10 things you probably didn’t know about Iceland

Rooftops in ReykjavikGullfossGullfossRed barn on DyrhólaeyMountainsJökulsárlónVatnajokullHúsavíkHafnarfjallBlue LagoonStreet art in Reykjavik

2/3 of the country resides in the capitol city area of Reykjavik. Yup, that’s right! Over 200,000 people call the metro area their home.

Prohibition lasted until 1989. Order a beer with your lunch and they’ll look at you like you’re a raging alcoholic. But come Friday and Saturday, join them for the rúntur, where people of all ages go out with the intention of getting completely shitfaced. No, really.

Glacial runoff is the main source of cold water in Iceland. No need to filter the water that comes out of faucets, because it’s some of the purest in the world.

Hot water comes from the natural hot springs. And smells like sulfur. But don’t let the funky smell fool you – the sulfur will make your skin the softest it’s ever been.

The center of the country is pretty much uninhabitable. In the earlier days, outlaws fled to the highlands to avoid the law. And few, if any, survived.

Icelanders take their swimming seriously. Every community has an outdoor, heated pool. Complete with a water slide. And if you want to indulge in their luxury, you must bathe before swimming. The pools contain no chemicals – only natural sulfur water – and Icelanders cannot stand when tourists dirty their pools.

The life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. And with state funded health care, they plan to keep it that way.

The Blue Lagoon is manmade. And is heated with water from a nearby geothermal power plant.

A majority of the world’s puffin population resides in Iceland during mating season. And I got to see them in action.

The crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. Babies are left outside, unattended in their buggies, while parents dine in restaurants or shop around the boutiques. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about taking someone’s baby.

Most facts of Iceland brought to you by Thom (pictured above), my very handsome, walking encyclopedia. See more photos of Iceland here.


  • Reply glutenfreehappytummy.com 31 May 2012 at 2:25 PM

    your photos are breathtaking! and what interesting facts! thanks for sharing1

  • Reply Amanda 31 May 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Your photos are beautiful! I loved reading the facts about Iceland, although the whole leaving babies outside thing would make me very anxious!

  • Reply Erin @ Texanerin Baking 31 May 2012 at 2:39 PM

    I never got the leave-the-babies-outside thing in Scandinavia. I think it’s a little crazy. I’ve seen it often in Germany too, where it’s even more crazy because at least where I live, it’s nowhere as safe as most areas of Scandinavia.

    I love seeing your Iceland pictures! And the facts were interesting too. I had no idea there was probation until 1989.

  • Reply Cadry 31 May 2012 at 4:04 PM

    Look at those colors! Iceland looks gorgeous, and I enjoyed reading all of the little facts about it. Seeing babies outside all alone would worry me too. I’d feel like sitting and waiting beside them until their parents get back.

    I hope you plan on writing more about your travels!

  • Reply sandra 31 May 2012 at 6:41 PM

    That’s one photogenic country… I was there a while ago but spent most of my time digging out what was purported to be the first Viking settlement on the island (near Akureyri, the second city of Iceland). I am jealous of your trip.

  • Reply Allysia 31 May 2012 at 8:51 PM

    This was a really interesting post! I’m from Saskatchewan (Canada), which is a place that definitely sees some harsh winters and short summers, but I don’t think that even I would be able to handle the elements in Iceland. I can hardly handle them here, ha ha! :) It looks like a beautiful place to visit, however!

  • Reply Brittany Boersma 1 June 2012 at 3:14 AM

    Stunning photos. Holy Cow.

  • Reply linh and evan 1 June 2012 at 7:37 AM

    amazing photos!! iceland is on my bucket list for traveling to next year!! how did you manage to eat vegan there? I read that it is very tough!!

    thanks for sharing the photos!!!

    • Reply Ashlae 1 June 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Hi Linh & Evan! :) Well.. I didn’t, and you kind of can’t. In Reykjavik and Akureyri it was simple – but anywhere outside of the two major cities you literally cannot exist on a vegan diet unless you’re ok with eating iceberg lettuce and red peppers for every meal. I plan on doing a post about it soon. But! That’s part of traveling – you’ve got to be prepared to eat like the indigenous people.

      • Reply Sharon 26 April 2016 at 12:30 PM

        Yes, you can eat vegan everywhere. Yes, yes, yes. Vegans travel the world and find edibles. In Reykjavik, yes, and go to Kaffí Vinyl or Glo. Yes in Hafnarfjordur. Yes outside the main cities. Surprisingly everyone knows what vegan means and can help find something for you.

