As we watched a colossal rainbow originating from the gorge next to the waterfall, we wondered whether Iceland was the proverbial pot of gold we’ve been told to look out for all our lives”

I still don’t know why but I believe with every fiber of my being that people have connections; spiritual ones, with certain lands or places. I certainly did in Iceland.

It’s hard to put into words how exactly Iceland felt, it’s cold… yes, but that’s a given; with a country that has the word ‘ice’ in its name. Iceland had this vibe, a vibe or feel if you will, that I honestly never felt before or after my trip. It felt like nothing can go wrong, a place where the bad can never reach you or creep up on you. Despite the heavy cold air, the atmosphere felt light. It was peaceful beyond belief.

Consistently rated the most peaceful of all countries in the world by the Global Peace Index, Iceland has reduced its military expenditure to zero, has no armed forces, and has reduced the inequality gap between rich and poor. Not to mention, it currently has zero prisoners; therefore converting it’s only and oldest prison to a hotel to accommodate the boom in tourism the country has seen in the last few years.

Basic info. in regards to the country:

Capital: Reykjavik

Official Language: Icelandic

Population: 330,000

Currency: Icelandic Krona

The Weather and Daylight:

In Iceland, the weather is the biggest character you deal with every day. There’s nothing more relevant in your life than what kind of weather it is.

My trip was during my Christmas break. Temperatures were inevitably going to be subzero. It was between -3 to -12 during our week stay.

In the summer months, the highs are 12-15 Celsius.

During the winter months, the sun rises at around 10am and sets at 3pm. Giving a maximum of 5 hours of daylight. In summer however, the sun only sets for around 3 hours. Giving you ample time to explore without having to worry about being stranded in the dark.

The People:

Leading up to my trip to Iceland, I was nervous as to how our interactions with the locals would go, me being Arab and all was not taken kindly by people in some countries; Iceland being secluded and isolated from any neighboring countries I didn’t know what to expect.

The people are beyond friendly. Everyone is so nice and helpful; none of that constant staring we see in some countries either. In terms of communication, they all speak perfect English, from store clerks to waiters to taxis and bus drivers.

Costs of Living:

Reykjavik is crazy expensive. A burger could easily cost you anywhere from 6-10kd. Accommodation is also expensive, as are the tours and activities. So, save up!

Currency exchange is completely unnecessary. During my visit, I was never in need to use cash at all! In fact, after researching everything, I chose to not convert money and just use my Visa. Iceland is extremely technically advanced and you can pay for anything with your Visa or Mastercard.

Food:

Not good. If there was one down side to Iceland, it’s the ridiculously basic and bland food that is rarely worth its price.

Visa required? Yes, a Schengen will work just fine. In case you’re looking to apply specifically for an Icelandic visa then as a Kuwaiti passport holder, you’ll need to apply for it through the German Embassy in Kuwait.

Flight information:

Best way to get to Iceland is through Icelandair. Icelandair flies from most European countries.

I personally travelled with KLM, had a layover at Amsterdam and hopped on Icelandair. KLM provides a full trip including the tickets for Icelandair, landing at Keflavik International.

Tip 1: If you catch a night time flight with Iceland air, the aircraft is illuminated with lights to mimic the aurora borealis!
Tip 2: Opt for a window seat, you would not want to miss the spectacular views!

 Once you arrive, there are a couple of shuttles that will take you straight to your hotel, no pre-booking necessary! The name of the companies:

– Flybus         -Grayline

I chose Grayline for their cheaper price and onboard Wi-Fi.

Itinerary:

Day 1:

South Iceland tour including a Glacier hike. Booked through Grayline.is

Link: http://grayline.is/tours/reykjavik/south-coast-waterfalls-and-glacier-hike-8706_31

It was a full day tour with pickup beginning at 8:30am from the hotel lobby.

Highlights include:

-Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

-Skogafoss Waterfall

-Black Sand beach, Vik

-Reynisdrangar rock pillars

-Glacier Hike on Sólheimajökull

Day 2:

After a long trip and bruises on our legs from the glacier hike, we opted to go to the Blue Lagoon for a proper day of relaxation and rejuvenation. Indali3 nafsna shway, lol. Don’t worry about the temperature outside; the water is super warm! It’s like swimming in a warm cup of milk.

“Set in the surreal surroundings of an ancient lava field on the Reykjanes peninsula, this geothermal wonder is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate.  It features the Lagoon, several saunas, a healthy restaurant and various spa treatment options. Blue Lagoon has been selected the best Medical/Thermal spa and one of the top 10 spas in the world”

Don’t go for the resturaunt, its not that good and definetly not worth the price. Claims of the pools being medicinal are 100% true in my opinion. Your skin is reborn and rejuvenated in a way that no product can achieve for you!

Pre-Booking required. You can also book the transportation to and from your hotel to the Blue Lagoon.

Link: http://www.bluelagoon.com

*Tip 1: Book for the earliest entry possible! Trust me, you’ll want to be there before the hordes of tourists enter the waters. You’ll practically have the place all to yourself. We went at 8am. After people start to show up, you can leave and go explore the surrounding moss fields and bright blue lakes.

