What I wish I had known

What I Wish I Had Known About Iceland

In recent years, the number of travellers visiting Iceland has increased enormously. Summer isn´t anymore the most popular time to visit Iceland, all other months of the year have also gained popularity. Even though many travellers arrive well prepared and have read a lot about the country, there are some things you just can´t find online and tourists wish they had known before arrival. We asked tourists what they would have like to know before they arrived. We have summed up a few of the answers for you so you will have a little extra knowledge when you arrive!

“I didn´t know how accessible Iceland is”

To many it is a surprise how easy it is to drive the ring road. You can make stops at so many lovely places, spend the night at various guesthouses and hotels around the country, and you can enjoy the country to the fullest in your own time. In winter the ring road is usually open. However, if you aren´t used to driving in snow and on slippery roads, then tours might be a better choice for you.

“I wish I had realized to bring normal clothing to wear in the city”

Icelanders dress very normally and it is like they almost ignore the cold. It is truly not necessary to wear hiking gear in Reykjavik and I wish I had known that before I arrived. It is not as cold as it can get in winter in central Europe as the air is dry, not humid. So, next time around I will pack some normal winter clothing to blend in with the locals and leave the hiking gear for the tours out in the country!

“I wish I had known that alcohol can´t be bought in supermarkets”

In Iceland there are special government run stores (called Vínbúðin) and that is the only place where you can buy alcohol apart from bars and restaurants of course. I wish I had known that it is closed on Sundays and on public holidays. So, if you want to buy anything – beer, red wine or something stronger – make sure you go to the Vínbúð during opening hours. If you forget, then your only option is your local bar or restaurant if you want a glass of wine.

“I didn’t know that bottled water in Iceland is the exact same thing as tap water”

I´m used to travelling and everywhere I go I buy bottled water. When the locals in Iceland told me I was buying the exact same thing as I would get from the tap, I was very surprised. I decided to try the tap water and to make a long story short, the locals were right. Definitely the best tap water I´ve tasted!

“I wish I had known how unspoiled the nature really is”

If someone had told me how the nature in Iceland is truly unspoiled, I would have definitey stayed longer and enjoyed some extra days out in the country. It is amazing how you can feel the nature all around you. It is unique!

“I didn’t realize how quickly the weather changes in Iceland”

It was a surprise how the weather chances quickly. You can get up in the morning and the ground is covered with snow. A few hours later the snow is gone and the sun is shining. You can even experience all in one day – snow, rain, sunshine, wind, no wind and hail! You truly need to be prepared for all sorts of weather, both in winter and in summer!

“All the beautiful photos online are real! The landscape and scenery is in reality truly breathtaking. However I never imagined how fresh the air would be!”

Before I finally decided to visit Iceland, I had browsed the internet and read book. All the beautiful picture you see are real. The scenery is breathtaking and the pure nature really blows you away. What I had never thought about was how truly pure everything is! The air in particular – not a hint of pollution, especially when you leave the capital. The air in Iceland is as pure as it gets I would say!

“I didn’t know how friendly Icelanders are”

I’ve often read that Icelanders tend to be cold and distant. After my trip to Iceland I truly can´t agree with that! They are very helpful, friendly and have a big heart. I wish I had known that so I would have used my time to get to know as many Icelanders as possible!

“I wish I had known that the main street in downtown Reykjavik is heated”

By the main street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur, you will find many stores and boutiques. What tourists don´t know is that in winter you can walk up and down the street without worrying too much about the snow and ice as the main street and the sidewalks are heated. I wish I had known that so I wouldn’t have gone shopping in my hiking boots!

“It would have been helpful to know how strong the sun is in winter”

Even though the hours of daylight in winter aren’t that many , the winter sun can be very strong so don´t under estimate it. If I had known that I would have brought some sunblock for my snowmobiling tour and sunglasses! I was though surprised how easy it was to find sunglasses and sunblock in Reykjavik in the middle of winter. I just went to the next pharmacy I found and got both.


Winter Wonderland

Up until quite recently, winter tourism in Iceland was almost unheard of. Most people thought the only time to pay us a visit was during the summer for the midnight sun. Now that some of the low cost airlines have started to fly in and out of Iceland, things have changed and more people are now discovering our magical winters too. Even though the winter is very dark and the weather can be wild, there is nothing quite like experiencing this country under the night sky, with northern lights dancing above you. It really is a winter wonderland.

There are dozens of fantastic things to do and places to see during winter. It’s important to plan ahead to make sure you can fit everything from your bucket list into your time in Iceland. We’ve put together some great lesser-known options for a winter trip that are sure to give you the best experience possible.

