Today i’ll talk about some special things of Iceland that you can love or hate, like is it Iceland very cold? Is Iceland expensive? is hard to drive in Iceland?
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Iceland is one of the most appreciated country of the world by those who like photography, open air activities, trekking, and in general those who like to stay in touch with nature through an uncontaminated place
Among the things which attract people to visit Iceland, there are volcanos, geysers, and special phenomenons like the northern lights (the aurora borealis). Apart from this, Iceland is a country which has been able to further distinguish itself from many others thanks to its lifestyle too. For example, it doesn’t have a military army, the criminality is low, and people don’t have the habit to use a real surname, just they were all a big family. Furthermore, many houses get their hot water from the hot springs beneath the ground, and the quality of the air is very high, since the air pollution is almost non existant.
Recently Iceland has also finished under reflectors for 2 particular things happened in the previous years. In 2010, a volcano called Eyjafjallajokull erupted with great strength, by blocking the entire air traffic of Europe, while in 2008 a government financial crisis made the entire bank system collapsing, by causing the bankrupt of the country. Lastly, during summer 2014, a new volcano called Bardarbunga erupted by threating again the flight traffic, although nothing serious happened
After this short introduction, it’s time to talk about the most loved and disliked aspects of this place
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Please note that the following article doesn’t want to be absolute or complete. I recognize that people can have different tastes and ideas, reason why it must be considered only as the result of the interviews i made to many different tourists who visited Iceland. The name of those people are reported at the end of the article under the section “Special thanks and acknowledgements”
WHAT TOURISTS ARE LIKELY TO LOVE OF ICELAND
Here we go with the list of the most loved aspects!
DESOLATED ROMANTIC LANDSCAPES: this country has a very low population density, and at the same time the vegetation is poor. Forests are almost non existant, and the sense of desolation and wideness is incredibly high. Jokulsarlon looks like a piece of North Pole!
In this sense, Iceland represents a great place for both lonely hearts and romantic couples with a nostalgic “vein” who wish to make a special trip somewhere far from home
In the following picture, it’s me with my girlfriend along the Ring Road of Iceland in the middle of nothing….
My article on Jokulsarlon icebergs lagoon: HOW TO VISIT JOKULSARLON
FRIENDLY ICELANDIC PEOPLE: as experienced by many tourists, icelandic people tend to be polite, kind, and to welcome strangers. I also found them to be very cohesive and helpful, probably because since the life condition is harsh in general, day by day they have learned to help each other
LOVELY HORSES: Icelandic horses are very pretty. They are smaller, like a pony, and characterized by long hair, especially in winter due to lower temperatures. They look funny and are great for taking a nice picture, or simply to enjoy a ride. I suppose children would be particularly happy of riding them
AURORA BOREALIS: is it possible to see northern lights in Iceland? and where? As i explain in another article, i consider Iceland to be one of the best places to see the northern lights. Firstly because it is close to geomagnetic pole, but also because it is extended and full of roads along which it is easier to search for a place with a clear sky. Lastly, the weather, despite the wrong belief, is not that cold. Weatherbase reported that the minimum historical temperature of Reykjavik has been around -18 in the past. In comparison, the equivalent of many cities of Russia and Canada has been almost -40
My article on the aurora, where to see it, best period, when, how and even more:
PHOTOGRAPHY PARADISE: i think that even the most incompetent photographer with the cheapest camera of the world could make a nice picture here. The weather changes continuously (although Iceland is provided with a great weathercast official website), the sky is full of light games which evolve every minute the colors on the landscape, by making every picture unique. The landscape seems the one of a fantasy movie, enriched with many unique waterfalls and special phenomenons like geysers and glacier lagoons like Jokulsarlon. Not talking about the aurora and the ice caves!
ICE CAVES: Iceland is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to visit an ice cave. There are many different tour companies organizing expeditions for tourists willing to do it. Ice caves are natural formations entirely made with ice, without any presence of rock walls. They are situated beneath the long ice tongues of the glaciers which lie on top of volcanos. It’s not a case that Iceland hosts the widest glacier of Europe, known as Vatnajokull. Ice caves collapse and form again every year and one of the most difficult task for a tour company is to find new ones every new year (except for those few perennial)
My article on ice caves, when is it possible to visit them, where are and which companies make tours: WHERE ICE CAVES CAN BE FOUND IN ICELAND
NATURAL WONDERS: apart from the aurora (northern lights), this place is full of special things like waterfalls, geysers, hot rivers or even natural hot water pools where it is possible to have a bath for free. Not talking about the icebergs lagoons like Jokulsarlon and many different fascinating volcanos, some of which still active, like Eyjafjallajokull which erupted in 2010, and Bardarbunga which did it in 2014. Akureyri, one of the cities on the north eastern area, is even the european capital of the whale watching
My article on places to visit Iceland: MY FAVOURITE PLACES OF ICELAND
FISH AND CHIPS: oh yes, among the things cited by many different tourists i was surprised to hear more than once the fish and chips of Reykjavik. I haven’t tried it personally, but it seems like it is better than in many other places!
