Iceland #1: Debunking travel myths

with 6 Comments

Excuse me if you’ve heard this one before: No words or photographs can completely describe just how beautiful Iceland is. While we were planning our visit to this small Scandinavian country, we had a few doubts of our own. Some helpful blogs, a nifty Icelandic tourism website and photographs of stunning locales convinced us otherwise. It is definitely worth exploring this land that looks like no other. Now that we’ve visited Iceland for ourselves (woohoo), we felt that the best way to pay it forward would be to address some doubts we faced while researching for our own trip.

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Warned you. It is a stunning country!

1. Is is too expensive to visit Iceland?

Iceland is well accessible from Europe and the East Coast of USA. Low cost carriers have made flying to Reykjavik easy from several cities in these continents. If you’re travelling from India, it makes sense to visit another country in mainland Europe and club that with Iceland.

Due to their geography and availability of limited resources, Scandinavian countries are a bit more expensive than mainland European countries. But, if you plan and budget yourself well, there are ways to save by utilizing the resources at your disposal.

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Stay at Airbnb accommodations to save costs.

If you compare travel to popular destinations like France, Greece, Italy – you would pretty much end up spending similarly on certain aspects like stay. Food and travel are two areas where you would spend more in Iceland in comparison to other European countries. But there are hacks for those as well. A few ways in which you can cut down:

  • Balance eating out with self catered meals
  • Buy food, fruits from a local grocery. We found a local supermarket – Bonus to be more reasonable in comparison to others. However, try and get there before they close.
  • Carry some food if you can, stuff that you can munch on the road or eat for a light meal.
  • Don’t splurge on hotel stays. Pick Airbnbs, self catering apartments or hostels. Most hostels are well equipped with kitchen, laundry facilities and everything else you would need.
  • Pick rooms with shared bathrooms. That works way cheaper than rooms with attached baths. Most self catered apartments and cottages usually come with one or one and a half bathrooms. They’re all clean and well maintained too.
  • Avoid buying souvenirs. Most are expensive
  • Avoid visiting overpriced attractions like The Blue Lagoon. Go for cheaper and even free alternatives.
  • Try and include breakfast in most of your stays, but don’t expect a lavish spread. Remember Icelanders are low on resources and they really teach you well on how to make the most and stay happy with it.
  • Travel in a group to reduce fuel expenses
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Hostels in Reykjavik offer comfort and convenience.

2. Is vegetarian food hard to find?

Due to the country’s proximity to the ocean Iceland is abundant with marine life. It also inherits vast farmlands ideal for grazing, making most locals seafood and meat eaters. In essence, they consume what they produce. But, if you’re not fussy about eating, almost every food joint has vegetarian options. There are some that will go out of the way to prepare something vegetarian if you request.

Reykjavik, the highest capital in the world has several choices for the gourmand.
Reykjavik, the highest capital in the world has several choices for the gourmand.

Your choices might be restricted to sandwiches, fries, soups and salads in most remote areas but those are certainly filling in terms of the portions offered. Do your research well before you travel and vegetarian food will be easy to come by.

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Some tips to get you started:

  • In Reykjavik, finding good vegetarian food is not an issue at all.  There are several eateries including vegan cafes, world cuisines and even Indian food!
  • Look out for Ethiopian, Italian restaurants and pizzerias along the Ring Road- we always found good vegetarian options at those.
  • Buy Skyr – the local curd, flatbread, eggs, fruits to get you through on-the-go meals. You could also rustle up something quick each morning at your hostel / self catered apartment and carry it along.
  • Start by buying a couple of bottles of water and keep refilling them with tap water everywhere. Icelanders drink tap water and it is completely pure and safe.
  • Be flexible
  • Visit happycow.net to find a list of restaurants offering vegetarian menus in different regions of Iceland. For more reviews, check Foursquare.

PS: I have a list of restaurants with vegetarian options that we visited and loved. Hit me up if you want me to share those with you.

3. Is Iceland only an ideal stopover destination?

In three words: No. No. No.

As a smart strategy to attract tourism, Iceland is showcased as an ideal transit destination. But it has so much more to offer that it deserves at least a week of travel. Since it’s a small country, you can cover most of it over a road trip. The country is also low in population, which means you will sometimes have an entire stretch of countryside just to yourselves.

