City-break season is upon us and choosing the perfect destination can be a tricky one. Should you dedicate your time to Christmas shopping in New York or grab some much-needed sunshine in Dubai? One of our top winter jaunts here at Travelzoo is Reykjavik, with several of our Deal Experts making the trip across the North Atlantic this year.
Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice for its extremes, and spending winter there is very much about embracing the cold (make sure you pack plenty of layers) and the longer nights. However, its cutting-edge culture and oodles of natural wonders make for a city excursion like no other. Here's our guide to the 48 hours in the world's most northerly capital.
Reykjavik has a compact centre, with many of the sights easily accessible by foot (although the Reykjavik Welcome Card allows free unlimited bus travel). Take a walk up towards Hallgrimskirkja church to get your bearings and, for a couple of pounds, you can climb the tower for views across the city's colourful rooftops.
With 2013 the year for the Northern Lights, it's worth investing some time in the spectacle that topped Lonely Planet's Most Desired Travel Experience list. There are plenty of tours available that use up-to-date weather and solar-activity reports to monitor the conditions and hopefully give you the best chance possible of witnessing this phenomenon. If seeing the Northern Lights is your priority for the trip, we advise dedicating your first night to the cause. If it's cloudy, then you can always roll the activity over to the next day, which a lot of tours offer to do for free.
There's easily enough to do in Iceland to cover a week-long break or more, so decide beforehand whether you want to treat your time in Reykjavik as a city break or an activity holiday.
For those inclined towards urban adventure, start the day with a walk towards the harbour via the National Museum of Iceland for a glimpse into the country's 1200-year history, or swing by Reykjavik Art Museum. Deal Expert Kara Aaserud from our Toronto office recommends a stop at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for lunch -- Reykjavik is famous for its hotdogs and this little stall has fans all over the world, including Bill Clinton.
After exploring the Kolaportið Flea Market, take a stroll along the waterfront past Sólfar (The Sun Voyager, an impressive sculpture of a Viking ship), heading towards Laugavegur. This is Reykjavik's main shopping street and is the best place to snap up handmade clothing and Icelandic artwork.
However, don't be afraid to head out of Reykjavik for the day and see some of Iceland's top sights. There are plenty of organised excursions (by bus, horse or even super jeep) with sights like Gullfoss waterfall, the Great Geysir and Þingvellir National Park all do-able in a day. Or you can even take to the seas for a spot of whale watching and puffin spotting.
Iceland is famous for its raucous nightlife, which doesn't usually kick off until after midnight. Drinking in Reykjavik is quite a pricey activity, so we recommend a late dinner to see you through until the action starts (or make like a local and knock back a few at the hotel). A local restaurant favourite is the Three Overcoats, or for fresh fish and cocktails, try Fish Market.
Bars stay open all night in Iceland with a decidedly informal dress code (think walking boots and cagoules in the most relaxed places) and a good-natured atmosphere, despite the quantity of booze consumed. Start the night at Boston on Laugavegur and end with a visit to Kaffibarinn, which is a Reykjavik nightlife institution. And don't forget to fit in a shot of Brennivin or the ''black death'' as it's known locally. Our Deal Experts describe its taste as a mix between toothpaste and dill. You have been warned.
There's no better way to get over a late night than chilling out at the Blue Lagoon. Plenty of companies have airport transfers that stop there, so make sure you book ahead to make the most of your day. Deal Expert Amy Lindsay recommends spending the extra pennies on an upgrade to the Blue Lagoon Experience. As well as entrance to the Blue Lagoon, the package includes a 3-course lunch, a drink, access to the exclusive lounge area and a goody bag.