In Iceland, you’ll find Europe’s largest national park, Vatnajökull National Park, with an area of 12,000 square kilometres. That’s over 10 percent of the country! There are few regions in the world like this with its diverse mix of icecap and outer glaciers, geothermal energy and sub-glacial volcanic activity. Want to know more about this natural wonderland? Read on.
Australian passport holders can enter Iceland and stay for up to 90 days in an 180-day period without a visa thanks to the Schengen Convention. All the usual entry requirements apply; make sure you have 6 months’ validity on your passport and if you’re holding a large sum of money (over 10,000 Euros or the equivalent), you’ll need to declare it on arrival. For the latest visa information, contact the Iceland Consulate before you leave Australia.
For now, the currency of Iceland is the Icelandic Króna. However, this could change in 2014 when Iceland is expected to join the European Union. If this happens, Iceland, like many other countries in the EU, may swap to the Euro. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and Icelandic Króna fluctuates constantly, so it’s a good idea to monitor the market activity and buy your cash when the rate is at its best.
Before we talk about food, let’s chat about beer. It seems strange but up until 1989, ‘strong’ (over 2.25 percent alcohol) beer was banned. The ban was overturned on March 1, 1989 – forever known as Beer Day! Because of the country’s minimal industrial output, you’ll find the meat and seafood in Iceland is some of best quality in all of Europe. There are restaurants in Hafnarfjörður, Stokkseyri and Reykjavik that specialise in lobster – and they sure do it well. In Akureyri and Reykjavik, there’s also a wide variety of international cuisines, much like you’ll find in any cosmopolitan city. All over there is a lot of lamb – you can have it in stews, grilled, but don't expect lamb with salad – they haven’t caught onto salads yet. Given Iceland has a cold climate, preserved foods are common. A traditional favourite is harðifiskur – a dried haddock, which is eaten as a snack. Game is also very popular in Iceland with the grouse-like ptarmigan eaten at Christmas, as well as reindeer (no, not Rudolf!) and puffin.
You can get cosy in a fishing village’s local pub, but if you want a wild night out on the town, you’d best shoot for Reykjavik. The creative capital has sure earned itself a name for seriously good tunes, so be sure to check out the live music scene. Friday nights are best started with a runtur – a wild pub crawl that’ll take you to some of the best bars and clubs in town. There are countless clubs, bars, cafes and pubs around the city centre that stay open ‘til 5am in the morning. Things don’t really kick off until midnight though, so make sure you spend your 5 hours of party time wisely. One of the most prestigious clubs in town is Kaffibarinn – look for the London tube sign. Co-owned by Blur singer Damon Albarn, this trendy bar attracts famous Icelandic writers, musos, fashion designers and artists. Some other faves include Kaffi Reykjavik, B5 and Bar 11. No matter where you’re heading, make sure you dress to impress.