5 Things You Should Know About Iceland
Written by Jaillan Yehia
The first time I visited Iceland I was blown away by the Nordic nation’s mysterious mix of Scandinavian-style scenery spread across a vast canvas of North American proportions.
As I plot a return visit, I’m reminded of my favorite things about the utterly unique island nation – here are the top 5 things I think you should know about Iceland…
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1. It Is Worth Going For The Blue Lagoon Alone
Probably Iceland’s most well-known tourist offering, the Blue Lagoon is a rare thing: an outdoor spa that really lives up to the hype.
It’s just a 20-minute drive from the country’s main airport, Keflavik, so the location of this geothermal spa is a dream as an antidote to jetlag or a pre-flight pick-me-up: I remember relaxing in the hot soothing waters within a couple of hours of landing and thinking that even if I had to turn around and head straight back to the airport after my blissful hours of bathing, it would be worth the trip.
The pools are renewed with fresh water every two days and kept around a soothing 100 °F but its the white silica mud, placed in tubs around the entirely outdoor complex, which really made an impression on me – my skin has literally never felt softer and I always regret not taking the chance to bulk buy the Blue Lagoon’s signature range of beauty products, which are sold at the on site gift shop.
2. Everything In Iceland Is free
Ok not everything in Iceland is actually free obviously, but for a destination that has always had a reputation as being extremely expensive, it’s surprising just how much of the stuff you want to see as a tourist doesn’t cost you a single cent.
Chances are if you’re in Iceland on holiday you’re a nature fan – and I was delighted to discover that the waterfalls, geysers, national parks and all the insane unique natural phenomena on offer in Iceland are not fenced off, ticketed or turned into theme parks in any way – and you are not charged an entrance fee to see any of the country’s abundant natural wonders.
Each site has parking, picnic tables and the other facilities that you need but otherwise they’re left as nature intended and all the better for it. This means Iceland compares favorably to other destinations – South Africa springs to mind – which have a similar draw for nature enthusiasts but tend to put a whopping great fence up to make sure you pay for the privilege of seeing each and every viewpoint.
If you want to do an Iceland road trip as I did, this means you can pull over and stop in as many places as you like without concern for the budget.
3. Iceland’s Not Just About Nature – There’s Shopping Too
Everyone’s heard about Reykjavik’s nightlife (though my experience was that Friday was a way bigger night out than Saturday, party fans) but I really enjoyed the rest of my time in Iceland’s ‘city’ too, though of course to call Reykjavik a city really requires those air quotes – it’s staggering just how pint-sized the place is.
But the best things really do come in small packages and there are some very cute and colorful boutiques to browse around – though if you’re a flea market fan like me and like to collect bizarre and quirky souvenirs on your travels then you should hit the Saturday afternoon Kolaportid market too, which is a lot of fun for a rummage as well as being one of the cheapest places to shop in town.
4. …And Monster Trucks
Now that I’ve covered the rather girlie topic of shopping I should point out that another really unexpected highlight of a trip to Iceland is spotting the crazy souped-up all-terrain vehicles on the Icelandic roads.
Despite the fact that for the average tourist there’s little need to leave the safety of the tarmac – the main ring road that circumnavigates the island, especially the portion closer to the capital, is in perfect condition – it’s easy to see evidence of the mountainous nature of much of Iceland’s road network which is especially hazardous in winter.
One of the things you should know about Iceland is that if offers unparalleled opportunities to get up close with some pretty cool super jeeps and other modified vehicles that are designed to be able to tackle all the forces of nature that Iceland can throw at them.
5. It’s Really Easy To Get There If You’re Already Going Somewhere Else
Ever since I visited Iceland I’ve kept my eye on Icelandair’s fares because the country’s national airline has an amazing policy which gives you a free stopover in Iceland for up to a week when using them to fly transatlantic.
For travel addicts like me, the idea of getting a free mini break into the bargain when I need to transport myself from Europe to North America or vice versa seems almost too good to be true, but it’s a solid option – so next time you need to cross continents it’s well worth checking their prices and schedule to see if you can fit a little trip to Iceland into your plans.
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