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.
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!
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.
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.
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.