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Retreat Treats: A Chef’s Guide to Iceland

September 30, 2015

Ben Daitz, chef and co-owner of the NYC’s Cambodian sandwich shop Num Pang, just got back from an adventure-filled trip in Iceland.

“I didn’t really know what to expect and was completely blown away from the moment we touched down,” he says. Ben’s itinerary included everything from market visits—where he discovered wild-goose charcuterie—to snowmobiling on top of a glacier. Here, he shares his favorite hotels, most memorable culinary adventures, and one-of-a-kind shops for unique souvenirs.

New Nordic Dining in Reykjavik

Dill is located in an old Nordic House, right next to the cultural center of Reykjavik. Chef-owner Gunnar Gíslason’s menu is is the embodiment of new Nordic cuisine. We chose the 7-course menu with wine pairings (a new menu is created each week). Highlights included freshly baked bread served with whipped lamb fat, as well as a dish of arctic char with butter, birch, mushroom, and fresh cheese. The dessert featured Skyr, Iceland’s take on yogurt, served with meringues.”

Hyper Locavore Cooking in Hôfn

Pakkhús is a newer restaurant overlooking the harbor in Höfn, a town in southeast Iceland. The menu emphasizes local ingredients from the surrounding Vatnajökull region. Highlights were the langoustine pizza, the lamb carpaccio, and a really interesting dessert of licorice créme brulée.”

Inventive Casual Dining in a Luxe Eco Hotel

Silfra Restaurant is reason alone to book a stay at Ion Hotel in Selfoss, where the restaurant is housed. The menu was wildly creative with dishes such as glazed lamb shank with pickled cauliflower, cauliflower puree, grilled leek and mustard glaze, and craft beers like the Icelandic white ale, Einstök Ölgerð. Skyr is the base of so many Icelandic desserts. Here skyr was turned into ice cream and topped with brown sugar meringue and birch, and another dessert reimagined Skyr as a foam paired with sorrel granite.”

Room with a Glacier View

Fosshotel Vatnajökull is in the southeast part of Iceland. We stayed in room 020 Heffellsjökull, which was a mountain view suite. The suite was large and simply decorated allowing the huge windows to steal the show with their mountain and glacier views. A highlight was a large bathtub in the middle of the room.”

Best Hotel Bar

101 Hotel in Reykjavik is super stylish. They didn’t have any rooms available but that didn’t prevent us from taking advantage of the hotel’s great bar scene.”

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Enjoy life #OfftheBeaten mat and try new foods on our Iceland Northern Lights & Sonar Retreat this upcoming Feb. 9-17 with Aarona Ganesan. Learn more here. 


AFAR inspires and enables those who travel the world seeking to have deeper and more fulfilling travel experiences. AFAR's platforms include the award-winning AFAR Magazine;, recently named a Top 10 Site That Makes Travel Easier; the non-profit foundation Learning AFAR; and the immersive travel series AFAR Experiences.