Top Icelandic Design Shops

1. Spaksmannsspjarir – Bankastræti 11 – map

Spaksmannsspjarir means „Wise Man´s Clothing“ in Icelandic and they are truly dedicated in designing for the intellectual women from all over the world. They make unique clothes that can be worn for years. The clothes are not trend-based, rather sustainable fashion with high quality. The designer is inspired by the Icelandic nature and environment and the colours and textures are simply magical – just as the Icelandic landscape. The clothes are made to work well together, so it should be easy to mix, match and play with pieces from previous collections.

Click here for their homepage: Spaksmannsspjarir

2. Needs to be updated Kraum – Laugavegur 18b – map

Kraum is a gorgeous Icelandic design hub and retail outlet. It is located in the house of Skuli Magnusson, dated back to 1752 and is the oldest building still standing in the city centre. More than 200 designers are contributing to this leading Icelandic design hub in Reykjavik. You can find a must-see products you cant find anywhere else in the world – from woollen lamps, handbags, raincoats, knitwear, glass wear, children´s puzzles, ceramic pieces to exquisite jewellery. Skuli Magnusson – would be a happy man today if still alive.
Click here for their homepage: Kraum

3. Aurum – Bankastræti 4 – map

Aurum Concept Store is located at Bankastræti 4. The jewellery collection is designed by Guðbjörg Kristín Ingvarsdóttir. In 2011, Aurum Concept Store received the Njarðarskjöldur award for Best Tourist Shop of the Year. It is known for unusually high number of full jewellery collection by only one designer and its diverse windows design that has delighted many travelers over the years. Guðbjörg´s design is known for its irregular shapes, its inspiration by nature, finesses & balance and how light and feminine it is.

Click here for their homepage: Aurum


Northern lights video

Magical Northern Lights Videos

The northern lights in Iceland are truly magical. It should be on everyone´s bucket list to visit Iceland, hunt for the northern lights and also explore all the other wonderful things the island in the north has to offer. Many visitors enjoy taking pictures of the aurora and some even add a northern lights video to their collection. We have gathered a few great videos for you to enjoy and hopefully inspire you to do make your own.

Time Laps Northern Lights and Landscape

This time laps northern lights video shows you more than just the aurora. You see the incredible landscape and scenery the island has to offer. The dancing northern lights look amazing and magical.

Northern Lights In Iceland V3 from O Z Z O Photography on Vimeo.

Aurora Borealis and City Sites

This time laps northern lights video doesn´t only show the magical northern lights, it also shows the light show at Harpan Concert Hall. The lights symbolize the aurora and when you visit Reykjavík city center, don´t forget to pass Harpan!

Dramatic Aurora Borealis. Iceland – Time-Lapse of a Winter Fairytale from Anneliese Possberg on Vimeo.

Incredible Iceland – In Winter and Summer

This video shows Iceland mainly during summer. The northern lights aren´t visible in summer as Iceland has 24 hour daylight then. In the middle of the video you can however see lovely shots of the aurora. Enjoy!

incredible iceland from Greg Kiss on Vimeo.

Elemental Iceland Time Laps

From the middle of this northern lights video you see fantastic time laps shots of the lights. The first minutes you enjoy the pure Icelandic nature so it is easy to recommend you watch it from beginning to end.

Elemental Iceland from Stian Rekdal on Vimeo.

Breathtake Minutes

This time laps video shows the Northern Lights at the beginning then many beautiful sites throughout Iceland.

RX1CELAND from Enrique Pacheco on Vimeo.

Aurora in Stykkisholmur, Snaelfesness Peninsula, Iceland

Though fleeting, this quick Northern Lights show in Stykkisholmur, part of Snaelfesness Peninsula, is a beautiful display of what the phenomenon can do.

Northern Lights from John Welsh on Vimeo.

Northern Lights Tours

Remember: choose the winter months and stay for at least a week, keep a close eye on the forecast, choose the hunt that suits you best, whether it a self drive or professionally guided tour, and plan your holiday around what Iceland has to offer and look at the northern lights as a bonus. It is a common misunderstanding that the northern lights appear every night throughout the year, but we have years of experience on giving visitors advice on how it is best to plan a northern lights vacation and we would like to share that experience with you!

Tour Options


Some of the best things you can do in Iceland

Best Things in Reykjavik

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when the name of Iceland is mentioned? The cold temperatures, northern lights and volcanic mountains. Very few people know these three facts about Iceland – it is the home of Bjork, the famous songwriter-singer, the country was financially broke in the year 2008 and in the year 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic mountain’s eruption disrupted air travel in North America and Europe for nearly 6 days. Iceland was the off the radar of amateur travelers until very recently. Iceland has recently started to showcase its beauty and culture to attract more visitors because of the recently ramped up tourism promotion that the country is doing. This has led to prospective travelers and tourists to discover the fact Iceland, a remote iota of land in the North Atlantic Ocean, is much more exciting and amazing than it was originally thought to be.

Iceland is one of the most assorted countries on Earth and the small iota of land shows just how diversified the country actually is. If you drive for an hour in the country, you will be able to travel and see glaciers, go across lava fields and beaches of black sand, trek up mountains and over rivers, voyage through lush green meadows and plains, through volcanoes and caves and even tour through two tectonic plates. Literally and metaphorically, Iceland is between two worlds, Europe and North America. However, the two plates are slowly drifting apart a few centimeters every year, making Iceland wider every year. The country has a footing in two worlds, traditional and virtually too. The country is one of the most technologically, modern countries in the world while traditionally, the country still arranges its phone records by the first name of the residents. It was one of the first countries to legalize gay marriages and yet, when a baby is born, the parents have to choose his/her name from a list of pre-approved Icelandic names. It is known as the land of fire and ice and a land of contrast at that. It is both physically and culturally diverse and it is perhaps, one of the most beautiful, enchanting, surprising, pleasant and eccentric countries of the world. So, when you visit Iceland and you want to discover and travel the country all by yourself, here are a list of fun things that you can do there.

Shop for drinks at the airport, duty free

This is the first thing that you should do when you visit Iceland. It may not be as incredible as the other things in the list, but if you plan to have a few drinks in Iceland, then you should do this thing first. Once you have got off the plane, make way for the duty free shop at the airport. It is a fact that drinks in Icelandic bars and restaurants are a bit on the expensive. Not only that, alcohol is only available in the licensed stores of Vínbúðin and for extremely short periods of time in some small villages in the country. So, stock up on provisions at the duty free shops at the airport as the price and rate of taxation is based on the amount of alcohol present in the drink and thus, can be quite cheap.

Blue-Lagoon-Grindavik-Reykjavik

Get wet over and over and over again

After a few hours of being trapped inside a plane, the milk, blue waters of the Blue Lagoon are extraordinarily therapeutic and healing. It may be a bit crowded during the touristy times and will be packed during the months from May to September. It is located close the airport and it is a great stop while you are on your way to the hotel or are going back to the airport. There is also another place where you can get the same experience and that is the Myvatn Nature Baths and it is much less crowded. Once you are done with the hot springs of Iceland, get wet again in the cool waters of the public pools in the country and also in the hot springs. When these two natural baths are not enough and you are staying in Reykjavik, we recommend Laugarspa as the best total health & body experience.

Tour Option:

 

off road

Drive on and off the Ring Road

Hire a car and just drive around the country. What makes Iceland unique are its rugged land that has molded the country’s history, people, culture and food. The vehicle that you use for touring the city doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to hire a four wheeler. Just get a two wheeler and drive around the 832 mile stretch of road that circles the island, known as the Ring Road.

Discover the Golden Circe

The Golden Circle is one of the famous drives of the country. It loops about 150 miles around Reykjavik and covers three of Iceland’s top tourist and natural attractions. The first point of interest is the Thingvellir National Park, which was Iceland’s and probably the world’s first site of Parliament. It is also the place where the tectonic plates of Europe and North America meet. You can walk and snorkel in the rift which is clearly visible. The second stop that you should make is the Geysir, the origin of the name of geysers. It does not erupt anymore, but the Strokkur geyser nearby erupts. The last point of interest is the beautiful, monumental and amazing Gullfoss waterfall.

Tour Options:

 

Reykjavikbyfoodslide2

Have some Icelandic hot dogs and delicacies

Visit the post-bar crowd of Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur which is a hot dog stand which is near the harbor and the hot dogs sold there are not ordinary hot dogs. They are topped with fried and raw onions, brown mustard and remoulade. The meat is either lamb or pork or a mixture of it and they taste incredibly delicious. Also try out some of the traditional Icelandic delicacies like puffins, skier, whale and plokkfiskur which is a dish made of boiled cod and potatoes which are mashed together. To sample every item of food, visit Tapas Barrinn and if you want a causal and quick meal, try out the Icelandic Fish and Chips.

Go horse riding

Ride on the cutest and perhaps the most adorable horses that can be found. The Icelandic horse may look like a pony but it is actually a short, squat and adorable horse that is also strong and smart.

Roam around the Reykjavík Harbor

Just roam around the Reykjavik harbor where you will find the whaling ships and take a whaling trip to watch the whales in the country. Also, try out the delicacies at the harbor, which have a seafood specialty.

christmas-in-iceland

The views and shopping

Check out the view from the big white church called the Hallgrímskirkja which is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Iceland and you will get the see the brightly colored houses, the grey bay and the snowcapped peaks of Mount Esja. Check out the skies of the country which fascinate people from all over the world. Check out the Midnight Sun which dominates the night sky in June and July. Also, see the beautiful Northern Lights which shine in the sky from the months of September to March. They are unusually bright, beautiful and spectacular. If you want to really view it every day in your trip, then pay attention to the Aurora forecasts of the rural areas.

Choose the region and just go there

Iceland is a country full of spectacular places and sights. So, when you visit the country, just pick a place and visit. The first choice of yours should be the whole of Ring Road, which you can see in a whole day if the stops you make are minimal, but if you can, make a lot of stops because the region is filled with beautiful sights and places that you will love to see.

Iceland is actually quite a beautiful place and it is quite warmer and closer than you think. The winters of Iceland are quite warmer than most countries and you can reach the country in a span of just a few hours. You can book round-trip flights for $600 and when you reach Iceland, you will find that you have a sense of peace and refreshment that emanates from the country.

secret-lagoon-fludir

Try floating in the Secret Lagoon

Floating is truly a unique experience that you should try! In summer you float and relax in the midnight sun, in winter you float and hunt for the northern lights. The underwater speakers will let you enjoy the music of the Icelandic group SigurRós and with the floating kit you can relax every muscle in your body. Add massage and eggs & bread cooked in geothermal hot springs and you will have the perfect evening in the nature.

Try The South Coast

The South Coast is a wonderful route for one or two days. Whether you want to walk behind a waterfall, take a stroll on the black sand beaches, enjoy the amazing scenery or even go for a glacier hike, this route is perfect. You can even go all the way to the Glacial lagoon to get the most of the tour but then you need to do it in two days.

Tour Options:


Northern lights hunt tours

Northern Lights Tours

The selection for northern lights hunt tours is massive and might be difficult to choose the right one. Therefore we have put together a list of various tours to give you an idea what might be best suited for you.

Northern Lights shot with a Drone from O Z Z O Photography on Vimeo.

It is a common misunderstanding that the northern lights appear every night throughout the year. We have years of experience on giving visitors advice on how it is best to plan a northern lights vacation and we would like to share that experience with you!

Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon Floating and Bubble Tour

mysteriousmidnighttournl

This adventure combination tour will bring you to the most famous sights of the Golden Circle- Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall, to the Secret Lagoon to float in the natural bath, and to the bubbles where you will spend the night under the stars.

Book Here:

Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon Floating and Bubble Tour

Super Jeep Tours

mysteriousmidnighttournl

The super jeep tours are usually combination tours, i.e. a combination of Northern Lights hunt and some other activity. Some tours are day tours, others are afternoon or evening tours. You can also always have a customized tour that suits your needs.

Book Here:

Bus Tours

Northern lights bus tours are the cheapest ones but also the most crowded ones. Many companies offer a free tour if the lights don´t show up on your first tour, but you need to check the company you book with whether they have such service.

Boat Tours

mysteriousmidnighttournl

You can also opt to hunt for the lights by jumping on a boat and have the city lights and mountains as a background. The boats have a lower deck where you can have a seat and get warm if you think it is too cold out on the upper deck. If you plan on taking professional pictures it is better to have a steady ground but it is a unique experience to hunt for the lights out on the open sea.

Self-Drive Tours

mysteriousmidnighttournl

Yet another option is to rent a car and hunt for the lights on your own. It is important to keep a good track on the northern lights forecast and also on the weather forecast as the weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Also keep in mind that in winter the roads are slippery so it is important that you are used to driving in winter conditions (icy roads, snow, even blizzards).

Book now to spend the night sleeping under the stars in the 5 Million Star Hotel

 

mysteriousmidnighttournl

Some opt for a self drive to hunt for the northern lights. That is all good, just keep in mind that the road conditions in Iceland during winter can be difficult and dangerous, especially out in the country. Slippery roads, snow and even blizzards. Other opt for tours – either bus tours, super jeep tours or private tours. Combo tours are often popular, like for instance Golden Circle and Floating. Other options include for instance on a glacier just to name one.

Choose the winter months and stay for at least a week. Keep a close eye on the forecast. Choose the hunt that suits you best, whether it a self drive or tours. Plan your holiday around what Iceland has to offer and look at the northern lights as a bonus.

Northern Lights Tours

The selection for northern lights hunt tours is massive and might be difficult to choose the right one. Therefore we have put together a list of various tours to give you an idea what might be best suited for you.

