Written by Tenon Tours Travel Specialist Janet Dudley
The Good, the Practical, and the Ever-Changing
Iceland is truly amazing – that is not hyperbole.
It is a land of stark and wild beauty…unpredictable and awe-inspiring… a land where the old Norse Gods seem very near. The people are incredibly friendly and helpful, and their English is likely WAY better than yours. If Iceland is not on your bucket list, it needs to be; if it’s on there already, then move it up top.
Iceland takes Covid restrictions very seriously. Be sure you do as much as you can to ensure you comply with the most up-to-date entry requirements before you depart. I thought I had, but when I got to the Reykjavik airport, I lacked a barcode to get through a Covid screening. I knew I had not received it and while I was close to tears searching for it (trouble getting a phone/WiFi connection), the airport staff gently retrieved it for me. It turns out I had indeed received the code, but it came into my email while I was on the plane. On the other hand, the testing facility for the return trip to the U.S. was well-staffed, fast and efficient — I had results within an hour!
Iceland will probably be colder than you think it will be — and possibly much, much colder. And let’s throw in rain, snow and wind for that extra touch of “who knows what to expect?” I cannot speak for summer weather from personal experience, but when I asked a local guide about the Einar Jonsson sculpture park, “Do people come and sit and picnic here in the summer?” Her reply was, “Well…really no, it’s too windy for us to do that.”
So repeat after me: Your new mantra is hats, layers, boots and socks. Hats, layers, boots and socks. (And yes, I did go out and buy a new thicker cozy IceWear hoodie as the one I had packed was a bit of a fail – any excuse to shop, right?)
Oh – and your Covid face mask also keeps your face warm!
Ladies, Iceland is your new hairstylist! And that style is Clean. Just make sure you wash it and then leave the rest to Iceland. It’s the best you can do. Iceland has a belly laugh at your carefully packed styling products and tools. So just leave them at home. My go-to so far has been Hat Hair, with an evening look of Blow Dry Just So It’s Not Too Damp and viola! I am ready for my close-up.
Gents, on the other hand: There seems to be a fancy barbershop every other block in Reykjavik. Treat yourself and get a clip over here – it’s bound to be fun and you’ll probably get a great, stylish, new Viking-inspired look!
You’re In Hot Water Now
This is seriously a non-negotiable on your trip: You have to visit at least one of the many geothermal lagoons for a soak. I was able to visit two – The Secret Lagoon and the Blue Lagoon – and both were wonderful experiences! The Secret Lagoon had a more local, relaxed, rustic flair. The changing rooms were more high school locker room and the lounge area had a bowling alley pizza place vibe, but it was uncrowded, well-staffed and the water was the perfect bath temperature. There was even lava sand under your feet! I could have stayed for a year. The Blue Lagoon, by comparison, was slick and techy but an equally enjoyable experience. There are wristbands for your locker access and cashless beverage transactions, a much larger and ornate pool area with bars and silica mud masks to wear as you swan about.
Two caveats though – your glasses will fog up, rendering them useless in the pool. And you are expected to shower, in some cases, in a communal shower. Naked. Hello Junior High Gym Class. So yeah, probably a good idea just to leave your glasses in your locker…
Food. OMG. Food.
It will be fantastic – fresh, creatively prepared, hearty and delicious. And expensive. Seafood is a staple, as is soup, bread and fresh vegetables grown in geothermal greenhouses. If you are vegan or vegetarian, there will always be options for you too – and tasty, they will be!
And if food is expensive, adult beverages on the other hand will drive you to tap water (which is the BEST water I have ever tasted anywhere, so drink up!). Iceland does have an upcoming craft brew culture and I did splurge on trying a few locally brewed sips.
Oh so many, truly! and in no particular order:
- Skogar Folk Museum on the South Coast – quirky, intimate and well worth a two-hour visit!
- Fridheimar Greenhouse/Tomato soup lunch – for gardeners, this is what heaven is like …and the soup and bread here were among the best I have ever had…and a relatively good value for lunch on the Golden Circle route.
- Glacier Hike on Skaftafellsjokull – This is enjoyable for any level of walker or hiker – and the reward when you see the nearby glacier and see the mountains surrounding you is exhilarating!
- Lava Center – This one took me by surprise. I was like, ok, probably boring and technical, but instead, the exhibition took you through an interactive journey as you learned about lava and how it affects the earth. There was also a surround-sound audiovisual room so you could experience different intensities of ash fallout. I cannot recommend this more highly!
- Reykjavik walking tours – Oh do please, take at least one guided tour on foot – there is so much history here and the city is so wonderfully preserved and maintained! I did two walking tours and they actually only overlapped slightly so each one was fresh! (Plus now I definitely know where the public access bathrooms are in town – hehe).
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