Category Archive for Iceland
12 things I love about Iceland! Travel guide to best Reykjavik restaurants, nature tours, art galleries.
Iceland, you are magic. I’ve recently been reminiscing about my trip to the “land of fire and ice,” which turned out to be one of my favorite destinations of all time!
It’s now easier than ever for North Americans to fly to Iceland. WOW and Icelandair have increased the number of inexpensive, direct routes from major cities in the US/Canada to Reykjavik. If you’re on the East Coast, you can find tickets for under $300, and the flight time is only about 6 hours.
Recently, I’ve gotten quite a few requests for Reykjavik travel tips — so I thought I’d lay it all out on one page. Enjoy my “12 things I love about Iceland,” and check out all my detailed Iceland travel guides here.
(You can also check out my travel video about my Iceland adventures, above. It includes footage of the Blue Lagoon, food, nature, art and nightlife that we experienced.)
1 – Get outdoors and discover Iceland’s unique nature
You can’t miss out on the sci-fi landscapes and mystical Northern lights. From Reykjavik, it’s easy to book a car or tour that lets you experience Iceland’s surrounding landscapes. I suggest that you do a day trip with a guide, such as a Northern lights tour package in Iceland.
Iceland’s intriguing black sand beaches were the perfect backdrop for a Gothic fashion photoshoot. My braided hair and bell-sleeves are inspired by Daenerys in Game of Thrones (the show films the “Wall” and “North” scenes on this island).
2 – Take a selfie with a horse
Icelandic horses are the definition of “kawaii” (cute). This breed developed in isolation, which gives them a short, plush appearance. The layers of fat and fur protect them from the cold, but also makes them extra warm and adorable! I stopped to say hi to a herd of Iceland horses: they gently nuzzled up and took a selfie with me.
3 – Search for elves
Many locals believe that they share their country with elves, or “Huldufólk”. According to the folklore, these little creatures hide in mossy rocks, caves and forests. I recommend stopping by Hafnarfjordur, the park where they supposedly reside. While I didn’t catch any glimpses of Huldufolk, I did enjoy the serene energy of the elf park.
4 – Witness Iceland’s waterfalls and geysers
Many travelers go on Iceland’s “Golden Circle” tour, which takes them to the most popular nature sights: Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the erupting geyser Strokkur. However, I recommend going off the beaten path: you’ll find mesmerising waterfalls and sulphuric pools, without the tourists and gift shops. Above is Öxarárfoss, my personal favorite. Such an incredible feeling to get close to these powerful falls.
5 – Dip into the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a popular attraction, but it’s well worth the visit. The lagoon is man-made, with warm waters rich in sulphur and silica that come from a nearby power-plant. You can choose from a variety of passes, and I recommend booking well in advance for the best possible access times.
Unlike in hot tubs, which make me light-headed, I felt great in these soothing, mineral-rich waters. You can wade into different parts of the pool for varying heat levels, and dab a white, natural face mask on your skin. Don’t forget to tie up your hair and protect it from the steam, especially if it’s colored (I put mine in a bun and wore a shower cap, after Joey Wong took these photos).
(If you like my swimsuit, you can shop for similar designs with a click below!):
6 – Smile at the street art
Street art is everywhere in Reykjavik, and it’s beautifully executed (case in point — this London Police x Above mural above, on Laugavegur street). From 2010-14, Reykjavik’s major was an offbeat comedian named Jon Gnarr. He encouraged people to create public art, which resulted in innovative large scale works all over the capital city.
7 – Shop for skulls at Dead Gallery
I noticed a Reykjavik art studio with a Buddhist mandala and skulls on the outside: how could I resist going in? This turned out to be Dead Gallery, the lair of musician and artist Jon Saemunder. Jon’s works — especially his paintings and watercolors of skeletons — are expressions of his mantra: “He who fears death cannot fully enjoy life.”
8 – Feel uplifted at Hallgrims Church
I’ve long been fascinated by Hallgrímskirkja, a futuristic church on top of a hill in the center of Reykjavik. I was thrilled to see the Expressionist architecture in person: the alien-like curves are reminiscent of stark Icelandic landscapes under snow. Inside, there is a pipe organ that reminded me of Blade Runner, and windows that reflected coffin-shaped shadows over the white altar.
9 – Pose inside a prism at Harpa Music Hall
Reykjavik is a small city and easy to explore by foot. Make your way towards the waters, where you’ll find Harpa Concert Hall. The building’s ultra-modern facade flickers in the light, with 1000 prismatic panes that seem to change colors when viewed from different angles. At night, the glass and steel structure comes to life with light projections.
10 – Dine at Apotek
One of my favorite dinners in all of Europe came from Apotek. This comfortable yet upscale restaurant is located in a 19th century pharmacy, hence the name. I started with cocktails named after medicines, and then feasted on the freshest seafood inspired by both Icelandic and Argentinian cuisine. Beautifully presentation, lovely atmosphere: I’d say this is the best restaurant in Reykjavik.
11 – Feast on fish and chips
I ate like a Viking at Icelandic Fish and Chips, an inexpensive eatery that delivers tremendous flavors. You can choose from a variety of fish such as pollock, and it comes with creative dips, roasted potatoes and vegetable sides such as cauliflower tempura. Leave room for the handmade desserts made with ingredients like coconut.
