This post has gone a little more overdue than I wanted, but I always think better late than never! Whenever I travel – whether it’s to a new city or country – I feel like I want to share my experiences of staying consistent on a plant based diet and all the relevant obstacles that may present themselves. Lord knows I’ve spent enough time in the past googling tips for various vegan diet conundrums; I’m now always pretty keen to ensure I pass on the gold.
As it happens, Iceland is a really vegan-friendly place and doesn’t require a lot of preparation or traipsing miles to find something to eat. I initially set out taking a lot of my own food in the suitcase but our host Linda, who’s apartment we rented through AirBnB, was actually amazing and left us plenty of kitchen staples as well as a local guide on places to eat.
In case anyone’s wondering, we stayed in Hafnarfjörður and our apartment was just a five minute drive from nearby eateries and a supermarket, and a 20 min drive to downtown Reykjavik. If you’re staying in a hotel or other accommodation then your food circumstances might be a little different, but here is a brief overview of how I managed and some handy tips for travelling plant based.
NOTE: I’ve also added some tips too for visiting the Blue Lagoon, for those who are looking to do this! So be sure to scroll through to the end 🙂
1. Taking Your Own Food
This trip was admittedly one of my most organised ones and I felt pretty chuffed at having made myself a lunch for the other side and some snacks for the journey too. When going through security liquids are obviously prohibited, so this means no hummus or nut butter! I took some homemade falafel I’d made the night before with some leftover brown rice in tamari, mixed greens, chopped tomato, sauerkraut and some sweet tahini dressing (I made the dressing quite thick so it didn’t get picked up).
I also baked up some cinnamon oatmeal choc-chip cookies which I took wrapped in tin-foil (recipe coming soon!). I also packed my own breakfast things in the suitcase as I think it’s the easiest meal of the day to take care of and not have to worry about once you’re there. This involved a box of my favourite brand muesli and carton of my regular go-to Oatly milk.
If you’re staying in an apartment, like we were, it’s incredibly easy to take care of many of your own meals from your accommodation. If you’re staying in a hotel this may be a little more tricky, but remember you can still eat breakfast in your room or email the hotel manager ahead of time to ensure they have some food in for you.
Some ideas for quick easy breakfasts that you can find anywhere are muesli, porridge oats (with water or almond milk); fresh fruit and toast with jam, mashed avocado or banana.
When travelling, supermarkets can be your best friend. It’s certainly a good idea to go and do a good food haul once you’ve arrived at the place you’re staying, to scout out some snacks, breakfast things and basic cooking essentials.
It turned out to be actually really easy to find things to eat in the Hafnarfjörður supermarkets. The first one we went to, Kronan, had a huge range of Oatly milks as well as other brands of almond and soy milk. It even had a batch of vegan ice cream; a whole aisle dedicated to healthy foods like dark chocolate and organic pasta, and a range of cruelty free ethical haircare and skin products.
In the second supermarket we went to, Bonus, I found these cool pressed smoothies by a brand called Froosh; lots of fruit and veg; my favourite brand of soy yoghurt (Sojade) and even veggie and vegan burgers!
I will also say here that Linda was amazing and had left us lots of food in her apartment, much of which was vegan-friendly. This included spelt bread, seeded crackers, chia seeds and lots of cooking staples and seasoning. In her fridge I happened to find some wheatgrass powder, so I forced myself to have a wheatgrass shot every morning to keep up my energy levels. There was also quite a few small appliances we could use including a blender and juicer, so although I didn’t it would have been super easy to whip up a smoothie for breakfast.
FYI: Kronan and Bonus are two of the cheapest supermarkets in Iceland.
3. Eating Out
Throughout our trip we didn’t really eat three square meals a day as we were always on the go. We tended to either breakfast and simply snack until dinner time, or grab a small bite to eat at lunch and then have a cheap dinner.
On two evenings we picked up pizza from a nearby pizza place called Pizzan. This was one of the places in the list left by our host and I opted to go there because I read online the pizzas were custom made. This meant I could order one without cheese, which they gladly did, and they even happened to have vegan cheese available, which was great to see.
On the night we were going to see the Northern Lights, the guys wanted to grab a quick KFC before our bus picked us up at 8:30pom from our arranged meeting point. Thanks to Linda’s guide, I knew there was a sandwich and smoothie place called Lemon just a few strides away so I popped over and grabbed a falafel and spicy hummus wrap, with a strawberry and banana smoothie. I would always recommend asking your host for good places to eat as they know the area well and it saves so much time traipsing around or looking up places online!
