Friday, August 5, 2016

Iceland travel tips

Sometimes I can only blog about the narrow focus of handmade paper and my pressed flower art card business for so long. The truth is, there are a lot of areas of life that are inspirational and influence my work that I never talk about. Here's one of them: vacation. Travel has deeply influenced my work, whether it is something about the colors or landscape that I see, work that I come across at an artsy shop on my travels that give me an idea, or the opportunity to walk away from my business completely and then return with fresh eyes examining ideas started before a trip.

It's a long, roundabout story about how we ended up taking a trip to Iceland instead of a different destination. I won't bore you with the details except to say that it started as a trip somewhere else with a stopover in Iceland on the way. (Icelandic Air allows passengers to book trips with stops in Iceland for up to seven days with no additional charge. It's a great way to add a little oomph to your trip and get a twofer vacation.) But the more we starting researching Iceland, the more we were intrigued and wanted to spend more time there.

I gathered so many great travel tips from friends and family who had preceded me. I thought I would share these tips because they are unique to Iceland. It is becoming such a hot destination that I hope somebody out there is googling travel tips for Iceland and stumbles across my blog for a little help.

There are many ways to see Iceland and many areas with varied weather, landscape and activities. We saw tour busses, bicyclists, campers and hitchhikers all over the country but we chose to rent a car and strike out, traveling around the entire country on the Ring Road. No matter how you figure it out, these tips will make your trip much better.

PACK YOUR OWN TOWEL. There are geothermal "hot pots" all over Iceland. These are hot little swimming holes that take the form of public swimming pools, expensive spas and even rustic swimming holes that are a 20-minute hike off a road. If you have your own towel you can save the the expensive rental costs of towels at places like the Blue Lagoon, or you can use your towel when you are out in the middle of nowhere and discover a good place to take a dip.

BRING AN EMPTY WATER BOTTLE. Iceland's tap water is delicious. In many places, you will smell sulfur in the hot water because it is heated using the country's efficient, eco-friendly geothermal heat. But if you run the water on cold, you will find crystal clear water and never have to pay for a bottle of expensive water.

RENT A 4X4. Many of the famous sites in Iceland - like roaring waterfalls and spouting volcanic geysers - are just a few steps from a main road. But if you have a 4x4, you can take the less traveled gravel roads and discover intriguing, less visited sites that have fewer people.

EAT HOT DOGS. Hot dogs are inexpensive in a country of very expensive food. But don't eat them to go easy on your wallet. Eat them because they are delicious. My mouth is watering thinking of the wieners I ate from food trucks, gas stations and restaurants across Iceland. What makes them so good? They have a natural casing, which gives them a satisfying snap when you bite into them. But unlike American hot dogs, they are made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with pork and beef. This is organic, free range, grass fed, hormone free Icelandic lamb, and you can taste the quality. I am a strictly-ketchup-on-my-hot-dog person but I was glad I branched out and tried them the way Icelanders eat them with raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. They stuff all of the fixins into the bun under the hot dog and garnish it with mustard. *Sigh*

BRING WATERPROOF RAIN PANTS, BOOTS & A JACKET. The weather is unpredictable. Whether it is windy or rainy, this clothing will keep you comfortable and dry. If you want to get close to waterfalls - and there are so many waterfalls that you will stop looking at them because you have seen so many (notice the waterfall in the background of the hot dog picture?!) - you will get soaked without waterproof clothing.

GO A LITTLE FARTHER. We saw many people jump out of their cars, see the obvious sight and then leave. But if you explore a little farther, you will see so many wonderful things. For instance, we went to this amazing waterfall where you can walk behind it and feel the spray on your face:

It was stunning and we loved it. We would have been thrilled if we got in our car and left. But instead of going back to the parking lot, we followed a paved path down until we saw this sign to another waterfall that we couldn't see from the road or the parking lot:

There was a break in the rocks and we had to walk in a river (remember those waterproof boots?) to get into the base of the waterfall, but then we came to it:

At the Glacial Lagoon, we took in all the cool icebergs floating around the lagoon and looked at the tongue of the glacier coming down from the Highlands. Amazing.

But if you leave the crowds follow the icebergs downstream to the ocean, you can see seals playing in the water and escape the crowds of the lagoon (as well as the noise of the boats doing tours of the area.)

If you have any additional travel tips, let me know. I enjoyed Iceland so much, I would go back again. Happy travels!

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