Travel black book: Land of fire and ice

Who: Rachel Kum, 28. The former Miss Singapore Universe is the co-founder and director of skincare and cosmetics brand Rachel K.

Favourite city: Reykjavik

Why: I was there for a week during the summer of 2012 for a holiday. I loved it for its beautiful scenery and desolate landscapes.

Best place to stay

If you want to see glaciers, volcanoes, moss-covered lava fields and unexpected natural wonders, then Hotel Ranga (Sudurlands veg, 851 Hella, Iceland, tel: +354-487-5700) is the best place to stay at. It is a log lodge in a remote location - almost 100km east of Reykjavik - with views of Iceland's legendary Hekla volcano. It also has a great location for views of the Northern Lights.

Rooms start from €200 (S$348) a night.

Favourite restaurant

Saegreifinn (Tryggvagata, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland, tel: +354-553-1500, open daily from 11.30am to 10pm). This place in the old port can be described as a shack. The port feels like a pure Icelandic experience where whale-watchers and whale-catching ships sit side by side.

This restaurant specialises in lobster soup made from a secret recipe using a sort of local crayfish. It's simply divine. It costs about 1,000 Icelandic krona (S$12).

Favourite cafe

Grai Kotturinn (Hverfisgata 16, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland, tel: +354-551-1544, open weekdays from 7.15am to 3pm and weekends from 8am to 3pm), which means "the grey cat", is a cosy, dimly lit, book-lined cafe in an old townhouse. It's a breakfast and brunch place that serves really good pancakes and bagels. Breakfast for one person costs between 900 and 2,000 Icelandic krona.

Favourite bar or nightspot

Le Chateau des Dix Gouttes (Laugavegur 27, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland, tel: +354-892-3574, open daily from 6pm to 1am). It's a cosy bar that sells Iceland's only wine brand, Kvoldsol, made from crowberries, rhubarb, blueberries and Icelandic herbs. It also serves cheese. A small platter costs about 500 Icelandic krona.

Must-do activity

You must try snorkelling or diving in the Silfra Lagoon, which is about a 11/2-hour drive from the main city. Silfra is a crevice between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which drift apart about 2cm a year. Silfra Lagoon is famous for its heavenly shades of blue and crystal-clear water. The water is so clear and pure that it can be drunk without being treated.

Best day-trip out of the city

A must-see is Gullfoss, also known as The Golden Waterfall, which is Iceland's most famous waterfall. It's also one of the natural wonders of the world. It's about 11/2-hour's drive out of Reykjavik.

Must-do for adrenaline junkies

Go glacier hiking, where you can try ice climbing and explore amazing ice formations, sinkholes and jagged ridges.

You can also visit the Thrihnukagigur volcano. It is the only volcano in the world where you can see what it looks like from the inside. All you need is an hour-long hike to get to the crater and the guts to descend about 120m to the bottom of the crater in an open cable lift.

Best way to relax

Definitely the famous Blue Lagoon (240 Grindavik, Iceland, tel: +354-420-8800, open daily from 10am to 8pm), a geothermal spa.

You can enjoy the scenic beauty of your surroundings and breathe clean, fresh air while relaxing in the warm geothermal water.

You can rub on pure white silica mud from the lagoon. It is great for the skin.

Entrance fees start from €35, and you can add on treatments and massages.

Best hidden find

Icelandic Wonders (Hafnargata 9, Stokkseyri, Iceland, tel: +354-483-1202) is a museum that is dedicated to elves, trolls and the Northern Lights. Many Icelanders still believe in the existence of invisible elves. Admission costs 1,500 Icelandic krona.

Best time to visit

During the summer, when you can ride on Icelandic horses and experience the midnight sun. But if you want to see the Northern Lights, go in winter.

Best place to take someone on a date

Thorsmork, which means the forest of Thor, the Norse thunder god, is a romantic glacier valley with stunning views. It is filled with beautiful rock formations, mountains, rivers, glaciers and glacial rivers. The Icelanders love Thorsmork very much and visit it frequently, especially on weekends.

jennanid@sph.com.sg


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