Which type of Iceland tourist are you?

Iceland is a pretty small and niche market for visitors, so you might think that the tourists that visit are all very similar. If you look closer, you will see that we come in many different forms…

The hipster. Went one year for Iceland Airwaves, and has returned every year ever since. Primary interest is Icelandic music. Other identifying characteristics are glasses and artfully messy hair.

The excited-first-timer. Has extensively researched their first trip, viewing thousands of photos of the same waterfalls. Looking forward to seeing the Northern Lights, elves, whales, and meeting Björk all in one trip.

The scared-first-timer. Has done no research and is now panicking about their two week road trip in February. Worrying about the weather, the car, volcanoes, the food and the prices. Most likely to contact Iceland bloggers in desperation.

The never-again. Usually only in Iceland to accompany a friend/partner who was passionate about visiting. Spends trip dying of boredom in the car, appearing windblown in photos and wondering where all the “things to do” are. Counting the days until they can go home.

The cruise ship day tripper. Comes for a few hours and spends a lot of money. Easily herded and just happy to be off the boat. Could this be the perfect tourist?

The cheapskate. Has come to Iceland determined not to spend any more money. Stubbornly existing on crackers and living in basic campsites or the side of the road. Particularly objects to high prices in the countryside. In extreme cases can also be found on tour buses that have come from the ferry packed with imported food and alcohol.

The foolhardy. Put themselves in easily avoidable dangerous situations. Think that their superior survival skills can easily handle Icelandic nature. Then require volunteer rescue due to storms, no sense of direction, and/or lack of common sense.

The addict. Visits Iceland over and over again because they haven’t found anywhere else they like as much. They are doomed to keep circling the Ring Road eating hot dogs for the rest of their lives. Goes to Iceland for the shopping instead of the normal way around, therefore also has no money.

The majority. Visits a combination of Reykjavík, the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. Goes home raving about how unspoiled and quiet these places are.

I confess, I have fit into one or two of these stereotypes myself. I wanted to make this a list of 10 rather than 9, but just couldn’t think of one more.  Am I missing any stereotypes that are unique to Iceland tourists? Which one is most like you?


53 thoughts on “Which type of Iceland tourist are you?

  1. Possible 10th types:

    Eco-tourist: Pedals a bicycle through horizontal rain and delights in soaking in naturally-heated hot springs. Believes this vacation has no carbon footprint because they conveniently forget the airplane flights to get here and the effort of transporting everything that isn’t made from sheep, grass or lava to the island.

    Extreme photographer: With distain for “amateurs” at other iconic sites like Yosemite, the Pyramids, and Ayer’s Rock; they drive the same ring road as every other photographer, believing they are the first to shoot each glacier, beach, and foggy coastline.

    The Geographic flag planters: Desiring to visit to visit yet another country, get further north than they’ve been before or be more removed from a cheap hotel room than anywhere else on the planet, they up their cred by leveraging IcelandAir’s free layover policy.

    A few of those may apply to me and my friends.

    • Ha ha, nice ones. I also thought of the photographer and the Tweeter, but I couldn’t think of a way to make them unique to Iceland as I’ve seen them other places too.

      I think the Geographic flag planters are encouraged by the description of Reykjavik as “the world’s most northerly capital” in just about every description going!

      I’ve seen a fair few of the eco-tourists too. I’d love to run around the Ring Road somehow if it wasn’t for the weather! (and that it would take me 3 months)

      I’ll look out for you and your friends next time, I might recognise you from these descriptions 🙂

  2. The Dedicated Explorer? On my first visit I was an excited first timer. And I only did the “touristy” bits. The second time, I wanted more – the interior, the non-tourist bits. Now I want the ‘real’ Iceland; last time I was there I was on my way to Greenland which also bowled me over…it’s so beautiful, but it doesn’t have Iceland’s volcanoes! I’m currently learning Icelandic (I have just started, it’s SO difficult!) and I’m arranging a homestay for next Easter when I have a few weeks off work, it will show me a different side to Iceland….

    • Wow, that all sounds very exciting. Agree, there’s definitely some Explorer types there too. I agree with your point that there are a lot of aspects to cover, and the more you go the more you discover you haven’t seen yet! Which is good as it gives you excuses to go back. Practicing Icelandic will be much easier when you’re actually there.

