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Volunteering in Iceland A smart and cheap way to visit an expensive country

Every once in a while I feel a country inside my heart calling me and telling me that is time to leave everything and prepare the luggages!
The exact same thing happened with Iceland but… there was a huge “but”. What about the money? How can I afford to live and visiting it without much money?
The answer just arrived while I was looking for a new experience to enrich my resume: Volunteering!

I found an environmental volunteer project of a no profit organization called WorldWide Friends (WF). I spent there about 4 months working as Camp Leader in many work camps all over the island. It was a great experience and, as we were hosting short-term volunteers from all over the world every 10 days – 2 weeks,  it was like doing an exchange cultural program every time.

The organisation provided us food and accommodation so we just needed the money to buy our own whims, like chocolate, chips and beers (especially)!
To give you an idea of how much Iceland is expensive, I could say that the cheapest price for a canned beer in a liquor store is almost 2 euros and the average price I would say is 5 euros. In my country, Italy, the cheapest canned beer is 70 cents. That’s just nothing in comparison!

So let’s talk about my job and my free time!
During the week I was supposed to work from monday to friday, and in the week-end I was free to go with the short-term volunteers’ group to some excursions as escort. That was the best part! 🙂

The kind of tours that we did were organised by a travel agency called Nice Travel. For this reason the excursions were pretty touristic and not so adventurous. Fortunately, as I had 5 days off to use during my entire staying, I had the chance to visit a friend of mine in the heart of the Vatnajökull Region – close to the Glacier Lagoon – where she was working.  I went there hitchhiking from Hveragerði, which is located in the south-west of Iceland, to Höfn more or less, in the south-east.

Hitchhiking in Iceland is a very smart way to save a lot of money and I would say is pretty safe too. I had never done it before because I had always found it very risky but… I don’t know. In Iceland everything was just different to me and I felt it safe. By saying this I don’t want you to stop taking any precautions. It’s always something dangerous. But I met so many locals doing that and it was worth it! Indeed, Icelanders are so kind, sweet and extroverted. They love to talk (a lot!!!!) and they are very proud of the beauty of their country. One day while I was at the swimming pool in a 40 degrees hot-pot an Icelandic man started a conversion with me. After few minutes I felt like dying because of the heat. I wanted to go out to feel the coldness but I couldn’t because this man seemed so happy to talk about his country with a foreign girl and I didn’t want to look rude!
So at the end, when I was almost cooked like a potato I apologised and told him that I couldn’t stand the heat anymore and that I had to get out of there! 😀 So…make sure to start a conversation in a comfortable place with them! 😀 Icelanders are amazing, you are going to love them.

So let’s go back to the main topic. To sum up, if you want to volunteer with WorldWide Friends you can do it in two ways:

_being a short-term volunteer

_or being a Camp Leader as I did

To be a volunteer you can just apply contacting your local organization via The Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organizations . You will have to pay the participation fee of the local organisation and of WF.
The reasons why WF Iceland charges a participation fee are:

  • Lack of support from the government and other sources
  • WF covers both food and accomodation costs and supplying food is quite expensive in Iceland compared to other European countries

The work camps provided by WF are available online and you can check them in the section “Work Camps in Iceland” clicking here.
There are no maximum age limits in the majority of the work camps. In general, volunteers should be at least 18 years old but there are teenage camps during the summertime if you are very young.

Work camps typically last 10 to 14 days as I’ve already written before. Working hours are usually about 20-35 hours a week (five to seven hours a day, five days a week). Any exception will be noted in the project descriptions that you can find on the WF’s website.

On the other hand if you are interested in being a Camp leader you must assure at least 3 months of availability to the organisation. I applied by Aiesec and I had to go through some interviews. I don’t think there are more ways to be “hired” by WF but I remember there were one or two Camp Leaders that went there through Erasmus Plus. So maybe you can try both ways.

There are always one or more leaders for each camp, depending on the size of the group. Leaders represent the link between the hosting community and the group of volunteers. They coordinate the work and organize free time activities. In addiction they plan excursions and shopping, cleaning and cooking sessions.  Apart from these additional responsibilities, Camp Leaders have to be equal to the other volunteers and very open-minded.

Moreover every 2 or 3 weeks Camps Leaders can be sent in different work camps in order to have the chance to visit more towns and areas of Iceland.
In fact, I lived in Reykjavik, in a small town called Eskifjörður in the east fjords and in Hveragerði, close to the Hot River (here you can check out my article about it).
There are different projects you can apply to as camp leader. I applied for the “On The Move” project. So I was supposed to change work camps more frequently than the others if needed.

In general what will you need?

