A few things to know before going to Iceland

 Weather in Iceland and What to Wear

Obviously the main concern is “how will the weather be”? All we can say is: be prepared and flexible. Generally in summer temperatures don’t go above 15°C but can also drop and fluctuate very quickly. I spent most of the time in t-shirt and hiking gilet (like this, very useful!) but I also had to wear my winter jacket at times and Martina made good use of her Icelandic woollen sweater.
Layers are fundamental to quickly adapt to the temperature variations and, considering the amount of rain, an external waterproof layer and waterproof shoes (or at the very least water resistant) are mandatory.
There is a say that goes “if you don’t like the weather in Iceland wait 5 minutes” which, according to our experience, is true only if you don’t like the sun. However when it comes out can be quite strong so a sun cream is advised, especially if you too come from a sun-deprived country.
Check the official weather website for precipitation and wind conditions.

weather

The clear sky being wiped out by the storm

Prices: is Iceland so Expensive?

Nevermind the obnoxious food, the wild animals the hair-rising roads and the extreme weather, the aspect that scares most people of Iceland is its prices. But is Iceland really so expensive?
Sadly the answer is yes. Car rental and accommodation nearly bled us dry. Eating out is expensive but still less than drinking out. Supermarkets such as Bonus or Nettò have similar prices to the UK even if such products as meat, fish and diary, are incredibly expensive. A pack of 8 slices of cheese (£2.5 at Sainsburys) comes for £7. It might be a sensible thing to pack some food before departure.
Only the gas price was acceptable (About 251 ISK which is close to £1.30) and so for the tickets for most attractions and pools which normally for £3-4.

Currency and Credit Cards

The currency here is the Icelandic Krona (pl. Kronur) which, at the time of writing, is roughly 200ISK for £1. Card payments here are widely accepted, in some remote gas stations it is the only way to pay for fuel, so you’d better have one handy.
Remember that if you spend 4.000ISK or more in a “tax free” shop you can get tax back!

Food: the Icelandic Cuisine

The local cuisine has always an important role in our travels, both for the curiosity of tasting something different and for getting close to such a relevant aspect of the local culture.

shark

Rotten shark

In Iceland we found it to be nearly non-existent. Most of restaurants are limited to a choice of pizza and hamburgers, and there is virtually no trace of the fish and seafood that they seem to be relentlessly fishing. This is why we are so glad we brought our food from home, even if we managed to find a couple of nice restaurants.
And yes, we tried the hakarl, the rotten shark… and I liked it (even if Martina doesn’t quite agree).

 

Booze in Iceland

Maybe because I live in England but I was shocked by how expensive booze is and how scarcely available. You can’t even find it at the supermarket (no, those beer cans are alcohol-free).
What do they do during those dark winter days? Or during those long sleepless summer nights? I don’t have an answer to this but for buying beers the best option is Vínbúðin, state-run stores that can usually be found in main shopping centres. The prices are OK, and you get the chance to try some local brew.
Remember that there is a duty-free shop both in the arrivals and departures at the airport, where booze costs half price or less.

Pools: not just Blue Lagoon

We didn’t go to the blue lagoon, we just didn’t want to part with €45 per person for a luxury tourism attraction.

Geothermal heated pools are found everywhere in the country and serve pretty much the purpose of the pubs in the UK: people go there to relax, chat and socialize. The only difference, and downside, is that they don’t get drunk.

Almost every decent sized town has its pools and the entrance is usually between 400-600ISK. If you want something that looks like the blue lagoon there is a valid alternative near Mývatn.
It’s important to always thoroughly shower, without costume, before entering the pools.

Nature Bath Myvatn Jarðböðin

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After being in Rome a few times without even looking at the Coliseum I realised that there's more to travel than sightseeing: meeting the local culture is what, 10 years later, determined the birth of this blog.

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