Everyone knows about Iceland, and it is probably the hottest (metaphorically) destination of 2017! Everyone talks about the waterfalls, glaciers, Blue Lagoon, and occasionally the puffins… but I had a few things surprise me while I was there! So here are the 10 things that surprised me while I was in Iceland:
1. Icelanders = Nudists
2. Iceland is crazy expensive
3. ADD Weather
4. Discount Cards for Gas
5. Blue Lagoon is Popular. Go Figure
6. Thermal Pools Hate Your Hair
7. You Don’t Need Money! JK, You Don’t Need Cash
8. Government Picks Baby Names… Kinda
9. Penis Museum and More!
10. Horses Though
1) They constantly want you naked
It is possible that I ~may~ be exaggerating on this point, but it certainly did feel like it. Every time you go to a thermal pool, you have to shower naked before and after going into the pool. I get needing to shower before you get into the pool, but naked?
Alright, I guess I understand it, and maybe I’m a prude, but there was only one stall with a shower curtain! I guess I’m not used to changing in front of other ladies in locker rooms since I’m not an avid gym person nor was I into sports.
Speaking of locker rooms though… There was a whole labyrinthian maze of changing rooms with 2 doors on each side, but only 1 door would close. I was given a key with a number on it, and there was an area with corresponding small lockers clumped in a room. I believe the little rooms with 2 doors were possibly an upgrade which is why I could only close 1 door.
So anyway, I wander around looking for my number. Since it was near closing, I was the only one in there… Except for a woman that worked there. She was busy wandering around literally the ONLY room with a person in it. Me. I was that person. And I just wanted to change in peace before I had to go shower in a more public situation than I’m comfortable with.
Another thermal bath saw only 1 shower curtain as well. What was strange about that one is that a lady was in it but didn’t have the curtain closed. She was just facing out and letting everyone see her in her birthday suit. Strange.
So Icelandic people are super comfy being nekkid.
2. Everything is expensive
I know I heard people say that before I went there, but they really didn’t stress it. Let me say it again for those in the back. ICELAND IS EXPENSIVE! And it’s fine! I get it! It’s an out of the way island! But I wish I had been more mentally prepared for it! I went to Iceland with my brother, and his friend said she paid $75 for a salmon dinner! Insane! My brother and I saved a ton on food when we made food for ourselves at the Air BNB Cabin. You can read about my Iceland budget here to see what I actually spent!
Make sure you’re also aware of the currency conversion, which could make things more expensive if you don’t. For example, we stopped at a gas station and there were cute little pewter Viking ships, and I thought they were $2. I bought that and a few other things. I was fully pleased with myself for getting such adorable souvenirs for only $8, except they were $80. Rookie mistake. Happens to the best of us. Right? Just me? Yikes.
3. The weather changes instantly
Best example was when my brother and I were checking out The Sun Voyager. One second it was blue skies, but as we parked and walked the 10 feet to it, it became a very gray sky. I took maybe 3 pictures, and then it started to hail/sleet.
One second it will be fine, then it will be violently snowing with insane 50 mph winds, and then it will be all over. I’ve been to a few places where locals jokingly say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes!” It was certainly true here.
4. There are discount cards for gas stations
I have a few theories about it, but I think it’s for locals. My main operating theory (based on nothing), is that when Iceland’s economy collapsed back in 2008, the whole country was like, “Alright, we’ve gotta get the rich folks over here and get their money!” I honestly don’t think I heard much about Iceland before that time, especially not as much as I have in the last few years. They’ve done a remarkable job at advertising their thrilling country! Perhaps they even got the prices up? So why not reward the locals with a little discount card?
Admittedly, this is probably a silly theory since the discount card is worth a pittance. I think the first time we used it, my brother just got a cup of coffee. The gas station attendant gave me less than a dollar in change when I used it the second time. But hey, it’s an option that you should at least ask for!
5. The Blue Lagoon books up!
I wanted 3 things from my Winter Trip to Iceland: Blue Lagoon, Northern Lights, and diving between the continental plates. Everything else could wait for when I eventually meandered back there during the summer. I was devastated the night before I left for Iceland. I had postponed booking the Blue Lagoon because I didn’t know when my brother would be there because he’s a pilot. Once he confirmed his schedule, I went to book, and it was ALL BOOKED UP. NO SPACES. Heartbroken.
“Oh well,” I thought to myself… “at least I have the Northern Lights and the continental divide.” WHO SAYS THAT!?! Recipe for disaster because wouldn’t you know… my continental diving trip was canceled because of the weather. Know what else you couldn’t see in bad weather? The Northern Lights. Dev-as-ta-ted. I wanted to see them this trip not only because it’s Bucket List, but because I heard that they are on a dimming cycle… But luckily…
6. The thermal pools will wreck your hair
Speaking of the thermal pools, it’s been about a week since I was last in Iceland, and my hair is still feeling the effects. Normally, I’d say that my hair is pretty soft, but I’ve washed and conditioned it several times to try and get that softness back and still nada. Turns out that it’s the silica in the water. Blue Lagoon suggests that you wear a swim cap or wash the crap out of your hair when you’re done. Just something to keep in mind! I think next time I’ll bring some leave-in conditioner and wash my hair IMMEDIATELY.