12 – Party hard in Reykjavik
The country that birthed Bjork has an exciting music/nightlife scene. I bar-hopped in Reykjavik, and was impressed by the live bands found in most of the venues. For those who love rock and alternative sounds, check out Dillon. Reykjavik has something for everyone: hip hop, LGBT, retro, and even RuPaul’s drag race performers.
(And you can pick up a Gothic swimsuit for the Blue Lagoon below!)
2015 is drawing to a close… Time for my annual blog ritual of looking back at the highlights of the year!
In my 2014 recap (see part 1 and part 2), I was determined to dedicate more of this site to travel and subculture stories. I feel like this goal came into fruition: my work took me to 14 different countries in 2015, where I covered alternative topics ranging from British Goth festivals to Moroccan beauty workshops.
In this post, I’ll share how these projects came together, and reminisce on my favorite memories of the first six months (above is my Giuseppina Magazine cover – here is the whole shoot). I’ve also embedded my travel videos from each destination, in case you missed them when they first came out.
And the year’s not quite done yet… Two more destinations ahead. Find out what they are at the end of this post, and on my social networks (@lacarmina, linked below). Thanks for being part of my journey, and here’s to a meaningful 2016!
My travel filmmakers and I started the year in Hong Kong, where we were working with the new Hotel Sav. I always love coming back to this city, where I have many friends and relatives.
It was an incredible honor to have my own hotel room at Sav, which I decorated with artist Naomiyaki! This “Floor of Love” project appealed to us because it had the goal of elevating a traveller’s stay through art, and giving back to charity.
Check out all my Hong Kong articles here for the behind-the-scenes story of how we made a “La Carmina” room, and what these paintings represent.
We also celebrated Chinese New Year for the first time, in Hong Kong.
Dragon dances, fireworks and food… take a moment to watch the travel video above, to see it all in action.
Next, my film team and I flew to Tokyo, Japan. We were working once again with trip-planning startup Odigo. I had the time of my life at the Odigo launch party with my friends.
We also did stories and videos about the bizarre, kawaii attractions found only in Japan. From the Pompompurin puppy cafe (above) to the mecha Gundam robot, you can see the latest pop culture oddities in all my Tokyo posts.
And above is the Tokyo travel video — Pokemon cafe, Suspiria horror pubs, game centers and more madness.
In the spring, I finally visited one of my top dream destinations: Iceland. The country is like nowhere else, with science fiction buildings and an otherworldly landscape.
My Reykjavik memories include exploring the street art and prismatic architecture, eating insanely fresh seafood, and meeting the RuPaul drag queens (they were randomly performing while we were there).
You absolutely must take a nature tour in Iceland. Our wonderful guides Salty Tours took us to secret spots including black sand beaches, waterfalls and elf caves, instead of the usual Golden Circle. (Here are all my Iceland photos and posts, to help you plan a trip here.)
Enjoy the ethereal video of my Iceland adventures above and on YouTube @lacarmina. There’s footage of me dipping into the Blue Lagoon and taking selfies with plump Icelandic horses!
My white rabbit (Miffy) and I went onward to Manchester UK, where we were working on stories with support from the tourism board. These British adventures included Alice in Wonderland high tea…
… and a pilgrimmage to Manchester music landmarks, including Salford and Sons. (Enjoy the full story about my The Smiths and Joy Division music tour.)
After a train ride through the Yorkshire countryside, I arrived at the seaside town of Whitby. We did a magazine cover shoot at the Dracula abbey that inspired the Bram Stoker novel.
Such fun to finally experience Whitby Goth Weekend, where Andi Sex Gang and other Gothic greats performed. For more photos of the event, take a gander at all my England posts.
I then went back to Tokyo, Japan for a Travel Channel TV shoot. I can’t reveal anything about this TV hosting gig yet, but when it airs next year, I’ll be sure to let you know.
I also got to see the Japanese cat temples, Gotokuji and Imado shrines (featuring thousand of lucky cat statues). I haven’t had a chance to blog about this yet… still so many posts from 2015 that need to go up…
In May, I traveled to Singapore for the first time (it was a year of many firsts). We got insider access at Marina Bay Sands, and ate our way around the city — from high end molecular gastronomy, to hawker center street food.
I still have a Little India and Chinatown post to share with you, but until I get around to it, you can see all my Singapore travel tips so far.
And then, there was Bali — land of temples and spirituality. I thoroughly enjoyed my time here with my friends Cohica Travel, and think back fondly at our temple tour around Ubud.
We also had far too much fun taking a Bali cooking class at the Ritz-Carlton Nusa Dua, with these jolly chefs!
I invite you to check out my Indonesia posts here, for a visual diary of my time on the island.
That takes us up to June! Next up, I’ll look back at memories from the second half of the year.
And what’s next? Off to New York City and Mexico — with partner in crime Yukiro! We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve, and kicking back at the new Karisma El Dorado resort in Riviera Maya / Tulum.
How about you — what were your favorite moments of 2015? Did you achieve any goals that you set, or experience something extraordinary?