Iceland 2017

There are not enough words to describe Iceland. It is simply an experience one has to live. Obviously my posts are not detailed travel guides, they are simply impressions or actually glimpses of the places. I could not even begin to describe a trip to Iceland! What I can say is that even the most trivial and popular tourist activities are indeed worth it.

  • Do visit the Blue Lagoon, but definitely book in advance – and choose the premium package, a bathrobe is a luxus you will miss if you don’t have it. The infrastructure itself is impressive.
  • Defy the crowds and drive the stunning Golden Circle route: definitely visit Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall, by far the most impressive waterfall in Europe – actually it is two waterfalls!! (you can skip Skálholt unless you have very specific interests).
  • Continue to Vatnajökull, the 2nd largest European glacier – there are several walk tours you can choose from – and Skógafoss (don’t worry, even after having seen Gulfoss, the  waterfalls in Iceland are amazing and each one offers a unique experience).
  • Jokulsarlon, the glacier lagoon filled with icebergs is a must! It is different every time you may visit and -if you come from the south- you’ve never seen this colour palette. Then of course head on to the Diamond black beach, covered in ice sculptures (natural of course).
  • Another stunning waterfall is Seljalandsfoss, you can walk right behind it! (you will need to climb up and down a slippery rocky surface, be careful). And then head on to the hidden one, further down the road. Gljúfrabúi: either climb to the top (let me know) or wade through an opening and the flowing stream. The impressive 40 m. waterfall is hidden behind the cliff, at a small opening! Be very careful and have the proper equipment (raincoat, waterproof trousers and hiking shoes).
  • Include a visit to a volcano! Well, not necessarily the notorious Eyjafjallajökull (what?) or the less known but more dangerous Katla. The 3000-year-old volcanic crater Kerid is just as impressive (eat my dust Santorini “volcano”)
  • And last, but not least, do visit the most popular black (sandy) beach, Reynisfjara, near the village Vic to admire the basalt columns, the Atlantic waves and the 2 huge rocks in the waters! It is said to be a dangerous beach, so follow closely any safety signs. When in the area, you should definitely drive up the Dyrholaey, a sort of a rocky hill to get lost in amazing views of both the Reynisfjara beach and other black beaches. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a whale – I did!!

Always be prepared for swift weather changes or even extreme phenomena. No matter what season of the year it is, dress in layers. Follow to the letter the instructions of the Icelandic tourist board.

There are of course many more highlights in the country, I wish I had visited the black beach Solheimasandur with the iconic plane wreck and the Westman Islands in the south, I wish I had driven the Eastfjords. Don’t be very disappointed if it is always cloudy and you never catch the Northern Lights or due to weather conditions you can neither go whale watching or horse riding (the Icelandic horses are unique) – it means you still have many reasons to go back to this unique place!

And some trivia, or practical info:

  • Yes, Iceland is very expensive, more than Switzerland or other Scandinavian cities such as Stockholm. Mediocre hotels cost more than a 5star hotel in major European cities, a beer costs around 10 euro and a glass of wine even more. Get over it, you don’t have many alternatives. Eat your breakfast at the hotel to keep your motor running during your expeditions (especially the Skyr, a more or less kind of Greek yogurt or German Quark), take advantage of “happy hours” in the bars, go to small off the beaten track restaurants in the countryside and don’t go shopping – unless you fall in love with the hand-made hats I discovered in Reykjavik 😜

If you fall short on supplies such as trekking shoes, jackets or definitely want to buy some volcanic salt, do your shopping in the outlet Ice Wear in Vik.

  • No, you will not find McDonalds in Iceland, they never had any success in the country. But there are plenty of places to devour a hamburger. No, they are not cheap. A menu of 2 hamburgers with fries and 2 small beers at a gas station in Vic would cost you around 25 euro.
  • Yes, Icelanders are very beautiful! Both those with typical Scandinavian looks and those dark haired more Inuit-like. Choose Wow Airlines to fly to Iceland and you will understand the meaning of the word wow!
  • No, don’t step on the moss! The icelandic moss is fragile and easy to be damaged by footprints and tire marks, so stick to the trails. Besides, off-road driving is strictly forbidden.
  • Yes, Iceland has the best water! Tap water is drinkable and so of course is the water from rivers, lakes etc. Just be prepared, the hot water in Iceland sometimes smells of sulfur (or rotten eggs) because of its geothermal origins (warm water comes from the ground). So, don’t be like me and ask silly questions at the hotel’s reception! And definitely don’t buy water in plastic bottles, it’s a sacrilege.
  • No, there are not many trees in Iceland. The major cause of deforestation have been the Vikings settlers (sheep and lava also played a role) and their reckless waste of natural resources (does it ring any bells?). Reforestation projects began around 1900.
  • And yes, you will see the most majestic rainbows ever!

I visited Iceland in September 2017 and I will definitely go again! And maybe include Greenland in the travel itinerary?

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