First Impressions of Iceland!

I’ve been in Iceland for a couple of days now, and all I can say is WOW! It’s everything I expected and then some.

I’ve been quite busy with work so while I’ve toured Reykjavik and the surrounding areas, I hope to start doing bigger excursions tomorrow. In the meantime I figured I’d share my initial thoughts based on my first couple of days:

1. I can’t stop smiling…

There are some places you always dream of going, and for me Iceland has been at the top of that list for a very long time. I had the biggest grin on my face when I walked through the arrivals hall, and it hasn’t worn off yet (well, at least as long as I’m outside my hotel room). It’s just perfect, from the weather to the landscape. Wow, wow, wow…

2. Iceland is f$%*@#^ gorgeous!

From before I even landed, my eyes have been glued to the countryside. I’m not exaggerating when I say it feels like a different planet to me.


I went to the Blue Lagoon yesterday, and while it’s touristy and way overpriced, it was one of the coolest thing I’ve ever witnessed (with one major caveat, which I’ll write about below).


The Blue Lagoon is closer to the airport than Reykjavik, and the drive was stunning. I went to the Blue Lagoon in the evening, and as we drove back I witnessed the sunset from the bus. Usually sunsets make me think about life and/or sad, but in this case I just smiled nonstop at the beauty.



3. Iceland is f$%*@#^ expensive!

I’m not sure whether Iceland is more gorgeous or expensive. It’s a close race for sure.

The below broccoli dish yesterday cost me over $50USD.


I’m pretty sure I’ve spent about $100 on cappuccinos since I got here, and I really haven’t had that many…


Iceland makes Zurich look cheap by comparison, in my opinion.

4. The locals seem removed

I’ve only been here a couple of days so don’t want to judge a country’s people, though this post is about sharing my initial impressions. But let me contrast it to Portugal, where I just came from. I didn’t really have any expectations as to the friendliness of the locals, though found them to be extremely friendly, almost suspiciously so. It really caught me off guard.

Maybe it’s just that the locals in Portugal exceeded my expectations so much, but by comparison I haven’t really felt like the locals in Iceland have been friendly or especially “warm” (I mean, they do live in Iceland, after all). 😉


On one hand I’d probably be miffed as well if my country was totally overrun by tourists the part of the year where it’s actually pleasant out, but at the same time that’s also how a lot of locals make a living, so…

I’ll see if it gets better, though so far I’m certainly not feeling like I’m going to be invited to anyone’s house for dinner on this trip.


5. I don’t do well with public nudity/locker rooms

I admit it. I’m a total American when it comes to this. I went to the Blue Lagoon yesterday, and I spent about half an hour hyperventilating between “witnessing” the locker room and actually changing.


I’m a bit of a prude and a total germaphobe. I can usually handle a locker room. But a locker room with literally over a hundred people in it is more than I can handle. There was just a lot going on, and none of it pleasant, so…

As far as my germaphobia goes, stupidly I didn’t bring flip flops — I figured I could rent them, since you can rent swimming trunks, bathrobes, etc. And that turned out to be one of my biggest challenges of the day.


The floor of the locker room is flooded with water, and there are urinals, and I don’t know how good peoples’ aim is, and…


Let’s just say I feel like I overcame a fear by the time I left….

Iceland bottom line

Love, love, love it so far, and can’t wait to see more!

Filed Under: Travel
  1. @ Lucky, Are you able to take pics of the lagoon without having to commit to getting in a bathing suit and going through the locker room, i.e. is there an overlook for fully clothed tourists? I don’t even like public swimming pools, so the flooded locker room floor with that many people in it would be a deal breaker for me. 🙁

  2. @ LindaK — Yep, there is indeed a lookout on top of the restaurant. You have to either buy a ticket or eat at the restaurant to use it, though.

  3. Ben..did you find any cheap eats places there? Im sure there has to be…..or is that not your ‘cup of tea’?

  4. Renting swimming trunks?! This germaphobe thing is very selective indeed. I think I’d have felt more comfortable going au natural than wearing such things and I’m far from a germaphobe! Glad your having a good time. Skip a cappuccino and invest in some swimwear!

  5. Renting swim trunks? WTF!!!!!! Renting flip flops? WHAT??? I guess after this I have to go back to Merrian Webster dictionary and review the meaning of the word “Germaphobe”. Even if you live out of a suitcase you can buy cheap swim trunks and flip flops before you go to places like Iceland and just dispose them before you leave. At least they are yours and you can assume nobody else used them.

