Ask Someone Who Recently Went to Iceland

Did you see any of the things that are in this beautiful video?

Not really! Because, as the internet presence Iceland Wants to Be Your Friend explains, “This is my North. It is different from my South,” and I stayed only in Reykjavik, in the south. It’s beautiful, though, isn’t it?

What’s the deal with dudes there? Are they… “friendly”? And/or are they all drunks?

They’re very friendly and good-looking! Definitely not drunks. And there’s a really charming and dry national sense of humor I wasn’t expecting. But yeah, guys there are great. Women, too! I met a girl on Twitter who took me out on a Saturday night, because she was nice, and she and her friends were all awesome and beautiful. (Everyone speaks English and doesn’t make you feel bad about it.) And I met an Icelandic rapper at an amazing Icleandic hip-hop bar/cafe who offered me a joint 10 minutes after meeting him (he’s one of the guys in this video) (I declined, but he was also nice!), and I met a guy on the street at 2 a.m. (they party until 6 a.m. on Saturdays) with a toilet lid around his neck who turned out to not be very drunk at all, and was in fact incredibly nice and smart, and later took me on a platonic driving tour of the neighborhoods around Reykjavik, including a stop at their version of the White House, and we talked about hot yoga. A lot of them are blonde.

How many days do you have to stay before the winter darkness starts to seem normal?

It never quite felt normal, but I like darkness, and it added to Iceland’s fairy-tale-ishness, if that makes sense. Standing in the window watching the sun “rise” as a gray glow behind the severe little homes and apartment buildings (I saw the actual sun only once in five days, but that was fine!) was kind of neat. But I guess like two days? I don’t know. I liked that it was different.

Can you get a decent sandwich? Or is it all like puffin meat with extra mayo?

You can definitely get a decent sandwich — hot dogs are the thing to eat there. I hear. This is where I admit that I ate mostly nuts and skyr (Icelandic yogurt) while I was there. And salmon. And beer. But many things looked delicious, and all the people and guidebooks say they are.


I did not. :-/

Why is everyone going now? Is it really cheap or something? Are we exploiting the collapse of their economy?

Ah! You’re probably thinking of the Team Iceland trip that Hairpin pals Lindsey Weber and Bex Schwartz also took recently, and which they took many wonderful photographs of, and I actually have no idea! That was pure coincidence, I think, but maybe it’s something in the water or in the air or the lingering, bewitching smoke from EIJURKMSHEOOØVÄL, or the sideways magic of internet publicity campaigns. But everyone should go! It’s kind of cheap, but not really! My hotel was really inexpensive, and excellent ($270 for four nights — very clean, very comfortable, very quiet, VERY centrally located: Luna), and the flight wasn’t bad ($500ish), but once you’re there, food/booze/travel/items are all about the same price as they are in, say, New York, sadly. But that’s okay.

Does Bjork greet you at the airport and sing a song? Is it the poppier stuff or some of that weird shit she’s been doing more recently?

Actually what happens is they open the airplane door, and each passenger jumps off onto the back of a little Icelandic horse that then rides in slow motion through a geothermal pool, with the mists all around, and elves scurrying into the shadows, and the horse leads you to a castle made of stone and moss, and that is your hotel! No, but there’s a music-video channel called Nova there, if I recall correctly, and I just left it on in my room the whole time, and they played some really great stuff. They love Azealia Banks there, too!

What are Icelandic drinks like? What about Icelandic cigarettes?

Icelandic drinks are good. They drink a lot of beer, although not much wine. (But they have it, if you “need” it.) The best meal I had there was at Fish Market, and it really was unbelievably good (salmon etc.), but a glass of Barefoot Pinot Grigio (!) was like $14. WHAT! That was actually just a weird thing, I probably shouldn’t even be mentioning it, because it’s not indicative of too much else. But drinks are generally pretty expensive — roughly $5 to $8 for a beer. But you don’t tip anywhere, so that’s nice.

Also there’s a national drink called Brennivín that I’d been prepped for — “sometimes called ‘Black Death’” — but I didn’t come across that. Or, I didn’t until the last night, when I was at a bar listening to a blonde guitarist do acoustic Otis Redding covers, and a guy invited me to come sit with him and his friend, and I was like why not, and it turned out the first guy was the bar owner, and we chatted for a while, and I was like “do I have to try the Brennivín?” and he was like “no, but here,” and he gave me a tiny shot of it, and it was actually pretty tasty. But then he was like, “although you should definitely try this,” and he poured another tiny shot of this … candy liqueur, I don’t remember what it was, but it had a pink, sort of cartoony label. (Anyone?) It was the most disgusting thing I’ve consumed in recent memory.

And Icelandic cigarettes. If you go to Iceland and someone asks you to bring them home a pack of Icelandic cigarettes, and you go into a store to ask what kind of “local Icelandic cigarettes” they have, and the very sweet young man working in the store explains, without a glint of cruelty, that there are no local Icelandic cigarettes, only imported ones, because Iceland doesn’t grow too tremendously much tobacco, it being Iceland and all, and you feel like an idiot, WELL let me spare you that experience, because that is what happens.

Wait, all you did was go to bars and talk to guys?

No! I also went to the Blue Lagoon, twice, and floated around for hours with fancy Icelandic mud on my face. The second time I went — en route to my flight home — the sun came out and shone through the mists, and the water is this pale, opaque blue, and it’s slightly cooler than a hot tub, and it feels like you’re at either the end or the beginning of the world, and … I don’t know, I think I’m just going to trail off like a wisp of steam. It was wonderful.

I missed out on pretty much everything else (didn’t see the Northern Lights, didn’t go to the geysers or waterfalls, missed the Golden Circle), but it was a working vacation and I messed that part of it up, a little. But that’s why I have to go back.

Anyway, this airplane napkin kind of sums it all up.