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Where to Eat, Shop, and Stay in Iceland, According to a Chef

Ben Daitz, chef and co-owner of the NYC’s Cambodian sandwich shop Num Pang, just got back from an adventure-filled trip in Iceland. “I didn’t really know what to expect and was completely blown away from the moment we touched down,” he says. Ben’s itinerary included everything from market visits—where he discovered wild-goose charcuterie—to snowmobiling on top of a glacier. Here, he shares his favorite hotels, most memorable culinary adventures, and one-of-a-kind shops for unique souvenirs.

New Nordic Dining in Reykjavik
Dill is located in an old Nordic House, right next to the cultural center of Reykjavik. Chef-owner Gunnar Gíslason’s menu is is the embodiment of new Nordic cuisine. We chose the 7-course menu with wine pairings (a new menu is created each week). Highlights included freshly baked bread served with whipped lamb fat, as well as a dish of arctic char with butter, birch, mushroom, and fresh cheese. The dessert featured Skyr, Iceland’s take on yogurt, served with meringues.”

Hyper Locavore Cooking in Hôfn
Pakkhús is a newer restaurant overlooking the harbor in Höfn, a town in southeast Iceland. The menu emphasizes local ingredients from the surrounding Vatnajökull region. Highlights were the langoustine pizza, the lamb carpaccio, and a really interesting dessert of licorice créme brulée.”

Inventive Casual Dining in a Luxe Eco Hotel
Silfra Restaurant is reason alone to book a stay at Ion Hotel in Selfoss, where the restaurant is housed. The menu was wildly creative with dishes such as glazed lamb shank with pickled cauliflower, cauliflower puree, grilled leek and mustard glaze, and craft beers like the Icelandic white ale, Einstök Ölgerð. Skyr is the base of so many Icelandic desserts. Here skyr was turned into ice cream and topped with brown sugar meringue and birch, and another dessert reimagined Skyr as a foam paired with sorrel granite.”

Room with a Glacier View
Fosshotel Vatnajökull is in the southeast part of Iceland. We stayed in room 020 Heffellsjökull, which was a mountain view suite. The suite was large and simply decorated allowing the huge windows to steal the show with their mountain and glacier views. A highlight was a large bathtub in the middle of the room.”

Best Hotel Bar
101 Hotel in Reykjavik is super stylish. They didn’t have any rooms available but that didn’t prevent us from taking advantage of the hotel’s great bar scene.”

Luxury Adventure Digs
The Ion Hotel is an award-winning adventure hotel less than an hour from Reykjavik that delivers an unforgettable experience. The hotel is tucked away in between volcano lava fields, where you sleep under the Northern Lights in the right season. Book a challenging trek across an ancient glacier or get your adrenaline pumping with a snowmobile ride to the top of a glacier cap. Their geothermal pool and spa are a nice end to a big day of adventure.”

Local Souvenirs
Geysir is a clothing store we stumbled upon in Reykjavik. We ended up buying these sick wool blankets that are made from locally sourced textiles and yarns. They are a great memento of the trip.”

Artisanal Icelandic Food Shop
Ostabúðin is a gourmet food shop in Reykjavik. We went here to buy a few things to snack on back at the hotel, and they ended up having some really awesome charcuterie and other ingredients that we don’t see back in the States like this house-smoked goose breast. I stocked up on that, and got some other things like goose liver pâté, pear preserves, licorice salt, and smoked birch salt.”

Want more? Check out our ultimate guide to Iceland!