Broadcast: Very, very windy. Weather in Iceland can be icy and calm, or windy and crazy during the winter, like in this picture! Locale: Reynisfjara volcanic ash beach, chosen as one of the Top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic.
Irregular terrain, beautiful formations, and glaciers make up part of the beauty of Iceland. Here, a glimpse of its countryside shot during my Iceland travel
Have you ever been to Iceland? What did you enjoy the most during your Iceland travel?
Ahh, some great memories from hitchhiking and Couchsurfing Iceland! Not only did I get to stay in a house full of great locals (having my own room and computer) for 6 days in the middle of Reykjavik, but even hitchhiked with others we met at the corner Icelandic sub place. And partied with all of them right after. These little spontaneous moments are what make my trips so memorable.
Iceland’s history is quite short in comparison to other European countries, as evidence of inhabitants only goes back to the 9th century. Incidentally, its first inhabitants seem to have been Norwegians, which settled in Reykjavik. Curiously, this happens to still be the country’s capital today.
Reykjavik, the world’s closest capital to the North Pole, is a cosmopolitan city that, at the same time, happens to be one of the “greenest” the world: 100% of the country’s electricity and approximately 80% of its total energy come from renewable sources, specifically geothermal and hydro-power. So fascinating! CO2 emissions are still high; yet, I believe this country is an example to be followed =) and talking about “green,” this reminds me of the following paradox, and favorite fact about Iceland: Greenland is mainly composed of ice, while Iceland is very green at least during the summer. Funny huh?
Geography and climate
Fortunately or unfortunately (the former to me!), I visited in the middle of winter, so landscapes were covered by a white blanket, reminding me of Santa Clause’s place! Which reminds me, Iceland is located almost too close to the Arctic circle for my (tropical) comfort. However, an interesting fact is that the Atlantic Ocean’s currents actually allow for relatively-pleasant seasons in Iceland and not the eternal, bitter coldness you would expect from a country with such geographical location. For instance, temperature fluctuated between -5 y -3*C (Celsius) approx. throughout my stay, while my friends in Boston, USA (significantly more south) were freezing, suffering temperatures below -9 C* plus windchill!!! Interesting how that works no?
Ahhh, I fell deeply in love with Iceland’s eerie geography. I never imagined I would encounter such landscapes, which seemed as if they were snapshots from a Winter Wonderland on a different planet. So cool!
Well, now that I have given you a little overview of this fascinating country, let me tell ya about my awesome trip!
Accommodation = Couchsurfing!
Couchsurfing Iceland babay!! 😉 my host’s name was Asgeir, although in his town home several people lived and many others came in and out throughout the 6 days I was there. My travel buddy at the time was Marcello Arrambide, or @wanderingtradr on Twitter, which I convinced to take his Couchsurfing Virginity 😉 I think he enjoyed it more than I did, so real cool!
We had several options: Innumerable couches and air mattresses on the living room or our very own guest room, with free personal computer included haha =P it was great, our host Asgeir always had so many friends around and they were all locals, so we got a feel of what it was to know an Icelander, their lifestyle, etc. They were very talkative! Gave us some delicious smoked whale (couldn’t help myself!), even took us to an Icelander rave party which was awesome–we were the only tourists! Basically, nothing short of amazing. This was one of those stays that really made me understand what Couchsurfing really is about: Getting to see the country from the locals’ perspective, feeling their warmth, their knowledge, going to places only they go to, etc.
And talking about the locals, they were much more affectionate than I was expecting. I mean, they kissed me on the cheek and hugged me and were “touchy”! I said I wasn’t expecting this because I have always been told that Nordic people are a little more “cold,” which doesn’t mean less nice but rather that they are not as “touchy” sp in comparison to Latin Americans! But I was wrong, at least with the people I met. It was so so nice =) by the way, I noticed there are many Spaniards living and studying in Iceland and vice-versa (Icelanders in Spain). I noticed this as I walked the streets of Reykjavik, hearing several people engaged in Spanish conversations! Curious me of course peeked into one of these groups and had to ask, “where are you guys from!? It is odd hearing people speaking Spanish all the way up here!” and that’s what the Spaniards told me =)
Another episode or so to speak that always brings a huge smile to my face is the time Marcello and I hitchhiked in Iceland–because we were urged by some locals to do so! We were eating dinner at a corner Icelandic sub place when apparently, my big black curly hair grabbed the attention of two young women. They just approached me, introduced themselves and started giggling as they played with my curls. Then they just went on full interview mode, asking what we were doing in Iceland, where were we from, etc. hey liked us so much they said we had to party with them! *big grin* I just looked at Marcello and we gave each other the “Let’s go!” head shake!
