My Nordic Adventure
So I just got back from my trip to Iceland and I am exhausted, exhilarated and inspired all at once (but mostly exhausted) I stayed in the capital, Reykjavik, and spent my days packing in as much activities as I could; National Parks, Geysers, waterfalls, Blue Lagoon, shopping, bars and of course… trying as much vegan food as I could! There was so much to do and see it was impossible to pack it all in, and we didn’t manage to see the illusive Northern Lights, so I will be planning another trip to complete my Icelandic activity wish list!
I did a fair bit of research before I went so I thought I knew what to expect in terms of the food, culture, weather and environment, but nothing can prepare you for the real thing. The people were incredibly friendly and accommodating, the weather was actually mild (typical there was a snowstorm back home while I was away!) and the vegan culture out there was highly developed – even more so than many places in the UK, I believe.
I saw so many great things and wanted to share what I had experienced with you, not to say that if you go your trip will be anything like mine, as I think everyone has their own experience of Iceland and no two are the same. But I wanted to give you guys a bit more detail into the different aspects of visiting this amazing country, through the eyes of a vegan…
Okay, so I know I was probably expecting too much here but I had read about a woman who owned the only vegan clothing store in the country, Mania, and I got so excited to meet her and visit the shop, only to discover it had since closed down (wipes tear) You can, however, still visit her online shop at www.mania.is and I would recommend that you do as the shoes are so cute and the jewellery selection is amazing – plus with enough support she may be able to reopen her store in the city again! The centre of town was littered with thrift stores so grabbing some bargains wouldn’t be hard to do, plus you’d be able to buy stuff that you’d never get here in the UK.
The other thing I noticed about the clothing stores in Reykjavik was the amount of fur, leather and wool being sold everywhere; the use of animal products in fashion is clearly deeply engrained in the country’s cultural heritage and seems hard to shake. I saw a lot of people (tourists) wearing Canada Goose, still under the illusion that we need animal furs and skins to stay warm. I wore my Hoodlamb 100% vegan jacket the whole time and was always toasty warm. The Thermore® EcoDown vegan insulation worked amazingly at keeping out the cold and the outer shell kept the rain off and protected me against the wind. The true star was the hood though, it was perfect for shielding my face against the harsh winds and occasional drizzle.
I was so impressed with the amount of vegan options available, everywhere I went there was at least one vegan option, if not more, and several vegetarian dishes to choose from too. Kaffi Vinyl is the only fully vegan café in Iceland, and I literally found my happy place there. The combination of the anti-propaganda artwork on walls, Beyoncé’s Lemonade playing on vinyl and the cool vegan girls running the place made this café such a positive and inspiring place to be. Some of my other favourites were Glo (healthy canteen style restaurant with loads of veggie/vegan options), The Big Lebowski bar, Mat Bar, Reykjavik fries and Prikid (hip-hop bar with vegan chipotle mayo – yaaas please). There was even an amazing soup café at the Geysers offering a range of healthy, hearty vegan soup options.
The first thing I noticed when we walked into the hotel room was the Vegan-Cruelty-Free soap in the bathroom, a bit of a surprise as I expected to see the cheap, dodgy looking ones. It was a bit too oily for me to use on my face but did the job for hand soap.
After taking a dip (more like a two hour soak) in the Blue Lagoon, I mosied round the product shop and got talking to one of the sales assistants. I found out that the Blue Lagoon beauty products are not tested on animals and are all vegan except for the Foot Balm and Rejuvenating Eye Cream (contains Polyglyceryl-3 or Beeswax), Moisturizing Cream and Intensive Cream (contains Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol, which is derived from Lanolin) and the Hand Lotion (contains Cera Alba, also known as Beeswax). This left the vast majority of their products classified as VCF – and boy was I tempted! But I had only brought hand luggage with me so wouldn’t have been able to bring them back with me – so bear that in mind if you know you’ll want to buy some volcanic mud face mask (who wouldn’t?)
On our day trip around the Golden Circle, our tour guide Willy told us that there is a small population of only 338,000 people in the entire country, and two thirds of them live in Reykjavik. The houses in Reykjavik are heated by natural hot water and Iceland is the only country in the world that can claim to obtain 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources. There were still lots of plastic straws and cutlery around which was disappointing, but they were big on recycling and I did notice how clean the streets were and how well maintained the countryside was, even with the hoards of tourists trampling over it everyday. So my tip would be to bring your own reusable cutlery, straw and travel mug - oh and bring a reusable water bottle too as their tap water is the best ever, seriously you have to try it!
We stayed at Cabin Hotel and it was not at all vegan-friendly (apart from the soap) Breakfast for me was bread, jam and, on one day, peanut butter. They changed our towels daily which I realised was a waste of water to wash them seeing as we’d barely even used them. I mean, you don’t wash your towels everyday at home, so why expect it from a hotel? For a more eco-friendly stay in Reykjavik, I would try the Eyja hotel; it’s super sustainable and focuses everything they do around being ethically conscious. (£190 per night) Or for a slightly cheaper alternative, try the Reykjavik Downtown Hostel for only £98 per night, they also offer educational seminars on environmentally responsible hospitality services.
I really can't sell Iceland enough - if you get the chance to go, take it! And tell me all about your trip when you do :) Until next time Iceland, farewell xoxo