The week our Odyssey turned into a Saga
The week we spent in Iceland was absolutely amazing! In fact I would go so far as to say it was one of the highlights of our three months away.
Maybe it was the ruggedness, the rawness, the unpretentiousness, the honesty, the hardiness of the people who live there, the beauty, the openness, the size, the feeling of emptiness….I don’t know what it was, but I do know that it was a real delight to see it with my own eyes. We will return one day to do a longer driving tour – that’s how much we enjoyed it!
Why did we want to visit Iceland in the first place?
Two excellent books that have piqued my interest in visiting Iceland have been – Saga Land by Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason; and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. These books set the scene for me, with the descriptions of a vast, wild, beautiful area full of interesting history, superb scenery and sagas galore.
Iceland definitely seems to be the’ go to’ place lately with many articles, stories, blog posts and travel advice written about it – but as we’ve never been one to follow a trend – it’s really just a coincidence that we ended up there.
Iceland is a long way from Australia!
You may be feeling confused – didn’t my title say something about 10 reasons why you shouldn’t visit Iceland?
Well yes it did, but read on…
10 Reasons why you shouldn’t visit Iceland…and a million reasons why you should!
#1 It’s very expensive!
No, I mean really really expensive!!!!!! When planning our 3 month odyssey from Australia, I factored in a week-long self guided driving tour in Iceland and very generously invited our eldest daughter (who lives in the UK), to join us. This was before I knew just how expensive it was!! But as we don’t spend a lot of time with her, due to living on opposite sides of the world, we were thrilled that a 35 year old would still be happy travelling with her parents. And she got to triple share, due to the costs, around Iceland with mum and dad – how much fun 🙂
Actually we all had the best time together, and I’m now the world’s most amazing Instagram mum – taking countless shots for her amazing Insta feed and stories. She also wrote this awesome blog post showcasing some of the millions of photos she took…You may notice that I decided to title my post in a different way – think reverse psychology!
The fact that Iceland is an island contributes to its expensive reputation and to be fair, we knew before we left what it would be like, so we’re not complaining. We had prepaid our hire car and accommodation costs so it was mainly food, souvenirs and entry fees that we had to cover and we managed quite well. I will declare to you that I did discover a love of Icelandic hotdogs – not just because they were the cheapest food around but because they were actually delicious – I’m not normally a huge hotdog fan! You could buy these at most service stations but the yummiest one was from a mobile food van at one of the most amazing waterfalls I’ve ever been to – the location may have helped me enjoy it all the more, but I’m not convinced! For the record $AUD1 was equal to approx 78.76 Icelandic Krona and 3 hotdogs plus drinks cost 2400ISK or $AUD31.
One night our dinner at our accommodation was massively expensive, for what we actually got, but we were hungry, with limited choices, it was getting late and we were on holidays plus it gave us a good story to tell.
If you want a cheap destination, then don’t go to Iceland!
#2 If you like driving fast then don’t go to Iceland
The maximum speed limit throughout Iceland is 90km per hour (55.9 miles per hour) and really the roads aren’t up to going too much faster, if you want to be safe that is! Around every corner there’s an amazing view that you want to drink in or stop and take a photo of, but the roads generally aren’t built for that. It was hard to find places to pull off the road safely as they were built up with quite deep drop offs in places. We had friends in Iceland at the same time as us who actually got pulled over for speeding and fined a huge amount of money on the spot by credit card (see point 1 above). It was also quite a scary experience for them and after that they set the cruise control and stayed within the speed limit!
The roads can be quite empty at times and made for amazing photo shoots. We were glad to be there in June without the need to worry about snow and ice. Driving on the right hand side of the road in a left hand drive car when you’re used to doing the exact opposite, is always a bit tricky but we got the hang of it after a while. I was quite happy with a speed limit of 90km there was so much to take in as we drove along, we probably rarely managed to get to the maximum limit anyway! This Reykjavik tourism site has some handy hints and it’s always good to familiarise yourself with driving expectations before you go anywhere new – Driving in Iceland
#3 The Scenery – far too much choice!
There’s just too many choices in Iceland – with waterfalls, lava fields, geysers, volcanoes with long unpronounceable names, lava tunnels, glaciers, black sandy beaches, rocky coastlines, huts built into the grass, open fields, snow capped mountains…. My phone and camera are now clogged up with Iceland photos and I’ve got enough of them to bore everyone who follows me on Instagram for years to come. I can’t delete any of them as they all tell a story and capture happy moments in time. The Mathematician has millions of photos….just don’t ask to see them!
Everywhere we went was a perfect photo opportunity – here’s a few of my favourites:
If you don’t like being spoilt for choice – don’t go to Iceland.
