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Travelzoo Experience: Icelandic Escape

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

The prospect of seeing Aurora Borealis was the main reason I booked my vacation to Iceland. But I experienced so much more.

A country with 30 volcano systems, Iceland features breathtaking, otherworldly landscape of lava rocks. When I visited in early November, most of the countryside was covered with snow, and not many trees. Temperatures hover around 1-5 C (33-41 F). And perhaps because it is an island, the wind that whips around here is what travelers need to be concerned with, not so much the cold temperature. Be prepared and bring a cold-weather parka to keep warm against the wind, and don’t forget a protective face mask.

It may seem strange to say … but along with the winter parka, you should also bring your swimsuit. The natural geothermal activities heat an abundance of pools and natural baths around the country. In every town, you are likely to find three things -- a church, a school and a swimming pool. So wherever you go in Iceland, no matter the season, always pack a swimming suit. And with the suit, hair conditioner is also a must. The minerals in these natural baths will wreak havoc on your hair, turning it very stiff and matted. It was impossible to put a comb through. A squeeze of hair conditioner -- which may or may not be provided at the baths -- can really save the day … and your hair!

The steam doesn’t only heat geothermal pools and propel geysers, it can also make bread! Be sure to try Rugbraud -- which is an Icelandic rye bread that is buried underground for 24 hours and is “baked” by underground steam. It’s delicious!

Speaking about food, pizzas and burgers are easy enough to find. I did not try local specialties like Minke Whale and smoked puffins (have you seen how cute these seabirds are?). I did try fermented shark – another local specialty. It’s very pungent and definitely an acquired taste, though I didn’t find it too much more overpowering than a very ripe Camembert cheese.

Between geothermal and hydropower resources, 99% of Iceland’s energy is derived from renewable sources, making this the greenest country I’ve ever visited. The waterfalls and moonlike landscape makes for unforgettable scenery. Icelanders are warm, friendly people with a culture rich with folklore. They speak English very well, making my travel in Reykjavik and Akureyri easy. I can’t wait to visit again.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Silicon Valley
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
See more Tips from
Debbie Kwok