Iceland’s capitol city is a very manageable size, hustle and bustle free without being a slacker, and so honest that even if two women were stupid enough to leave their car doors locked but the back gate to their SUV unlocked for hours, allowing anyone instant access to the contents of a medium-sized electronics store with a respectable selection of women’s clothing and makeup, those two reckless nitwits would most likely return to a car still in possession of all of its contents.
Reykjavik has a funky look and feel that are uniquely its own. Many of the fashions worn by locals are appalling in a fascinating way. It’s as if one of Iceland’s volcanoes spewed out clothing and whatever randomly landed on the citizens they then proudly wore. The women walk about blithely wearing horrifyingly patterned tights, several layers of wrinkled lopsided skirts, pants and tunics and architecturally implausible shoes. And the vast majority of them can carry it off! (But not all.)
The men often look as if they have just completed a brave and successful search and rescue mission against daunting odds. However, there is a definite subset which appears to follow ancient Viking hygiene standards. Try not to be seated downwind of them.
There is a thriving local music scene, just enough culture and art to be enjoyable but not burdensome and a casual and friendly attitude.
Reykjavik has a strong and well-deserved reputation for distinctive, fine cuisine (which costs distinctively high prices). Their chefs are also happy to present the basics done well.
If one of your basics is a goose, reindeer and beef burger you’re in the right place! Minke whale steak is available as is a large selection of fresh fish, lamb, lamb and more lamb and a smattering of respectable vegetarian options.
Coffee houses are plentiful, not Starbucks, and generally provide free wi-fi and a high tolerance for recharging your devices in outlets located in a variety of improbable locations. Blonde didn’t use one she saw was available and which would have required crawling between the legs of a man seated alone at a table but she only resisted because she was trying not to horrify Nola (too much more).
As friends traveling together it was also nice that in Iceland after you eat your meal, whether at a casual or posh place, when you are done you go to the register, give them your credit card and they charge you for the food you ate and then the other person for they food they ate. This is just how they do it, not a weird thing we requested but something that would be a great custom to spread globally. (It did annoy Blonde that Nola wasn’t stuck paying for half of Blonde’s wine consumption but it also probably added years to the life of Blonde’s liver.)
We found Icelanders to be very pleasant, drily humorous, and helpful. This is an excellent way to ensure that you don’t get confused and think you’ve gone to Paris (as a random example). They are unpretentious, proud of their stories and history and truly believe that elves and trolls exist. Although they are diverse only in terms of blonde with blue eyes or brunette with blue eyes it seems unimaginable that they would be anything but wholly accepting of anyone else. They also are overall a very attractive lot and seem to be the only country on earth with well-behaved children.
Iceland has it all. There are spectacular sweeping ocean vistas, volcanos, glaciers, bizarre fields of lava rock, fjoirds, geysers, black sand beaches and thermal springs. Try to see as much of the country as you reasonably can.
Assume that if you’re driving you will stop a lot to take pictures and assume also that if you have a chance to fill your gas tank and empty your bladder you would be well advised to do both as it can be a long way between opportunities.
You most likely mispronounce the name of Iceland’s capitol city now and you will still do so after visiting, but at least when you get home your friends will think you’re saying it correctly. The town names, actually all Icelandic words, are essentially unpronounceable if you weren’t born in that country and for all we could tell maybe they were all pronouncing them wrong too!
But they essentially all speak English and speak it well even if they have problems with Vs. Vikings are “Wikings” and valleys are “walleys” so train your ear and suppress that giggle.
Range of activities
Blonde won a contest or never would have been able to afford so many outings but they were sure a treat! We did a whale watch from Reykjavik, a seal watch, a horse ride overlooking the ocean, snorkeled in a glacier lake, took an ocean “safari”, hiked on a glacier and went to the Blue Lagoon.
Blonde and Nola ranked the glacier hike very highly as it was informative, made us appear sportier than we are and we had a handsome adorable guide who could have easily led us into the core of an erupting volcano just for the chance to have more time with him.
Blonde had long wanted to snorkel in a glacier lake and that was fabulous (and also involved an adorable guide). There was significant gear provided when needed and you need a reasonable degree of fitness and good health to do the hike and the snorkeling. It is also advisable to have your will current, your porno collection at home hidden off the premises and a certain comfort with the concept of “we all have to go sometime”.
They have some excellent brands of outdoor clothing including Cintamani, and 66 North. The quality is top notch and although it isn’t manufactured in Iceland for cost reasons it’s designed there and perfect for the changeable weather.
There are also Icelandic sweaters galore – both Iceland made and imported. Go for the Iceland ones as they have much better quality wool but all of them seemed as if they would cause me to launch a fatal scratching attack on my body.
There are some lovely locally made crafts in various places – such as roadside rests (seriously) and in galleries. Remember that, depending on the country you live in, you can get the 15% VAT tax refunded which helps as prices are high.
Iceland is quirky in a good way, gorgeous, friendly and expensive so be sure you do your research on costs when planning your budget or just have the sense to win a contest as Blonde did!