heida reed

Heida Reed's Iceland

Credit: Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage; Map Illustration by Sara Mulvanny

By Maria Neuman

Growing up in Iceland taught Heida Reed how to pack properly. “The weather is so intense there,” says the actress, who plays Special Agent Jamie Kellett on the multicontinental drama FBI: International. “I’ve had friends visit who are from California, and they are never prepared for how cold it can get. Iceland is a different kind of cold; you need to pack layers, layers, and more layers.”

Although Reed now lives in London and spends her workdays in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, she likes nothing more than pulling on a puffy jacket and hiking the hills of her breathtaking country. Grab a parka and let’s go!

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Enjoy The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights in green, purple, and blue hues over a silhouetted forest.

The Northern Lights

Photo credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Northern Lights are like nothing you’ve ever seen. Usually they happen in the winter, from December to February, but I once saw them in August. I was at my grandmother’s house, who lives an hour outside of Reykjavik, sitting in her hot tub drinking prosecco.

All of a sudden we saw the lights across the sky, which is super unusual for that time of year. I had some friends with me who were visiting from the U.K., and they say it’s one of the most beautiful experiences they’ve ever had.

Dine Out

Reykjavik is small but has some fabulous restaurants, especially the seafood places down by the harbor. My favorite is a spot called Seabaron. It’s not fancy, but they do the best lobster soup.

Score a Snuggly Sweater

Actress Heida Reed stands on a stark shoreline wearing a classic knitted Icelandic sweater

Heida Reed wearing a classic knitted Icelandic sweater

Photo credit: Instagram/Heida Reed

If you want something traditional, go to one of the many vintage shops in Reykjavik and buy a classic Icelandic knit sweater. They are super warm and come in various neutral colors like brown and cream.

There are also some great stores around the city, like Farmer’s Market, which does an updated version of the sweater.

Say Cheers With Schnapps

A woman reaches for a bottle amongst many on a giant backlit series of shelves behind a bar

Try an Icelandic beer the next time you're in the Land of Ice and Fire.

Photo credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Go bar hopping in Reykjavik on Laugavegur, which is the street with all the clubs and bars. They are all close together, so it’s easy to go from one to the other and try Icelandic beers or a shot of Black Death, which is a local schnapps flavored with caraway seeds. Just be prepared to wait in line; a lot of the bars are quite small.

Grab and Go

There are tons of great food trucks in the city center, and after a night out you must get one of our hot dogs. They’re best ordered eina með öllu, or with everything: ketchup, mustard, fried and raw onion, and remoulade.

Take a Hike

A lush yet rocky Icelandic terrain with a small creek flowing past glaciater carved hills

Heida loves the hot springs of Iceland.

Photo credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Growing up in Iceland helped give me a connection to nature, and it’s one of the things I miss the most when I’m away. There are hikes all over the country, but my favorite is the one at Reykjadalur Valley, near Hveragerdi.

It’s a hiking trail with hot springs, so pack a bottle of wine or a few beers with a picnic lunch. I wear my bathing suit underneath my hiking gear and take a dip and relax. I took my husband a few years ago, and he wants to go back.

Travel Back in Time

An ancient wooden structure nestles deeply into a sod shroud that encompasses the roof

Classic Icelandic architecture

Photo credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

To see what life was like in Iceland at the turn of the 20th century, stroll through the Árbaer Open Air Museum on the outskirts of Reykjavik. It’s a traditional village complete with original houses and classic architecture. You can see how people used to live and learn the history.

Buy This at the Airport

If you want to take something Icelandic home with you, I always pick up some black lava salt at the airport. It’s a salt that is blended with activated charcoal and is great for cooking.

Get Soaked

Bathers swim in an enormous steamy bright blue geothermal pool

The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa

Photo credit: Getty Images/EyeEm

It’s touristy, but I still love going to The Blue Lagoon. It’s a geothermal spa, and it’s close to the airport. I suggest you prebook and try to go on a weekday when it’s not as busy. It’s a natural hot spring with healing silica, and you can just sit in the water and look out over the lava rock and green hills.

Bundle Up

Actress Heida Reed walking along an icy body of water in a long arctic jacket

The wind makes Iceland feel especially cold

Photo credit: Instagram/Heida Reed

If you’re not used to the cold, it can be shocking. It’s not so much the temperature but the wind that gets you. When getting dressed, you need to layer, starting first with a thin layer of wool.

There are lots of great outdoor-gear brands out of Iceland, but my favorite is 66° North for a great winter coat.

SUBSCRIBE NOW: Enjoy 4 Digital Plus 2 Print/Digital Issues Of Watch Per Year — For Free!

Watch new CBS Drama FBI: International takes the action abroad on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streaming on Paramount+!

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