When did Iceland change to an independent country from a low-cost, frozen-food supermarket? Why is it not possible to see polar bears and penguins in a country they don’t live in? Do you need to reserve a sunbathing spot at Reynisfjara black sand beach, and how do you see both the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights in one day?
Read on to find out all the answers to the 20 most common, and stupid, questions about Iceland.
By offering a cross-section of series of blogs, articles, videos, and internet memes, Guide to Iceland has always strived to share the most fascinating and useful travel tips with an international audience hungry for their daily dose of the island of ice and fire. And yet, sometimes, information gets lots in translation, and, sometimes, it’s rather difficult to get the point across.
To be fair, no questions are really stupid, not if the enquirer learns something. Even so, we've compiled some of the queries we’ve received that've stumped us for their sheer, misguided genius. Here are the best examples:
The first hypothesis; Iceland’ (1991) was Björk’s first solo album, an experimental piece that balanced the howls of Arctic Foxes and gale winds with the gentle hum of super jeep engines and fish splatter. The album met with critical success, but unfortunately, Björk subsequently funnelled cash through offshore accounts and was rightfully jailed by the Icelandic people. She has since made a comeback as VR technology and a garden.
Another theory: Iceland is a psychological disorder that exists in the mind of Danish people. Danish people who were, in point of fact, trapped here many centuries ago. Iceland’s peak popularity was achieved in 1940, following the British invasion, then quickly faded following an Allied victory. Ever since, Iceland has been used as the ‘trade name’ for any commodity, corporation or entity linked with melting ice caps and drysuit snorkelling. Icelandic tourism is linked to volcanism, and thus humankind’s desire for an apocalyptic end time.
No, don’t be silly, I’m afraid modern heating technology has yet to reach Iceland. For warmth, animals and guests alike will normally huddle around a steaming fumarole, hot spring or, in geothermally active areas, lying spread-eagled on the ground to absorb warmth directly through the soil.
Guests may enjoy hotel hot tubs, though this is often considered an inconvenience to staff, and you may find your breakfast lacking in sausages the next morning.
In the playground of your imagination. Alternatively, you could spend some time watching animal documentaries in your hotel room, or even visit the stuffed bears that stand proudly misrepresenting the island on Laugavegur.
Perhaps, you should know the dirty secret; polar bears do arrive here, every so often. Every four years or so. They are hunted down and shot immediately because they are starving, dangerous and unhabituated to Iceland. Because they have floated here on ice floats in desperation for food. Enough now. You ain’t seeing a polar bear without questioning the moral relevance of your humvee.
If you go on a puffin watching tour, the experience is very similar. Simply squint your eyes and tell yourself penguins are adept fliers. Turn around to everyone else on the boat and begin screaming that you’ve spotted penguins.
When you’re told otherwise, that penguins live on the opposite end of the earth, simply refuse to listen, shouting ‘Penguin! There’s a god damn Penguin over there, you pricks! You pricks!’ over and over again until you are removed from the vessel.
Return to the United States of America and tell your friends you saw penguins.
Absolutely nothing, save the phase of matter that you’ll be sitting atop, and the consequences of its motion. Feeling seasick on a bus tour is not tolerated under any circumstances. Expect to be left by the roadside should your stomach prove incapable of handling the chop.
The disappointment of not seeing the Northern Lights feels the same, regardless of the means of transport.
On a side note; Who asked this question? What do we have to do as an information provider? Spell out the difference between a boat and a bus? Are you nuts? A boat is a vessel that operates on water… an ancient means of transportation capable of moving people and objects across the ocean. A bus is a motorised vehicle capable of transporting large quantities of people long distances over land. The Northern Lights are cosmic, thus take up the sky. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE SKY IS?
There are 800+ stores in the UK alone, 23 in the Republic of Ireland, 14 in Spain, 6 in both Jersey and the Czech Republic, 4 in Malta, 3 in Guernsey, 2 in Portugal and Norway and 1 in Libya. Iceland has 7 Iceland’s in it.
At the beginning of each month, approximately twenty trucks are driven to the base of Vatnajökull glacier loaded with Polystyrene and cotton balls. This load is then dumped directly into the lagoon, much to the resident seal’s disdain. But to hell with them! This is a tourist destination! Get your own space, seals!
These woolly polyburg cotton-floats bounce around for the visitors' pleasure, with boat trips even offering the chance to get right up and taste the artificial flavour of Iceland’s nature. You’ll realise it’s all a load of bullshit. Photoshop is amazing.
No, unless you happen to own a military-grade vehicle capable of traversing land and water. These are not rentable in Iceland.
Even if they were, the question makes no sense--the ocean has no roads, and I’m not confident that someone posing this question has what it takes to make it.
No, not even once. From the very beginning of your tour, your guide will keep you imprisoned inside of the vehicle, jibing at your lack of appreciation as you whizz from site to site without a real look.
Any photographs you wish to take will have to be through the window, so make sure to keep your camera on high-speed settings. At the end of the tour, you will be allowed off the bus to return to your hotel room where, quite naturally, the hotel staff will keep you locked up until its time for check-out.
Boo hoo. You’ll have to have an honest appraisal of yourself. Ask, did I even try? Am I even trying? Am I even likeable? Am I a prick? Did you spend the entire time here mocking the accent, throwing Hákarl around the restaurant and desecrating the environment? Were you filled with Alex Jones conspiracies and rum?