NATURAL HEATING SYSTEM: this is something which easily surprises tourists. Iceland has a nice autonomy for what concerns hot water and heating system with renewable resources. Since it is a volcanic territory, many houses are capable of getting the hot water directly from the hot springs beneath the ground
THE WATER COLOR: the first time one sees a picture of the water of some places like the Bruarfoss waterfall or the Blue Lagoon (tickets can be bought on the official website), he can believe that it’s a nice Photoshop work. However, in some areas the water is really milky blue. I’m still not completely aware of the reason, although i have heard about the presence of silica and some special algaes which contribute to make that color more intense.
My article on the Blue Lagoon: PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS TO VISIT THE BLUE LAGOON
GOOD WATER AND AIR QUALITY: the air of Iceland in general is free of pollution, and the quality of the water is among the best of the world. It is said that a good water shouldn’t have any sort of taste and smell. I must say, I really loved the water of Iceland, like it had a good “taste”, although it shouldn’t have any. Probably the situation should be interpreted in the opposite manner. Maybe it had a “good taste” because it doesn’t have any taste at all. Infact the water we usually drink inside bottles has a hidden smell of plastic for which, i suppose, after many years our nose has silently become accustomed. So, when i tried the water of Iceland, i think my nose recognised what a real “plastic free” taste was, and it wrongly interpreted that as a “good taste”…..but in reality that was a “good non taste”, which infact reflects what a water should be: “taste free”…….eh eh sounds weird uh??
NICE MOBILE AND 3G CONNECTION: this is something i personally experienced during all my trips. Often, even when i was far from city centres, the 3G connection to surf on internet and the mobile signal itself were both good (with some little exceptions). I really appreciated this aspect, it allowed me to better perceive how efficient this country is, despite the harsh conditions of life. Following is a link where it is possible to better check and get an overview of the actual mobile 3G/4G coverage in Iceland, (map realized by SIMINN mobile operator)
WHAT TOURISTS ARE LIKELY TO HATE OF ICELAND
And now it’s time to talk about the opposite side of the coin. As well as good aspects, there are also bad ones, and following is a short list of those reported by many tourists that i interviewed.
At the beginning i was tempted to use the word “hated” as opposed to “loved”, but after thinking about it, i opted out for a more diplomatic “disliked”, since i consider these bad aspects something that can be easily circumscribed by nicely organise the trip
Here we go!
FAR FROM OTHER COUNTRIES: Iceland is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, quite close to Greenland. Of course getting here requires a little “longer than average” trip whatever one is in Europe or America. From Germany for example, in the middle of Europe, the flight time is around 5 hours.
4X4 CAN BE NECESSARY: since the country is quite savage, many roads are unpaved, and in some circumstances they present river crossings, although a part of the main attractions can be reached with a standard car. Of course a 4×4 would be better, a minimum of experience could help, and traveling with 2 vehicles in tandem in some cases is a must. However, it just depends by where one wants to go. Some places can be still easily reached from Reykjavik with a normal car, and afterall some unpaved roads don’t require any special experience, except for those presenting river crossings or for some of them in the very middle of the country being very harsh (like Thorsmork for example)
My article on preparing a trip, what car or jeep is recommended, if you can rent a normal car, and more useful informations: THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING ICELAND
UNPREDICTABLE BAD WEATHER: is weather of Iceland particularly bad? although i underlined how Iceland is less cold than what some people believe, i must say that the wather still presents some bad sides. In particular it is quite rainy and cloudy, and also the wind sometimes is very strong, at the point that in some cases is even hard to drive a car. When is it best period to visit Iceland? I explain this in the article linked above
HIGHER PRICES: are price and life cost high in Iceland? although things have changed after the financial crisis of 2008, prices can be perceived a little bit higher than other countries. However, i would like to point out that the flights in turn are very cheap nowadays (things can change in the future of course). For example, we have just found a direct flight from Rome to Reykjavik for September 2015 for just 280 euros. Such a price would have been impossible before 2008, when flights costed more than 600 euros. Not talking about a couple of years ago in 2013, when the cheapest flight i found was still around almost 400 euros with 1 stopover.
ISOLATED PLACES: some tourists feel scared that some places are isolated, especially in case one needs assistance. However, it must be noted that there is always an emergency number ready to help people, and also that the mobile signal is very good in many areas, reason why calling for help is not always difficult (it is possible to buy a cheap Icelandic mobile sim card on board of some flights or at the department store of Keflavik)
Since a picture means more than a thousand of words, below you can see me and my girlfriend along the road to Hveravellir…..quite scary……but so romantic!