  3. The Saga fan – may be an academic or just someone who loves reading the Icelandic sagas and wants to visit all the places mentioned, preferably dressed in authentic clothes and riding an Icelandic horse. Also has to see the Arnamagnaean Institute and preferably spend at least all day there, longer if possible.

    The yarnie – goes to admire the sheep, the knitting, the wool shops and buy as much lopi as possible.

    The horsey type – wants to tolt and go on a riding trip across Iceland, staying in a different place each night.

    When I go, I will be a mix of these and the excited first timer 🙂 (except I am not sure I could physically cope with the riding one now. I saw it on telly and wanted to do it, but now I haven’t ridden in years and would probably just fall off. Even if I stayed on, I would have such saddle sores the next day that I think it would need to be just one pony trek now.)

  4. This is a really nice question. I guess I was a kind of uncurious first-timer who didn’t much research before the first stay. But after that first journey I’m on the way to become an addict (without being doomed in the hotdog and Ring Road loop) 😉
    And I have something to say about the cruise shippers. They mostly spend few money in Iceland, because they have full pension and souvenir shops on board. The Icelanders who make the most money out of them them are the owners of bus companies who drives them to the sightseeing spots where they invade like ants. 😉 You see I’m still not over the cruise ship museum issue. 😀

    • I have the feeling you and I will be doing almost identical trips for years to come!

      Yes, I see you’re still traumatised by the cruise ship museum. If it makes you feel any better I won’t be visiting there either. I had the impression that the cruise shippers bought lots of “gifts” in the souvenir shops but maybe not. They’ve certainly got in my way a few times in there. 🙂

  5. Definitely the addict! I was a first timer in 1988, although I can’t explain a 13 year gap along the way except by lack of funds and time. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve returned, often with first timers who have more often than not become addicts.

    Researching the place is so different now, with limitless information and pictures available on-line. In ’88 before flying up I relied on two flimsy brochures and a talk by a schools expedition leader. When I arrived there was no information at Keflavik other than getting on the Flybus, and waiting to get to Reykjavik. The Tourist Information Centre was at that time upstairs in the Bus Station, sometimes unmanned. There wasn’t much more information there either! I remember finding just one picture of Svartifoss which was the first time I had seen it. I asked where it was, and nobody in the TIC knew! I did find out its location and it became my biggest aim of my first visit!

    My experience of the Cruise Ship Day Trippers is that they don’t spend money! Up here in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland they clutter up little towns, infuriating shopkeepers, although bus companies and harbour authorities must do well from them.

    • I agree Sam, even since I first visited in 2005 it suddenly seems there is so much more information available. And still people ask me really basic questions sometimes. 🙂 Luckily more people visiting and general accessibility hasn’t ruined the place yet, although who knows in 50 years? It must have been great to show people your photos before they could see it all online.
      I cam imagine the pain of living in a cruise ship area. There must be a benefit to them for someone as they seem to land in even the tiniest places. It must be a real nuisance when they’re “in”.

  6. My father requested that his ashes be put in the Eyjafjörður near where his father had been born. I had been a student working a full time job and didn’t have much time to look into the trip, so my brother took care of the details. From the time we landed in Akureyri until well after we left, my jaw dropped and my eyes grew huge. Every time I hear of anything Icelandic or even think about it I get the same look on my face. I think it scares people. Now I’m an addict.

    • Another cateogory for people like you – the “transplanted Icelander” – should be living in Iceland, but have the misfortune of ancestors who moved away. Doomed to a life of living in the wrong place.
      I think I get the same look on my face, which is why I had to start a blog rather than talking to people in real life about it!

      • Ha ha I get you:) But what are those peoples reasons?
        I remember years ago reading an article some guy wrote. He had his kids with him and they had to stop over in Iceland on their way somewhere else, and he used the opportunity to stay a couple days since he had never been there.
        Well, it was middle of winter and he had not research anything and was not prepared for the cold. So he had to go shopping for wintetclothes and found everything to be very expensive. He was very upset and not impressed…….

      • Well, some people need a lot of noise/stimulation on their trips. I think the problem is sometimes people going along to please someone else. But I’ve heard comments around nothing to do, bad weather, too much time in the car, too expensive, etc. Just like somewhere like Morocco isn’t for me, I suppose Iceland isn’t for everyone. And yeah, people should do their research before they go on holiday ANYWHERE, always amazes me when they don’t, and what basic questions I get asked sometimes when it’s all out there…

  7. I believe that maybe I am one of the missed in your article. In Reykjavik I love the new Opera House, the gay cafes, the museums and the graffiti art that is everywhere and the feeling of always being on a hike in nature. In the outskirts there is still art to be found, weaving and knitting at the very least, stores that are almost museums, and outdoor extravaganzas to be had, like swimming between the Earth’s plates. I liked reading your post as it brought my mind to what I liked about Iceland.