Northern Lights shot with a Drone from O Z Z O Photography on Vimeo.

It is a common misunderstanding that the northern lights appear every night throughout the year. We have years of experience on giving visitors advice on how it is best to plan a northern lights vacation and we would like to share that experience with you!

Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon Floating and Bubble Tour

This adventure combination tour will bring you to the most famous sights of the Golden Circle- Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall, to the Secret Lagoon to float in the natural bath, and to the bubbles where you will spend the night under the stars.

Book Here:

Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon Floating and Bubble Tour

Super Jeep Tours

The super jeep tours are usually combination tours, i.e. a combination of Northern Lights hunt and some other activity. Some tours are day tours, others are afternoon or evening tours. You can also always have a customized tour that suits your needs.

Book Here:

Bus Tours

Northern lights bus tours are the cheapest ones but also the most crowded ones. Many companies offer a free tour if the lights don´t show up on your first tour, but you need to check the company you book with whether they have such service.

Boat Tours

You can also opt to hunt for the lights by jumping on a boat and have the city lights and mountains as a background. The boats have a lower deck where you can have a seat and get warm if you think it is too cold out on the upper deck. If you plan on taking professional pictures it is better to have a steady ground but it is a unique experience to hunt for the lights out on the open sea.

Self-Drive Tours

Yet another option is to rent a car and hunt for the lights on your own. It is important to keep a good track on the northern lights forecast and also on the weather forecast as the weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Also keep in mind that in winter the roads are slippery so it is important that you are used to driving in winter conditions (icy roads, snow, even blizzards).

Book now to spend the night sleeping under the stars in the 5 Million Star Hotel

Some opt for a self drive to hunt for the northern lights. That is all good, just keep in mind that the road conditions in Iceland during winter can be difficult and dangerous, especially out in the country. Slippery roads, snow and even blizzards. Other opt for tours – either bus tours, super jeep tours or private tours. Combo tours are often popular, like for instance Golden Circle and Floating. Other options include for instance on a glacier just to name one.

Choose the winter months and stay for at least a week. Keep a close eye on the forecast. Choose the hunt that suits you best, whether it a self drive or tours. Plan your holiday around what Iceland has to offer and look at the northern lights as a bonus.


Famous filming locations in Iceland

Famous Film Locations in Iceland

Iceland is becoming more and more popular in Hollywood. The dramatic landscape and the 24 hour daylight in summer is ideal for shooting films. You can almost find any sort of landscape in Iceland – lava fields, mountains, hot springs, snow, beaches and the list goes on. To name a few movies that have been filmed in Iceland:

1. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

The Nordic god, Thor (or Þór as it is in Icelandic), is well known in Iceland and there are many names, both male and female, that are derived from his name. The movie Thor is a classic story of boy meets girl and boy saves girl. A part of the story takes places in outer space but it was shot by Skógafoss in southern Iceland. Skógafoss is one of many beautiful waterfalls in Iceland and if you feel athletic, you can walk up many steps to get to the top of the waterfall and look down.
Tours that include a visit to Skógafoss are a two day tour of the south coast and the Glacial lagoon , a day tour of the south coast that also includes a visit to Eyjafjallajokull volcano, a day out of the south coast and glacier walk, or a day tour with a volcano show.

2. Oblivion (2013)

Oblivion is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, starring Tom Cruise. It is shot in the north of Iceland and in the highlands. Another major location was on Langjökull glacier. For the northern coast, you can for instance do a self-drive from Akureyri and drive to Hrossaborg. Drive east from Myvatn as the crater is right by the main road. For Langjökull glacier, we recommend a super jeep tour and a snowmobile ride on the glacier. The Pearl tour would be ideal for that.

3. Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

In the movie, the Icelandic landscapes plays a significant role. It takes place in outer space and Iceland has often been used for movies that take place in space because of the amazing landscape. It is worth mentioning that this marks the first time any Star Trek movie is filmed outside the US. It was shot on the south coast at Reynisfjara beach. Tours ideal to check out the Star Trek location include a two day tour of the south coast and the Glacial lagoon , a day tour of the south coast that also includes a visit to Eyjafjallajokull volcano, a day out of the south coast and glacier walk, or a day tour with a volcano show.

4. Noah (2014)

Noah is a liberal interpretation of the old Biblical fable set in a Land Before Time. The movie was filmed in various locations, for instance Hálsanefshellir cave in the south of Iceland. The whole film is shot in Iceland so the landscape plays a large role in the film. The cave is by Reynisfjara beach, where the Star Trek movie was filmed, so you should be able to visit it on one of the south coast tours.

5. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Unlike all the other films, here Iceland is actually Iceland, not outer space or some other location. In the movie, Ben Stiller plays the character of Walter Mitty who visits Iceland to do exciting things instead of just fantasizing about them. It is filmed in Snæfellsnes and on the south coast. The movie also features Icelandic actors and the band behind the sound track is Icelandic as well (Of Monsters and Men).

Snæfellsnes peninsula is a wonderful place to visit. It is also worth mentioning that in 2008 the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth was filmed at Snæfellsjökull glacier and also the movie Interstellar (2014). We recommend a two day tour to explore the area.

6. Game of Thrones

The famous TV show Game of Thrones was filmed in Iceland. The locations are both on the south-west corner – sites like Thingvellir national park and Hvalfjordur – and on the north coast. The frozen and wintry climates characterizes parts of the series´ mythical lands. The land and scenery was perfect for the filming.

7. James Bond (1985, 2002)

The famous James Bond movie, A View To a Kill (1985), was partly shot in Iceland. The location was The Glacial Lagoon (Jökulsárlón), a wonderful place with floating icebergs. In 2002, the shot a science again at the location and it was for the Bond movie Die Another Day. It is also worth mentioning that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was also partly shot by the lagoon (2001). As it is far away from Reykjavik, a two day tour is highly recommended.

8. Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015) and Rogue One (2016)

It is no secret that the landscapes of Iceland are perfect for the landscapes of sci-fi worlds. This is why the directors chose multiple locations in Iceland. In The Force Awakens, scenes were filmed in the geothermal areas nearby Lake Viti in North Iceland, Eyjafjallajokull in South Iceland, and on the black volcanic sands of the Myrdalssandur beach. In the second newest Star Wars movie, Rogue One, scenes were filmed at Reynisfjara black sand beach and Krafla volcanic crater near Lake Myvatn.


What if...... in Iceland?

What if?

When planning an holiday, we often need answers to “what if” questions. Here is a fun read about “What if….” questions in relation to Iceland and might even answer a few of your speculations if you are thinking about visiting Iceland! What if…..

…. I would book a trip to Iceland. When should I visit?

That first and foremost depends on what you are after. The midnight sun, the magical northern lights, the crazy nightlife, the unspoiled nature, the geothermal spas or something else? If you are eager to hunt for the northern lights, then you should visit in winter as the aurora aren´t visible in summer! The northern lights season is from September – mid April so anytime during that period is good. Just stay as long as you can as each day increases your chances of seeing the lights. If you are however more into the midnight sun and bright summer nights, May – July is the time for you! You really loose track of time when you are out in the nature on a bright summer night. No need to worry about rushing back to town before dark as it just doesn´t get dark! If you are planning on visit to enjoy the nature, then you can choose the month that suits you to travel. Same goes for the geothermal bathing as the pools are open all year round.

….. I go to Iceland as a solo traveler. Is it safe?

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world so yes, it is safe. That goes both for men and women as long as you use common sense, like don´t go alone up on a glacier or into an ice cave without a guide! It is always wise to let someone know where you are going and when you will be expected back when you head out to the countryside. Iceland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and everything is very relaxed. For solo travelers, it is a good opportunity to get to know locals. We recommend a private tour or a super jeep tour but if that is off budget, then join one of many bus tours and get to know other travelers.

…. I decide to go there with kids.

Iceland is very child friendly. Both in winter and summer you can find various activities and tours that are family friendly and suitable for children of all ages. It is also easy to find accommodation for families with children and the same goes for restaurants. Kids are always welcome!

…. I won´t find food that fits my special diet

In Reykjavík you can find something for everyone. It doesn´t matter whether you have allergies, are on a special diet or would like to try something special, you will find it in Reykjavik. Most supermarkets have a special section with organic and gluten free products and you can even find other special products like egg-free, soya-free and dairy-free. Most restaurants are flexible when it comes to allergies and special needs and have for instance a vegetarian dish(es) on their menus.

…. no one will understand me as I don´t know a word in Icelandic?

Everyone in Iceland speaks English so no need to worry. Some speak better English than others but you can always manage. Icelanders learn English in school from early age and most movies and TV shows are in English with subtitles. Icelanders are good with languages and many people study other languages in school besides English, like Spanish, Danish, French and German. If you are interested to learn Icelandic, you can look for teaching materials online. Icelandic isn´t as hard as many people think and we are happy to give you your first Icelandic lesson now! Hello (EN), halló (ICE). The word “bye” is pronounced the same in English and Icelandic (Bæ). Milk (EN), mjólk (ICE). Banana (EN), banani (ICE).

….I go on a boat ride and get sea sick?

Whale watching and sea angling is among popular tours in Iceland. Some might tend to get sea sick, especially if the sea is rough. Then the best option is to stay outside in the fresh air, not to sit inside!

….I would like to try be like a local for one day?

Many visitors want to try to have a day or two like a local and get our of the touristic environment. Locals love to go swimming throughout the year and then chat in the hot tubs. They for bike rides and walks, the golf clubs are crowded in summer and many enjoy hiking. For hiking you don´t have to go far away from Reykjavik. Mountain Esja and Úlfarsfell are ideal places for a nice hike. Ice cream is always popular among locals and go to a supermarket after work hours if you want to join the locals in their grocery shopping. On weekends many locals love to go out of the city for a day or two, especially during summer. All the small villages on the south coast are worth visiting. In winter you will find many locals at the mall, Icelanders love shopping!


Best Place to See Northern Lights

Best Places to View Northern Lights

Below you will find information on some great places in Iceland for viewing the northern lights. These are not only great places to see the lights but also feature many activities and natural sights. When planning a trip to Iceland it’s important to research what kind of things you would like to do and the places to see. The northern lights can only be seen in the winter, when it’s completely dark with clear skies. There are many nights where visibility is low so make sure you have other items on your bucket list and take in as much of the country as you can. The northern lights are a natural phenomenon, so a bonus to your trip.

Hotel Rangá – the best place to see Northern Lights

Hotel Rangá is one of the most renowned hotels in Iceland for seeing the northern lights. It was the first hotel in the country to offer a northern lights wakeup call service to its guests so they could pull their parkas over their pyjamas if the Aurora made an appearance. In addition to their comfortable and luxurious rooms, the location on the south coast is in close proximity to natural wonders like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the Reynisfjara black sand beach and basalt columns, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Hotel Rangá makes for a great place to see the beautiful dancing northern lights.

Hotel Glymur with its amazing village suites

Hotel Glymur is a friendly hotel with a beautiful village suites. It’s located in majestic Hvalfjörður (“Whale Fjord”) just north-west of Reykjavík, and has breathtaking scenery. It has a lovely relaxed atmosphere and a great restaurant that offers everything a hungry stomach needs. The six village suites are uniquely designed villas, each with an open-concept kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, leather sofas, large screen TV, dining table, amazing art pieces and can cater for 4-6 people. With its remote natural location, it’s a fantastic place to see the northern lights without going too far from the city.

Hotel Gullfoss – next to the famous waterfall

Hotel Gullfoss is located right in the heart of the Golden Circle, next to the amazing and famous Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) waterfall. One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland—and even the whole world!—it is stunning to see all year round. When the sun is shining on it, there is often a golden rainbow over it that gives the falls their name. During the winter a stay at the hotel is truly magical, with no urban lights around one can walk out into the darkness, or lounge in a hot tub, and gaze at the starry sky and watch the northern lights dance totally undisturbed. You can even get great photos of the lights dancing over the waterfall, capturing two of Iceland’s most famous sights together.

Great hot tubs for Northern Lights viewing

With less than 100 inhabitants, Drangsnes is the ultimate spot for seclusion and solitude for viewing the lights. You can lay in the seaside hot tubs waiting for the auroras to show up over the tiny fishing village, indulge your inner nature-lover by exploring the surrounding area, and go mingle with the locals at the Malarhorn café. When the northern lights do come out here, there isn’t anything or anyone to disturb your enjoyment.


Where To See The Northern Lights

Where Can We See The Northern lights?

This is understandably one of the most common question people ask when they are looking for information about the Aurora. Naturally it’s important to find out where it’s possible to see the Northern Lights before you start making detailed travel plans.

When Is The Best Time To See The Aurora?

The Northern Lights season starts every year in September and is until mid-April. There isn’t one particular month better than the other, the lights are hard to predict or plan for and the weather can prove challenging. That said, if you have a clear sky and can see the stars then you might be in for a good viewing.

One of the most important factors is the length of your stay as each day increases your chances of seeing the beautiful lights. We usually advise people to stay here for at least 4 days as the lights are often active for 2 – 3 days and then low for 4 – 5 days.

Iceland is an ideal place to hunt for the Northern Lights. In order to get the best viewing, go outside the city and away from the artificial lights. Often you don’t have to go far, just away from the lights as they often hinder you from seeing the Aurora Borealis.

Self-Drive v Guided Tour

Another common question we often get is whether we recommend a self-drive, guided tours from Reykjavík or a combination of both.

