Looking for reasons not to go to the land of ice and fire?

Are you thinking about going to Iceland? Here are some things about Iceland that you may have heard - some of them exaggerated, others are misconceptions and some are true... Have a read through and see what you think!



1. It’s ICE-land: Just a Land of Ice All Year Round

Skógafoss waterfall in south IcelandIt may be called ICELAND, but the climate is rather mild. Summers aren't very hot but winters aren't very cold either. In fact, in some places in Europe and North-America, it's even colder in wintertime than it is in Iceland—even in places situated on similar or lower latitudes. Berlin and New York can get much colder than Reykjavík, for example.



2. It's Always Windy

Arnarstapi at Snæfellsnes

Iceland sure gets windy, but we also have wonderful still days like you can see above. The photo above is taken at the Snæfellsjökull National Park, near the coastal towns of Arnarstapi and Hellnar



3. You Can Get Killed by a Volcano

Volcanic eruption in Iceland

Although there are plenty of volcanoes in Iceland, none of them is near a major city or town and people are very rarely harmed from direct contact with them. In fact, volcanic eruptions have become attractions in themselves, attracting both locals and foreign visitors. Iceland is home to 30 active volcano systems, and on average a major volcanic event occurs every five years or so. 



4. You Hardly See the Sun in Iceland

Midnight sun by Kirkjufell mountain

Actually, you'll see more of the sun in summertime in Iceland than in most other places in the world. During the weeks surrounding the summer equinox, the sun never sets and from May to August, the nights are always bright with daylight, even after the sun has set beneath the horizon. It might not get very hot here, and the summer might be relatively short, but the season is bright, colourful and beautiful. 



5. Winters are Nothing but Darkness

Aurora over Snæfellsnes peninsula

The sun doesn't come up for a long time during winter, especially during December and January. On the other hand, the Northern Lights may light up the sky for you instead. The auroras are unpredictable, but whenever the sky is dark and clear, you have a decent chance of seeing them. No two northern lights shows are the same, which means no two winter nights in Iceland are the same either.

To hunt for the Northern Lights yourself, you can see the cloud cover forecast here and the aurora forecast here



6. The Beaches are Black and Grim

Iceland's diamond beach

Although there are several black sand beaches in Iceland, they are far from grim. Though ominous under certain conditions, they are mysteriously appealing, particularly Reynisfjara with its unusual geology, and the Diamond Beach with its littering of icebergs.

You can, however, also find white, yellow and red sand beaches in Iceland too, such as Rauðassandur in the Westfjords



7. The Food is Disgusting

Delicious Icelandic seafood

Actually, Icelandic ingredients are known for being fresh, healthy and sustainable. Reykjavík is full of fine dining restaurants, many which offer exciting fusions that incorporate Icelandic herbs, seafood and lamb into foreign-style dishes.  

See also: The Best Restaurants in Reykjavík 

Traditional food, on the other hand, was often pickled, smoked or salted—and is not to everyone's liking nowadays although some delicacies, such as smoked salmon, remain popular internationally. 

8. Nature is Grey and Colourless

Icelandic summer colours

This misconception couldn't be further from the truth. Iceland is the land of contrasts; ice and fire; glaciers and volcanoes; mountains and lakes; waterfalls and geysers. Yes, the weather can be quite grey, but the land in which it is cloaked is painted by an otherworldly spectrum of colours. 



9. The Capital is Grey and Colourless

Reykjavík in wintertime

Again, this is wrong. The whole city of Reykjavík is made up of colourful houses, not just in one area, but all over the place! The old tin roofs and walls allow for the streets to be vibrantly coloured, and the same goes for the rest of Iceland's towns and villages Iceland.

The picture above is of Reykjavík in wintertime from the viewing platform of Hallgrímskirkja church. Even under a blanket of snow, it is still a kaleidoscopic sight. 



10. It's too Cold for Flowers to Grow

Fields of lupine in Iceland

There are actually more than 5,500 species of wild plants in Iceland and botanists keep discovering new species each year. All these plants help make Iceland an even more colourful country, but the most photographed is the non-native lupin, which covers vast swathes of the island from springtime.

11. The Natural Environment is Not that Unique

Aerial view of Icelandic rivers

Only those who have walked through lunar landscapes will have seen anything that remotely resembles Iceland's nature. While fjords can be seen in places like Norway, and volcanoes can be seen in Hawaii, the combination of contrasting elements that makes up Iceland's landscapes is entirely unique.

Iceland has often been chosen as a movie or TV location for films that take place in outer space, in some dystopian future or in a fantasy universe. You can read more about Icelandic movie locations here. 



12. All You See is Water...


Iceland has an astoundingly large number of beautiful waterfalls. It's even impossible to count them since new form from melting snow and ice each spring, while their older counterparts erode away.