Since the Blue Lagoon was booked up, I scoured the internet for a replacement, and several people suggested the “Secret” Lagoon. Many preferred it because it is more natural than the Blue Lagoon, and because it’s farther from Reykjavik (about two hours), there are generally fewer people there. My brother and I went right when it was lightly snowing, and it was lovely. I was even able to buy a beer and have it float in my little Palm Tree I brought.
There is even an indoor thermal pool in the city! I was under the impression that it uses thermal water like the outdoor pools, but with the comfort of being inside! And still having a floating palm tree and toys! It was so cute and cheap. I know people were jealous 😛
7. You don’t need cash
I collect souvenir spoons from countries I’ve visited (a darling pastime that I’ve inherited from my Grandmother), but I also collect the smallest bill that a country has. My brother and I each pulled out cash, but literally everywhere we went took cards. Eventually, my brother became panicked because he had so much extra cash that he didn’t want to have to convert back. I suggest skipping the cash in lieu of credit cards only if you don’t have foreign transaction fees or a penchant for collecting.
8. You have to have baby names approved
This one fully cracked me up once I heard about it, considering some of the wild names I’ve read about in America and some pretty wild names that I’ve seen as a teacher. To keep the language “legit,” there’s a list of names that you’re allowed to pick from. If you decide to go off and get a little creative, you actually have to submit it to a committee. Don’t believe me? Check this out. One of my silly hobbies (gosh, is it really a hobby? Maybe I’m boring…) is to find ridiculous Tinder profiles and send them to one of my friends. This game is often made more exciting in foreign countries because you’ve also got interesting names to check into too. My favorite was Ragnar because I like the show Vikings, but second favorite were all the ones that used the fun letters in the Icelandic language.
9. Interesting Museums
Maybe I’m a nerd, but I do like a good museum, and Reykjavik has a lot of interesting ones!
Northern Lights Museum ~ 1600 ISK (About $14)
The most beautiful is the Northern Lights Museum! It was great because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to see them while I was there, so this felt like a nice backup plan. Of course, there were the gorgeous pictures that you’d expect to see and get if you saw them, but there were also fun interactive stations, and a hallway telling you about the different worldwide myths about the Lights! Some of them were hysterical, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise. If you’re really interested, message me, and I will tell you 🙂
Another really great thing about the museum is that they have an area where you can lie down and just experience the lights on a giant screen. It was so calming and peaceful!
And last but not least, they have a station to help you practice your Aurora Photography. They give you settings and let you set up in a black box to practice! You certainly wouldn’t want to try and get that right out in the cold! Check out this great list of tips including the best time to see the Northern Lights! Plus, truly stunning pics!
Viking Museum ~ 2100 ISK (About $19)
Right next door to the Northern Lights museum is the Viking museum! This was basically a 2 parter. The first part of the museum is an audio guided tour through Iceland’s history with startlingly realistic wax figures. Seriously. I got all up in a few of their faces to see if they were actually real. What freaked me out is that one of them was automated to look like it was breathing! Nightmare! There are several very powerful tableaux that told some incredible tales. Caution if you have kiddos; there is some mild nudity.
Part 2 is great if you’re a weirdo like me. Dress up time! They have a wide selection of outfits, shields, and weapons to play with! Best part is, it’s free!
Phallus Museum ~ 1500 ISK (About $13)
You read that correctly. There is a whole museum dedicated to Mammalian Male Genitalia. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but figured it was worth the $13 just to say I’ve been! It was a large selection of very well cataloged…specimens. There were tubes of preserved…things…, art work, souvenirs, and even one area that is covered up. Imagine being in a museum like that where everything is out and open and one thing is covered! I dare you to peek!
10. Horse’s got fleek hair on lock
I learned a lot about the horses, and I can’t wait to go back and ride them! It was just too cold for me this first go round! I used to teach Horseback Riding at a summer camp, and it’s on my Bucket List to ride a horse on the 6 main continents. Needless to say, me likey horsies.
Did you know that they don’t allow ANY imported horses? They want to keep the bloodlines pure and to keep them disease free! There are very few diseases that will affect the current horse population. And if a pureblood leaves Iceland, it can’t come back! I think the isolation of the Icelandic horses keeps them so unique. Spanish and Arabian horses are very well known, but because they are landlocked it must be pretty hard to keep them “pure!”
Icelandic horses also have 2 extra gaits! Most horses just have the walk, trot, canter, and gallop. However, the Icelandic horsies have the tölt, which is more comfortable than a trot, and the flugskeið which is also very fast and smooth. Our rental cabin was right next to a horse riding facility, and I loved watching them tölt by. I’m also not super confident that I can use tölt as a verb, lol.
Last but not least, these friendly horses are FIERCE! In a sassy way, not a violent way! This could be an advertisement for horse hair!
Planning your own Iceland tours?