  • If you are a short-term volunteer: a little money to afford to buy an excursion  or to rent a car to visit the most famous places of the country (the excursions organized by Nice Travel come with a big discount for the volunteers)
  • If you are a Camp Leader: a little money to afford to buy extra activities and food if you want to travel by yourself during the days off

And last but not least: basic work clothes, hiking boots, swimming suit, as well as warm and waterproof clothes. Volunteers are also encouraged by WF to bring information about their country such as photos, music, songbooks, games, or musical instruments in order to be able to introduce their origins to their mates.

To finish do not forget the sleeping bag which is going to be your spartan duvet and it will make everything feel more adventurous! 🙂
I leave you with this picture of me trying to sleep in the summertime taken, without permission, from a colleague! 😀

If you have any question feel free to leave a comment below! I will do my best to help you with more info 🙂
Un bacio!

hot river iceland

Reaching the hot river in the Reykjadalur Valley An hike to natural hot springs close to Reykjavik, Iceland

Chilling, natural and free. The hot river is all about this!
One of the most popular “secret” places in Iceland, it still remains far from the mass tourism. In the last three years the hot river has increased its tourism attention but thanks to the one hour hike to reach it, it is still not so overcrowded as the Blue Lagoon or any other Icelandic “do-not-miss” attraction.
The hot river is located in the South of the island near Hveragarði, in a canyon called Reykjadalur Valley close to the geothermal park.

You can drive until the bottom of the mountain and leave the car in the free car park (click here to see the park’s position). The area is just next to the road number 1 and, coming from Reykjavik, you will see some farms and green houses down on your left. That’s the area. You cannot get wrong.

To get to the river you must walk for 3 km (almost one hour). There is a well-trodden path but almost entirely uphill. It’s composed by pebbles which could make the terrain very slippery especially in case it rains. For this reason I will suggest to wear hiking shoes.
It can be quite tiring for some people to get there because of some steep climbs (the first kilometer is about 150 meters climbing up) but there are loads of geothermal thins, bubbling muds and little bubbling pools to see on the way.
The panorama is quite interesting. Don’t forget to stop by and take some pictures of the canyon below the path. You can see a picture of it here below.

path hot river iceland Reykjadalur

As I was living in Hveragarði at that moment, I started walking from there at 15:30 and I reached the river after one hour and a half. At that time a lot of people were leaving the river so it was not so crowded.

I would say that the hot river is in the middle of nature but not into the wilderness. In fact the area is quite well-equipped with a catwalk and open air partitions where to get changed.
There are no changing rooms, so get ready to take your hiking clothes off in the open.
My first impression was very contradictory because of the presence of a lot of trash. Unfortunately it was full of beer cans, abandoned dirty towels and some underpants on the ground.

hot river Reykjadalur

I really don’t know if it was a unfortunate case, but I must say that in general the kind of tourism was very young and composed by many groups of friends, besides some couples.

Apart from this, the river is totally surrounded by nature and it’s just amazing to freeze outside while you are changing and then jump into such a hot water.
Once you arrived there, do not stop at the first area. The water gets warmer the further up stream you go. For this reason choose the spot you like and then change yourself into your bathing suit or, as there are no changing room, wear your swimming suit before arriving under your hiking clothes. You will freeze a little bit less 😀

Remember to bring a towel and do not wash your hair if you are a easy-catching-a-cold-person like me 🙂 the way back is one hour walking and you could just wipe off all the great and warm feelings of the hot river.

hot river Reykjadalur

When you get there, enjoy as much as you can the hot pot but PLEASE, bring back all the things you’ve brought with you. There were so many towels,underpants, beer cans and even absorbents on the ground and I felt really really bad about it. The place is so peaceful and relaxing and it gives you a lot in terms of good feelings that it’s just a big shame to leave garbage all around… So if you feel like doing something for the environment, bring a bag with you and before going away just take some of the abandoned trash with you.
It’s just a little way to thank that dreaming place!

hot river girl

Un bacio


Hiking on Hólmatindur mountain Discovering the east of Iceland

If you are looking for an amazing mountain to hike in Iceland, then you cannot miss Hólmatindur, in the east region of the country.

It was one of the best hikes of my life and even one of the hardest. Why? For two reasons:

  • First, there are no hiking trails! You can maybe find some but they won’t bring you up to the top of the mountain. They will start and stop after some meters maybe in front of a wall of stones and that’s when you will have to start inventing your own path.
  • Second, the ground is very crumbly and full of hidden traps like holes and stones. It’s easy to trip on them or to put the foot in the wrong place and easily fall down.
    Moreover it is not only about walking but climbing also. We had to climb on short walls like two times. It was fun but very dangerous at the same time because the walls were made of unstable rocks that had previously fell down.
    Last thing you should know about the ground is that is pretty slippery and in some areas covered by moss and wet grass like the one that you can see in the picture below (and if you find a carpet like this just lie down on it! 🙂 )

The reason why the ground is wet in some areas is for the presence of little watercourses and small waterfalls. The good is that you don’t have to worry about getting thirsty because you will have various occasions to refill your flask during the hike. The water in Iceland is very pure and you can drink it directly from the rivers without worrying about anything!
Besides this, I must tell you that it was totally worth it! Really! Just look at the view! Even before reaching the top it was just unbelievable!

