Insider Tips and Insights from a Canadian Expat in Iceland

My Airbnb apartment host, Lloyd, in Reykjavik’s stylish 101 neighbourhood was a font of amazing tips, both local and far afield. We followed many of his jot notes (seen below) like a guidebook. I love his expat insights about local culture.

Hi Liz,

Pink Iceland is an interesting travel company for weddings, adventures, and logistical backflips. Here's a stunt they helped organize:

Destinations in the Westfjords

  • Stay in the regional capital Ísafjördur.

  • Try the fish at Tjöruhúsið.

  • Maybe hike over the mountain to neighbouring village Hnífsdalur.

  • Take a boat ride to Vigur island where eiderdown is harvested...

  • ...or arrange to visit Æðey, a similar nearby island owned by my in-laws.

  • Go for a hike in the isolated Strandir region.

  • The bird cliffs of Látrabjarg are famous among the bird-watching set.

  • The drive between Ísafjördur and Dýrafjörður is super-nice, though it includes a stretch in a very long two-way, single-lane tunnel.

  • For accommodations in this sparsely populated area, you might try the farm-stay program.


Helicopter hire. Their office is at the Reykajvík airport about 1 km from our place. It's worth visiting just to be transfixed by the hi-def helicopter-mounted video they play on a giant screen.

Smyril Line Ferry

There's a ferry that goes between Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland, Torshavn in the Faroes, and either Hirtshals or Esbjerg in Denmark, so that could be an itinerary.


There's a cute little hotel on an isolated island called Flatey. They have an excellent kitchen. You can do it as a day trip out of Stykkishólmur, or continue northward on the ferry to the Westfjords.

Hún/Hann Brugghús

A microbrewery run by an acquaintance named Ásta. They plan to open a brew pub in Reykjavík in 2017. Here's a wobbly automatic translation of a news article about them.


Some articles on the food culture in general.

A few favourite places to eat:

  • Tjöruhúsið in Ísafjörður (rustic seafood).
  • Fjöruhúsið in Hellnar (tiny chowder place in isolated seaside spot).
  • Dill / Mikkeller and Friends / nameless pizza restaurant (New Nordic / Danish and local craft beer / pears-and-sheeps-head pizza). All under one roof at Hverfisgata 11, Reykjavík.
  • Matur og Drykkur (revolting traditional "þorramatur" given the New Nordic treatment).
  • Coocoo's Nest (Brooklyn comes to Reykjavík).
  • Valdís (gelateria). Next to Coocoo's Nest and part of an emerging gourmet district at the harbour. They launched "IceHot1" gelato the day after the Minister of Finance was discovered to be using that name on Ashley Madison.

Random Cultural Phenomena

The thing that comes to mind is the very long Christmas. In place of Santa Claus there are 13 "Yule Lads" who come down from the mountains—one per day until Christmas arrives—then they retreat in reverse order. During this time period, it's legal to buy fireworks and they are seen and heard continually for nearly the whole month, but especially on New Years when everybody sets off a few boxes right on their street.

Also part of Christmas: you get together with your family and make laufabrauð, then have it with supper. Extra points if you have one of the specialized dough cutters which are made by only two people in the world.

Iceland is often pointed to as a good place to be a woman.

Marriage and childbirth are almost wholly unrelated events here. It's also not uncommon for a relationship to proceed in this order: sex, dating, a child, cohabitation, buying a house, marriage. Young single motherhood is the norm, often overlaps post-secondary education, and strikes no one as a social ill. At a guess, this results from the generally strong status of women here. Strong kin networks, good pay and parental leave, a culture of fathers well-involved in parenting, minimal religious influence, historical reasons involving long-absent seafaring men, and child-friendly workplaces all contribute to this.

A local Canadian-Icelandic writer named Alda Sigmundsdóttir writes the Iceland Weather Report (both a blog and a Facebook group) and has an extensive line in interpreting Iceland for a foreign audience.

Hope all this is useful to you, and happy travels.

- Lloyd