Iceland: the land of fire, ice and rotten eggs.

Until December last year, Colombia had been my number one, my recommended destination, the best country I’d ever travelled to. People would ask me “why Colombia?” or “what’s so great about Colombia?” – I’d reply with just one word: Cartagena. The sun, the sea, the cerveza and the ceviche; Cartagena was my favourite place in the whole world. Or at least, my favourite place of the 30+ countries I’ve visited in the whole world.

But two-and-a-half years later and 15 new stamps in my passport after visiting Colombia, the South American country has finally been knocked off my top spot. It’s successor? A tiny Nordic island in the middle of the North Atlantic, with a climate so extreme it’s a wonder any form of life survives there. An island inhabited by a nation of culturally curious oddballs who believe in elves, trolls, folklore and fairies. An island that has just four hours of daylight in winter, and only two hours of darkness in summer.

Iceland.

In December 2017, my long distance love affair with Colombia came to an abrupt end. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t been looking for a new relationship – though I’d flirted with several countries over the last two-and-a-half years, I’d never cheated on Colombia. It’s not in my nature. Sure, India had the Taj Mahal, Jordan had the ancient city of Petra and Mexico had beautiful beaches, Chichen Itza and more street art than I could possibly have dreamed of, but none of them were a patch on my Colombia.

But unfortunately for my Latino lover, as soon as I met Iceland it was love at first flight. So I said “adios” Cartagena and “viltu drykk?” Reykjavík. I didn’t even give myself a chance to enjoy being single for a while. Iceland stole my heart before I’d even had time to unpack my carry-on (which actually took quite a while, as somewhere between the airport and the hostel I ended up with the wrong bag without realising… but more on that another time).

With only a three hour (and £50) flight between Reykjavík and I, we’re definitely more compatible, and the relationship more sustainable, than the 15 hours (and £700+) of travelling needed to reach my beloved ex, Cartagena. This obviously ticks a few extra boxes that Colombia didn’t.

But as with any new partner though, there are always going to be some niggles, some bad habits and pet peeves that you must endure for the sake of the relationship. Though you may never fully embrace these niggles, you feel so much love for your partner that you’re willing to make a few allowances – their positives far outweigh their negatives, after all.

For example, as much as I love Iceland, I’m not sure I could ever get used to (and heaven forbid, learn to like) the pungent stench of rotten eggs that escapes from every hot tap and shower head in all the land. At the hostel, at the swimming pool, at Björn’s apartment, even when I turned on the tap to wash my hands in the bathroom by the Seljalandsfoss waterfall (which is in the middle of bloody nowhere), all I could smell were eggs.

Have you ever tried to shower, with water running down your nose and throat, while attempting to hold your breath to prevent inhalation of the sulphuric stink that seeps out of the Icelandic plumbing system? I have, and it’s not pretty. It involved gasping like a goldfish for several seconds, then holding my breath for as long as I could before I’d next need to inhale. Sexy.

But even the rank eggy smell of the water can’t put me off the place, my new favourite country in the whole world. And you shouldn’t let it deter you either. Though I only spent five short days in Iceland last December, the out-of-this-world landscapes, dazzling Northern Lights, peculiar people, curious culture and interesting history were what stole my heart.

In fact, I love it that much, I’ve booked to go again in March, where I’ll be heading off on a mini road trip from Reykjavík with Björn. Though I think this time around I’m gonna pack a peg for my nose.

132 thoughts on “Iceland: the land of fire, ice and rotten eggs.

  1. Oh I know that smell! It happens when we go to the mountains…for a few hours after you turn the water back on. It’s the WORST! But I’ve heard wonderful things about Iceland and would love to visit one day! Looks awesome!

  2. It sounds like a dream Becca, except for the rotten eggs. But I’m sure you get used to it if you live there and those views are to die for. Wow. I’ll have to try add a trip to Iceland to my ever growing list of wishlist places

  3. It was really interesting to read your post, especially that South America is number one on my list of favorite places to travel to. But then again, I have never been to Iceland yet. I maybe should book a trip there soon and see for myself why so many people fall in love with this tiny island in the middle of the ocean.

  4. Iceland is one of my favorite countries as well even though I am not a fan of cold. It is one of the most unique places I have visited. Cannot wait to get back there soon.

    ❥ tanvii

  5. And who said iceland doesn’t have ICE lol… that looks really interesting. i love the geological parts of it – for me, seeing a different geography and landscape is a huge part of the enjoyment of travel.

  6. Love this post, I went to Iceland last January and thought it’s one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited!

    Two of my friends travelled there recently and seeing all their photos makes me want to go back so badly ❤

  7. What an amazing experience, and one for the brave only I think with the extreme coldness, it does look very beautiful though and I’d love to visit one day, I think the shower situation would take some getting used to but it wouldn’t put me off seeing a beautiful country 🙂

  8. My husband wants to go to Iceland SOOOO badly. While I am always game for ANYTHING – I know when we go it’s going to be just so dang FREEEEEZZZZINNNGGG and I am not so good with cold weather, LOL! But I need to just wear two HUGE jackets and I think I will be okay! LOL!

