Insider's Guide to Reykjavik

It’s no secret that Iceland’s diminutive capital, Reykjavík, punches way above its weight on pretty much every level. A whimsical wonderland and a place I had dreamed about visiting for many years. It's laid-back yet pulsing with energy.

The city offers up plenty of cultural treats to delight, ranging from first-class museums to small alternative art galleries, traditional attractions like the relaxed harbor and colorful wooden houses, striking landmarks such as the rocket-shaped Hallgrimskirkja, and a famously raucous nightlife. Of course, there is the main attraction that draws everyone here -- Iceland's jaw-dropping landscapes that are easily accessible.

When I was venturing to Reykjavik just a couple of months ago, my excitement was uncontainable; I had an itinerary that was already jam-packed with the Google-able must-sees but needed an infusion of local charm. 

One thing that I will add that many travel guides failed to mention is how expensive AF Iceland is. You've been warned, but don't let this deter you from booking an Iceland adventure. I'm sharing with you my Insider's Guide to Reykjavik... Enjoy!

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When To Go

Between May and September is generally considered the best time to visit Iceland, due to better temperatures and longer days. But, with that said, Summers can be crowded, especially in Reykjavik. Visiting in winter, between November and February, is the best time to catch the Aurora Borealis aka the Northern Lights.

When To Stay

There are plenty of hotels. I opted for Airbnb, which I highly recommend.

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Eat + Drink

Bergsson Mathus for healthy and delicious soul food, all day long. If it's seafood you're after, then you won't be disappointed with Sjávargrillið. The food at Snaps Bistro is brilliant and the atmosphere is great. It’s open during the day like a café, but in the evening becomes more like a bar/restaurant. Make sure you go to Seabaron. It’s right on the old harbor and is essentially a shabby fisherman’s shack (you sit on barrels). You choose your own freshly caught fish! They are famous for their lobster soup, and they also normally have whale kebabs if you’re into that. Upstairs at Sakebarinn is my favorite sushi. The restaurant is located on the corner of Laugevegur and Skolavordustigur. Reeeeally good. For brunchy-type things and more low key meals, there is Joe and The Juice,  Prikid on Laugevegur, Cuckoos Nest in Grandi or Laundromat Cafe on Ausurstraeti.

Coffee moments. SlippbarinnApótek Bar Grill, and Kaldi Bar are also worth checking out. Kaffibrennslan and  Reykjavik Roasters are the best coffee shops in town, hands down.

Mixed drinks, wine, and all booze are expensive in Iceland but if you must, Lebowski Bar is a must visit. Yes, it's a Big Lebowski-themed bar, and it's one the most fun places to drink in the city. The decor recalls vintage American diners and bowling alleys, with a rug hanging from the bar that really ties the room together. If you’re looking for a night out on the town, note that nothing really gets going properly until after midnight. The best places at the moment are plenty. With good DJs both upstairs and downstairs, this place gets going a bit later there is Dolly. If by some chance it’s not happening there, then you can just nip across the road to Harlem and check it out there. Harlem is a spot that has a more trendy, fun, and younger crowd. There is also Boston is located upstairs on Laugevegur, it can get really messy here! It boasts an artsy-type crowd that becomes more mixed on weekends. Kaffibarinn is a classic place in Reykjavik nightlife. It’s in a really small house just off Laugevegur and is always fun with lots of younger people there. It gets very crowded on weekends! Also, all these places are about 5 minutes away from each other, so you can normally go to all of them in one night.

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Frolic

The Golden Circle is do-able in a day and really beautiful. It includes Gulfoss a huge waterfall that plunges into a crack in the earth; Geysir a continual eruption of boiling water 30ft into the air; and Thingvellir, the old capital of Vikings and also where the North American and European tectonic plates meet, which means epic gorges, waterfalls, and sometimes earthquakes.

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Insider's Guide to Reykjavik

Geothermal Swimming Pools are a must. Every neighborhood has its own geothermal swimming pool, which is probably the most Icelandic thing you can do. People go every day and talk in the hot tub. They’re super basic but just amazingly clean with natural hot water and steam baths. The main big pool Laugardalslaug is also really nice and is open 6am-10pm every day. It has lots of hot pots, water slides, saunas, and steam rooms – and a new seawater hotpot.

