Right now, I’m battling serious cabin fever and trying to plan my next trip! It’s making me reflect about my first trip, too, and all the amazing places I saw. Upon graduating college, I decided I just had to go abroad before beginning a life of corporate servitude. So a few months before, I looked online for the cheapest flight to Europe, which led me to a flight to Reykjavik for $250. With a final click and total disregard for making a logical decision, it was set. I was going to Iceland.
Before I left, I hardly knew anything about the island nation. It was cold there, right? And… there were reindeer maybe? After my time there, I can’t wait to go back. Here’s why you need to go too.
There is virtually no crime in Iceland. Generally, Icelanders are down-to-earth, friendly people. It’s pretty cool also, how their naming conventions work. If your father’s name is Robert, you would either be Hans Robertsson or Hana Robertsdottir. Nearly everyone knows each other. The hostel I stayed at (Bus Hostel) was run by a group of kind, awesome, fun people, who barbecued traditional Icelandic food for us, and came along to an impromptu viking wedding.
From the moment your plane touches down in Keflavik Airport, you’re transported to another planet. The ground is warbled, frozen lava covered in moss that has taken hundreds of years to grow. Aside from that, there’s a glacier you can visit (and where all the drinking water comes from). Oh, and two waterfalls, and a spouting geyser. And plenty of fluffy sheep and adorable hairy horses that only live in Iceland.
But nature itself isn’t the only beauty there. Reykjavik is dotted with colorful Scandinavian buildings in all the colors of the rainbow. Even the graffiti is pretty. Downtown Reykjavik is full of artsy shops and restaurants. There’s a stunning grey church in the center of the city that stretches up into the heavens, Hallgrímskirkja, made to resemble basalt lava flows. Man. American churches need to step up their game.
I learned exactly two words when I was in Iceland, “Skaal!’ and “Takk!” What do these mean? Drink! And thank you! There you are. You have everything you need to know to get by in Iceland. This is especially fun in summer, when the sun only sets for an hour or so, and it never really gets dark. You’ll think it’s maybe 9 pm when you get outside. Hah. Just kidding, it’s 4 am. Stumble back to your hostel, you crazy kid.
Yes. This exists.
The Northern Lights
Come in winter and even though you’ll be freezing your toes off, you can at least die happy knowing you’ve seen Aurora Borealis, the beautiful natural phenomena that ripples across the arctic sky.
or… The Summer Solstice
Fun fact. You can drive along the perimeter of the entire country in one day. Many people attempt to do this on the summer solstice, which is the one day of the year that the sun doesn’t set below the horizon. Still, leave your shorts at home. Iceland only gets into the 50s (Fahrenheit) during the summer. You’ll at least need a light jacket. If you’re continuing to the rest of Europe, this is the time to get creative with your packing.
The Hot Springs
How do you think they survive those winters otherwise? Instead of going to your local Starbucks to catch up, Icelanders head to the nearest hot spring, which are municipal and wonderfully cheap. But, if you feel like being pampered, grab a bus to the Blue Lagoon. The water is a pale, milky blue that’s out of this world. Your body disappears beneath the surface of the almost glowing water.
Okay, so there aren’t really actual Vikings in Iceland. But there is at least one Viking priest who I saw do an awesome wedding. And a Viking festival every year in Hafnarfjordur, which totally beats the local Renaissance Faire. If watching a bunch of people dressed up like Vikings bludgeoning each other isn’t fun, I don’t know what is.
Cash, no, credit is king
You’ll be hard pressed to find a place in Iceland that doesn’t accept credit cards. The taxis all accept credit cards, the restaurants, even the little hot dog stand. This is great, so you don’t have to worry about exchanging your money. Though, definitely get your hands on some Icelandic krona to take home as souvenirs!
The Hot Dog stand
Yes, for a country where you can try whale, puffin, lamb, or any other Icelandic traditional food, I am advising you to dine at Iceland’s famous hot dog eatery, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. This is likely the only time in your life where you’ll have hot dogs made partially with lamb, topped with fried onions, ketchup, sweet relish, and mustard. This is a favorite spot of local Icelanders, and even Bill Clinton has indulged. You will be eating the same hot dog the president ate. In Iceland.
So what do you think? Ready to head over and get your inner viking on? Iceland’s waiting. Take me with you, too.