Our friend Joni Sighvatsson is seriously cool, creative and an all-around great guy. A real artist-businessman. Trained as a musician, he co-founded groundbreaking Propaganda Films, known for launching the careers of David Fincher, Michael Bay and others. He has produced a long list of independent films, including titles we love like Brothers, Killer Elite, and Valhalla Rising. As an entrepreneur, Joni has owned and built independent distributor Scanbox, and Icelandic outdoor clothing brand 66North. So, yes, there is no one better than Joni to give us advice on the stunningly beautiful and adrenaline inducing land of fire and ice.
TOP RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS
Dill is the crown of Icelandic dining that’s on the level of the best Nordic restaurants like Noma and Bror in Copenhagen. Seafood Grill is excellent and so is Fiskifelagid for formal dining. For a hip, modern bistro/bar, try Snaps.
BEST FOR BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH
Bergsson and The Coocoo’s Nest are great
Kaffivagninn in Old Harbor is great for an old style fisherman diner experience. The Old Harbor area is quickly becoming the new Fisherman’s Wharf.
TOP ATTRACTIONS IN REYKJAVIC
Harpa, the opera house is a must see. A visit to the island of Videy; it is a five minute boat ride from Reykjavik Harbor, and host to the enormous sculpture Afangar, by Richard Serra. The Nordic House by Alvar Alto, all in it’s original form, is great for afternoon tea and coffee. Asmundarsafn, named after one of Iceland’s great artists, Asmundur Sveinsson, is a low key but special attraction, as is the sculpture garden surrounding it.
The once dominant 101 Boutique Hotel is getting competition from the newly opened Tower Suites, located in the largest building in Reykjavik, as well as Kea’s Borg and Apotek hotel. These hotels are the high-end, even though they are not quite luxury hotels yet.
Out in the country there are only a few quality establishments. Hotel Budir in Snaefellsnes, on a rocky outpost by the sea, is gorgeous with a famous restaurant. Hotel Ranga, and Trophy Lodge in the south are good, as is Hotel Aldan in the small east coast town Seydisfjordur. Hotel Ion, located next to Thingvellir National Park is a popular destination. All of these hotels have good restaurants as well.
BEST WAY TO EXPLORE
Unfortunately all things and great places in Iceland are now very touristy.
So most of them should be avoided at peak times. Golden Circle should only be visited early morning or, as we often do in the summer when it’s night most of the time, in the evening.
Blue Lagoon’s new private spa is nice. The old one is overcrowded and stuffy. However, Reykjanes Peninsula, where Blue Lagoon is located is an underexplored gem that is both accessible and easy.
Unforgettable experiences in Iceland include snowmobiling onto a glacier or a mountain jeep trip into the highlands. Landmannalaugar is a top destination for the hiker/outdoor person. Iceland also has unparalleled fly fishing, sliding down into ice caves, and helicopter tours that all provide an experience not to be forgotten.
Warm clothing is a necessity any time of year, and rain gear (no umbrellas) are a part of daily attire. Icelandic Sheepskins are fantastic presents and souvenirs that never go out of style, and so is any outdoor garment by 66 Degrees North.
VIBE IN ICELAND
Describing the typical Icelander is easy now that their national soccer team won the hearts and minds of the world in their European Cup debut. They are emotional and warm but not hot-blooded, generous but stubborn, loud but not boisterous. That is the Icelandic spirit.
Dill| Hverfisgata 12| +354 552 1522
Seafood Grill (Sjávargrillið) | Skólavörðustígur 14| +354 571 1100
Fiskifelagid| Grófin| +354 552 5300
Snaps| Þórsgata 1| +354 511 6677
The Coocoo’s Nest
Kaffivagninn| Grandagarður 10| +354 551 5932
Harpa| 2,, Austurbakki | +354 528 5050
The Nordic House| Sturlugata 5| +354 551 7030
Asmundarsafn| Sigtun| 3544116430101
Boutique Hotel | Hverfisgata 10| +354 580 0101
Tower Suites| Katrinartun 2|+354 416 0000
Hotel Borg | Pósthússtræti| +354 551 1440
Apotek Hotel| Austurstraeti 16| +354 512-9000
Hótel Búðir| 356 Snæfellsbær| + 354 435 6700
Hotel Rangá| Suðurlandsvegur| +354 487 5700
Hótel Aldan| Seydisfjordur|+354 472 1277
Ion Hotel|Nesjavellir|+354 482 3415