We always try to pen down our impressions of a country after each travel. By far, I had the most fun penning down our impressions on Iceland. It’s such a diverse country and definitely a country of dreams. No wonder tourism in Iceland has quadrupled in last 4-6 years! We did so many bucket list items, drove 1700kms in 8 days and came back with 2 million photos (almost, haha!). There would be more than usual number of articles on Iceland, as it’s impossible to compress all in information in 1000 words. For now, without further adieu – Land of Fire & Ice! First Impressions on Iceland.
Land of Fire & Ice! First Impressions on Iceland
Iceland is rated as worlds 4th happiest country (2018)
Can you believe a country with population of 330,000 rates so high in happiness index. Some of the factors that contribute to this are really low income tax, free health care and free higher education to its Icelanders. Iceland doesn’t have army, navy or air force and more so the police in that country doesn’t carry guns.
It’s the smaller communities and people knowing each other that makes the difference. While we were travelling, we stayed at a place called Hof. Later we realised that it was actually a very small town with 3-4 houses and a hotel with multiple rooms. Ever heard of a town that small? More so, happiness is evenly distributed in Iceland i.e. most of the Icelanders are more of less equally happy. This is not true for other countries like Middle East and Latin America. To read how happiness is calculated, click here.
Conserving natural resources
In all our travels so far, we have never seen a country that is so strict and passionate about protecting and conserving nature, flora and fauna. Some of the examples are below –
Off Road driving
Off road driving is illegal in Iceland because it takes years for flora to grow again (mostly due to harsh weather conditions) after the damage done by tyres. If you are caught driving off road you will have to pay a hefty fine, of course. There are well defined F-roads where you can drive a 4×4 vehicle and experience the highlands but no off road driving. They even keep some of the roads and F-roads closed in autumn, winter & spring. In spring it’s because they want to let the ice thaw and flora and fauna to grow.
Another example we want to bring out was the waste disposal. Icelanders are so strict about their waste disposal that really makes you think that you are doing something wrong. We do have waste disposal rules in Ireland, but not everyone follows them strictly. So, in Iceland there are separate bins for 1) glass 2) all paper and carton, newspapers, magazines, and all packaging made from carton 3) plastics, both soft and hard. 4) compostable waste like tea bags, skins of fruits & vegetables etc 5) general waste and you can’t throw paper and carton, garden waste, bottles and cans in this bin. This is really strict and they take things seriously.
And the third example we want to bring up was harnessing the energy from natural resources. Iceland has so many huge waterfalls, but we never saw a dam or a turbine built to harness that kind of energy. Most of Iceland’s energy is geothermal. Let me give you an example of Gullfoss Waterfall.
“..In the early 20th century foreign investors wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss to produce electricity. In 1907 Howells, an Englishman wanted to buy Gullfoss from Tómas Tómasson, a farmer who owned Gullfoss at this time. Tómas declined Howells´ offer to buy the waterfall but later he leased it to him… In 1940.. [the waterfall was] sold .. to the Icelandic government. Gullfoss and its environs was designated as nature reserve in 1979 to permanently protect the waterfall and allow the public to enjoy this unique area..” – Part of story copied from official Gullfoss waterfall website.
Sweetest water on the planet
Who needs soda when the water is so sweet? We always loved the water in Ireland but Iceland’s pure water put Ireland’s water to shame. Most of the water in Iceland originates from it’s glaciers. It’s so pure that you can drink it directly from most of the streams and rivers. More than that, the country’s hot water is from geothermal heat and in most places transported directly from natural hot springs and geysers. You will notice a bit of rotten egg smell when you take bath as natural hot springs and geysers have high level of sulphur. You can find so many swimming pools, natural hot springs & spas through out the country where you can take a dip and relax. It’s one of the coolest things we have ever experienced and we will write more on this in future articles.
Have you checked our post – 18 breathtaking photos of raw Iceland? If not, please do as you will surely get blown away!
Iceland is a photographers heaven. We were stopping every couple of minutes to take photos as we just couldn’t keep our camera down. You drive a few kilometers into the country and the landscape changes completely. We saw a huge variety of natural beauty and natural phenomenon in 1 week like snow covered mountains, frozen lake, black sand beaches, beautiful peninsulas, glaciers and glacier lagoons, icebergs, waterfalls, streams, hot springs, geysers, northern lights, volcanos, crack in tectonic plates etc! I believe it was a trip of a life time and the best one so far. Iceland is also called the land of fire and ice because the active volcanoes and glaciers co-exist in this country.
Read Also: Our impressions and photos from Scottish Highlands.
Super expensive cost of living
Iceland was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans. It’s far from rest of the countries. Due to its harsh climatic condition, nothing grows in the country which means they are forced to import vegetables. Of course, it’s bound to be expensive. To give you a perspective, a regular pizza costs 10-13 euros in Dublin while we paid 25 euros in Iceland. We paid almost 20 euros for soup and bread buffet where as in Dublin, a bowl of soup costs 3-5 euros. That is really expensive! According to Numbeo, Iceland is the third most expensive country in the world just a few points behind Switzerland and Bermuda. There are ways to save while you are travelling so that you don’t go bankrupt and we will talk about those in future posts!