And here’s where things got interesting: After barhopping, the girls wanted to go to a different place a little further down the road. They just grabbed our arms, pulled us to the middle of the main road and said “ok, we hitchhiking!” I was like “huh?” lol! Literally in like a minute or two, a random car stopped by, they spoke in Icelandic where we were “going” and then gently shoved us inside the strangers’ car lol! And those “strangers” weren’t any different: They asked us about our travels, how cool it was we were visiting their country, etc. Soon enough, we were off to another Icelandic party at the bar (far) down the road. Gotta LOVE it! lol!
Things to do in Iceland
Of course, Marcello and I had to do some touristy stuff as well *wink* we saw many sites thanks to the travel agency Go Travel Iceland. Our guide, Gummi, was absolutely brilliant and knowledgeable. The service is very personalized and we saw sooo many places in so little time! The most amazing part about this is that in our little mini van we reached places that not even those agencies with 4×4’s reached. I’m telling ya, Gummi is the driver. We were all super impressed! A little scary at parts, where we were like uhhhh are we reeeally going UP there in this mini van? lol. But so so worth it =D
The Golden Circle tour
- Thingvellir (the world’s very first first parliament!)
- Haukadalur (geothermal area)
- Kerið (a very impressive crater)
- SEVERAL beautiful waterfalls
- Among many other sites!!
South Coast tour (my favorite!!!)
- No words to describe this tour, you MUST book it if you visit Iceland!!
- Reynisfjara beach (black volcanic ash, voted by NatGeo as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world)
- Seljalandsfoss (waterfall)
- Seljalandsfoss (waterfall)
- And many other random photo stops
I cried when I saw the Aurora. It is so crazy how you literally can hear it “sing,” too! It makes sounds as it brushes the sky with beautiful green hues. Oh dear here we go, I’m teary-eyed again just reminiscing! =’) great thing about it is that if you don’t get to see them your first night, you get a second trip half-off (as of 12/09)! Also, we “hunt” for the aurora for much longer than other groups, which gave up quite early. On that light, you need to be patient and go with tons of layers. But the rewards? Life-changing =)
Blue Lagoon + airport transfer
Such a timesaver. Visit one of Iceland’s most popular attractions either when coming from or relating to the airport!
I hope this is enough info to inspire you to visit Iceland some day, an amazing island indeed! If you have any questions or doubts about this country or my visit please do not hesitate to ask below in the comments section!
Have you hitchhiked or Couchsurfing Iceland? What was it like?!
So! I just came back from Couchsurfing in Orlando this weekend and was reminded, once more, of how wonderful is the community and how much spice they add to my travels, even locally! While I was absolutely exhausted from an all-day affair with NKOTBSB (VIP event + long freakin’ AWESOME concert!) and thus could not enjoy the city with my host as I usually would, it still put yet another smile on my face *grins* and so, I was inspired to write this post! Here you have a couchsurfing review and guide to get started =D (click on
any picture to enlarge!)
Are you a CouchSurfing Virgin? I’ll take it! For the past 3 years, this community has dramatically shaped the way I see people, other cultures, and life in general. Honestly, I don’t even quite remember how I found Couchsurfing. I do know, however, that it has changed my life. Seriously. My travel tales would have never been the same without the wonderful Couchsurfer, as they call themselves. And as the veteran Couchsurfer that I am, today I will introduce you to this popular subculture, hopefully brushing away your fears and taking your Couchsurfing virginity in the process *wink* I have taken it from several of my friends and they are all glad they did it with me (twss lol…), so I’m hoping this entry will do the same for you!
First, let’s start with a visual (right-click, open new window): Click here for my Couchsurfing profile.
Now that you have my profile as sample on a different window, keep reading this entry and put this window side-by-side with my profile so I can guide you through it!
