Everybody you know is probably in Iceland right now. And they’re obsessed with it—for good reason. The Nordic island may be just a quick flight from the East Coast (less than six hours, to be exact), but from the moment you arrive it feels like another planet. Specifically, Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik is an excellent place to call home, whether you’re a first-time visitor or repeat traveler.
We recently had the luxury of cruising around its Instagrammable landscapes in the new Mercedes EQE 500 4MATIC Sedan, which features its own augmented reality navigation system to ensure we didn’t get lost, even on the windiest no-name roads. What’s more, the car comes equipped with OLED screens stocked with programs that boost your attentiveness via soothing sounds like the forest and summer rain—jet lag be damned.
Whether on wheels or on foot, explore waterfalls, horseback ride up active volcanoes, visit the Ring of Fire, or go on a full Game of Thrones tour of the country…the opportunities to spend time in mind-blowing nature are endless. Here’s what not to miss.
Did you know the frontman of Icelandic band Sigur Rós had a perfumery in the center of Reykjavik? Neither did we until our most recent visit. Located in the third oldest house in the city, the family-run Fischersund sells special transportive scents that make the perfect gifts.
The SPA At The Reykjavik EDITION
Inspired by the Icelandic tradition of community bathing (think: hot springs), this subterranean spa’s crown jewel is the shared hammam, steam room, and sauna. Lounge with friends (smoothie in hand) pre-treatment and try the Icelandic salt body scrub. The rest of the spa menu hits all the classics (facials, massages, etc.) but all with a distinctly Nordic twist, complete with ingredients like seaweed and locally sourced oils.
No trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to one of its biggest waterfalls. Featuring an 82-feet-wide and 200-feet-tall drop, Skógafoss is the sight to behold. As an added bonus, you can walk behind in the the summertime, but be prepared to get drenched.
La Primavera Ristorante
Italian food? In Iceland? It’s true. You’ll find bowls of black squid ink pasta and tiramisu on the menu of this restaurant located inside Harpa Concert Hall, as well as a gorgeous view of the Old Harbor.
If you feel yourself fading fast, re-up on caffeine at Kaffi Ó-le. This coffee shop not only has everything from a latte to vegan banana bread—it’s also located about a two-minute walk from the bizarrely amusing Iceland Phallological Museum.
Naturally, seafood is a specialty in Iceland. Chefs Gústav Axel Gunnlaugsson and Lárus Gunnar Jónasson offer an upscale take on classic dishes—try the Taste of Iceland adventure menu to go all in—or order à la carte if something strikes your fancy. Every seat in the house has a view of Hallgrímskirkja church, so it’s a meal and cultural experience in one.
This modern indoor-outdoor space was made for taking in the view with a cocktail in hand. Stop by for a sunset cocktail during the summer, or if you’re visiting during the colder months, check this Northern Lights tracker to see if you’ll be lucky enough to catch the phenomena.
For a solid selection of local beer and cocktails, head to Einstök Bar. The no-frills establishment has tons of drink options, including a shot of Black Death—Iceland’s signature spirit comprised of of schnapps flavored with caraway—if you dare.
Jungle Cocktail Bar
The cocktail masters at Jungle are bringing tiki bar energy to Iceland, and we love to see it. Amidst the lush flora and fauna decorations you can order spins on the mai tai, painkiller, and all different types of martinis. For those who crave simplicity, there’s also wine and beer on tap.
The Reykjavik EDITION
Nestled on the edge of the Old Harbor port, The EDITION gets an Icelandic spin with plush couches and a restaurant by Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslasson (his other restaurant, Dill, is Iceland’s only Michelin-starred eatery). The downtown shopping center (Laugavegur Street has great bars and boutiques), Harpa Concert Hall, and the statue of Ingolfur Arnarson are all within walking distance.
When surrounded by nature, it’s worth getting as close to it as possible. That’s why we drove an hour and a half from Reykjavik to stay at the UMI Hotel, close to the famous Ring Road. There, you can enjoy some R&R in the countryside with views of the mountains, Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and the truly unbelievable stars.
Blue Lagoon Retreat Hotel
One of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks is the Blue Lagoon hot springs—and this hotel literally sits on the edge of it. Room options include walk-up suites to the silica-rich pool, which means you can take advantage of the warm, skin-beautifying water whenever you desire. (Also, fodder for the fanciest room Reels ever.)
Claire Stern is the Deputy Editor of ELLE.com. Previously, she served as Editor at Bergdorf Goodman. Her interests include fashion, food, travel, music, Peloton, and The Hills—not necessarily in that order. She used to have a Harriet the Spy notebook and isn’t ashamed to admit it.