Don’t Be Disappointed in Iceland – Just Know What to Expect!

You’ve seen the advertisements: clear skies, great northern lights, people sunbathing in the summer, standing alone on Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, endless views… And you didn’t see the sun, the Northern Lights tour was cancelled, and there were loads of people on Reynisfjara. Were the advertisements lying? No. But just like with any advertisements, they only show you the best of the best.

Is Iceland everything it is advertised to be? Well, we would, of course, like to think it is. It is possible to be disappointed in Iceland. There are just certain things you have to have in mind.

There Are So Many Tourists – Can You be Alone in Iceland?

Yes! With increasing tourism, it has become harder to enjoy sightseeing spots alone or mostly alone. But it is possible. The shoulder seasons are an excellent time to come (April/May – September/October) to be without crowds.

Alternatively, might have your sights set on the midnight sun. In that case, it is well possible to do all sightseeing late in the evening and into the night. Just be careful not to drive tired.

The Weather – It is Cloudy a Lot of The Time.

Mt. Kirkjufell. Photo: Joe deSousa, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

It won’t be said enough; the Icelandic weather is notoriously fickle. You might even experience not seeing the sun once while you’re here. Not because it is dark all the time (it can be almost dark all the time, though) but because there are just clouds. Clouds everywhere. That’s also why photographs from Iceland are often so moody and why we have so many words for clouds, snow, rain, and wind! If you know this and know what to expect, it is hard to be disappointed in Iceland. It’s also good to know that the summer months aren’t necessarily the months with the most sunshine hours. It sounds backwards, but it is what it is. Check out our post on the Weather in Iceland.

Does it rain or snow more in Iceland than in other places? Do we have fewer sunshine hours? It depends on what place you are comparing it to. Compared to Barcelona (Spain)? For sure. Compared to Seattle (USA), London (Britain), or Bergen (Norway), we’re pretty much on par with those places. Although, due to the short days in the winter, we have a lower percentage of possible sunshine than Seattle, for example.

Let’s look at a graph (very scientifically made with data from Wikipedia):

Gluten-Free Food and Decaf Coffee Are Hard to Find

three lattes

We’ve written a blog post about vegan food in Iceland. Generally, restaurants and supermarkets are good at offering something for vegans and vegetarians. We even have a large supermarket that has only vegan products! However, the same cannot be said for those who have celiac disease.

There are gluten-free products available in bigger supermarkets. Still, they can be harder to find in the smaller ones and rest stops around the country.

It doesn’t help travelers either that the ingredients list is usually always in Icelandic on the packages. But we recommend you just ask a staff member.

Processed food is most likely to have gluten in it. So, to be completely safe on the road, you should make something from scratch.

Decaf coffee is tough to find. Icelanders do not generally drink it, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a coffee house or a restaurant that offers it. You might find instant decaf coffee in some supermarkets, but it is not guaranteed. If that’s all you drink, we recommend you bring it with you.

Check out our blog on the Best Coffee Shops in Reykjavik if you drink regular coffee.

Eating Out is Expensive, and Alcohol is as Well.

Humarsúpa, sægreifinn

Everyone knows Iceland is expensive. Sometimes ridiculously expensive, especially when it comes to alcohol. Iceland has the highest alcohol taxes in Europe, which will be raised again on January 1, 2023.
Iceland’s cheapest restaurants are probably quite expensive for most travelers that come here. You will be hard-pressed to find anything substantial for under $15. There are, of course, sandwiches and stuff like that cost less, but generally, you will be looking at $17-35 per person per meal if you eat out.

The best price for alcohol is in the DutyFree shop when you enter the country. There’s a certain quota you’re allowed to buy (anything more than that you will have to pay a “regular” price for.
If Icelanders go out on the town, they will first drink a few beers and drinks at home before going downtown, as alcohol is the most expensive there.

But most bars have reasonable happy hour offers, and we recommend you download the appy hour app to find the best deals! For more important apps when travelling in Iceland, check out our blog on the best apps for Iceland.

If you want to try beers in a fun environment and learn about Icelandic culture simultaneously, we recommend you join our Reykjavik Beer & Booze tour! And for Icelandic food, we recommend you check out the Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour.

Reykjavik Beer & Booze Tour

For more information on this matter, check out our blogs How Expensive is Iceland? and Food Prices in Iceland

The Speed Limit For Narrow Roads

The speed limit might come as a surprise to you. It is never higher than 90 km/h (56 mi/h). You might be surprised to see that there aren’t many traffic police around on the highway, but instead, we have speed cameras at regular intervals.

That’s not to say that Icelanders always keep to the speed limit. But the limit is there for a reason. The roads are narrow, not necessarily straight, and can be bumpy. Sudden wind gusts are possible in certain areas and black ice.

Then You Must Leave

This might be the number one reason people feel disappointed in Iceland. No matter how long your holiday in Iceland is, it is somehow never enough.

cloudy reykjavik, disappointed in iceland

Some people loved it so much that they just moved to Iceland. But if you’re from outside the EU/EEA, you might find it extremely hard to move here.

You could, of course, marry someone. But even then, spouses of Icelandic people have been denied Visas. But the best way to move to Iceland, if you are from outside the EU/EEA, is to have something unique to offer. Some specialties the Icelandic economy needs.

Reykjavik pride celebrations

Iceland is a country like every other in the world, and we have our problems. We are fighting for the same things as everyone else, but just on a different scale. It is peaceful, though, and despite the sometimes seemingly endless darkness and snowstorms, it’s pretty good to live here. After all, we haven’t left yet, after almost 1200 years of settlement!

Don’t Leave Disappointed in Iceland!

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