What’s the best way to get local insights, tips, and information about a country you’re traveling to? Ask a local of course! Before my Iceland trip, I researched the awesome travel blog, StuckinIceland.com, and asked Jon Thorsteinsson some questions to get a better idea of Iceland, and what to do there.
Check out his suggestions and travel tips in the interview below!
Jon Thorsteinsson on Vatnajokull glacier
1. Are you originally from Iceland? If so, what part?
Yes I am born in the northern town of Akureyri. It is a really nice town to visit and as an added bonus it has best ice cream and sushi pizza(!). And the mountain range above the town is a formidable challenge for hikers .
2. Where do you live there, and why did you choose to make it home?
I live in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik . It is the classic Icelandic tale, I grew up in a town in the north, then went to university in Reykjavik and met my wife here and stayed on.
3. What do you do when you’re not doing things for your website?
Jon Thorsteinsson On Mt Esja
I make a living working as a marketing specialist for the leading Nordic IT company Advania, I work out four times a week at Bootcamp Iceland, I hang out with my wife and teenage daughter whenever possible and every night I take my cat Athena out for a twenty five minute walk (not on a leash). I kid you not.
4. What is your absolute favorite thing about living in Iceland?
Things are pretty simple here I suppose, commuting is easy etc. But the my favourite thing is that wide open spaces, a view of mountains, the sea and nature is always close by.
5. What’s your least favorite thing?
Getting my salary in the defunct Icelandic Krona, corrupt politicians/business people and those too many Icelanders who want to destroy priceless Icelandic nature for heavy industry and make a quick buck.
6. What’s a common misconception or stereotype about Iceland?
Rough hiking in the mountain range above Akureyri
There are a few. Firstly is the misconception that Iceland somehow changed its constitution, politics or economy after the financial crash of 2008. Unfortunately, this is untrue. Secondly, there is the stereotype that most Icelanders believe in elves or such supernatural beings. Thirdly, the stereotype that the people that settled Iceland were warlike Vikings is probably just that, a stereotype.
7. What do locals do for fun there? (Assuming they live in the main area of Reykjavik but correct me if I’m wrong)
The main area is indeed Reykjavik and the surrounding towns. What people do for fun varies obviously but Reykjavik is pretty rowdy on Saturday and Friday evenings so a fair share of Icelanders like to party. Bicycling and Crossfit seem to be the trendiest sports these days.
8. What’s the best way to get around?
If you are just staying in Reykjavik you should be OK with just taking the bus or bicycling. If you are venturing out to the countryside I recommend renting a car. It must be noted that the economical way of getting between towns is using the bus. It is a bit slow but you get the windshield tour and they do have WiFi so it can´t be all that bad.
9. What do locals wear there right now (trends, style, etc.) and what are some things you should definitely bring when visiting?
This is the best ice cream in Iceland – Brynja in Akureyri
I am the least trendy guy in the world so I can´t really help you with what is considered fashionable or trendy clothing. However, bring or buy clothing that prepare for the ever changeable Icelandic weather. During summer you can get sunny and warm, strong cold wind, driving horizontal rain and fog all in the same hour. In winter, well, Iceland is really just off the coast of Greenland and just below the arctic circle so go figure. Things can get cold, windy and snowy. When in Iceland think warm and dry rather than trendy I say!
10. How is the Wifi? Any tips for where you can get it?
WiFi is available in many cafés and restaurants in Reykjavik and the larger towns. Often it is open to all.
11. What are the must-see touristy things to do and see?
Icelandic flag in thingvellir
I suppose that the golden circle which includes Thingvellir, The geyser field at Haukadalur and Gullfoss waterfall must the be ultimate touristy thing to do. This is closely followed by the Blue Lagoon. I want to recommend the The Settlement Exhibition which is a really cool museum where you can view a viking age hall and get a genuine feel for the way the first settlers in Iceland survived and thrived here. I really admire those people and the way they were clever in exploiting all the resources available.
A visit to the black beach at Reynisfjara is a great experience but please be careful of the waves there. The last thing to mention is the new Whale Museum. It does a great job of displaying how huge and majestic whales really are
12. What are the must-see local favorite spots to hang out, or go visit on the weekends?
I recommend two bars that both have great craft beer and civilized and quiet enough and quiet enough to have a decent conversation with good friends: Skúli Craft Bar and Micro Bar. I have no idea on what clubs to recommend since I don´t frequent them at all. Sorry.
13. What are some places worth visiting outside of Reykjavik?
Going over a massive crevice at Hrutfjallstindar
There are loads of them actually. The Westfjords merit a special mention. It´s a remote area in the NorthWest of Iceland but it has some really impressive landscapes and a special atmosphere you can´t really find anywhere else. I also love going up to Vatnajokull glacier and been lucky enough to scale both Hrutfjallstindar Peaks and Hvannadalshnjukur, the highest mountain in Iceland. Both are in the Vatnajokull glacier. Skaftafell, which is nestled south of the mammoth glacier is a lovely area and finally there is the Vatnajokullglacier lagoon (“Jokulsarlon” in Icelandic), and Breidamerkursandur beach right next to it are impressive places.
14. What is the drink of choice?
Depends on what you are into. Iceland has pretty good coffee which is important. The most authentic Icelandic soda is probably “Appelsín” – an orange soda. During Christmas it is mixed with Malt which is an non-alcaholic ale. Iceland also has a lot of craft beers and my personal favourites are Kaldi (a pilsner) and Úlfur, a pretty rustic IPA.
15. What are some great things to do during the summer?
Rough hiking in the mountain range above Akureyri
Hiking is always popular activity for those who visit Iceland. I recommend Mt. Esja for something relatively easy and close to Reykjavik but if you really want to get stuck in I suggest Laugavegur hiking trail or Kjolur hiking trail. Swimming pools are also hugely popular in the summer and having ice cream. If the sun shines just a little bit and even if it is freezing cold, Icelanders flock to get ice cream.
16. What are some common/popular phrases that would be useful to know?
´Takk´ would be it. It simply means ´Thank you´ – it goes a long way!
17. What’s the favorite/staple food?
Hamburgers or pizza I´m afraid. But do try the fish and lamb. These are pretty good here in Iceland.
It is well worth a visit and so many people I have heard from find Iceland a magical place which they fall in love with. Especially they are enamoured with Icelandic nature and landscapes. But please remember that nature and weather here can be brutal and the weather is changeable. Iceland is called Iceland for a reason!
20. If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be?
No off road driving, preserve nature, don´t take anything but pictures and please enjoy your stay. You are most welcome.
Alyssa is a self-made, full time travel blogger who loves adventure and typically travels the world solo. She's been to 53 countries and 6 continents so far, and believes she has mastered the art of chasing waterfalls, traveling solo, wine drinking, and making budget-traveling look good. Curious to know how she started this career? Check out the About section above!