I’ve recently come back from a trip to Iceland and as it’s becoming a more and more popular tourist destination, I thought I’d share some top tips with you, e.g. 5 things you should know before visiting Iceland.
Iceland is expensive
There’s no point in sugarcoating it, Iceland is expensive. No matter, if it’s renting a car, booking accommodation, shopping for groceries and eating out, a trip to Iceland will set you back quite a bit, especially during the summer months. If you want to make your money go that little bit further or save a couple of kronor, follow these tips:
If you’re traveling during the summer months make sure to book early. This counts for your accommodation, flight or rental car. From June to September, you pay extra for absolutely everything, so book well in advance to get a halfway decent price. Even better, visit off-season. Iceland is considerably cheaper during off-peak times and the weather won’t be that different either.
When it comes to eating out, do it like the locals and eat between 12-2PM. Restaurants often offer set menus including a soup and a main meal like steamed fish or lamb. Not that hungry? Hot dogs are really popular in Iceland and fairly inexpensive. They’re available at almost every petrol station on the island and really tasty. If your accommodation has a kitchen or you’re camping, cook yourself. You’ll be able to save a fair bit of money.
Don’t shop for groceries in the little 10-11s scattered around Reykjavik. We bought 4 x 0.5l bottles of water and a 2l bottle of 7Up and paid almost 20GBP for the pleasure. Supermarkets like Bonus, Kronan and Netto are considerably cheaper and offer everything you’ll need. Despite its foul smell, tap water which is rich in sulphur is perfectly suitable for consumption, so fill up a water bottle in your hostel, hotel or holiday rental and save yourself a couple of pound throughout the day.
Despite its foul smell, tap water, which is rich in sulphur all over the island, is perfectly suitable for consumption, so fill up a water bottle in your hostel, hotel or holiday rental and save yourself a couple of pound throughout the day. You can even drink the water from one of the many mountain streams.
Elves and trolls are a serious matter
Elves, trolls and ‘the hidden people’ are a serious matter in Iceland. While not everyone might be 100% convinced of their existence, Icelandic people do respect the myth-enshrouded creatures that are said to live in the hills, under rocks or play their tricks in the island’s lava fields.
Want to know where ‘the hidden people’ came from? Well, apparently good old Eve, yes, the one of Adam and Eve fame, didn’t manage to wash and dress all her children before God came to check up on them. So she hid some of them thinking God wouldn’t notice. He did and when Eve repeatedly lied about having all kids present, he punished her by hiding them forever.
Truth or legend? We’ll probably never know, but apparently chosen people can see them from time to time and some of them can even communicate with them. They work as so-called ‘elf or troll whisperers’ for businesses or the government to make sure the mystical creatures are happy with any building works that might disrupt them. I might have to write a whole blog post about this as the stories are super fascinating!
The weather changes every 5 minutes
I thought it was a joke but the weather in Iceland changes all the time, like literally all the time. Thought April was temperamental with rain showers, hail stones, storms and snow? Try going a day in Iceland without blowing away, getting soaking wet or trudging through the snow. Our guide on our tour of the South Coast told us that there’s even a saying for this, ehm ‘phenomenon’. I can’t recall it 100% but it went something like ‘Don’t like the weather? Just wait 5 minutes, it’s bound to change! Don’t like it now either? Wait another 5 minutes, it’ll change again’.
The weather really will show you all its faces, which is why I think it’s helpful exploring the island with an experienced tour guide. We were glad to have someone local by our side when we were stranded at a service station when it got so stormy that our parked bus started rocking back and forth at a service station. The weather can be quite unpredictable and if you don’t know the terrain, I think it’s always better to be on the safe side and book a tour with someone who knows their stuff. This Iceland travel guide will give you a great overview of all the tours available, timings and detailed information on stops, required fitness levels and much more. We found it really helpful when planning our trip earlier this month.
Food in Iceland is … unusual
Horse meat, fermented shark, smoked sheep’s head or pickled ram’s testicles, some of Iceland’s traditional meals are what you’d call rather unusual if you were diplomatic or just plain weird if you’re not. But don’t worry, you’ll definitely not leave Iceland hungry. The lamb on the island is out of this world and fish fans will enjoy some of the best fish dishes they’ve ever had.
Restaurants in Reykjavik can definitely keep pace with those of other European or Western capitals, so don’t worry that you’ll be stuck with sheep’s head, eyeballs or dried salt fish. There are restaurants with cuisines from all around the world, so you’ll definitely find something you’ll like if you want to play it safe. But hey, holidays are for broadening your horizon, so why not try something completely outrageous. It will certainly make for interesting dinner conversation back home!
You’ll never see nature like this again
I love a city break but Iceland has made me a convert. The landscapes and nature you’ll see are out of this world and let’s be honest, you’ll probably never see anything like it again. Volcanoes and geysers spit lava and boiling hot water while glaciers like Vatnajökull cover over 8300 sq. km and are about 1000m thick – all of it just a couple of kilometres apart. Iceland really is the island of fire and ice. That doesn’t mean its waterfalls like Gullfoss or Seljalandsfoss or the black beaches of the South Coast aren’t any less breathtaking.