  6. Visit the Westman Islands. You will LOVE IT. Sterna tours (in Reyjkavik) has a day tour where they take you on a bus to the ferry terminal, after a 30 minute ferry ride you get a fabulous day tour of the islands to see how the volcano swallowed the town in the 1970’s. You also get a boat ride around the island to see puffins. FInally, you fly home on Eagle Air in a little Beech landing right in downtown Reyjkavik. Dont miss the brand new volcano museum in Heimaey! THis was by far the best thing i did while in Iceland in June. 2nd best thing was the golden circle tour in the evening – no crowds! I too smiled the whole time i was there. My fav restaurant is Sjavargrillid (Seafood Grill). ENjoy

  7. Could we inject some biological reality into this discussion?

    First, most “germs” are harmless.

    Second, when you go swimming in a public pool, it is going to be filled with all kinds of microbes (because if the chlorine level were high enough to kill them all, it would kill you too. Or at least harm you.). So it doesn’t really matter whose swimming trunks you are wearing. Whatever is living in them will get diluted to near nothing by the pool water, and your major risk is from whatever is in that water.

    Third, there’s a reason why local governments regulate the chlorine level in pools: it’s set at a value that kills enough microbes that the risk of infection from them is very low (but not so high that it’s harmful to people). You’re probably more likely to get an airborne infection from walking down the street than a waterborne infection from swimming in a public pool.

    Fourth, washing swim trunks makes them pretty clean. Not sterile, but that’s a pretty high bar. I suspect that the company that rents the trunks washes them with bleach and/or high temperature, so they are just as clean as, say, hotel towels.

    Since Ben uses hotel towels, it’s perfectly rational for him to use rented swim trunks. Even if he is a germophobe.

  8. Lucky – you are a weird germaphobe 😉 are you sure you are even a germaphobe? Have you been tested like Sheldon Cooper’s mom had him tested for “crazy”? 🙂 I am not a germaphobe, but I wouldn’t go near someone else’s flip flops (or any feet accessories) or undergarments (essentially what swim trunks are).

  9. We spent 3.5 weeks in Iceland in 2011. Crazy beautiful. Crazy expensive. We saved money by camping, bringing our own food, etc. We ate one proper meal in a restaurant. Otherwise, too expensive. In Reykjavik, there are a few affordable noodle options. Also, the Blue Lagoon is awesome. No pools of water in the ladies room. I posted several photos/stories in the Barclay’s Travel Community (amysadventures) if readers need any suggestions.

  10. Iceland is the perfect country, in my opinion. It has the most of everything you’d want, and the least of everything you don’t want. I would move there, if it were feasible. Svalbard is a close second. I found the people to be very warm and friendly…give it some time.

  11. I still can’t believe you ordered the $51 broccoli when, at the same price, you could have ordered the beef, or langoustines, or lamb! 😉

    I went to Iceland in the winter and blue lagoon was practically empty. Even the locker room only had 3-5 other people in it. If you love Iceland so much, I suggest going back in the winter and catch a glimpse of the northern lights!

  12. Two things:

    – Try the hakarl. 🙂

    – Nylon hiking shorts from Columbia Sportswear. They dry pretty fast and double nicely as swim trunks/board shorts, and you can wear them as shorts.

  13. Agreed on looking like a different planet in some areas – incredible. We absolutely loved Iceland when we visited in June.

    For food – you’ll see it referenced everywhere, but Laundromat (downtown) had really good food and it was at least a little less than $50 broccoli. We also really liked Sea Baron (right by the whale watching boats on the harbor) for their simple fish skewers & lobster bisque. Again not cheap – but cheap-er. Or you could just skip a meal like we did one night and got Eldur & Is ice cream & a crepe.

    Oh – and the lounge at Hilton Nordica has a decent cappuccino machine available all day. Beautiful view too.

  14. I visited Iceland in early November last year and also absolutely loved it. At that time of year, even with the Airwaves music festival going on, the Blue Lagoon was not crowded at all, and I easily could have spent more time there had I not been heading to the airport. A local cafe serving Icelandic dishes that I enjoyed is Cafe Loki, very close to the Hallgrímskirkja church. But, yes, the prices can be a bit of a shock, even when you go there knowing to expect expensive. All well worth it, tho. Enjoy!

  15. I can honestly say that I think you have been completely cured of your germaphobia. I am sitting in my office FREAKING OUT about your locker room experience. OMG. Dude. Stuff on my feet. I….jiaosjdiojoaschadiuhuiah…..I just….can’t. Renting flip flops. Renting swim trunks. I am a germaphobe. I don’t go to bathrooms that look too dirty even when I have on shoes and have never once sat on a public toilet (as a female, this is quite the accomplishment). I’m a weirdo like that.

    Other than that, I’m glad you’re having a wonderful time!

  16. Yes, Iceland is expensive, but I arrived there from Norway and actually found it cheap by comparison! After a week in Norway, the prices in Iceland were a welcome relief.

  17. Iceland is like being on the moon. It’s just so different from the rest of Europe. Try the puffin and whale. Two foods you will not find in many other parts of the world! The Blue Lagoon is one of those interesting things to check off your list. Now you just need to go visit a glacier or play golf by teeing off after midnight.

