Why I travel to Iceland again…and again…and AGAIN?
For many years I traveled to the Turks & Caicos Islands for vacation to relax, enjoy the scenery and decompress. To dig my feet in the sand, feel the warm breeze and the hot sun upon my northeast skin. I went at least 7 or 8 times over the course of 10 years.
I went to the exact same resort and sat on the exact same beach each time. Never once did someone say to me with incredulity in their voice, “You’re going BACK to Turks & Caicos?”
In 2015 we traveled to Iceland. We were smitten!
Upon our departure, I stated that I knew I’d come back. I’ve never said that about any other place. Not sun-soaked Caribbean islands, not the Italian countryside (which I do love.) Since then, we’ve returned to Iceland multiple times – sometimes more than once in a year.
We’ve stayed in the same hotel a few times, as well as tried other accommodations. We’ve returned to various gorgeous waterfalls and beaches and with each season we get to experience the dramatic changes in Iceland’s landscapes. And typically we venture further afield each time in an attempt to see more of this diverse, unusual and friendly country.
But EVERY TIME I tell someone that I’m going to Iceland, the first response is “AGAIN??”
So here’s ‘why AGAIN’ in a nutshell:
Waterfalls, trolls, puffins and rotten shark
It’s close (relatively speaking.) We can fly there non-stop in the length of time it takes to fly to Phoenix or Denver from the DC area.
Flights tend to be reasonable – much less than traveling to Europe. This past Feb it was considerably less expensive (about half!) than flying to Montreal (in the dead of winter).
The people are friendly, helpful and patient with tourists and most speak English (nearly ALL do in Reykjavik) which makes getting around easy as I will never learn to speak Icelandic. Takk firrir (thank you very much) is the full extent of my vocabulary.
The food, despite the hype about the infamous rotten shark (yes it’s a real thing and yes it’s awful), is excellent!
The freshest fish I’ve ever had has been in Iceland. Cod pulled from the North Atlantic and cooked the same day makes for some really good fish & chips! Nordic cuisine has been spotlighted worldwide recently and Iceland has many wonderful chefs who are creating beautiful and delicious meals from the limited resources of a volcanic island.
But the number 1 reason we return is the beauty of the country.
The landscape is stunning and varies from area to area. Volcanic lava fields covered in moss, which changes color with the seasons, blanket the southwestern area of Iceland. Black sand beaches rim the south coast.
Glaciers dot the interior with tongues of ice reaching out for the seas, ending in glacial lagoons rife with huge chunks of floating icebergs around which seals hunt for their meals. Chunks of crystal clear ice, as big as humans, litter the Diamond Beach nearby.
Waterfalls perpetually in motion half the year are nearly frozen in place in the winter months.
Rainbows appear in the spray from these waterfalls and are seen randomly within the city. It apparently has something to do with the latitude and angle of the sun but I like to believe it’s more about the magic of Iceland.
The lore is odd. The stories typically have no morals and I’ve yet to make it past page 3 of the Sagas – but tales of elves and trolls abound. Clearly some stem from the seemingly inexplicable landscape and the shifting ice and the occasional volcanic eruption. Yet roads are still built around places ‘where the elves’ live.
It’s not all rainbows and waterfalls as there are some downsides to Iceland, the biggest of which is the expense once you get there.
It’s not cheap to eat, drink and house yourself unless you are younger than I am and willing to camp! In the last 10 months, the dollar has strengthened as the tourism boom may have reached its peak. Depending on priorities and location, you can do well grocery shopping and making a few meals at home (at least breakfast which is ridiculously expensive, IMHO).
The weather changes minute by minute and block by block. SERIOUSLY!
Wind is the only real constant. It can be sunshine and light breezes as you exit the hotel and a 10-minute walk later it’s raining sideways! Layers are the key and NO umbrellas as they are useless against the wind.
But I’m willing to ‘endure’ those negatives in order to breathe really clean air and see vistas and mountains and seashores and waterfalls and taste new tastes. We will go back, promise. And I’m sure someone will say, “Iceland AGAIN?”
Yes indeed, Iceland again.
Random Fun Facts:
Iceland was settled in 874
Beer was illegal until 1989 (just 30 years ago!)
Icelandic language is based on Old Norse and hasn’t changed much in centuries – it is NOT similar to Norse spoken in Norway today
Peace ‘Tower” to John Lennon (built by Yoko Ono) is on Videy Island in Reykjavik Harbor and consists of a ring of bright lights aimed straight up creating a ‘tower’ which is visible on clear nights from miles away. The site was chosen because Iceland has no military (and energy is inexpensive – mostly geothermally produced). It is lit from October 9 (Lennon’s birthday) until December 8 (date Lennon was murdered).
The only native animal is the arctic fox which changes fur color from brown in the summer to pure white in the winter
No polar bears in Iceland
Puffins live on the ocean during the winter and come to shore along the Icelandic coast in the summer to breed. They are much smaller than I imagined.