Iceland has never been on the beaten path, but, as any savvy traveler knows, those days are fleeting. Though the massive Nordic island hasn't inched any closer to the States—dining, lodging, shopping and spa-ing have never been more within reach. Since Iceland's recent bankruptcy, the U.S. dollar goes nearly twice as far in the land of fire and ice today than it did a year ago. To find new ways of stimulating the economy, Icelanders are turning to their biggest resources—dramatic volcanic mountains, glaciers and geysers paired with luxury accommodations. From extreme landscapes to a blossoming design scene, Iceland has never been a better destination for travelers with a hunger for the exotic.
The Terrain and Outdoor Offerings
Driving across the countryside, one imagines Valhalla—Norse mythology's home of the gods. Iceland is one of the world's largest volcanic islands and sits at the convergence of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. A very small layer of soil sits atop the volcanic bedrock, making large vegetation nearly impossible. Iceland offers a dark-gray rocky, terrain (covered in bright green moss in the warmer months) against a backdrop of dramatic snow-covered mountains trailing off into the Atlantic Ocean. Night-trippers can soak up the mineral-enriched natural hot springs of the geothermal-heated while watching the colorful Northern Lights dance away in the sky.
Iceland also offers plenty for urbanites looking for distinct and innovative design and culture away from the cold winds and hot steam.
True to its roots, Icelandic design, like the Icelandic countryside, is at once minimal and dramatic. A palette of blacks, dark grays and browns reflect the countryside's volcanic rock while stark whites and creams tell the story of snow, ice and the nation's placement at the edge of the Arctic Circle.
In terms of accommodations, Iceland offers a variety of sleek, modern boutique hotels for discerning travelers looking for unique and exotic design endemic to the area. , originally built in the 1930s, is a four-star hotel that was recently renovated to its original Art Deco design. Design fans looking for something less retro can try the ultra-modern located next to the in the heart of Reykjavik.
Iceland offers a variety of options for a range of tastes from more traditional cuisine to the exotic (Puffin anyone). And if you like seafood, Iceland will be your culinary Nirvana.
The atop the offers the best view of the snow-capped mountains overlooking Reykjavik's harbor while the serves up traditional Icelandic cuisine to locals and tourists alike. Looking for a truly novel cocktail experience? Head over to the (a watering hole that as its name suggests, is constructed completely from ice from the walls to the bar right down to the freestanding tables).
Travelers craving a piece of authentic Icelandic art and design can visit . Set in the oldest house in Iceland, "Kraum" takes its name from the Icelandic word for "simmering"—an allusion to the melting pot of styles and personalities of the artists' work. Over 100 different local Icelandic artisans showcase their work in the historic-cum-modern space and the gallery is constantly featuring new exhibits.
The Time to Go
Late spring is often cited as the best time to visit as it provides the most temperate weather and a healthy balance of daylight. From sleek lodging to fine dining, Iceland offers an enormous variety. It's not just a must-see. It's a must-see now.