Some people opt to take one of the professional Iceland tours when on their Iceland vacation, but it’s definitely something you can do yourself! You can check out my Iceland budget of what I spent when I went in winter. If you’re feeling up to it, here’s a 3.5 day itinerary!
Anything surprise you?
So if you’ve been, please let me know if anything surprised you too!!
Pin for later and for your friends!
I see you have given quite realistic feedback on your trip to Iceland. I like the images you have uploaded in this post. I see that you have had the time of your life in Iceland. I really appreciate the efforts you have taken to write this wonderful blog post. Thank you for providing such a realistic approach to your trip to Iceland. After reading your article even I feel like going to Iceland.
Very interesting to read! Thanks for letting us come along vicariously!
I hope one day it’s not just vicariously!
[…] Need a few more ideas? Here are ten tongue in cheek things people never tell you about visiting Iceland. […]
These are some really great hidden tips! The horses seriously have the best hair hahahah
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Interesting post with some information that usually isn’t given.
However note that Iceland became cheaper after the crisis… yeah I know…:)
So much good information here! Iceland is on my bucket list, and I feel like I learn something new every time i read about it! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Nice one! Iceland is very high on my list of places I want to travel. I never knew you need to have baby names approved!! 😀 This country is so unique and I can never get enough of northern lights. Wonderful place and great pictures. 🙂
Great article. I had no idea things were that expensive there. The viking museum sounds like a lot of fun.
Thanks for sharing your experiences! Nicely told story.
One of our blogger friends visited Iceland, and he said it is one of the most interesting countries he’s ever been. He said that in the place where he stayed at, everyone owned a sailboat!
We would definitely love to travel to Iceland if given a chance. And for an extra challenge, we would like to climb the mountains there.
How Viking for them all to own a boat!
Haha loved this post – I had no idea about the approval of first names. Makes sense though given the type of names given to kids these days! And yep, Iceland is soooo expensive, those museum prices are nuts – that’s why we never made it to any of them unfortunately 🙁
Wow I plan on going to Iceland soon and glad to hear what I should know! A fun fact for you – one of my friends went to Iceland and said the locals STRONGLY believe in Elves and get quite annoyed if you mess with them!
That’s amazing! I thought I saw them because I went right after Christmas!
The only thing I didn’t know about was the approval of first names which really isn’t a bad idea when you think of certain ridiculous names given to kids! I’m not comfortable either getting naked in front of other women (well, or men) but I guess it’s “do as the Icelanders do” type of thing! I would really like to go to Iceland but it’s still way too expensive for me. 🙁
I guess it’s a part and partial of every culture. That there is something unique, and a few things weird about it. Couldn’t help a smile at some of your points above like the thermal pool and having baby names approved
I really laughed when you said that Icelanders always want you to be naked! It’s the same in Japan. Before you go to the onsen (like Iceland’s thermal pools), you have to strip off all of your clothes and scrub yourself before getting in the pool with other ladies. There are also mixed onsen but I’ve never had the courage to go in the buff in front of male strangers!
Omg! I couldn’t either! I went to a private mud bath (rasul) in Germany with my mom and grandmother, and I couldn’t even in front of them!
The post cracked me up esp the way started it in the 1st point! I hope I’ll make to iceland atleast once in lifetime! Sauna wrecks the hair? Oh my! Thanks for that info… Good to know you got to see the northern lights. Its in my wishlist too!
I’m glad! Thank you! Yes, I think my hair is still a little stiff! I read later to try not to get your hair wet, whoops!
I heard about the name approval when I was pregnant! So interesting! I’ve been hearing a ton about Iceland, but this really cuts to the chase! Great post!
Oh really? What name did you decide on?
Thanks! People rave about Iceland, and I’ll go there one day. Good to know about all the details.
Great shot of the horse with its hair flying free. Definitely a keeper!
It’s amazing how recently everyone has been raving about it!
Sounds like a fab place. Though I may have to rethink my visit to Iceland, no one needs to see me nude! LOL
It was very disconcerting, but the pools are worth it! I suppose ultimately, no one really cares haha
I’m going to Iceland next month and I am already HORRIFIED at the prices. My trip is already over $2k and I haven’t set foot on the ground!!! While I’m also nervous about getting naked and sudden bad weather, I’m more afraid for my bank account 😀
Wow, that’s a lot! How long are you going for? I’m working on the next post which will be my actual budget and where I stayed! What we did to save money, is we never ate out. We bought groceries and brought sandwiches for lunch!
Lol!! The baby names and the Neighbelline omg whahaha. And the part on waiting 5 minutes for the weather to change. I’m imagining living in Iceland, it would be such an experience! Love this post on Iceland!
I met a lot of people from Poland working there! I bet it would be really cool to live there! I’m excited to go back and see it again in warmer weather! 🙂
Maybe it’s Neighbelline! HAHA! Thanks for such an eye opening post on Iceland. I’ve always wondered that about the Blue Lagoon so now I know!
Apparently the Blue Lagoon is a happy accident from a mining adventure!
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