The main advantage of booking a tour is that your guide knows the forecast and has access to much more information so there’s a good chance of spotting the Northern Lights. If the forecast isn’t looking good by 6pm, they send a cancelation message and you’ll have another chance the following night. They provide the transport and know the roads so take you to the right spots.

In the winter, roads conditions can be icy and not ideal, so we don’t advise self-driving unless drivers are familiar with snowy and icy roads.

Road more on Driving In Iceland.

It is common for people to opt for both, tours and self-drive. It all depends on what each person is comfortable with. We recommend that you spend a few nights out in the countryside if you stay in Iceland for more than 5 days. You don’t need to go far out the city to be in with a chance to see the dancing Aurora. If the sky is clear of clouds then head down to Grotto and wait patiently.

If you have a car, drive out of the city and away from the light pollution to areas like Grotta, Mosfellsbaer, Seltjarnarnes and Perlan, where you can easily park.

Further afield, head to Thingvellir National Park near the Golden Circle to be surrounded by nature for a vast open sky ready for the nights display. Threngsli, Seljavallalaug Pool, Vík, Eldborgahraun, Djúpavík, Látrabjarg in the Westfjords, Ásbyrgi Canyon, Hvammsfjordur, Jokulsarlon, East fjords, Hvitserkur, Siglufjordur, Reynisvatn, Öskjuhlid, Borgarholt in Kopavogur and Kirkjufell.

Understanding The Northern Lights Forecast

There are a few things you need to consider when you take a look at the forecast. Firstly, look for the white areas on the map, these show clear sky (so a low cloud coverage). Secondly, in the top right corner you will see a scale which shows numbers and indicates to a moderate, active or high performance of the Northern Lights. Finally, the weather in Iceland changes constantly so it’s important to check the forecast regularly during your stay, especially if you are doing a self-drive so see where to drive to.

When you go on a bus or superjeep tour, the drivers know where to hunt for the lights each night. Also keep in mind that even though the forecast says low, go outside and hunt for the lights if the sky is clear, they tend to show up without any notice.

The Northern Lights Forecast


How To Plan Your Trip To Iceland Around The Weather

Remember, this is Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful place to visit and many people who do take away memories that will last a lifetime, however many first time travellers to this picturesque country wonder how to plan their trip to Iceland around the weather. Here are a few tips that might help.

Located on the Arctic Circle

Iceland is close to the arctic circle so no matter what time of year you travel, you can expect cooler or just cold weather. Traveling in the late spring and early summer is probably going to give you the best opportunity to really take in the country. During the late fall and winter months, the weather can make many roads difficult or impossible to travel. Like anywhere in the world, there’s no guaranteeing what the weather’s going to be like on any given day or even hour.

So, the first thing you need to do is remember why you’ve chosen to visit Iceland instead of a tropical Island that would almost guarantee you endless days of sunshine.

Icelands weather is unpredictability. While you can watch weather forecasts and try to plan your trip based on those sunnier forecasts, forecasts are simply educated guesses as to what the weather’s going to do. No one, regardless of how many instruments they have at their disposable can accurately predict the weather. The simple truth is, while you can plan your visit to Iceland for the warmer months, you really can’t plan it around the weather. So rather than trying to plan that Icelandic adventure around the weather, why not plan to enjoy it regardless of weather.

Come prepared to take this beautiful country in, layer up and enjoy.

Pack For Any Type of Weather

When traveling to Iceland you need to remember that the day can start out warm but may turn cold and rainy within a very short period of time. It’s important to pack the right clothes for any type of weather. Here’s a checklist for items to pack

• Swimwear – despite Icelands chillier all-year-round weather, swimwear is something you are going to want to pack as most hotels have their own indoor or outdoor pools, fed by a hot spring. Relaxing in one of these pools is going to be something you aren’t going to want to miss.

• Dark Jeans and Smart Top – If you plan on visiting a club or bar while in Iceland, packing a pair of dark jeans and smart top is a must. This is standard for a casual night out.

• A ‘Nicer’ Outfit – Icelanders don’t tend to dress up but eating out in one of Icelands smarter restaurants is a good excuse to wear one of your nicer outfits. You’ll still need to wrap up warm though.

• Layers – Pack clothes that are easy to layer for your different activities and trips in Iceland. Start with a good base layer that provides warmth, a cotton or polyester blend shirt and long trousers. Then make sure you include a pull over / sweater or two, a jacket made from a waterproof material and good hiking or walking boots.

• Hat, Scarf, Gloves – In addition to packing clothes you can mix n match, and layer, you also want to include a warm hat, scarf and gloves.

Focus on the Adventure

If you pack the right clothing for all possible weather conditions then you can spend your time in Iceland focusing on your adventures rather worrying about the weather. People come to Iceland to experience nature in all its raw beauty, and to meet and get to know a little about the people who call this country home.

Traveling through Iceland, you will see some beautiful sights, can do exciting activities, try new foods and have some of the best adventures of your life. When you focus on these adventures you will discover that some of your best memories of this country will centre around those grey rainy and windy days. Hopefully you’ll be warmed by the excitement of being lowered into an empty volcano, seeing whales off the bow of a ship, or simply enjoying some good old Icelandic hospitality.

Guided Tours vs. Self-Driving

In the end its not so much a matter of planning your trip to Iceland around the weather than embracing Iceland, including the weather. Be prepared to experience an adventure of a lifetime in one of the most beautiful and sparely populated places on earth.


Is A 4x4 Vehicle Essential In Iceland?

Importance of 4X4 Vehicles

Providing recommendations about touring Iceland is at times hard, as the suggestions you offer are totally determined by the person you are offering them to. The response is determined by what you are used to driving, where you plan to drive to and your experience in different weather conditions. Keep in mind that it’s usually more expensive to rent a 4WD and you don’t always need to have one, i.e if you are looking to be a little adventurous and expect your vehicle to cross river terrain, then hiring a Skoda Octavia wont cut it. However for those self driving the Golden Circle, Reykjavik and the South Coast, then something like a Skoda Octavia would be fine.

In the winter, you’ll need winter tires which are typically provided by all car hire companies on their vehicles. These will help you drive on slush, snow, ice.

Below are a number of exceptions and some factors to take into account:

Highlands in Iceland

First and foremost, many of the highlands in Iceland are only accessible by 4×4 jeeps (4WD is not essentially sufficient) and huge penalties can be imposed if you drive a standard rental vehicle inside these regions.

The same goes for off road driving, this is strictly prohibited. Normally, the roads on the highlands have F road marks. Please note that Kjolur is included even though it’s not an F road. If you intend to visit those regions or on roads that are F marked, we recommend going with a local expert.

Summer v Winter Driving

During summer you can drive the ring road around Iceland without a 4×4. During winter, due to the weather and snow storms, a 4×4 can prove very useful especially if you are not confident in driving on snowy roads.

This mainly applies to the Westfjords, the North as well as East. However, many of the roads near Reykjavik are sustained well (for instance, the South Coast, Golden Circle and Snaefellsnes Peninsula) and only close when there is excessively bad weather. When it is this bad, you should avoid driving no matter what type of vehicle you have.

The climate in Iceland is unpredictable so this will play a part in your planning and driving. In winter, you might expect snow but not see any or snow might even fall in April. It’s not possible to predict the weather so please be prepared for this.

Here’s some point to take into account:

  • 4WD cars are slightly larger and offer a little more comfort
  • The weather here can totally differ from what you are accustomed to
  • It is vital to rent a car in good condition with great tires
  • A GPS system is also useful
  • Check the weather forecast and road conditions before you start your journey


Most Picturesque Glaciers in Iceland

Iceland is widely known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice,’ because both volcanoes and glaciers are dotted around this region. Glaciers are huge, large and persistent ice blocks that only form on a piece of land where snow stays in one place long enough to turn into ice. This snow takes not years but centuries to transform into thick ice masses. Glaciers are unique because these can shift places by crawling forward, which happens due to their sheer mass. This characteristic is akin to slow rivers. Glaciers although are persistent but once these start flowing, their deformation also starts because flow creates cracks, crevasses and sometimes even caves. Many glaciers and volcanoes have formed atop active volcanoes in Iceland and after eruption of these volcanoes the ice above the glacier quickly melts. This creates destructive rivers known as “jökulhlaup”.

Vatnajökull glacier

view-to-vatnajokull

This is the largest glacier not only in Iceland but in entire Europe. The picture is from one of the icecaves in Vatnajökull glacier. It is located in the south-east area of Iceland. It is so huge that many glacial tongues have formed on all of its sides, just like almost all of the large glaciers found in Iceland. Each tongue has separate name as well and it is not possible to list all names here because these are so many. Most notable one is Öræfajökull glacier, which is a famous hiking point.

Vatnajökull is also popular because Iceland’s highest peak Hvannadalshnjúkur and most active volcano system Grímsvötn are located here.

Svínafellsjökull glacier in Vatnajökull National Park

Located here is the gorgeous glacial lake Jökulsárlón, which can be found on the south-eastern end of the glacier. The entire glacier is covered by Vatnajökull National Park as it happens to be the largest national park in Europe with its area of 12,000Km2.

Langjökull glacier

This is ranked as the second largest glacier in the country. Langjökull means ‘Long Glacier,’ and the name has been derived from its shape. This glacier is located in the western side of the Icelandic highlands. The glacier is easily visible from Geysir. This glacier serves as a popular snowmobiling spot along with The Golden Circle. Two active volcanoes are also located in Langjökull glacier.

Hofsjökull glacier

Ranked as the third biggest glacier in this region, Hofsjökull glacier is located in the Mid-Highlands. It happens to be the largest active volcano in the country and serves as a shield with caldera. Hofsjökull glacier is the primary source of numerous rivers in Iceland including the country’s longest river Þjórsá. The south and north of the country are connected by the Kjölur road that runs between Hofsjökull and Langjökull.

Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Eyjafjallajökull glacier

This is Iceland’s fourth largest glacier and is located right next to the country’s sixth largest glacier Eyjafjallajökull. Both these glaciers are located in Iceland’s south side. It is true that Mýrdalsjökull bigger than Eyjafjallajökull and contains Iceland’s one of the largest and most active volcano, Katla. But, Eyjafjallajökull has become popular recently because of its eruption in a very small volcano back in 2010. There is a popular hiking spot that is located between these two volcanoes known as Fimmvörðuháls. People can easily get on top of the recently erupted volcano, where now a warm, newly formed mountain can be found.

Drangajökull glacier

Drangajokull glacier can be found in the Westfjords. It is Iceland’s fifth largest glacier and the only one that hasn’t decreased in size over the years. It also is the only glacier this is located below 1000m completely.

Snæfellsjökull glacier

Snaefellsjokull glacier is the 13th largest glacier in Iceland and unfortunately it is decreasing in size rapidly too. Nonetheless, it is still counted among the most famous glaciers in Iceland. This glacier is located at the tip of Snæfellsnes peninsula and can be viewed like a crown alongside the Faxaflói bay on a clear day from Reykjavík. This glacier is termed as the jewel of one of the three national parks in Iceland, the Snæfellsjökull National Park. Similar to various other glaciers in Iceland, Snæfellsjökull also is a cone shaped volcano called stratovolcano. It became eternally popular when it featured in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth as the earth’s central entry point. For the very first time in recorded history the summit became ice free, which happened in August 2012.

Iceland is widely known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice,’ because both volcanoes and glaciers are dotted around this region. Glaciers are huge, large and persistent ice blocks that only form on a piece of land where snow stays in one place long enough to turn into ice. This snow takes not years but centuries to transform into thick ice masses. Glaciers are unique because these can shift places by crawling forward, which happens due to their sheer mass. This characteristic is akin to slow rivers. Glaciers although are persistent but once these start flowing, their deformation also starts because flow creates cracks, crevasses and sometimes even caves. Many glaciers and volcanoes have formed atop active volcanoes in Iceland and after eruption of these volcanoes the ice above the glacier quickly melts. This creates destructive rivers known as “jökulhlaup”.

Vatnajökull glacier

This is the largest glacier not only in Iceland but in entire Europe. The picture is from one of the icecaves in Vatnajökull glacier. It is located in the south-east area of Iceland. It is so huge that many glacial tongues have formed on all of its sides, just like almost all of the large glaciers found in Iceland. Each tongue has separate name as well and it is not possible to list all names here because these are so many. Most notable one is Öræfajökull glacier, which is a famous hiking point.

Vatnajökull is also popular because Iceland’s highest peak Hvannadalshnjúkur and most active volcano system Grímsvötn are located here.

Svínafellsjökull glacier in Vatnajökull National Park

Located here is the gorgeous glacial lake Jökulsárlón, which can be found on the south-eastern end of the glacier. The entire glacier is covered by Vatnajökull National Park as it happens to be the largest national park in Europe with its area of 12,000Km2.

Langjökull glacier

This is ranked as the second largest glacier in the country. Langjökull means ‘Long Glacier,’ and the name has been derived from its shape. This glacier is located in the western side of the Icelandic highlands. The glacier is easily visible from Geysir. This glacier serves as a popular snowmobiling spot along with The Golden Circle. Two active volcanoes are also located in Langjökull glacier.

Hofsjökull glacier

Ranked as the third biggest glacier in this region, Hofsjökull glacier is located in the Mid-Highlands. It happens to be the largest active volcano in the country and serves as a shield with caldera. Hofsjökull glacier is the primary source of numerous rivers in Iceland including the country’s longest river Þjórsá. The south and north of the country are connected by the Kjölur road that runs between Hofsjökull and Langjökull.

Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Eyjafjallajökull glacier

This is Iceland’s fourth largest glacier and is located right next to the country’s sixth largest glacier Eyjafjallajökull. Both these glaciers are located in Iceland’s south side. It is true that Mýrdalsjökull bigger than Eyjafjallajökull and contains Iceland’s one of the largest and most active volcano, Katla. But, Eyjafjallajökull has become popular recently because of its eruption in a very small volcano back in 2010. There is a popular hiking spot that is located between these two volcanoes known as Fimmvörðuháls. People can easily get on top of the recently erupted volcano, where now a warm, newly formed mountain can be found.

Drangajökull glacier

Drangajokull glacier can be found in the Westfjords. It is Iceland’s fifth largest glacier and the only one that hasn’t decreased in size over the years. It also is the only glacier this is located below 1000m completely.

Snæfellsjökull glacier

Snaefellsjokull glacier is the 13th largest glacier in Iceland and unfortunately it is decreasing in size rapidly too. Nonetheless, it is still counted among the most famous glaciers in Iceland. This glacier is located at the tip of Snæfellsnes peninsula and can be viewed like a crown alongside the Faxaflói bay on a clear day from Reykjavík. This glacier is termed as the jewel of one of the three national parks in Iceland, the Snæfellsjökull National Park. Similar to various other glaciers in Iceland, Snæfellsjökull also is a cone shaped volcano called stratovolcano. It became eternally popular when it featured in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth as the earth’s central entry point. For the very first time in recorded history the summit became ice free, which happened in August 2012.


How To Plan A Northern Lights Vacation

How to Plan a Northern Lights Vacation

It’s a common misunderstanding that the northern lights appear every night throughout the year. We have years of experience in giving visitors advice on how to best plan a northern lights vacation, and we would like to share that experience with you.

4 Tips for a Northern Lights Vacation

1. Timing

When you are planning a northern lights holiday, the timing is of course crucial. The northern lights can appear every month of the year but you need darkness in order to see them. For examples, even if the forecast shows active lights in July, you won’t see anything due to the 24 hour daylight. May – August are off season due to daylight.

The northern lights season starts at the beginning of September and ends mid April. In late August, when the days have started to get shorter, late at night you could get lucky and see the lights. The length of your stay is also vital as the lights often appear for 2-3 days and then there can be nothing for some days. We always recommend 4-5 days increase your chances.

2. Plan for Winter

We always recommend visitors to plan their visit to Iceland as a nice winter holiday with loads of tours and activities. Enjoy all the wonderful things the country has to offer. Whether you choose a tour or to self drive, you will have an amazing time in the pure and unspoiled nature, the views and the sites.

The northern lights are a bonus and we recommend you think of them that way. Keep in mind the hours of daylight you will have during your stay. The months with the fewest hours of daylight are December and January but this gives you longer in darkness to hunt for the lights.

3. Check the Forecast

Keep a close eye on the northern lights forecast. You need to look for white or light green patches, area where there is little to no cloud coverage. There is a scale on the top right, the number here should be 3 (moderate) or higher. However, it’s always worth having a look at the sky, especially if it’s clear and you can see the stars. See the stars and you have a good chance if the lights are going to show.

4. Plan Self-Drive Tours

Some people opt to self drive and hunt for the northern lights. Keep in mind that the road conditions in Iceland during winter can be difficult and dangerous, especially out in the countryside; slippery roads, snow and even blizzards.

Alternatively you can opt to take a tour, either a bus tour, super jeep or private tour. A combo tour is a great option to tick a few items off your bucket list.

We recommend the Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon, Bubble Tour.

  • Choose the winter months
  • Stay for 4-5 days
  • Keep a close eye on the Aurora forecast
  • Choose the hunt that suits you best, whether a self drive or tour
  • Plan your holiday around what Iceland has to offer, northern lights are a bonus


Where are the northern lights

There are three main areas you can see the northern lights

Aurora and milky way at Thingvellir

"Where are the northern lights?" is a very common question. Most people imagine the northern lights are at the north pole. This is not the case as can be seen on the pictures above. There is something called Magnetic North Pole - a zone that goes through countries close to the Arctic Circle as you can see on the pictures. So when you want to see the northern lights you need to get as close as possible to this zone, but remember the zone is mainly in areas that are uninhabited and difficult to access. Only couple of countries / areas are known for being the best places to see the aurora borealis.

Northern Europe

In Northern Europe the main area is the northern part of the Scandinavian countries, Norway, Sweden and Finland, but also you can go to the amazing Iceland to see it. There are some differences between these countries, especially the price for travelling and accommodation, Norway being the far most expensive but also it really depends what else you want to do while traveling to these places. You can only see the northern lights late in the evening and you want to be able to do something else in the daytimee.g. see beautiful waterfalls, glaciers or volcanoes. You can either hunt for the lights by tour from Reykjavik or spend a few nights out in the country away from the city lights. You can see the lights in Reykjavík but they are much stronger and more visible when you get away from the city lights.

Alaska

Alaska is another option. A lot of people go to Fairbanks that has some hotels and tours to service the tourists wanting to see the northern lights. It has a well known university researching the phenomena - the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska. They are well known for their northern lights Alaska forecast.

North America / Canada

The third option is to go to North America or more likely all the way up to Canada. The aurora borealis can be viewed frequently at the more northern latitudes of Canada - but not much further south than 53rd parallel. Great places for viewing it in Canada are Manitoba, Yellowknife, Blachford Lake, Whitehorse in Yukon, Marsh Lake in Whitehorse area. There are also some great aurora borealis tours operators over there.


Weird and Fun Facts About Iceland

Weird and Fun Facts About Iceland and the Icelandic People

Weirdness is something that everyone possesses yet no one can explain why these behaviors or situations may occur. Iceland is no different! Below you will find our list of the most weird and fun facts about our beautiful country and the wonderful people who live here!

1. Ice Cream All Year

It can be below freezing here in Iceland, but you are sure to find a line at the door of the local ice cream shop! Our favorites here in Reykjavik include:

  • Isbudin Valdis, located in the new hip and trendy area, Grandi
  • Joylato, located by the famous Hallgrimskirkja Church
  • Brynja Is, located slightly outside of the city in Kopavogur.

2. Stay Awake for 24 Hours

In the summertime (June until August) day and night merge into one and it simply does not get dark! This is due to Iceland’s location, meaning when the Earth’s axis tilts- we get longer hours of sun. The Icelandic people use these nights for midnight-sun activities such as late “night” disc-golfing, barbecue’s, hiking and golfing. They even have a International Arctic Open Golf tournament in June.

3. You Can Dine on Unique Local Delicacies

Every country has their own national food or dish, and Iceland is no different. Ask any Icelandic person what the traditional dishes are you will learn of fermented shark, whole sheep head, and sour gelatinized ram’s…testicles. Please remember, this does not mean that the entire population will enjoy consuming these, as you will learn from Icelanders faces when asked about this.

4. Mosquitoes Do Not Exist in Iceland

How often have you woken up in the middle of the night because of mosquitoes? And for some reason they only get bigger as you go from one country to the next. In Iceland mosquitoes do not exist mostly because it is too cold for them to thrive. However, in recent years, partly due to global warming, some bugs have been thriving for a short span in the summer months in some locations in Iceland

5. Iceland Has a Total of 13 Santas

Iceland takes the idea of Santa Claus one step further: 13 Yule Lads and an evil Christmas cat!

  • Stekkjastaur, stiff legs – has long, stiff legs and steals farmers milk
  • Giljagur, gully gawk – hides in the town gullies and steals milk from cowsheds
  • Stufur, stubby – steals the pots and pans and eats leftovers
  • Thorusleikir, spoon licker – steals unwashed spoons and licks them clean
  • Pottaskefill, pot scraper – steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
  • Askasleikir, bowl licker – steals unattended bowls and licks them clean
  • Hurdaskellir, door slammer – slams doors and keeps people awake at night
  • Skyrgamur, skyr gobbler – steals skyr
  • Bjugnakraekir, sausage swiper – hides in the ceiling and steals sausages that are hung for smoking
  • Gluggagaegir, window peeper – peeks through the window
  • Gattathefur, door sniffer – sniffs out where people are baking and then steals cakes and cookies
  • Ketkrokur, meat hook – steals meat with a long hook
  • Kertasnikir, candle beggar – steals candles from children

6. Names in Iceland are Different and Unique

You will come to notice that in Iceland people are called almost exclusively by their first name, since surnames do not exist in the country. Girls are the daughter of their father (for instance Anna Jonsdottir – Anna, daugther of Jon), and boys are the sons of their fathers (for instance, Gunnar Gudmundsson – Gunnar, son of Gudmundur). Women keep their last names when they get married and when looking for someone in the phonebook, you always look under the first name. It is also interesting to know that first names must by pre-approved by the government and any new name must be submitted for consideration.

7. Beer Was Illegal Until 1989

Beer prohibition in Iceland lasted from 1915 until 1.March, 1989! For political reasons, alcohol was generally frowned upon, but beer especially since it reminded Icelanders of the Danes, who owned Iceland until 1944. Nowadays, this day is referred to as Bjordagur (Beer Day) and it is tough to stop the locals from joining in on the celebration.

8. For the Love of Potatoes

When most think of potatoes, the country Ireland may come to mind and sad memories of the potato famine, but because of the chilled weather and short summers, it´s not really that much you can cultivate in Iceland, unless in greenhouses. Potatoes have though been cultivated in Iceland for centuries and people often have a small potato patch in their personal garden. Potatoes can be found on everyone’s plates both during the holidays and normal evenings.

9. Harnassing the Geothermal Water for a Good Soak

Icelanders love their swimming pools and hot tubs. In the evenings after work and on the weekends, you can find Icelanders gathering in the geothermal hot tubs to talk about the weather, politics and whatever comes to mind. It’s normal for strangers to join the conversation and chat for hours. We love our pools so much we have strict bathing rules for before entering. Please follow these rules! Since swimming is such an important aspect of everyday life, children begin swim classes from the age of six to the age of 16.

10. Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe

While the rest of the world is lamenting over overpopulation, Iceland just breezes by fairly on its own. With only 300,00 inhabitants its considered the least populated country, however being the least populated has its advantages. For one thing space is not an issue, and because there are few people the beauty of nature is left untouched. So if you want to go for an extreme adventure without crowds of people suffocating you Iceland is the place to go.


The Black Beach in Vik

The Black Sand Beach in Vik

You might have heard a thing or two about the black sand beach in Vik and most likely you have seen lovely photos of the basalt rock formation that stick out of the sea and are called Reynisdrangar. But did you know that Vik is also a black beach and is the wettest place in Iceland? The black beach in Vik also allures people by its hidden caves and folklore stories.
Along the south coast of Iceland, with only about 300 residents, Vik í Myrdal still holds the title to be the biggest village in the southernmost part of Iceland. Just about 180 km away from Reykjavik, you will get to feel the black sand and the warm welcome of the locals.

A fair warning to all tourists is that walking for the next 70 km will not take you anywhere but close to endless shores. Hvolsvollur is about 80 km going north from Vik so the only service center you can most likely find are the ones in Vik.

Black Beach in Vik

The black sand beach in Vik is called by its local Reynishverfi and since it is famous because of it’s black sand and basalt sea stack, tour guides are more willing to take you 10 km just before you reach Vík. That is where the black sand beach with 68 m high boulders can be found.

You can also locate Reynisdragar on the western side of the 340m high Reynisfjall. Vik proper is located on its eastern side. Here is a map to where you can locate the black beach in Vik (“A” – Þjóðvegur, “B”-Reynishverfisvegur, “C” – Vik)

The steepest road you could ever encounter in Iceland is on a loran station, the highest part of the mountain ruins. This was built during the World War II serving as their watchtower or something. The cliffs are the solace of the ever adorable Puffins. Being in top of the mountain will obviously view the whole of Vik as well as Myrdalsjokull, the Dyrholaey and the amazing Reynisdrangar. It would definitely be an spectacular view from up there.

The rock formations are formed at the bottom of the cliff, from the mountain standing proudly in front of Reynisdrangar. The black beach is a long beach with stones and rocks everywhere after the shore.

The folklore is made upon these columnar creations. The legend says that these are the remains of two night trolls who were petrified as they were trying to pull three-masted ship out of the sea. The dawn caught them and had them turned into stone. Well of course, we all know now that these are created by lava flows that cooled down. It created hexagonal forms due to the contraction of the lava as it slowly flows and cools down. In overall view they have formed more like of a staircase. Climbing on these rock formations is easier than it looks as long as you watch your step on each of the blocks. When you reach the top, which is where you can view on different directions the places that are also rewarding to continue your expedition with.

The caves

If you don’t really dig like climbing up the staircase-like formations and a bit afraid of heights, then you can go south western of the Reynis Mountain foot. But ofcourse visit the caves only during low tides as the waves could be quite nasty on high tides. They would be as big as you will expect them to be and it would be dangerous to continue to the caves. And yet another Folklore is known to have surfaced in this cave. It was said that there was once a monster that used to reside in one of those caves but due to unfortunate circumstances for that certain monster, landslides that occurred about 100 years ago killed it and was never ever known to have seen again. The wonders in this place always inherits several folklore, whether they are true or not, respect still would be your best key of survival in such places. So help the locals preserve the natural wonders you have seen and please refrain from doing any vandalism or loitering at the Black Beach in Vik.

The Black Sand Beach in Vik

You might have heard a thing or two about the black sand beach in Vik and most likely you have seen lovely photos of the basalt rock formation that stick out of the sea and are called Reynisdrangar. But did you know that Vik is also a black beach and is the wettest place in Iceland? The black beach in Vik also allures people by its hidden caves and folklore stories.
Along the south coast of Iceland, with only about 300 residents, Vik í Myrdal still holds the title to be the biggest village in the southernmost part of Iceland. Just about 180 km away from Reykjavik, you will get to feel the black sand and the warm welcome of the locals.

