Iceland: An Imaginary Vacation

Although it covers just 39,769 square miles of land, there’s truly something for everyone in Iceland, from geologists to Game of Thrones fans.

Iceland’s wild, rugged terrain offers some of the most eclectic scenery on Earth. In just thirty minutes, you can be transported from the bustling coffee shops of Reykjavik to sheep-filled pastures that pepper the countryside. It’s a unique blend of old-meets-new found nowhere else in the world.

While we can’t jet off to Iceland just yet, we wanted to bring you on a virtual adventure to this European gem.

Bag to Bring

This polycarbonate check-in from Arlo Skye is the perfect companion for an Icelandic getaway. It’s sturdy, easy to maneuver around narrow streets, and matches the color of Iceland’s rose gold sunsets. You may get some compliments from friendly strangers in the Reykjavik airport.

Sights to See

Everywhere in Iceland is absurdly beautiful, so it’s hard to pick just a few must-see destinations. 

That said:

Pro tip: get a mud mask (available at the Blue Lagoon!) and sip on something refreshing while you chill out. Or would the appropriate term be “warm up,” if you’re sitting in a hot spring? I’ll see myself out.

  • Seek out the black sand beaches. Iceland has all kinds of beaches due to its geography, but its basaltic beaches are one-of-a-kind.

Reynisfjara is one such black sand beach on Iceland’s South Coast, tucked away near a fishing village called Vík í Mýrdal. National Geographic has dubbed it one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world for good reason; its impressive basalt rock columns — or Reynisdrangar — loom over the jet black beach like stony giants watching the shoreline.

Speaking of giants, Icelandic legend has it that the Reynisdrangar were actually trolls that were turned to stone by sunlight.

  • Drive the Golden Circle. If you’re staying in Reykjavik, the Golden Circle is the perfect day trip. It’s a combination of several natural wonders, including  Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. This video gives a great overview of the Golden Circle in just six minutes. 

Food to Try

Icelandic food is largely inspired by its richest source of nutrients: the ocean. Delicious seafood — plus lamb and other meats — are all hearty staples of the Icelandic diet.

We can’t ship you these delicacies, but we can offer you some ideas on how to eat like you’re in Iceland without ever leaving your living room:

  • Icelandic Skyr - Skyr has been a huge part of Iceland’s culture for hundreds of years. It’s kind of like yogurt, but thicker and creamier. It tends to have less sugar and more protein than yogurt as well. You can buy it on Amazon and mix it with fruit for breakfast or a healthy snack!
  • Icelandic Rye Bread (Rúgbrauð) - This is so not your average rye. This so-called “thunderbread” is traditionally steamed in a wooden cask buried near a hot spring. Nowadays, it’s made in a square baking pan with rye flour, sugar, and a splash of molasses. You can try baking it yourself with this handy recipe.
  • Fish. All the fish. - Did you know 340 species of saltwater fish have been found around Iceland? That’s not counting the three different kinds of salmon found in rivers and lakes. For an Icelandic culinary experience at home, try cooking fresh halibut, cod, or mackerel.

Drinks

Iceland has many refreshing drinks to try:
  • Appelsín - if you’re not in a booze mood, no worries. Iceland’s favorite citrus fizz — Appelsín — is kind of like orange Fanta but better. You can buy and try it yourself via Shopicelandic.com. The magic of worldwide shipping is real.
  • Schnapps (and Hákarl) - Though it’s definitely Iceland’s most controversial food item, if you want a truly authentic experience, you’ve got to try Iceland’s national dish Hakarl — fermented Greenland shark.


It’s divided some of the world’s most famous food-lovers for centuries. The great chef Anthony Bourdain once called it “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he had ever eaten. While that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, some foodies say it has a unique flavor and a texture similar to blue cheese, once you get over the undeniably putrid ammonia scent.


While you absolutely should not ferment a shark to recreate the experience of Hákarl, you can try its recommended pairing: a shot of Schnapps.
Icelandic schnapps, or Brennivín, is now conveniently available in many parts of the United States and Canada. You can check out Iceland Naturally for more information.

Skincare/Beauty/Shopping

Bring Blue Lagoon vibes to your bathtub with these Icelandic delights:
  • Icelandic Vanilla and Amber Candle — This name of this soy wax candle from Spa of Iceland is “Fjóla” which means “relax” in Icelandic…That pretty much says it all.
  • Skyn Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels — as a longtime fan of Iceland’s Skyn beauty brand, I can totally vouch for their cooling eye gels. They’re 100% the real deal when it comes to reducing under eye puffiness. Pop ‘em in the fridge for a few minutes for a little extra chill.

 

We’ll be back soon with another virtual vacation. For more food, drink, and lifestyle tidbits from around the world, sign up for our emails:

Casey is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these.

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