In the past few years, people have become more aware of the stunning beauty of Iceland as the small island country was highlighted in the wildly successful series Game of Thrones. A unique blend of natural beauty, opportunities for outdoor adventure, an interesting capital city, and a location between the US and Europe all combine to make this island country an intriguing incentive destination.
Visitors fly into Keflavik International Airport, located on the southwestern coast of the country. The drive into Reykjavik, the largest city in Iceland, takes about 45 minutes. The vibrant and modern city has a population of approximately 130,000 people and is known for its colorful buildings, quirky street art, and stunning coastal views.
The city center is small and walkable, with many shops, cafes, and restaurants clustered around the main street, Laugavegur. There is a lively cultural scene, with numerous museums, galleries, and performance spaces, including the Harpa concert hall, which is considered one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. The historic Hallgrimskirkja church is a popular spot to become oriented, as it offers panoramic views from its tower of the city and surrounding area.
If the incentive trip takes place in the colder winter months, visitors will be able to appreciate the lack of snow and ice on the streets and sidewalks, made possible by the unique heating system that utilizes the abundant natural geothermal energy that distributes hot water through a network of subterranean pipes. During these winter months, it should also be noted that average daylight hours can be as few as four, with sunrise at 11:20 AM and sunset taking place at 3:40 PM in late December.
In the shops that line the main streets, a wide variety of products are available such as sweaters, hats, and gloves made from Icelandic sheep wool. Jewelry and sculptures made of lava rock are also popular, as are skincare products that have been produced to appeal to those that come to Iceland to take advantage of the geothermal pools and natural hot springs that are dotted around the island. Shoppers will also find books, ornaments, and other Christmas décor that depict the Yule Lads, mischievous characters from Icelandic folklore, said to visit children on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas.
While in Iceland, one must explore the countryside. Reykjavik is within easy reach of many of Iceland’s stunning natural landscapes. Tours to see nearby geysers, waterfalls, and glaciers are all easy day trips and one of the most popular attractions in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon, is a geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavik just 45 minutes away. The milky-blue waters are rich in minerals and are said to have therapeutic benefits for the skin, making it a must-visit destination for luxury travelers seeking relaxation and rejuvenation.
Another popular day trip for groups in Iceland is the Golden Circle, a scenic driving route that takes visitors through some of Iceland’s most spectacular natural landscapes. The route includes stops at Thingvellir National Park, where visitors can see the geological rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, Pingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area, where the famous Strokkur geyser erupts every few minutes.
For those seeking adventure, Iceland offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including glacier hiking, ice caving, snowmobiling, and horseback riding. Other popular group activities include ATV tours that take riders through landscapes that seem from another planet or evening excursions to see the Northern Lights.
The culinary offerings in Iceland are focused on fresh, locally sourced ingredients including seafood and lamb, particularly flavorful due to the animals’ diet of wild herbs and grasses. Skyr, similar to yogurt, is served as a breakfast food with berries and honey, and Plokkfiskur, is a traditional fish stew made with masked fish, potatoes, onions, and cream. Locals also enjoy their hot dogs, which can be found at the popular Baejarins Beztu Pylsur stand, served with ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onions and remoulade sauce.
Reykjavik is a fairly small city but there are a couple of nice hotel options. The new EDITION is located downtown, on the harbor. It opened in 2021 and offers 253 guest rooms. It has a rooftop bar with stunning views of the North Atlantic Ocean and the city. The upscale Hotel Borg is a 56-room historic Art Deco hotel located in the heart of the city that offers a spa and it also has a rooftop bar with great views of the city. At the Blue Lagoon, the Retreat Hotel opened in 2018 with 62 suites and is a recipient of numerous architectural awards. It is located about 45 minutes southwest of Reykjavik.
While the summer months are the most popular with tourists due to their warmer temperatures (still in the mid-50s) and longer days, the chances to see the Northern Lights are highest in the winter months when temperature averages are in the high 30s.
Just a 6-hour non-stop flight from Chicago or a short 3-hour flight from London, Iceland offers a unique and unforgettable experience. From the Blue Lagoon to the Golden Circle and beyond, Iceland has something for everyone, making it a must-visit destination for luxury travelers seeking a one-of-a-kind experience.
Thanks to our partner DMC in Iceland: Atlantik.