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Iceland: A First-Time Travelers Destination

On a typical day at college, I received a text message from a friend asking me if I wanted to join her for a short trip to Iceland during the summer. I had never been out of the country before, but from what I knew, Iceland sounded like the place for adventure. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t want to let my nerves get in the way of something great. After stepping out of my comfort zone, I ended up booking the trip with my friend just a few weeks later!

Then, after months of planning and saving money, we were off to Iceland! Here’s the run-down of my first time travelling experience:


Booking a Tour

This was one of the best decisions we made when planning our trip to Iceland. We wanted to see all the major locations and didn’t know the best route to take to get there. Through booking a tour with Guide to Iceland, we were able to do more than we thought.


(Skógafoss Waterfall)

We chose Iceland’s Golden Circle Tour where our hotels and destinations were already planned out and we were given the option of doing a self-drive tour along the southern part of Iceland. Some of the sights and places recommended were waterfalls such as Gullfoss, Skógafoss, Svartifoss and Seljalandsfoss (one where you can walk behind), the geothermal spa, Blue Lagoon, and many geysers. Long hours of hiking during the daytime in national parks including Þingvellir National Park and Hveragerði hot spring river trail made the delicious meals less of a guilty pleasure and more of a tasty experience!


(Glacier Hiking)

Now for the best part of taking a trip to Iceland if you love outdoorsy adventures… glacier hiking! Not only is it a once in a lifetime opportunity, you’ll challenge yourself and reach new heights of mental and physical toughness than you have may have never reached before. Want to challenge yourself even more? Try glacier climbing directed by a glacier guide! This involves even more mental and physical toughness, but the views and satisfaction are worth it.


A Safe Environment and Friendly Culture 

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world for tourists and one of the most English-speaking friendly as English is taught as a second language. Every bar, restaurant, café, and store provided services with fluent English speakers. We didn’t feel left out not knowing how to speak or understand the Icelandic language, as everyone was accommodating to our questions being new travelers to the country.


(Cappuccino from Te & Kaffi) 

Although the sceneries and landscapes provided us with many activities, we wouldn’t truly experience Iceland without getting immersed into the culture, and what better way to pretend like we are locals than in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik! One of the main streets in Reykjavik, called Laugavegur, is the place for shopping, meeting locals, cafe’s, and going to bars over the weekend. It is a night life like no other as the city comes alive with music and locals walking down the streets!


Wholesome, Delicious Food

You may have done some research already and noticed that Iceland can be quite expensive if money is not budgeted properly. Expensive isn’t a deal breaker though. With all the early morning wake up calls and moving around, you’ll want to make the most out of your meals and experience with spending a balanced amount of money for each day throughout your time there.

Luckily, we were saved by consuming more food for less money! Here’s how we resolved the food situation: (1) Booking hotels that included free breakfast, (2) Venturing to a grocery store on our first day in Iceland, gathering snack bars high in protein, fruits, and wholesome foods for sandwiches as our lunches, (3) Then, finally, trying the foods that makes Iceland so great at our local restaurants.


(Shrimp and Scallop Pasta)

Food tasting after a long day of hiking was one of the highlights of our day (as well as hotel breakfasts!) Some foods Iceland is known for is skyr yogurt, lamb, Icelandic fish such as artic char and salmon, along with my personal favorite, dark rye bread, which is made by baking in a pot or steaming in a wooden cask buried in the ground near a hot spring.  

Iceland is the perfect first-time travelers destination. A scenery like no other, it was difficult to tell where the mountains ended and where the clouds began in the highlands of Iceland. So, when your friend(s) asks you to go on a trip to Iceland with them, don’t hesitate to wonder if you should go for it.

If you decide to book a trip to Iceland, any one of the hot dog street vendors in Reykjavik have some of the best hot dogs in all the nation. As I have learned, “you must try the Pylsa (hot dog).” Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur or “the best hot dog in town” gets its name for a reason. Enjoy!


All images courtesy of the author.

Alyssa Mahoney

U Mass Amherst '20

Alyssa is in her senior year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is so excited to graduate in May of 2020! She has been a communication major for two years and is also pursuing a minor in psychology. She is both the Facebook Director and a content editor for the UMass chapter of HC and loves to read everyone’s articles. Her personal favorite things include everything about the fall season, going on a good run, binge watching The Office, and writing in general! If you’re interested in being motivated and ways to think and act more sustainable, then you can expect Alyssa to cover those topics. Feel free to follow her Instagram! @lissy818
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