Perhaps you’re one of the fine fellows who enjoy defecating on a farmer’s land? Maybe you’re a high stakes banker, or even worse, a Norwegian? Do you refuse to learn the language, or even worse, refuse when it’s offered by your place of employment, for free?
Do you keep bringing out the worst British stereotypes in yourself? Are you fundamentally sabotaging your rightful position in this world? Are you a psychopath? Are you a sociopath? Where are you? Who are you? What the hell are you doing in Iceland, of all places…?
Whatever the case, I’m sure the Icelanders’ disdain of you is entirely justified, even if you happen to be an Icelander yourself.
Photo: Owen Hunt/Facebook.
Because you haven’t bought a ticket here. Either that or you've missed the flight.
Honestly, save up, buy a ticket and you can probably end up living here. Screw a holiday! Habituate this place. Honestly, immigration laws are lapse... just bag yourself an Airbnb and refuse to leave. If you befriend the fellow renting, you’ll likely be able to stay rent, and live jobless, free. Icelanders can be chill like that.
Just be careful of the three policeman you’ll often spot roaming around, ever on the look out for illegal aliens. They may lock you in an interrogation cell and make you confess to murders you haven’t committed.
Supposedly it’s tasty. Who knows? Metal alloys are tasty to some people.
No, whale meat is full of mercury. MERCURY. Mercury causes tumours in adults and deformities in children. Is that whale tasty enough, I wonder, to risk tumours and deformity?
'Have you ever seen The Cove? Blackfish!? That captive orca mother, separated from her child for no reason other than training, was filmed singing sad, long distance calls to her baby. Only a tank away! Long distance calls, as if across an ocean... the humanity…
No, it’s not a cow, it’s not a pig. Farm animals don’t rescue you from sharks. Stop whaling. Stop eating whales. All of you. And stop defending it. For those of you who stand opposed to this abhorrent practice, speak up!
But that might not sink in.. I don't eat whale, none of my foreign friends have ever eaten whale, and I have a hard time believing tourists CAN'T WAIT to come here to taste whale flesh. I don't believe it—not for a minute—that you can't practice self-restraint and refrain from eating these precious creatures. They aren't food. They're intelligent, empathetic beings. They're not your dinner. And it doesn't come down to tourists eating whale meat in Iceland.
No, this comes down to one whaling company selling meat to Japan. That's it.
I don't know. I love Iceland. I love Icelanders. But, I have an extremely difficult time reconciling this island's supposed progressiveness with its willingness to defend an abhorrent practice for the love of money.
On the one hand, Iceland stands for liberalism in every form, including the promotion of veganism, the arts, LGBTQIA+ rights... yet, it all seems a little people-centric to me.
Keiko on December 1, 1998. Photo by unknown author. Wikimedia Creative Commons.
Joy. Sadness. Jealousy. Logic. Whales and other cetaceans experience the full spectrum of emotion. How do we value, in other species, the virtues and attributes that we respect in ourselves?
Three weeks before the holiday, tuck yourself into bed with a nice Icelandic audiobook.
Pushing it into your subconscious will help you learn phrases like Takk fyrir and Bless bless with ease. When made to speak to an Icelandic person in Iceland, simply say in English, “Do you speak English?” Situation sorted. Skip the formality of learning to say Ég tala ekki íslensku.
Wink at your friends with a brave, knowing look, then shove that chunk of fermented shark in your mouth. Take only a millisecond to enjoy your friend’s look of shock before experiencing true horror yourself…
...a dead shark has pissed in your mouth, and it won’t stop now. You’ve put an ocean skunk on your tongue, and it’s going to haunt you. Neptune will haunt you. You’ll never swim again.
Somewhat distantly, hear your pals laugh as you retch into a bin. You’ll immediately take a shot of Brennivín, as per tradition, and feel sick again. Nothing says Icelandic cuisine like urine fish and liquorice shots.
OBVIOUSLY! I mean, are you out of your mind? Of course! The government will pay you millions and millions of Icelandic Krona. These powerful, independent and gorgeous women are in dire need of a ring. You've heard what Beyonce said, haven't you?
Come over here saying that shit though and you will be kicked, horribly and irreversibly, in the balls, friend.
No. Who do you think we are? We are an online travel marketplace, an information provider, a guide, a friend, a source to come to when you’re travelling the country. We’re not sun gods capable of shaping the climate to meet your needs. The weather does as the weather does. Pack gloves, scarfs, and sunscreen.
What do you mean? Where are you? If you are in China, then you are on China time. If you are in Iceland, you are on Iceland time. If you’re writing this from the plane, I don’t know, I just don’t.
Depends, do you have the cash? (Because if you do... well… my details are online...)
How hip-hop are vape pens?
It’s a mystery, no doubt. As a foreign resident, I often find myself grabbing onto people on Laugavegur and screaming in their face, ‘Are you an Icelander?? Tell me! Tell me now, you alien!’
They are never local: Americans, Chinese, Brits, Germans, French, Indonesian, Belgian… you name it, this land is rich with nationalities, but Icelanders are becoming extinct. This is one of the saddest consequences of the country's tourism boom, and efforts are being made to restore population numbers.
Did you enjoy our article Stupid Questions About Iceland? What stupid questions have you been answering, or have you heard anything particularly amusing? Make sure to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comments box below.