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Take the time and venture beyond the Golden Circle and you’ll see some of the most gorgeous and unforgettable sights. Imagine mountains, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, cliffs, geysers, hot springs, volcanic craters, wildlife and mossy lava fields – you’ll have your plates full!

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Besides, if you visit in the summers like we did, you will witness almost 21 hours of daylight. A pink sunset shadow over milky white mountains at 2:00 AM is a moment you need to experience in person. While Iceland is a road tripper’s nature paradise, Reykjavik is home to cafes, bars, boutiques, museums and an old harbour. That makes it an interesting mix to explore.

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Reykjavik is vibrant!

4. How cold is the weather in Iceland?

As a popular local quote goes – In Iceland if the weather is not good, wait for five minutes. And it’s true. Based on what we experienced, the weather is unpredictable. You could be driving through a stretch of cloud for an hour or experiencing strong sunshine in the next. It’s thrilling, like a movie.

Getting close to the glaciers, Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
Getting close to the glaciers, Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

In the summers, temperatures stay between 12-20 C during the day time. Evenings can get comparatively colder so it is wise to carry one warm jacket. A lot of times it wasn’t actually too cold, but just windy. Like locals who witness months of extreme winters, we too felt thankful for the sun that shone bright from mornings till midnight.

Iceland is a breathtaking adventure you’ll be glad you undertook. Next up, we’ll be sharing some more ideas on what you can see and do in this stunning country.

PS: Just in case Iceland is on your bucket list and you need to refer to this post again, Pin it up!

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Supriya
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As a kid, Supriya had to be brought back to reality from her daydreaming excursions. A digital marketer by profession, she enjoys reading, writing and photography. Her wanderlust list changes each week, but she's strongly eyeing countries in South America and the Middle East as destinations for her journeys :)

6 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Ashley
    | Reply

    I’m going to be visiting iceland in sept. I booked the trip before i did any research and now im worried that 6 days isn’t enough! Ah! I’m tempted to try and see just the northwest of the country but i think i want to try and drive the ring road in 6 days. Do you think it’s possible?
    Ashley recently posted…Curious Find: The 1950’s French LunchboxMy Profile

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Hi Ashley, short answer- yes!

      We actually did the complete circle in six days, but of course we had to chuck scenic Westfjords out of our plan (something we might do if we ever head back). However in addition we spent first and last day to chill in Reykjavik.

      Considering if it’s your first trip to Iceland and you have a total of 6 days, you should definitely hit the Ring Road and drive up to the Northeast region where you can visit Lake Mývatn and stay in one of those beautiful cottages in Dalvik (http://www.funtravelog.com/iceland-slice-of-heaven). FYI, you can take a short flight from Akureyri back to Reykjavik if you’re strapped for time to complete the circle. I know it’s tough to choose between NW and Ring Road, specially when both are equally breathtaking, but I hope this helps!

      Shoot us a message if you need any help as you plan :). Cheers!

  2. Avatar
    Kavita
    | Reply

    Can you please share list of restaurants you went and liked veg food. Thanks

    • Supriya
      Supriya
      | Reply

      Hi Kavita

      Let us email you! 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Avatar
    Chaitanya
    | Reply

    Hi guys,

    This is a lovely blog. My wife and I are traveling to Iceland in the 2nd week of May. I’ve heard of many horror stories about renting a car in Iceland. We are opting to get the SCDW insurance though. How safe is it driving on the rural roads i..e, golden circle and south east Icelandic scenic route to Vic? Are sheeps roaming around freely a major issue?

    Thank you,

    Chaitanya

    • Bharat
      Bharat
      | Reply

      Hi Chaitanya, glad you liked the blog and found it helpful! This makes us really happy 🙂

      Mid-may weather would be much better than driving in winters. Much of the ring road is well-paved and very easy to drive. Only once we had a thick cloud cover that reduced our visibility for about 30 minutes (and we drove really slow)- but that’s Iceland for you! Weather can change erratically. The route which you mentioned should be easy to navigate. Yes, those sheep and mountain goats will cross the roads many times 😉 – so just drive at controlled speed because you would be tempted to zoom considering traffic would be sparse once you get out of Reykjavik.
      Also make sure to get sand and ash protection when renting a car in Iceland (we rented from Iceland 4X4 and recommend it). Shoot us an email if you need further help!

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