Scroll down the page until you find a highlighted (light yellow) box saying “References.” I’ll start with that, as it is (in my opinion) the most essential feature of the site. Basically, you can “trust” the site as it has this feature, which happens to be similar to eBay’s feedback system. Here, you may read detailed references left by other Couchsurfers about your potential host or guest. They are categorized as positive, neutral or negative. This section is one of the deciding factors on whether I stay/meet up with the person or not. Not only do I look for positive references, but I also read them to make sure the Couchsurfer and I will be “a good fit” or so to speak. Needless to say, Couchsurfing is NOT a dating or free accommodation site. You stay or host people with the purpose of “traveling further” (if surfing) or “traveling without leaving home” (if hosting). This is a way of seeing and learning about a place from a local’s perspective, or a way of learning about a new culture from a traveler’s perspective. So, you want to make sure not only this person can be generally trusted, but also that you guys have some things in common so a connection is likely. See it as finding a travel buddy: While you may want someone different in order to learn new things, you also want to have certain things in common so you can connect. With all that said…
Read a person’s profile thoroughly before accepting or sending a couchsurfing request. This will further confirm whether you have things in common or not with this potential host/surfer. Also, if surfing, read the Couch information section carefully. It can be found on the left side of the user’s profile, right under the picture and Couchsurfer’s general info/interests. Read the rules, understand them. If you don’t agree with them, it isn’t a good fit, so don’t stay with that person. This is where house rules are usually displayed, so make sure you agree with them prior to sending a request.
So! Read this far and think you are up for it!? Want to get started!? Let’s do it!
Step 1: Register on Couchsurfing.org and fully fill your profile. Add a picture, talk extensively about your travel style, your personality and interests (specially if you haven’t traveled much yet). Many CSers will not accept a couchsurfing request or request your couch (if you wish to host) if your profile is empty and without a picture. So be sure your profile is presentable and a bit of a reflection of your personality prior to exploring the site further.
Step 2: Once your profile is dully filled, hover your mouse over the “Surf / Host” tab, then click on “Tips.” Read this section carefully and understand the community.
Step 3: While you could go straight to waiting for surfers to request your couch or go to “Couchsearch” immediately, I recommend you gather some references either from friends of yours that are already CSers and got references on the site or by joining Couchsurfing events on your community. You can simply go to the “Community” tab and browse through groups in your area. If traveling, see what CSers are doing in that city. This way, it is more likely to get surfers or have CSers accept your couchsurf requests, as you will already have some “credibility” in the community by having some positive references stacked up. This is how I started in Egypt and it helped me not only with getting CSers to host me, but also for me to trust the community and understand it a little better prior to surfing.
Step 4: So you got some nice references decorating the wall of your Couchsurfing profile? Then start Couchsearching (found under the same Surf / Host tab) or wait for the surfers to start requesting your couch!
Step 5: If you are a surfer, this is for you! Once you click on Couchsearch, fill in the appropriate fields. The form is quite self-explanatory and the site easy to navigate, so you should have no problems. Now, once you submit this form, follow the advice given by Couchsurfing under the “Tips” section and what I told you about references and couch requests above.
Step 6: Now let’s get to writing a Couchsurfing request! So you followed the tips? Read the couch information? Agree with the house rules? Now write your couchsurf request as personable as possible. Maybe comment on something you found funny on that Couchsurfer’s profile, or how you also visited Australia and loved it, or how you love dogs and can’t wait to meet his/hers. You get the deal! Also, read the couch info carefully more than once, as some Couchsurfers love to put “passwords” or keywords that you must insert into the couch request or else your request will be declined! For instance, I may say “please put ‘COLA’ on the title of your request so I know you read this section and my profile–or else I will not respond your request!” Some Couchsurfers go even further and hide this “password” somewhere in between their interests or even caption of their profile picture. So what’s the morale of the story: READ the profile and couch information carefully, more than once! Not only for the passwords, but this will simply let you know your potential host (or surfer!) fairly well so it is a blessing in disguise, really.
That should be enough for our Couchsurfing 101 course! I shall write some tales of my couchsurfing experiences worldwide later on, so stay tuned for more!
Have you ever gone Couchsurfing? If yes, tell me about an experience! If not, what else would you like to hear about Couchsurfing!?