Stuff we liked, stuff we didn't, and other things that were odd.
Every part of the country is different - different landscapes, different experiences. Every time we’d drive around a hill it seemed like the landscape would change to something totally new. Iceland defines epic. Driving along the south you’ll find mud pots, waterfalls, black sand beaches, caves, glaciers…all in a single (but long) day. The Eastfjörds were a whole different experience. Everyday was a new adventure.
It’s small, particularly to a tourist from the US. I’m used to a scale on road maps from the US, so when I was looking at maps of Iceland I was just instinctually thinking about distances and time, only to find that I’d arrive in a fraction of the time I would be expecting. It takes a few days to get accustomed to the scale of the country. It just means you can see a lot more.
Shoulder season - we went in May, so we weren’t overrun with tour buses and it was a bit easier to book lodging. The days were 19 hours long, and in some places it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
POOLS. Not just the Blue Lagoon, which is expensive. There are pools EVERYWHERE. Go for a soak but wash your bits first. There's a good guide to public pools throughout Iceland at the bottom of this page. There’s a lot of natural hot springs all over the place as well. If you’re up by Lake Mývatn, the lagoon up there is cheaper that Blue Lagoon, has a bar, and is just as relaxing.
People. I’m sure if you went looking for trouble in Iceland you can find it, but overall everyone we randomly met was cool (as in - not just people working in the service industry whose job requires them to at least try to be nice to you). I encountered one grade-A asshole in Iceland, and he was American.
All you need is a debit and or credit card. Seriously, you barely need cash.
The bread. Iceland has really good bread. Get Skogar if you can find it.
The horses. Friendly, beautiful, and everywhere. Meeting a group of horses during our Golden Circle day was far more fun than the geysers.
Shoulder season - a LOT of the country outside of Reykjavik doesn’t really open until June 1. Restaurants, museums tours etc…a lot were closed or only open for very limited hours on Saturday only. In a couple of places there was only one single place to find something to eat. The hostess/front desk clerk at the Icelandair Hotel in Borgarnes was so woefully unprepared to deal with tourists that we ended up walking out. In a few places It felt like they had just staffed up for the season, and no one was quite sure what they were supposed to do. This and the holiday closings became a running joke near the end of the trip.
Religious holidays and Sundays. Not that a holiday is bad - the bad part is not being aware of it, and not one single travel site or book had too much to say about it. The reality - a religious holiday will shut down EVERYTHING in some towns. No market, no restaurant, no nothing. I’m not talking about something as obvious as Easter (Iceland is largely Lutheran), I’m talking about a Thursday when everything starts closing at 5PM for Ascension Day (40 days after Easter). If a holiday occurs on a Sunday, the following Monday is taken off. Google “Public Holidays in Iceland” and plan accordingly. If we weren’t renting houses and were carrying food with us, we would have definitely gone hungry two or three nights. That said, we had to make due with grilled cheese sandwiches and were reduced to gas station hot dogs at one point.
Yo Keplavik Int’l Airport - senior citizens use your airport too - maybe do something so that people suffering from Osteo arthritis don’t have to painfully trudge over a ¼ mile with bags to get to the gate. People movers. Golf carts. Something. At least you’re not as bad as JFK’s Terminal 4. I am going to personally track down and repeatedly punch the chief architect that designed that torture chamber of endless hallways. You can thank me later after the judge refuses to convict me.
The toll at Stokksnes. The entire time in Iceland, this was the only side road where someone was charging to go down it. $5 a PERSON. It’s absolutely not worth it. Drive the road down to the Viking Cafe, and turn around and take pictures along it. The farmer who owns some of the land has a viking village that wasn’t open when we were there, and still we got charged. It’s a rip off, and the only time I felt cheated on the trip. From what I read on TripAdvisor, the cafe is a rip-off too.
American Express isn’t accepted in a lot of Iceland.
Graffiti tags on old ruins. I love street art, but tags are the talentless vomiting of ones ego into everyone else’s life. You’re also aping a style that’s someone did in the Bronx decades ago (even then, it wasn’t appreciated by the one who were at least talented). At least come up with something new.
Skyr - it’s packaged like yogurt and displayed in grocery stores as such, but it’s closer to a cheese. It’s also overly sweet junk food to me. Lots of people love it, but it wasn’t my bag. It’s probably 8000 calories.
Washing machines and dishwashers. We had a laugh about how insanely inefficient the washers and dishwashers were in the houses we rented. A regular wash cycle would go 85 minutes. I swear there was a dishwasher somewhere that ran for 100+ minutes. If this was in California, the water authority would send in a SWAT team to take you down.
The weather. It’ll do everything, sometimes within a few hours, and it’s up to you to roll with it. It only held us back once, when the winds and snow forced us to stay local in the Eastfjords. Dress in layers, prepare for wind, and don’t stress.
People trying to get around showering at the springs and pools. Man up and wash your bits. None of us want to bathe in your dirt. No one cares what your junk looks like.
The pig in the BONUS logo. Seriously, it’s drunk.
I wanna give a special shout out to the JetBlue ticketing agent at LAX in the early morning of April 29, 2015; your apparent glee in telling me that I couldn’t board the plane with my checked heavy bag won’t be forgotten. Watching the smug look on your face get smashed as I engineered an on-the-spot solution - twice - to your supposed intractable problem was nearly priceless. In the end I still boarded, saved a $100. heavy bag fee, and extracted more $$ out of JetBlue after complaining about your lack of client skills. You shouldn’t be anywhere near a customer, ever. From the bottom of my very sincere heart, GFY.