Land of ice and rainbows?

I visited Iceland with 4 friends – 2 of us rented a motorhome, the others a 4×4 and slept in hostels – from October 10thto the 21st. I would go back, because there is so much to see, so many places to explore and so many options to experience it: you can go on hikes, you can free road and rent a 4×4 camper, you can chill at posh hotels or you can slum it and camp – each one an unforgettable way to live Iceland.

I’d heard of land of fire and ice, and I expected the waterfalls from previous reading. I did not, however, expect the large amount of rainbows I saw, graced with at least one per day in random places, they brought smiles to each of our travel companions.

Fact: Iceland really is the land of waterfalls and if I have to pick my favorite, it would be Dynjandi, followed closely by Seljalandsfoss? (the one at the park we saw at night). But each one was special and beautiful in their own way, and they all deserve a good look at when you visit.

The Ring Road:

The center of Iceland is completely uninhabitable, which means that all 338.349 souls of the population) live in coastal areas: thus, ring road. For the most part, we had no trouble driving our motorhome along the gravel, though we did have to climb aboard our friends 4×4 to visit a couple of them. The the only time we encountered snow on our trip was when we made it all the way north do Dyndjandi and I will not lie, my experience with driving in snow was null, so I was not a happy camper. Having said that, we didn’t really experience heavy snowfall and the road was clear, as the snow gathered to the sides (many roads in Iceland have under-road heating systems that keep them ice-free!)

I highly recommend making it all the way around the ring road and experiencing every part of Iceland, because really, there are no bad parts, there is beauty as far as your eyes can see. In fact, unexpected pit stops usually lead to finding your way to a waterfall, café, or meeting with an Icelandic horse that was not on your route and really make your day.

Swimming pools:

Im still unsure why, but Icelandic people really enjoy a swimming pool. In almost every city we visited, there was at least one pool you can visit for a small fee (anywhere between 100 and 300 kronas). Most of these have heated pools that range from anywhere between 27 degrees to 42 degrees Celsius. We went a couple of times and really enjoyed it: some people were doing laps, but we just sat in the pools and enjoyed the feeling of the warm water removing the stress from our muscles. At one of these pools, there were a couple of 4 degree water options (yes, I swear) and the ritual we observed was: the locals would leave the 40-42 pools, walk across 5 degree weather to the 4 degree water pools, immerse their entire bodies, and then return to the 40 to 42 degree pools. Well, we were curious: what did that feel like? Is it some youth serum we have yet to hear of? So of course, we tried it. Walking into that 4 degree pool was painful, the numbness quickly turning into a tight vice around my veins; then as I half ran towards the 40 to 42 degree pool, thinking I would get instant relief from the cold, I felt nothing short of 1,000 small daggers all plunging into my body parts as I tried to walk in. I finally had enough and got out before being completely enveloped in water and went back to the comfort of the 35 to 37 degree pool. Seriously, why anyone would torture their body that way is still a mystery to me!

Important side note: when you decide to take a swim in Iceland weather (we never arrived before 6 pm – that means it was never above 6 degrees Celsius outside!), then you must first shower with no clothes on (thats right, none at all), and most of the showers are public which means everyone is washing up beside each other with no curtains or separators. Im confused as to why you cant shower with your bathing suit on, seeing as how it will eventually be in the same water your body. Im pretty sure they know this is an odd request, since I saw a magnet at a souvenir shop that had three bare men telling a fourth (and slightly more tan one) he had to remove ALL his clothing.

The Cost

Iceland is not cheap. Actually, that’s an understatement, it is quite expensive! A cheap beer goes for USD 10 and you can pay up to USD 30 for a hamburger, fries and a soda in a fast food chain at a gas station on the side of the road. So, my suggestion is: if you rent a car or a motorhome, find a Discount and stock up on what you will need if you plan to save some money. The products at that store are usually family-size, just so you know what you’ll be getting. Also try to remember you are on vacation, so save some cash in order to enjoy a cold beer or warm drink whenever your heart desires.

Check the conversion rates before you go, and remember that you can pay in other currencies, but your best bet is always the Icelandic crown, even when you want to use your credit card. Cards are widely accepted, and in fact, many shop owners prefer them, since they usually don’t have a great deal of change to spare.

Don’t waste another minute and go to the land of Vikings!

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