Visiting new countries, experiencing the culture and trying different foods is always fun, so it was very exciting to visit yet one more new destination – Iceland! Whether you visit on your own, join a tour, or travel in luxury with Adventures by Disney, I offer these “Do’s and Don’ts” for setting off on this type of adventure!
Do not confuse Iceland’s lovely (and often lush) landscape with Greenland’s vast ice-covered terrain. Remember what they taught you in grammar school: “Greenland is ice and Iceland is nice!”
Do not be afraid to visit Iceland in any season. We were there in February when the weather is typically not any colder than New York City. There’s lots to do at all times of the year!
Do try the various excursions. There is everything from whale watching to glacier hiking, from cultural tours to golf and fishing expeditions.
Do NOT hike the lava caves if you are a middle-aged, overweight, out of shape woman unless you have patient friends and a complete stranger willing to pull you out of precarious, icy, jutting openings the size of rabbit holes.
Do note that if you are snorkeling, the “changing area” may be a plastic mat outside of the van that brings your snorkeling equipment. If you are snorkeling in February and are using a dry suit, you may want to already have your long underwear on. (Of course, if you are crazy enough to snorkel where the water is 0 degrees Celsius, changing outside may not be an issue for you.)
Do try the different assortment of foods, especially the fresh seafood. One personal favorite discovery was the “Skyr,” which looks and tastes like a rich and delicious yogurt, but is surprisingly fat-free!
Do note that Icelandic people eat just about every part of the animal, so DO ask what it is you’re trying.
Do try a shot of Black Death (80 proof clear liquor, flavored with angelica root or caraway seeds – also known as Brennivin — Iceland’s signature alcoholic beverage).
Do NOT have more than two. The smell emanates from your pores for days.
Do NOT ask me how I know.
Do notice the little bit of putrefied shark meat they serve with Black Death (like the salt for the tequila), called Hakarl.
Do NOT taste Hakarl. (Seriously. It’s vile.)
Do go on a Northern Lights excursion.
Do go on one combined with a lobster feast. If you like lobster (and these are GOOD), it’s a great consolation when it’s too overcast to see the Northern Lights.
Do not hang your towel outside where the steam will soak it and turn it into a sheet of ice. This does not feel good after a shower, no matter how hot the water.
Do pile on the conditioner (before and after) as the minerals in the water strip every bit of suppleness out of your hair, turning it into the consistency of straw.
Do know that the sulfur may cause you to smell like rotten eggs long after you return home
Do visit the smaller towns and little museums. The history of Iceland is so interesting and even a museum solely based on salt cod fishing (yes, there is one) is worth a visit.
Do not expect to find an abundance of souvenirs. Stores are few and far between and the pickings are slim. Your best bet is actually at the airport.
Do talk to your guides and ask questions as they are a wealth of fascinating information, not just about their country but about their own way of life.
Do stop and visit Icelandic horses along the road. They are lovely, gentle beasts and will come right up to you out of curiosity. I’m told they like ham and cheese sandwiches. I think they also liked my conditioner. Or the smell of Black Death.
DO visit Iceland – and let us help!