  9. This truly looks like such a beautiful place to visit and I would love so much to visit it someday… I know it will be soooooo cold but I don’t mind… I think the beauty in the sights will be worth it…

  10. I’m still shocked you loved Columbia so much. I would love to visit Iceland more than Columbia. I’m wondering if the people are somewhat like Alaskans. The views are definitely beautiful!

    1. It’s because it’s so natural! The hot water in Iceland sometimes smells of sulphur because of its geothermal origins. Instead of using boilers, the warm water comes straight from the ground and is supplied by geothermal power plants x

  11. Wonderful love story! Beware of promoting your new lover though, someone might get the idea to steal him 😉
    As for rotten-eggs-smelling water, I bet it is actually really healthy for your skin! People pay to go to such thermal pools! Be happy it comes out of the regular tap in Iceland! 😂

  12. I have heard so much about Iceland and it really seems like an amazing place too, somewhere where there is so much to do and see and somewhere that is really vibrant and versatile.

  13. I have a friend that goes to Iceland twice a year and I never heard her talk about any rotten egg smell. Oh goodness! Not sure if I could deal with this but I have always wanted to visit this country.

  14. You took some great pictures. I have never been to Iceland and not Iceland is on my travel list of places that I must see. But the water and the smell of rotten eggs will take some getting use to. The eggs are a total turn off.

  15. I have always wanted to go Iceland! I would have to get used to cold being that I’m from Chicago

  16. I love reading about Iceland because it’s high on my bucket list (I want to see the Northern Lights 😍)! Glad to know about the egg smell, so I won’t be surprised and will pack something to plug my nose. 😆

  17. Iceland looks so beautiful, even with the eggy smell I would still love to visit. I would have to see the northern lights, that is a bucket list adventure for sure. Great pictures, I am glad you had so much fun and have booked to go again 🙂

  18. WHY DOES THE WATER ALL SMELL LIKE EGGS?!?!!?!! Hahahah I am mystified!!! Iceland looks absolutely gorgeous though, sooo jealous – though less so than if you had not described the smell with so much detail. :p

  19. Such great pictures! I would love to visit Iceland! I know what you mean about highly sulphuric water. I have experienced that in the south of Argentina, and also in other cities especially those near to thermal sources. The smell is unpleasant but the water is quite good for the skin! It improved my boy’s skin who suffers with chronic atopic dermatitis.

  20. Definitely adding this to my places-to-visit list! This seems like such a gorgeous place and though I’ve heard a lot about Iceland’s beauty, I’m pretty sure it’s some other level of amazement to be right there 😀 Your pictures make the place look all the more beautiful <3 The shower sounds awful, haha, but of course, there's no fun without some struggle so yippee to the rotten egg smell XD Great post!

  21. Iceland looks beautiful! I can see why you wanted to end your love affair with Colombia. You could just treat her like a Mistress 😉 I don’t think I could deal with the smell though.

  22. Iceland is a truly remarkable, spell-binding place isn’t it? Enough going for it to put up with ubiquitous rank eggy smell at any rate 😉 There’s no doubt it’s something that takes a lot of getting used to, but so worth it though, when you consider just what else there is on offer 🙂

  23. Oh, I do really love Iceland. I’ve been there last year with my hubby and we really enjoy the beautiful scenery of that place. and I really feel you in that eggy smell. LOL!!

  24. I have always wanted to visit iceland too – it looks like such a pretty country but Im not so keen on the smell tho after reading this post 🙂

  25. I love the angle you have taken to describe this obviously wonderful place. I have never visited Iceland before, but the way in which you describe it makes me want to add it to my list of places to see. The people sound interesting and the scenery looks incredible!

  26. Gosh, Iceland would surely make for a sweet lover! Though I may need to experience that “sulphuric” smell myself, bath or not. I just feel like it, haha!

  27. It is totally a place that is on my bucket list, and even the smell of rotten eggs couldn’t change that!

  28. I know exactly why you feel this way Becca. Iceland is beautiful, dramatic and like a dream! I don’t remember much the smell of rotten eggs, and I’m very sensitive to smell! Hope you had a lovely time with your partner there xx

  29. I must say that I LOVE your style! I’ve been reading descriptions of travels, and even though the trips sounded amazing, the accounts of them were often rather boring. Not yours! I enjoyed reading every sentence 😉
    Your photos are beautiful, and I’m convinced now that Iceland might be the perfect place for me! Those landscapes are fabulous, and my nose not operating properly, I wouldn’t be bothered by the rotten egg smell, lol

    1. Thanks so much for such a nice comment! I wanted to write about Iceland in a slightly different way to all the “10 reasons you must visit…” and “What I wish I knew about…” posts that you read everywhere. Not that there’s anything wrong with these posts, but I like to be different 😉 x

  30. I am yet to travel to Iceland- I’d love to though as it sounds and looks absolutely beautiful but thanks to your advice, I’ll remember to take a peg for my nose with me! Lol xxx

  31. I have heard so many wonderful things about Iceland but I have never heard about the rotten egg smell. It is amazing what you can give up for a relationship, like the ability to smell haha. But seriously. Iceland is definitely a place we want to visit and visit very soon before it gets to crowded.