On the day we were exploring Reykjavik, we had lunch at this adorable cafe called The Laundromat, which we found completely by chance wandering down the high street. These guys had lots of veggie options that could be easily customised and one labelled vegan option, too. I went for this and it was amazing – baked eggplant on sourdough toast with date puree, nuts and seeds, and a salad with balsamic beetroot dressing. It was absolute heaven!
Not all places had something vegan on the menu to eat but what I did like is Iceland’s diverse range of cuisines to choose from; you’re always sure to find something you fancy. Menus are also displayed outside restaurants and cafes, so don’t be afraid to have a little read before popping in or asking the server when you arrive (everyone in Iceland speaks very good English).
The day following our shoot with Svala and Hulda we headed to a cute restaurant in Reykjavik named The Icelandic Bar. The food here was yummy but unfortunately this is where I made a mistake – I ordered a veggie burger without cheese but didn’t realise the patty itself had cheese inside it. Darn! Although it can be difficult to know this before you order it is indeed an easy mistake to watch out for!
After dinner we headed to a little ice cream parlour called Valdis, where they some yummy vegan ice cream flavours, and also a bakery next door where Chris and I picked up the most delightful chocolate brownies (mine was vegan)! I noticed when walking around that most of Reykjavik’s ice cream parlours advertised in their windows that they had vegan ice cream and gluten-free crepes. So it’s easy to see where you can find a delicious after-dinner treat.
Tips for Travelling Plant-Based
Let’s face it – plant-based diets are becoming so much more common now, there’s really not a lot to worry about! But, if you do happen to be a bit apprehensive, here are some of the best tips I can offer.
- Try to take as many pre-bought or homemade snacks as you can with you. These will be great not just for your journey there, but for any excursions or day trips you might take. You might also wish to take some of your favourite breakfast items such as almond or soy milk too.
- Research the area before you go. Happy Cow is an excellent resource for finding not just vegan cafes and supermarkets, but also places that cater for mixed diets. And more often than not there will be more than you think!
- If staying in an apartment or house, email your host explaining you’re plant-based and ask for some recommendations. Alternatively you can ask on arrival.
- If the country you’re visiting doesn’t speak English primarily, it really helps to learn some of the language before you go so you can better explain your diet to servers. Just a handful of phrases or nouns will go a long way – stuff like ‘without’; ‘no’; ‘I do not eat’; words for the foods you don’t want as well as ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’, if there is a word for that. In Iceland they speak very good English and vegan diets are very common so this is not necessary.
Tips for the Blue Lagoon
My first tip for the Blue Lagoon is that you should go!! Really, there are very few experiences like it. Being in your swimsuit in minus temperatures before dipping into a steaming hot volcanic pool is a surreal experience that I would recommend to anyone. The water is filled with minerals, silica and algae from the volcanic rock and leaves your skin feeling soft and nourished.
I do have a few more tips though for getting the best out of this surreal experience, so here they are.
- DON’T skip the free conditioner they supply to you before you go into the lagoon. This puts up a barrier for your hair and protects it from drying out and turning into cardboard. Slather it on, the more the better. You’ll be thankful later.
- Be sure to take your own towel as this is not supplied by the lagoon unless you buy one of the upgraded tickets.
- You will be expected to shower before you enter the lagoon. This is something I think is a really good rule but I was a bit put out by the queueing system they had in the ladies’ changing rooms, and how long I had to wait before I finally got to a shower. It took at least 20 mins off my pool time! This is something I am raising with the Blue Lagoon in my feedback email.
- DO make use of the free silica mud mask you’re entitled to with the standard ticket. It cleanses and nourishes your skin and leaves it feeling all soft 🙂
- DO wash out your hair in the showers afterwards, otherwise it will turn into cardboard, so I’ve read. I’d advise taking your own shampoo and conditioner as the shower gel they provide doesn’t lather up so good.
- I’d also recommend applying a moisturising oil or serum to your hair after washing, to put back that bit more moisture it needs. I did all of the above and my hair was lovely and soft after our trip to the lagoon 🙂
Have you ever visited Iceland, or are looking to visit? Do you have any more tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!