Turns out all you have to do to become Icelandic is to attend a comedy show in the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik. Now I know how to behave like a local: be rude, love the smell and wash!
If you’ve never been to Iceland this might seem strange to you, but it was actually pretty good advice for our first few days on the island.
1. We learned that the icelandic people have a very northern charm – they aren’t exactly talkative. So don’t expect the receptionist at the hotel or your taxi driver to say anything to you that’s not strictly necessary for getting the job done. Don’t take it personally!
2. Iceland stinks – literally, not figuratively. Every time we took a shower the entire bathroom suddenly started smelling like rotten egg. At first we thought there was a problem with the shower but when we smelled the same at the geyser area and the Blue Lagoon we looked it up and found out that it’s the smell of sulfur, caused by the volcanic activity in Iceland. There is no avoiding it so you just have to get used to it!
3. When you go to a public bath or as we did to the Blue Lagoon you are expected to wash properly before entering the pool – naked that is, leaving on your bathing suit is not allowed. Do it and you will be rewarded with a great bathing experience!
These were just three of 12 lessons the show thought us while also being quite entertaining. We would recommend it to everyone who likes some lighthearted comedy and wants to learn something about Iceland.
On our first day in Iceland we went for a classic tourist attraction: the Golden Circle. The tour consists of several stops at iconic Icelandic sights of which the Thingvellir National Park, the Geyser Hot Spring area and Gullfoss waterfall are the most famous and impressive. Unfortunately there were tons of people at all these stops which spoiled the experience a bit. We later heard it’s better to go later in the day so that’s what we would do if we came to Iceland again. Here are a few impressions of these beautiful natural wonders:
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park was my favourite stop of the entire tour. Not only is it a really pretty place it’s also loaded with Icelandic history. The Vikings came to Iceland in 871 (or did they?) and as population grew there was a need for a general assembly to settle some affairs – for example passing laws. The Thingvellir area was easily accessible from the most populated regions of that time and offered some great acoustics so that’s where the Vikings decided to hold their parliament.
Fun fact: This is also where they some scenes for Game of Thrones, for example the battle between Brienne and the Hound.
At midday we stopped at a geothermal area that featured several geysers, among them the one in the picture, the Strokkur geysr, which erupts every ten minutes into a fountain of 15 to 20 meters. In between it sometimes does so called “fake eruptions” that are less high, so stay around for a bit as to not miss the real thing!
The eruptions are caused by water seeping down onto rock heated by magma. The water gets turned into steam but it can’t immediately rise, as steam usually does, because there is more water from above that keeps it down – until there is just too much energy and the steam breaks out. Or something like that, check out How stuff works for a way better explanation.
And finally what looks like it could be in New Zealand: the Gullfoss waterfall. Around 140 cubic meters of water fall down every second – in two steps of 11 and 21 meters – into seemingly nowhere. On the picture you can’t see it very well but there was constantly a rainbow in front of it that made it look quite magical. I’m not sure if the Niagara Falls will be able to top that.