As soon as the airplane had cleared the clouds over Iceland, majestic cliffs cutting sharply into the ocean and a coastline landscape that would make a geologist shed tears came into view.
Massive snow-covered mountains lined the horizon over towns with Pantone rooftops in blue, red, green, black, and yellow. We arrived in Reykjavik's downtown with stomachs grumbling. Getting a fresh meal was the first order of business after checking in to our hotel.
From the city to the country, Iceland was as otherworldly as it was friendly. Here are The Discerning Brute favorite sites and bites from the country of Vikings and volcanos.
Gló has a few locations in Iceland and the one in downtown Reykjavik is a cozy, second-story walk up with plenty of vegan options every day. The creamy cauliflower soup, Thai curry soup, mushroom burger, and potato mushroom salads were definite highlights.
Pink Iceland is an organization and tour company that offers several excursions to see the natural wonders of the Island. I highly recommend them because the tours are less congested than the mainstream tour companies because it's a queer organization (although everyone is welcome). We visited waterfalls, glaciers, and historical sites and made several stops for vegan snacks including snúður (which is basically an awesome, chocolate-covered cinnamon roll), and some amazing, traditional turnip soup. Our tour guide was fantastic. She brought us gift bags, drinks, vegan snacks and knew all the secret spots.
The Blue Lagoon was named one of the 25 wonder of the world by National Geographic Magazine for good reason. With silica and algae filled geothermal lagoons in bright blue surrounded by a moss-covered lava stone landscape, this place felt like we stepped off a space ship into a different world. We soaked in hot water that contrasted with the cool air, coated our skin in white silica, ate gourmet vegan meals and sipped beer from the local Icelandic brewery, Borg, at their restaurant, LAVA, and slept in minimalist, modern comfort at the Blue Lagoon Clinic. We hiked the nearby mountain and picnicked at the peak where all that remained of an abandoned WWII military site was a single stone fireplace.
Like many mainstream restaurants in Reykjavik, if you call ahead and request a vegan meal, they'll likely prepare one for you. This was the case with Kopar who made us a fantastic meal and dessert.
We met up with Ragnar Freyer and friends at K-Bar for some awesome tofu bibimbap. Ragnar is a local Reykjavik resident who maintains a really comprehensive list of every place to get vegan grub around the country. Check out his list here.
In the western part of Reykjavik is Kaffihús Vesturbæjar,a coffeehouse that offers a really good veggie burger and the best French fries covered in dill as well as soy or oat lattes and plenty of vegan Icelandic beers. Back in the downtown area is Café Babalú, a kitschy place with needlepoint art who make a vegan carrot cake every day. We also spotted the political vegan street art of Margrét Helga Weisshappel.
Passion was a little off the beaten path, but worth the trip (and a fun excuse to test out the bus system). Rumor has it that they offer amazing vegan croissants, but they were sold out the day we went and we had to settle for several other fantastic confections including more snúður, chocolate bars called Hràfæðis, and some classic berry oat pastries.