Multi-Day Super-Jeep Tour

For a truly unforgettable trip where you’ll be fully taken care of, a multi-day cross-country trip by 4×4 is a great adventure to take. You’ll experience every terrain Iceland has, from lunar lava fields to black sand beaches, cold glacial mountains to hot springs.

Typically lasting from 2 to 6 days (but can be longer upon request), this kind of tour is perfect for a small group of travellers who want to see as much as possible in an intimate time. Tour groups usually being 4 to 6 people and we use our own super jeeps and drivers.

Our expert tour guides have extensive knowledge and all the qualifications for your adventures in the country. These tours can also be arranged to take a variety of routes, depending on what sights you are interested in; Westfjords, south coast, highlands, etc. Private tours are great for flexibility. Contact us to find out more.

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon & South Coast

The glacial lagoon,Jokulsarlon, on Icelands south coast is a place that truly has to be seen to be believed. No matter how beautiful a photograph you take, nothing compares to standing on its shore and taking it all in.

The lagoon is where icebergs, broken off from the great Vatnajokull glacier, float out into the Atlantic ocean. There is no better time to see it than in the depths of winter, when the icebergs are at their biggest and more dramatic.

Jokulsarlon is about a 7 hours drive from Reykjavik and makes a great 2 day trip, either by guided tour or self-driven. On the way to the lagoon, you will pass Seljalandsfoss waterfall where you can walk behind the waterfall, the beautiful Skogafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara black sand beach with its great basalt columns, and the site of the infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

Time your arrival at Jokulsarlon right and you might get to see the northern lights reflect off the lagoon, surrounded by icebergs and seals playing. After you can stay in a number of lovely country hotels or guest houses in the region before returning to the capital the following day. We can help you book the perfect tour.

Lake Mývatn Winter Garden

Located in Icelands northeast highlands, this beautiful lake town is perfect to visit during the winter when its mild and peaceful.

The northern winters are lovely and scenic, Lake Mývatn in particular has some of the best natural sights and its remote location makes it perfect for looking for the northern lights. There is the great lava rock forest Dimmuborgir which was formed from an ancient volcanic eruption. Also make sure to check out the active hot spring field Hverir, the Lofthellir cave, Ludentarborgir crater rows, and of course, the lake itself!

Here you can also enjoy a soak at the Mývatn Nature Baths, the Blue Lagoon of the north, located up on a hill overlooking the lake. You can take a gourmet tour of the region trying all the local produce and visit the many farms of the area to taste real Icelandic country life.

Lake Mývatn is also known for being the mythical home of our thirteen Christmas elves, so it’s perfect for a great yuletide getaway.

Getting Up On A Glacier

What could be better on a visit to Iceland than getting up close and personal with the glaciers that give us our name?

Going for a snowmobile ride on the second largest glacier, Langjokull (“long glacier”) is a thrilling adventure that will leave you with lifelong memories. Langjokull is located just a few hours out of Reykjavík and so makes for a great day trip. You need no prior snowmobiling experience and it’s family friendly, those without drivers licenses can be passengers. Snowmobiling trips can be tied into many other adventure packages or spend the evening on a hunt for northern lights.

If you want to get up on a glacier but snowmobiling isn’t for you, go for a climb instead on the Solheimajokull glacier on the south coast of Iceland. The trained guides provide all the gear and advice for trekking on the glacier. You’ll get a hiking experience like no other.

Surrounded by beautiful blue coloured ice, you’ll really feel Icelands magic. This glacier is also just a few hours from Reykjavik so can be easily combined with many other activities and tours. It’s always an option for a day out in winter as we can build it into your upcoming vacation.

Going Down Into The Depths

While it’s really popular to climb to the highest peaks of the country to see Iceland from above, what lies below is not to be missed. The island is a geological marvel at every level and sometimes the best way to experience it is to go right inside it. There are several magnificent caves located right near Reykjavik that amateur speleologists can easily descend at any time of the year. Head to the Arnarker cave, Leidarendi cave or Thrihnukagigur crater to go down and experience the inside of this rocky island.

If you like water more than rocks, you’re in luck too. Head to the continental rift in the historic Thingvellir national park to go snorkelling in the Silfra river. This runs right between the North American and European tectonic plate divide. You’ll be provided with a dry suit and all the equipment by local guides who will take you on a gentle paddle through the place where the country splits into two continents. That is definitely something to check off your bucket list.

Welcome To Our Winter Wonderland!


What are the Northern Lights?

What are the Northern Lights?

Most of us know that awe-inspiring feeling standing watching a black night sky scattered with stars light up in rainbow colors during a fireworks display, yet this does not compare to Planet Earth’s rendition of magical light called Aurora. These unbelievably stunning displays can ordinarily be seen at the Northern and Southern Poles and are considered one of the natural wonders of the world. Over the Arctic they are called Aurora Borealis and over the Antarctic it is called Aurora Australis.

