Hello dearest friends! I have been wanting to write about travelling as a vegan for quite a while and it would be safe to say that this was one of the main aims of TheVeganCatLibrarian. Then, reflecting a bit on the various themes as well as on what happens around you and the people that you meet, I thought it would have been better to set some foundations on veganism and take it from there. While I believe that there is more to say on the basics of veganism, I would like to get started on the travelling-as-a-vegan side of the blog. And I would like to start with Iceland.
Introduction to Iceland
Sooo, Iceland was on my bucket list for ages. All those that know me, do know that I LOVE the cold: this goes to cold weather, cold countries (maybe less cold people but some are okay). Since I was a child, I have romanticised on these cold places as where I grew up didn’t get much snow and even in Winter, there is a thermal excursion of up to 20° C (meaning that even if we were to reach -10°C at night, during the day it would easily go up to +10°C). Also, for a kid heavily bullied because of her physical appearance, cold weather means not having to strip off the essential layers of comfy protection (see oversized sweaters). And another reason for which I love the cold is that it’s much easier to cope with it than with the heat: if you have enough clothes, you can survive, and you can also move without fearing to faint. Note: I am talking of up to -15, being well wrapped up or being able to have a warm shelter and warm food; I am not talking of extreme situations nor I am saying going to below zero temperatures without being well equipped, I am not *that* naive; and I know that there are people who thrive in the heat. The fact remains, that I have always loved autumn and winter much more than spring and summer (so much so that spring makes me feel unwell and you can read more here).
Iceland sits on the Northern Hemisphere, almost in between the European continent and North America: it is very frequent for flights to stop in Reykjavik to refuel and people are also stopping there for one or more nights on their way to the other continent. Iceland is also close to Greenland and it is possible to do a day trip from Reykjavik (although it is expensive). From the UK, the easiest way to get to Iceland is by flight and it takes roughly 2hours.
What was even more attracting to me, was hearing how, after 2008 economic hell basically created by the banks, Iceland went against the decision that ALL THE OTHER COUNTRIES TOOK of saving their banks and actually persecuted the bankers. I mean, f****** bald, brave and right move! No one else seems to have the balls of doing something of the sort to their banks (yes, there are intertwined interests and the other governments mostly think f*** the people, let’s keep feeding the banks because they’re useful to our campaigns etc. Let’s not go there…). So, small, little Iceland says a big FUCK YOU to the banks. And as you can see, she’s still there.
Another reason for at least liking, if not outright loving, Iceland: she’s green, has a massive focus on sustainability. They use geothermal energy to power them: the heat from the geyser is used to heat up buildings and more!
The Land of Ice and Fire
The whole Icelandic island is a mixture of perennial glaciers, wonderful waterfalls, spectacular moon-like scenery and bare land; to this, add geysers, volcanoes and much tundra. It also has beautiful fjords, especially in the North-West of the island.
Okay, taking into consideration all this, clearly the main source of food is not vegan (see fish and cattle and all that derives from them: all of them swim or roam free during their lives, and while here we don’t really condone eating animals, there is this meagre consolation.). But, as we are resourceful vegans, we can survive and thrive even in a not-that-vegan-friendly place.
To be honest, the first time I went to Iceland in 2014 I didn’t look too much into vegan places: I booked the 6-day trip very quickly basically from one day to another almost as a spur of the moment kind of thing and I hadn’t planned nothing. Also, I wasn’t too sure about the chance of Iceland having dedicated vegan places. As I relied on hostels, I was able to cook stuff for myself and the meals were mostly sandwiches and fruit. The sandwiches were consisting of bread, vegetable spread and salad ingredients. The brilliant thing was the presence of few healthy shops like Holland&Barrett, so there was quite a lot to choose from for my sandwiches. I survived well for the whole trip, from Reykjavik to Akureyri in the North, the East Coast and back to Rekjavik passing by the Vatnajokull and Vik in the South. There were also many 7/11 markets where I would grab snacks and I stopped for a couple of dinners to get chips from local restaurants.
The second time I went was in 2017 for a Rammstein concert and I was much better-prepared thanks to a classmate who told me when she went to Rekjavik she actually had food in a vegan place, apparently quite famous: Mama Reykjavik. For my 3-day trip to the West Fjords (one part of the island that I didn’t manage to visit in 2014) I relied on some premade vegan-friendly food that I could find on the road as well as local cafes for small snacks along the road trip (that area is not very populated and you could go for several miles before being able to find some houses, but you would be surprised by what you could find in these isolated cafes these days -see vegan snickers at Stúkuhúsið – Café!).
As you can see, it is possible to cope well as a vegan in Iceland: you can go almost everywhere and be able to eat more than decently. I don’t know if it would be possible to live for months or years in this country, but there are vegan places in Reykjavik so probably there are some “permanent” vegans (as opposed to the tourist ones).
It must be said that this food is not very cheap, but also Iceland, like the other Northern Countries in Europe, is generally speaking quite expensive. Both times I went, it was on a budget (£ 1,000 for food, accommodation and travels for 5-6 days): I looked for the best flight deals, stayed in hostels (which, by the way, are the best, cleanest, friendliest hostels you’ll ever find) and ate out 1-2 times each vacation, relying as I said, on markets.
Iceland is a fascinating country and if you can go, do it because it is worth it. This was a tick on my bucket list, and I am extremely happy to have been able to go there twice. If you think that as a vegan, it would be difficult, I hope this post helped in showing you that there are really no issues! The only slight problem might be the costs, but even if you do only one holiday per year, go to Iceland to spend a few days in one marvellous land.
Please, let me know if you have any questions or feedback 🙂