Iceland's Viking History

Iceland's Viking History

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The resort culture in Fiji is pretty similar to resort culture in Arizona. This is by design. A lot of travelers like the safety and familiarity that comes with these places.

Travelers like myself prefer a more unpredictable experience. One that is more immersive and that involves more risk. This isn’t necessarily the easy way but comes with its own unique rewards and experiences that you’d be unlikely to find within the boundaries of a hotel.

Always bring your sense of adventure. Iceland is like no place else on Earth. You might fall in love with it.

An important part of this travel experience is respecting the locals and being conscious of their culture and environment. Ultimately we all want to be good travelers, but this takes a bit of research, and trust me it is definitely worth it in some places.

Like in Singapore, where you can serve up to two years for smuggling chewing gum into the country, where gum is illegal. Also, don’t give anyone the thumbs up in Greece, it can mean, “Up yours.” And forget about putting your feet up on a coffee table in Pakistan, exposing the bottom of your feet is a huge sign of disrespect.

I spent some time this summer traveling in Iceland and started a podcast series about the island nation. It’s on iTunes and you can check it out on our website at

A scenic mossy valley hot spring in Iceland.

Icelandic Etiquette

Here are a few dos and don’ts that I would recommend you follow when traveling in Iceland.

First the Do-Nots

  1. Don’t climb over fences and stay on the trails. They’re meant to protect both you and the land. Much of Iceland’s green landscape comes from their unique moss that covers their craggy lava fields. The moss is soft and thick and easily damaged. It takes up to several years for damaged moss to grow back

A hiker walking a trail in Iceland.

  1. Many Icelanders believe Elves live in these mossy fields and they take this very seriously. Roads and other construction projects have been altered or abandoned out of respect for the Elves, or Huldufólk as they’re called over there. So don’t question or make fun of their belief in elves.

  2. Don’t toss coins into the Geysers or Hot Springs. Coins can discolor the water and require national park workers to scoop them out on a regular basis, further eroding the landscape.

A man cleans trash from a hot spring in Iceland.

  1. Don’t explore the latest volcanic eruption or other geothermal activity! The spike in tourism has got geologists and emergency crews on edge. Lava flows in Iceland can travel as fast as 5½ miles per hours. You might be able to outrun a lava flow on a flat surface but try doing that over craggy moss!

Now the Do’s

  1. Do be wary of the hot issues Iceland is facing, good or bad. They may want to talk to you about how well their team did in the Euro-Cup, but don’t ask them if they know Björk, Sigur Rós or Múm.

  2. It’s a good idea to know who is head of state of any country you’re visiting. In Iceland, it’s Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson.

  3. Do ask how to pronounce names and other Icelandic words. You’ll find yourself mispronouncing everything in Icelandic, but most Icelanders speak English fluently so if you can read this you can communicate with most of Iceland.

A lighthouse on a rainy hilltop in Iceland.

  1. Know that most Icelanders descend from Norway. Also, know that the first European to reach North America was not Christopher Columbus, it was an Icelander by the name of Leif Erikson.

Nanna Gunnarsdóttir, writer for Guide to Iceland once said, “I met someone that started talking about Leifur Eiríksson and his father Erik the Red. Any knowledge about the Icelandic Sagas is impressive.”

My latest podcast episode covers a bit of Iceland’s Viking history, which is good to brush on this before you go. A bit of knowledge in that goes a long way with the locals.

The Weather in Iceland

Things to bring:

  • Raincoat
  • Waterproof boots
  • Waterproof pants
  • An extra pair of clothes.

Forget the umbrella, rain falls sideways in Iceland. The weather is unpredictable, can be sunny one minute and the next minute you’re running back to your car to get the camera out of the rain. Don’t forget power adapters for all your appliances and a power converter for things like your hairdryer.

A rushing waterfall in Iceland.

Always bring your sense of adventure. Iceland is like no place else on Earth. You might fall in love with it.

Go the Travel Podcast is taking travel podcasting to a new level. We’re not your standard travel podcast, our team consists of trained journalists and audio storytellers who are inspired by an insatiable desire to explore. We don’t talk about travel, our podcast takes you on site to some of the planets most amazing places. Find us on iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay or visit us on our site.