Contact encounters between gaseous particles in the atmosphere of the Earth and charged particles released from the atmosphere of the Sun result in the display of colors in the sky called the Northern Lights. The varying colors are as a result of specific types of gas particles that are bumping into each other. The scientific name for the Northern Lights are the Aurora Borealis.

The aurora effect starts on the surface of the sun with solar activity, injecting a cloud of gas, scientifically known as a coronal mass ejection (CME). This can take two to three days to reach Earth. When one of these ‘injections’ reaches earth, it collides with the magnetic field. The earth is surrounded by an invisible magnetic field, and were one to actually see what the shape is, the earth would appear as a comet with a magnetized extended ‘tail’ that stretches a million miles trailing behind the earth and in the opposite direction to the sun. As this coronal mass ejection collides with the magnetic field of the Earth, complex changes occur in the magnetic tail area generating currents of charged particles that flow along the lines of magnetic force directly into the Polar Areas. In the upper atmosphere of the Earth the particles are amplified and as they come into contact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms, they generate a radiant aurora panorama.

Knowing the resulting shape of a magnetic field in one of these coronal mass ejections stumps solar physics to this day as it is impossible to predict with any accuracy in which direction the CME field is pointing until the collision occurs, causing either an astonishing magnetic storm and stunning aurora or a fizzle. You may not always be able to see the Northern Lights, however, they are always there displaying their magnificence. Winter is the most favorable time to have a good sighting.

Aurora displays show up in a range of colors with pink and pale green as the most predominant colors. There have been reports of yellow, green, blue, shades of red and violet with the lights appearing in a multitude of forms such as patches, scattered clouds, arcs, shooting rays and pulsating curtains of light.

Although the Northern Lights may look like fire, if you were able to touch them, they would not feel like fire at all. It is true that the temperature in the upper atmosphere can reach thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, this heat is determined by the average speed of the molecules. The density of the air is extremely low at 96 Kilometers up, a thermometer would reveal temperatures way below zero in the location of an aurora display.

Auroras are sometimes difficult for the human eye to pick up however, with the use of a camera and a long-exposure setting plus a clear dark sky it is possible to obtain some remarkable and dazzling photographs. Sometimes an Aurora display can reach as high up as 1000 km although generally are between 80-120 km.

History indicates two people are credited with the naming of the Northern Lights. Pierre Gassendi named the Northern Lights between 1592 and 1655, after the Roman goddess of dawn; Aurora and the north wind; Boreas and Galileo Galilei between 1564 and 1642 with both of them bearing witness to a light display in September 1621. However, one of the oldest mentions of Aurora dates back to 2600 BC in China by the mother, of the Yellow Empire Shuan-Yuan, Fu-Pao who observed intense lightning making its way around a star called Su from the constellation of Bei-Dou, lighting up the entire area. Cro Magnon cave paintings have been discovered dating back to 30,000 BC and are considered to be one of the oldest depiction of aurora. A drawing of the Aurora with candles glowing above the clouds was discovered in 1570 AD. Another account of Northern Lights phenomena appears to have been found by the astronomers of King Nebuchadnezzar the second on a Babylonian clay tablet around 568/567 BC.

Aurora Mythology:

The closest space phenomena of the waxing and waning of aurora lights has enthralled humanity since prehistoric times and has resulted in the birth of mythological creatures, folklore as well as influencing religion, history and art.
Diverse cultures have their own explanations for this natural event, the Inuits of Alaska interpreted the lights as the souls of the animals they hunted. Menominee Indians from North America attributed the Aurora radiance belonging to the torches of the giants living in the North. The Europeans of the Middle Ages claimed the appearance of the glowing lights were a message from God. Others believed the lights to be those of opposing armies in heaven and perchance a sign of an imminent catastrophe. A singular appearance of the Aurora Borealis in the skies during the battle of Fredericksburg in 1862 convinced the rebel forces to believe that God was on their side.

For some cultures the appearance of the Aurora Borealis had more fearful and sinister connotations. Norse Mythology held the belief that the rays were the reflections of the Valkyries riding across the sky carrying slain warriors to a heroic resting place in Valhalla. The Inuit people held the belief that the Northern Lights were the souls of the dead involved in a disorderly game of primitive football. The Icelanders believed that a pregnant woman must avoid gazing at the Lights to prevent her child being born cross-eyed. The Northern Swedish Lapps feared the supernatural powers of the dazzling lights so either remained indoors chanting or if they were outside, they would cover themselves up to keep out of reach of the rays. The Alaskan Inuit kept their children hidden and even carried sharp knives for protection.

A little more about the Northern Lights

One of the most breathtaking recorded Aurora displays in recent history occurred in 28th August and the 2 September 1859 and is known as the “Great geomagnetic storm.”

