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How To Be The Perfect Tourist in Iceland

Steinunn Bjorg Olafsdottir

(Updated: )
4 min read
How To Be The Perfect Tourist in Iceland

While travelling around the globe it can be difficult to figure out how to behave in different situations. You might be going on an adventure and thinking ,,What can I do to not make a fool of myself while travelling around Iceland?“ Well wonder no more, I‘m here to tell you my dear friends! Here is a list of what would make you the absolute „PERFECT“ tourist!

Warning: The advice given in this article should be taken with a grain of salt. Please be advised, an ability to differentiate sarcasm with actual meaning is recommended. Proceed with caution.

1. Always speak your own language

Icelanders are very international and most of us speak at least 3-4 languages easily. Apart from the obligatory English and Danish in schools, Spanish, German and French are also very popular extra languages. And how different are languages from each other really?

Assume everyone understands you as soon as you get here and don‘t stop even if they ask you to speak English. It‘s just their very sarcastic humour.

2. Bask in your bodily odour

Here in Iceland there is nothing more respectable than a person who has some sort of an odour coming off him/her.

If you’re sweaty it means you’ve had to work to get wherever you are. Icelanders don’t admire laziness so the smellier the better! If your breath stinks it means you can afford some nasty spices to put on your food. It also means you have money to pay for new teeth when you get older.

So all in all being stinky and standing as close to people as you possibly can is the best way to get ahead in Iceland.

3. Use your built in compass

Never use a map, ask for directions or read the signs around you. They’re all lying either way (the Icelandic sarcasm again). I strongly recommend channelling your inner ducks (or geese or other migrant bird you like) and just visualise where you want to go. Eventually you’ll probably get to somewhere around where you want to go-ish. And if your inner compass isn’t working don’t worry, you’ll probably see some other amazing stuff while on the road looking for that special something that brought you to Iceland!

4. Know better than others

When travelling abroad some people like to be prepared. That’s both a waste of time and energy when coming to Iceland. If you feel the need to read a brochure or look at a map be sure to find something from what might look like a sketchy source, trust me, they’ll know better than the sarcastic Icelanders. And at any time if an Icelander will try to correct you or guide you to other places just shove whatever information you have from the internet in their faces and tell them to stop lying!

5. Drive like you’re alone in the universe

This is pretty basic, just act like there’s no one else around you. Iceland is here for you to enjoy and don’t let any other annoying drivers disturb you from that. If you feel the need to suddenly stop and take a photo, just do it! Preferably in the middle of the road. Even on a blind hill. In the middle of the night. With the lights turned off. Just jump out of the car. Don’t give any warnings or signals.

When you’re done just jump back in and drive like a maniac until you see something new and amazing!

6. Take photos with flash

Well this is basic for every occasion but I’m referring to one in particular. Northern lights.

People will tell you it takes a special set of skills to capture the northern lights on photos but that’s just nonsense. If normal settings aren’t enough you only need to add flash. They are really far away from earth so the bigger flash the better. If it doesn’t seem to be working just continue trying from different angles or perhaps with multiple cameras at a time and see if that will help. You could also just take a bunch of photos and wait until morning to see if any of them did take, sometimes it works similar to Polaroid photos – you just need to give the northern lights time to show up!

7. Go above and beyond

Don’t be one of those boring and predictable tourists that stays within the lines, or roads, or on the right side of ,,Staff only” signs. Iceland is basically only a big pile of sand and gravel and we really don’t care about our nature so why should you drive only on the roads? Just go and drive on the sand, those tire marks are sure to look spectacular for years to come. Better yet, find some moss and watch that 500 year old fluffyness fly into the air while driving, especially if you go fast!

And why stop at driving? Are you looking for a place to stay? Just go into a random persons house, they’ll probably welcome you and offer you to eat with them some delicious homemade Icelandic meatsoup. Or why make a waiter tell the chef at a restaurant what you want to eat when you can go yourself and tell him? Or better yet, show him!

Hopefully you’ll find this list helpful and figured out already that it is, of course, written with a good bucketful of sarcasm and that you should by all means try to behave the exact opposite of what’s written here!

Sadly these seemingly unbelievable things do happen in reality. Although I’ve yet to find a single person who has done everything on the list I know plenty of people who have done one or two things. I guess you can write that up as mistakes or misunderstandings and fortunately Icelanders are not only sarcastic but also forgiving.