So I went to Iceland - part 1 6/18 '19
I took my 8year old to Iceland for a week. Early June. In a nut shell, there was jaw dropping scenery and it is very easy to be an English speaking tourist there. Very recommended. I do expect I'll go back someday.
I'd never been to Iceland before, and I was overdue in adding a new country to my list. I've traveled a bunch so I'm not intimidated by international travel, especially not to Europe where I've been to lots. I did some research, brunched with some Icelanders before I left, booked a hostel, some bus tours and a puffin watching harbor cruise, and embraced the idea that I'm on vacation and vacation is not a the time to be too frugal.
Early June is before all the tourists arrive, but it's building. We were there June 10-16. Tourist season officially begins June 15. It never gets dark in Iceland in June. The sun goes down for a few hours, but it is still dusk lit.
Flights were affordable - direct from Philly even. We flew Icelandair. No complaints, a basic uneventful flight. Gone are the days of endless drinks and amenity packs for everyone I guess. The 8 year old did get free meal and a play pack, and Icelandair has reduced kids airfare which I had assumed were extinct. I guess just domestically extict (sigh). The 8 year old also got a number of comps this trip. Free use of the "pay to use" public toilets, free seats on some of the tours, free transfer to the airport, next to free entry to the swimming pool. So yay, bring your kid if you got one. These freebies dissipate by the time they are 11 from what I can tell.
Something to know about Iceland - the county is about the size of Pennsylvania or of New York State. The coast is habitable, the interior not so much. About 340,000 people live in the entire country, and 2/3rds of them live around Reykjavik. The whole country has less people than Cleveland. Or about 60,000 less people as we have in here in lower, slower Delaware. To this country of 340,000 come over 2 million tourists a year. Its been growing like crazy, up from 1 million in 2014, or 0.5 million in 2010 when that volcano erupted making everyone think: Cool! Let's go see Iceland! So yeah, tourism is big there. It is Iceland's largest industry these days, eclipsing fishing industries. And in some ways the infrastructure is struggling to keep up - for example our the tour bus planned stops around acceptable toilet facilities. And hotels and tours do fill up.
Hotels were pricey so I got us a hostel, which was still over $150 a night. Nothing against the hostel, it was a decent one, but next time I'll pay the extra $300+ for a proper hotel. Or an airBNB. But I'm naturally a penny pincher, so I got us a hostel. I just poked around booking.com again, and yeah, for an extra $300 we could have gotten an apartment. Maybe next year. (Though next year I kinda want to go to Spain.)
Food was also pricey, and a picky 8 year old means we didn't explore the options much. I'm the opposite of picky, which also means I'm not into exploring. If it's edible, I'll eat it.
For food, we did a bunch of supermarket sandwiches. We had lots of pop-tarts, chocolate, bread, chips, crackers, chocolate crackers, cheese, & ice cream. We also split one banana, labeled as grown in Ecuador. For local food, they have a yogurt like thing called skyr (which tastes like yogurt, but apparently is made differently) that we liked. I really liked the lamb soup - kinda like beef stew but with lamb, found at overpriced tourist restaurants all over Iceland. I had 3 bowls on our 6 day trip. We tried the smoked lamb on flatbread and both (!!!) loved it - it's really rich though, more an hors d’oeuvres than something I could do a meal. We drank a lot of water, straight from the tap, like apparently everyone does in Iceland.
It is super easy to get around as an English speaker in Iceland. Every last Icelander I met spoke perfect English. And they were all very friendly - not Irish friendly who want to talk life story - Nordic friendly. So cheerful and happy to stop and help when asked. Contributing to the good cheer I'm sure was the unusually splendid weather we were having. The Icelanders were saying how it doesn't get better that what we had: 60 Fahrenheit and sunny all week.
<to be continued. gotta do some work now>