  18. @Lucky, did you actually go into the Blue Lagoon? If you did, the wet locker room floor is the LEAST of your problems! You know those pots of mud they have distributed around the perimeter of the pool so you can coat your face with the mystical healing powers of the Lagoon’s deposits? They’re there for a reason. They harvest the mud and run it through a process to remove all the hair and god-knows-what-else before putting it out in the buckets. I found that out the hard way. The Lagoon isn’t a typical public pool. It doesn’t get cleaned and they don’t use chlorine. They rely on the minerals in the water and the fact that the water is constantly being replaced to keep it “clean.” But Mother Nature can only keep up with so many thousands of tourists! I’ve done it once, don’t think I’ll do it again. *cringe*

    Hot springs and public baths are a big part of the Icelandic culture and they take them VERY seriously. You MUST shower before you get in one, you MUST use the soap in the dispensers, and you MUST wash ALL the areas of your body indicated on the posters displayed in each shower stall. One of the baths we went to even had an attendant in the women’s locker room who would watch you and yell at you if you weren’t doing it right (or so I was told by the girls in our group). By the way, if you don’t want to further your locker room trauma you can often find t-shirts in the tourist shops with the bath house washing diagram reprinted on the front. I almost bought one but couldn’t justify the cost.

    Speaking of expensive, pop into the liquor store if it’s open (they’re only open 4-5 hours a day). It’s right around the corner from the Radison Blu 1919. Talk about sticker shock…$30 for a bottle of Yellow Tail?!

    I would recommend splurging on one thing: a proper Icelandic down jacket. They’re awesome and perfect for traveling. They weigh nothing, compress down to the size of a pair of gym socks rolled together, keep you comfortable in temps ranging from bitter cold to slightly chilly, and keep you dry. I got mine off a clearance rack for half off and it was still expensive but very, very worth it!

    One last thing: There’s a restaurant across from the Hallgrimskirche called Cafe Loki that serves a sampler of traditional Icelandic delicacies. It’s aptly named Braveheart on the menu. I know you’re like me and love to sample the local cuisine as much as possible but with that one…just don’t.

    Have fun! Iceland is a remarkable country!

  19. Did you notice the one way mirrors where staff watch to make sure you shower before you enter the lagoon? And the Lagoon doesn’t have chlorine- it’s a geothermal pool. I loved Iceland!

  20. Maybe the guy was on break, when I was there it was right as you exit the locker room to the lagoon.

  21. As for the food, most cafes serve lobster soup for around $20-25, which comes with unlimited bread and a refill.

    We also liked this place:
    It serves all kind of small dishes. 2-3 should be able to fill you up nicely. Especially liked the Skyr (Iceland’s version of yoghurt) for desert

  22. I’m surprised you didn’t smile and shower in the locker room. i certainly would in a giant women’s locker room!

  23. Couldn’t agree more with david. Germaphobia and the rental of footwear and undergarments seem to be completely mutually exclusive.

  24. Someone over on the Iceland boards over at TripAdvisor admitted to not showering and, wow, people really lost their sh*t over it. The Icelandic people are really protective of their hot springs.

  25. Umm, wow, you didn’t shower? Neither before or afterwards, and you call yourself a germaphobe? :p

    There are even shower stalls with doors for privacy there, so if hiding your dick is very important, you could go into the stall wearing the swimming trunks and remove them inside before showering properly. Although it seems rather immature, and we don’t really care here in the Nordics.

  26. Haha you definitely need to work on your Germanic rather than American side, Lucky – wearing underwear *under* the swimming trunks?! Lol never even thought of doing that. Don’t think you’d cope with the health club/sauna in a hotel I visited in a ski resort in Austria – it was mixed and nudity was mandatory with very clear signs!

  27. Hah! I’m an American and I LOVE co-ed nudity. Germany did it with it’s saunas, good stuff. Can’t wait to chill nude with my fellow homies in Iceland this March. I’m going and I’ll definitely not be hyperventilating when I get into the co-ed saunas and geothermal pools. I’ll be stripped nekkid.

  28. Big One Mile at a Time fan and came across this article doing some research for an upcoming Iceland trip. Realize the article is old now but felt the need to comment.

    Don’t lump all Americans in with your locker room prudishness! Granted I’ve never been to some of the European coed nude saunas so I don’t know how I’d react there but where I’m from in the upper Mid-Atlantic/Northeast US locker room nudity is pretty normal. We still shower nude in a communal shower after high school gym class (at least we did 10 years ago), showers at the local YMCAs are still communal. I remember the mens locker room at my local swim club when I was growing up and thinking the kids that walked from the showering area to the changing room wearing bathing suits were pretty odd for not being nude, like they had something to hide.

    Not sure where Lucky is originally from but sounds like the regional culture there makes same sex communal nudity a weird or shameful thing. Strange to hear. We’re all shaped differently but we’ve all got the same parts!

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