Saturday, September 24, 2016

Final Thoughts on Iceland

What a truly beautiful country, both the scenery and the people.   Everyone I came across was more than welcoming.  You can tell they are proud of their country and want to show it off.   I felt completely safe.   Never did I feel like I had to watch my back, watch my bag or anything.  The country is just so warm and inviting.

I  heard the rise in interest in visiting Iceland was due to Game of  Thrones.   I don't watch the show, but it is filmed here.  However, they also had a big surge in tourism after the volcano erupted in 2010 and shut down European flights for a several days.   I guess all that news coverage got people thinking about and interested in learning more about Iceland, which brings me to the scenery!

For the most part they seem genuinely pleased by the growth in tourism.  They have been converting a lot of the apartments into hotels and there are a lot of people offering up guest rooms.    I wonder though, how a country with just over 300,000 people, more than half of which live in/near Reykjavik, will be able to sustain millions of visitors.  I read somewhere they are expected to have over 1.75MM visitors this year/next year, not sure how accurate that estimate is, but the growth in tourism is significant in recent years. I'm not sure they have the infrastructure to handle it all.   I can't imagine it won't be a drain on all their natural resources. 

The Scenery
It is a country worth seeing!   It truly is magical and a country of such diverse landscapes; lava fields, volcanoes, glaciers, rivers and streams.  Despite the rise in tourism and all that comes with it, it still seems undisturbed.  There were often times where I thought it looked like Hawaii, if Hawaii didn't have a ton of resorts built up.  With all the rivers and streams, at times it looked like Montana.   It was actually nice to be in a place that hasn't yet been overbuilt or doesn't have long lines for everything you want to see.   That may be changing though with the growth in tourism. 

The People
I've traveled a lot and you have different experiences, different impressions of each country or even city within a country. After coming back from Budapest several years ago, I told people it was liking going to grandma's house for dinner.   Everywhere you went, people wanted to feed you and the food was always warm, good comfort food.   Iceland is similar, but given the average age of its residents is only 37, I can't quite say it's like going to grandma's house.   But it is just as warm and inviting.   The people are incredibly friendly and inviting.   Always ready to listen and help out, always ready to tell a great story about their country.  

While it is fairly cheap to fly to Iceland, these days you can get flights for a few hundred bucks from NY and LA (book early though to get those kind of rates) once you arrive, everything is very expensive.   I don't think I had meal that was less than $20 US dollars, and that was for a sandwich and chips bought at a market, similar to Duane Read for you New Yorkers.   There are several larger hotels, like the Hilton Nordica and  the Foss Hotel Reykjavik, but none are truly luxury hotels, despite the luxury prices.   

It may not be for everyone, especially if you're a Four Seasons/Ritz Carlton kind of traveler, but for the adventure traveler or nature lover, The Traveling Hillbilly highly recommends a visit to this magical country and maybe sooner rather than later before it changes too much.

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