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Travel in Iceland: 10 wrong urban legends

Today i talk about some Iceland urban legends to which someone can believe before traveling in Iceland, like how much is cold and is Iceland the land of ice?

I’m really in love with this country, and i have already visited it three times (last time in September 2016)

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DISCLAIMER: the present article has been realized in pure amateur form with a mere recreational, personal, non profit intention. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee in any case the absence of errors or the freshness of the informations reported. For this reason he strictly invites any reader to also search for more informations about the same arguments inside other external sources, and to report any eventual mistake to the author through the Contact page on this website. In any case the author will not be responsible for any action committed by anyone following the reading of the informations reported inside this article

Here we go!

Iceland view over the black sand beach of Vik from Dirholaey arch at sunset

Iceland view over the black sand beach of Vik from Dirholaey arch at sunset

Myth 1) Is it true that Iceland is expensive?

This myth was true till the crysis of 2008, although now things are changing

For example, while some years ago i found flights for 500 euros, the next month i have booked a flight from Italy for just 220 euros with Vueling, a company which now travels to Iceland even with a direct flight from Rome

Furthermore, for the next September, i have been able to book a couple of hotels for just 40 euros per person per night, breakfast included. Not that expensive respect to a city like London for example, isn’t it?

The reason, as depicted in this graph of Icelandic economy trend, can be probably found in the financial crysis of 2008 which has allowed the icelandic Krona to fall down, and the tourism sector to emerge a little bit more, although things can change again in the future

However, in the last years, for sure, prices have been not so much high

It must be noted that some places are still expensive to eat, but in general, if one goes to supermarket and fastfoods, at present time it’s not that expensive

Example of food prices in Iceland in 2015 when i went there (prices are not exact, but just a mere indication):

  • A good sandwich with chicken or beef: 4 Euros
  • Hot oriental noodles box: 1,50 Euros
  • Bottle of water: free water, since you buy it once, and refill it with tap water
  • Nice pack of biscuits: 3 Euros
  • Hot dog: 2 Euros
  • Nice Iceland chocolate bar 100gr: 3 Euros
  • Hot soup with beef: 5 Euros
  • Packed orange fruit juice: 2,50 Euros

Myth 2) Is it true that Iceland is very cold?

I have found some historical data of Icelandic weather, which demonstrates how less cold Iceland is if compared to similar countries like Canada, Scandinavia, Alaska and not only.

As an instance, Toronto, Anchorage, and similar cities, present a minimum historical temperature of almost 40°C. In turn, a city like Reykjavik has touched a minimum historical temperature of -18°C, about half of the cold.

The reason can probably be found in the position of Iceland, in the middle of Atlantic Ocean, where it gets influenced by the Gulf Stream, apart from having a rich volcano activity beneath the ground which constantly makes the water hot, at the point that people use it to heat their house with renewable resources

Iceberg beach next to Jokulsarlon in Iceland

Iceberg beach next to Jokulsarlon in Iceland

Myth 3) Is it true that Iceland is full of geysers?

Although is easy to recall Iceland while talking about geysers, there are not so many in reality. The most popular ones are just a couple, Strokkur and Great Geyser, and the latter even presents a reduced activity (Wikipedia reports an average of 3 eruptions per day  since July 2003 at present time, while Strokkur, as personally witnessed by me, erupts around every 15 minutes at present time). Things can change in the future especially after sudden earthquakes

Concluding, if someone is wondering that while driving along Iceland roads, he will see geysers everywhere, well, it’s just an illusion. In turn what is often visible are the fumaroles emicting tons of white vapours in the air. Fumaroles are the “non explosive” version of geysers

strokkur geyser iceland eruption

Myth 4) Is Iceland full of polar bears?

