My husband and I visited Iceland in September 2014. While researching our trip I felt there was a shortage of information on this spectacular destination, which actually inspired me to start a blog! Here are the 10 things you need to know about visiting Iceland.
- You absolutely, positively have to go to there.
- It’s crazy accessible. Reykjavik (pronounced “RAKE-ya-vick”), the capital of Iceland, is only a five and a half hour flight from Boston. Technically you fly into Keflavik but Reykjavik is only 40 minutes away. You’d never believe that this otherworldly place is practically next door.
- It’s easy to get around. We rented a car through Nordic Visitor but I would imagine you could easily schedule everything on your own if you wanted. (I’ll do a separate post on Nordic Visitor’s services.) You essentially take one road, Route 1, all the way around the island. The sights are incredibly easy to find. We had a GPS and a map and surprisingly, I was able to exclusively use the map despite being spatially-impaired.
- You don’t need to learn the language. In fact, some people encourage you not to because Icelandic is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers and you’ll likely be unintelligible anyway. I am generally an opponent of assuming your own culture is dominant and that everyone else should subscribe to it, but after studying some of the Icelandic letters and differences in vowel pronunciation, I was happy to use English. We didn’t encounter anyone who couldn’t.
- The food is delicious…and expensive. Before our trip, my husband went on and on about the putrefied shark we’d be consuming so at the very least I was happy that I’d lose a few pounds during our adventure. However, that was absolutely not the case. Our meals were quite American-friendly with a base of meat like lamb, steak, and chicken, plus basic vegetables and starches. The fish was excellent as well- my husband abhors the taste of seafood but even he ordered fish because it was amazingly fresh. One important note for more frugal travelers – most meals, even as simple as a sandwich, side of fries, and a drink – cost about $20 per person. You could certainly save by eating Icelandic-style hot dogs, sharing meals and supplementing with snacks (we did this), or making your own lunches from the grocery stores we encountered in every large town. We also ate as much as possible at the hotel buffet breakfast. Those were actually some of our favorite meals. We’d load up on fresh bread and butter, cheeses, deli meats, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit, and pastries.
- However, you can’t get food at night. This didn’t really become a problem until one night at the end of our trip when I was upset with my husband for [of course] some forgettable reason. The hotel dinners were typically on the fancier side, comparable to a steak house in price and ambience. I’d guess about a third of the hotels we stayed at had alternative eats nearby. We were at one of the ones that did not and given my crabbiness I did not feel like sitting through a nice hotel meal. I came to regret that shortly after 8 PM when there was nothing open and even the hotel doesn’t offer anything. I had brought a box of Cliff bars from home but had tired of them after 10 days. I alternately tried to manage my nausea from hunger and aversion to eating something I had had too much of (first world problems) by nibbling at Cliff bars in the fetal position and whining incessantly. Fortunately for my husband I was able to drift off and surprisingly I lived until breakfast.
- Paying is easy – we used our Visa card pretty much everywhere. Our preferred card, Discover, was not widely accepted.
- The weather is manageable. I can only speak to our trip which was at the very tail end of the tourist season in late August/early September. It was never that cold, usually in the 40’s and 50’s, but it would often rain at some point during the day. For the most part I would wear a pair of leggings or two and if it rained I’d throw some waterproof pants over top. On top I’d typically wear a tank, long sleeve t-shirt, and a lightweight waterproof winter coat with a hood. I also brought an umbrella along which was useful when I got tired of having a wet face. (Just because your clothing is waterproof, doesn’t mean you want to be a direct path for the rain to the ground.) I did wear hiking boots but I don’t believe this was totally necessarily. A pair of sneakers with good traction would probably do the trick, but again you want something on the waterproof side, and always have extra socks.
- You’re never that far from what you need. You don’t need special backpacks or lots of on-the-go supplies. You pretty much drive right up to the waterfall, ocean-side cliff, or glacier that you want to see, so you don’t need to carry much. Along those same convenience/comfort lines, for the ladies in particular, there are clean public bathrooms everywhere.
- You don’t need to be an extreme sports enthusiast to explore the sights. I’d recommend being able to comfortably walk a couple miles with some hills. My husband and I are pretty middle-of-the-road when it comes to athleticism. The great thing is, the views are so stunning that you don’t notice your heart working a little harder. The same thing goes for the weather – it’s easy to ignore to the rain when you’re in complete awe.
Thanks for reading! For more information please check out, “Our Experience with Nordic Visitor” and “Other Tidbits About Iceland!” Please leave a comment and subscribe!