15 Reasons Iceland Is The Perfect Place For A Girly Escape (2022)

As the silky waters of the geothermal pool enveloped me and mist tickled my face I took a sip of my ice cold beer and watched the sun’s setting rays dance across the surprisingly calm Northern Atlantic Ocean. A fleeting fancy crossed my mind, had I per chance stumbled upon heaven on earth?

Iceland. You don’t need to have inched a toe on its astonishing lands to understand its magnificence. Much hyped, it begs for absolutely none of it.

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It has always been a place that has been on the top of my travel bucket list, but one that has seemed so far out of reach.

It's now easier than ever to experience the wonders of Iceland first-hand thanks to PLAY Airlines, the leading Icelandic low-cost airline. I was incredibly fortunate to be invited on a weekend break to Reykjavík with PLAY. I happened to be spending this little trip of a lifetime with my favourite woman in the world, my twin sister Rachel. An unforgettable girl’s weekend was what was promised and well did it deliver. On. Every. Single. Count.

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We flew from Dublin and arrived ahead of time in Keflavik airport which put us in a great mood. Not that we needed help in that department, all our phone calls and texts the week prior went something along the lines of: 'Can you BELIEVE we're going to Iceland!!!!!!!!' Funnily enough though, my sister and I had an identical thought as we took the bus into Reykjavík. 'God, it looks a bit like Connemara, doesn’t it?’

No visit to the Land of Fire and Ice would be complete without a soak in a scenic hot spring. Our excitement levels had already peaked by the time we arrived at our hotel as we dropped our bags off and went straight to the Sky Lagoon.

Bathing culture is at the heart of the Icelandic way of life, from both a health and social perspective. As early as the 12th century, Icelandic people are said to have been enjoying the healing benefits of thermal water which is naturally rich in minerals.

What is fascinating is that on the lagoon landscape in Iceland, the Sky Lagoon is in its infancy. Man-made, it opened in 2021 making it one of the newest thermal spas in the country. Located about 15 minutes away from downtown Reykjavík, you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking you were trespassing on some secret establishment from a Bond film.

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We tried out the Sky Pass, which is the luxe offering that includes private changing facilities, access to the lagoon and the seven-step hydrotherapy cycle called the Ritual.

You’re given a series of electronic waterproof wristbands which will give you access to the amenities including one which acts as your locker key and is loaded with your card details so you can run a tab for food and drink and pay at the end.

Your lap of luxury begins right out the gate, you're given your own changing and showing room which is stocked with shower essentials, extra towels and a hair dryer. Underfloor heating only adds to the lavish vibes. You have to shower before entering the lagoon and you can either wash your hair or tie it up.

I was so proud to be flying the flag for Irish design wearing my Kahm swimsuit by Donegal sisters Áine Boyle and Sally Anne Sherry which is made from, amongst other things, old carpets! We curiously crept to the thermal pool where we were greeted by a cave-like entrance giving a window to the turquoise blue and tranquil waters that awaited us.

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Entrenched in volcanic-like rock, the lagoon feels almost out-of-worldly when you slip into water, which is kept at a very cosy 38 to 40 degree temperature. You'll snake around jagged corners before the big reveal where the steaming water stretches out to reveal a 230-foot infinity edge pool with uninterrupted views of the Kársnes Harbour.

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We definitely didn’t keep our cool as the ‘oh my God’s’ spilled from us at an unruly pace and every which way you looked there were fellow lagoon-goers with a mix of awe and contentedness etched across their faces.

Even when the skies opened and rain thundered down like bullets, it didn’t cool the hot-tub level temperatures or take away from the experience — rather it added to the invigorating nature of it.

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Then, as if nature was toying with us, a rainbow erupted across the sky and appeared to come to an end at the swim-up bar that was etched into a wall of rock. Talk about a pot of gold to find.

The bar was the spot to be, where the chilled atmosphere gave way to a happy-go-luckier vibe. You could enjoy up to three alcoholic drinks with a selection of beers, wines and soft drinks on offer. It’s also important to stay hydrated too.

