1. You want to be warm
At least not this summer! I live in Alaska where 65 degrees is a great summer day. I love winter. I went to Iceland in mid-August and I was cold. I wore my winter down jacket most days with a wool hat and more than once wished I had mittens on. It wasn’t too cold to sleep in my tent (with two sleeping bags) or be outside for long stretches of time, provided you were wearing wool. But I wouldn’t head to Iceland if a warm weather vacation was your top priority. But to be fair I heard that this summer was particularly cold and rainy. If you want proof listen to this little soundbite and language lesson from I heart Rekjavík.
2. You want to travel on the cheap
Iceland is as expensive as they say. I found that often $22 USD was the cheapest item on the menu lunch or dinner and I paid $17USD for a glass of house wine at a hostel! That being said, if you have some willpower I think you can see Iceland without breaking the bank. But that’s going to mean not eating out all that often, not going out for drinks and not bringing home oodles of great souvenirs…and what fun would that be!
In all seriousness I splurged on a car, about $85USD a day, and on handcrafts but I frequently ate skyr for breakfast (Icelandic yogurt, costs about $3USD for a few meals worth), snacked on apples, nut butter and hard boiled eggs for lunch and then ate out for dinner. Managing to pay somewhere between $16-35 USD and frequently coming in around $22 USD. Tipping isn’t customary or expected in Iceland and tax is included on food, so you at least know that the price the menu will be what’s on the bill.
It looked like there were a lot of restaurants with mouthwatering “New Nordic Cuisine” that I would have loved to indulge in. But that would likely have meant dinners in the $60-70 range for a starter and meal without any alcohol…for one person. Maybe I’ll save up and plan on that for another trip. For me it was worth spending my money on sheepskin rugs and lace dresses and eating finger foods in the car.
Plus I really enjoyed the fish soup on multiple occasions and it was often the most economical choice on the menty! Mmm, this bowl from in Café Skuld in Húsavík was by far my favorite.
3. You like to sleep
There is so much to see and do in Iceland, that it’s hard to pack it in without losing some sleep.
I’m sure you could go and have a restful vacation but you’d have to consciously limit yourself to not exploring what’s around the next bend. I frequently wouldn’t make it to a campground until after 10pm and was often on the road again by 7am, trying to fit in as much as possible. Because while you like to think you can make it back sometime, it’s never that easy once you’re home. And there was so much I didn’t want to miss!
4. You Can’t read Icelandic
Icelanders speak phenomenal English, both in the city and the countryside. But that doesn’t mean that much of the signage is also in English. So even if words like “Kirkjubæjarklaustur” scare you…you’ve got to at least start wrapping your brain around written Icelandic. Slowly learning to pick out the smaller words nestled in that big long scary word, and start to pick out the commonalities that might indicate hill (fell or brekka), mountain (fjall), lake (vatn), fiord (fjord…see you’re getting there) vík (bay) and so on….And this is why:
On my last day I stopped by the Blue Lagoon, at this point I’d been driving in Iceland for 14 days and navigating without the benefit of a co-pilot or a GPS, just a paper map and good luck. But I was on my way to the airport and thought I’d stop off and check out Iceland’s number one tourist destination. Well I did make it there, but not before missing the turn off…twice. I was just sure they’d have a big sign…they make such a big deal about that place, but no….this is the sign and if you don’t know that Bláa Lónið means Blue Lagoon you probably aren’t going to turn at the right spot. Especially since these guys didn’t happen to be standing by calling attention to the sign in the first place.
5. You Don’t Want to Be Naked in Public
Icelanders are serious about showering before getting in to any hot pots, swimming pool or sauna. Sans bathing suit.
You shower and soap up then put your bathing suit on, then head out into the communal pools. It’s a great idea, since most lack any chlorine or other additives. But this means you’ve got to get down to your birthday suit on a regular basis which is actually pretty refreshing coming from the body-conscious states. It starts to seem pretty normal once you get used to it and how can you complain with unlimited high pressure hot showers.