I am thrilled to announce that I will be taking another group to visit the magical country of Iceland next summer. I can’t wait to see the puffins, waterfalls and spectacular black beaches.
I was asked an insightful question few days ago. A traveler and member of The Travel Collective asked me “what else is there to experience in Iceland, besides the visuals?”
When I was describing the upcoming trip to Iceland, most of my description was – what we would see. And yes, Iceland is a feast for the eyes. The country is full of diverse landscapes, breath-taking waterfalls, and gleaming glaciers. But I wanted to say thank you to this traveler for asking me the question – it made me dig a little deeper. There is much more to Iceland, the visuals are only one aspect of what we will experience.
I took a few minutes to consider how Iceland will delight all five senses.
We will also have several animal encounters during our trip. We will hear Icelandic horses run across the field, thousands of sea birds take flight, and the splash of whales and dolphins in the sea.
Let’s not forget about the language. Although most people in Iceland speak English, everyone speaks Icelandic, you will hear it everywhere. Icelandic is an ancient language, in fact Icelanders can read Old Norse manuscripts written in the 10th century.
During our time in Iceland, we will meet with several locals who will share local history and lore. There are many stories and tales about hidden people in Iceland. Many Icelanders believe in the existence of hidden people, in fact, according to a 2007 study by the University of Iceland, an estimated 62% of the nation believe that the existence of elves is more than a fairy tale.
Let’s talk about the smells and scents of Iceland. Again, I close my eyes and think about how Iceland smells. My first thoughts are of the food. Creamy lobster soup and fresh rye bread.
There will be the smell of the sea air and the pungent scent of the geothermal water that fills the baths, and showers. We will discover a myriad of aromas when we visit the Icelandic farms. Both the freshness of the earth we stand on and the smell of the animals.
The first thing that comes to mind is the feel of the glacier. We will walk on top of the glacier, float in the glacier lagoon, stand on the Diamond Beach and take a walk inside a glacier cave. Each of these experiences will give us a chance to touch the glacier, the water, and the earth around it. Touching water that has been frozen for thousands of years.
I recently spoke to a friend who had just come back from Iceland and the first thing he mentioned was the air. The air, like most island air, is fresh, clean and windy! We will be pushed by the wind as we walk across the beach. We will feel the mist of the sea when we take the ferry to Grímsey Island, crossing into the Arctic Circle. We will be warmed by the sun as we stroll through small seaside villages, enjoying the long summer days in Iceland.
We will have opportunities to be up close and personal with some of the Icelandic animals. Touching the fuzzy Icelandic horses, the extraordinary fur of the Icelandic goats – which is spun into cashmere, and the delightfully fluffy sheep of Iceland.
Let’s not forget about the geothermal baths. We will soak in warm, mineral-rich waters of the Mývatn Nature Baths. The water comes straight from the borehole in Bjarnarflag, with an average temperature of 130°C / 266°F which is then mixed with cool water to make the baths an average temperature between 36 – 40°C / 96 – 104°F. This warm, healing water is all over Iceland and we will have several opportunities to dip into the pools, baths, and showers of these enchanting waters.
Oh, and our sense of taste brings us to the food and flavors of Iceland. Some of the quintessential flavors of Iceland include licorice, rhubarb, and blueberry. But the ones that comes to my mind are the earthy flavors of moss and birch. You can taste moss in the teas and soups. It is present in lamb – a big portion of the Icelandic lamb’s diet is moss. The scent and flavor of birch is all around. There are several Icelandic liquors made from birch, they make for nice warming cocktails.
And there’s more! You can’t go to Iceland without eating skyr, Icelandic yogurt. Made of pasteurized skimmed milk and similar to yogurt (Technically not a yogurt, it is a soft cheese). Skyr is rich, thick, and creamy texture. It tastes somewhere between Greek yogurt and creme fraiche. It can be a dessert or a snack.
Then there is ice cream! Yep, Icelanders love ice cream. No matter the weather, no matter the season, they will eat ice cream. We will visit a creamery during our trip, visiting the farm where the dairy is produced and tasting some seasonal ice cream flavors.
With so many seafood options you might be surprised to know that it is said Iceland makes the best hot dogs. They are famous for them. Traditionally, their hot dog, the Pylsa, contains equal parts of pork and beef or lamb. And you will want to order yours “Ein Med Ollu” Pylsa to get all the ingredients, including raw onion, crunchy deep-fried onion, Icelandic mustard, and remoulade sauce.
And finally, I want to mention the “pickled” – you may have heard about the fermented shark (which I neglected to try), but they do love to pickle things. You will find pickled fish, melon, cheese, peppers, nearly anything you can think of can be pickled.
The roots of Icelandic cuisine are to be found in the traditions of Scandinavian cuisine, combining fresh, local ingredients.