There is a verb in the Icelandic language – “braga” – describing the movement of the Northern Lights.

A single medium sized sunspot coming from the plasma clouds would fit approximately 4 to 6 earths.

The Plasma speed collides with the stratosphere between 10.000 and 20.000 km per second.


Whale Watching Andrea

Whale Watching Andrea

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Come aboard and join the biggest whale watching boat in Iceland with Whale Watching Andrea Tour. Educational and fantastic inside and outside. With plenty of space for everyone, café and even a souvenir shop on board!

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We will begin our Whale Watching Andrea adventure at the Reykjavik Old Harbour. It can be reached just few minutes from the city center so you won't miss it. Whale Watching Andrea boat offers great comfort, a fantastic interior, large outside viewing decks and a safe family environment.

As the vessel departs Reykjavik Old harbor, one of our highly trained tour guide will give an "educational and interactive" focus about the whales we may see, their behavior and some of the other marine life common to the area. Posters, interactive tools and other materials are used to further illustrate the various whale species, behaviors and interesting facts on the biology and geology of the area. You can get to feel objects such as baleen plates, whale teeth and whale bones. These bring a new level of understanding to many of our first time passengers of how these magnificent animals adapt and survive. The ocean will come to life in front of us as you will learn about each specimens that will be shown from our friendly and knowledgeable tour guides and these experience makes our Whale Watching Andrea tour a one of a kind tour.

The tour guide along with our friendly captain will point out where you will be able to spot the whales that are mentioned.

One of our favorite whales sighted throughout the year is the Mink Whale. Our tour guides conduct researches on the whales seen, photographing each whale to be identified and studied every now and then. Once the research is completed,it is being put into our database and openly shared with other interested scientists, as well as those naturalist including schools and organizations and of course to all of our interested passengers just like yourself. Mink whales are not the only species sighted. Some of the others are Harbor Porporise, White-beaked Dolphin and Humpback Whale. The fun thing is that we may even stop to see a fish or two. The Arctic ocean is a rich environment that attracts and supports both residents and transient marine life.

Unlike many other whale watching tours that are often offered here in Iceland, our trips offers a wide spectrum of educational tools that go beyond the "average whale watch". The tours offered are well designed to enhance our awareness of whales, as well as the other marine life and the marine habitat that surrounds Iceland. Our goal is for you to depart our boats with a greater understanding and appreciation of the Icelandic marine sanctuary and the abundance of life it supports. We make each trip fun and educational for everyone at all ages and excellent for bigger groups and families! So get aboard and let the fun begin. Join our Whale Watching Andrea.

DETAILS


Adventures on the sea

Adventures on the sea

When you visit Iceland the selection of tours is massive, both on land and sea. Here we are going to introduce you the magic the ocean has to offer and give you an idea for tours available.

drangajokull

Whale watching

The whale watching tours are always popular and it is truly magnificent to see the whales in their natural environment. Usually you can see them quite up close, either the boat approaches them slowly or the whales themselves get close to the boat. The viewing success rater is 90% and dolphins often show up as well.
You can go whale watching on the northern coast during summer but the tours run all year from the Old harbor in Reykjavík. There you can choose between the largest whale watching boat in Iceland, Andrea, or a fast luxurious boat (so-called whale watching express). The types of whales you can expect to see include Mink whale, Gun whale and Humpback whale. Whale watching is an adventure for everyone and in summer you might see puffins as well!

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Sea Angling

Sea angling adventures are offered from the beginning of May until the end of August. Each tour is 2.5- 3 hours long and departure is from the Old harbor in Reykjavík in the afternoon. All necessary equipment is on board. After having enjoyed the view of Reykjavik and Mt. Esja and caught fish, and sometimes we spot whales as well on the tour, the tour guides will BBQ the fish you caught. The most common fish caught is cod and halibut. So, on your way back to the harbor you enjoy a lovely meal and view. This is a tour all age groups enjoy and we can easily recommend.

what-causes-the-northern-lights-in-Iceland

Northern lights by boat

There are several tours offered for northern lights hunting. One option, not too many know about and is a hidden gem, is northern lights hunt by boat. The boat departs from the Old Harbor in Reykjavík and you sail out to Faxaflói bay. There you have a lovely panoramic view of the capital, Reykjavik, but you are also far away from the city lights. That means that you can enjoy the northern lights out in the sea where it is pitch dark but with the city lights as a background. Now, how amazing is that!
Puffins

Puffins

puffins

The puffin is truly a unique bird that is fun to watch and explore. On many of the boat tours during summer you also see puffins. You can read more about puffins here. All ages love and enjoy to see this little but lovely and beautiful bird flying around and nesting.