written by
Jennifer Jones



There’s no doubt that Iceland is hotter than ever, having become a wellness haven for many good reasons beyond just its natural beauty. Also include that Native Icelanders are amongst the longest living people on the planet and it’s no surprise, year after year, Iceland is rated one of the top countries for life expectancy. Its residents live to an average age of 83, outlasting the citizens of richer and warmer countries.

So what makes Icelanders live so long? Reasons include genetics, clean air, good fresh water, an athletic lifestyle, and diet — and it does not hurt that the landscape is absolutely breathtaking. The women’s CrossFit champion is Icelandic, and the country holds eight “World’s Strongest Man” titles.

While you may not have their genetics, you can take advantage of everything else Iceland has to offer. When it comes to enjoying a wellness getaway that packs plenty of outdoor adventures, there is no destination more captivating than the land of Fire and Ice — so called as it is an island born out of volcanic eruptions over millions of years.

Getting to Iceland is relatively easy. The capital, Reykjavik, is a short five hour and forty-five minute flight from New York City. Your Icelandic journey should begin with an exploration of this cosmopolitan capital which sits on the coast. Reykjavik has the size and feel of a small town even though it is the largest city in the country. It’s the perfect city to explore on foot or by bike.

 

THE BLUE LAGOON
Iceland is renowned for its geothermal spas which are pure bliss. One of the most visited spots in all of Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. It has been named one of National Geographic’s “25 Wonders of the World” and is touted as a place where nature and science meet.

The geothermal water of Blue Lagoon originates over 6,000 feet below the surface, where the freshwater and seawater combine at extreme temperatures. On its way to the surface, the water picks up silica and minerals. When the water emerges, its temperature is generally between 98 to 104°F. The silica, minerals, and algae create the illusion that the water is blue when the sun hits it (when in reality it is actually white).

The various health benefits of bathing in thermal baths have become an Icelandic tradition dating back to the country’s early settlement. The warm mineral water of the Blue Lagoon is known for its ability to melt away pain and stiffness commonly associated with rheumatoid diseases. It is hailed for its natural healing effects on psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. 80% of all visitors to Iceland make it a point to visit the Blue Lagoon, which translates to more than 400,000 visitors per year and an average of 4,000 visitors per day. In-water massages are also offered for a luxurious experience. After relaxing in the water, visit the Blue Lagoon’s restaurant, Lava, for a lagoon-side meal.

 

NATURAL REMEDY
Iceland is full of inspiring natural wonders including a unique mix of glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches, geysers, and dramatic mountains. One great option to see the beautiful flora and fauna is via horseback. Icelandic horses are one of the oldest and most unique breeds. This small breed of horse is famed for its stamina, strength, gentle temperament, and remarkable agility and intelligence. They are known for their tölting, a kind of running trot with one foot always touching the ground. There’s no better way to see the serene landscape than by horseback.

Ásbyrgi Canyon, in northeast Iceland, is a horseshoe-shaped canyon that awaits travelers who thirst for spiritual fulfilment amidst tranquility and natural splendor. Viking settlers believed this canyon to be a hoofprint formed by Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged flying horse from Norse mythology. Geologists believe it was formed as the result of a catastrophic flood from the nearby Jokulsa glacial river. It makes for the perfect day hike with spectacular views along the way.

With its unique landscape and breathtaking scenery, Iceland is sure not to disappoint, and the Icelandic glaciers are no exception to this, being among the most impressive phenomena to see during your stay. Glacier guides offer you the opportunity to experience glacier exploration at its best, where you can choose between 4x4 vehicle tours, walking, hiking, and climbing some of the island’s most magnificent glaciers. Some of the top glaciers in Iceland are Eyjafjallajökull, Falljökull, Langjökull and Vatnajökull.

As the glaciers slowly melted, they carved the island’s spectacular landscape. Iceland has about 130 total active and inactive volcanoes— the most famous one being Eyjafjallajokull Volcano. Other notable volcanoes are Hekla, Grimsvotn, Askja and Bardarbunga. Feeling adventurous? You can visit and actually go inside some of these dormant beasts.

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to experience the rare and gorgeous northern lights. The best place to see them within the city limits is by the seaside at Seltjarnarnes. Once there, you will be able to take in the full majesty of the experience. If you’re looking for a different kind of experience, the Seljavallalaug Pool might be the perfect place to look at the northern lights.

The hidden pool of Seljavallalaug is one of the oldest pools in Iceland built in 1923 and one of the country’s best kept secrets. It is filled with hot spring water which trickles down from Eyjafjallajökull, which consists of a volcano completely covered by an ice cap. Seljavallalaug is reachable by foot from Seljavellir, in south Iceland. The path is undemanding and it takes about 15 minutes to walk to the pool from the parking lot. Come for a swim, stay for the lights.

 

CITY LIFE
When it’s time to rejuvenate, celebrate a special occasion or just treat yourself right, Reykjavik Spa at the Grand Hotel Reykjavik is the perfect spot to attain peace of mind and blissfulness of body. Located right in the center of Reykjavik, you’ll delight in the beautiful surroundings, world-class pampering, and specialty services and treatments ranging from massages, facials, pedicures and more.

Located nearby, Hallgrimskirkja Church with its striking and soaring architecture is truly inspiring. This Lutheran church is the largest church in Iceland at 240 feet high and among the tallest structures in the country. Visible from almost any point in the city, Hallgrimskirkja Church sits at the top of Skolavordustigur Street, the central art and design shopping street in the capital. A visit to the top will reward you with lovely views of Reykjavik and even Snaefellsjokull glacier on a clear day.

The capital also offers a full history lesson from the National Museum which houses the country’s most precious artifacts to the Settlement Exhibition which is built around the unearthed Viking longhouse of the area’s earliest inhabitants.

Reykjavik is loaded with wonderful shopping, captivating art, rich culinary choices, and cool cafes and bars as well. To truly soak up the culture, make sure to visit the main shopping streets — Laugavegur, Bankastræti, Austurstræti, Lækjargata, Skólavörðustígur — all are easily accessible in the central area of Reykjavík.

 

FOOD FOR THE SOUL
Iceland is well known for its simple, fresh and just downright delicious cuisine. Sustainable use of food resources is important to Icelanders. The mainstays include: lamb, skyr, potatoes, fish, and other seafood. A lot of seafood. The Icelandic people do not eat much meat, but rely on a fish-heavy diet full of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. And how could they not, being surrounded by bountiful Arctic waters offering the freshest selections of cod, haddock, monkfish, herring, skate, lobster, and salmon. For a healthy and new take on Icelandic cuisine, Dill in Reykjavík is the place to experience, as it’s the country’s first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Dill was also named best restaurant in Iceland by White Guide Nordic and the Nordic Prize. Along with foods such as root vegetables, dried fish, roe and caraway seeds that tap into the country’s 1200-year history, the decor recalls the country’s Viking heritage, and features slatted wood ceilings and stone walls. The menu is ever changing, but is guaranteed to delight.

 

 

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