I can't stress enough the importance of girls' trips. Every woman needs to prioritize making time for herself and her lady friends to run away from jobs, significant others, kids, etc. and relive her 20s. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually - bonding with great friends on an adventure trip is like hitting the reset button on your attitude and outlook. There are many wonderful places to take such a trip and the further away the better. One of my favorites is Iceland. Let your phone die and bring that awesome digital camera you paid too much for and never use.
What to pack:
Iceland summers are quite mild, you can leave the Canada Goose at home. The sun is up for most of the day with only a few hours of darkness. Here are some essentials for an August trip:
- Hiking boots (preferably waterproof)
- Rain jacket or poncho with hood
- Fleece pullover
- Warm Sweater
- Jeans or warm leggings
- Black dress with black tights (the nightlife is awesome)
- A pair of sexy booties or heels
- Bathing suit
- Hat and gloves
- Eye mask and earplugs
Where to stay:
Do yourself a favor and stay in the center of Reykjavik. You'll be walking distance from great restaurants, bars, clubs and the harbor where there's a lot to do. As a large group we needed multiple rooms so we choose the Room With A View hotel . It's super centrally located on the main street in the center (Laugavegur). We stayed in a modern 5 bedroom apartment-style room with kitchen and fridge. It also helps to hit the duty free at the airport on your way in and stock up on your pre-game libations - we were celebrating a big birthday so that was crucial. The hotel was perfect for our needs, clean and comfortable. The hotel itself is not exactly luxury - it features a small lobby, friendly staff and an outdoor hot tub, and that's about it. Other good options include Canopy by Hilton, Apotek Hotel and Kvosin Downtown Hotel.
What to do:
Ahh, this is why everyone and their mom has been visiting Iceland! Waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers, black beaches, adorable stunted horses who look like they're on steroids... it's the country that keeps on giving. While you could always rent a car and explore the country on your own, I really must insist on taking at least a few guided tours because: a) the tour guides are fountains of information - learning about all the history and listening to anecdotes about where you are and what you're seeing really enhances the experience, b) you can relax and focus on enjoying everything around you and not about getting lost, finding gas, figuring out where to eat, etc. and c) the guide will often give you ideas of other things to do and places to see based on your interests, and give you the inside scoop on what's hot at the moment.
BUT make sure you book tours in advance of arrival because the good ones book up fast. For instance there was one excursion that involved going down inside a volcano (they built some type of elevator) but we didn't get to do it because we moved too slow and it was all booked during our stay. The most popular excursions are the Golden Circle, South Ring Road and the Blue Lagoon. We went with Nature Explorer tours for the Golden Circle in a private Superjeep which includes off-roading on a glacier, waterfalls and geysers - it was awesome, I highly recommend it. We piled into a mini-bus for the South Ring road tour and had a very friendly and knowledgeable driver who educated us on the elves that live in the rocks (no lie) and how they make that amazing Icelandic yogurt (Skyr). She took us to some gorgeous spots like the Black Beach and the picturesque town of Vik. Your instagram followers will thank you! Two super adventurous ladies in our group went scuba diving in the frigid Silfra frissure which is were North America split from Europe. I won't enter a pool if it's less that 88 degrees so I declined the invite to join them, but apparently you're suited up in a "dry suit" that keeps you somewhat comfortable. They raved about it so if that's your jam Dive.is can make it happen.
Where to Eat:
For breakfast or lunch there are two clutch places in Reykjavik. One is Sandholt Bakeri which has delicious breads and takeaway sandwiches as well as casual table service. The other is Kaffibrennslan which has great egg dishes and sandwiches, not to mention awesome coffee. It also has outdoor seating with people watching and views of the main road in town.
For dinner my favorite place was Snaps Bistro. It is a lively scene with friendly servers and a bar lounge in the basement. Fish Market and Grill Market are also too great spots featuring modern and stylish decor and beautiful presentation. If you're on a budget there are lots of pizza, kebab and fast food alternatives along the port and main street, and other pub style options as well.
Reykjavik is a social town and the inhabitants enjoy a drink or two (as do the visitors) so there are plenty of pubs, lounges and dance spots to relax and cut loose after a day of sightseeing. I recommend Kaldi Bar for a pint or glass of wine upon returning from a tour - it's filled with both locals and tourists and is a small, quaint bar. After dinner I suggest going to Lebowski Bar which is a kitschy dive but super fun, and if you want to keep the night going stop by B5 to pop bottles and hit the dance floor, it's more of a proper disco and the DJ plays tops hits and hip hop.
August is a great time to visit Iceland if you want to enjoy the sights in warmer weather, but be warned you will not be able to see the Northern Lights at this time - that begins in late September and runs through mid-April. It's still well worth the trip and Iceland's WOW airline has great deals to Europe with extended stopovers in Reykjavik making it SUPER easy to make the trek. Skál!