1. Chase the Northern Lights
Getting a glimpse of the Northern Lights is nothing more than a combination of clear skies and a lot of luck. September to mid-April is the likeliest time of year to see some aurora activity. Naturally, the darker the skies, the better your chances, but it’s not uncommon to see the lights from downtown — they just won’t be as bright as if you took a quick drive out of the city. A daily Northern Lights forecast for Iceland can be found here http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/
2. Eat at Dill
Iceland boasts locavore restaurants across the island, but none offers as sophisticated an experience as Dill. In a moody, industrial-chic space reminiscent of hipster-headquarters Brooklyn (complete with bearded service staff and founding chef Gunnar Karl Gislason sporting an impressive man bun), chefs shuffle gracefully behind an open kitchen turning out what is often called New Nordic Cuisine. In this case, traditional processes (food smoked in lamb dung) meet modern techniques (like dehydration) to yield a tasting menu of small plates that meander deliciously between rusticity and contemporary elegance.
3. Go to church
Reykjavik is not a city of skyscrapers, so to get a panoramic view of its charming downtown area, the best place to go is to church. Jump on the elevator to the top of Hallgrimskirkja (http://www.visitreykjavik.is/hallgrimskirkja-church) and take it all in before heading back down and away from this gorgeous cathedral to capture photographs of its unique architecture. The largest church in Iceland, Hallgrimskirkja was designed after the extraordinary columnar basalt of the Svartifoss (https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/regina/svartifoss-waterfall-in-skaftafell-national-park) waterfall in South Iceland.
4. Go on a whale watching tour
Whale watching tours (https://guidetoiceland.is/book-trips-holiday/adventure-tours/whale-watching) run from Reykavik harbour almost all year round. On these trips, you might spot minke whales, humpbacks, porpoises and dolphins. In the summer, you might even spot a puffin (or six) (https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/jorunnsg/our-puffin-friends).
5. Take a walking tour
I Heart Reykjavik (http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/) began as a humble blog by Auður Ösp, who now offers wonderful walking tours for small groups that are led by locals, including her boyfriend Hrannar. Their friendly tours take guests beyond the tourist spots and into the real heart of the capital city — think residential areas and great coffee shops — while offering priceless insights to Icelandic culture.
(photo credit: www.iceland.is. Check out the full travel story in The Peak Gourmet & Travel’s upcoming issue)