Iceland is one of those countries that you cannot leave out if you are looking for a life-altering experience or if you are an artist looking for inspiration. Why? Well, simply because its landscape is so bleak yet alive that you have no idea how to describe it. Iceland is not covered in ice (that would ironically adhere to Greenland to some degree) – so after having thrown that out on the table right away, we can talk about the top six things to know before visiting it!
1. Language barriers:
There is a rumour circulating the internet that the Icelanders do not speak English. Well, here we are contradicting that by saying that it is completely incorrect. In fact, most people living on the majestic island speak it so fluently that they will surprise you with their sharp wit. There really is no danger of getting lost either since Reykjavik is so small that you can circumnavigate it on foot in an hour. And if you do get “lost”, just stop the nearest person and ask him or her about your whereabouts. When they reply in perfect English, you will stand there like a yak, admiring the intelligence of the locals.
Well, this isn’t the kind of news that we like to give you, but it is what it is: Iceland is not for the budget-savvy. No matter what you are trying to buy on the fair island, you are bound to feel ripped off in one way or another. Why? Because something as simple as a cup of coffee or an ice-cream can empty your pockets of your hard-earned money in no-time. Additionally, make sure that you do not force yourself to buy extra clothes in Reykjavik. Doing that will easily relieve you of hundreds of dollars and when you do a budget-count at night, you are going to hate yourself. Housing is also on the expensive side and we recommend that you go to a friend if you can – if you do not have such an option, then you might want to opt for the fringe of the capital city.
Do you want to feel like you’ve made someone’s day? Well, of course you do! Tipping in Iceland is not compulsory: what you see on the bill is what should technically leave your wallet. But here’s the giant “but”: tips will be accepted if handed over. Icelanders are not living in a narrow-minded environment; most of them are well-travelled and versed in the customs of various cultures. This means that they are well-aware of the concept of tipping and will appreciate all that you choose to give. Know, however, that since it is not a cultural must, tipping will not affect the quality of the service that you’ll get.
Reykjavik may be the ultimate destination of most people but here’s the thing: it would be a pity to visit Iceland and not bask in the bleak brilliance of its natural wonders. Vast plains, cascading waterfalls and lava-touched crags: these are the things that you would be missing out on if you chose to stay only in the capital. Notable points of interest that we highly recommend that you visit include the Great Geyser, Raufarholshellir, Asbyrgi, Lake Myvatn, Gullfoss, and Hornbjarg. Oh, and let us not forget about the Northern Lights!
5. The weather:
Have you ever heard of the crazy weather of April? Well, multiply that by seven and there you have the climate-fluctuations of Iceland. Chances are that in a single week, you are going to experience mountain-screeching winds, torrential rain, sharp temperature drops and gales. Preparing adequately is advised as we have already mentioned above how inconvenient it is to buy extra clothes on the fly. If you have a virtually unlimited budget, you can go shopping of course, but for those who live by the code of the tight coin, we recommend caution. It is important to know, though, that temperatures will not reach into the extremes – they will fluctuate heavily but they will not flash-freeze or swift-boil you (wink)!
6. The water:
Here’s another mind-opener: Iceland has the smelliest water in the world but also the cleanest to drink. This is due to its sulphur content and the geothermal heating that it goes through before it arrives at your tap. Travellers often link the smell of the water to that of “rotten eggs” and we know that it is difficult to consume. We also know that it is pretty hard to get used to even after days but you are not going to regret ingesting it for it truly is invigorating. Oh, and did we tell you that buying things in Iceland is more expensive than a ticket on the Titanic? Bottled water is a big no-no for those who do not have the coin for it.
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Iceland and what aftertaste have they left you with? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and be sure to check back periodically for exciting updates! Safe travels and happy geyser-sighting (wink)!