Although many times they reached the north and east coast, by drifting on top of ice fragments detached from the glaciers of Greenland, generally speaking, the country itself doesn’t natively present these animals in great numbers. Greenland is a more appropriate country to spot them

It seems that the total amount of documented observations since Iceland settlement has been around 289 as per 2010 data, not necessarily meaning 289 different bears, but also more observations of the same bear, reason why the number lacks of precision (furthermore, to complicate things, many observations don’t report the number of animals spotted, if they were in group or just one alone)

Following is a graph showing the average amount of polar bears sighting per year since the Iceland settlement

Furthermore, at the following link it is possible to see an Icelandic map of Polar bears sighting showing the areas where these animals have been seen the most. More or less, the polar bears have been spotted mainly along the north west fjords, the north coast and the east fjords, with some rare observations also on the south coast

Someone stated that since we are assisting to a climate change which is leading to a more frequent detachment of icebergs, it could be appropriate to believe that we will assist to a higher frequency of polar bears observations in Iceland. This consideration has been taken even more seriously after the recent recording of a polar bear sighting during summer, a rare phenomenon, since this tends to happen more in winter or spring

However, there’s no historical evidence for now, as the number of spottings in the last decades haven’t been so much higer than the previous century

Myth 5) Is Iceland situated inside the arctic circle?

Although the word “ice” inside the name makes our fantasy riding more than what it should, no, Iceland is not part of the arctic circle, apart from the very small island of Grimsey, although it must be said that it’s still very close to its boundaries, reason why, it’s a great country to see the aurora borealis (aka northern lights).

Following it is possible to read my comprehensive guide to see Aurora Borealis

Me and my girlfriend under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

Me and my girlfriend under the northern lights in Alftaver, near Klaustur

Myth 6) Is it true that Iceland is the “land of ice” with no green landscape?

Just look at the pictures below. In proportion, Greenland is almost entirely covered by the ice of glaciers, while Iceland, outside winter season, presents lot of green (although trees in Iceland are almost absents). It must be said that there’s a sort of ambiguity with the name. I’m still asking myself why these two countries present an “inverted” name. Probably it would have been more correct to call Greenland as Iceland and vice versa.

Fjallabak national park, Landmannalaugar basecamp

Fjallabak national park, Landmannalaugar basecamp

 

The reason is apparently related to the two guys who gave the name to these countries.

Regarding Iceland, the author was a certain Flóki Vilgerðarson, who after arriving in Iceland, he found the winter to be terrible, with landscape and water covered by fragments of ice. For this reason, in a instance of anger, he decided to express his frustration by coming back to his country and name this place “Iceland” while talking about it to his people, by ignoring how much green it was during other seasons, especially summer.

In the following picture, another example of how much green Iceland is capable to be sometimes

Me and my friend in Iceland covered by an intense emerald green grass

In turn, Greenland got its name from a viking who wanted to “excite” his people while talking about his recent land discovery, so that, by ignoring the huge amount of ice and glaciers, he deliberately decided to call that place Greenland…..weird story, isn’t it?

Following is a link to read more about  the Iceland and Greenland names story

Myth 7) Is it true that in Iceland water is very cold during summer?

For sure the water of the sea can be very cold, but in turn Iceland is rich of hot water rivers and also of natural and artificial hot water pools. One of the most popular one is called Blue Lagoon and it’s very relaxing, apart from being also spectacular to see, thanks to its intense blue water color and the presence of a fumarole in the middle of the pool

While visiting Iceland, it’s quite typical among trekkers and hikers, to walk for a long time and conclude the trekking with a bath inside a hot river. I’m quite convinced that icelanders don’t miss so much the beaches of Mediterranean sea (maybe…eh eh eh….)

It’s possible to read more about the Blue Lagoon here: Photography guide to visit the Blue Lagoon

blue lagoon fog fumarole bath blue water iceland

Myth 8) Is it true that in summer is always day, while in other seasons always night and dark?

Not true like people believe. Apart from a period close to December and January, winter still presents enough hours of light. This is a rule valid for every country at that latitude. I have personally witnessed it.

As an example, i went to Tromso, north of Norway (close to Cape North), in the middle of February. Sun was already enough high around 8 o’clock and it did set at around 5pm o’clock. Not so much different from a mediterranean winter day. What it really changes instead, is the sun position. In Italy for example, during midday, the sun would be enough higher, while in Tromso, in the same condition, it seems early morning because sun is closer to horizon.

However, this is different from believing that the entire winter is totally dark. This is just a fantasy. The picture below is from Tromso, middle of February, around late morning

tromso harbour fjords winter snow

Myth 9) Is it true that in Iceland there’s almost no internet connection, roads, and phone connections?

