It’s a month since I came back from Iceland, and it took me some time how to describe this country. Honestly… it’s just amazing. Many Game of Thrones scenes were filmed there resembling The North. This post won’t contain any itinerary of what to see but will describe Iceland’s amazingness.
Winter is coming… well winter never left
Iceland was on my bucket list for a very very long time, only it always seemed to be expensive. When I looked at the hotel prices I thought – woha maybe another time. That another time came this April. The hotel prices were reasonable to what I saw earlier, and the car rental prices also weren’t shooting through the roof. Now I know why. Noticed that April is a nothing month. The high season in Iceland is from somewhere mid-May till mid-September. Then there is the Northern Lights season from November till end of March which leaves April an in-between month. So how was it? It was rainy, windy, and cold. However, I was prepared that the weather won’t be spoiling us but hey you can’t have a cake and eat the cake. I took warm shoes, a very warm jacket and thermal underwear.
Never before did I experience such strong winds. Winds that want to tear your head off and hey I did experience a typhoon when I lived in Hong Kong. The rain always came from nowhere and during the first sightseeing day I was soaking wet, but it felt good! Seeing the two tectonic plates that crash into each other, an erupting geyser and stunning waterfalls made it all worth it. There is a saying – if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait for 10 minutes. That is very much true because within one hour we had – sun, rain, wind, sun again, different types of rain and clouds. However, I was surprised because despite those weather conditions there were many tourists. So, I can’t imagine what it’s like during the high season.
What to expect
1. Prices. I did expect that it’s just expensive in Iceland, but I didn’t expect it’s that expensive. For a main course in a normal, not fancy restaurant you need to pay between 30 and 40 Euros. Prices at the supermarket are somehow comparable to those in Germany. Slightly higher but bearable. Together with Konrad we decided that the next time we go to Iceland – yes wanna go again as there is plenty more to see than what we saw already, we will pay for checked in luggage and stuff it with food. Instead of a hotel we will get an Airbnb with a kitchen to cook.
2. Alcohol. You can’t buy alcohol in an ordinary supermarket. In case you see bottles of wine and beer on the shelves in Bonus or Kronan – main supermarket chains those will be non-alcoholic beverages. It’s actually amazing how many non-alcoholic beer, wine and gin you can find in Iceland. The proper booze is sold in special stores which are called VinBudin which are open only between 11 and 18 o’clock. During public holidays Thursday before Easter or Good Friday those stores are either closed or opened for two hours a day. If your day is fully planned with sightseeing away from civilisation you won’t have a chance to buy a bottle of wine for a cosy evening. Not hiding it’s annoying. Hence if you like your evening drink but the booze at the duty-free store before landing.
3. Views. It’s unbelievable, when you see pictures of Iceland on the internet you think, no way it must be photoshopped. Nope, it’s not. The views and the scenery are so breath-taking that you don’t need a photo filter when taking pictures. Besides, when you drive through Iceland it’s mostly empty. There are small cities on the road but mostly it’s empty. The views also change depending on if you go 200 km west, east, or north. You get to drive through mountains, then through flatlands and eventually through volcano areas. I was simply amazed as I hadn’t experienced something like this before. Just remember the speed limit on the motorways is 90 km/h. Also, it’s worth paying a bit more for a SUV or cross country car. We booked a small option and got a Hyundai i10. It did the job but during strong winds on the motorway we thought we would get blown away.
4. Contactless payments. You can pay with your card everywhere and there is no need to take cash with you.
5. Parking. At most tourist attractions you need to pay for parking. Mostly it’s around 5 Euros per stay, regardless of if you stay there 5 min or 5 hours. There is no parking staff to monitor the payment, but the car’s number plate gets scanned by cameras and you need to pay for parking by scanning a QR code, entering the car’s number plate and paying. If you don’t, the car rental agency from which you rented the car will receive a letter that there is a payment missing and eventually, you’ll end up paying the fine. Funny enough, next to the paid parking area is enough space where you can park for free as the police are not handing out parking tickets if you park the car in a publicly available space and don’t cause any danger to the general traffic.
Generally, this was a mind-blowing trip which led us through volcanos, waterfalls, mountains and flatlands finished with a relaxing day at the Blue Lagoon – and it wasn’t overrated. I could go on and on about Iceland’s beauty but just see for yourself.