“The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.”
Iceland has become a big tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why; it’s natural beauty speaks for itself. I am one of many people who have fallen in love with Iceland, here’s why*:
The landscapes (of course!)
I haven’t traveled as widely as I’d like (who has?!) but Iceland has the most unique landscapes I’ve ever seen. Lava fields, glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, and so on. They all seem to flow seamlessly into each other: if I believed in God, I’d consider him a fantastic landscape architect, but isn’t it even more incredible that these sights are entirely natural wonders, and a testament to incredible power of our world?
And, although Iceland is experiencing more tourism than ever, most areas are not touristy (the ‘worst’ you’ll see is a cafe or a little shop) or overly busy. The busiest areas are the bigger waterfalls and the Golden Circle, but nothing unmanageable. And if you want to escape the tour bus crowds, you can visit early in the day (or late at night in the Summer.)
Icelandic people are easily some of the friendliest people I’ve met. They remain incredibly welcoming, despite what must surely feel like a slight invasion of their beautiful, peaceful country: Iceland is a small and has a population under 350,000 – yet in 2016, they had 1,767,726 visitors arrive by air. To put that into perspective, in 2007, they only had 395,573 visitors fly in.
Okay, so this won’t be popular with everyone, but I loved the unpredictability of the weather in Iceland. I visited in the summer, and it could go from a rain storm to sunshine in 10 minutes. The erratic weather seemed to compliment the surreal landscape, and the otherworldly feel of Iceland. Also – the clouds. They seemed within reaching distance, and like they were enveloping everything. I never paid so much attention to the sky as I did when driving around Iceland.
It’s expensive. Seriously. But, everything I ate in Iceland was fresh, high quality and well prepared. Expect hearty food. Strangely, I didn’t venture into eating the traditional rotten shark and drinking Brennivin (I’m still learning to enjoy fresh fish, baby steps.)
This is cheating a bit, since Eric did all the driving (I was in charge of the soundtrack, of course.) However, if you’re used to the congested roads in the UK, with nothing to look at besides someone taking their rubbish out for bin day, the roads in Iceland are amazing. We used google maps to navigate us, and when it told us there was traffic up ahead we couldn’t stop laughing because an Iceland traffic jam amounted to four cars.
The roads are open, with reasonable speed limits, and surrounded by incredible scenery. If it wasn’t so windy I would have done my very best impression of a dog out of a car window for the entire trip. (Where did I leave my doggles?)
This one is harder to explain, and will be interpreted differently by everyone, but let me try to elaborate. To me, the atmosphere in Iceland is a mixture of adventure and calm.
Almost every person you see will be on the same wavelength as you – you’re all there to see the natural beauty Iceland has to offer. And, as Iceland is by no means a cheap destination, not many people can visit on a whim: the people around you are likely to be truly interested and appreciative of nature.
In the same vein, 99% of people you encounter in Iceland will be wearing waterproofs and walking boots: leave your hair straighteners and new contour kit at home, it’s really not needed here. I’m someone who always styles their hair and wears a little makeup, but in Iceland I didn’t bother, and it was so nice. Not only is it pointless (Icelandic weather will see to that) but it’s just not necessary. Same with clothing; comfortable, warm and waterproof are the only things you need to consider with clothes.
All of these things contribute to the atmosphere (promise this isn’t a weird tangent about how much I loved looking like a slob for a week.) Because everybody is there for the same reason: to explore, and explore respectfully. The vibe is calm, happy, and often full of a shared sense of wonder.
* note, most of the things I refer to occur mostly outside of Reykjavik. If you go to Iceland, for your own sake, do not just stay in Reykjavik!