Iceland 101- Introduction to Iceland

Climate is what we Expect, Weather is what we Get

Iceland is the land of many things; it is the land of volcanoes for starters, but also the land of glaciers. It is the land of black beaches, ash covered barren lands, geysers, hot springs,  waterfalls and the list goes on and on. Nevertheless, it is NOT the land of stable weather. I thought of several different ways to start this post, but finally decided to go with weather since it is probably the most important factor when it comes to planning a trip to this beautiful island… it is also the most unpredictable and uncontrolled factor. I was fortunate enough to visit Iceland twice, once in March 2016 and once in September 2017, my next blog will cover the latter. However, it is worth mentioning that each season has its charm; I barely recognized many of the famous sites when I came back in summer.

Winter…ish

March is the very end of winter in Iceland, which means the chances of spotting the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are slim; you’d be better of visiting between December and February for that. However, late sunrises and early sunsets leave you with barely any time to explore the country and you would need much longer than a week for such a trip. In March though, the sun rises at 7 AM and sets at 7 PM giving you 12 whole hours of daytime; the country is still fairly covered with ice, winter tours are still running and you get the overall scenic setting of winter. December to March also experience generally less rain than some of the other months; but still, always expect some rain. Back to the Northern Lights, which I am sure is one of the main reasons you want to visit Iceland; although your chances are higher during peak winter season, you can still get lucky in March… I know because I ended up getting lucky and it was definitely one of the most breathtaking moments in my entire life.

The Northern Lights
A truly magical experience

Summer…ish

The month of September is a bit of a grey area between summer and winter. The days are fairly long with more than 15 hours of daylight but it is cold enough that you still have slight chances of spotting the Aurora. Ideally though, if you wanted to do Iceland in the summer, you’d visit sometime in June or July during the 24 hour days. This means that the sun basically never sets, you’d watch it set and rise in a span of 30 minutes, but it never actually gets dark! Saying that, there was nothing wrong with our trip in September; despite a couple of rainy days, it was mostly sunny with fluffy picture perfect clouds. Moreover, since the country is not disguised with ice and snow, you get to experience its green scenery along with all the black solid lava scattered along the endless land. Finally, visiting during the warmer, less windy months means you can explore the northern section of the island too which could be quite dangerous during winter.

Lava Rock Formations in Iceland
Iceland’s land literally spotted with lava rocks as far as your eyes can see

All in all, there is no one perfect time to visit Iceland and it really just depends on what you want to see. I would recommend visiting the island twice, once in summer and once in winter, like I did. However, I also understand that many people won’t have that luxury, or might prefer not to visit the same country twice, after all, there are 194 other ones to visit. So choose wisely and remember that Iceland is not the only country in the world where you can see the Northern Lights, although it does boast some of the best scenes of them.

Getting Around

There are a couple of different ways available for you to check out the island and it really depends on your personal preference; although I would strongly recommend going for a camper van or RV.

Option 1: This is the one I would probably least recommend; it is costly and you won’t exactly have the freedom to explore some of the hidden treasures Iceland has to offer. However, if you do not wish to drive yourself, or want to have everything planned out and ready for you with minimal effort; then you can consider basing your entire stay in Reykjavik and then taking tours out from there. The great thing about Iceland is that you can access every tour available and book them through a single website: Extreme Iceland.

Option 2: Here, you would rent a car, drive around the island (or just along the south if time is a constraint) and spend your nights in some of the small villages and cities along the way. This is a great way to explore as you’ll have the freedom to stop whenever you wish. However, it might not be easy finding hotels along the way so make sure you plan your route and timings properly.

Option 3: This is where things start getting really interesting. Rent a car and some camping equipment, the rental agency will also provide you with a map that shows all the camp sites around Iceland. As you drive around ‘grasping the adventure’ stop wherever you like, whenever you like, and camp the night. Besides absolute freedom, you’ll also get to enjoy quiet nights under a star-filled sky and if you’re lucky enough, fall asleep under the Aurora Borealis. Make sure you pack some warm clothes and a sleeping bag though because it does get cold.

Option 4: Same as option 3 but rent a camper van instead for a more warmth and comfort. This is the option we went for so check out the full Iceland blog for more details.

Option 5: For the ultimate experience, consider renting out an RV. They are a bit pricy but totally worth it. There are a couple of things you’ll need to consider though:

  • Book way in advance because they sell out fast
  • Pay close attention to wind and weather conditions when driving an RV, it is prone to flipping over with strong winds
  • Check the weight of the vehicle and make sure your license cover that particular weight category
Iceland Campervans
Our home for the week

I love Iceland but My Wallet Hates It

Nothing I can say or do to help you here. Iceland is expensive so be prepared to go broke. Do your shopping in either Bonus or Kronan. If you’re willing to eat horse meat, it’s available in Kronan and is by far the cheapest option available; I’m talking around $8 for 500 grams as opposed to more than $50 for beef or salmon (don’t think they even had chicken :P). Also, kiss fruits and vegetables goodbye.

Do I Smell Worse After a Hot Shower?

Why waste money on water heaters when you’re literally living between hot springs? Almost all the hot tap water in Iceland comes naturally from the ground; unfortunately, that also means its bound to smell like sulphur. Don’t worry though, the smell won’t stick and looking on the bright side, it’s actually good for your skin!

Hot Springs of Iceland
Natural Jacuzzi 😉

Is the Country Safe?

Throughout my entire week in Iceland, I think I saw a total of one cop car; it’s not that they can’t afford to hire more, it’s just that they really don’t need to.

FUN FACT!!! Police in Iceland are unarmed. The only officers permitted to carry firearms are on a special force named the Viking Squad (how cool is that?) and they are rarely ever called out.

On the way to Reykjavik from the airport, I asked the cab driver if it was safe to walk around the city alone at night; he laughed and said that there is no word from crime in Icelandic because they don’t need it. Before you rush onto Google, there is actually a word for it, glæpur, but the guy was just exaggerating how safe it is.

During sunny days in summer, you might notice quite a few baby strollers parked outside supermarkets unattended… with the babies still in them! According to a few internet sources, this is normal in Iceland so don’t be alarmed. The mothers leave the babies out to get some sun, we all seem to be vitamin D deficient after all! Besides, they do keep an eye on them from inside the supermarket, but so far, the country hasn’t given them a reason to worry any more than that.

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
Sunset at the Glacier Lagoon

I hope this post has provided you with insightful information about this insanely beautiful and mystical land. I already visited Iceland twice but definitely haven’t gotten enough of it, so I strongly urge you to start planning your own trip there. The complete blog on our road-trip around Iceland’s ring-road will be up soon too so stay tuned for that if you’re looking for more detailed information.

If you found this post useful, then please do share it with all your friends so they too can start thinking about adding Iceland to their travel bucket list. Now what are you waiting for? Book your flights, get off your computer or smart phone and Grasp The Adventure!

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