A fair warning to all tourists is that walking for the next 70 km will not take you anywhere but close to endless shores. Hvolsvollur is about 80 km going north from Vik so the only service center you can most likely find are the ones in Vik.

Black Beach in Vik

The black sand beach in Vik is called by its local Reynishverfi and since it is famous because of it’s black sand and basalt sea stack, tour guides are more willing to take you 10 km just before you reach Vík. That is where the black sand beach with 68 m high boulders can be found.

You can also locate Reynisdragar on the western side of the 340m high Reynisfjall. Vik proper is located on its eastern side. Here is a map to where you can locate the black beach in Vik (“A” – Þjóðvegur, “B”-Reynishverfisvegur, “C” – Vik)The steepest road you could ever encounter in Iceland is on a loran station, the highest part of the mountain ruins. This was built during the World War II serving as their watchtower or something. The cliffs are the solace of the ever adorable Puffins. Being in top of the mountain will obviously view the whole of Vik as well as Myrdalsjokull, the Dyrholaey and the amazing Reynisdrangar. It would definitely be an spectacular view from up there.

The rock formations are formed at the bottom of the cliff, from the mountain standing proudly in front of Reynisdrangar. The black beach is a long beach with stones and rocks everywhere after the shore.

The folklore is made upon these columnar creations. The legend says that these are the remains of two night trolls who were petrified as they were trying to pull three-masted ship out of the sea. The dawn caught them and had them turned into stone. Well of course, we all know now that these are created by lava flows that cooled down. It created hexagonal forms due to the contraction of the lava as it slowly flows and cools down. In overall view they have formed more like of a staircase. Climbing on these rock formations is easier than it looks as long as you watch your step on each of the blocks. When you reach the top, which is where you can view on different directions the places that are also rewarding to continue your expedition with.

The caves

If you don’t really dig like climbing up the staircase-like formations and a bit afraid of heights, then you can go south western of the Reynis Mountain foot. But ofcourse visit the caves only during low tides as the waves could be quite nasty on high tides. They would be as big as you will expect them to be and it would be dangerous to continue to the caves. And yet another Folklore is known to have surfaced in this cave. It was said that there was once a monster that used to reside in one of those caves but due to unfortunate circumstances for that certain monster, landslides that occurred about 100 years ago killed it and was never ever known to have seen again. The wonders in this place always inherits several folklore, whether they are true or not, respect still would be your best key of survival in such places. So help the locals preserve the natural wonders you have seen and please refrain from doing any vandalism or loitering at the Black Beach in Vik.


The Golden Circle in Iceland

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The Golden Circle is the most popular touristic route in Iceland. Most travelers want to go around the Golden Circle loop but there is always this classic travel dilemma in this; how to enjoy the trip, get most out of it without sacrificing the budget and with limited time. So often suggestion is to join a tour (e.g. Golden Circle ), though there are several but just minimal problems with this idea; that there are so many tour packages available, promises different kinds of experiences, some pricey, some with reasonable price, some overcrowded, some in small group and the time period can be too short that it is even shorter than the time planned for you to roam around. Those are the things you must face when choosing tour packages, the selection so broad you will need some huge amount of time weighing which is most suitable one, you’re lucky if you stumble in some local’s site that happens to offer free travel planning and will choose the right tour package for. Yes, some locals do that to help promote tourism in their country. Another way to go around the famous Golden Circle route is to drive around it by yourself. You would need to rent a car, turn on your reliable GPS or you do it the traditional way by using a map and looking at the signs. The Golden Circle is not far from Reykjavik and it is conveniently located to where a quick snap drive will take you to each destination. A day or a full afternoon is not quite enough but the Golden Circle is absolutely amazing that every second you spend in it will be worth it. So no matter how limited your time will be, you will not get disappointed because in every turn you make, there are magnificent sights and wonders of nature. When you have visited the sites on the Golden Circle route you will understand why it is one of the most popular routes in Iceland. The Golden Circle covers about 300 km from Reykjavik going to the central Iceland and back. There are three primary destinations or stops on the route and they are the Þingvellir National Park, the geothermal area Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall or the Golden Waterfall. The loop will continue passing or having stops at Kerið volcano crater, Hveragerði greenhouse village, Skálholt church, and Nesjavellir or Hellisheidarvirkjun power plant. Depending on the time you have. You can also stop at the small villages by the sea, like Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri, and enjoy a lovely lobster feast.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland

First Stop: Þingvellir National Park

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Þingvellir National Park, the first stop of the Golden Circle Iceland route, is full of history, culture and geological significance. The site of the rift valley marks the crest of the large Mid-ocean ridge or better known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge or MAR, this is the constructive plate boundary at the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It actually separates the Eurasian and the North American Plates. Every year the plates drift about 2 cm apart that builds up tension and can be felt every ten years in the earth mass above creating cracks and fissures in Þingvellir and thinking that this is Iceland, every crack created by natural phenomena is considered another nature’s gift for the locals. The largest crack that started in a deep cave underwater is the Silfra fissure. This is located at the rim of the largest natural lake in Iceland, Þingvallavatn Lake. This is also called the diver’s paradise or the ultimate dream because literally the scuba divers are swimming between two continents and the clear water that makes the wonders underwater visibly possible allures them to swim deeply and explore broadly. Plus the feeling of weightlessness when diving in Silfra is like being in space without getting into a space ship, most of the feedbacks are “as close to a spacewalk as one can get without being in space”. You can also add this activity when visiting Golden Circle because just looking at the picture won’t justify the real experience. If you are kind of afraid to dive deep, you can also snorkel, as this is one of the most popular activities when passing by Silfra.
What makes Þingvellir National Park important when we talk about history is the Parliament or Alþingi which was established in 930 at Þingvellir. The park was founded to protect the remains of the parliament. The new parliament is now in Reykjavik, it’s been moved in 1798, but not really open to the public. Þingvellir National Park is also the first national park in Iceland.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland

Second Stop: Geysir

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Geysir, the home of the sprouting hot spring; The Great Geysir. This is like the Old faithful in California but The Great Geysir erupts higher than it. The level of the sprouting water is about 70 meters high; it even reached the height of 170 metres in 1845. The activities of The Great Geysir vary from time to time, during the old days, the interval per eruption is 30 minutes, and it is now down to only 3 times a day. But when you get to catch the erupting Geysir, it would be the greatest experience, just be sure to bring along your waterproof camera to capture that remarkable moment.
Geysir geothermal field contributes with the applauses that the Golden Circle receives as it has these otherworldly-like features. Geysir, Þykkvuhverir is a group of hot springs scattered in the geothermal field of Geysir. The hot springs are: Spring Gey 1, located at the corner between the trail and highway 35; Sóði (messy spring), located a little bit north of spring Gey 1; Spouting spring Gey 2, situated a little further to the north; The handsome Spring or Smiður (the smith) is located in the north; Cistern spring is just beyond Smiður; Tröllaauga (trolls eye), just along the trails; Proceeding north is the unnamed spring Gey 3; Gey 4 is just behind Gey 3; A mud pot Vigdísarhver is seen from the north; Àlfaauga is located close to the trails; Litli Strokkur can be seen northernmost part of Þykkvuhverir; Þvottahver, Sísjóðandi and Móri is not inside the fence you have to leave the fenced area at Geysir Centre; Neighboring spring east of Sísjóðandi have two pools the Strokkur and Óþerrishola; And Þvottahver (laundry spring) is quite close to the highway 35. Yes there are quite so many springs and it is merely difficult to remember their names but they’re all stunningly beautiful and visiting the geothermal area is quite as rewarding as you would ever think. In actual visit of the Golden Circle at the Geysir geothermal field you can use the location stated above to distinguish which is which.

The Golden Circle Iceland: Geysir Geothermal Field

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Geysir Geothermal Field of the Golden Circle have so much to offer, you can spend time in the Geothermal area and roam around to get the most of it. Besides, The Great Geysir and the numerous hot springs, you can find Blesi, where you can bathe in a blue spring, a pail like shaped spring called Fata and Konungshver (the royal spring) a little to the northwest and above Blesi. Seidir, Litli-Geysir and Oþerrishola are once the principal springs of the area but now can only be induced by soap. And finally just near Geysir geothermal field is hyperactive Strokkur which erupts every five minutes or so. This geyser is so unpredictable, at first you can spot it as a churning pool and without any notice it would burst out water.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland

Third Stop: Gullfoss Waterfalls

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The main event of the Golden Circle is the Golden falls of the Gullfoss as it is popularly named. This is the crowned jewel of the Golden Circle, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Iceland. From the parking lot to where you will enter the great Golden falls you can feel the anticipation. From there you will take a short walk to a cliff where you can witness the magnificent waterfalls. Gullfoss is actually two separate waterfalls but flows as one. The upper water flows down 11 meters and the lower one 21 meters to three steps of lava formation created during the interglacial period. It is like the water disappears down to nowhere as the water flow an average rate of 109 cubic meters per second. Recorded heaviest floods are about 2000 cubic meters per second. In summer, the flow if 130 cubic meters per second that is about 3 seconds to fill a building of 10 floors. You can hear the powerful gush of water even from afar signals that the Gullfoss is at its best work. Capturing the Gullfoss by camera cannot even define how magnificent this waterfall is but it is worth the try for remembrance that you have been in Europe’s most beautiful waterfalls. It would be a big mistake not to put Gullfoss into your itinerary when visiting Iceland or the Golden Circle for that matter.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland

Fourth Stop: Kerid

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The next stop would be Kerid. This is a volcanic crater lake and it is the one that has the most visibly intact caldera. The volcanic rock in the area is mostly composed of red rather than black so it has this Mars-like feature. This is rather a pretty cool volcanic crater and stopping by to check it out is worth it, definitely! The moss around it makes the perfect crater’s symmetry with blue water makes is more attractive.
Huge number of tourists passes through or by Hveragerði every year, and like a magnet, it drives people to explore the place everytime. Located just 45 km from Reykjavik, this place also has numerous hot springs and steams that rises out of the ground can be seen all over the place. Without a doubt, by Hveragerði is one treasured gem South Iceland holds. You can enjoy a natural clay foot bath, and after you can soak your feet in one of the hot springs. It is rewarding. One joke about the hot springs is that you can cook an egg, and then yourself. Hike a bit and you will enjoy a nice bath at the natural heated pool in valley of Reykjadalur. This town isn’t only known by its geothermal activities or hot springs and mud pots but because of its greenhouses. They are heated by the geothermal water from the volcanic hot springs. This is the hotbed of most of Icelandic horticulture, the green part of the Golden Circle.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland

Optional Stop: Skálholt church

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You might have heard about the Skálholt church once in your life or if you didn’t, this is your chance to learn about the church and its significance to the country. The ancient seat of the Icelandic bishops and the center of culture and education for centuries is this church. Though this church has been reconstructed and the remains of the old church are now kept in the National Museum in Reykjavik, which is also worth a visit, the place where the reconstructed church stands holds historic traces and ruins of a fortress is still visible. A monument stands on its spot this was the place where the last catholic bishop and his two sons were beheaded. Yes it may sound gruesome but as respect the place it well preserved. The stained and windows are hand crafted by two Icelandic female artists.

Exploring Golden Circle Iceland

Optional Stop: Nesjavellir or Hellisheidarvirkjun Geothermal Power Plant

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The last stop on the Golden Circle Iceland route would be Nesjavellir or Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal power plant. This is where you can fully understand how energy is supplied all throughout the city and its neighboring towns. Hellisheidarvirkjun (or Hellisheidi) heat and power plant is the largest power plant in Iceland and the second largest geothermal power station in the whole world. The power plant’s visitor center displays geothermal energy exhibition and explains how it sustains to flow out energy in Iceland. The exhibition is an informative presentation with multimedia shows to let the audience learn about green energy and how it can possibly be a global energy source. The second largest geothermal plant in Iceland is Nesjavellir and it is about 11 km away from Hellisheidi.
Exploring the Golden Circle can be a long drive and process but with its excellent places, the trip would be more that you ever dreamed of. The best Golden Circle Iceland route to take can be either head clockwise or counter clockwise, either way, you’ll find yourself into exceptional places. In every turn you can have plethora of photographic opportunities to capture. You couldn't get enough of the scenery of the Golden Circle Iceland.


The ideal proposal - top 10

10 Best Locations to Pop the Question

When it comes down to finding the best, most romantic and even a unique way to pop the questions, many great ideas cross the mind or maybe non. Iceland is powerful in so many ways. Here you find mountains, waterfalls, northern lights, the midnight sun, glaciers, hot springs, volcanic craters, caves, ice bergs and we could go on and on. It doesn´t matter where it is spring, autumn, summer or winter, you can always find something unique, romantic and powerful. If you fancy the power of nature, unique circumstances and amazing views, here are our top 10 ideas for popping the question. Whether your budget is high or low, it doesn´t matter. We would be happy and honored to help you plan the perfect proposal.

On a Glacier

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Pop the question upon a glacier. Now that is a story to share with family and friends! Whether you choose to go on a snowmobiling tour or rent a helicopter to fly to the top, to propose on the top of a glacier is something you and your loved one will never forget!

In the Secret Lagoon

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Relax and float in a geothermal heated lagoon with snow falling around you for the perfect proposal. Join us with the Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon Floating and Bubble Tour on your special day and night.

