Without a doubt, Iceland has undergone a massive change in recent years, primarily in the tourism sector. My first visit in Summer 2008 was quite an eye-opener, not just from the indescribable beauty of this country but also how back to the roots everything was. Back then the inhabitants still outnumbered the number of yearly tourists, not to mention the sheep outnumbered everybody. The airport was empty except when the couple of in & outgoing flights were due. Driving along the ring road along the south coast was a breeze as there was barely any traffic. The big attractions, the waterfalls, the beaches, the quaint little fishing villages dotted along the coast were all but deserted due to most leaving for the capital city of Reykjavik in search of work & a more comfortable life.
For me it was quite an adjustment, so few people, traffic, cafes & restaurants few & far between, little or no shopping or public toilet facilities, even finding a gas station was at times quite a challenge & when you found one it was unmanned, just a pump with a credit card machine. Taking pictures was different too, I had time, nobody waiting for me to finish, nobody asking me to take smartphone pictures for them or wanting to know what equipment I was using. I was quite alone, something that I hadn’t really expected at that point. Sleeping in the car in a totally open landscape without trees around me in the middle of nowhere felt quite strange too. After a couple of days & nights though you realize just what a privilege it is to experience such solitude, it is like a reset, you stop thinking so much, you take the time to enjoy what is around you & time itself just doesn’t play a role anymore, especially in midsummer where the sun doesn’t disappear.
Eleven years on it is a different story, don’t get me wrong, you can still find this peace of mind & the big open spaces but there are times & locations where you realize that you intentionally try to avoid them at certain times of the day due to overcrowding, increased traffic & the lack of peace & quiet. On the positive side, it is nice to have a clean toilet, to have a shower, drink a cup of coffee when you wake up in the morning & meet interesting people. May was a good choice to visit still being low season but I can’t imagine visiting again in the Summer season, it must be hell & would spoil my personal image of one of if not the most beautiful places on our planet. I just hope that the Icelanders see this also & do their best to keep the country from becoming just another resort for the masses.