When plans to visit my sister in DC for the Inauguration blew up in fiery, orange flames, we turned our frowns upside down and decided that instead of cancelling, I'd meet her in DC as a stopping point, and we'd spend the weekend away from TVs, the internet, and the country with a weekend in Iceland!
We got an epic deal on WOW Airlines - I had to stop looking because I kept reading horror stories about travelers on WOW, but all in all, we had a pretty great experience. You just have to go in knowing it's the kind of budget airline that charges you extra for literally every.thing.
Reykjavik was just as magical as I'd expected. Even with just 2.5 days, 5 average hours of sunlight, and 30 degree temperatures, the city's remarkably friendly inhabitants, laid back Scandinavian tendencies and overall cool vibes, it was the perfect place to spend a few days. Now I just have to go back when I have more time and sunlight to venture beyond the capital city!
Here are a few favorites.
sleeping. We booked the whole adventure like three weeks in advance, so it was slim pickings for lodging, but we ended up at Planet Apartments, and it was great! We were right by the harbor, a 5-10 minute walk to the city center where all the great shops, sights, snacks, etc. were, and it was a super spacious apartment with a full kitchen. The only negative is that since it's not a hotel, there isn't a lobby, and when your flight gets you in at 5am (most of them do) you have to get creative about where to store your luggage until midday. We hung out quite a bit in the lobby of this hotel, which seemed great, and had a number of friends also recommend this airbnb.
sightseeing. We didn't have a ton of time, so we tried to maximize our adventures. We booked a northern lights tour through Super Jeep and while it was cancelled both nights, I'd recommend them over and over, because they were up front about the likelihood of seeing the lights and didn't waste our time/money by taking us out if visibility was low. we booked a half day Golden Circle tour through Gray Line to check out Geysir, Gulfoss and get out of the city - and when you're pressed for time, it's a great option! On the way to the airport, we booked our Blue Lagoon visit (tips: get your tickets in advance, go early and spring for the 2nd or 3rd tier package. lines are shorter and you'll wish you had that robe when you're standing outside in your swimsuit in 30 degree weather!). In the city, make sure to visit the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church for the best view in town and stop by the reykjavik art museum.
snacking. we had moderate expectations for icelandic food (and held steady in our refusal to eat puffins), so we were pleasantly surprised! we started every morning with breakfast at Kaffislippur (a great coffee shop/bakery in the marina). Grab a great lunch at Snaps (make a reservation, and see if you can sit in the garden-y front room).
after both our attempts at a northern lights tour were cancelled, we decided to treat ourselves to the best meal of the trip (maybe top 5 of my life?) and somehow got a reservation at Dill. With a Michelin star under it's belt, DIll is a tiny GEM of a restaurant that focuses on beautiful, nordic ingredients. The 7 course tasting menu is worth every penny and then some. Just do it. Trust me. But maybe don't leave it to chance - make a reservation WELL ahead of time.
other favorites? grab a coffee at reykjavik roasters, a beer at the very cool kaffibarinn (so great we went twice), mikkeler & friends, micro bar, pizza at No Name
honorable mention. stop by 12 tonar for some vinyl and to hang out in their listening room relaxing to some icelandic music.
It was a whirlwind weekend, but worth the adventure - if you get the chance, add it to your wanderlist stat!