First Thoughts on Iceland

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the lupine flowers are everywhere in the summer – & gorgeous
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

We’re back from our short trip to Iceland & all I can say is wow. Amazing. Magical. Spectacular. Iceland lives up to the hype, which is sometimes rare for a destination de jour. I can’t wait to share our itinerary, activities, food, lodging & photographs from our trip. But while I get unpacked & unjetlagged, here are some first thoughts on Iceland:

1. Iceland is Full of Stunning Beauty

Iceland is truly as stunningly beautiful as everyone says – every kilometer, around every corner: towering waterfalls tumbling over emerald green cliffs, barren lava fields which feel like you’re on the moon, rolling hills dotted with sheep & horses which look straight out of a storybook, vast black sand beaches leading to foamy surf, rock columns & formations created by lava & waves & the Earth millions of years ago (or, according to local legend, two trolls who pulled a ship ashore). Iceland really is as beautiful as you imagine it is going to be.

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Þingvellir National Park is along the Golden Circle
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

2. Iceland is Easy to Navigate

Traveling around the country couldn’t be easier, as long as you pack common sense, a few layers of clothing & a sense of adventure. The ring road is well maintained (especially along the popular south coast) & while a self-driving tour can be tiring, it is a great way to see the country. Connectivity is also excellent throughout the country – in fact, I had five bars of cell service & LTE data coverage 600′ up a glacier, something I don’t even get at my own house!

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a crashed U.S. Navy DC-3 on a black sand beach – worth the 4km hike to get there!
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

3. Icelanders are Friendly & Welcoming

Everyone we met during our journey, from Icelanders working in the tourism industry to Icelanders cheering on their football team in downtown Reykjavik, were kind & friendly. Tourism has become overwhelming to parts of the country & it would be easy for locals to angry & standoffish to visitors (I certainly am sometimes toward visitors to DC!), but everyone we met were welcoming & eager to show off their beautiful spot on this planet.

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midnight sun means that the sun sets seemingly forever
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

4. Iceland is an Outdoor Adventure Paradise

I love what I call “armchair adventure” – that is, someone who does a bit too much sitting (at a desk, in an armchair at home, etc) can still enjoy being outdoors & doing something slightly adventurous. Iceland caters to all types of adventurers though, from the armchair type to the hardcore adventure seeker. Hiking trails are easily accessible & range from long & flat to requiring crampons & an ice pick. Paddlers will find kayaking in glacial lakes (our favorite experience of the trip) & the fjords.  Paragliding, whale watching, snow moiling, diving between tectonic plates, Iceland has it all.

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in Dyrhólaey you can see both puffins & a sprawling black sand beach
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

5. Iceland is Very Popular – & Tourism is Making an Impact

As I researched our trip, I was worried that we were too late: that the crowds would be too much & detract from our experience. Tourism is making an impact on the country & communities are being forced to adapt. We encountered huge crowds, spilling out of tour buses, along the Golden Circle. Outside of Reykjavik, with a few exceptions, hotels are expensive & very minimalist, which, during the high season, have to be booked months in advance. Keflavik airport was well organized & easy to navigate, but also totally overrun with crowds all boarding flights around the same time (we had to take a bus out to our aircraft, which was parked in a remote area. This shouldn’t stop you from going – there are still quiet pockets of the country & there were times that we were the only car on the road for 30 kms. But now is the time to go, before those moments are gone.

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Gullfoss is popular for a reason – it’s stunning, but also crowded
(C) Christina Saull – All Rights Reserved

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About christina

Christina is a 30-something D.I.N.K. travel writer & photographer who travels the world often wedged into the middle seat. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

2 Responses to First Thoughts on Iceland

  1. Colleen @ AdlibTraveller July 14, 2016 at 6:10 am #

    Stunning photos Christina and good tips for any first time visitor. I spent some time in Iceland this year and absolutely loved every moment. Your photos took me back to the beauty of the country, I can’t wait to return.

    • christina July 15, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

      Isn’t it an amazing place? I can’t wait to go back!

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