My experience in Iceland and tips for visiting

8 Oct

I’m at Kaffitar, an Icelandic coffee chain store and my trip to Iceland is coming to an end. I have decided to write about my experiences in this wonderful country and offer tips for visiting it.

The first day I was here I arrived and explored Reykjavik. It’s not “The Paris of the Far North” or anything like that but it does deserve time. There are a few museums and interesting streets to walk around. Reykjavik really tells me what a small city is supposed to be in the 21st century. Apart from the small amount of public transport and the sprawl, I really think this is a good-looking role model for a small city when it comes to infrastructure. The buildings are all contemporary, even somewhat futuristic. Unlike in US cities, the bridges don’t look like they are rusty and falling apart. They look like what bridges should look like in the 21st century. There is some graffiti, but not too much, and I heard that street art is actually legal in some areas of the city (This is fine with me considering the amount money I’m guessing police spend removing street art every week in other cities)

Basically, if the city had skyscrapers, more public transit, and flying cars, it would look like a small, clean version of an ideal futuristic city.

The second day I was here I went on my first tour. It was a glacier hike and sightseeing tour with Reykjavik Excursions, a company I definitely recommend (The glacier hike part was run by Icelandic mountain guides). The glacier hike is, for the most part, not scary or difficult. At first I stamped my crampon-equipped shoes into the ice very hard because I thought I’d be more secure, but over time I realized you could walk almost as lightly as you could with normal shoes and still be fine. The glacier won’t be around for much longer due to Global Warming. The guide showed us the point it used to go down to back in 2005, right near the parking lot. Now it is a 15 minute walk to the glacier. At the end, the guide scared us and told us that a volcano behind the glacier is expected to erupt any day in the next year or so, and that the eruption will be much worse than that of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. He said the glacier would melt almost instantly, and there would be rushing water passing through the valley at a rate of 300,000 cubic meters per second. He used this to motivate us to go down back to the parking lot faster, but he was not lying, as I found out from another tour guide the next day.

The next day, I did the greatest hike in my life. At almost 300 usd, the Thorsmork Volcano hike by arctic adventures is expensive, but well worth it. First you do a two hour drive into a beaitiful valley full of rainbows and rivers. The guide showed us whole new canyons which had been formed by the 2010 eruption. After this, you do a 5 mile hike up a volcano and 5 miles back down. The first part of the ascent is on a ridge next to a valley full of small golden trees. The second part is on a windswept hillside with a very slippery, muddy, steep climb up. The third stage is a flat barren moonscape with patches of snow here and there, and lots of fog. The final stage is climbing an ashy peak with lots of snow. There was sleet being thrust into our faces at all times and you couldn’t see more than about 100 feet in front of you, but it was worth it.

The next day, I did the golden circle tour. This was a great tour where we saw waterfalls and geysers. It was a relaxing bus tour, just what I needed after the hike the day before. This tour was run by Reykjavik Excursions.

All of the tours I did were incredible.

My tips for visiting Iceland are as follows:

1. Don’t make the Golden Circle your only tour. It is a fantastic tour but the more challenging hiking tours give you access to scenery you’d never be able to see on a regular bus tour. If you come to Iceland, don’t just do the Golden Circle. You’ll have a much better time if you do some more adventurous tours as well.

2. Eat at cheap local places rather than expensive ones. I tried eating at an expensive Pakistani restaurant in Reykjavik centre which showed of lots of tripadvisor awards at the door. In the US, I feel like I can trust pakistani restaurants with lots of tripadvisor awards. This food, however, was nothing compared to curries I’ve eaten in the US or the UK, and at 2900 isk for a lamb saffron curry, it was a lot more expensive. The curry tasted more like mustard mixed with mayonaise than Curry.

3. The people are happy to speak English. As I found, speaking Icelandic didn’t get me any more respect than speaking English. In many cultures they seem to like it if you learn the local language, but Icelanders don’t seem to care.

4. Be prepared to adjust back to regular tap water after leaving Iceland. Icelandic tap water is all glacial pure water and is the best in the world.

5. Enjoy it!!!

Overall, Iceland is a fascinating country that deserves to be seen.

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