Inside a Cave

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You can find caves everywhere in Iceland. Small ones, larger ones and even an ice cave. To plan a nice day tour with a stop at one of the caves, where you would pop the questions, is an adventurous and a romantic way indeed to pop the question!

Under the Northern Lights

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Those who have seen the northern lights know how magical they are. Dancing in the winter sky, changing colors and glittering above your head, it hardly gets more romantic than that. Plan a private tour to hunt for the lights and pop the question under the dancing aurora.

Between Two Continents

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How does it sound to pop the question in two continents? You might not know this but in Iceland you can stand on two continental plates at Reykjanes Peninsula and at the National Park, Thingvellir. At Reykjanes there is a bridge where you can cross from one continental plate to another. How romantic would it be, especially if one of you is from USA and the other one from Europe, to get engaged crossing the two continents.

At a Waterfall

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Waterfalls are everywhere in Iceland but it isn´t often you can walk behind one. Seljalandsfoss waterfall is located on the south coast. It is a beautiful waterfall and behind it is a path where you can walk and enjoy the view from under the waterfall. It´s not just a lovely place to be, it is also very romantic and a perfect spot to propose.

At the Glacier Lagoon

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The Glacial Lagoon (Jökulsárlón) is one of many magical places in Iceland. It is famous for many reasons, for instance for being a filming site for a James Bond movie. In summer you can sail on the lagoon and popping the questions surrounded with icebergs is truly a unique and a romantic gesture.

Kerid Crater Lake

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The crater lake Kerið is within an hour´s drive from Reykjavik. The route from Reykjavik to Kerið is a nice one. There are many places to make stops on the way, such as Hveragerði where you can hike and relax in the nature baths, and also have a lovely lobster dinner by the coast at Eyrarbakki. When you come to the crater lake, you can walk down to the bottom where there is a small lake. The sound down there is amazing and if you are a good singer you can charm your loved one with a love song before you propose.

The Blue Lagoon

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The Blue lagoon is always a lovely place to visit. Surrounded with lava, you have many options on where and how to pop the question. You can plan an adventurous day at Reykjanes peninsula (where the lagoon is located) and then end the day by popping the questions in or by the lagoon. In winter you might even get lucky and add the northern lights to the picture.

Under the Midnight Sun

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The midnight sun in Iceland is truly unique and romantic. No matter where you are located in the country, it will always be a romantic night. You can pick a mountain, a geothermal pool, glacier or even just a walk by the sea in the capital, Reykjavik. The summer nights in Iceland just can´t fail!

10 Best Locations to Pop the Question

When it comes down to finding the best, most romantic and even a unique way to pop the questions, many great ideas cross the mind or maybe non. Iceland is powerful in so many ways. Here you find mountains, waterfalls, northern lights, the midnight sun, glaciers, hot springs, volcanic craters, caves, ice bergs and we could go on and on. It doesn´t matter where it is spring, autumn, summer or winter, you can always find something unique, romantic and powerful. If you fancy the power of nature, unique circumstances and amazing views, here are our top 10 ideas for popping the question. Whether your budget is high or low, it doesn´t matter. We would be happy and honored to help you plan the perfect proposal.

On a Glacier

Pop the question upon a glacier. Now that is a story to share with family and friends! Whether you choose to go on a snowmobiling tour or rent a helicopter to fly to the top, to propose on the top of a glacier is something you and your loved one will never forget!

In the Secret Lagoon

Relax and float in a geothermal heated lagoon with snow falling around you for the perfect proposal. Join us with the Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon Floating and Bubble Tour on your special day and night.

Inside a Cave

You can find caves everywhere in Iceland. Small ones, larger ones and even an ice cave. To plan a nice day tour with a stop at one of the caves, where you would pop the questions, is an adventurous and a romantic way indeed to pop the question!

Under the Northern Lights

Those who have seen the northern lights know how magical they are. Dancing in the winter sky, changing colors and glittering above your head, it hardly gets more romantic than that. Plan a private tour to hunt for the lights and pop the question under the dancing aurora.

Between Two Continents

How does it sound to pop the question in two continents? You might not know this but in Iceland you can stand on two continental plates at Reykjanes Peninsula and at the National Park, Thingvellir. At Reykjanes there is a bridge where you can cross from one continental plate to another. How romantic would it be, especially if one of you is from USA and the other one from Europe, to get engaged crossing the two continents.

At a Waterfall

Waterfalls are everywhere in Iceland but it isn´t often you can walk behind one. Seljalandsfoss waterfall is located on the south coast. It is a beautiful waterfall and behind it is a path where you can walk and enjoy the view from under the waterfall. It´s not just a lovely place to be, it is also very romantic and a perfect spot to propose.

At the Glacier Lagoon

The Glacial Lagoon (Jökulsárlón) is one of many magical places in Iceland. It is famous for many reasons, for instance for being a filming site for a James Bond movie. In summer you can sail on the lagoon and popping the questions surrounded with icebergs is truly a unique and a romantic gesture.

Kerid Crater Lake

The crater lake Kerið is within an hour´s drive from Reykjavik. The route from Reykjavik to Kerið is a nice one. There are many places to make stops on the way, such as Hveragerði where you can hike and relax in the nature baths, and also have a lovely lobster dinner by the coast at Eyrarbakki. When you come to the crater lake, you can walk down to the bottom where there is a small lake. The sound down there is amazing and if you are a good singer you can charm your loved one with a love song before you propose.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue lagoon is always a lovely place to visit. Surrounded with lava, you have many options on where and how to pop the question. You can plan an adventurous day at Reykjanes peninsula (where the lagoon is located) and then end the day by popping the questions in or by the lagoon. In winter you might even get lucky and add the northern lights to the picture.

Under the Midnight Sun

The midnight sun in Iceland is truly unique and romantic. No matter where you are located in the country, it will always be a romantic night. You can pick a mountain, a geothermal pool, glacier or even just a walk by the sea in the capital, Reykjavik. The summer nights in Iceland just can´t fail!


Hotel Highland

Hotel Highland

Hotel Highland is a three star hotel in the highlands of Iceland. It is close to many of the most popular tourist attractions in south Iceland and perfectly located to explore for instance the highlands, volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs and the Northern lights in winter. Hotel Highland is unique because of its location – the vastness and lack of human impact on the surroundings, the pureness and peacefulness, gives you freedom and a chance to enjoy the natural beauty and power of nature. Therefore, Hotel Highland is a great destination to hunt for the Northern lights.

General Information

Hotel Highland is a friendly hotel, the only hotel of real standard operating in the highlands, where you can relax and explore many of the magical places Iceland has to offer. It offers standard rooms, luxury suits and two spacious family suits. The restaurant is praised for its food and the purest and finest local ingredients available are used. The hotel also ideal for meeting & conferences.

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The Surroundings

You an find endless activities and natural gems in south Iceland and the highlands are magical. Black sand beaches, hot springs, waterfalls, glaciers, historic places and much more. Everyone can find something to their liking!

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Some well-known attractions nearby Hotel Highland includes: Landmannalaugar, volcanoes Hekla and Ejyafjallajokul, and the town of Vik, which is home to Reynisfjara black sand beach and Dyrholaey.

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The list for activities and adventures is endless – dog sledding, caving, hiking, glacier tours and helicopter sightseeing tours are just to name a few. Last but not least, Hotel Highland is one of the best places for a Northern lights hunt.


Top 44 Fun Things To Do In Iceland

Top 44 Fun Things to do in Iceland

When planning a visit to Iceland, you may wonder what there is to do here so today we are sharing 44 of our top suggestions. There’s something for everyone from family to solo, traditional to modern. We hope you have a wonderful trip.

1. Go for a Swim in the North Atlantic Ocean.

It might seem like a big no no but it’s surprisingly getting more popular for visitors to take a dive on the cold North Atlantic Sea. Icelanders have done this for hundred of years and still do. Over the summertime, the temperature of the Sea is about 12 – 15°C but in winter it can go below zero.

Swimming in the sea isn’t just invigorating and adventurous, some say it strengthens the immune system. One of the main spots to go for a swim is Nautholsvik geothermal beach. They have great facilities here and after a quick dip in the North Atlantic Ocean you can reward yourself by relaxing in the hot tub (check opening hours).

2. Enjoy New Years in Iceland.

If you are looking for a true party over New Years, Iceland is the place to be. Icelanders simply love fireworks around New Years and there aren’t many places in the world that allow fireworks as freely as Iceland does.

Every New Year, Icelanders shoot around 1300 tons of fireworks into the sky to welcome in the New Year. Most of the profit from firework sales goes to the national rescue squad and plays a big part in why Icelanders spend so much money on buying fireworks.

If you are going to get in on the fun then wear safety glasses, avoid wearing flammable clothing and possibly a set of earplugs. The best views across the city are from Perlan and Hallgrimskirkja.

3. Stay Awake for 24 Hours.

In summer, day and night merge into one and it literally doesn’t get dark. The Icelandic summer nights are truly amazing and give you endless opportunities to explore and enjoy being outdoors. All sorts of activities are popular over summer like hiking, hot pools, golfing and more.

4. Walk Between Continents.

The earths crust is composed of 6 large, and several smaller, tectonic plates that drift and cause sea-floor spreading. Two of those plates meet under Iceland; the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. It is very unusual to be able to see rift above sea level but here in Iceland you can walk between them and literally touch both continents.

In Reykjanes, an 18 meter bridge has been built of the rift and you can cross it for free. It’s a great experience to cross the bridge and walk between two continents. If you are interested, you can buy a certificate of proof that you have crossed the bridge at a nearby information centre.

5. Go Horseback Riding

The Icelandic horse is the size of a pony but as strong as a horse. You can find a tour that suits you perfectly from a few hours of horse back riding to a multi day tour. These horses are very well secured by the Icelanders and they prohibit importation of horses. It’s a must for all animal lovers to get to know the Icelandic horse.

6. Watch the Whales

The whales around Iceland surface and shows off their tricks, often coming very close to the boats and you can sometimes spot dolphins jumping too. In summer you can go whale watching both on the north and south coasts of Iceland. Both locations are great for whale watching. In winter, tours only run from the Old harbour of Reykjavik. It’s truly amazing to see these gigantic animals in their natural environment so up close.

7. Visit The Pearl

Perlan is a famous landmark in Reykjavik, you’ll see it’s massive glass dome on the hill. You can go visit the viewing deck at a small charge, visit the shop and enjoy the magnificent view at the restaurant. Perlan now has an Ice Cave exhibition where you can walk through an ice tunnel and you can get the history of Icelands glaciers.

8. Go Fishing!

The fishing industry has been Icelands main industry for centuries and is still a big part of the culture. You can either go on a tour to catch your own fish or go down to the harbour in the morning and offer your help to the fishermen. A freshly caught fish is simply the best, even better if you caught it yourself.

9. Try Diving and Snorkeling

Diving and snorkeling are some of the best things to do in Iceland. Needless to say that there are plenty of spots where you can enjoy such activity. Surprisingly, you can also go surfing in Iceland. The most popular place to go snorkeling is the Silfra at Thingvellir National Park.

10. Check out the View from the Bell Tower

Hallgrimskirkja is the tallest church in Iceland at 244 feet. There is a lift that takes you to the top of the bell tower where you get a magnificent view across the city. The church itself is beautiful and we recommend you pay a visit.

11. Enjoy a Geothermal Bath

You can find many different places in Iceland to bathe in a natural hot water. We recommend Landmannalaugar, the Blue lagoon, Lake Myvatn and the Secret lagoon. To relax in the natural warm water out in nature is definitely a must and should be on your bucket list.

12. Snowmobiling on a Glacier

Get your adrenaline pumping, jump on a snowmobile and tell all your friends you’ve been on a glacier. Most snowmobile rides take place on Langjokull glacier and Myvatnsjokull glacier. There are various tours to choose from and many people like to combine a snowmobiling adventure with the Golden Circle.

13. Get Married in the Blue Lagoon

The Blue lagoon is one of the most popular destinations in Iceland. Its not just beautiful but it’s also a very relaxing and peaceful place with unique surroundings. The warm turquoise blue water is truly beautiful and you’re surrounded with lava fields, it’s very unique.

The lagoon is known for its healing powers for the skin but you can do many other things there, one of which is to get married. Couples who are interested in tying the knot in this unusual location can get assistance from the personnel at the Blue Lagoon.

14. Be a Chef in Natures Kitchen.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to Icelands geothermal energy. Hot springs are used not only for heating homes but are very handy when traveling. You can use them for almost everything from washing laundry to boiling eggs.

Icelanders also use the geothermal heat to bake bread in the hot ground. The dough is placed in a container, such as a milk carton, and buried in the hot ground. This can take a few hours to bake so you can buy a loaf of geothermal bread in places such as Hveragerdi and Myvatnssveit.

15. Get Hot.

Unlike other countries, in Iceland you can stand in the shower as long as you like without worrying too much about the water bill. Due to the islands volcanic activity, the hot water is both plentiful and inexpensive making it perfect for heating homes, greenhouses, melting snow and filling swimming pools and hot tubs. So enjoy it whilst you’re here, take a long hot shower without feeling too guilty.

16. Eat Fermented Shark.

Some of the traditional Icelandic food might seem a bit odd to foreigners. For example, sheeps head, dried fish and fermented shark are some of the specialities. When you visit Iceland it’s almost a must to try fermented shark. It has a strong smell and taste but if you want to make a good impression for the locals, try a bite.

17. Go Lava Caving.

If you are the adventurous type, go lava caving. There are various tours offered and you often don’t need to go far from Reykjavik to find a lava tube. Leidarendi is within 30 minutes drive from the Reykjavik.

