Is This Destination the Next Tulum?
If you somehow managed to make it through 2014 without hearing about Tulum, we applaud you. For the rest of us, the popularity of the not-so-under-the-radar locale was hard to ignore, as it became the indisputably most Instagrammed vacation spot amongst influencers in the lifestyle genre. If you didn’t get married in Tulum this year, you honeymooned there, or made it the backdrop for an impromptu girl’s trip or couple’s weekend, and, of course, an excuse to sip from a coconut and make your social network really jealous.
Indeed, 2014 was Tulum’s year, so before a new year kicks off, we wanted to explore what might be the next big destination spot amongst bloggers, editors, and tastemakers. We spoke to Valerie Chen, associate travel editor for TravelAge West and author of trend scouting travel and lifestyle blog Lily on Fillmore, for her prediction on what 2015’s match for Tulum will be. Keep scrolling to find out her surprising pick—as well as what to eat, where to stay, and what to do there—so you can plan an epic trip this year before everyone else does, too!
Chen says that though the combination of white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and a bikini-and-no-shoes daily uniform has mass appeal, she predicts savvy travelers will opt for a different kind of vacation in 2015—“one with breathtaking landscapes, awe-inspiring skies and, yes, a sharp dip in temperature—in Iceland.”
“The grueling task of bundling up will be worth spotting abundant wildlife during the day, such as humpback whales and native Icelandic horses, and catching a rare glimpse of the spectacular Northern Lights (the Aurora Borealis) dancing in the night sky,” Chen explains.
Oh, and that bikini you splurged on for Tulum? “Pack it for Iceland,” she says. “After trekking through caves and over hills all day, you’ll need it for a relaxing dip in the Blue Lagoon, a mineral-rich spa that averages 98 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Keep scrolling for more insider tips on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do in Iceland!
In Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, Chen recommends booking a stay at the quirky Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina. The recently renovated hotel overlooks the harbor, is steps away from downtown, and even attracts locals with its popular bar, Slippbarinn. Skye Mayring, contributing editor-at-large for TravelAge West as well as the host of travel show Joan Jetsetter, recently returned from a trip to Iceland last month and says that the playful, maritime-inspired hotel is Reykjavik’s current hot spot.
Grabbing grub on the go from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a chain of hot dog stands in Reykjavik, is practically considered a tourist’s rite of passage, says Chen. Order the inexpensive lamb-based hot dog with “eina með öllu” (if you can pronounce it), meaning “one of everything” in Icelandic. You’ll be in for fried and raw onions, sweet mustard, ketchup, and remoulade.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Grillmarkaourinn, an upscale restaurant in Reykjavik with stunning nature-inspired décor and unbeatable food, specializing in local fare from nearby farms. Get the lamb (Iceland's special) or grass-fed beef.
Another seafood option in Iceland’s capital city beloved by both tourists and locals alike is Fiskifélagið. Nestled under a bridge in the harbor, the popular spot is known for adventurous food options and a menu inspired by global cuisine melded with traditional Icelandic plates (how does fried puffin and cured whale with soy gel, pickled seaweed, parsnip purée, smoked carr roe, and buttermilk ponzu sauce sound?)
The Blue Lagoon is to Iceland what Machu Picchu is to Peru—you don’t visit without experiencing it. The man-made wonder is extremely popular, so the earlier you can arrive, the better. It’s located about 50 minutes away from Reykjavik and about 20 minutes from the international airport, so plan accordingly, Chen advises. There’s also Landmannalaugar, located in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, for the slightly more active traveler. “Hills, mountains, hot springs, rivers, and lakes all mold various trails—including ones across lava fields—and reward hikers with surreal vistas,” explains Chen.
After the requisite Blue Lagoon visit, another cool thing to do in Iceland is drive the Ring Road, which goes all the way around the country. It can be done in three to five days if you're determined, or a more leisurely seven to ten days, spending more time in each city. Here is a clockwise list of cities to visit as you make your way around, and something to do in each of them:
See slide two, and also be sure to buy the quintessential staple of Iceland while you’re there—an Icelandic sweater—at the Handknitting Association of Iceland.
Husavik is the charming whaling city where people go to whale watch in Iceland. Unsurprisingly then, the thing to eat in Husavik is fish, where what you order is essentially caught after you order it—we’re talking that fresh. Eat at the family-owned Naustid for the best seafood of your life, then head to BakariCafe (translation: Bakery Café) to taste incredible coffee and Icelandic treats.
Officially having now made your way from North Iceland to East Iceland on the Ring Road, Seydisfjordur is a picturesque town made for hiking and simply taking in the beauty of your natural surroundings.
Vik in Southern Iceland is known for its puffins, black sand beaches, and cool cliffs. Around the area and on the drive from here back to Reykjavik you will encounter additional fascinating sights like the Skogafoss waterfall, Selfoss waterfall, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park (another Game of Thrones filming site).
We don’t know about you, but we’re one click away from booking a trip to Iceland. Will you go in 2015? Sound off below!