Many small waterfalls freeze over for a great part of the year, while the larger continue falling throughout winter. Some of the best are those found along the South Coast, like Seljalandsfoss, pictured above, and are explored on most tours of this region



13. ... And More Water...

Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall, Iceland

It is true that many tours do include visits to different waterfalls, but each of them is so unique that this is not something to worry about. Pictured here is Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall, found on the ever popular Golden Circle trail. This route takes you to this waterfall, the geyser Strokkur and the national park Þingvellir



14. ... And Even More Water...

Dettifoss waterfall in North Iceland

While all of Iceland's regions have great waterfalls, the biggest is in the North. This mighty feature is Dettifoss, Europe's most voluminous waterfall.

Dettifoss is located on the Diamond Circle trail and is often visited alongside other waterfalls such as Goðafoss, Aldeyarfoss, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss. Tours usually depart from Akureyri and Mývatn



15. ... Water With Rocks...

Hví­tserkur rock formation, Iceland

There are a number of interesting rock formations around Iceland, many of them just off the coast. Some of the rock formations you'll see while travelling in Iceland are veiled in folklore and ancient stories—the one pictured above is called Hvítserkur and is said to be the petrified remnants of night trolls hit by sunlight. 



16. ...Water With Ice... 

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Iceland

For an unmatched perspective on Iceland's wealth of water, you can always head towards Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This lagoon is very deep and contains many massive icebergs that have broken from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull glacier outlet. When the icebergs tip over or break, they reveal a beautiful blue colour and veins of ancient ash.

17. ...There's Even Scalding Water Spewing out of the Earth!

The geyser Strokkur erupting in Iceland

The Icelandic hot spring Geysir is where the English word geyser comes from. It used to regularly spout large quantities of water up to 70 meters into the air, which is 20 meters higher than the Old Faithful in the USA. Geysir no longer erupts but fortunately the geyser Strokkur is right next to it, erupting up to 40 meters, every 5-10 minutes.

The Geysir Geothermal Area is on the Golden Circle route.

18. The Geothermal Areas Stink

Hot spring in Iceland

Iceland is dotted with seething, bubbling, vividly coloured geothermal areas. These places are rich in sulphur, which turns the earth colourful, but it also has a distinctive odour.

Some people have no issue with the smell, others dislike it as it reminds them of rotten eggs. Because the smell also comes from the hot taps, people tend to associate it with cleanliness after spending some time in Iceland. 



19. The Terrain is Too Rough to Traverse

Moss covered lava in Iceland

Most of Iceland is covered in lava, but most of the lava is covered in thick moss. The moss is very delicate and takes centuries to grow back if it is damaged, so be careful not to tramble the moss, however tempting it may be.

Icelanders are very protective of their natural surroundings and we actually wrote a list of things you shouldn't do when you're in Iceland, called 7 things Icelanders HATE about tourism in Iceland



20. You Can't See Nature Up Close

Inside an ice-cave in Iceland

Hiking and camping are the most popular ways to explore Iceland's nature in the summertime (although we wouldn't recommend camping inside an ice-cave - they can be very unstable and you should only enter one with a guide that knows the area well).

There are a number of hiking routes available around the country, and you can also go hiking on the glaciers. 



21. Icelandic Nature Literally Stops Air Traffic

Flying over Holuhraun volcano

Although the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano grounded air traffic in Europe, it didn't really alter any flights within Iceland. One of the best ways to view the volcano was from a helicopter, although people also drove there on 4x4, hiked there or took a snowmobile to reach it. The eruption was quite the attraction, both for locals and tourists. 



22. It is Easy to Get Lost

Vestrahorn in southeast Iceland

Icelandic landscapes can provide some incredible views. There are a number of different mountains, glaciers and volcanoes that look stunning when they've mirrored in nearby lakes and fjords. It is, however, easy to lose track while hiking, so, if you're heading out for an extended period, be sure to leave a travel plan



23. Winter in Reykjavík is Grim and Dull

Snowy botanical garden in Reykjaví­k

You don't need to be put off from travelling to Iceland in the wintertime. There are plenty of things to do, both in Reykjavík and outside the city. Some tours, such as ice caving and northern lights hunting, are only available at this time of year. 



24. Iceland Isn't the Only Country With Ice

A natural glacier ice cave in Iceland

Ice and glaciers are found in many countries, but Iceland is home to Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull, and it is easily accessible. With 12% of Iceland's surface area cloaked in ice, activities such as glacier hiking, ice caving, snowmobiling and dog-sledding can be undertaken much easier here than in most other places. 



25. Iceland Also Isn't the Only Country with Volcanoes

Inside the volcano in Iceland

Again, many of the volcanoes in Iceland are much more easily accessible than in the rest of the world. Not only can you hike on top of Iceland's volcanoes but you can also venture inside them. Þríhnúkagígur volcano is the only volcano in the world that offers tours to its magma chamber. Don't worry, the volcano is dormant now—there hasn't been an eruption there for 4000 years, so you'll be safe. 



