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Budget destination: Iceland

Iceland, a country once famous for its remote and magical landscapes —and for being one of the costliest countries in Europe —has undergonean unexp­ect­ed twist of fate.

Iceland, a country once famous for its remote and magical landscapes — and for being one of the costliest countries in Europe —has undergone an unexp­ect­ed twist of fate.

The combined effect of the global credit crunch and Iceland’s official state of bankruptcy (with a $61 billion US debt in October 2008) has turned this faraway land into 2009’s hottest travel destination.

The tumbling rate of the Icelandic Krona against the euro and the U.S. dollar has slashed prices by half, making it the dream getaway for many.

If anything, your trip to Iceland could be a fine line between charitable and selfish, as right now, the influx of tourism can only help restore and boost the local economy.

With its toy town capital of Reykjavik, a dramatic volcanic countryside to explore, hip nightlife to check out and even hipper locals to meet, there’s something for everyone.

Where to stay

101 Hotel: Icelandic gallery owner Ingibjörg Pálmadottirs’ love for design comes in the form of this new four star hip hotel. The purity of the decoration — all charcoal grey and white — is a sharp contrast to the warm wooden floorboards and cosy fireplaces.

Holding the oldest postal code in Reykjavik, the hotel is also a stone’s throw away from the city’s opera house. Hverfisgata 10, 101 Reykjavik, www.101hotel.is.

Where to eat

Sjávarkjallarinn “Seafood Cellar”:
The kitsch setting — imagine a scene out of The Little Mermaid — will not put you off the mouth-watering seafood.

If you wish to play it safe, opt for the Lobster Pick-me-up, a delightful concoction of langoustine steamed in a foie-gras sauce with cauliflower, truffles, and black pepper; www.sjavarkjallarinn.is.

Where to go drinking

Kaffibarinn: The London Underground sign outside may fool you for a split second, but you well and truly haven’t left the Arctic. Kaffibarinn is all about rock ’n’ roll attitude — after all, owners are Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Icelandic film director Baltasar Kormakur.

The tiny, rather clammy inside manages to attract a bohemian crowd that stays until the early hours. Bergstadastraeti 1, Reykjavik, www.kaffibarinn.is.

Where to go clubbing

Hressó: This no-frills coffee bar transforms into a funky club at dusk. Come here and you will enjoy spending your night listening to the beats of wild live music performed by Oasis and Radiohead wannabes.

The Icelandic post-party tradition is to refuel on a hot-dog, so make sure you sample one from one of the stands in central Reykjavik; www.hresso.is.

The hip fashion label


Steinunn: You’ll forget any of Icelandic pop-star Bjork’s eccentric fashion faux-pas once you step into Steinunn Sigurd’s boutique. After having perfected her skills at Calvin Klein and Gucci, Steinunn has returned to Iceland to open up this atelier, whose atmosphere and sombre decor reflects the cool northern wintertime. The chunky yet feminine knits look warm and wonderful against the backdrop of lava and glass sculptures. 59 Laugavegur, second floor, www.steinunn.com.

What to visit

The Blue Lagoon Spa: Wade into the steaming natural Blue Lagoon and you’ll be transported into a different world. Gaze at the lunar landscapes while you restore yourself in the warm geothermal whose 37 to 39 C heat is radiated by the lava that lies beneath the ground. On the Reykjanes Peninsula; www.bluelagoon.com.

Geysir and Stokkur Geysers: The Geysir and Stok­kur Geysers are Iceland’s oldest sources of geothermally-heated water in the remote area of the South West. Geysir, the namesake for all other geysers, is an Icelandic landmark, erupting occasionally over the years. Stokkur, on the other hand, bubbles over every five to 10 minutes, shooting a warm spray in the sky; www.geysircenter.com.

Laugardalslaug Geotherm­al Pool: Iceland's biggest geothermal swimming pool is the place to come and wind down after a day of shopping or a heavy night out in the capital.

The pure crisp air, soothing warm waters and general mystical feel will be the best rejuvenating cocktail you’ve had in a long time; www.spacity.is.

Snowmobiling in South­ern Iceland: Adrenaline junk­ies can get their fix of fun snowmobiling along Iceland’s glacial landscapes. This year-round activity lets you combine sightseeing with extreme sports; www.adventures.is.

Getting there

By air:

• Iceland Air currently serves 23 gateways across the Canada, the U.S. and Europe and Canada; www.icelandair.com.

• Budget airline Iceland Express has flights from leaving from several European airport hubs including London Stansted, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Barcelona and Stockholm ARN; www.icelandexpress.com.

From Reykjavík Airport to the centre:

• The Reykjavík Excursions bus Flybus can get you to your hotel in approximately one hour; www.flybus.is.

 
 
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