For the past year of my travels, I’ve consistently heard that Iceland is the country to see. The travel magazine I’m subscribed to insists that now is the time to visit Iceland, and the like-minded travel friends I’ve made over the years have raved about the Hobbit-like beauty. It feels like the it country of the moment. If you know anyone who has been to Iceland, you probably have recognized they say things like “It’s gorgeous” or “Icelanders speak such good English”, but then they’ll quickly follow-up their compliments by warning about just how expensive it is. These are the things everyone tells you about Iceland but what about all the little things no one tells you about Iceland?
No really, it stinks. Like a lingering fart. And I don’t mean for this to be a gross paragraph, but it’s an honest realization. No that wasn’t someone using the toilet before you, it was the hot shower they took. Yeah, the hot water emits a powerful sulfuric odor that is everything but pleasant. When you visit the hot springs and geysirs you’ll probably also notice what we referred to as “fart clouds.” Just say it wasn’t you.
Plan Your Sunlight
Not joking. You need to have a sun strategy. The daylight in the summer provides you with ample time to visit many activities, whereas the daylight in winter is limited. In addition to that, the way the sun rises and sets is important to think about. We visited Seljalandsfoss and missed out on the picturesque beauty we saw on Google Images because the sun wasn’t hitting the waterfall. We then roadtripped to Fjaðrárgljúfur and also missed out on the best view because the sun was casting its shadows on the waterfall and canyon. Had we swapped these two activities, we would have seen both at their most beautiful moments. There’s always next time? Try to have some common sense about the way the sun moves for your trip to Iceland, cuz we sure didn’t.
Eat 95% of the time in supermarkets
It’s not unlike us to pick up a menu, scan the prices first, and then decide what we want to eat, but Iceland escalates that to a whole ‘nother level. Tell me how I settled for a cheese and jam bagel, because it was the cheapest item at $13. Thirteen dollars, for bread and cheese. And that’s not because it was a tourist restaurant; that’s just what it costs. Even Quiznos had $15 sandwiches. And the worst part is that even though with exorbitant prices, the portions remain small, so you leave still hungry. Supermarkets like Bonus or Kronin are still expensive, but the only way to do Iceland on a budget. I was also surprised by the amount of “protein-packed” foods they have, as well as a large selection of skyr yogurt (basically an Icelandic version of greek yogurt).
Some gas stations will give you free filter coffee
If you’re used to a $5 coffee every day, Iceland will not shock you in that regard. We thought we’d get around it by stopping at a gas station, but after hearing the price of a gas station latte was just as expensive as anywhere else, we said, “no, no, it’s fine.” Our cashier then responded “grab a coffee, it’s free.” Maybe our cashier was just having a good day, or maybe we’re just good at scamming our way into free coffee.
Haven’t quite figured this one out?
Hip hop is big
If you don’t know who JóiPé is, stop everything and listen. After a quick scroll on Iceland’s Top 50 Viral Songs (a feature on Spotify), our friend Paige discovered our new favorite hip hop group JóiPé. It’s true we’ll never know what their lyrics are saying, but we know a good beat when we hear one, and JóiPé should be at the top any time soon. Don’t say we didn’t tell you so.
Not that this is life-changing information, but I noticed that not many homes have curtains or blinds. Upon nightfall, you can see into most homes from the street. I imagine it has something to do with trying to soak up as much daylight as possible during the winter months?
Half of the journey and sights to see are in the car
Rent a car in Iceland – for us, it cost $40 per day. You’ll really miss out if you don’t. We didn’t take the main touristic route referred to as the Golden Circle, but we did take the second most touristic route referred to as Ring Road. You start in Reykjavik and head East. The road is a straight-shot, two lanes, and circles all of the country of Iceland. There’s little room to pull off to the side of the road to snap photos, but you will pass small towns along the way where you can most definitely stop. We stayed in Ásólfsskáli, which had roaming sheep and a beautiful waterfall we had all to ourselves.
Do you really know how much the Blue Lagoon costs?
I guarantee you’ll arrive in Iceland and start googling “Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon.” We went to the Secret Lagoon for two reasons: The cheapest ticket to the Blue Lagoon is $60, and you must reserve tickets in advance. That’s what screwed us over, but even if it was available, I’m not sure we’d have paid $60. Your second alternative is the Secret Lagoon, which is cool, but I’m still not sure it’s worth the $27. The free option (and personally, what I thought was the best) is Reykjadalur, which requires an hour “hike” (walk along a black dirt path through the rolling green mountains) to arrive at a natural hot spring where tourists (and locals?) are bathing in their underwear. Me included.
What are some things you noticed about Iceland?