LONG DISTANCES: Probably because on the world map, due to an optical illusion, it looks small respect to Europe and America, people can be wrongly induced to think that it is a small country. Instead, not only is quite big, but going faster on the roads is prohibitive for many reasons. Firstly there is a general speed limit which is around 80/90 km/h, and secondly the roads conditions are not always good. Infact some of them are unpaved, the wind can be strong, and the snow can produce a “white out” effect while driving. So, as a general rule of thumb, when i plan a trip in Iceland, i always tend to estimate a longer arrival time, respect to what i usually would expect from the same driving distance in a different country
UNPRONOUNCEABLE PLACE NAMES: i’m personally in love with the Iceland waterfall names, because they sound so sweet and fascinating……ofaerufoss, seljalandsfoss, godafoss, skogafoss…..however, i must say that one of the most criticized aspect of Iceland is the pronunciation of places names……they are terrible to learn and pronounce for many people , although in turn i find them to be cool and funny (yes, i admit to have a weakness for Iceland and everything related to it)…..some examples of the worst ones are the name of the volcano which erupted in 2010, Eyjafjallajokull…..another example is the very little town of Kirkjubaearklaustur situated between Vik and the Vatnajokull glacier…..try to read it loudly…..i’m confident that you will fail at least the first 3 times……
NO FOOD IN THE NIGHT OR NIGHTLIFE: apart of course from Reykjavik which is the capital, coming in Iceland with the idea of finding an opened fast food in the late evening in the middle of the country is pure fantasy for my personal experience. The recommendation is to find food in advance or to have the dinner as early as possible
My opinion is that the good sides of Iceland exceed the bad ones. In particular, the negative sides can be easily circumscribed by nicely organize the trip in advance. For example, regarding the roads conditions, one can opt-out for a trip far from winter, by also studying the road map in advance. Or for what concerns the long distances, one can decide to organise the trip with a couple of friends equipped with a valid drive license, to alternate each other on the wheel. Finally, regarding the food for example, is not a big problem to have the dinner earlier or to buy some sandwiches in advance to keep in the car just in case the hunger will knock at the door later in the night, especially while watching the magical aurora!
Concluding, just take care, act responsibly and everything will be fine…Iceland is a great place, one for which i believe it is worth to go there for the third time…yes, on September 2015 i will go there for the third time, and i can’t wait for it!
Thanks for reading!
SPECIAL THANKS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to thanks those who contributed to this article by participating to my interview:
- Alessandro Chiarelli & Monica Pompei: couple from Italy traveling with friends with a 4×4 jeep during end of March with the goal of watching the aurora and visiting the south west and south area, in particular waterfalls, geyser and Reykjavik
- Tiziana Fusaro: girl traveling with friends with a 4×4 jeep during end of March with the goal of watching the aurora and visiting the south west and south area, in particular waterfalls, geyser and Reykjavik
- Jeffrey Kreider: 44 Year old Male American from Johnson City, New York, USA – Went to Iceland with his Fiance, Ann Kristin Hiteshew-Waldmann for 5 days with group tour
- Joe Barton: My wife and i spent a week in Iceland between the 8th and 15th of feb 2015. We hired a Land rover Discovery for self drive
Gallery Link: http://www.joebartonphotography.co.uk
- Liz Williams: middle aged couple with 4×4 who like to travel independently
- Gaya Tharma: four girls travelling to Iceland from Feb 24th – March 2nd 2015 ( Four girls from Ontario, Canada: Gaya, Jess ( Photographer ) , Tharu & Vithi ). We visited Iceland to see the Northern Lights, Ice Caves and other sites
Cele Deemer: single traveler from Philadelphia, wanted to see Northern Lights, sister and friends have visited Iceland, I wanted to visit it too! Guided tours work well for me, but I’ve been known to rent a car to travel around the states.
- Lucy Chapman: we’re a couple from Northern Ireland. I’m an archaeologist and my partner likes Scandinavian history. We organised most of our trips online as we got a discount, but they all went through Greyline bus company and they were super organised and were fairly flexible about rescheduling trips. We usually go for cheap hotels with a self catering option and we usually go look at historical sites, museums and wildlife. We wanted to see Northern Lights but were unlucky this time (though apparently they could be seen on the North coast of Ireland last night).
Nicola Handley: What an amazing country soooooooo beautiful. We hired a 4×4 and stayed the week about 5 minute drive from the geyser
- Claus Duerr: I am a Phototour-Guide based in Munich specialized in Astro&Aurora-Photography… feel free to check out my photos
Gallery Link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php
- Fabio L’Avvelenato Elia: We were a couple and we traveled selfdriving to chase the aurora.
We did the whole ring in march 2015, Great weather except For reykjavik (TRULY crazy). Everyone should go at least once in his lifetime, anyways
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