Saturday, 2 June 2007

Icelandic misconceptions from abroad.

The classic line goes along the lines of this:

"Did you know? Iceland is actually green, and Greenland is actually covered in snow! Funny eh?!"

Although this does have a certain amount of merit, I can assure you that Iceland does have it's fair share of snow and ice. One things for certain. There is a great deal of misconception surrounding Iceland from people living outside the country. Don't get me wrong. People don't leave the country disappointed when they visit, but they often don't see what they are expecting to see.

1. Snow and Ice. As you probably know, the area around Reykjavik is almost always free from snow. This leads to the situation where there is tangible disappointment from tourists on the flybus from Keflavik. "Where's the snow?!", "I thought it was called 'Iceland'" etc. etc..
2. The Ice Bar/Hotel. Sorry folks, wrong country! Too warm i'm afraid. You'll need to visit Sweden for that one. Ok, before someone picks me up on this one. There is an 'Ice Bar' in town, but it's not the icy palace you're looking for - sorry.
3. Huskies and sledges. Again wrong country. Ok, minor correction, you can get a sledge ride here, but it seems to be more of a supply and demand thing from tourists. Try Icelandic Horse tours (or preferably 4x4 tours - far more sensible!)
4. Volcanoes. Sorry to disappoint you, but volcanoes don't go off as regularly as Strokkur in the Golden Circle. The last major event took place in November 2004 (Ok, I may be wrong here, but my point stands) There is plenty of evidence of really interesting volcanic activity around the country, but seeing a mountain belching out lava is a long shot (and probably pretty dangerous to watch anyway!).
5. Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Iceland is a great place to see the northern lights due to it's latitude, and fantastic clear skies. Unfortunately, many tourists know this, and come to the country in the summer looking forward to seeing them.... and leave disappointed. It just doesn't get dark enough in the summer months.
6. The Arctic. Contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not in the Arctic circle (apart from half an island off the north coast, the size of a postage stamp).
7. Midnight sun. Now it is close, but for those who studied geography you know that to have a true midnight sun in the middle of the summer, you need to be inside the Arctic circle. Iceland and Reykjavik sells this to tourists though, by using GMT so midnight arrives a little sooner, and hence midnight arrives in daylight. Slight cheat, but there you go.
8. Reykjavik. This is an interesting one. Generally when foreigners arrive in Reykjavik, they are shocked that it's not the futuristic party city the rumours would lead you to believe, rather a medium sized town that admittedly punches above it's weight on the party scene.
9. Others. No, Santa doesn't live here, everyone isn't like Björk, there aren't any "Iceland" stores here, no penguins, no Inuits, and no igloos i'm afraid!

I should make it clear that the rumour about Iceland having a high proportion of attractive girls is true. Although some may say I've just said that to escape an attack from the Icelandic Mafia ;)

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