by Janis on 19th May 2020 / 0 comments

So this post is our light-hearted view of Iceland.

It has some of the interesting stuff, a few trivial facts, and our thoughts on the country.
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The Location

The Three C's
Continent
Europe
Country
Iceland
Capital
Reykjavik

The first settlers in Iceland were Norse Vikings in around 870 AD, and it has continued to have a profound heritage and culture.

Today Iceland has a population of around 360,000 inhabitants, two-thirds of which live in and around the capital city of Reykjavik. Its closest neighbours are Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

This magnificent country really takes some beating if you are up for a Nordic adventure. With its incredible waterfalls, glaciers, gurgling mud pools and Volcanoes.

Talking of volcanoes, some of you may remember the chaos that Eyjafjallajökull volcano caused when it erupted over the skies of Northern Europe in April 2010.

Where's Iceland in the world?

Iceland Up Close

Iceland is an ideal location for a mini-break, as not only can you discover the colourful city of Reykjavik. You can also embark on day trips from the capital city and tour the Golden Circle.

However, if you’re yearning for more adventure and have additional time on your hands, hire a 4x4 and head off to tour the entire country around its Ring Road. You won’t regret it.

National Flag
The flag of Iceland
It’s good to talk
Language
Icelandic
(English is widely spoken)
International Dialling Code
 +354
Currency
Icelandic króna (ISK)
Timezone
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)
Difference from UTC
0 Hour

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Did you know?

  • Two continents meet in Iceland, and you can even stroll across the bridge which spans them both. The two tectonic plates of Eurasia and North American are just stone’s throw from each other.
  • Iceland is renowned for its strong men and has won World’s Strongest Man on nine occasions. Eight of them by just two contestants.
  • That 10% of Iceland is covered in glaciers.
  • Reykjavik is both Europe’s westernmost and northernmost capital city.
  • There are very few surnames or family names in Iceland. Children are named after their father, and depending on if they are male or female, it will be suffixed by -dóttir (-daughter) or -son.
  • Iceland doesn’t have an army.
  • Beer was illegal across the whole country until 1st March 1989.
  • During the summer months you won’t experience darkness, only for a few hours, it will be a hazy nightfall.

More Info

For more information, why not check out the local tourist website – Inspired by Iceland

It's famous for...

Food and drink

Seafood
Fish and seafood play a large role in Icelandic cuisine and often served smoked or dried.
Ice-cream
Come rain or shine or even fire and ice I’ll search out an ice-cream parlour and luckily Icelanders love their ice-cream too. We discovered Brynja ice-cream shop in Akureyri.
Liquorice
Now don’t get me wrong, I like black liquorice; however, in my opinion, salt should not be added to it, in any shape or form.
Beer
Iceland appears to be seeing more and more independent breweries popping up. A bit of a winner for Gary.
Skyr
A cultivated dairy product similar to yoghurt, textured like the Greek style, but less sour, with less sugar and a higher protein content - you'll see it on a lot of menus.
Not for the faint-hearted
A couple of delicacies that can be found in Iceland, and I admit I didn’t try either. The first is hákarl which is a fermented shark, and the other is sheep’s head (not quite my cup of tea).

If you're tempted to tour the Land of Fire and Ice and would love to discover the whole country, then take a look at this  DK Eyewitness book. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide is invaluable, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

You can now grab the revised copy.

