Reykjavik

 

Reykjavik is Europe-lite. It’s not because virtually everyone in the city areas is well versed in English, since that’s true in Europe as well, and it’s not that the people have a welcoming attitude toward visiting North Americans. It’s that Iceland, and its capital city in particular, combine European history and ancient culture with a modern sensibility and real enthusiasm for the global economy that has brought so much tourist money into the country. And best of all, there are all kinds of deal for Canadians to exploit.

Like Europe, Iceland has an ancient culture and sweeping, exotic geography, everything needed for a real European vacation, but few people have historically been willing to forego France, Spain, or Italy in favour of our Nordic neighbours. All travellers need do is give the city a chance, however, and so the Iceland travel authority instituted the Iceland Stopover Program. This program take advantage of the fact that all trans-Atlantic flights on Iceland Air are routed through Reykjavik, and allows Canadians to extend their short stopover in the Icelandic capital for up to four days, free of charge.

Next time you cross the water, consider giving a few days to the world’s northernmost capital city. Though it will have a hard-fought battle to depose Berlin as number one, Reykjavik is quickly becoming one of Europe’s most famous (infamous?) destinations for night-life. The city has a thriving club and bar scene that caters both to reliable local crowds and equally reliable crowds of tourists. However, it’s when the city begins the all-night club crawl known as Runtur that the city really earns its growing reputation.

Iceland actually has stronger ties to Canada than most European nations besides Britain, and the relationship comes out in all sorts of ways. Canada actually patrols the Icelandic skies with jets, since the country has no standing military of its own, making Iceland and Canada the two closest NATO countries of all. We need not turn to war to see our similarities, however; the Icelandic-Canadian Wind Music Concert this summer brings together bands from Saskatchewan, Canada, and Svanur, Iceland to put on a dazzling symphonic show. Even in Canada’s inception, the two countries have been close, since it’s the Viking explorer Leif Ericson who allegedly set foot on Newfoundland more than 1,200 years ago. Whether they’re commercial flight itineraries or orchestral concerts, Iceland and Canada make perfect partners.

Many Canadians head to Reykjavik specifically for its health and wellness efforts; not only does the city offer easy access to some of the world’s best outdoor activities, but it has several wellness-promoting programs that help recharge travellers and ease their stresses. Natural thermal pools let you relax the day away, but be sure to stop by Blue Lagoon for its mineral-rich water that’s said to work wonders on the skin. Also make a stop at Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach, a shallow entry to the ocean that sees naturally warm water circulated near the shore.

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