Iceland: First Impressions

Mike and I are nearing the end of Day 2 in Iceland, though you’d never know it by looking at the sun. Last night it was still light out when we went to bed around midnight.

We arrived early in the day on July 5th and took our time exiting the airport. That was partly because we had plenty of time and partly because the weather outside was uninviting. Not that it mattered — we took a taxi to our first destination.

We arrived at the home of a gracious couchsurfing host family just a few minutes later since they live only 3 miles from the airport in Keflavik. Not only did they provide us with a bed, a shower, and good conversation, but they also agreed to store our boxes for the summer so that we can use them to pack up our bikes for the way home.

(This photo is from our arrival in Buffalo, NY, but we took the same boxes luggage to Iceland)

Today we started our trip in earnest since we actually hopped on the bikes for a while. We only went about 15 miles, but we stopped a lot along the way and settled down early at an amazing campground! We invested in a camping card, which grants us access to over 40 campgrounds around Iceland. If even half of them are as pleasant as this one, or even if all of them are half as pleasant, we’ll be spoiled rotten. The Grindavik campground we’re at tonight has clean showers, free wifi, an indoor common room/kitchen area (with a stove, pots, a microwave, a panini press, and more), and several other amenities we won’t use.

Okay, here’s a quick list of first impressions:

+ Icelanders are pretty chill when it comes to security. Customs was a breeze. There isn’t supposed to be much crime here, so I guess that explains it.

+ Icelanders seem to like their alcohol. We’d heard this before, of course, but it’s still a bit surprising to see how much they wheel out of the airport’s Duty Free shop.

+ It’s a bit chilly here, but I think I brought enough warm clothes . . . as long as I wear all of them at once. For part of the day today I was wearing four layers on top and bottom (a workout tank top, workout long-sleeve top, hooded sweatshirt, and rain jacket on top; bike shorts, long underwear, hiking pants, and rain pants on bottom).

+ Not only is it cold, but the weather is a bit schizo. One minute it’s sunny, and the next it’s rainy and dreary. So far it’s always windy. Very windy.

+ Icelandic is ridiculously difficult to pronounce, remember, or spell correctly. Although I plan to learn some of the language, I don’t have high hopes. I won’t have to worry much for the most part since Icelanders speak English pretty well, but I’ll still have to deal with place names. I’ll have to look into whether I can import the additional letters so that I can type them in my blog.

+ The landscape is already pretty cool, and we’re not even in the most famous parts of the country yet. The volcanic rocks and tundra-like plants are pretty neat. There are also ocean views aplenty.

+ Speaking of plants, the moss covering many of those volcanic rocks is so cool! It’s so thick and springy you could easily sleep on it without a mat or anything.


+ There are a lot of bike tourists here. We saw some at the airport yesterday, we saw some on the road as we taxied to our couchsurfing stop, and we saw more at our campground. It seems like this is the busiest spot for July bike touring outside of Iowa!

+ Damn, this campground is nice!

+ I don’t know the nationality of the other campers here, but I’d guess they’re mostly Icelandic or European of some variety. Anyway, they sure as hell know how to make food while camping. Mike and I heated up some soup as the other groups prepared 5-course meals. We are surrounded by gourmands washing down their eggplant Parmesans with a couple cans of Icelandic beer.

+ Icelanders are tough! If this is their pleasant summer weather, I’m impressed they survive the winter.

+ The geothermal heating they use is pretty cool. Our couchsurfing hosts had radiator heating units in each room. They even had a heated bath towel rack made up of pipes snaking up the wall.

+ Icelanders also have super awesome summer camps for kids. The son of our couchsurfing hosts returned last night from his camp. A news crew was out there during the week, so his mom showed us the footage. The camp has a cool obstacle course and a climbing wall. The kids get to learn how to tie knots and use a compass and lash poles for shelters and all kinds of good things. Stefan (the son) was excited that the kids got to go on a 3-hour hike by themselves.

+ Food is expensive here, but it’s pretty darn cheap in Phoenix. Even New York had significantly higher prices. I suspect we’ll continue to eat sad little meals instead of the gourmet fare.

+ Mike says the lighting is really nice after 8 pm for photos. The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are considered golden hours by photographers back home. Mike thinks its likely that each “golden hour” here is likely closer to 4 hours since the sun sits so low on the horizon for so long. Unfortunately for you, you’ll have to wait a while for Mike’s photos. He won’t be doing much editing while we’re on the road.

Okay, that’s enough for now. My quick post turned into a long catalogue. Catch you later!


One Response to “Iceland: First Impressions”
  1. We promise not to tell if you do decide to use the panini presses 😀

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