12 Things to Know Before Traveling to Iceland for the First Time

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People tend to have their travel plans fixated on the more popular destinations that everyone has on their bucket list. Tropical and exotic locations are some of the most preferred places for once in a lifetime trips like honeymoons. On the other hand, something more common that people do time and time again is tour the European capitals. For regular summer holidays, it is the Mediterranean or the Middle East for most Europeans and Asians. Americans enjoy the Caribbean and Mexico, travel north to Canada, or visit South American countries, cities, and beaches.

This is however only half of the world. You are of course greatly limited in terms of travel convenience depending on where you live. However, those who do not mind spending a few extra hours on a plane or a few days on a cruise still do not consider the entire planet. Some of the worthiest travel destinations are located in the north, and are collectively known as Nordic countries. Norway, Sweden, and Finland are some of the best countries to call home as well as to visit. However, it is their neighbor to the west, the island country of Iceland, that is the start of our article today.

Iceland is unfairly forgotten when people are considering their travel destination. Since it is far away from European mainland, people do not really think of it as a place they would like to see and experience. If they ever go there, they instantly regret not visiting it sooner as well as not booking a longer holiday. In the following sections we talk about the most important things to have to know before you travel to Iceland for the first time. You will surely enjoy the experience but with these things on your mind you will be able to make the most of it. To find out more about traveling to Iceland and in general, make sure to check this site.

1. Northern Lights and Long Nights

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If you decide to visit Iceland during the winter, know that you will have barely any daylight to enjoy! It is dark in winter months for as long as 20 hours a day. However, you should not be sad because this is also the best time to experience the magical Northern Lights, one of the most breathtaking things we as humans can see on our beautiful planet. If this is one of your goals, visiting during the winter is absolutely the best idea.

2. The Midnight Sun

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the never-ending nights is The Midnight Sun when you can see the sun at the local midnight time. Traveling in summer guarantees this and you will probably have trouble sleeping since it can get very bright in Iceland. Here is a pro tip: bring a sleeping mask to have at least some darkness since most tourists have trouble falling asleep even for a few hours! Mind that you cannot see the Northern Lights in the summer.

3. Do Not Feak Out If You See a Baby Outside

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It is customary for the Icelandic folk to leave their babies unattended outside, sleeping in their strollers right on the sidewalk. The parents are always close and it is normal to let them sleep outside while sitting in a café or running some errands. The parents are watching and the strangers are used to it, so do not make the mistake and cause panic!

4. The Magic of Reykjavik

The capital city of Iceland is simply gorgeous and worth exploring as much as possible.

Since you will probably be visiting it during your travels, you have to make sure to see all the major sights, try the local food and beverage specialties, and meet the friendly locals always ready to help. The capital is famous for being one of the greenest, cleanest, and safest cities in the entire world. What is not to like?

5. No Popular Franchises

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Something that is actually good but many travelers, especially Americans, find frustrating is that Iceland does not have McDonald’s restaurants, Starbucks coffee places, or 7/11 stores. Iceland is too traditional, independent, and unique to house these companies that you can find virtually anywhere. Instead, they put a lot of attention on authenticity of their own products, brands, and traditions. While in Iceland, try Lemon, the local company for sandwiches, juices and smoothies. If you crave salads, go to Local. For a healthy take on pizza, chicken, Moroccan dishes, and other specialties, try Saffran. If you like Mexican food wherever you go, visit Serrano. For everything else, it is best to pick small local businesses, restaurants, cafes, and taverns.

6. Viking History

Iceland is one of the countries where Vikings went to explore and then settled for good. Because of this, their culture is similar to that of Norway, Sweden, and Finland and you can expect to find a lot of souvenirs, trips, and activities that revolve around the ancient explorers who wanted to conquer the world. Needless to say, the opportunities for sailing, kayaking, swimming, and anything else that revolves around water is there for you to enjoy.

7. Explore the Fjords

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Obviously. This part of Europe, and the world, is rich in amazing natural landscapes. Such beauty cannot be found anywhere else. The fjords are the best in Westfjords, located on the Ring Road that will probably be on your activity list. Steep mountains, amazing hiking trails, breathtaking views of the surrounding hills, rivers, lakes, and the ocean in the background to complete the magic. Fishing villages are all over the fjords where you can rest, drink something warm, and hear some stories from the locals.

Bonus Round

Here are a few more quick tips before we let you go, just so you can enjoy Iceland to the fullest!

9. Do not buy bottled water

Not because it is bad, but because there is no need. Iceland has water so clean that it is safe to drink from every river and waterfall.

10. Weather is as unpredictable as it gets

It is an island after all, and it is located just outside the Arctic Circle. Be ready for anything!

11. Swimming naked

This is necessary in the famous geothermal pools where no swimwear is allowed in order to preserve the water and tradition.

12. Booze is expensive

Sadly, if you want to have a good time and get a bit tipsy like a true Viking, you will have to spend more than back home!