18. See the Northern Lights.

The northern lights are a magical phenomenon that everyone should see at least once in a lifetime. Whether you decide to do a tour or a self-drive, the experience seeing the lights dancing above your head will stay with you forever. All sorts of tours are available for aurora hunting: Evening tours, combo tours, bus tours, super jeep tours, multi day tours, floating tours, boat tours…. the list is long so you should find at least one that suits your needs.

19. Go Floating.

Floating is one of the best ways possible to relax. The floating kit enables you to float in the warm Secret Lagoon and let every muscle in your body rest. There are many extra treats on the tours as well, such as hunting for the northern lights in winter.

20. Go Swimming and Relax in the Hot Tubs.

Swimming is a big part of Icelandic culture. It is obligatory for all Icelanders to learn how to swim so you can say we are raised in the pools to a great extent. Most pools are outdoors but the water is always nicely warm so people go for a swim without freezing in winter. The hot tubs are a must after a refreshing swim and an ideal way to blend with the locals.

21. Have a Hot Dog.

It is almost obligatory to have a hot dog when you visit Iceland. The most popular hot dog booth in Reykjavik is opposite Kolaportið flea market, not far from the Old Harbor. As for “ein með öllu” (one with everything) and blend in with the locals by the booth while you enjoy your delicious hot dog. When you are travelling around Iceland you can buy a hot dog almost everywhere so there is no excuse not to have one!

22. Go Inside a Volcano.

Thrihnukagigur Volcano has retired by being an erupting prowess 4,000 years ago, so exploring the magma chamber from the inside is as safe as exploring a museum. But unlike a museum with just parts or relics of a volcano closed in a casket, a tour inside the volanco will take you to the actual inside of a volcano. Something you shouldn´t miss and do at least once in a lifetime!

23. Try Glacier Hiking.

For an adventurous day, try glacier hiking. At Sólheimajökull glacier you can explore the crevasse riddle outlet glacier with amazing ice formations, sinkholes and indented ridges. Some tours even offer you ice climbing as well. Never go glacier hiking on your own though as it simply is too dangerous but with guides and the right equipment you are off to an adventure.

24. See the Puffins.

Puffins are unique and beautiful birds. Over half of the world´s population of the Atlantic puffin roost in Iceland. These birds are unique in many ways, like how they can paddle along the surface of the sea and dive underwater on spotting prey. Half of Icelandic puffins are in the Westmann Island where they both harvested and conserved. Other sites are for instance Hornbjarg and Hornstrandir and on many whale watching tours you see puffins. It is to be noted that puffins aren´t in Iceland during winter. This is one of our favorite things to do in Iceland because the puffins are just great

25. Check out the Imagine Peace Tower

The Imagine Peace Tower stands for joy, wisdom, hope and healing. It is a memorial tower of John Lennon by his wife Yoko Ono. The tower is lighted up from 9th October, which is John Lennon´s birthday, up to 8th December. There are also some additional dates for the tower to be lit up and that includes for instance 31st December. The tower is located in Viðey but you can see the light from a far.

26. Go for a Bike Ride in the Nature

If you want to get the adrenaline pumping and get a real exercise then go biking! There are various tours offered, like in Heiðmörk and Skaftafell, where you can enjoy a great bike ride away from the city lights and noise.

27. Visit the Westman Islands

The Westman islands (Vestmannaeyjar) are located just off the south coast of Iceland. One of the most famous volcanic eruptions in Iceland took place there in 1973. There is a museum about the eruption that you must visit. The largest island is Heimaey but the other islands are uninhabitable. More than 30 bird species nest in their millions in the cliffs, including puffins. Sail around the islands and enjoy the peacefulness and nature the islands have to offer.

28. Try the Icelandic Skyr

Skyr is a dairy product that is very popular in Iceland. You can buy skyr with various flavours, like blueberry and strawberry, but also just plain skyr. It is healthy and something Icelanders have eaten for decades. It is similar to thick yogurt but the taste is unique and delicious. Be like an Icelander and eat skyr!

29. Visit the Arctic Circle on Grímsey Island

Grímsey is a small island about 40 km (25 mi) off the north coast of Iceland and straddling the Arctic Circle. Grímsey is the northernmost inhabited Icelandic territory. The Arctic Circle runs through the island and it is an optimal photo opportunity to take a photo there. You can either fly or take a ferry to the island and spend a day or two.

30. Mount Esja

When you are in Reykjavik you see a beautiful mountain not too far away. This is Esjan, an outdoor paradise. If you want to go for a hike it is an ideal place to so do, either on your own or with a tour. You don´t need to go to the top unless you want to but the view from the hills, and of course the top, is magnificent. Here you can enjoy nature to the fullest and within an hour drive from the capital.

31. The Pond

In Reykjavík´s city center you will see a pond. In summer you can see there different kinds of birds swimming with their newborns. All around the pond you can see various sculptures and artwork and also city hall where you can sit down and have a nice cup of coffee while enjoying the view of the pond. In winter the pond often freezes and then you people either walking across the ice or skating. Try it too, just make sure the ice is really frozen!

32. Enjoy Christmas

Icelanders love Christmas. They decorate their houses, trees and the city center is always very festive. There is a Christmas market in Hafnarfjordur, Christmas shop on the main shopping street in Reykjavik (Laugavegur) and there is always something going on. Don´t forget the Icelandic Santas – they are 13!

33. Attend a Sports Event

Icelanders love sports. In summer football is very popular and in winter it is handball and basketball. If you are a sports fan then you should definitely go to a game and blend in with the locals!

34. Get a City Pass

The City Pass opens doors to many great activities. You can buy one for 1,2 or 3 days. With the City Pass you can visit all the museums in Reykjavik, go swimming, visit the domestic zoo, take the ferry over to Videy island (where the Imagine Peace Tower is located) and much more. Spend time and money wisely and grab a City Pass.

35. Hvalfjörður

The Hvalfjörður Tunnel (Hvalfjarðargöng) is a road tunel under Hvalfjördur fjord and is a part of the ring road. It is 5770 meter longs and reaches a depth of 165 meters below sea level. It shortens the distance from Reykjavík to the western and northern parts of Iceland by 45 km as it takes around an hour to drive the Hvalfjörður fjord itself. The fjord is around 30 km long and 5 km wide. The fjord has a history. During World War II a naval base of the British and American navies could be found there. The name of the fjord is derived from the large number of whales that could be found and caught there. In summer, if you have plenty of extra time, it is a lovely route to drive the fjord itself. Lovely scenery, waterfalls, interesting mixture of volcanic mountains and green vegetation, rivers and unspoiled nature. In winter we recommend the tunnel!

36. Visit Churches

It doesn´t matter whether you are religious or not, visiting the many lovely churches is a wonderful experience. It doesn´t matter whether it is the great Hallgrimskirkja church or a small country church, all of them have their own unique style and history. If you visit the Hallgrimskirkja church, try to be there when they play the massive organ. The sound and the experience is amazing! The small country churches are worth visiting but you can find them all over the country.

37. Check out the Bars and Cafés

If you long for a nice cup of coffee there are various cafés in the city center in Reykjavík. Try also some local delicacies like kleina or vaffla. If you want to have a beer the pub Kaldi is ideal and try out the local beers. If you want something special, the Kex hostel has an extra ordinary bar/restaurant. The possibilities are endless and do not hesitate to try as many as you can find. You will have a nice experience wherever you go and blend with the locals!

38. Botanical Garden

If you are a fan of trees and flowers, you need to check out the Botanical Garden in Laugardalur. In summer it is gorgeous but it is also charming in winter. Small pond, fountain and peaceful with birdlife. You also find Café Flora there, an ideal place to sit down, relax and enjoy a meal.

39. Mývatn Nature Baths

The Blue lagoon is always very popular but not too many know that there is another lagoon on the northern coast by lake Mývatn. The Mývatn nature baths are natural, peaceful and worth visiting if you are traveling in the area.

40. Cultural Night

Every year in August Cultural night is celebrated in Reykjavik. It starts in the morning and eds around midnight with fireworks. Stroll around town and participate in various events – such as the marathon – and enjoy the shows, concerts and all the other sites offering something exciting. In the evening, enjoy the concert in the city center and then the wonderful fireworks just before midnight. This is one of our favorite things to do in Iceland because the fireworks are just great:)

41. Visit the Black Sand Beach in Vík

On the south coast of Iceland you will find many nature gems. One of them is the black sand beach close to Vík, called Reynisfjara. The black sand is crushed lava rock and it also features an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns, called Garðar. Out in the sea you will see the beautifully shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. The ocean there is very powerful so don´t go too close!! Half way down the beach is a large vaulted cavern, a beautiful site but again, don´t go too close. Otherwise you might end up in the Atlantic Ocean! The area is rich in birdlife and in summer you can spot puffins for instance.

42. Visit the Abandoned Plane.

On Sólheimasandur beach in the south of Iceland you will find something unusual. An epic plane wreck! In 1973 a United States Navy airplane ran out of fuel and was forced to land on the black beach at Sólheimasandur. Thankfully everyone on board survived. Later it turned out that the pilot had simply switched over to the wrong fuel tank. The remains are still at the crash site, on the sand very close to the sea. The scenery is quite amazing and unreal, it is actually like from a science fiction move. A site worth visiting!

43. Visit the Glacial Lagoon

The Glacial lagoon is one of many wonders of nature that you will find in Iceland. The lagoon first appeared in 1934-1935 and has been growing ever since. It is the deepest lake in Iceland, located on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. During summer you can take a boat tour on the lake and sail among the magnificent icebergs. In winter it is a popular location to hunt for the northern lights. The lagoon has been a setting for several Hollywood films, such as James Bond.

44. Drive Through the National Park, Thingvellir

Thingvellir National Park is a wonderful place worth visiting. It is very historical and special in so many ways. It is where you can see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that splits Iceland further apart each year. The scenery is one of a kind and it doesn´t matter whether it is in summer, spring, fall or winter. Thingvallavatn lake is breathtaking, the trees, the lava, the waterfalls…. the list is endless. Thingvellir is a site of historical and cultural importance. It is where the Icelandic Parliament was established in 930 and in 2004 Thingvellir became a World Heritage Site. All off road driving is of course prohibited and please show the park and its surroundings full respect.


7 summer days in Iceland - editor's choice

Summer Days in Iceland

People visiting Iceland for the first time often wonder whether they should visit during summer or winter. To be honest, Iceland is like two different countries in summer and winter so we fully recommend both seasons. For those who opt for summer, here is what we would do if we had 7 days in Iceland.

Day One

The Golden Circle is the classical route that everyone takes on their first visit to Iceland. Just in one day you cover a lot – the national park, Thingvellir, the lovely Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal area where you see the hot spring Strokkur erupting. You can also add the crater lake, Kerið, to your route and we can fully recommend that as it is a great place to visit and take pictures. In summer you most definitely can take advantage of the 24 hour daylight. There is no need to be in a hurry driving the route and rushing back to town before it gets dark, as it doesn´t get dark in summer! The Golden Circle you can either do by a self drive or bus/super jeep tour.

Iceland 2010 – Moments at the Golden Circle from Marco Asbach on Vimeo.

Day Two

Enjoy what Reykjavík has to offer. Endless museums, beautiful churches and outdoor sculptures. The Harpa concert hall is unique and if you enjoy flea markets, the Kolaportið is the place to visit. Go whale watching, sea angling or just stroll along the harbor and enjoy the views. It is truly unique to sit outside close to midnight, enjoying a glass of wine, and still bright outside.

Day Three

Adventure day – go inside a volcano! This day tour will be one of the highlights. Lobster feast, go inside of a volcano and end the day with floating in the Secret lagoon in the midnight sun. Something you only find in Iceland!

Day Four and Five

For day four and five we recommend a long route: The south coast and all the way to the Glacial lagoon (Jökulsárlón). The south coast has a lot to offer (black sand beaches, amazing waterfalls, stunning scenery) and it is adventurous to sail on the lagoon between the icebergs. In summer you can enjoy each and every bit this part of the country has to offer whenever you want because of the 24 hour daylight. In the video below you can get an idea how magical the midnight sun is.

Midnight Sun | Iceland – 4K from SCIENTIFANTASTIC on Vimeo.

Day Six

Horse back riding in summer is almost a tradition when you visit Iceland. There are various options when it comes to horse back riding tours – from a few hours to a full day combo tours with other activities like lava caving. The Icelandic horse is unique and unlike all other horses.

Day Seven

The Reykjanes peninsula is a hidden gem that not too many people know about. There you will find gems like Kleifarvatn lake and a massive geothermal area. It is fun to cross the bridge between two continents and the landscape in unreal! End the day route around Reykjanes by soaking and relaxing in the Blue lagoon.


4 winter days in Iceland - editor's choice

4 Winter Days in Iceland

People visiting Iceland for the first time naturally want to see and do as much as possible during their stay. Often people are only staying for a few days so it might be a bit difficult to do see and do everything on the wishlist but for first timers we have put together an itinerary that might be helpful. Then you just need to come again to visit all the other beautiful sites!

Day One

The Golden Circle is the classical route that everyone takes on their first visit to Iceland. You cover many sites only in one day. The Golden Circle includes the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall, they famous Geysir hot spring area and the peaceful Thingvellir National Park. You can add to that route a visit to the crater lake Kerið. For the Golden Circle you can either do bus tours or super jeep tours with various extra activities. Our personal favorite is the Golden Circle Ultimate with floating and northern lights hunting in the evening. Of course you can also do the route by self-drive but take care, the roads in winter are icy!

