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Pack a sleep mask. Reykjavik 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.
Once a grim fishing village, Reykjavik has reinvented itself as a boisterously cool capital -- think Icelandic post-rock band Sigur R?s, star chefs, and sexy design. Just don't expect a gay party scene. A population of 120,000 means one men's club and a single mixed hangout. But with Europe's friendliest natives and a "so what" attitude about sexuality, socializing comes easy. Take heart that Iceland's economic turmoil hasn't dampened its hospitality. Greenbacks may not have quite the major muscle on this gay-friendly island nation that they did late last year, but you can still happily drop a few pink dollars, since the exchange rate remains unusually generous.
Small but perfectly formed, thousand-year-old Reykjavik makes an ideal destination for a long weekend. A five-hour red-eye from New York or Boston drops you in a Lord of the Rings landscape of jet-black dried lava, lush fjords, and steaming hot springs. Detox with a dip at the Blue Lagoon spa, midway between efficient Keflavik Airport and the city, where geo-thermally heated seawater in outdoor pools soothes even the most worked-over nerves. Splurge for a private changing room and lounge; smear on white silica mud, said to have healing powers.
Skin aglow, stow your bags at Reykjavik's blink-and-you'll-miss-it CenterHotel Thingholt. Astronaut-meets-caveman design by Los Angeles?based Icelandic architect Gulla Jonsdottir blends sleek lines with native elements like lava tables. Turn right out the discreet front door onto Laugavegur, Reykjavik's shopping, dining, and people-watching artery. Fuel up with coffee and croissants at lesbian-owned IDA, a mobbed, multilevel bookstore, tchotchke boutique, and snack spot.
Up the hill at Naked Ape, local artists create over-the-top, one-of-a-kind tees and hoodies -- and raucous art parties erupt after-hours. Further up, loftlike Bask offers hard-to-find pieces from coveted Euro labels like Surface to Air and Acne Jeans. Jonesing for coffee again? Hit smart local chainlet Te & Kaffi for kicky espresso, free Wi-Fi, and plush sofas.
Just outside downtown, the domed Pearl observatory is Reykjavik's most distinctive landmark; take in its panoramic views and indoor geyser. Underneath, huge hidden water tanks juice nearly every Reykjavik home and business with geothermal power. With 80% of Iceland's energy drawn from such renewable sources, you'll feel like an eco-traveler simply by flipping a light switch.
Part One | Part Two