    • Thanks Sarah. Maybe the “Iceland Artiste”? Another good suggestion. I am always amazed at how creative everyone seems to be in Iceland, maybe because there seems to be less judgment and criticism when people attempt new things. Or maybe it’s the inspiring landscape. Either way, I agree!

  8. Reading the comments here is really interesting. Most people seem to start out as a nervous or over-excited first-timer who does the “usual” stuff. Then they feel compelled to return and see the next level. Then, perhaps, they just go back because they feel they need to.

    With this in mind, I was thinking of suggesting that number 10 should be “the digger”, “the scraper” or “the onion peeler” – someone who just repeatedly goes through the phases you mention and slowly gets deeper and deeper into Icelandic nature and culture with each trip …

    … and then it occured to me that when one considers the island’s history and the people who have been through the most cycles of returning there for more, number 10 should perhaps be “The Icelander” – the ultimate “tourists”, they could not leave and made the place their own 🙂

  9. Ohh… bravo, make # 10 The Icelander, as suggested above! very deftly put… I’d been thinking of suggesting The Far-North Addict (visits Iceland with joy & some degree of compare/contrast intelligence, loving it as one distinct variation in a Far North theme, whose other variations include Nunavut, Nunavik, NWT, & Yukon in Canada; Alaska in the USA; Greenland; Siberia; the Faroes, even Orkney).

    • I like “Far-north addict”, but then I live in Alaska, have flown to Prudhoe Bay and driven to Barrow and Inuvik (NWT). However, I note that some are bipolar. i.e. they are high-latitude addicts – Antarcticia, Paragonia, Northern AK, Canada, Norway, etc.

      • Bipolar, that’s interesting! It’s a lot of ground to cover if you’re trying to cover both the top and bottom of the globe. I think I’ll stick with the north, although I have heard lots of interesting things about the South Island of New Zealand being similar to Iceland.

      • Bi-polars do have a lot of ground to cover, but it allows you to get your fix for snow, auroras, and cold in any season. I met some Gen-Xers some years back who were living like Arctic terns – working the northern summer in Denali National Park (Alaska) and the Antarctic summer in McMurdo Station with 3-month-long vacations as their “commute” between jobs in each direction.

      • How interesting, never came across anyone doing that before. We’re so lucky to be able to travel between places that easily now. However, as someone who is not a lover of long flights I think I’ll be staying at the Arctic end. It does give me food for thought that there would be some overlap “down south” though…

      • Aha, no wonder you had a feel for the list! I live south (in Canada) but for a while travelled a lot in our Arctic, writing for both north & south publications. How lucky I was, to have those experiences.

  10. I’m an addict for sure! i have not been in a while, only because i don’t have the money to go and it’s killing my soul to be away so long!
    one group you forgot is the “dirty weekend” bachelor party groups who go, they have the view that icelandic women are all sluts and get very drunk and wear those awful viking horn hats. i’ve seen them myself, not pretty.

  11. Haven, t been yet_over exited first timer. My husband goes with “never wana go”, there
    fore I am leaving him at home. I dont want him to spoil my trip.

  12. After my second trip last week I think I’m moving nicely from Excited First-Timer to Addict. Probably should add in a dash of Foolhardy since I had to have my car towed out of a snowdrift near Myatn. It cost me 8000 krona but I didn’t think it would be good form to haggle with the guy who’s rescuing your dumb tourist ass. 🙂

  13. I am going to be the exited first timer- though I am more a rabid Skalmold fangirl, really want to see the puffins and go ride the Icelandic horses.

  14. The honorary-Icelander…..The one who goes to volunteer/work in a hostel or farm over summer and never leaves. Meanders around the country, staying with local families and hitchhiking everywhere. Eventually joins the locals in laughing at tourist’s pronunciation and people getting stuck in the snow. Lugs an excessively large backpack which gets gradually heavier and heavier as more yarn and knitting needles are added. Cleans toilets for a living but is envied by everyone they know for their exciting life.
    Gods I miss Iceland. And I love your blog 🙂 And I LOVE that its snowing on wordpress.

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