruits and veggies (if you find yourself balking at the cost of a salad, know that most of the ingredients have likely been imported) but the country has a bounty of seafood in its waters. Sjavargrillid Grilloffers a smorgasbord of dishes made with fresh-from-the-ocean ingredients. Think pasta tossed with scallops and tiger prawns, slow-grilled salmon served over greens, and lobster galore. A lunch time special provides a “taste of Iceland” set menu: four courses of whatever the fishermen caught that day.
The Last Call
Grab a stool at Mat Bar, an intimate spot with a food and drink menu rooted in Italian classics. Expect negronis, martinis, and inventive spins on the spritz, like the MB-Tini 2.0 (pink gin, fermented rhubarb, and vermouth blanc) or the Loveage Is All You Need (vermouth, lovage, strawberry, and prosecco). The food here shines, too. Share small plates of plump mozzarella with pickled tomatoes and basil oil, cauliflower and ricotta dip served with salted flatbread, and grilled pork belly with homemade BBQ sauce.
If the lines and crowds of the Blue Lagoon don’t appeal, take a trip out to hot spring-fed Seljavallalaug. Situated in a remote mountain valley fairly close to Skógafoss Waterfall, Iceland’s oldest swimming pool is only accessible via a 20 minute hike down an unmarked trail. Once you find it, though, you’re likely to have this scenic spot all to yourself. It’s important to note that Seljavallalaug is now pretty much an unmaintained part of the natural landscape, so remember to bring your own towel and a flask of hot tea to warm up post-dip.