The Blue Lagoon
I arrived early morning in Reykjavík and headed out for a drive through the untamed landscape to the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa near the village of Grindavík. Mist swirling over the heated blue seawater against the backdrop of black lava landscapes creates a surreal setting. I soaked in this therapeutic outdoor oasis for hours watching the sunrise, sipping strawberry champagne served from the lagoon bar, slathering my face from the dangling buckets of silica mud and green algae masks. Finally, I emerged relaxed, rejuvenated and looking 10 years younger. Then onto a scrumptious lunch of langoustine soup and local fish paired with lovely wine in their excellent eatery, Lava. Welcome to Iceland. www.bluelagoon.com
A mystical aura permeated the atmosphere as we drove south, passing gorgeously green mountains and lunar landscapes. En route, I learned about the history of the Vikings, their deep connection to nature and belief in elves, trolls and the hidden people. It wasn’t long before I was smitten with the locals, the land and the spirits all. Then a heli ride with breathtaking aerial vistas took me to my next destination. Helicopter Tours: www.nordurflug.is
Hotel Ranga is set in a secluded area of the countryside away from noise and light pollution. If the Aurora Borealis is on your bucket list, you want to be here. A member of Small Luxury Hotels, with its own helicopter pad and the only 4 star resort in South Iceland, this charmer is the perfect base to explore the country’s treasures.
The resort boasts 52 cozy rooms and uniquely themed suites with views of the Eystri River, Mt. Hekla Volcano, several glaciers and the Westman Islands. Stunningly designed suites are spacious, with the look and amenities of a 5-star property. The Royal, Antarctica, Africa, Australia, and Asia Suites, to name a few, dazzle with bespoke artifacts, posh furnishings and generous balconies. I loved soaking in the thermal hot tub just outside my room with a glass of wine, relaxing amid the solitude and serenity. Lolling in the heated water while breathing in the cool, brisk air felt
As to the food, their gourmet restaurant with riverside views delivers a fine dining experience. The modern Nordic menu based on a farmer’s market uses the highest quality local and seasonal ingredients. Some of the many standouts included the tastiest mushroom soup, reindeer carpaccio, juicy grilled lamb, mouth watering salmon with the freshest vegetables all paired with fine wine. Two stylish bars and lounge areas provide guests comfy places to kick back and relax.
Stargazing - The Northern Lights
After dinner I headed to the hotel observatory which houses two high quality telescopes. Here local astronomer Sævar Helgi Bragason explained the marvels of the cosmos as I gazed at the planets and stars in the night sky. To top it off, I saw the stupendous Northern Lights every evening of my 3 day stay!
Midgard Adventure, a premier travel company specializing in custom itineraries in Iceland did an exceptional job organizing my trip. CEO Björg Árnadóttir and her masterly team have created a top selection of innovative activities so clients can immerse themselves in Iceland’s wondrous nature. Hidden gems and off the beaten track locales are some of their many offerings. www.midgardadventure.is
Highlights of my excursions included: hikes to Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls in Þórsmörk, valley of the God Thor, visits to the Gýgjökull and Sólheimajökull glaciers, crossing river Markarfljót in a 4 x 4 jeep onto lava fields and outwash sands, driving in the wild, uninhabited highlands, lunching at remote Volcano Huts with adorable black and white Arctic foxes (www.volcanohuts.com), riding through ghost valley to dramatic black sand beaches, storytelling with music in a cave, strolling the moonlike terrain and snowmobiling atop Myrdalsjokull glacier. Snowmobile Glacier Tours: www.arcanum.is
You can’t help but feel a sense of joy amidst the ravishing landscape that is Iceland.
Icelandair offers direct flights to Iceland from New York, New Jersey, Boston, D.C.,Orlando, Seattle, Chicago and other US cities. Guests in business class enjoy spacious seats, tasty food, an excellent selection of spirits and great service. www.icelandair.us