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23 Things I Learned From 7 Days in Iceland

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPRM chapter.

23.  The Icelandic language is complex.  From Icelandic linguist Alda Sigmundsdóttir’s perspective: “it’s a bloody mess grammatically, a nightmarish mishmash of inflected nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns.”

Interesting fact: Most places in Iceland are named based on their surrounding geography.  For example, “Skógafoss,” which is the name of Iceland’s most famous waterfall, can be broken down to “skóga,” which means “forest” and “foss” which means “waterfall.”

22. Geysers and fumaroles at eye’s view

21.  A typical good luck charm you can find in streets as well as in any corner of the land is a stack of rocks, known in English as a cairn.  Cairns were left by Icelanders in the 9th century to mark their paths during an expedition, but now they are left by visitors for fun.  

20. Icelandic Dogs Are Just As Cute And Full of Love As Dogs From Any Other Place


19.  The best* and creamiest ice cream in the world hides in a small shop called Brynja in Akureyri, Iceland. (*Adjective verified for its objectivity) (In case you’re wondering: this is homemade strawberry ice cream dipped in dark chocolate)

18.  Arctic charr is one of Iceland’s fish specialties.  It belongs to the salmonid family, and trivia for food junkies: arctic charr (as well as most fish in Iceland) is cultivated without growth hormones or antibiotics, and contains no GMOs.  (I highly recommend to fish enthusiasts!)

17. Calling the country Iceland is misleading since isn’t actually covered in that much ice, but it is proud to have the world’s largest glacier, called Vatnajökull which, combined with the rest of the glaciers across the island, covers 11.1% of the island.

16.  Iceland spans 2,300 kilometres, filled with mandatory stops in any and every fjord.

15. Icelanders may have not won versus France in the Eurocup quarterfinals, but their pride for their players and country was overflowing.

14. You can stumble upon fossi like these just by driving around the countryside for a little while.  This isn’t an average foss though–it’s Skógafoss, Iceland’s most popular waterfall.

13. Iceland’s diverse geology includes natural geothermal pools across the country.

This is a picture from Mývatn’s Nature baths.  What people don’t mention often enough is how Icelanders are notoriously clean, so you have to take a mandatory shower naked with strangers before entering the pool. In my opinion, it wasn’t too terrible.  I guess it helps if you think of it as a swift and oddly personal encounter with strangers you probably won’t meet again.

12. Pictured: basalt columns surrounded by a black sand beach.

Not pictured: People scaling up these basalt columns for fun.

11.  Expect to run into goats and sheep whenever you drive anywhere that is not a city (i.e. 85% of Iceland).  Also, expect to run into sheep crossing the roads constantly. Photographed: a sheep and a goat my friend José named Louise and Henrietta, respectively.  

10.  Taken at Reykjavík.  A contrast to U.S. and Puerto Rico: do not expect to find “organic” and “non-GMO” labels in food.  Restrictions and regulations on the meat and dairy industries in Iceland are extremely strict, and Icelanders have come to expect nothing less than the freshest, purest, and mostly local ingredients in their food.  Of course, this doesn’t exclude them from having chain fast food restaurants, because they do have them, but their diet is generally healthier.

9. Icelanders are just like us, Colegiales and mis puertorriqueños: they love their kaffi.  And spoiler: it is outrageously delicious and strong.

8. My friend Sylvia spoke wisely when she told me one day that anyone could be a scientist.  I spotted and uncovered a fossilized leaf on the ground near some geysers, which left me psyched about surveying the world as a casual geologist.  

7. In between alternating the passenger and driver’s seat, I learned how to read maps and not get lost (too frequently) in a foreign country.  

6. Akureyri’s Toy Museum suggested its visitors to leave a drawing so they can later hang it up. I left this. Inspiration for flowy, blue squiggly lines for a body: my aunt threatening not to get ice cream if I took too long.

5. Reykjavík is a vibrant city with eclectic graffiti and street art.

4. Special shout-out to my aunt Inés for asking me to tag along with her on this adventure! As you can observe, I wasn’t the only one who learned her way around a map on this trip.

3. Obligatory Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Appreciation Pictures

2. A stranger you meet in the beginning of your journey can become a friend you reunite with at the journey’s end.

TL;DR: I met my friend, Guru, on my flight to Reykjavik and we both figured it would be the last time we would see each other.  We coincided in the airport on our last day; it turns out we were booked for the same flight back. 

1. To allow travel to transform you if you let yourself experiment what you don’t understand and, for a second, to suspend disbelief.

After stopping to walk through this mysterious blue-grey mist at the side of the road– it dawned on me and whoever stood next to me, that we had no idea why that mist was there, and we kept walking.

Sophomore English major who enjoys hanging out with dogs, watching the X-Files, and crafting mixtapes for friends.
Claudia is a witchy English Literature and International Affairs major from La Parguera. She's worked in various on-campus projects, such as the MayaWest Writing Project and as a tutor at the English Writing Center. In addition, she's worked at Univision and has also been published in El Nuevo Día and El Post Antillano. When she doesn't have her nose in a book, you can find Claudia tweeting something snarky and pushing boundaries as a Beyoncé expert. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @clauuia.