The next step in the Ritual plan was the most lethal one, the glacier-fresh cold plunge which really doesn’t need much explaining. Be prepared to feel like you will turn into a block of ice instantly. That’s it.

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You will quickly forget about the cold though as you’re ferried into the sauna. The sauna is yet more evidence as to why the Sky Lagoon is the trendiest new thermal spa in the country. The heat in the room might rob you of most of your breath, the view will take the rest. The sauna is firmly upgraded on the unforgettable front thanks to the wall-to-ceiling window that shows off the stunning ocean view in all its splendour. While I could have sat there for hours, ten minutes is the maximum time you're recommended to stay there.

The mist room was actually my favourite part of the whole process even though I spent a sum total of about 30 seconds in there.It does exactly what is says on the tin, it's an open-air room where freezing mist rains down.Refreshing doesn’t even cover it.

The penultimate step is the steam room where you're given a tub of the spa's signature Sky Scrub to apply beforehand. In hindsight, I was a bit frugal when applying it, so be sure to lather that stuff on nice and thick! Your skin will thank you for the glow up after.

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The final step is to wash off before you slip back into the serene waters again where you will feel almost reborn. Utterly replenished.Typically people stay at the Sky Lagoon anywhere between one-and-a-half to three hours. There’s also a bar and restaurant to grab a bite before or after, you’ll be peckish after all that fierce relaxation, trust me!

It's a place where you'll easily lose track of time and not long for a second of it back. Overall the experience was simply surreal. What I would have given to have gone at night to see the Northern Lights break out across the sky. Yes, I’m already planning my trip back!

We stayed at Center Hotels Laugavegur, which is on the main shopping and restaurant street in the city so you're literally a stone’s throw away from everything you need.

The hotel had a lovely laidback atmosphere which made it a very inviting spot to come home to after a day of windswept adventuring. We really liked the industrial vibe of the interiors which had pops of bright colours peppered throughout making it an uplifting backdrop against the constant greyed skies.

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We both had our own double rooms which were spacious enough in size. The beds were very comfortable and the rainfall shower was hard to drag yourself away from. Another big plus was the black-out curtains, after a day out in the elements you will be hard-pressed not to sleep like a baby.

The breakfast was also brilliant, you definitely need a full stomach to take on the elements and we were well set for all our adventures each morning.

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Fun fact: Did you know that Iceland is one of the happiest places in the world? It actually ranked as the third happiest country in the 2022 World Happiness Report.

I draw your attention to this sweet little ditty to make my next point. Everyone, and I mean every single person, we met in Reykjavík was so nice and extremely helpful. It seriously sweetened the deal for us and went a long way to making our trip to Iceland as unforgettable as it was.

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The first night we dined at Monkeys and don't let the exterior fool you for a second. It looks humble from the outside but inside it's vibrant, verdant and full of character.

If you're looking for a restaurant with the energy of a cocktail bar this is the place for you. An exotic menu offers a mix of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, with the star player being the five-course tasting menu, which was flavour and fun-filled equally.

Make sure you leave room for dinner, it's a marathon not a sprint. Fish fans will be in heaven with a particularly replete menu on that front where you'll find delights like sprint salmon tiradito, tuna ceviche and tuna and foie gras. You also get a choice of a main, we tried the tenderloin of lamb and the cod with miso and we can attest to the scrumptiousness of both.

The dessert platter was a real highlight and make sure you swing by the Champagne Train for a nightcap afterwards!

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The beautiful and equally intimidating thing about Iceland is the power of the natural landscape. Wild, unpredictable and staggering in beauty, it’s a humble experience to find yourself in its midst. We took in the sights with Reykjavík Sightseeing that offers an array of packages from the Northern Lights to quad bike rides on black sand beaches.

We went on the Classic Gold Circle tour which runs for approximately seven hours and includes Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Centre and Gulfoss Falls. You can even tailor your day out to make it all-the-more unforgettable by adding other natural marvels such as a glacier tour or a pit-stop at the Secret Lagoon to the list.