    • Reply Caitlin 6 June 2012 at 5:43 PM

      ashlae- i’d love to know more about your travels! especially what you ate while you were there. (i love learning about food from other countries and regions.) also, it would be fun to hear where you stayed, how you got around, etc. dayv recently brought up iceland for some reason and said it was an inexpensive country to visit because it is in economic turmoil. did you get that impression while you were there?

      ahhh..such a long comment. sorry!

    • Reply Ashlae 6 June 2012 at 6:18 PM

      Hi lady! I’ve actually got an Iceland post in the works :) And, unfortunately, the economic crisis over there isn’t that bad – things were still very, very expensive.

    • Reply Caitlin 6 June 2012 at 8:12 PM

      yay! i can’t wait!!

      and..i expected as much. i remembered reading before that it was an expensive vacation destination.

  • Reply Richa 1 June 2012 at 6:56 PM

    gorgeous clicks! love those colorful houses.. i think i will have to travel with a stash of bars and 1 minute meals:)

  • Reply Heidi @ Food Doodles 1 June 2012 at 7:09 PM

    Love this post! My husbands family is Icelandic although they’ve been in Canada for a few generations. It’s still fun to read things like this, and the pictures are great! Thanks for sharing :D

  • Reply KL 1 June 2012 at 10:51 PM

    Amazingly gorgeous pics! And very entertaining/interesting facts!

  • Reply thejollyfox.com 2 June 2012 at 12:33 AM

    Lovely photos. Love all of the colorful rooftops and buildings. Also love the one of that tiny red house or barn on the hillside. When I was studying various physical earth sciences in college (geography major here), I did a paper on Iceland–it’s such a fascinating place just geologically and geographically. If I ever went there, I would probably spend all my time studying the basalt formations. Hope you had a fantastic time. The bit about “rúntur” makes me laugh. If I ever go, that is something I will have to participate in :)

  • Reply Meg 3 June 2012 at 5:53 PM

    These are wonderful pictures. I would love to know more about your travels and where you stayed and such/how you got around! AH!

  • Reply Jeanine 5 June 2012 at 3:06 PM

    I love seeing your photos – they are so gorgeous! Looks like it was a fabulous trip!

  • Reply Kristy 6 June 2012 at 7:41 PM

    Wow! I wanna go! Great photos, and very fascinating info about Iceland! It’s never been at the top of my list of places I want to see, but, now it’s definitely in the top 10.

    I read in your comment above that it wasn’t easy to eat vegan everywhere. I can’t wait to hear more about it! Thank you, Ashlae!

  • Reply leyla. 11 June 2012 at 11:05 PM

    you’ve captured iceland so beautifully. sadly, it is not a place that’s much talked about. thanks for sharing these and i loved reading about the 10 things i didn’t know.


  • Reply Lauren Knight 12 June 2012 at 1:02 AM

    This looks amazing! I had no idea Iceland was so colorful! I am adding it to one of the places I MUST visit! Thank you for this post! And Thom sure is cute (but so are you, of course)!

  • Reply Hanna 28 June 2012 at 9:34 PM

    I’ve been following you for awhile but I never commented until now because I found it very funny scrolling down your last posts and seeing that you were actually in my country just a few weeks back! Haha. I have to say though that some of your fact aren’t really true. Like the blue lagoon isn’t manmade really. It’s heated by geothermal power in the ground. Also we do use chlorine in our swimming pools so they are not just pure icelandic water. And it’s not called “rúntur” anymore. It was maybe in the ’90s but we just call it “djammið” today. Also the prohibition that lasted until 1979 was only on beer and not other alcohol. You could drink as much of that as you liked! Haha! O and about being vegan in Iceland. It’s doable. I’ve was vegan here for 5 years and I always managed when I went traveling around but I have to say that being vegetarian (like I’ve been for the last 4 or 5 years now) is a little bit more easier. You can even get some veggie burger and stuff like that outside of Reykjavík and Akureyri. But ok sorry about the longest comment ever but anyways I hope you enjoyed your stay here in Iceland. O and I love your blog. Keep up the great work :)

    • Reply Ashlae 28 June 2012 at 10:22 PM

      First of all, I am extremely jealous of the fact that you live in Iceland. It’s my favorite place in the world, hands down. And second of all, the Blue Lagoon was dug out and then filled with water from the power plants. It’s natural, but still man made.

      Also, I plan on doing a post about eating in Iceland sometime soon. It was not possible to eat a healthy vegan diet there, for me. But I eat eggs, anyway, so I supplemented with those.

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