We reached it after five hours , despite we were a group of 13 people and we stopped a lot of times to take little rests and wait for the slows 😀 .
If you want to try hiking Holmatungur I will suggest you to start early in the morning in order to have the entire day to reach the top . The weather in Iceland can change very quickly. It could be sunny and after only some minutes could be rainy that’s why it would be better to have as much time as possible. Try always to check the weather before starting. Never do it when there is a high probably that it starts raining. And if it starts raining and you weren’t expecting it, then stop somewhere and wait for it to end. The rain is the worst enemy in a place like that.
Fortunately we were very lucky: it was 20°C and sunny the entire day. We started walking at 11 am and we reached the top at 4 pm more or less. The mountain is 985 meters high so yeah, we did it very slow BUT (!) we were very careful 😀 which is the most important thing.
Once on the top of Holmatungur we found a pyramid of rocks. One thing you gotta know is that there is one of it in almost every mountain in Iceland in which you can find a box with a stamp and a little notebook. On it you can write down what you want, your name, your feeling and use the stamp to collect it on your diary or just on your face like I did! 😀

Before leaving the top don’t miss the best part of the journey: the window on the beautiful gulf of Eskifjörður!
Just follow the East and you will find it. For some minutes more you won’t feel your stomach begging for food! 🙂

Last thing to say is that in Iceland you can go camping everywhere and Holmatungur has a great huge area just 30 minutes before reaching the top that can keep you out of the wind. So if you love camping that’s an amazing place to do it and see the northern lights in the nights 😉 !

That’s all! I put some pictures more here below and if you have any question just leave me a comment 🙂 .

Un bacio!


Our food choices can make us more environmentally friendly Here is what you can do to reduce your impact on the environment

Vegetarian? Not exactly!
I don’t really like to categorize myself but when I say that I don’t eat meat I’m always asked:”Are you vegetarian?! “. So, in those situations, I’m forced to take a position and express myself.
But no, I’m not vegetarian.
I still eat fish and sometimes it can happen that I eat meat, especially when I’m traveling and people offer me their traditional meals. But I tend not to buy any dead animal at the supermarket and to eat fish only at some restaurants (so not that often 😛 )!
What it is behind my apparently weird position is the idea of reducing. I really believe that reduce is the magic word to change our impact on the environment and to change trade rules. I really appreciate people who strongly define themselves through something they really believe in (like vegetarians, vegans etc.), but it is not my case because the thing I strongly believe in is, as I said, reducing.
Reduce is a good path to increase our consciousness on our own environmental impact and it’s the perfect compromise that allow people to respect our world and, most importantly, to make people desiring to listen to your point of view without being too extreme.
In fact, I’ve noticed that strong polar positions can often create opposite polar positions. Some categorized positions happen to create a contrasting social reaction that it’s totally against the main purpose.  Indeed, it can affect the good intent of (for example) vegetarians or vegans to change the world in a better place and spread the knowledge of the importance of choosing what we eat.

So the “reducing position” is just the first easy step that everyone of us could do to start changing our world :). That’s because it is not too much restricted, and put you in the position to be more flexible in the eyes of the others, especially when communicating about your position.

Essentially my little and easy suggestions to start reducing our environmental impact are as follow:

• Try to eat less fish and meat. Give the market the signal that it is not needed to store all that quantity of meat that nowadays is produced.
• Increase legumes in your diet. Did you know that you can do an infinity quantity of recipes with them? They can be a perfect meat substitutes. (I will publish an Italian delicious recipe very soon, so stay tuned!  🙂 )
• If you are struggling reducing to eat meat, do the effort to buy local and from little farmer near you and not from intensive livestock farming (normally this is the kind of meat that we find in  supermarkets or in the butcher shops. However always ask your butcher where his meat comes from)
• If you are afraid not to get the right amount of protein, besides eating more beans, add the quinoa to your diet and eat it with soups, pasta, vegetables, and anything you want!
• And last but not least, add some seeds too like hemps, which are very rich in proteins and faster to digest. Try them in the morning with a yogurt (better if it is farm-to-table) or a porridge with some pieces of dark chocolate! 🙂 You’re gonna love it!

Un bacio