Thingvellir National Park was the first stop on our adventure where are wonderful tour guide Anastasia immersed us in the Viking past of the park leading us down a lava canyon.

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History buffs will be absorbed by the site of the ancient parliament of the Viking commonwealth.

You don't even need to be a geology enthusiast to be fascinated by the rift valley where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are being strained apart either.

If you want to visit the park without a tour, there are even more incredible experiences to try such as snorkelling in the Silfra fissure which is said to have the clearest water in the world.

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Then the real fun started. We journeyed to the Geysir Centre in Haukadalur Valley which is home to one of the most famous geysers in the world, the Great Geysir.

As you walk through the park it’s quite a haunting sight as plumes of steam eerily rise from the ground all around you. Now, you’d be waiting a long, long, time to see Geysir erupt as it’s currently inactive and the last time it went off was back in 2016.

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Thankfully, right beside it you’ll find Strokkur which is a much more tourist-friendly geyser, the most active in the country in fact, which goes off every five to ten minutes. Let’s not pretend it’s not incredibly annoying to visit a popular tourist spot to find everyone with their faces stuck behind their phones trying to get the perfect photo rather than actually taking in the sights. Well, this time it only added to the fun.

There was a simmering tension as the hundreds of people in the crowd stood fixated as one for the all-important moment. It’s hardly a blink-and-miss-it experience though, as the geyser shoots a fountain of water anywhere from 15 to 40 metres into the sky. While it may only last a few seconds it’s a shock of pure exhilaration. I’d also definitely recommend getting a geyser photo or selfie. The chaos that ensued to hit the capture button in time was great craic altogether!

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We were given time to grab a bite to eat and hit the gift shop while we were there. My advice would be to go see the geysers first and take a break after. Leave yourself enough time to have a proper gander at them because they really are quite magical.

We rounded off the tour on a dramatic note by swinging by the mighty Gulfoss Falls.

Gullfoss is a two-step waterfall with a total height of 32 metres which can be viewed, uniquely, from above as well as from the side too. Anyone with a fear of fights might find the walk down to the side ledge a bit uncomfortable but it’s all part of the experience.

If you do go down to the lower level make sure to walk to the viewing point in front of the falls before you go back up as you may be lucky enough to see a rainbow light up across the waterfall. While you’re there, plop yourself down on the little bench, there's only one, close your eyes and let the mist and breeze work its magic and refresh you.

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It was a sleepy return to Reykjavík and I'd recommend listening to some music in between the guide's speeches. With the right song the journey can turn almost emotional as with every twist and turn along the road there is another astounding view ready to take your breath away. I won't even attempt to sum up the beauty of the countryside in words, I'll fail.

That evening we had some time to explore the city and it’s quite impossible not to fall in love with Reykjavík's charm. The wintery atmosphere is kept from feeling drab by the joyfully coloured corrugated iron houses.

Make sure to swing by Skólavörðustígur Street, which is the rainbow street located downtown. Reykjavík is considered one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world and the street was painted with a rainbow every year for Reykjavík Pride.

It became a permanent fixture in 2019 and the residents in the area were invited to help paint the rainbow path towards Hallgrímskirkja Church. Even the mayor grabbed a paint roller!

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That night, we dined at Hedinn Kitchen and Bar which has an incredibly elegant aesthetic but with the perfect relaxed atmosphere.

We were treated to the five-course menu which was a non-stop adventure for our taste buds. The menu is refreshed every five to six weeks so that they can incorporate fresh ingredients which marry with the time of year. The menu is designed by head chef Sindri Guðbrandur Sigurðsson who competes on the national culinary team for Iceland.

From beetroot toffee with noisette hazelnuts, cheese foam and balsamic, to beef ribs in unagi and bordelaise sauce with celery root and bok choi, this taster menu will keep you guessing at every turn. A special shoutout has to go to the cod dish which included fennel, apple, miso monte, trout roe and soy. It was my favourite dish of my entire trip.