*Tip 2: Condition or cover your hair before going in, the minerals in the waters although healthy for your skin, can make your hair super dry and tangled. Conditioners are available in the changing areas.

*Tip 3: Don’t buy any of their products from the shops, they are available at the airport during departure with no tax!

After the Blue Lagoon, take a stroll in the main shopping street, Laugavegur. Don’t forget to check the “Handknitting Association of Iceland” for local hand made traditional Icelandic sweaters. Dinner at Hamborgarabúllan for the best burgers in town, a small joint unknown to tourists.

Day 3:

We woke up early and went for breakfast at “The Grey Cat Café”, set in a basement to fight the freezing temperatures, this place had good food and the ambience was just perfect for that cold dark snowy morning.

We then headed to Hallgrímskirkja; the cities tallest building that also happens to be one of the most beautifully designed churches I’ve ever entered. Take the elevator to the top to have a wonderful 360 view of the capital.

After that, we grabbed one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had to date! Nutella hot chocolate from Eldur and Is. We then waited for our bus to pick us up for our Horse ride along the lava fields!

Tour booked through Ishestar. Link: http://ishestar.is/tours/lava-tour

Clothing is provided along with the helmet and transportation. If you’re allergic to fur/animal hair, I suggest you remain cautious. I don’t have any sort of allergies when it comes to animals, but I found out through this trip that I’m allergic to the heavy coats of the Icelandic horse. Go figure. Wheezed my way back to the hotel after, but was SO worth it.

This is a one of a kind chance to ride on the same purebred steeds that the Vikings themselves used; the Icelandic horse is adorably fluffy and gentle.

Dinner afterwards at Chuck Norris Café, good burgers and awesome fries!

Day 4:

Snorkeling in the icy waters between the North American and European plates.

Iceland is located on top of the two tectonic plates mentioned above. These plates are moving in opposite directions; splitting Iceland in half.

Glacier waters have filled the gaps between these two plates making for a ridiculously fun snorkeling experience!

Booked through ExtremeIceland. Link: https://www.extremeiceland.is/en/activity-tours-iceland/snorkeling/snorkeling-in-silfra

You’ll want to bail out at the last minute, my friend and I almost passed on going through with it despite paying. It was -10 that day and the last thing we wanted to do was get wet. However, we manned up and jumped in. It was an experience like no other!

Suits, and equipment included. Pictures come at an additional cost.

Day 5:

The Golden Circle is a group of landmarks located at equal distances from each other. It includes the mighty falls Gulfoss, which translates to golden waterfall, the geyser and thingvellir natural park reserve (Location of some of the sets from the show Game of Thrones).

The hike around the waterfalls can be a bit tricky during the winter months, so be careful. As for the Geysirs, it erupts every few minutes, so you don’t have to wait ages in the cold to see this beautiful natural phenomena.

Tour booked through ExtremeIceland.

Link: https://www.extremeiceland.is/en/sightseeing-tours/day-tours/south-west-corner/the-golden-circle-afternoon

Day 6:

Our final day in Iceland L

On this day, we decided to explore the city since everything was closed for Christmas. We went to the renowned Opera house, the sun voyager (which represents the first Viking settlers), we even had a go at an escape room for the heck of it! Finished off our last minute shopping and walked around the pedestrian friendly capital.

At night, fighting much needed sleep and rest; we decided to go hunt for the northern lights as our final goodbye to this beautiful country.

The bus takes you to the highlands, where there is no light pollution besides the stubborn and careless tourist camera flashes. The only thing lighting our surroundings is the perfect full moon. It was extremely bright and magical. A sight for the eyes to remember forever.

Additional things to consider:

Iceland is currently one of the major musical capitals in the world. It’s estimated that one person in a group of 30 is a musician. The music scene in Iceland is bigger than what the population leads you to believe. I suggest that if you have a chance to check out your favorite artist or happen to come across a live concert (Which is not at all that difficult in Iceland), grab a seat and enjoy. Music is a big part of Icelandic cultures and it’s what the locals take pride in the most considering it’s the one of the only thing making the world acknowledge their country’s existence.

I was fortunate enough to attend a small private concert by Sóley thanks to Kexland (Right in the front row too!). The concert was performed in front of a group of 20 with a very chilled out atmosphere. It was exciting as I have been a fan for a while, I truly felt super lucky!

In Iceland, you can see the contours of the mountains wherever you go, and the swell of the hills, and always beyond that the horizon. And there’s this strange thing: you’re never sort of hidden; you always feel exposed in that landscape. But it makes it very beautiful as well.

The land is alive, and as you come to a new valley, as you come to a new landscape, you have a certain view. If you stand still, the landscape doesn’t necessarily tell you how big it is. It doesn’t really tell you what you’re looking at. The moment you start to move the mountain starts to move.

It’s truly a destination like no other. Grab your passport and go! What are you waiting for?!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this article as much as I’ve enjoyed typing it J

Abdullah AlSahlawi

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