Ice, snow and a volcano whose name can not be pronounced… these are some of the things that surely spring to mind when considering a trip to Iceland, not burgers. But i’ll have you know that burgers should be on your list of things to experience, according to Stefan, one of the 330,000 odd Icelanders in the world. Stefan proudly told me that Iceland had kicked McDonald’s off their island because the locals just couldn’t stand the quality and now they had some of the world’s best burger bars, which should be a must see on any trip to the island. And to be fair, the Hamborgara Fabrikkan (aka Hamburger factory) burger bar in Reykjavik was rather spectacular, perhaps made even better for the showing of the European Song competition trials while Iceland was performing.
Beyond the burgers however, Iceland has an array of natural beauty just waiting to be explored. The landscape is hard and volcanic, yet covered in
soft green moss. The towering white mountains (and volcanoes) are overpowering and yet during spring the snow begins to melt and grass and re-growth start to show. The land appears inhabitable, yet Icelandic horses (originally brought from Norway to Iceland in 1100), sheep and birds roam, scavenging the ground and consuming the moss. Two further interesting facts (a) Iceland is the only place where the Icelandic horse can be found as it was able to live in isolation and has become extinct in other countries and (b) the moss makes the sheep meat taste different (for the non-vegetarians amongst you), it has a much more tender and delicate flavour.
It would be very easy to spend two weeks in a hire care exploring the island, getting lost on 4×4 tracks and delving into the over the mountains in summer, or skirting around the island enjoying the coastal views, natural hot tubs and Aurora Borealis in winter. There are of course some must see stop offs – the golden circle provides a succinct 2 day trip around some of the main sites and the blue lagoon is, while horrifically touristy, a relaxing place to spend a few hours if in a group. If you are a qualified diver and fancy facing the cold, the Silfra fissure in Thingvellir national park is possibly the most memorable dive you’ll do in a long time. The visibility is like looking through air and while you might be looking at big rocks, little rocks and giant rocks, you are actually swimming between continents – now how often can you claim to have dived between continents?! Dive.is were a very professional and well organised dive company that I would recommend – though it’s a hard job for their poor instructors.
If you can make the time, I’d suggest stopping off in some of the smaller villages and towns, finding a nice hotel perhaps with a hot tub such as Frost and Fire, where cabins are set in the backdrop of the mountains with a great restaurant specialising in locally sourced food and hot spring cooked eggs, and just relaxing in this beautiful country. Take your time, explore the local trails and paths into the mountains to get a true sense of just how incredible the country is.
And don’t forget to grab your copy of the lonely planet: