Seeing the Northern Lights has been on my and my husband’s bucket lists for some time so when it came time to plan our tenth anniversary celebration, our goal was to check it off the list. Iceland did not disappoint! We spent 10 days adventuring, eating, and taking in the sights, including the Northern Lights – twice!
So many of my clients are part of the jet-set crowd and we work together to create plans to keep them healthy and energetic while traveling. Most of my suggestions come from my own experiences as well as sourced from the tips you all have shared with me. With this spirit of sharing in mind, I wanted to share my Icelandic travel experience with you so it might inspire you to travel healthy and well on your next trip!
Much to everyone’s surprise, the food in Iceland was delicious! There’s not much variety, with Iceland being an island in the arctic and all, but the Icelandic attention to detail and commitment to craft comes through in every aspect of the dining experience. Nordic cooking focuses on using the best quality, local ingredients and on most menus you’ll find fresh fish, lamb, wintry vegetables like potatoes, kale, cabbage, beets, and fish soup. The fish soup was to die for – a delicious blend of butter, wine, and wild-caught fish and shellfish. I can’t wait to try making this at home!
Every restaurant I visited was delicious, with special mentions going to Kol, Fish Company, and Snaps (I ate brunch here twice!). Eating out is fun, but I try to eat some meals in when I travel, even if I’m staying in a hotel without a kitchen. In Iceland I took advantage of their traditional Skyr yogurt for breakfast along with some fresh fruit found at the store and some granola that I had brought from home. When I went out to breakfast, I typically enjoyed some smoked salmon or trout, a green salad, and roasted root vegetables. Juicing is quite popular in Iceland, so I would order a nice green juice along with my meal.
In such a dry environment, it’s important to stay hydrated. The tap water in Iceland is some of the purest water in the world, so I enjoyed filling up my water bottle straight from the faucet. I always travel with my own Life Factory water bottle so I don’t have to buy plastic water bottles during my trip.
Iceland is known for its artisanal salt production and uses geothermal energy to harvest the salt from the seawater. I’m a little bit of a salt fanatic (you can read my thoughts about salt here), so I was stoked to load up on specialty salts from Saltverk during my trip. Along with a variety of different flake sizes of sea salt (I know, I know!), I was also tempted by lava salt, birch salt, and arctic thyme salt. I couldn’t fit them all in my suitcase, but I’ve discovered that I can buy them on Amazon here in the United States!
Because my hotel is my “home away from home” while I’m on vacation, I try to select one that will help me maintain some healthy habits. The first factor I consider is location. I love staying somewhere that allows me to walk most places and explore the city. Because my regular exercise routine is typically disrupted during travel, I like to incorporate a lot of walking into my vacations. Due to the cold temperatures in Iceland, I also wanted to stay somewhere with a hot tub or sauna – a way to warm up after a cold, outdoor adventure. I also typically look for a hotel with a workout facility, but this trip was so full of outdoor physical activity that a hotel gym wasn’t necessary.
Our first stay was at 101 Hotel in downtown Reykjavik. It was a small, urban hotel located within walking distance of the entire city. The design aesthetic of the hotel (as well as all of Iceland) was so on trend. The minimal, white decor with black accents, wool blankets, doorless showers, and wall-to-wall mirrors made me feel like I was in a cool girl’s Instagram feed. The hotel had a private spa downstairs with a hot tub, shower, and sauna which I used daily to practice hydrotherapy – the practice of alternating hot and cold water – to improve circulation.
After spending time in the city, we wanted to get out and explore the Icelandic countryside. We rented a car and ventured out to Selfoss for a stay at the Ion Hotel. Pretty much everywhere you go outside of Reykjavik will feel remote, and the Ion Hotel made me feel like a James Bond villain in a secluded hideaway. Again, the location was awesome as it was just a short drive to some of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls and geysers and a short walk to incredible hiking and hot springs. The outdoor pool pumps in hot water directly from the local spring and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from the water. Because we were so remote, our only real dining option was the hotel restaurant. Luckily, the food was very good and they were able to prepare gluten free meals for us without a problem. Regardless, I came prepared for the worst and brought with me bags of jerky, trail mix, yogurt, bananas, granola, and dried fruit.
Iceland is beautiful – there’s so much to see (in every season!) and I feel like I only say a small portion of it. As I mentioned, my main goal was to see the Northern Lights – they did not disappoint! They’re a bit elusive so I suggest going with a guide to make sure you have the best experience. I was very excited to find a photography guide who not only took us to a prime viewing spot, but also taught me how to capture incredible images of the aurora on my camera. It didn’t happen if you don’t get a picture, right?
The other really unique thing I did was a dry suit SCUBA dive at Silfra. Silfra is the fissure between the North American continental plate and the Eurasian continental plate. It’s full of some of the clearest fresh water in the world and it is COLD. I was fitted for a dry suit, which keeps you toasty warm and dry. I clearly survived and the whole experience made me feel super tough – so tough that I don’t feel like I can complain about the cold anymore (though I probably sill will).
Iceland is a hotbed of geothermal activity (pun!), and the natural hot springs are a welcome respite from the cold air. Hike to a natural hot spring, or buy a ticket to the Blue Lagoon and indulge in a silica mask. Both hiking and driving by car are great ways to take in the natural beauty of Iceland. Be sure to take a drive around the “golden circle” to see the Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.
Overall, Iceland was a magnificent experience and I highly recommend making the trip to anyone who shows even the slightest interest. With such clean air, water, and food, my body felt great during the entire trip. It’s a great place for adventurers, photographers, and introverts (!). I hope to share more travel recommendations with you in the future, but in the meantime, will you share your travel recommendations with me? Let me know how you stay healthy away from home either in the comments or by tagging #parisinutrition in your posts!