DK Iceland Cover

See & Do

Northern Lights
I appreciate this is a matter of luck and a huge amount of keeping your fingers crossed. However, don’t despair as locals have seen them regularly between October and April. Here are some tips on photographing the Northern Lights.
Tour the Ring Road
In my opinion, the best way to discover Iceland is under your own steam, by touring the complete Ring Road. You need to be very aware of the weather conditions in the winter. We visited during March, it was so quiet in the north and at times, quite remote. We even got to see seals and the Aurora Borealis.
Waterfalls
There are some magnificent waterfalls in Iceland, particularly around the Golden Circle, you’ll be stopping all the time. If you’re in the north make a detour to Dettifoss and Selfoss.
Geysers and Geothermal pools
I loved these natural wonders. The geysers erupting every few minutes kept you on your toes. Although the mud-pools constantly gurgling is incredible, while the same cannot be said for the eggy aroma of Sulphur.
Viewing a Glacier
Coming face to face with a glacier was an experience I’ll never forget. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I was lost for words.
Discover Reykjavik
If you’re heading to Iceland, allow yourself time to discover this eclectic, colourful city. Take a glance at our 24-hour guide and ensure you search out the local street art.
Don’t forget to have a peek at our other Icelandic posts from our 12-day Road Trip.

Where we stayed

Selfoss - Bella Apartments & Rooms
Vik - Country Hotel Katla
Höfn - Milk Factory
Egilsstaðir - Hotel Valaskjalf
Mývatn - Fosshotel Mývatn
Akureyri - Hotel Kea
Laugarbakki - Hótel Laugarbakki
Arnarstapi - Arnarstapi Hotel
Reykjavík - Skuggi Hotel by Keahotels

Need a rental car?

The open roads await, pop in your location details, then Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.

Movies & Games

Game of Thrones
Now we're not fans of the series, actually never watched an episode, but we're aware the dramatic landscape makes an excellent backdrop for the franchise—places like Kirkjufell, Þingvellir National Park and the black beaches around Vik to name but a few.
Die Another Day
Yes, in 2002 Pierce Brosnan appears as the MI6 agent James Bond. You may remember the car chase on ice, this was filmed on the glacial lake Jökulsárlón.
Björk
Björk must be Iceland’s most famous musical export. Some people may find her music slightly avant-garde, but I like it, she’s very distinctive.
Other Movies
The adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. Christopher Nolan's 2014 film, ‘Interstellar’ and also Ridley Scott's 2012 movie ‘Prometheus’.
More from the Music scene
Iceland has quite a lively music scene and embraces many influences. Another couple of our favourites are Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men.

Return-a-bility

or What are the chances of us revisiting?
80%
(0% - You'll have to drag us over hot coals to go back 100% - Why am I not there now?)

Notes

We’ve visited Iceland twice, once for a mini-break to Reykjavik in 2007 and then returned to tour the Ring Road in 2018. That’s why it is 80% if I was to answer the same question after our first visit it would have been 100%.

Value for Money

Our value for money index.
Don't forget we're Londoners, and that means our baseline is quite high.

35%
(0% - How much? I wanted to buy a drink, not the bar 100% - How much? I'll take two.)

Notes

Standard Text

Behind the wheel - the driving karma

What's it like driving in the country.
Which side of the road do they drive on? They drive on the right.

80%
(0% - They're suicidal - they're out to kill us 100% - I'm in driving paradise.)

Notes

This is a difficult one - Gary loves driving in Iceland despite the toffee incident (See our Epic Road Trip Failures), but it attracts a lot of tourists who either hire cars, or take tours on the minibuses, oh so popular in the south.

For more on driving in Iceland check out - Driving Iceland's Route One.

Janis's Hi's & Lo's

Highlights

I’ve longed to see the Northern Lights for years, so the spectacle of watching the Aurora Borealis dance across the night sky was always going to be a struggle to beat. However, in second place was standing metres away from a glacier, it was truly breathtaking.

Lowlights

In terms of scenery, there are none. What I would say is that common sense prevails and always look where you are stepping. Iceland encourages you to enjoy the outdoors and doesn’t always put up barriers.

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Gary's Hi's & Lo's

Highlights

Phew, too many to list, but the top has to be the Northern lights. However, even if we hadn't seen them, it would have still been an epic trip. Loved the south, but the peace of the north was also beautiful. I'd return at the drop of a hat.

Lowlights

For me, it has to be the prices of food & drink. However, what was interesting was the range between mid & high-end. A meal in a good restaurant was not massively more expensive than a mid-range one, worth checking out.

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