Both internet and mobile connection in Iceland are outstanding. Wherever i went, the signal was very good and i was able to take advantage of my connection almost all the time even when i was dozens of miles away from Reykjavik. I really enjoyed it, and it helped me to surf on Internet to search for weather informations.

I used two local operators called SIMINN and NOVA with a mobile sim bought directly onboard of flight with Icelandair, or also inside the department store of Keflavik (very fast purchase, no need to register the sim card. Just mount and use it), although some popular mobile brands like Vodafone, nowadays, are making some offers to keep the actual sim rather than buying a dedicated one once there (although for me, SIMINN and NOVA looks still the best convenient option, at least to use internet.

To better check the actual 3G/4G mobile coverage of Iceland, it is possible to visit the official SIMINN mobile operator map

Regarding roads, this is partially true and partially not. It must be said that some remote attractions must be reached with unpaved roads, which are officially recognized with the standard name of “F-roads”. However, that doesn’t mean that the entire Iceland presents bad roads. Infact the country is covered by a very long and pleasant ring road which doesn’t present any problem, together with further nicely paved secondary roads

Example of an F-road in Iceland

Example of an F-road in Iceland

Furthermore, the main cities, and most of the popular attractions which are visited by most of the tourists, like Geyser, Gullfoss, Jokulsarlon, Blue Lagoon, Seljalandsfoss, and many others, are perfectly connected with nice paved roads for which no special skill is required, except if one is going there in winter when the snow can create some problems (although this is valid for any country, not just Iceland)

Myth 10) Is it true that from the Snæfell volcano one can reach Italy Stromboli volcano by walking underground?

Every fan of Jules Verne has wondered if the story of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” is true, me too. Well, i carefully reflected for days before deciding to talk about this argument, because i find it to be weird and delicate, especially after having found some incredible informations……well…..yes, you won’ t believe it, but someone has found that this is partially real….

I have made a great research on this and found a possible way to do it, although planning everything is very difficult and special equipment would be surely needed….

Well, since for now i’m not able to go to Iceland to make this journey, following i’m giving instructions to reach the exact point and start a journey if someone can organize a special expedition

Following, is what i have found….

From Reykjavik, proceed north toward the Snaefelness peninsula….after a while, when you reach the volcano Snæfell (or Sneffel), you should be able to find both a farm hotel and a pub offering some nice beers to those making the trek on top of the volcano just some miles east of the volcano itself (don’t remember the name). Well, to find the entrance inside the volcano these are the exact steps to follow:

  • reach the pub, and leave the jeep in the internal car park
  • book a room in the nearby farm hotel in advance
  • ask for a taxi in advance to take you to the farm hotel in a hour from now
  • ask for 5 litres of beer
  • drink the 5 litres altogether
  • wait for a hour or so without doing nothing
  • if you did everything nicely, you should find yourself very soon at the entrance of the volcano to reach the center of the earth with all the necessary equipment

If you are able to do it and to use a photocamera capable of shooting inside your dreams, please let me know and send me some pictures……

Jokes apart, although that of Jules Verne was just a fantasy, yes, Iceland presents many different volcano lava tube caves that can be explored with a guided tour of companies like the popular “Extreme Iceland, to feel, just  for an instance, like the adventurers of this great book

view of the great vapour cone of hveravellir producing a jet engine sound

view of the great vapour cone of hveravellir producing a jet engine sound

CONCLUSION

What a beautiful country, can’t stop being in love with it….I’m preparing with great enthusiasm for my third trip during the next September, and i’m still excited like the first time!

Thanks for reading!

Copyright © Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Small excerpts or the pictures contained in the article may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Travel in Iceland: 10 wrong urban legends

  1. Fabulous pictures and narrative Moyan. Thank you for re-confirming to me that I want to visit Iceland. Perhaps I will visit this September 2015 just for a week. Clearly there is much to do and see; could you recommend the best place at that time of year to see the Northern Lights? Many thanks.

    Posted by Hayley | July 31, 2015, 11:17 pm

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My third trip to IcelandSeptember 3rd, 2015
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