    1. I think the smell is one of those things that often doesn’t get mentioned by the tourist boards haha 😉 maybe that’s why visitor numbers aren’t as high as other countries – that and the fact the country is probably one of the most expensive I’ve ever visited. But it’s 101% worth it! x

  32. Iceland is so beautiful, The views are so serene and amazing, like viewing the wonderful colors of nature. Iceland is on my bucket list and would love to visit it.

  33. It looks like you had a great time! Iceland is such a popular and trendy destination at the moment. I’d love to go off season so I can make the most of it. Thanks for sharing these lovely pictures.

  34. Iceland certainly looks very picturesque and beautiful , noone has mentioned the egg smell so this is certsinly interesting to know and be prepared for.

  35. I am so happy you got to visit and write about Iceland. It is on my immediate list, we are moving to Indonesia and travelling the countries near by in the five months we will be there, and then Europe right after. Iceland is definitely on the latter itinerary.

  36. You know Becca, I’ve not been to Iceland yet, however I really, really want to travel it! And, that first sentence “Colombia was my favourite country until …Iceland” (I know it’s not word for word) but I can myself saying the exact same thing – Ok, that was a lot of waffle. ..Wait a minute 50 quid for a ticket? you’re joking right? And, that smell of Sulphur, that’s why I couldn’t stay longer in Rotorua, in New Zealand. Never the less I still want, and need to go to Iceland; in-fact I’m lusting to go! P.S love the way you wrote this post 🙂

    1. Hahaha! It’s so true – you know how much I love Colombia, raving about it to everyone and anyone I meet. But then when I went to Iceland I was like “woah, this is the place”. It’s so different to Colombia, the landscapes are on a totally new level. And yep, £50 flight there and £40 flight back – I go in March over the East weekend, come join me if you like!

      And thank you – thought I’d try something a little different from the usual “5 things you will love about Iceland” kinda post 😉 x

  37. Iceland looks like such a beautiful destination. I have always loved the story about how this place and Greenland got their names.

  38. I’ve never been to Iceland, and after reading your description. Of the rotting egg smell I thought maybe it wouldn’t stay on my list of future destinations. But after reading that. Despite the smell it’s still one of your fave places I will definitely give it a shot!

  39. I loved Iceland when I went 5 years ago. It was amazing how Every thing I did outdoors seems so new and Unique! I loved all the waterfalls and the millions of hidden geothermal pools I found from locals. I didnt take a tour but backpacked solo at the end of winter and absolutely loved it cept the cold weather!
    I dont remember the sulphur smell though…how weird? Or perhaps I stunk from back packing outdoors too long and thus didnt smell anything cept me!

    1. Haha! Perhaps you were that stinky you couldn’t smell the eggy water? It’s such an amazing country isn’t it – I can’t wait to get back there in a few months. I’m going to do a bit of a tour by myself, have you any recommendations? x

  40. Iceland is my dream destination as well. Hope to visit this gorgeous country soon. The rotten egg smell sounds very disturbing, I don’t think I can bring myself to take a shower haha! But just like I wouldn’t consider it as a reason to not visit Iceland.

  41. Haha I couldn’t help but giggle as you compared Columbia and Iceland like being love rivals, with countries like India being the ‘bit on the side’ but I can see why you would say that it was love at first ‘light’. Iceland is that magical combination of scenery, history, magic and even street art which obviously make a street art enthusiast like myself very happy. So glad that you had a wonderful time!

  42. I don’t usually like visiting cold destinations but this looks beautiful I am actually reconsidering maybe taking my family on a trip.

  43. Well never visited Iceland, but surely heard about how beautiful the views especially the waterfalls. I am also very keen to taste the amazing Icelandic food. some of them surely looks very bizarre to me but I would like to try soon!

  44. It’s the first time I have ever heard of someone mentioning the smell of rotten eggs in the taps in Iceland. People talk about all the great stuff, the gorgeous beauty etc but rotten eggs?! Wow. Haha I love how you talk about Columbia as your ‘ex’ and Iceland your new love 😀 I can’t wait to get to both these places (you’ve talked Columbia up so much, I have to go!) and Iceland is already in my bucket list for this year, so thanks for the heads up!

  45. I love the way you have written this, it is such an unusual way of travel writing and so humorous. I would love to visit Iceland, but think I’ll wait until my children are a little older. Looking forward to taking in that wonderful scenery.

  46. I’ve lived and worked in a variety of developing countries on 4 continents over the past 15 years and currently live in Colombia, but think Cartagena is totally over-rated. Still you’re lucky to have travelled to Iceland, a place I’d love to experience. Enjoy your travels!

  47. Oh noooo! Is it really this way? Rotten eggs smell horrible. What about drinking water? I thought everywhere in Scandinavia you can drink tap water.

    1. The drinking water is probably the purest, nicest, coldest drinking water you’ll ever find 🙂 it tastes fine, don’t worry – it’s the hot water that’s a bit stinky hehe x

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