Iceland has been blowing up my social media over the last few months, which is what really sparked my interest in visiting the country. Prior to reading about it online, I honestly didn’t really know much about what the island had to offer. To my pleasant (but not unexpected) surprise, my week in Iceland was absolutely amazing and filled with some spectacular highlights.
Vast Open Space
Since moving to Chicago, I’ve been really feeling the urban grind. There is nowhere to be alone, nowhere to be quiet with nature. Thankfully, my trip to Iceland came at just the right time. It is a land of wide open spaces with very few people (fun fact – nearly 2/3 of Icelanders live in the Reykjavik urban area). Being a fairly small country, I was really impressed with how much undeveloped open space there was on the island. Especially in eastern Iceland, you could go over 100 miles without seeing a city or town. It felt so raw, so untouched in some parts of the country. This made for a wonderful road trip experience, because you can just look out the window and enjoy the views.
What is it about waterfalls that just capture our attention? Certainly in Iceland you were never far from your next waterfall viewing, and surprisingly, I never got sick at looking at them! There is so much variety in the types of waterfalls you can see, and sometimes they are just right off the roads. We always stopped when we saw a beautiful one for a quick picture!
Being from the US, I can be a little spoiled about scenery – we have a lot of beautiful national parks! I knew going into this trip that the scenery would be amazing, but it actually exceeded my already high expectations. It truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. There is a little something for everyone, and simply driving the ring road will give you a great glimpse into the natural beauty of the Iceland. Some of my favorite memories from the trip were just sitting in the car in awe at what I was looking at.
What really impressed me about the scenery was how many different landscapes there were in a relatively small environment. There were lush green rolling hills, there were massive glaciers topping snowy mountains, there were bright blue hot springs, there were bubbling geothermal mud pits, there were fresh lava flows leaving black scars on the land. Simply driving a few hours in any direction would show you something new and different. It made each day an adventure because you never knew what to expect from the landscape.
If I’m being honest, my culinary expectations were pretty low for this trip. I didn’t find much information about the food in my research, and being an arctic island nation, Icelanders access to fresh produce isn’t exactly abundant. Much to my surprise, nearly every meal we had was delicious! The cuisine is full of fresh cold water seafood – cod, salmon, lobster, herring, halibut – along with some lamb & dairy. A few local ingredients thing that surprised me on several menus were horse and puffin. I had never seen either of those ingredients used before, but you have to use what you got! A lot of the food included pickling, salting or curing techniques, since traditionally the meat & fish needed to be preserved for the long winter months.
Angie & I planned our main route of our trip along with several activities throughout the week, but I didn’t research much about directions, driving conditions, etc. And I obviously don’t speak Icelandic, so I arrived pretty in the dark about what the day-to-day experience might be like. Thankfully, Iceland is an incredibly easy place to travel. In my experience, most people we interacted with spoke English, all signs/menus are bilingual, and the roads were well marked and easy to navigate. Internet is easy to find and abundant and I always felt comfortable and safe! I am grateful we booked most of our hotels & AirBnbs in advance, since there is a limited supply and they fill up fast. But other than reserving those, I feel like I was pretty comfortable in figuring the rest out.
Are you ready to start your adventure in Iceland? Read more about how you can plan & prepare with my others posts about this incredible country.