Then, of course, there is everyone's bucket list items, the Blue LagoonYou should do Blue Lagoon on your way to or from the airport. It’s 15 minutes away from Keflavík International, so you save on a wasted bus ride if you do it then. It’s totally worth it. It’s a bright blue silica thermal pool in the middle of a lava field!

Kolaportid is a great indoor flea market in Reykjavik which is always open on weekends and is located right next to the harbor.

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Go for a hike. Hveragerdi is an amazing place to go not to far from Reykjavik. It’s a very volcanically active valley and you can walk up into the hills and swim in a hot river. It’s about a 30 minute bus/car ride from Reykjavik, but really beautiful and cool to swim in, as it’s a natural river. Grótta is a gorgeous lighthouse in Reykjavik is just 5 minutes from town. When the tide is down you can walk out onto the island and take in beautiful views across the Fjord to the glacier. This is the best place in town to go see the sunset – totally magical on a calm day. One totally magical place is a little island called Flatey. It has about 10 inhabitants and one bar. You can get a ferry there from Stikkysholmur just up from Snaefellsnes, about 2 hours from Reykjavik. Thorsmörk is probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to, as well. It’s tucked in between 3 glaciers and only accessible in summer via a big jeep (you have to drive through about 20 rivers) – insane landscape and hiking.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, driving further into the country is amazing. There’s Vik to the south, on the way there’s Dyrholaey that famous black sand beach with an arch in the ocean. Also past the volcano and the glacier and there’s Jökulsárlón, too, which is an amazing glacial lagoon. You can do that in a day from Reykjavik, but it’s quite far.


Have you been to Iceland? 

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5 Essential Self-Care Travel Tips

If you’ve been following me for some time or have scrolled to the very (very)  bottom of my feed, you'll know how much I love to travel. I don't think there has been a period of being stagnant for more than three months. Family and friends always ask where we are heading next, and have become a "go-to" for travel advice. 

5 Essential Self-Care Travel Tips

Traveling is a lot of fun. And, even the stresses of plane travel are something I look forward to; It's all part of the process and the journey. Yes, it’s fun, and it’s purpose-driven, and yes, it can sometimes feel quite glamorous; but, jet-setting (and, I use this term loosely... as in air travel) whether it be for work or pleasure, comes with its own set of complexities.

The main issue is self-care. It’s easy to run yourself ragged, hopping from one place to another, sometimes feeling homesick, and other times just feeling sick -- tummy, head cold, you name it. Here are five tips I have picked up along the way that keep me feeling 100% when I’m traveling.


Wipe It Down

I'm a germophobe, and more so when I get on a plane. I always use some quick hand wipes or a travel-sized sanitizer spray to wipe it all down: that includes the little TV, the service tray, and all the buttons around your seat. Wipe it down...all of it! Let's not get started on the bathroom.

Lubricate Your Nose

To avoid getting sick on planes, place a dab of Neosporin on a cotton swab and coat the inside of your nostrils. Not only does it create a barrier for germs, but it also lubricates the skin in the nose. That’s important because when the skin cracks, germs can come in, so the coating of the Neosporin doubly protects you. Personally, I travel with a tube of Waxeline. 

Stay Hydrated

It may seem obvious, but staying hydrated is one of the easiest, simplest ways to stay regular and well when on the road or in the air. Sometimes it can be easy to forget to hydrate while on the go, so find a water bottle you like and make sure that it fits into your carry on. Most airports have water bottle filling stations past security, so fill up!

Pack Probiotics

Go pro, and I'm not talking about the little video camera. This is a tip I got from my mom. Always travel with a high strain probiotic, and hydrate like you’re dying of thirst – because even if you’re not, for your body – the thirst is real. This dynamic duo of probiotics and water will keep your gut health in check and honestly stave off jet lag if you’re traveling to another time zone or another country. And, if you didn't pack a probiotic, don't worry. Buy local plain yogurt, and this will help do the trick.