26. There is Too Much Driving 

A waterfall with Icelandic horses

Iceland is not a very large country, you could actually drive around the entire island in around 16 hours. On the way, the landscapes will be ever changing, from grassy fields to black lava sands, waterfalls to views of glaciers, fjords between rugged mountains, picturesque villages, rivers, volcanoes, horses, sheep, birds... There is so much to see that you will often forget about time and distances.

We recommend taking at least a week to drive around the country to see everything it has to offer.



27. It's Too Cold to Go for a Swim

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

There is plenty of natural hot water that streams from the ground in Iceland. Various hot springs are suitable for bathing, the most famous one being the Blue Lagoon. There is also the Secret Lagoon in the south of Iceland and the Mývatn geothermal baths in the North.

Additionally, there are tons of swimming pools around Iceland and in Reykjavík, and there are a variety of hot tubs to choose from when you just want to soak and relax. 



28. There are No Trees

A field of purple lupines in Iceland

That is almost entirely true. The lack of trees means that you have views stretching as far as hundreds or even thousands of metres on clear days, allowing you to see all the nearby mountains, waterfalls and valleys.

And if it's trees that you want, you can always head towards Iceland's largest forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur in the East of Iceland or the second biggest forest, Vaglaskógur in the North of Iceland. 



29. It's Just Nature—Seeing it Once is Enough

Mt Kirkjufell in Icelandic summertime

Mt Kirkjufell in Icelandic wintertime

Difference between summer and winter is drastic in Iceland. If you are into landscape photography, Iceland provides incredible settings that differ drastically depending on the season and the weather. You can be extremely familiar with a particular location, that can look almost unrecognisable on another day. 



30. The Highlands are Just Inhospitable Deserts

Icelandic highlands

The Highlands consist of deserts, lakes, craters, volcanoes, hot springs and glaciers. Most of the highlands are relatively unspoilt, there are not many roads, not many signs, no shops and hardly any people there. 

Off-road driving is strictly forbidden and punishable by heavy fines as it damages the delicate nature. Hiking in the highlands is very popular though, although most people use a car to reach their starting location. Most roads are only accessible during summertime. 



31. So Few People, So Few Animals

A puffin admiring the Icelandic flowers

Only around 320,000 people live in Iceland, but Iceland is home to the largest puffin colony in the world. Around 10 million puffins reside in Iceland during summertime. 

The oceans surrounding Iceland are also thriving and bountiful. Over twenty species of cetacean are found around the island, such as Humpback Whales, Orcas and Blue Whales, and seals are year-round residents. 



32. There is Nothing Cute

Icelandic arctic fox

The aforementioned Arctic Fox, which mainly resides in the Westfjords, challenges this perspective. The arctic fox is easily spotted in Hornstrandir, the most remote area of Iceland's Westfjords. 



33. Iceland is Totally Behind on Modern Architecture

Harpa, Reykjavík's concert and conference centre

The above picture is of Harpa, Reykjavík's concert and conference hall. The glass panels resemble basalt columnar blocks, an element that is commonly included in Icelandic design and architecture. The impressive Hallgrímskirkja church also resembles basalt columnar blocks and actual basalt columnar blocks are used as a decoration outside the National Theatre. 



34. There is No Art or Culture

The Sun Voyager, an artwork in Reykjaví­k

There are actually extremely many artists living in Iceland, from musicians to comedians, drag queens to painters. Reykjavík is full of designer boutiques, art galleries and fine art museums. One in every 10 people will publish a book in their lifetime and Icelanders are avid theatregoers. 



35. The Music and Fashion Scene is Terrible

The Icelandic singer BjörkPhoto credit: Saint Heron

Such a small country with such a small population has produced an incredible amount of musicians and some of them have been very influential. Björk is by far the most recognised Icelandic artist, not only known for her music but also her fashion sense, having worked with international icons such as Alexander McQueen. 

Icelanders are very fashion conscious and there are a number of fashion designers in Iceland. For the latest trends in Icelandic fashion, you can check out Reykjavík Fashion Festival



36. Your Photos Will Forever Look Grey

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in sunset

... Except, of course, for those incredible days where the weather and nature work together in complete harmony to make your pictures look like this.

Fortunately, in between winter storms there can be long spells of crisp and clear still days and the summertime often produces gorgeous weather for photography, albeit a bit cold. Icelanders call that weather 'window weather', where the weather looks fantastic but is colder than it looks. 

37. Finally, Icelanders Don't Know How to Party

New Year's Eve in Reykjaví­k

In Reykjavík, cafés turn into bars and nightclubs during weekends and stay open until 5 or 6 am. There are also plenty of festivals going on all year round, all over the country. The picture above is from New Year's Eve, when almost everyone in the city lights fireworks from around 11 pm until early morning.