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!
How much is the tour?
And how much money do you spent on the iceland trip?
Mira, I visited Iceland on December 2009, right after Iceland had gone through that deep recession due to their banks collapsing. For this reason, any prices I give you will be out of date. I can tell you this though: accommodation was FREE because I used Couchsurfing and stayed with the locals; I mostly ate food from the supermarkets in order to save a lot of money vs. eating out; we did a lot of hitchhiking because a lot of the locals do and that also saved us money in transportation costs. The tour company we used was Go Travel Iceland (now named Gateway to Iceland and we certainly recommend it! The owner is a SWEETHEART and so knowledgeable, we enjoyed the blue Lagoon, our Golden Circle tour, South Coast and northern lights excursions immensely.
After I graduate from high school I’m traveling to Iceland for awhile. I’m planning on saving up a good sum of money, but I’m probably going to couch surf. Any suggestions of what I should do to prepare? I’m definitely studying the language because it interests me and I live in northern Maine so I already have a good supply of heavy clothing, but any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated (:
Iceland can be expensive, and the Icelandic language is VERY hard! But for Couchsurfing I recommend you simply are a good guest. Clean up after yourself, offer to help, etc. hosts really appreciate that 🙂 also, please note, many Couchsurfing hosts have a limit of the week or less to host, so I wouldn’t see this as a very long-term solution unless you find someone that likes you very much and maybe allows you to stay for cheap rent or something like that 😉
Ahh, Iceland! A country I’ve yet to go to yet. I’ve only heard amazing things about it, and can’t wait to eventually go. I’m glad that you had an awesome time CouchSurfing. I love to CouchSurf, and I think it shows that people are fundamentally good, despite what the media would like us to believe with horror stories everyday.
couldn’t agree with you more Tom! Definitely get to Iceland, I can’t wait to go back myself. Such amazing people, such unbelievable country!
I was in Iceland about 7 years ago, and I fell in love. The people are warm (Icelanders have both Nordic and Irish heritage), and the landscape is amazing. Last time I was there it was summer, and the midnight sun and warm weather made it perfect for a visit.
love love LOVE Iceland. I was also very surprised at how warm the Icelanders are! For some reason, I thought Nordic people were a little more cold. However, I was so pleasantly surprised 🙂 I haven’t been there in the summer yet, can’t wait to go back and experience the midnight sun!
Just FYI, your “Go Travel Iceland” link is broken… I’m excited to go – I think I may do a horseback riding tour though 🙂
Thanks for the heads up! Just fixed it 😉
En recherche d’une possibilité d’être hébergé en Islande à tout petit prix, je ne sais pas quelles solutions se présentent…?
one of the reasons why I used Couchsurfing! 😉 Although the experience is simply that much better when you stay with a local vs a hotel
Iceland has recently become some place I’d really like to go… I just think it would be different and a spot a lot of people skip in their travels, even though everything I have seen about it looks great. Looks like you had a great time!
You must go Margyle! Iceland is certainly one of those places that truly surprise you. I was amazed at how much I loved (still do!) it, but then I look at the pictures, remember the landscapes, and understand why. The views were so foreign to me, I felt as if I was visiting a whole different planet. Iceland dropped my jaw, really. I can’t wait to go back and see it in the summer–which will be a completely different experience in itself. I can’t recommend this destination enough!
All these posts about Iceland are killing me. Flights are so expensive from the West Coast! I’m definitely bookmarking this post for when we finally make it there.
Hey Christy! My advice to you is to simply book cheap domestic fligths from West Coast to East coast (Southwest?) then book a different flight (different reservation!) to Iceland and connect both reservations. This way, fligths are *much* cheaper! I have done this trick (string together different reservations from different low-cost carriers) all around the world and have saved SO much money. The bonus of it all is that you get to visit even more places for far less than a RT ticket from point A to point B would cost! Try this and I’m sure you’ll be heading to Iceland VERY soon 😉
You look so cold in the first couple pictures, but it seems like the friendliness of the locals helped warm you up.
OMG this looks amazing! I will one day get 3 pairs of thermal everything and make my way to Iceland!