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I’m the kind of traveler who prefers exploring different landscapes and cultures to lazing about at an all-inclusive resort. So, when I came across an unbelievably affordable offer to Reykjavik, Iceland, via Icelandair that included 4-star accommodation, breakfast and a 10-hour tour of the Golden Circle, I didn’t think twice about booking it.
A little history: Iceland (population: 320,000) is known as the land of fire and ice for its extremes -- from the co-existence of lava fields and glaciers to its everlasting sun in the summer and its long, dark winter. Unfortunately, not unlike other European countries right now, Iceland is undergoing its largest financial crash in history. If there’s any upside to that at all, it’s that the national currency has fallen in value, making Iceland a more affordable (and trendy) destination.
Over half of the population lives in the capital city, Reykjavik, mainly because much of Iceland is uninhabitable due its harsh climate and landscape. And I say, when in Reykjavik …
- Eat a hot dog. Believe it or not, Reykjavik is famous for its dog--fans include Bill Clinton and Metallica’s James Hetfield. Indeed, no trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, the little hot dog stand by the harbor that could.
- Stay out late. Mostly due to the overinflated price of beer (about $6-$7 a bottle), people in Reykjavik drink at home first and hit the bars and clubs, which stay open all night, after midnight.
- Wear wool. For something truly one-of-a-kind, Scandinavian sweaters abound. The main shopping strip, Laugavegur, is populated with vintage and designer shops galore.
- Dye your hair. Many Icelandic people are known for their nearly white-blonde hair. But don’t be fooled. Iceland’s colorists have recession-proof jobs.
- Check out the wildlife. Purebred ponies, puffins and whales, oh my!
- Eat bread that’s been baked in geothermal soil. Because how often can you say you ate bread baked in geothermal soil?
- Swim at the geothermal Blue Lagoon. Just beyond the Keflavik airport, this hot spring is like bathing on the moon -- from its milky blue water and weird white mud, to the black lava rocks jutting out around its perimeter.
- Take a tour outside of Reykjavik. Whether by horse, super jeep or bus, tours are the best way to see this visually diverse country -- especially if your stay is a short one. It’s amazing how much ground you can cover in ten hours or less.