#4 The weather and amount of daylight
We visited in the summer month of June and it was definitely not warm. We were prepared and had packed our jackets and boots so we were fine. We enjoyed the crispiness of temperatures in the low teens (if we were lucky). The wind was challenging some days but it made us feel alive. The days just went on for ever, and this was something we just couldn’t get used to. The sun would rise at 3.19am and set at 11.19pm but it never actually got dark! It was so hard to get used to going to bed with so much light outside but it was great fun having a spa outside at 10.30pm with some Russians – maybe that story should be left for another post!
Most days there was cloud or fog around until it magically lifted about midday when the sun came out and the blue sky gave everything a summery feel. Looks can be deceiving! We maybe should have left our accommodation later than we did each morning but we we were up and raring to go so we just kept going, although it made for long busy days. I would recommend taking an eye mask if you have trouble sleeping.
If you have any issues with variations in weather and hours of daylight – don’t go to Iceland.
#5 Lots of tourists
There were over 2 million tourists to Iceland in 2017 and from research it can be seen that the majority of these are from USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, China and, believe it or not, Australia accounted for 1.6% of the total visitors from January to June in 2018. We were aware of special stopover deals available with Iceland Air for those travelling from USA and it seems many take up these great offers. I would too if they were available to me!
Tourism is now the major industry in Iceland replacing the age old fishing industry.
Given the number of tourists we never had any drama with too many people. The popular sites were busy but parking was adequate, and the buses never stayed too long as they had a schedule to stick to. We did discuss whether Iceland can maintain this tourism spike and wondered how much would change in the next few years. Parking at most places was still free as were waterfalls and major tourist attractions like Pingvellir National Park.
I’m happy to have been counted amongst the many intrepid Australian making the long trek to Iceland.
If you don’t like tourists – don’t go to Iceland!
For a capital, Reykjavik is most unlike any other city I’ve been to. I loved the laid back, relaxed, and small town feel. It was easy to get around, we walked everywhere, and there were enough things to see to keep us occupied for the day or two we were there. Iceland has a population of about 300000 people and 200000 of them live in Reykjavik which is why the rest of the country seems quite empty – because it is!
If you want to see BIG bustling cities then don’t go to Iceland!
Seriously these dudes were everywhere, anyone would think they’d discovered the place or something! If you don’t like Vikings or history or stories then don’t go to Iceland!
#8 Friendly people
We were made to feel very welcome in Iceland with everyone surprised that we had come all the way from Australia. They loved our accent and asked about our kangaroos and thanked us most sincerely for bringing the summer weather with us ????
Did you know Iceland is one of the safest countries to visit in the world with an extremely low crime rate. We felt safe at all times – so if you’re looking for drama then choose another destination.
#9 Hotpools/geomthermal areas
These were everywhere and it was so much fun to sit out taking in the midnight skies while bubbling away in a spa or hot pots as they are called. Apparently there are lots of hot pots out in the countryside that you can find and use but we never got to go off road to find them. We did go to the well known Blue Lagoon and enjoyed our visit immensely.
We visited Geysir and other geothermal areas where the sulphur smell told us we were in a special place! If you don’t like the smell of water boiling underground then don’t go to Iceland.
#10 It’s a country drifting apart!
Literally drifting apart….
Iceland is divided by the Mid-Atlantic Rift; some parts of it, such as the Westfjords and Reykjavik, are on the North American tectonic plate, while others, such as Vatnajökull glacier and the East Fjords, are on the Eurasian plate. Iceland is the only place in the world where this rift is above sea-level, and nowhere can you see the edges of both plates as clearly as in Þingvellir. The valley in between, in which Þingvellir is contained, is the rift valley….
The tectonic plates move apart at approximately 2.5 centimetres a year and have done for millenniums. The effects of this movement are very clear within the park. Lava fields fill the valley, from magma that welled up as the continents spread, and the whole area is littered with ravines, ripped open by centuries of earthquakes. Source
The popular Game of Thrones (I’ve never seen it) was also filmed in this area and many visitors come to see various landmarks they’ve seen on a screen. I was unaware of this but still chose to sit in the very spot where most tours take their passengers to be photographed looking over the split in the earth.
So if you don’t like rocks, geology or Game of Thrones – don’t go to Iceland.
I think I’ve summed it up quite well – there’s lots to love about Iceland and I suggest you visit if you get the chance. Have I convinced you to add Iceland to your list of places to see? Or if you’ve been did I miss anything out?
So what was our ‘Odyssey’ all about?
Odyssey – a long wandering and eventful journey. An exciting adventure.
I called our three month trip an Odyssey – it was definitely a long wandering and eventful journey.
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