This past week, my husband and I spent a handful of days in Iceland. Although many of my friends have been to Iceland before and have shared their photos of emo fluffy Icelandic ponies, their recommendations, and stories, Iceland is one of those places that you have to experience for yourself to truly grasp the magnitude and beauty. Below are some things I heard about Iceland and my impressions.
The nature in Iceland is amazing
Holy crap this is the understatement of the year. Iceland has one of the most varied and dramatic landscapes I have ever seen. When we were driving along the South Coast, in one view, we could see a giant rock formation that looked like Arizona, lava fields that called up images of Hawaii, and a hulking grassy craggy mountain that looked like it was lifted out of Jurassic Park. I either expected a dinosaur to come busting out of the green hills or a group of friendly aliens to emerge, exploring the Mars-like landscape. The intense geothermal activity is constantly creating and marking the land with hot springs, lava fields, geysirs, and waterfalls. This was most dramatic when seen through a drive through the south coast. Literally in the span of a couple hours, I saw green fields full of sheep with their wooly butts up in the air, one or two boxy colored houses, then sprawling fields of the fluffiest moss, rocks that looked like people with beige grass hair buffeted by the wind, five minutes later it was black lava scapes that looked like they would last forever, only to give way to giant black mountains with blue and white ice spilling out and filling the valleys. It was never really the same landscape for more than a few minutes.
One of the most stunning sights we saw was the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. When we arrived, there were many people there with very serious-looking DSLRs set up. But the funny thing was, no one was talking. Everyone was just marveling at the sight. And what a sight it was. One of the largest glaciers in Europe is in the distance and slowly melting due to global warming, forming ice bergs that break off and float into the lagoon. The landscape is always changing too since every blue, marbles, glassy, and white piece of ice is in motion. There are literally seals swimming around in the water, popping their heads up to look around.
Iceland is freaking expensive
Yes. Things are indeed often pricier here than in many other countries. I went to a restaurant that was selling $25 nachos. And it took us $30 to fill up about a quarter tank of gas. If you’re not careful, it is very easy to accidentally spend a small fortune on food or souvineers. I had multiple people tell me to pack wither cup of noodle or a loaf of bread and peanut butter.
BUT, there were definitely ways we saved money.
1. If you’re staying at a hotel that has free breakfast, go to town on that breakfast. Eat like there’s no tomorrow. Load up on that bread, eggs and coffee. That’s one less meal you have to worry about.
2. Buy your snacks, supplies, and souvenirs at Bonus
. We had a discount bonus right by our hotel, so we bought things at half the cost of the same item had we purchased it at one of the convenience stores.
3. Search around for reasonable food prices. Sometimes you won’t have a choice because you’re in the middle of nowhere, but if you have options, be choosy. Look at the menus first. We really liked this place called Kol
. It wasn’t the cheapest, but for the quality of food, it was worth it. They had a lunch set menu with two items for about $30. I had a delicious tomato soup with croutons, a dollop of cream cheese and fish roe. And an enormous portion of fish.
The weather in Iceland is unpredictable
Yes, this is true. But this is also one of the things that gives Iceland’s landscape that haunting, punishing yet beautiful feel. Let me explain, you know how in Manhattan or San Francisco, everything is made for humans. Like the buildings, streets, everything has the mark of humans- things are made for us, for our comfort. Outside of rooftop gardens and the occasional pigeon eating a French fry, you almost forget that nature exists. Humankind is king. Well, in Iceland it seems as if there’s an understanding that the land and weather are king and humans are just hanging out here. That’s why it’s important to just dress appropriately. This is not the time to bust out your cute boots, your clothes need to be dynamic. You also need to be flexible. For example, we tried to go see the northern lights, didn’t really happen. It all depends on cloud cover, solar wind activity, light pollution, timing, and your neighbor’s hamster’s emotional state. Sometimes it’s absolutely spectacular and lights up the sky in a technicolor Bellagio fountain masterpiece. Sometimes it looks like light up clouds. We had an expectation versus reality moment. But you move on and enjoy and appreciate all the other amazing things Iceland has to offer. Build in a flexible schedule so that you can make adjustments for inclement weather and always prioritize safety, again, humans are tiny little insignificant ants in comparison to what mother nature can cook up.
Another handy tip, before you go, look up how long the days will be. We had to slow our roll on some of our plans because the sun rose at around 8 am and set at 6pm, limiting daylight hours.
Research the weather and time your trip appropriately. Snow and extreme cold weather gives me anxiety so I knew we couldn’t go during winter. Additionally, some roads are impassable during winter because of snow-again mother nature area not for your sight-seeing agenda. My husband wanted a chance to see the Northern lights, so that’s how we ended up going in mid October. Next time I’d like to visit during summer and have more daylight hours.
Overall, Iceland is absolutely amazing and I’m already hoping to go again soon.