For the gin lovers out there, make sure you try The Sneaky One cocktail, you won't want to sip on anything else all night. Hedinn has all the class without an ounce of the grandiosity — it got five sparkling gold stars from us. It's perfect for a chill date night or if you're looking for an uber-chic spot to celebrate something special.

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Any research into visiting Iceland will warn of the changeability of the weather and the ferocity of the wind in particular and you should believe every word. Definitely, definitely, make space in your suitcase for a waterproof jacket that's also windproof, waterproof trousers, hiking boots or shoes, a hat and gloves.

While we overall lucked out with mild enough weather, onthe final day we struggled to walk down streets at certain points because of the strength of the wind. It only added to the fun and it made grabbing a coffee Hygge Coffee and Micro Bakery an absolute joy. My sister is a chai latte obsessive and she says it's the best she's ever had!

If you're looking for somewhere stylish to grab a spot of lunch when the weather takes a turn, the Hafnartorg Gallery is a swanky food court with a bustling atmosphere and slick interiors and a diverse array of restaurants offering everything from New York-style pizza to Hawaiian Pokébowls.

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Sadly, our whale watching tour with Elding Tours had to be cancelled due to the stormy weather but it gives us yet another reason to return soon. The city is still a well-equipped playground for tourists when the weather doesn't play ball and if you find yourself in the same boat with a cancelled whale tour there's always the Whales of Iceland museum -- which is the largest whale museum in Europe.

One absolute must-not-miss activity is FlyOver Iceland. This is such a cool way to experience all the breathtaking scenery that the country has to offer. This simulation ride only lasts about seven or eight minute but it's an exhilarating experience that will make your jaw drop.

The clue's in the name. Full motion seating gives the sense of flight while the wraparound screen displays breathtaking natural landscapes from all over the country. Not only will you will literally feel like you're flying but there's even mist, sounds and smells incorporated to make you feel like you in the middle of the action. The dramatic score on top only adds to the blockbuster effect.

Another way to see the many wonders of Iceland is to visit the Perlan Museum. If you’re not visiting during Northern Lights season the 360 degree planetarium show will bring you the next best thing. Likewise, if you didn’t get time to visit a glacier it’shome to the world’s first ice cave.

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There's also a volcano section, a lava show, a virtual fish tank, a glacier exhibit and if you venture up to the top floor you can end your visit on a high note with a 360 degree look out over Reykjavík. Or for those who are brave enough, a zip down the zipline!

We finished off our culinary expedition of Reykjavík with dinner at Duck and Rose, an Italian and French fusion restaurant with a focus on attention to detail that brings delight with every mouthful. The interiors are gently glam making it a very Instagram-friendly spot to dine which never hurts.

The service was the highlight though. Truly smashing, full of heart. You could tell by the atmosphere in the room as all around us were gangs of gal pals in the throws of animated conversation. Bellied laughter was the soundtrack for the night, which was just fabulous.

It had a particularly strong cocktail menu and the food was sumptuous and rich. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

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The flight home was nothing short of bittersweet. There was no exchange of words, we were simply stunned into silence by Iceland's uniqueness. The fact that I got to experience it all with my twin sister by my side made it so much more magical. I'm undoubtedly confident in saying it's trip I'll never forget and one I recommend you share with your favourite ladies in your life.

This was the first time I had flown with PLAY Airlines and I was incredibly impressed.

PLAY's ethos is all about helping you to pay less so you can play more in bucket list destinations. While they're a budget airline, not a single corner is cut.

The PLAY team, from check-in to the cabin, were simply marvellous to deal with -- they were so friendly and attentive. The plane itself was very spacious and had a really warm and cosy atmosphere.

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From start to finish, our journey was straightforward, seamless and stress-free. I couldn't recommend flying with PLAY more.

You can fly from Dublin to Iceland Keflavik with PLAY up to six days a week from €‎84 one way, with connecting flights to the US (Washington/Baltimore, Boston Logan and New York Stewart) from €‎130, inclusive of taxes.

For additional information and bookings please visitflyplay.com Follow PLAY on Instagram @playairlines #flyPLAY.

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