Why going to Iceland can change your life
A couple of months ago I went to Iceland. And I must say it changed me on a couple of levels. I’ll list those reasons up for you below. Do know that probabely not all reasons may apply to you, these reasons are more of a personal view, not general for all.
#1 Relaxation upon its highest level
After I landed in Keflavík, I almost immediately went to “The Blue Lagoon”. It can be quite costly (€50 or €70, depending on what you want to do). However, it’s totally worth it. For those who don’t know, The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal hotspot with a cosy 35°C to 40 °C.
For the price mentioned earlier you get access to the Bleu Lagoon, a free drink and a free facial mask. One thing that hadn’t been told to me, is that you don’t have a personal changing room. It’s just a few big, separate, rooms for men and women. Wish I knew that one beforehand…
There are also showers present to use before and after you go or have been in the Blue Lagoon itself. There are a few showers with doors, but it’s still something to keep in mind when you stumble in there.
Once you drive, walk or even cycle through the main land, you begin to notice the absolute stillness of Iceland (especially if you go outside the travel season). I literally drove for three hours and didn’t came across another living soul. Try doing that in the country you live in. See the video below to see what I mean.
And this was my first night in Iceland. The people of this stay where friendly enough to make mushroom soup at 21.00 in the evening. And with that, it shows that people in Iceland are awesome!
Back on topic. To find one of the most desolate places in Iceland, I went to the top of the volcano that erupted in 2010, Eyjafjallajökull. On top of that volcano, which you have to access by superjeep and snowmobile, you only hear the sound of a soft breeze and have the view on a huge portion of Iceland. You don’t have to go on a dormant volcano to find tranquillity. There are literally thousands of spots where you can just sit down and enjoy nature.
If you’re looking for inner peace, that’s where you most definitely will find it.
#2 The food
Yes, the cuisine is quite different as you may know it. But it’s a very good cuisine. Because most fruit and veggies are imported from elsewhere, you will find more meat in the dishes that are presented locally.
There are quite a lot of farms, but most of them are solely focused on cows and goats. Other farmers that grow vegetables and fruits, grow their crops in greenhouses. Because of the cold climate they warm their greenhouses with geothermal energy. Due to the fact they have an abundance of geothermal energy, it is the ideal solution for the growth of their own vegies.
But don’t be fooled by “basically free energy”. I’ve heard stories that an apple was shared amongst a few children in a day-care.
I do have to talk about the typical dishes or ingredients of Iceland. I do believe that the most known product of Iceland has to be “Skyr”. It’s basically the most typical diary product of Iceland. It has the consistency of Greek yogurt and tastes a bit like a milky cheese product. There are a few kinds available, such as vanilla or different fruit flavours.
Another famous dish, is the smoked lamb or “Hangikjöt”. I ate this specific dish amongst the road in a very local restaurant, and I must say it’s amazing. This way of cooking really made a great impact on my taste buds.
Last but not least, “Hákarl”. If you will like this or not is simply very, very, very, VERY personal. For people who don’t know what this is, it’s fermented shark. It has a VERY ammonia smell to it and it has the constancy of chewing gum. Before you actually tasted it and make strange faces whilst reading this, you should actually taste it. For me it was quite good!
They don’t actually hunt for shark. Sharks are only fermented to Hákarl when they wind up dead in the fishing nets of local fishermen. The process itself, to ferment these shark, includes a fermenting period of up to six to twelve weeks (with heavy weights on it to release the urine of the shark and other harmful toxins for human consumption). After that they cut it in to strips. These strips are hung to dry for several months.
What you have to realise about Hákarl, is that it is not eaten in great quantities. It’s more as an appetiser or even as a snack. Perhaps even in a salad. But you can’t eat a Hákarl as you would eat chicken or any other piece of poultry or meat.
Side note: the skin of the shark was actually used as sanding paper. When you let the skin of a shark dry out, you actually get a really course and though piece of skin. So back in the old days they used it as such.
#3 The culture
When you go to another country and you don’t at least dip your toe in the local culture, I ask myself why you are there in the first place. If the point is to lay down at the beach or at a pool or even just hang out at a bar, please, stay at home and do those things there.
Icelandic people are quite proud of their language. I talked to a couple of people and this kept coming up. They are proud of their language because only (at this time) 363000 people actually talk Icelandic. If we compare this to the world population would mean that only 4.82% of the world population talks Icelandic!
One thing you need to know before going to Iceland is the religion. Most of the people did actually converted to Christianity. More specific, the Icelandic Church. However, there is still a big portion of the Icelandic people still believe or don’t want to rule out the existence of elves. I did hear that a roads have been rerouted to make sure that elves are not disturbed that reside there.
This one day I met a chef at a local inn and gave me some tips on walks and sights. He did mention that I should walk up a certain hill in silence, without looking back. When I would reach the top, I would see some very beautiful things. Because of the schedule I had to keep, I didn’t reach the hill. But it did me make wonder…
#4 The absolute stunning sights
I can’t stress this enough. If you want to see sights you will see nowhere else, go to Iceland. I can assure you won’t be disappointed. Before you head into the country itself, check out Reykjavik. You have to see it or you didn’t go to Iceland.
Now once you seen the capital, head out. You’ll notice that the buildings start to disappear and at the horizons great mountains start to arise. When you drive down the road, you’ll see the vastness of Iceland.
One of the most stunning sights I encountered was with quite the walk. It’s the grave of the second settler Viking, Hjörleifr Hróðmarsson. When you are not used to walking, with (very) steep hills, you shouldn’t expect it to be an easy walk. It will take an hour or two. With rests in between of course. And please, follow the path marked at the beginning. If you go counter clockwise, you will have one hell of a descend from that mountain. Trust me.
However, the sight is worth the walk. you can see inland when atop the mountain and at the same time have a stunning view on the lava beach and the ocean. On your descend you will also encounter an abandoned settlement. You can freelee check it out.
Before you jump on the first plane to Iceland, a couple of tips though…
#1 The green stuff
Be sure you pack a credit card with a descent limit. Iceland is quite the expensive country. Mostly because a lot of things are imported. Especially fruits and vegies.
#2 The smell of the water … in some places
Rotten eggs. Yes, rotten eggs. If the water has this smell, it means that’s it’s actually water from deep within the earth. What you have to know is that this water is the purest water you will find, on the planet earth. It’s even on the UNESCO world heritage list!
#3 Plan ahead
This might be a thing you don’t think about. But please do. There will be times you’ll be driving through Iceland for 150km (93miles) without encountering a gas station. Or even civilisation for that matter. So regularly stock up on gas, drinks (hot drinks preferably. Ask the place your staying at for hot water and stock up on tea and coffee) and food.
#4 Respect the nature
Don’t, I repeat, DON’T throw your trash through the window. Keep your garbage in your car or backpack and throw it away in the trash when you can. Don’t be one of those people who has no respect for its surroundings.
#5 Be safe
Don’t be a stunt hero, adrenaline junky or anything like that. Unless you don’t value your life. Don’t feel safe, turn back. Think logically and be wary of warning signs along roads or paths. Remember, there aren’t a lot of hospitals in Iceland…
I really hope that this article convinced to visit Iceland. It will change the way you think. Most importantly, it’s an experience you will cherish and carry around for the rest of your life.
To close the article, an Icelandic joke. What do you do when you get lost in the woods in Iceland? You stand up. You’ll get it when you get there.