Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


13 reasons why Icelanders are amazing by an occasional traveller

  • Taking travel by the horns Samer Farha has visited Iceland 13 times since the year 2000. Photo/Brian W. Knight

Samer Farha was born in Lebanon, now a US citizen and world traveler. He’s been coming to Iceland since a 2000 trip to London, and fell in love with the place. He loves to explore, photograph, and enjoy the cool Icelandic climate.


After reading the great article 19 reasons why Icelanders are strange, according to a Spaniard living in Iceland, Samer Farha tweeted at us that he would like to compile a list of reasons "why Icelanders are amazing from an occasional traveler". We said game on and here is his list:

On the eve of my thirteenth trip to Iceland, I’ve been asked a few times why I love going there. There are many reasons, but most of these are personified by the awesome people. Here’s a short list of why Icelanders are awesome:

1. It’s in their nature
Seriously, look around. Iceland is an amazing landscape. From the moonscapes of the highlands to the greenery that abounds, from the glaciers to national parks, no other place I’ve been offers the breathtaking beauty of this island in the north Atlantic. And that beauty is naturally reflected in the people who live here.

2. Everyone knows one another
This is a bit of a myth, as no one can possibly know a few hundred thousand people. But it feels like everyone does. People acknowledge each other on the streets and in the cafes, and they’ll say hello to a complete stranger.

3. They’re friendly
You might have heard about the standoffish nature of the Scandinavian and particularly the Icelander. I say it’s hogwash. Everyone here is approachable, and given a pint and some time to kill, they’ll gladly talk to you about everything (Icelandic and not).

4. They’re curious about the world
Icelanders are very curious about the world outside of Iceland. Unlike some other island-nations (and even certain super powers, ahem), Icelanders don’t look inward as much as they look outward. They’re generally well travelled, and love to debate world politics.

5. They’re the most environmentally friendly people
They’ve long fought the destruction of nature, while at the same time being pragmatic enough to use the volcanic heat underfoot to provide heat and power.

6. They’re shrewd at business
The Blue Lagoon was nothing but an accident. The power plant’s plan to dump the used geothermal waters into a pool in the back failed when the minerals silted up the lave plain and the water wouldn’t drain away. When people started to swim there and discovered the healing properties of the mineral bath, the spa of the Blue Lagoon was born.

7. They’re going to be energy independent
On one trip, I met a scientist who showed me around a new power station that he’d helped build. The run off from the used (but still hot) water was going to be used for farming fish and algae. Some of the algae would feed the fish, but some would be turned into biodiesel. He explained how he thought it’s possible for Iceland to be energy independent within a few decades.

8. They’re proud of their country
Without being jingoistic or xenophobic, Icelanders are extremely proud of their country. Given a chance, they’ll talk about its wonders. But as in point 4, they’re just as likely to want to talk about your country.

9. They love their food
Over the 14 years that I’ve been coming to Iceland, the food scene here has exploded. Great little eateries have popped up everywhere, and world class restaurants are a dime a dozen. These places, proud of their heritage, love to showcase local foods in new ways: from puffin to reindeer, from whale to lamb and fish. I’d still skip the shark, if I were you.

10. They love their beer 
Hand in hand, the beer scene in Iceland has grown. Even though the majority drink Scandinavian style lagers, small brewers are blowing up. I’m especially impressed with a certain Lava Stout, and plan to drink as much of it as my liver will take.

11. They love to party
On my first Friday night in Iceland, hanging out at the Dubliners around 8p, I ask the bartender, “where is everyone?” He told me to go back to my hotel, take a nap, and come out later. Sure enough, the party got started around 11p and just went on and on and on.

12. They’re artistic
Based on my observations, I’d say half of Icelanders are artists of a sort: writers, poets, painters, photographers, and musicians. And oh boy is the art amazing. You want to seem like you’re on the cutting edge of the music scene back home? Come here, pick up some music and tell your friends about it. In a few years, they’ll be big elsewhere (cf Sugar Cubes, Bjork, Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men).

13. They’ve got a sense of fashion
Maybe it’s because of all the art and creativity that abounds, maybe because it’s too difficult to dress for the weather, but Icelanders have a sense of style and fashion that would be amazing to see in a large city! 

Okay, I think I’ll stop at 13, since it’s my 13th trip!

Samer runs a Tumblr of pictures from Iceland.

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