|I was served a gorgeous piece of oven-baked wild Atlantic Cod on a bed of barley and vegetables at Snjofell Restaurant in the town of Arnarstapi, on Iceland's Snaefellsjokell Peninsula.|
|At Snaps Bistro in Reykjavik, an appetizer of melt-in-your-mouth Langoustine Tails prepared in garlic butter was one of the most memorable dishes me and my wife had on a one-week vacation in Iceland (langoustine is French for crayfish).|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- The first thing tourists realize after they learn to spell the name of this cool capital city is how expensive Iceland is.
Icelanders like to call their island nation the biggest small country in the world, but with a population of only 344,000, Iceland welcomes immigration.
Sticker shock is everywhere:
In restaurants, hotels, spas and taxis; at gas stations, if you rent a car; and on guided tours of the ruggedly beautiful main island's volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, farms and other natural wonders.
One saving grace is that Iceland, unlike other European countries, doesn't have a tipping system, and you won't even find a gratuity added automatically to your check.
Of course, you're inclined not to tip when a two-course dinner for two in a fine-dining restaurant costs $120 or more; or you're charged $9 for a bottle of beer in a casual restaurant; or a taxi ride of just over a mile runs more than $20, and the Icelanders who serve you won't act hurt or disappointed.
The explanation for the high prices are high government taxes all residents and businesses pay.
In return, Icelanders receive free health care and education, and enjoy some of the lowest electric and heating bills in the world, thanks to energy from water, wind and geothermal sources.
The tax on hotel rooms, and restaurant meals and drinks is 11%.
Though prices are high, fine-dining restaurants in Iceland serve topnotch ingredients:
Iceland lands an unusually wide variety of wild fish and other seafood (many of which I was familiar with from occasional visits to The Fish Dock, an Icelandic fish market in Closter, N.J.).
And the lamb and beef served in restaurants come from free-roaming, grass-fed animals raised without harmful antibiotics and growth hormones. Vegetables often are organic.
Quoting Arion Bank's research division, The Reykjavik Grapevine also reported food and drink prices fell "by a whopping 1.2% in the first month after the warehouse opened [in May]."
On a guided tour of the Snaefellsjokell Peninsula and National Park, we drove through one of Iceland's many lava fields, evidence of an explosive volcanic past.
|We also hiked down to a black sand volcanic beach, above and below.|
On another tour two days earlier, we got a teasing glimpse of one of Iceland's glaciers. The country claims to have the largest glacier in Europe.
Iceland also boasts that the Gullfoss Waterfall, above and below, outdoes Niagara Falls in the United States "in wildness and fury."
Dining out in Reykjavik