Things That Surprised Me About Iceland

What do you know about Iceland? 

If you haven't already been, it might be the financial crash that happened in 2008, or that one of it's many volcano's, Eyjafjallajökull, caused chaos in the skies of Europe in 2010, or that it's expensive, or how cold it is. Those things being the most well known (whether they are true or false), there were many things I wasn't expecting about Iceland.

me freezing my butt off at the Faxí waterfall


The Moon

I was sat on an aisle seat, but the descent into Keflavik airport made for some spectacular views. Even from where I was sat I could see the volcanic landscape, crater's and volcano's and the sea as far as the eye could see. Everyone was craning their necks to see out of the window, as you would when it looks like you've landed on the moon. I felt a bit of a fool that this surprised me, having lived on a Volcanic island for 4 years, I even text my mum saying so. 

The Cold

No matter how many times people say it to you, you will not understand how cold Iceland is until you're there. Rúnar told us, on numerous occasions, that there's no such thing as cold only inappropriate dressing for the weather conditions. Even the Canadian's said it was a different kind of cold than they were used to. Describing it as a wetter cold, and that's why it gets into your bones. I have a higher than average tolerance to the cold, owing to riding a scooter year round, but hopping in the shower one day I could feel my skin heating up and realised I was cold to the bone. Except, I didn't feel cold in myself if that makes sense? 

The Cost

Food & Drink

A handful of people were telling me how expensive Iceland was going to be, and asking how I was going to afford 3 days there on a mere waitress's wage. With people telling me that pints were going to around £10 and meals more costly still, I was pleasantly surprised that wasn't the case at all. I ate, twice, at a health food restaurant named GLÓ and my plate was overflowing cost around £10- which is cheaper than the majority of main courses where I waitress. 

Pint wise, they're what I'd call London prices, up to around £5 per pint. There is a bit of backpacker scene in Reykjavik now, and there is even a "Happy Hour" route you can follow around the city to make sure you're getting the best price for your beer (some hostels will even organise this for you). Outside Happy Hour in my hostel, beer was 800ISK (around £4) and the most expensive I paid for was 950ISK (just shy of £5).

Activities

Like every tourist destination in the world, there are always going to be things that you'll pay through the nose for. The Blue Lagoon is a good example of this, and you can experience geothermal pool's in Reykjavik for a mere 600ISK (around £3), but it's the Blue Lagoon- do you really want to miss out on that? Where I live, you pay not much less than it costs to go in the Blue Lagoon to visit Bath Thermae Spa so I wouldn't say the prices are crazy.

Tip: If you want to buy Blue Lagoon cosmetics, wait until you get to the airport, they're cheaper than buying them at the lagoon itself.

I visited Hallgrimskirkja bell tower, which you pay a mere 700ISK (£3,50ish) to get that view across the pastel coloured city. I also visited the National Museum, which cost 1500ISK to get in (around £7,50) which I didn't think was an extortionate price to get into a museum either.  

Overall, Iceland was a whole lot cheaper than I had been expecting, I think I came home with a third of the money I took, which included a shopping splurge (Blue Lagoon stuff, of course, and necessary 66 North shopping) in the airport. 

The view from Hallgrimskirkja



The Tourists

I know it's October but, with the exception of on my flight, I met just 2 Brits. Two! I was really taken aback by how many American's and Canadian's I met. In fact I'd say I met more Canadian's than anything else. For those of us living in the UK, Iceland is a mere 3hr flight (though when most of Europe is about an hour away, that's quite a long time for us). What I didn't realise was, from JFK, it's only a 5hr flight! All that said, one of the girls in my dorm was Japanese and had flown 30hrs to get to Iceland for just 3 days- and would have to make the same trip home!

The Huldufólk

or the lack, thereof. Maybe it was partly because of schedule, but I only got to hear ONE story about the hidden folk of Iceland! Which disappointed me very much because we all know how much I love fairytales. The tale I heard was of two young trolls who'd fallen in love, but their parents had decided they were not a suitable match and must say goodbye. Leaving them alone for one night to say goodbye, the trolls decided to stay out until the sun rose and kiss. The sun causes the trolls to turn to stone, and as you drive around you can see the two stone trolls kissing to this day. An Icelandic friend had told me few people believed in the elves these days, but some other tourists told me there's a store in Reykjavik where you can find a map to search for them. I guess that'll have to be top of my list for next time.

The Landscape

It left me utterly speechless. From most places in the city you can see snow capped mountains overlooking it, and you're never far from the sea. Don't forget the black sand beaches scattered around the coast. You take a drive around the Golden Circle, and you're staring at volcanoes, and geyser's, and steam rising from the ground. You see the rift between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates, which is wider than you ever imagined. You drive a road through a lava field covered with green moss, only to see a glacier in the distance. You end your day by standing on the highest rift on the American plate taking in the autumnal colours

The view across the city pond, Reykjavik


Iceland is a country like no other, a country I hope to go back to and let it surprise me all over again.














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Comments

  1. I agree with just about everything you've written here, except the prices. I found Iceland to be easily the most expensive place I've been, much more so than Japan or home in Australia. I was there in the middle of summer, though...

    Also, funnily enough just before seeing this post I finished writing one about the things that surprised me about Turkey! Great minds!

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    1. Maybe it was a seasonal difference, or maybe it was just where I chose to eat. The restaurant, for example, was a recommendation not from other tourists, but from an Icelandic girl. All the menu was in Icelandic and I had to have it explained to me each night. Plus I drank at Loft mostly, we only ventured out one night, and stuck to places we'd heard were cheaper.

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