Iceland: Visiting Reykjavik

Tara Hogan from INK & WIT just got back from Reykjavik and asked if she could share her take on the city with all of us today. I've long been fascinated by Iceland, it's one of those places that I imagine being really hip, really cold, and really well... off the map. We don't hear about it that much here in America as is the case I think with most countries that are relatively small and peaceful. Tara, the stage is all yours....

A new INK & WIT print inspired by her travels.

Iceland... Geothermal Bliss by Tara Hogan

I recently visited Reykjavik - the capital and largest city of Iceland often referred to as the land of ice and fire. I had been to Iceland before on a layover en route to Helsinki and back en route to JFK. It was pure sadness being trapped in the airport where I could not get out into the geothermal pools or feel the landscape. But, I knew I would be back. Two of my closest friends and I paid Iceland a visit two weeks ago. Geothermal spa soak for three, please?

Please note during this time there is minimum sunlight. The sun rose at 10AM and set at 4PM. However, if you are going to be somewhere dark most of the time this is the place as it never ceases to be beautiful or mysterious. Furthermore, I live in Syracuse, NY currently belted by snow and frigid weather. Iceland is not this cold. Some of my friends thought the weather there would be more extreme than here but this not the case. It was indeed cold at times but mostly where you have no barriers from the wind near waterfalls and state parks. You are in the great wide open. And, really in it. You stand in spots where the earth’s layers were molded by lava pools.

Iceland is relatively small and has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². It is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland’s landscape is defined by large-scale volcanic and geologic activity.

While this country is sadly going through an economic crisis it did not feel so two weeks ago while I was there soaking up, literally, all it had to offer us. People were pleasant and calm. The issues of economics were blasted all over the papers just like our economic crisis but there was a sense of calm. Maybe it is all the pure water they drink? And, yes, it is the purest in the world.

Nature dictates life in Iceland especially since 25% of the island is active. I think you surrender to nature when you truly understand it is bigger than you. You respect it more. You do not try to control it or run away from it. You simply know you are a part of it, good or bad, like it or not.

There is so much to say about this eco friendly island. The 18th largest island in the world. My grandest memory was our stay at the Blue Lagoon (shown above). The Blue Lagoon is a man made spa but one look at it and you would not even think man made. It appears so natural as it is out in nature and the surrounding architectural structures are so simple and non intrusive to the natural surrounding beauty. That is one of the most amazing design aspects of Iceladn specially Reykjavík. The landscape is the dominant concept. In addition, there is no Starbucks or Sephora to distract you. Well, there is a Sephora at the mall and a LUSH but it is out of view from the greater picture. It is a modern, intelligent place that has respected its resources and evolved from burning coal at one time to utilizing its plentiful geothermal energy. This energy heats 87% of Iceland homes.

Geothermal energy, water, and bathing all go hand in hand in Iceland whether at the Blue Lagoon or in the bathroom. You will smell sulfur in the water everywhere and also find that saunas, relaxing heather pools, geothermal pools, geothermal spa pools, and bathtubs in your hotel room, if lucky, will be present at all times. You can also look forward to several different aromatherapy saunas, power steam rooms, thermal pools, and lap pools at the 5 star Laugar Spa in Reykjavik. A short cab ride from the city center.

For accommodations, allow me to recommend the CenterHotel Thingholt in Reykjavik (above). Think vampire gothic Eames chic. I could have done without all the animal skin products but the place was amazing. My friend and I even ended up getting the upgrade to have the bathtub right in the room. Pure water and a deep well designed bathtub? You cannot go wrong. Nothing bad to say about this place. Actually, if you stay in the city on a weekend plan on going out until 6:30AM because Icelanders know how to party. And, that does not necessarily mean bars and surliness. They just stay out late and have a good time. So, if you cannot beat them join them. We went out dancing until 6:30AM.

A Naestu Grosum

Getting to the design scene of things and creative stimulation… well, I guess it depends on how much you love nature. I believe environments shape people. And, if Iceland shapes people then the creative people here are in the middle of a strange, strong, and beautiful scene full of grand volcanic scale and intricate definition of black deserts. Homes are rich in reds, cobalt blue, and sunny yellow. Roofs are red, white, green, yellow and black. I was completely inspired to draw the whole place. People and all. Iceland has a young design scene but it is growing rapidly in its desire to be a eco conscious, critical, and an edgy dot on the map. There is a mysticism and vast open amount of space here that feels it would fuel room for strong concept and fluid design sensibility. I am excited to see what is to come out of the design scene in Iceland.

TIPS: Some designers I came across in my travels: Studio Bility, Ingibjorg Hanna, Helene Magnusson (who also has an Etsy shop with felted lighting), Thora Breidfjord, Katrin Olina (don't miss the Cristal Bar she recently designed in Hong Kong), Photographer Elsa Prinsessa (also on etsy), and Bjorg Juto. You can find more listed here. Here are some great shops: Kraum, Kisan, and Sirka. Also check out the Icelandic Design Center online. If you're looking for design bloggers in Iceland Olof Jakobina is a good starting point. If you are visiting Iceland, don't miss the Reykjaik travel guide at Time Out. For some music out of Iceland, listen to Hjaltalin, Sigur Ros, Maus, Calder, and of course Bjork along with many others that you can find here at the Iceland Music website. Restaurants/Cafes: Greaenn Kostur, Silfur, A Naestu Grosum, Ice Bar at Restaurant Reykjavik, and Vox (they happen to serve high tea, too).

Want to watch a video about Reykjavik? Here's a great one on You Tube.

- Thank you Tara for the beautiful post featuring Reykjavik! I'm always interested in a good travel post so if you're a reader heading to a fun city, design event, or anything else you'd like to show us please send me an email (holly AT decor8blog.com) with your story ideas. I'd love to hear from you! - Holly

(images by tara hogan)