ICELAND

LAND OF ICE & FIRE

Population

   334,252

language

ICELANDIC

Currency

ICELANDIC KRÓNA (ISK)

Flag

Iceland is a Nordic country of Europe located in the North Atlantic Ocean. This country has a relatively small population of over 300,000 people and is recognised as the most sparely populated country within the European continent. Reykjavík is Iceland’s capital as well as largest city and it, along with its surrounding areas, accounts for over two-thirds of the nation’s population. Visit Iceland and you will get to see this breathtaking country in all its glory.

Iceland is known for its affinity to thermal waters, outdoor activities, meat (especially lamb), and non-violence! Not to mention, Iceland is constantly cited as one of the world’s happiest countries.

Icelanders down to earth and happy-go-lucky characterization mixes well with the country’s stark and alien-like land.


WHY WE LOVE

ICELAND

Iceland is known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” and rightfully so. This country is filled with epic sites, like the largest glacier in Europe, crystalline ice caves, and the awe-inspiring Northern Lights, among many more. This quirky country shows its uniqueness in various ways including; language, food, typography, and beliefs. Where else can you find a place where most adults still believe in magic? Visit Iceland! It has everything from elves and ‘hidden people’ to glaciers and volcanoes can be found in Iceland.

This fascinating country is both volcanically and geologically active which means it is home to some of the world’s most interesting landscapes. Iceland’s interiors consist of sandy plateaus along with lava fields, many mountains, glaciers, and glacial rivers. Iceland has a surprisingly temperate climate as it is warmed by the Gulf Stream. Its high latitude and aquatic influence keep summers chilly and windy while most of the archipelago maintains a tundra climate.

The island’s incredible landscape is not only staggering, it is mind-blowing.

Most of the country is an uninhabited moonscape of craters, bright green moss, giant glaciers, active volcanoes and hot springs, and fields of lava rock. Therefore, it should come of no surprise to know that Iceland is so other-worldly that both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trained in Iceland before heading to the moon.

People from all over the world flock to visit Iceland, a country that appears to be one big surrealistic playground. With so many sights to see and adventures to go on, it becomes difficult to choose where and how to spend your time. Apart from offering incredible outdoor activities on land, Iceland also offers insight into a vast underwater world. It is in fact, the only country where two tectonic plates manage to coexist in perfect harmony. One can even visit and witness this unique occurrence although if you do, you will technically be in two places at once, Europe and America. Talk about cool!

I still don’t know why, exactly, but I do think people can have a spiritual connection to landscape, and I certainly did in Iceland.” – Hannah Kent

Iceland Signature Experiences

Did you know…?

  • Iceland’s Reykjanes Ridge in Thingvellir National Park is the only place in the world where you can snorkel or walk between two tectonic plates and technically straddle two continents.
  • Iceland is where you will find the largest exposed portion of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (largest mountain range) in the world. It is also one of the only places where you can stand upon it on dry land.
  • The artic fox was the only native land mammal to be found on Iceland upon human arrival.
  • In 1980, Iceland became the first country in the world to have a nationally elected female president.
  • In 2009, Iceland also became the country to have the first openly gay world leader.
  • In 930 AD, the first European Parliament was created in what is today known as Þingvellir National Park. This park is not only historically relevant it also has cultural and geographical importance therefore it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • According to a 1998 survey, the majority of Icelanders believe in the existence of elves.
  • Iceland has no standing army.
  • Guðlaugur Friðþórsson is known as Iceland´s Superman due to him being the only survivor of a ship wreck near the Westman Islands. After Friðþórsson swam for miles in Iceland´s winter waters he trekked the frozen land for 3 hours across lava fields before reaching a town that could offer him aid.
  • Over 80% of Iceland’s power is sustainable and comes from hydroelectric power and geothermal water reserves.
  • Iceland is home to many scenes found within the popular TV series, Game of Thrones, but also movie set for Star Wars and Interstellar to name a few.

ICELAND TRAVEL GUIDE

 

When to go

As most places you must take your activity interests into account. If you are looking to witness the Midnight sun and experience warmer temperatures than you should visit Iceland in the summer season, mid-May to mid-September, is your best bet.  Although hikers will want to consider specific months like July and August in order to ensure the best and warmest weather.

February, March, September and October are usually the best times to visit Iceland for the Northern Lights.

How to get there/around

You will probably want to fly into Keflavík International Airport which is Iceland’s main international airport and is only 48 km southwest of Reykjavík. Icelandair, is the national carrier and probably the most well-known for its excellent safety record. WOW Air is an Icelandic low-cost carrier and serves a growing number of European and North American destinations. Once you are in Iceland you can look to places like Air Iceland Connect to travel. Air Iceland Connect is the main domestic airline. It is very possible to fly or catch a bus to all major centres during the summer months. There are even schedules buses that drive through the interior. However, things become a bit more complicated during the winter. Reduced bus services and difficult weather/road conditions make flying the most practical form of travel.

Keep in mind that it is easy to rent cars, campers, and even 4x4 although those looking to save money might find that cycling is their most affordable option.

What to see & do

What you see and do might depends on the season. Like hiking for example is usually done during the warmer summer months, whereas viewing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) can only be done in the winter. Visit Iceland if you're interested in whale watching, cave exploring, volcano hunting, waterfall casing, and so much more. This country is home to some of the most unique and exquisite places on earth including icebergs, glaciers, and geysers, all of which are must-sees! Some activities can be done year round and are highly recommended, like swimming in a hot spring and snorkelling and or scuba diving at Þingvellir National Park.  

