Iceland: First Impression

“Fasten seat belt while seated.

Use bottom cushion for flotation.

I noticed these few innocent words staring me in the face the entire plane ride to Iceland.  Hmm, really? I couldn’t help but laugh at the tense of the second sentence and how these two sentences were used together. I mean, to fasten a seat belt is a given, but maybe adding the words, “In case of emergency…” at the beginning of the second sentence would make more sense, not to mention make people feel a little more safe on the plane– after all it isn’t a guarantee that you’ll need that extra flotation. However, reading it in this way was an interesting perspective to be put it, especially for someone who had to fly over the Atlantic Ocean twice just to arrive (due to flight delays, missing of flights, etc, I got to fly to London first).

As the plane begins to descend to Keflavik International Airport, the landscape out of the the window can only be described as: “Wait, what…the…%$#&?” You look outside and see literally zero vegetation (well, on the opposite side of a few hills I saw a couple pine trees that looked about four feet tall), hundreds of miles of jagged black volcanic rock sticking out of the white snow, and giant mountains looming in the distance. The terrain literally looks as if it would be impossible to hike over, and it is simple to see how Icelanders believe that “little people” (trolls, elves, etc) dwell among these rock formations. The perfect description of the scenery: picture a movie that depicts landing on Mars, take those rocks and turn them from red to black, then take that image and put it on the moon.

After just five hours in Iceland, here are a few essential rules that I have already learned:

  • You will be confused – The Icelandic language is nearly impossible to understand, and signs in airports are not very helpful. When you are told to get on the bus, take your pick at choosing from 7 different buses waiting outside. However, thankfully Icelanders speak wonderful English (100x better than probably most Americans).
  • Just go with the flow – These two go hand-in-hand. When you get on the wrong bus from the airport, don’t worry, there aren’t too many places you could wind up. I wasn’t planning on doing this until the end of my trip, but because I got on the wrong bus I got to spend an hour and a half at the famous Blue Lagoon before heading to my hotel to check-in. (More on Blue Lagoon to come)
  • Be prepared to spend money – Whatever website told me that Iceland is cheap should be shut-down permanently. Tonight, dinner cost me 5.500,00 IK or about $48. That being said, this was considered a medium-line restaurant, and I got a full meal– lamb dinner, large glass of Icelandic beer, hot chocolate cake, and a “cup” of coffee, (where “cup” = giant freshly brewed coffee thermos, approximately four cups worth). So far, the food in Iceland is completely out of this world, but, then again, everyone knows the lamb in Iceland is amazing.
  • Be prepared for all sorts of weather – In just five hours the weather has turned from cloudy to partly sunny, to snowing, to raining, to sleeting and hailing, and back to cloudy. However, it actually isn’t as cold as I thought it would be, especially after seeing the environment I was about to land in from the aircraft.
  • Learn to love the smell of sulfur – Yup, they aren’t kidding when they say that your shower water smells like sulfur. That’s because all Icelandic water is pumped right out of the geothermic springs.

So far Iceland is the most bizarre place I have ever been, but also one of the most intriguing. The food is great, the beer is good, most of the people are friendly, and the city doesn’t seem to be too hectic. I’m going to love it here for sure.   

A few more interesting facts about Iceland that I’ve learned since arriving:

  • Nearly every Icelander believes in the existence of elves and trolls and they call them the “little people.” After canceling the construction of a building due to the “random” failure of equipment, the head construction engineer told reporters: “Tomorrow we are going to see if we can come to some sort of agreement with the elves.”
  • Every Icelander can trace their heritage back to the original Viking settler.
  • The Icelandic language has barely changed since the Vikings first settled the country so most Icelanders can read the old texts.
  • 30% of the population has a university degree.

Unfortunately that’s all I have for you today. Due to my flights being rerouted, I ended up landing here for 5:00pm instead of 6:30 am, so I wasn’t able to walk around to photograph the city today. I will leave you with one photo of part to the world-famous Blue Lagoon though, as a taste of what’s to come…

Part to Blue Lagoon

 

Tomorrow: Eyjafjallajökull volcano climb.

Comming soon: Blue Lagoon

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Author: Nathan Bush

Nathan Bush is an avid traveler, adventurer, and professional wedding and landscape photographer. His absolute favorite pastime is hiking all the while lugging his camera equipment into the backcountry in order to capture beautiful images of the wild. He currently lives in Colorado with his soon to be wife, Florence.

18 thoughts on “Iceland: First Impression”

    1. Hi Mom,

      The water is a light baby blue. The photos were really hard to take because my camera kept trying to focus on the steam comming from the surface, but the color in that photograph is not enhanced in any way. I’ll have some better pictures later, and I’ll probably be going back there so that I can actually spent a full amount of time swimming around and drinking a Viking Beer 🙂

      1. Oh, dear! Viking beer?! Really?!! I’m enjoying staying in touch this way. Can’t wait to read about the jeep trip tonight! Wish I was there with you!

      2. hahah, I’ve been trying to decided if you would like it here or not. Probably, but I think you’d say Alaska is better. On the other hand, I like it here better 🙂

  1. Other than the flight(s), sounds wonderful, Nate. I’ve not visited there for decades, and look forward to your photos and descriptions. Love that high percentage of educated people!

  2. There must be something wrong with me; its otherworldly-ness only makes me want to go and see it for myself! I’ll have to find some Survivor fans in Iceland I can stay with for a while. Great photograph!

    1. Hi Erik, thanks for your comment. Survivior the reality show? Best show on television right now! The bizarre landscape is what really drew me here too, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as crazy as it actually is. I’m heading into the wilderness today so hopefully I’ll get some landscape photos that I can show you.

  3. Love it already! I was totally looking forward to these posts. Wow, that food IS crazy expensive. I’d say try to take a picture next time (because it sounds amazing), but maybe I’m the only weirdo who takes photos of my food in restaurants. 😉

    I’m sorry the trip got off to a rocky start, but it looks like you’re more than making up for it already. Be safe and have fun!

    1. Hey Katie,

      I actually brought my camera to do so but the place was so packed, many of the people being locals, I didn’t want to be that tourist. haha. So far the trip is crazy fun. This is the first time I’ve ever had trouble getting used to a time-change though.

  4. Wow! The Blue Lagoon looks so lovely.

    So far, it sounds like a great place to travel to. I’m looking forward to future posts and learning more.

    1. Thanks Robin!

      I’m having so much fun here– It is very different from anywhere I have ever been. I will have many more photos and an in depth post on Blue Lagoon within a couple days. Keep in touch!

  5. Wow. First off, that photo is amazing.
    And secondly, I can’t believe you are finding time and energy to blog while you’re there. I know you said you would, but still! Looking forward to reading more.

    1. Hi Preeti,
      Thank you! Yeah, I actually stayed awake until 4:00am just to write the Iceland Day 2 post haha. What can I say, I’m dedicated!

  6. I agree with you on so many levels! The only thing cheap about Iceland is the flight over! But I was delightfully pleased as soon as we landed… it’s such a majestic and geographically contrasting country! When we first landed in Reykjavik, I thought it looked like Mars… and the sulphur was something I had to get used to. But Iceland is definitely one of the most interesting and beautiful places I’ve been, and it’s definitely underrated. Cool blog btw – I just posted a few posts of Iceland on my blog too (http://thetravelmotto.wordpress.com) 😉 Happy (and safe) travels!

    1. This is true actually, Iceland ended up costing more money than I expected dude to exchange rates and their 24% sales tax. I absolutely agree that Iceland is so bizarre, but absolutely beautiful and probably my favorite place I’ve been so far. I’m definitely going to check out your posts on Iceland. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      Nate

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