Iceland is a beautiful and mysterious country. It has a very low population density, which means there are only 300,000 people across all of its’ 40,000 sq ft land mass. It is also a popular holiday destination, and there are a lot of amazing things that you can do and see there. Read on for some specific do’s and don’ts to make your holiday the coolest trip ever.
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Do check out the Blue Lagoon
Probably one of the most famous sites to see in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is located a short distance outside of the capital city Reykjavik. It is actually a man-made geothermal spa, filled with milky, light blue water. The water is hot because it is a run off from the local energy station. Don’t worry it is totally safe to bath in, though!
It is set in beautiful natural surroundings and is one of the most relaxing experiences you can have. Its’ popularity stems in part because its is so beautiful and ethereal looking with the water that color and the steam rising from it. Of course, the fact that it is so warm as well is always a bonus in Iceland’s chilly climate.
Be warned, though it is very popular so it’s a good idea to pre-book your tickets. There is a range of tickets you can buy, and a basic ticket will cost you 40 Euros. This will get you entry and a face mask. While the most luxurious package includes sparkling wine, a spa treats pack and access to the executive lounge. This is a little pricier and will set you back a whopping 195 Euros. Check out their website for details.
Don’t forget driving in Iceland can be tricky.
One of the things that you will need to remember if you are traveling in Iceland is that depending on the weather, it can be tough to get from place to place.
They regularly close the roads if the weather is too bad, so it is not unheard of to get stranded in a place that you don’t expect to be in. This is especially true if you are driving from Reykjavik to one of the smaller colonies on the other side of the Island. So just make sure to check the weather earnings regularly.
It is also important to remember that Iceland driving can be particularly tough as there is no visible speed limit for many of the roads. However, you are expected to take in what the road signs say, and adjust your speed according to the presenting hazard.
Do try the local food
Icelandic food often gets a bad rap. While it might not be what we are used to, there are definitely some interesting and unusual things to try. Dried fish, dipped in butter is common and pickled shark known as Hákarl is a delicacy. Although not evens the locals like that too much. In fact fish in Iceland is a big deal, as you would expect for a country surrounded by ocean on all sides. Choosing a fresh fish dish is always a good idea in a restaurant.
While you are there, you have to try the sweet treat of Cruller or twisted dough. They are like little triangular shaped donuts and are super yummy with coffee, or in fact at any time of the day.
In the smaller towns and villages, you won’t find as much fast food, with perhaps one or two sandwich or pizza shops. While in the capital they have a more eclectic international cushion available.
Don’t forget to see the Northern Lights
One of the biggest draws of Iceland is the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. This is an amazing natural display in the sky of glowing moving lights. It is caused by magnetic particles hitting the earth’s atmosphere and becoming energized.
It is not always possible to see the Northern Lights as it can depend on the time of your ear you visit and also your location. The closer you get to the Arctic Circle, the more likely it is that you will experience the Aurora Borealis, so plan your trip wisely. Its recommended to go on a tour as the guides know exactly where to look.
Do go on a whale watching trip
Another huge pull for tourists to the area is the opportunity to see the majestic whales in their natural environment. Iceland is an island and so has ample coastline filled with marine life. It is not uncommon to observe humpback whales, dolphins and porpoises as well as a variety of seabirds.
The best way to get up close and personal with a whale is to take an organized boat ride out into the sea. It is important to choose an ecological sound company that does their best to protect the whales, rather than just profits from them.
Don’t forget to check out a glacier
Another must see thing when you are on an Iceland visit is to check out a Glacier. A glacier is a huge sheet of ice, made during an ice age. Glaciers act like very slow moving rivers and cut out gorges from rocks and mountains and the creep along their path. For some more information about what glaciers are and how they move go here.
Treat yourself to an ice climbing expedition to get to grips with the glacier face to face. You will be kitted out in all your safety gear, including ropes and crampons. Then you get to scale the sheer walls of ice and take in the majestic views from the top. You’ll need to be pretty fit for this challenge though.
Do stay somewhere with a hot tub
As you might have gathered by now, Iceland can be pretty cold come winter time. With temperatures reaching a chilly – 25 degrees! That is why it is a great idea to stay somewhere with its own hot tub. Then you can enjoy being outside, while still keeping warm. If you are super clever, you can combine your hot tub experience with viewing the Aurora Borealis. See here for more details.
Don’t forget that it gets seriously cold in the winter
That cold winter weather is not something that everyone is used to. But if you are planning a visit you should check out the expected temperatures before you leave. You will need to take the right sort of cloth to enjoy your trip properly.
It’s a safe bet that in the winter you will need a padded ski style jacket, a warm hat, gloves, and scarf. It’s also essential to get some snow boots with a good grip, as navigating all the ice that covers the ground can be treacherous
Do remember that sometimes it never gets dark
Another thing to be aware of when planning your trip to Iceland is hat because it is so far north, there are a few weeks when the sun never sets. That’s right it is shining daylight all night long! This can be pretty disorienting and cause some disturbance in your sleep patterns.
Locals deal with this by using fitted black out blinds or taping black paper across the windows at night so they can get some decent shut eye. It’s a good idea to take a sleep mask with you is you are not used to these conditions otherwise you could end up struggling.
Do try and speak the language
While Icelandic is one of the most notoriously difficult languages to pick up, the locals will certainly appreciate you having a go. Not everyone in Iceland speaks English either, so it is a good idea to know a few words to get you by.
It’s best to just start off with a few basic phrases and really practice the pronunciation to get it down. Try “Do you speak English?” Which translates to “Talar þú Ensku?” Or, “Please can you help me?” Which is “Vinsamlegast getur þú hjálpað mér?” Don’t forget either, to have a few on phrases like: “Please can I have one of those?” up your sleeve. If you are wondering it translates as “Vinsamlegast get ég hafa einn af þeim?”
Do check out the black sand beach
Another famous natural wonder to view in Iceland is the black sand beach located in Vic. This is a stunning strip of pebbles and sand that is jet black. It is hemmed with high cliffs of basalt rock on one side and the harsh Atlantic Ocean on the other. You can even see the puffins nesting in the cliffs.
Just try to get there early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Remember that whatever time of day you go, the stiff breezed coming inland from the Ocean means it is always pretty chilly.
Don’t miss the erupting geysers
As you would expect with all of that natural volcanic activity, there are plenty of natural water jets to see in Iceland. The favorite is located in the golden and is named Strokkur, or Little Geyser. It is so popular, probably because it erupts quite spectacularly every 8- 10 minutes or so, so there isn’t too much waiting around to see the show!
Don’t miss the Golden Circle
If you are serious about seeing all the natural wonder that Iceland has to offer, then it’s recommended that you follow the Golden Circle route. This starts in Reykjavik and moves up into the southern uplands. It is here that you will find most of the spectacular sites like geysers, glaciers, and black sand beaches. You can even go on an organized tour, so you don’t miss a thing.