Without a doubt, Iceland is one of the most magical places in the world. It is on the list of most desirable destinations for almost every traveler. Iceland is a small island nation in the North Atlantic.
No matter what time of year you decide to visit it, this small island nation has something to welcome you. The offering includes breathtaking mountain scenery, ice caves, the Northern Lights, thermal pools with hot water under the open sky. As well as the cultural life of the capital Reykjavik and the varied cuisine of the Vikings.
Iceland is often called the “Land of Ice and Fire” because its compact territory coexists with ice and active volcanoes.
It is also the only country in the world without an active army. Just over half of its population believes in the existence of forest spirits and elves. If you are planning to visit the land “Land of Ice and Fire” this article is what you were looking for.
Let’s start with some statistics
Area: 103,000 sq. km
Population: 364 134 (2020 estimate)
Language: Icelandic (similar to DAnish)
Currency: Iceland Krona (ISK)
1 USD = 139 ISK
1 EUR = 163 ISK
Interesting facts about Iceland
Here are some very interesting facts about the country.
- Icelanders have only 2 names. The second name is formed from the father’s name by adding ‘dottir’ (daughter) ‘son’ (son), depending on whether the child is female or male.
- Before the first human expedition to the moon, in 1969, Neil Armstrong and a group of NASA scientists made a series of training crossings on the lunar surface in Iceland, as it is believed that the landscape there is closest to that of the moon.
- Iceland is one of the first countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. To date, it is also the first country to introduce equal pay in the workplace between the sexes.
- About 50% of Iceland’s local population believes in the existence of mythical creatures, such as elves and trolls. There are a lot of funny stories and legends about these creatures. Icelanders go so far in their beliefs that they sometimes postpone planned construction if they decide that elves live in this place. Some large fallen rocks in the fields are considered a frozen troll. According to local guides the pungent smell of sulfur, which is often present in Iceland, is not from geysers but is actually the smell of dirty water in which trolls bathed.
- Unlike other languages that have changed dramatically over the centuries, Icelandic remains very close to its original roots. The Bible from the early 1500s can still be easily read by the younger generation in Iceland. The first printed Bible in Icelandic can be found in the National Museum in Skógar.
- Believe it or not, this is the only country in the world without an active army. Local police do not carry weapons with them. Life there is extremely calm and safe.
- In Iceland, it is not customary to leave a tip. Of course, if you hire a private guide and you are satisfied with his services he will not be angry if you leave him a symbolic bonus.
- Surprisingly as it may sound, you can’t find McDonald’s restaurants in Iceland. Yes, you can eat KFC and even Taco Bell in Reykjavik, but forget about the Big Mac, medium potatoes, and a big car with a yellow screaming “M” on the package.
The first 3 things we need to know before we start organizing a trip to Iceland
- When planning your budget for this trip, keep in mind that the country is terribly expensive. The prices of alcohol, food in restaurants, and souvenirs jump dramatically every year. As a matter of fact, Reykjavik was named the most expensive city in the world for 2017.
- Everyone in Iceland speaks English so it’s very easy to ask someone local to guide you.
- If you are a citizen of a country from the European Union, you do not need to obtain a visa, but you can enter Iceland only with an international passport.
How to get to Iceland?
As remote and inaccessible as Iceland may seem, the truth is that it has never been easier to visit it thanks to the regular flights of some low-cost airlines (Easyjet, Wizzair, Wowair, JetCost and others) connecting all of Europe with Reykjavik.
Tip: Avoid catching taxis to and from the airport unless you want to part with 100 euros immediately after landing in Iceland.
A Bus departs from Keflavík Airport every half hour and stops at all major hotels in Reykjavik, including the BSÍ bus terminal in the city center. The transfer will cost you 2,700 ISK (approximately 20 USD), which is not bad at all, considering that the journey from the airport to the city center is about 45 minutes.
How to travel around Iceland?
The transport options in the country are limited. Iceland does not have a railway network, and buses only operate to major cities once a day in winter and twice a day in summer. We must also mention the fact that bus transport is EXTREMELY expensive.
There are two popular options to travel to Iceland – by car rental or hitchhiking in the summer.
If you have decided to rent a car we have two pieces of advice from you. The first one is to pay for all possible car insurance because you will have to drive on dirt roads, rocky and icy sections to enjoy some of Iceland’s most breathtaking sights. And the second advice is not to leave the car with less than half a tank of fuel because gas stations are quite rare and do not accept credit cards.
Where to stay?
If you want to save some money, you can opt for an option in Airbnb (a cheap and convenient way to travel).
The capital Reykjavik
Reykjavik, the birthplace of the world-famous singer Björk, is the capital and first largest city in Iceland. Almost half of the country’s population lives in it. The city will charm you with its colorful houses the large glacier-shaped church (Hallgrímskirkja church), which can be seen from almost every corner of the city. The city is also home to the annual music festivals – Iceland Airwaves.
The good news is that Reykjavik is relatively small in size and is easy to get around on foot or by bike. We highly recommend planning at least one night in Reykjavik to experience all the temptations that this Scandinavian capital has to offer. Depending on the season and amenities, the nights vary from 25 to 200 euros / per person.
We are sure that the Icelandic cuisine will seem infinitely strange to any of you. Iceland has a tradition of fishing and local restaurants offer a wide variety of fish dishes, including whale meat. Fishing was the main economic activity in the country but it is now being replaced by tourism. It is important to mention the traditional bread (Rúgbrauð), which is left in holes in the ground for about 24 hours and baked from the high temperature of geothermal water. To date, this Icelandic bread is sold in all major supermarkets. Rúgbrauð goes best with white fish but is also very tasty with butter, duck, smoked salmon, or herring.
The Northern Lights
There are only a few countries in the world that offer the opportunity to see the Northern Lights each year. Iceland is definitely considered privileged as it can enjoy beautiful glows throughout the 8 months of the year (September to the end of April).
Both the latitude and longitude of the country favor aurora viewing, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate. However, a good coastline road around the country lets you chase clear skies.