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.
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!!
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