Welcome to the third installment of my Iceland series where I’ll share other tidbits about Iceland, following my first two posts, “10 Things You Need to Know About Visiting Iceland” and “Our Experience with Nordic Visitor in Iceland.”
- There were surprisingly few tourists, even for the end of the high season. That’s one compelling reason you should visit soon! I cannot see this beautiful destination not exploding in popularity. My favorite place, Fjardrargljufur canyon, was completely empty. The landscape is unmarred by droves of people.
- The lack of people actually ended up being beneficial for me in particular because Iceland is pretty lax on safety. Not in a negligent way, but in a use-common-sense-and-don’t-be-an-idiot way. There are endless places where you could fall to your death so I was glad I wasn’t walking on the edges of waterfalls with a crowd.
- Icelanders are nice, but not over-the-top friendly. Americans are generally accustomed to excessively friendly service. My husband and I speculated that it’s probably because in other countries, people in the service industry are working for tips. To my knowledge Icelanders are paid a decent wage and don’t need to go to these measures.
- Showering – We did not visit Blue Lagoon but instead went to the less touristy Myvatn Nature Baths. It was a literal local watering hole – it seemed like a place for the locals to hang out on a Friday night. I am not sure if this holds for Blue Lagoon which has more tourists but at the Myvatn baths they require a nude shower. For Europeans this is totally normal but American women, particularly younger ones, tend to err on the side of modesty in the locker room. Fortunately they do have a couple of shower stalls.
- Wireless – We were able to get wireless at every hotel we stayed at which we could use on our phones. Our phones themselves did not work – I think if you can switch out your SIM card you could buy one upon arrival. With a map, a GPS, and the prepaid phone from Nordic Visitor a smart phone was wholly unnecessary. We did, however, stay at the middle range of hotels offered by our travel agent which were on the nicer side. I cannot speak to hostels and cheaper hotels.
- Volcanoes – this was especially concerning for us because Bardarbunga was thought to be on the verge of eruption about a week or two before our scheduled arrival. We checked it out on a map and Bardarbunga is fairly central on the island and slightly east. The airport in Keflavik is on the southwest edge of Iceland. When Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, the ash cloud floated east towards Europe so we weren’t concerned about the flight. We also wouldn’t be going anywhere near it. The biggest concern was that it could melt a glacier that would flood Route 1, the main route around Iceland. The best thing to do in this situation is to listen to the locals. Iceland has 30 active volcano systems so they are truly the experts. We Googled the status of Bardarbunga daily and Sigfus at Nordic Visitor offered to call us if there was a problem. Additionally, Sigfus marked off any potentially problematic roads on our map and gave us a phone number for checking roads. It was easy to use and we checked the status of those roads on the days we were trying to use them.
- Alcohol – I can’t personally speak to this but I believe alcohol is highly taxed in Iceland, so I heard that you should stock up at duty-free if you want to drink more affordably during your trip.
- Hitchhikers – for the brave of heart it is quite common to hitchhike around Iceland. We did not pick anyone up.
- Gas Stations – be sure to fill up on gas often because they aren’t open 24/7. Also, at one of the gas stations we stopped at they had actually run out of gas.
- Drinking Water – I am always worried about getting sick in foreign places. Rest assured that the water in Iceland is clean and drinkable, which leads me to my next point. Should you contract an illness of the stomach variety…
- Bathrooms – they are plentiful, clean, and free. We never had to pop a squat on the side of the road! However…
- I did not see any large medical facilities along our journey. I am sure that there were doctors but I don’t know how far you’d have to travel to get to one. Along that same vein (ha), I don’t remember seeing a lot of medication in stores so I would bring along the basics – ibuprofen, Tums or Pepto, cold medicine, etc. You wouldn’t want to be bogged down with discomfort during your glorious adventure!
Thanks for reading and let me know if you have questions!