Let Your Tummy Keep Time

If you eat on the schedule of wherever you’ve landed, you won’t feel jet lagged. It’s your stomach that tells your brain when it’s feeling wonky. By simply eating a meal at the time the locals are when you land, you trick your brain a bit and stay much more on track, and much less cranky. Along with this is getting some sunshine as soon as you land (given that you arrive during the day.) It might be tempting to nap, but keeping awake until dark combined with eating at the local time will help jet leg drastically!
 

The Art of Traveling Ultra Light

The Art of Traveling Ultra Light

One glance at me and you presumably think I am the type of girl that packs a full luggage filled with shoes, to accompany a second (maybe a third) filled with millions of outfits that most likely will never make a cameo. Well, you have me all wrong.

I wasn't always a master at the art of traveling light. Over the years I've learned to pack smart. Like many females, I used to pack a BIG ASS suitcase (sometimes 2) filled with tons of outfit options, shoes, and accessories. After countless trips, I started to master the art of packing and quickly realized that I didn't need copious amounts of options. Each trip I take, I learn more and more about editing my outfits and shoes. Plus, if you are traveling from place to place, it's pretty easy to move swiftly from one location to the next.

When I tell people that I traveled for 18-months straight with a 25" suitcase, they never believe me. I show them this photo, and their jaws drop in disbelief. I should also add that this was towards the end of our travels, with three months more to go. A few more clothing items made their way into my luggage. Hey, how can you not shot in Paris, Berlin or Barcelona? I even managed to fit a paella pan miraculously; my wheels were about to burst off, but it fit.

 Here  are my arsenal tips for traveling ultra light:

Check the weather before your trip. Why? This way you'll know what to pack. I used to never do this and sometimes I'd over pack the wrong items and under pack the needed items.

Select your day-of-travel outfit wisely. Why? Because it will create more efficiency when you pack your luggage. I'll typically wear heavier shoes (wedges or boots), a coat or jacket, and a hat. These items will save you space and weight in your luggage. (Note: In the video, I packed my light coat in my luggage since I had room to spare. I generally take it on the plane with me.)

Pre-select your outfits. Picking your outfits ahead of time will not only save you the headache of "what am I going to wear today?" but it will also allow you to pack clothing items that can be combined into multiple outfits. Style your outfits and snap a photo. This will help you keep an inventory of what you have and different outfit combinations. For me personally, I love dresses and jumpsuits. You can dress them up or down, layer them with cardigans, jackets and button downs.

Choose a color palette.  Pick a favorite item that you want to emphasize in your packing list. Then choose two other colors that compliment it well. These three colors will be your color palette for your packing list. I like to pick neutral items as a base like black, white or beige and this will help me decide what I pack.

Pick outfit items that can be repurposed. This is probably my favorite one. Pick out items that can be worn in various ways.  All of the tops should coordinate with all of the bottoms you pack. All outerwear items like a  cardigan and blazer should match everything else, all tops and bottoms. Layering is a great way to get lots of combinations from just a few items. Make sure your tops are thin enough to layer and have coordinating colors. 

Accessories to help change an outfit. Accessories are a great way to change up an outfit. Bring a belt that has enough holes so it can be worn at either the waist or the hip. I generally will back two colors: a brown, black or white belt, all depending on my outfits. Bring at least one piece of statement jewelry that can dress up your looks.

Know how to pack efficiently. The pack in roll method is what I have found to be the most efficient. You can neatly pack items that won't generally wrinkle as much.

Stick to a 25" suitcase or smaller. This will hinder you from over packing. There is really no need for anything bigger unless you are going somewhere where you are required to being bulky items like Iceland or Alaska in the winter or a ski holiday.


Filmed and Edited by: Valerie Fidan / Music by: Yanis Soundress Hypnotized (Dim Sum Remix) / Camera: Olympus E-PL7 with 14-42mm IIR Lens / Luggage: Samsonite Spin Tech Luggage 24" (Similiar item)