With no preconceived notions about Iceland and lured by a cheap flight, I headed to where the summers are short and daylight can last most of the day.
A newbie to international travel? Iceland is an excellent place to start adventuring. With its combination of Danish and Nordic influences, the carefree but enterprising spirit of the Danes and the mild manner of the Norse combine to deliver small town charm in a chic metropolitan capital.
Beginning in 2010, when a volcanic eruption near Reykjavik shut down surrounding air traffic as far away as London for several weeks, people have wanted to see what Iceland is about. Tourism boomed. The infrastructure is excellent. Booking a trip to anywhere you want to go through one of many suppliers at nearly any travel desk is easy. The trips will almost always include pick-up and drop-off wherever you are staying.
Iceland offers some magnificent natural sites. One popular destination is to see the Northern Lights, but you can’t control nature. I understand that only 17 percent of the tours to see the Northern Lights are successful, and many are cancelled when cloudy skies are forecast. If you fancy seeing the Northern Lights, advance preparation is a good idea. Download a Northern Lights app on your cell phone so you can take pictures if Mother Nature blesses you. I highly recommend not going in a large bus, which inevitably includes inconsiderate people who have flashlights or flash cameras that make seeing the natural lights hard. Seek out a small group tour in a van or jeep for a very dark, potentially romantic experience.
Nearly everyone speaks English, so don’t worry about not being understood.
Another great thing, I never had to change money in Iceland because I have a credit card, and credit cards are accepted everywhere. I used it to buy a hot dog from a street vendor! Public toilets charge a fee from $1-$3, which can also be put on a credit card.
Almost anything you want is available in Reykjavik, the capital city that is also Iceland’s largest city and largest port. Although it appears to be much larger, only 120,000 people live in Reykjavik. That’s a little more than one third of the 340,000 people in all of Iceland!
The country is very clean. Clean restrooms are readily available, even if sometimes for a fee. You can drink the crystal-clear water everywhere. And the norm is to have hot water available, as it comes that way from naturally hot springs and is transported by a grid throughout the country. Enjoy one of the many naturally heated pools!
I don’t ever recommend renting a car in a new place where local rules of the road and finding hidden sites are challenges. But if you drive in Iceland you use the same side of the street as in the US. Seatbelts are compulsory. I never saw any speeding cars. Laid back Icelanders don’t seem to be in a hurry.
There are few large buildings; most are two-three stories. The road system is excellent. Because of the low population, sprawling city and good highways, traffic jams are rare. Many roads and driveways are heated by the hot water grid, so even in snowy weather, plowing is not always necessary.
Iceland is safe, which probably explains why there seemed to be many women travelling there alone. You can walk anywhere at any time.
No visa is needed for Americans to visit Iceland.
Iceland is an advanced economy that experienced 7 percent growth in 2016, the highest in the world. Poverty is not apparent. Upon leaving Iceland, the advanced technology of the society is apparent in the baggage scanning process, automated like no other I’ve seen, with a conveyor belt kicking out bags for human inspection.
All told, Iceland is a great place to experience once-in-a-lifetime natural sights in a destination that is easy to enjoy.