By Ed Salvato
Once a grim fishing village, Reykjavik has reinvented itself as a boisterously cool capital ? with famous celebrities, star chefs, and sexy design. Just don't expect a gay party scene. A population of 300,000 in the country and 120,000 in the capital, means you?ll only find one men's club and a single mixed gay/lesbian hangout.
But with Europe's friendliest natives and a "so what" attitude about sexuality, socializing comes easy throughout Iceland. Take heart that Iceland's economic turmoil hasn't dampened its hospitality. The kroner, Iceland?s currency, plunged in value meaning your dollars will go that much farther.
If you?ve never visited this island, be prepared for something entirely different from anything you?ve ever seen. With a landscape more reminiscent of the moon than earth, Iceland appears starkly beautiful. Everywhere you look, especially outside the capital, you?re surrounded by visually spectacular scenery.
If you come in summer, be sure to pack a sleep mask. Iceland basks in near-total daylight come late spring and early summer. Good thing the world's northernmost metropolis offers enough distractions to fill several bright days -- and nights.
If you visit in winter, which many tourists do to experience the healing spas and the northern lights, get ready for nights that last nearly all day.
It?s a small country, so the range of options isn?t as wide as in a destination like London or New York. But you will find a few reliably gay-popular accommodations to choose from.
Ten of the 30 snazzy apartment-suites at gay-owned Room With a View offer breathtaking views of Reykjavik's modest skyline and poetic sunsets -- when the sun actually sets. Be sure to ask for one when you book. If you?re honeymooning, several suites boast private or outdoor Jacuzzis.
Cool and calm, CenterHotel Thingholt exudes subtle sexiness with Fendi lobby furniture and black-and-white bed sheets.
Drop-dead gorgeous boutique hotel Hotel Borg is an Art Deco masterpiece with well-appointed rooms.
Keep an open mind about food: During Thorrablot, an ancient midwinter festival in mid to late January, Icelanders munch on traditional h?karl (putrefied shark) and hrutspungur (pickled ram testicles). The rest of the year, a delirious food scene celebrates liberation from centuries of boiled fish and meat.
Friday night bingo at harborside molecular-gastronomy bunker Orange is a must. The "Chicken Tits" entr?e and animal sounds in the bathroom clue you in to the mischievous attitude.
Silfur serves up Icelandic-French fusion in a sci-fi-meets-Louis XIV dining room complete with black lava communal table. For fewer kroner -- and tourists -- gay locals flock to Mexican fave Santa Maria or cheap, delicious Krua Thai at the harbor. Try light renditions of traditional plokkfiskur (fish hash) and kj?ts?pa (meat soup) at Segurmo -- a restaurant whose name translates as "seal fat," according to its owner N?mi Thomasson, Bj?rk's onetime personal tour chef.