It has been one of my life’s to-do-list items.
Considering several conditions to see it (places, season, weather, my availability, budget, equipment etc.), I decided to go to Iceland in April 2022 while I lived in Denmark.
Although the aurora season (until March-April without guarantee) was almost over and I could stay just for 3 nights, I decided to give it a try. In this entry, I will share some of highlights and learnings in Iceland with specific interests in food, culture, education and recommended places (and the outcome of aurora hunting).
Some of general characteristic of Iceland include:
- One of the Nordic countries, but interestingly it’s not Scandinavian country (see here to see its difference)
- As its name alludes, it is generally cold and rains a lot, but it has a beautiful nature (including my favorite green moss landscape)
- Everything is expensive but cashless (first time in my life that I didn’t withdraw cash)
- High quality tap water
You can access to quality tap water anywhere (not just drinkable, but it is tasty). As soon as I arrived at the airport, based on the recommendation of the information center receptionist, I asked the coffee shop employee to share the tap water. Result? Very light and tasty.
- Viking food (vegetable and lamb soup and fish)
This hot soup really warmed up my cold and wet body.
I ordered recommended dish (Cod fish with creamy sauce)
- Hot dog:
In the capital, there is a famous hotdog stand which had famous visitors including Bill Clinton. Unlike Danish hot dog which put fried onion on the top, Icelandic hotdog puts it at the bottom (which I think is great idea so that it won’t fall). Also, pigs and cows in Iceland live in one of the cleanest environments on Earth, which makes it tasty. (see here for the detail of Icelandic hot dog).
Food (too) is expensive:
Usually I like eating out as much as possible, but since the food here is super expensive (even in a supermarket), I decided to make some sandwiches.
Since I stayed just for 3 nights / 4 days, I didn’t have much exposure to its culture myself. What I could tell, however, was that it has quite relaxing culture, due probably to the mixture of nordic mindset and geographic condition (less influence from other countries).
To show an example, I met a gentleman who had travelled to 150+ countries, who were looking for a place to live for long term. Everyone has different taste and life value, but at least he saw many parts of the world and ended up living in Iceland. Also, I met a girl from Denmark (one of the happiest countries) who also decided to live in Iceland by saying that Denmark is more stressful than Iceland.
- Local language and knowledge: because of popular tourism, they said they are losing their own culture and even language (as most tourists prefer speaking English). In general most people spoke English.
- Danish language in primary and secondary: since it was Danish colony until 19th century, people study Danish by default (but some Icelandic people I met didn’t like it).
- Swimming: due to the natural disaster, many people drowned without knowing how to swim, so they started including swimming class in a hot-spa called “secret lagoon”
- Geyser is the only Icelandic word that became English word.
Places to go
- Capital City – Reykjavik.
Land mark church
- Golden circle:
The tour to visit multiple landmark called “Golden Circle” is good start to get to know Icelandic view.
Eruption of the Geyser:
Moss Landscape in Iceland
- Blue lagoon
This artificial blue hot-spa is kind of a must place, but it became very touristic and it was almost a theme-park (they sell alcohol, provide mud face-mask, etc.)
this is located in the south east of the country. It took me nearly 8h to get there, but totally worth it (it was cloudy, which affected the light of photo).
- Diamond beach
In the same tour as the glacier, there was another stop at “Diamond Beach”. Lots of ices on the black beak makes great contrast. I believe it was my favorite, just because it was very unique.
This is my tiny piece of ice work (it was difficult to pile up ices while staying away from wave)
- Aurora tour
During the season, you can book aurora tour with different transports including big bus, mini van, jeep, etc. Since there are quite many seats, you can book it even 1 hour before the tour begins (around 19:00-20:00). Due to the weather and sky condition, if there is high probability of NOT seeing aurora, the tour will not be operated, in which case you can get refund or try another tour in the next available day for free. If your tour actually operates but no result, there is no refund, but you can still try another day for free.As mentioned in the beginning, my initial objective of visitting Iceland was to see aurora.The outcome….. Negative! I couldn’t see a slight light. There was a tiny possibility, so that my tour was actually operated (thus no refund regardless of aurora hunting result). Since I had to leave the country, the tour operator promised me the free aurora tour within 2 years.
Will I come back to Iceland again within 2 years? Probably no.
Will I try to see aurora again? Of course, as long as my body allows, I will keep trying.
The learning of this time
Through my experience to travel Iceland for short time, I learned that nature (e.g. aurora) is not under our control, that is why it is sacred and worth visiting to enjoy with your all senses.
Thank you for reading this article. Have a great learning!