Why you should (seriously) consider Iceland as your next travel destination

I got a lot of crazy looks from people when I explained to them that I was traveling to Iceland. It’s not the typical place that comes to mind when picturing your dream vacation. However, tourism in Iceland is on the rise, and although the population of the country is only around 300,000, it’s expected that they’ll have 1 million visitors a year within the next few years. So obviously the word must be getting out about what an amazing country Iceland is to visit—and if you haven’t heard yet then here are a few reasons why:

Natural Beauty

It is undeniable – Iceland is a beautiful country. With all the lava fields, waterfalls, volcanoes, fjords, cliffs, and mountains, it seems like every corner leads to another amazing landscape.

just another beautiful view while trekking through Iceland

just another beautiful view while trekking through Iceland

Wildlife

Iceland is definitely the country to visit if you’re into bird watching. There’s also whale watching, and if you’re lucky you might even see an arctic fox.

puffins are quite possibly the cutest birds in existence

puffins are quite possibly the cutest birds in existence

Adventure Travel

If you’re into hiking, scuba diving, glacier climbing, horse riding, caving, etc. Iceland will have something for you. Head to any of the tourist information offices in Reykjavik when you arrive, and you can easily book all kinds of tours. We opted to do a combination tour where we went snorkeling in the Silfra fissure in the morning, and then caving in a lava cave in the afternoon. It was amazing! I also did a six day Laugvegur trek with the company Trek (www.trek.is) which I highly recommend.

snorkelling in the Silfra fissure

snorkelling in the Silfra fissure

crouching in a lava cave

crouching in a lava cave

Relaxation

Two words for you = Blue Lagoon. Not to mention the countless hot springs throughout the country.

the blue lagoon in all it's glory

the blue lagoon in all it’s glory

Make it a Part of your Europe Trip

Iceland Air offers a “stopover” option (http://www.icelandair.ca/flights/stopover/) where you can stay in Iceland for up to seven nights on your way to Europe for no additional charge. And while I don’t think it is possible to see all of Iceland in less than seven days, staying in Reykjavik for a few days and hitting up the Golden Circle would be well worth it.

Folklore and History

If you believe in fairies of trolls, you’ll have that in common with most Icelanders.  And a country that was created by vikings- how could it’s history not be amazingly gory and awesome?

IMG_0727

having fun at the viking museum in Reykjavik

Midnight Sun or the Northern Lights

No matter what time of year you visit Iceland, you’ll get to experience something that you won’t get to in many other countries – either the midnight sun, or the Northern Lights. I was in Iceland during the month of July, and I didn’t experience true darkness once. If you’re worried about this messing with your sleeping habits, just take a pair of eye covers with you and you’ll be fine!

One last word…

Iceland, along with the other Nordic countries, is not necessarily a cheap country to visit. If you’re concerned about traveling to Iceland on a budget, check out my blog post on the topic over here.

So, have I managed to convince you?  Think you’d consider Iceland as a travel destination?  Leave me a comment below!

Advertisements

How to Travel in Iceland on a Budget

Let’s face it- Iceland is one of the most expensive countries you can visit (besides Norway apparently). It’s also one of the most beautiful and amazing countries you can visit and is therefore highly recommended by myself.

We all know the basic and obvious ways to save money while traveling like staying in hostels and cooking your own meals in your hostel or hotel. But, there are a few tips specific to saving money while traveling in Iceland that I thought I would share here.

Pack a sleeping bag and tent.

Tenting in Iceland is by far the cheapest accommodation option. The general rule seems to be “if there is no fence, you can camp there” meaning that most of the country is fair game to camp on for free. Just make sure you take all your garbage with you! There is also the option of staying at the numerous camp sites throughout the country. Every little town seems to have it’s own campsite, with working toilets and sometimes showers (check out www.ttjalda.is for more info on sites in each region of Iceland). There is even a campsite in Reykjavik (www.reykjavikcampsite.is).   In general, camping costs around 1,000 ISK or $10 CAD per night.

I had the whole campsite to myself.

I had the whole campsite to myself.

If you don’t feel up for camping, definitely still take a sleeping bag with you. Many hostels and guest houses in Iceland offer “sleeping bag accommodation” for a significantly cheaper rate than regular accommodation, meaning that you can simply use your sleeping bag rather than the linen provided by the hostel. For example, I stayed one night in a guest house in the West Fjords, and at this guest house the cheapest room for one night in regular accommodation was $110 CAD while the sleeping bag accommodation started at $40.

Hitchhike.

Hitchhiking is one of the best ways to travel the country, not only because you get to see more of the countryside, but you also get to meet all kinds of interesting people. In my experience, Icelanders will go out of their way to provide you with interesting information about their country and make sure you arrive right at your destination. Unlike in North America, hitchhiking is not frowned upon but actually seen as a completely normal and safe way to travel in Iceland.

Shop at thrift stores.

Shopping in Iceland is expensive. Especially souvenir shopping. And of course, one of the typical souvenirs people look for in Iceland are the Icelandic sweaters, or lopapeysa. But at the equivalent of $220 (22,000 ISK) in most stores, they’re not exactly an affordable souvenir. However, prices for second hand sweaters start around $90-$100 (9,000 – 10,000 ISK). There are several thrift stores located along Laugavegar St. in Reykjavik that are easy to find. Or, if you’re an avid knitter like myself, there is always the option of buying yarn (one of the things that happen to be rather cheap in Iceland) and knitting your own.

Buy Brennivin at the airport.

By far the cheapest thing I bought during my stay was a 500ml bottle of Brennivin (Icelandic schnapps) at the duty free shop at Keflavik Airport. It cost only approximately 1,000 ISK ($10). Compared to the prices of liquor in Canada, it seemed like quite a good deal to me.

Pack snacks for the plane.

Unlike most other airlines I’ve flown with, Iceland Air did not provide any meals on my flight to and from Reykjavik.  Instead, they give you a menu that you can order off of at any time you like (which is kind of nice, because then you don’t run into the whole being forced to eat whatever food they give you whenever they give it to you situation).  However, the options are quite pricey as my friend and I discovered on the flight to Iceland.  So, on the flight home we were prepared, and stocked our carry on bags with chocolate, cookies, and sandwiches to last us the 7 hour flight home.

Volunteer.

Probably the biggest money saver for me during my trip to Iceland was the volunteering I did at the Arctic Fox Center in the West Fjords (http://www.melrakki.is). While volunteering at the center, I got to camp for free in the local campsite, and all of my meals were provided by the center. This meant that I essentially stayed in Iceland for 2 weeks for free! They are always looking for volunteers to help out both at the center, and doing monitoring on the nearby nature reserve.

Sending off the monitoring crew from the harbour in Isafjordur.

Sending off the monitoring crew from the harbour in Isafjordur.

Iceland (or Middle Earth?)

Here are just a few of the highlights from my trip to Iceland in July 2014.

Canyons and blue skies.

Canyons and blue skies.

Sudavik, West Fjords.

Sudavik, West Fjords.

Freddy, the orphaned arctic fox.

Freddy, the orphaned arctic fox.

Oh look, another beautiful waterfall.

Oh look, another beautiful waterfall.

Day 3 of our 6 day Laugavegur trek.

Day 3 of our 6 day Laugavegur trek.

Day 3 of our 6 day Laugavegur trek.

Day 3 of our 6 day Laugavegur trek.

Day 2 of our 6 day Laugavegur trek.

Day 2 of our 6 day Laugavegur trek.

Puffins at Latrabjarg, West Fjords.

Puffins at Latrabjarg, West Fjords.