What to pack

Do not visit Iceland without the appropriate clothing! Again, this varies depending on the season but remember that LAYERS are important! Layer! Layer! Layer! And all season essentials include; swimsuit, thermal underwear, waterproof hiking boots, quick dry towel, scarves, hat, gloves, woollen socks, fleece jacket/ light woollen sweater, rain pants, windbreaker/waterproof jacket, slippers, and sturdy walking shoes with a good grip.

Additional summer needs might include; sunglasses, spf, and a sleep eye mask. Additional winter needs might include and insulated jacket and ice-grips/ice-cleats/anti-slip soles.

Some travel insights from our experts about Iceland

  • Make sure to check the weather before you arrive as well as every day because it changes rather frequently.
  • Try not to trample on the moss.
  • Pay attention to road signs because although it might be easy to go off-roading, it is also illegal.
  • Treat yourself to a hotdog because they are EVERYWHERE! Also, make sure you say “ein með öllu” and order it with the works which includes sauces and fried onions.
  • Don´t be surprised if you see Christmas lights up in late February. The Icelandic love Christmas their lights to bring more life in the darker days.
  • Iceland´s people love to share Christmas with their loved ones including the ones that have passed away, so much so that they bring a special cross covered with Christmas lights and candles to the graveyards. Each family has its own colours and it is something to be seen.

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DO'S

 

Do: Get off of your schedule especially if you are visiting in the summer. Take advantage of the almost 24 full hours of daylight Iceland experiences in the summer months and get off of the typical 9-5 schedule. Talk to your friends and or travel companions and convince them to do some early morning or late night excursions.

Do: Drink the water. Iceland’s tap water is pure and delectable, enjoy it!

Do: Expect to go barefoot indoors. Icelanders often remove their shoes before entering a home or other indoor facilities. Make sure to pack flip-flops or slippers; these can double as your ‘indoor shoe’.

Do: Shower with soap before going for a swim. Iceland is home to amazing hot springs and pools, which are not chlorinated. This is why it is so important that people wash thoroughly (see following ‘Do’) before taking a dip. 

Do: Embrace nudity. Iceland’s attitude towards nudity is pretty relaxed, for the most part. This does not mean that you can stroll down the street and go shopping in your birthday suit but it does mean that being nude in public is perfectly legal, as long as you don’t offend anyone. You will be able to find many places where it is normal and in fact encouraged to strip down. Thus country has a massive hot spring and pool culture therefore we suggest you enjoy all the lovely water Iceland has to offer and drop the fear, not to mention there are usually changing room attendants in the shower area. The attendants make sure that you are cleaning your ENTIRE body thoroughly.

 

DON'T

 

Don’t: Get offended if someone refers to you by your first name for there are no surnames or family names in Iceland. Although there are a handful of exceptions most Icelandic people have a ‘last name’ that is created by adding a suffix of –dóttir (daughter) or –son to their father’s name.

Don’t: Call the cops if you see a baby left outside. It is quite common for parents to leave their babies sleeping outside. You might even see various strollers parked outside a store, café, and or restaurant.

Don’t: Whine about the weather or how hard it is to get around, especially when speaking to locals. More often than not, Icelanders won’t want to hear outsiders complain about their country.

Don’t: Touch the swans. Icelandic swans are strong and very territorial; especially if it involves protecting their young, try to save yourself from the hospital bill and embarrassment. 

Don’t: Be loud. Although this is a general rule of thumb for most travellers, some places are extra sensitive to loud noises and obnoxious people. Iceland is one of those places.


Cuisine delights (3 best dishes)

 

Hangikjöt is a very popular dish in Iceland. This dish is comprised of smoked lamb and usually served with potatoes, béchamel sauce, red beets and green peas. Hangikjöt is a delicacy that is eaten a lot during Christmas time.

Another popular dish among Icelanders is Skyr, which is a famous product in Iceland that is packaged and presented like a yogurt even though it’s technically a soft cheese. This tangy snack/desert is made from gelatinous milk curds and is usually mixed with milk and is served with sugar or Icelandic blueberries.

Lastly, we have the infamous Brennivín, also known as “Black Death”. This isn’t a dish but rather a drink and we are sure you already guessed that it packs a major punch. Brennivín literally means ‘burning wine’ and is schnapps made from fermented potatoes and caraway…makes sure you proceed with caution on this one.

CHATTING CORNER – SURVIVAL GUIDE 

 

Although English is spoken throughout Iceland and chances are you will not have communication issues while there, it is still nice to make an effort in trying to speak the native tongue. Much like in other countries, locals appreciate non-native speakers who take the time to learn a few words and phrases.

  • Hello - Halló
  • How are you? -  Hvernig hefurðu það?
  • What is your name? - Hvað heitir þú?
  • My name is…. - Ég heiti...                                  
  • I am from… - ég er frá...
  • How much is it? - Hversu mikið er það?
  • Where is…? - Hvar er...?

*Note: When sitting down for a meal, people say 'Gjörðu svo vel' which translates to 'do so well', the Icelandic version of 'bon appétit'. Also keep in mind that ‘please’ is not commonly used. Icelanders tend to substitute ‘please’ or ‘Vinsamlegast’ with ‘thank you’ or ‘'Verði þér að góðu'’.

  • Do you speak English? - Talar þú ensku?
  • Thank you - Þakka þér fyrir
  • Please - Vinsamlegast
  • Nice to meet you - Gaman að hitta þig
  • Cheers! - Skál!
  • Beautiful - falleg
  • Delicious - Ljúffengur

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