Day Two and Three

For the second and third day we choose the south coast and Jökulsarlón glacial lagoon. The south coast is beautiful and has so many lovely sites to visit. To name a few, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, black sand beaches, amazing views and on a clear day you can see the Westman islands. The glacial lagoon is one of a kind and something you shouldn´t miss. During summer you can take boat rides on the lagoon but you can enjoy the lovey lagoon in winter as well. Spending the evening by the lagoon and hunt for the northern lights, it doesn´t get more magical than that! It is also a great experience to spend one night at the countryside and enjoy the pure Icelandic nature.

Day Four

The Reykjanes peninsula is a hidden gem that not too many tourists know about. It is a perfect route for a day tour as it is very close to Reykjavík! You can visit small villages, geothermal areas like Krísuvík, the beautiful Kleifarvatn lake, cross the bridge between two continents and of course soak and relax in the Blue lagoon. The moonlike landscape takes you to another world and the peacefulness is one of kind. You can either do this route on your own (self-drive, but in winter make sure you have a 4×4) or book a bus tour/private tour.


The Humble History of Iceland

Humble History of Iceland

When Iceland is mentioned, the first thing that crops up in people’s mind is that it must be covered in ice, as suggested by the name. But, in fact, it is not so. Iceland has beautiful lush green meadows, nice people and a rich history. The country has many volcanoes, out of which very few are active. Iceland is also the home of the famous songwriter-singer, Bjork. Even though it is a small speck of land in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is quite exciting and amazing than people think it to be.

So, how did Iceland come into existence and change into a well-known tourist destination that it is today? Well, let’s have a look at its history.

The Beginning

Iceland is situated at the intersection of two tectonic plates – the American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate. Around for 16-18 million years ago, these two tectonic plates started to drift apart, causing a critical volcanic eruption and thus, as a result, Iceland came into existence. In the present age too, Iceland sits on the ‘Iceland Plume’, a volcanic hotspot that causes a mass of earthquakes every year and volcanic eruptions also occurs every other year or so.

The Settlement of the Colonies and Government

During 871 AD, a Norwegian man name Ingólfur Arnarsson committed the act of murder and was thus banished from his homeland. He came to Iceland with two ships and engaged the Nordic people for grabbing this land and won. This resulted in a Norse-Celtic mix of genes in Iceland and most of the present Icelander can trace back their lineage to this time.

Due to the fact, that in the past, Iceland was a country of rebel and escapees, it required a system of government. This won’t lead to the creation of the Althingi, which is the long-standing democratic parliament that, to this day, exists. The region was divided into small areas that had a chieftain, a religious leader and a politician. During the summer, the chieftains of every village would meet and discuss the laws and settle disputes, if any. Every year, the politician would recite one-third of the laws from memory and later, these laws were written down in a book called the Grágás. This book still exists today and contains all the practical laws of Iceland. The parliament is also uninterruptedly functioning to this day, except during the years from 1800 to 1845, when it did not function.

Rise of Christianity in the Country

Up to the 10th century, Iceland’s religion was Ásatrú and worshipped Norse gods like Óðinn, þór and others. When Christianity came into existence and the Christian preachers started teaching their faith, it leads to a confrontation between the two religions. To bring matters to a peace, Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði Þorkelsson was asked to contemplate. For one whole day and one whole night, he lay under a bear skin and when he came out, he ordered the conclusion that Iceland should be a country of Christian religion. It was following the religion of Roman Catholicism until the year 1540, when the region was converted to Lutheran Protestantism. This was met with huge violence and was only settled with the beheading of the Catholic bishop, Jón Arason, in the year 1550.

Submission to Norway: the Rise and Fall of Monopoly and Independence

Up to the year 1262, the chieftains of the Icelandic regions where growing powerful constantly and the whole country was covered in civil wars between the 7 powerful clans. To end the war, the chieftains submitted to the king of Norway, Haakon IV. During the 14th century, Iceland was again split up when the Kingdoms of Norway, Sweden and Denmark became one kingdom and it fell under the Danish rule.

During the 1500s, German and English fisherman and traders set up trading posts in Iceland and begin trading with Icelanders. Suddenly, a cross with the prosperity his countrymen was enjoying, Christian IV, the King of Denmark, granted exclusive rights of trading to certain merchants. This was a harmful decision as Danish people could pay as little as they want for Icelandic goods and charge exorbitant prices for their goods. It swallowed Iceland in total poverty by this system of monopoly was done away with in the year 1786.

The rise of Iceland from the dark ages was made possible due to Sheriff Skúli Magnússon. He picked Reykjavik to be the center of Icelandic civilization and modernization. He built several wool workshop buildings around the region and thus, Iceland began to rise out of the dark ages that it was experiencing.

The rise of nationalism, the independence and the enlightenment of Iceland can be attributed to Jón Sigurðsson. The independence movement, led by him, resulted in the Icelandic parliament being an advisory body to the king in 1845. Then, the movement came home to Iceland in the year 1905. In 1918, Iceland gained its sovereignty and gradually, on June 17th, 1944, Iceland gained its independence as Denmark was being invaded by Germany. Incidentally, June 17th is also the date of birth of Jón Sigurðsson.

Role during the World Wars and Entry into the 20th Century

In spite of the progress made in the field of industrialization and urbanization, Iceland was still a bit far behind. Innovations such as electricity, the first trawler and the first car was introduced to Iceland in years from 1900-1910. During the world wars, as Iceland was doing the job of selling products to the allies and returning the American Occupying forces, Iceland was granted an economic boon and the various cultural influences like the television and jazz came to the country. This helped Iceland to come to terms with the 20th century and still, to this day, the people of Iceland are still fascinated by new and foreign technology, culture and materials.

The Crash of the Icelandic Economy in 2008 and Recovery Since Then

The economy of Iceland was always suffering a high inflation from the 1950s. Then, during the 1990s, the commercial banking system of the country was privatized and various laws were passed which eased the opportunity of trading between several countries and Iceland. This led to an incredible growth in the financial aspect of the country, but it was halted in October, 2008. The Icelandic currency, Króna, depreciated by 50% of its value, overnight. This led to people losing their livelihood, their job and their homes.

So, this is the history of Iceland, from its very beginning to the present times. The quickness of the economic recovery of the country has garnered the attention of the international community. The industries of the country are still operational and the level of unemployment in the country is in control. However, the wages and salaries of the countrymen are still quite low and thus, it is a good time for foreigners to visit the country.


Icelandic swimming pools

Icelandic Geothermal Swimming Pools

There is an ancient Icelandic tradition that dates back to the times of the Vikings – bathing outdoors in pools that are heated from the heat coming from the volcanoes in the area. When you visit Iceland it should definitely be on your to-do list to soak and relax in swimming pools and hot water tubs.

Origins of Hot Tubs in Iceland

Every country around the world has their own unique way of relaxing. In the colder regions of the world, the unique way to relax is to keep warm. In Finland, there are the saunas, in Russia it is vodka and in Iceland it is the naturally heated swimming pools.
The beginning of the tradition to keep oneself warm and relaxed in Iceland begins with the hot tubs. Hot tubs have been a part of the Icelandic culture since the Vikings came and settled here. The most famous hot tub of Iceland is the Snorri Sturluson’s pool – the Snorralaug – which located in Reykholt. Even though Snorri was thought to have lived in Iceland from 1178 to 1241, his pool is one of four oldest pools in Iceland that is still in use.
Did you know: Out of the 12,000 summer houses that are located in Iceland, nearly 11,000 of them are fitted with a geothermal heated hot tub. In some parts, nearly half of the houses in the neighborhood have hot tubs outside their homes. And to top this off, every neighborhood has it’s own pool with at least one hot tub.

The Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon in Fluðir is one of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools and is equipped with it’s own geothermal area and a bubbling geysir, giving this pool it’s heat. Enjoy a nice soak while sipping beverages from the cafe in this rocky floored lagoon.

Tours that include the Secret Lagoon:

Reykjadalur

Reykjadalur, a hot spring river, is located close to Reykjavik. You can self-drive there (about 45 minutes) or take a tour. Be ready for a short hike in to the mountains to reach this “steam valley”

Tours that include Reykjadalur:

Seljavallalaug

This natural pool is located on the side of a mountain in South Iceland. Built in 1923, this pool is a delight for the adventurous. After a 10-15 minute hike through the mountains and over a river, you come to a 25 meter long pool with a pipeline of warm water streaming from the mountain above. This water is only maintained once a year, so don’t be too turned off by it’s natural color. There is also a small changing area, but it is without electricity.

Landmannalaugar

This hot spring is located within a popular hiking area, which is both beautiful and multi-colored. Get here by 4X4 jeep in the summer and enjoy a wonderful hike in the area then relax and soak in the naturally warm waters. You can drive here yourself, but it may be easier to take a tour here.

Tours that include Landmannalaugar:

The Blue Lagoon

Tours that include the Blue Lagoon:

Honerable Mention

  • Laugafellslaug, located on private land and can only be accessed with 4X4 super jeep
  • Myvatn Nature Bath, located in the north
  • Grjotagja, located near a camp ground, but only accessible by foot
  • Laugarvatn Fontana, which is only 50 minutes outside of Reykjavik and contains steam rooms, hot springs, a beach and lake
  • Grettislaug, located in the north in Skagarfjordur
  • Laugafellslaug, located in the north
  • Kvika footbath, located near Grotta lighthouse in Seltjarnes

Don’t Forget: Pool Etiquette

  • If the pool/lagoon is located on private property, please do not wander around without asking permission
  • If there is a fee, pay it
  • If there are showers and a locker room you must bath naked before and after the pool


What is the midnight sun of Iceland?

Midnight Sun in Iceland

midnight-sun

What is the Midnight Sun?

A natural phenomenon that occurs during the months of summer in some places in the north of the Arctic Circle or to the south of the Antarctic Circle in which the sun is visible at the local midnight time of a region is known as Midnight Sun. During the period of the summer solstice that approximately on June 21st in the north region and December 22nd in the southern regions, the sun is visible for a period of 24 hours, if the weather is fair. The potential of midnight sun occurring for a number of days increase as the poles are moving further from the Sun. Even though the midnight sun is defined by the polar circles, in reality, the midnight sun can be seen as much as a distance of 90KM outside the polar circle. The exact latitudes that the midnight sun reaches depends on the topography of the region and every year, it varies.

Who Sees the Midnight Sun?

Since there is no permanent area of residence in the southern parts of the Antarctic Circle, there are only a limited number of regions that experience the midnight sun – Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories of Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, Finland, Russia and Alaska in the United States. In the northern part of some of the countries mentioned, the sun does not set for a period of 60 days during the summer. In the Svalbard region of Norway, the sun does not set at all from 19th April to 23rd August.

Some regions below the polar circle may experience midnight sun due to refraction of the atmosphere and the sun is a disk and not a point. But, places which exceed one degree below the polar circle does not experience the midnight sun. Iceland is known to experience midnight sun even though most of the region of the located slightly to the south of the Arctic Circle. At the poles, the period of sunlight is a little bit more than six months.

Common Questions

Now, when a person is visiting Iceland during the period of the Midnight Sun, a lot of questions crop up in his or her mind. When does the midnight sun in Iceland happen? For how long does the sunrise or sunset last? In Iceland, what is the time frame during which the midnight sun can be experienced? Is it possible to sleep during the midnight sun?

Summer and Winter in Iceland

During the summertime, in Iceland, the days are quite long. Iceland’s nights are bright from the period of late May to early August. This is quite unfathomable to some people and they have various questions about it. One of the most common questions about Iceland’s midnight sun is that if is it possible to sleep during the period of the midnight sun. The answer to this question is that it is quite possible. Just like a person can sleep with the lights on or in the middle of the day, a person can sleep during the period of the midnight sun. If a person requires complete darkness to sleep, he or she can use curtains to block out the midnight sun. After a period of dark winters, it can be a bit weird to have endless days. But as time goes by, the period of longs days becomes adjusted to the lifestyle of a person and if you want to do some sightseeing then you can do it all night and day long.

On the planet, the further you go north or south, the more the effect of summer and winter solstices that you can feel. The summer solstice in Iceland is the longest day of Iceland’s year and it happens during the 21st of June. In Reykjavik, the suns set after midnight and again rises before 3AM. The days are even longer in Akureyri or Ísafjörður due to fact that it was further north in the country. The winter solstice in Iceland is the shortest day there and it occurs on the 21st of December. This means that in Reykjavik, the sun rises around 11:30AM in the morning and sunset occurs at 3:30PM during the afternoon. The day is even shorter as you go further north in the country. In between this period of time, that the period between the longest and shortest days of the year, the days are either getting shorter or longer. This shortening and longevity can vary between a few seconds to a period of several minutes per day. Twice a year, equinoxes occur on the 21st of March and the 21st of September. During these days, the amount of daylight and darkness are equal in length.

When?

Generally speaking, in Reykjavik, the midnight sun occurs during the period from 16th to 29th June. These are the only days during which the sun sets after midnight in the region. If the consideration is taken into account that the sun will rise a few hours later, at approximately 3:30AM in the morning, it is still quite bright even though the sun wasn’t in the sky yet. These beautiful bright nights occur for up to a period of 3 months. The time frame is one and a half months before the 21st of June and one and a half months after the 21st of June.

An incredible and beautiful picturesque display of the colorful and bright night sky is done due to the slow sunsets and sunrises. These bright skies tend to last for quite a long time and for several hours. When August begins, a few hours of the night can be quite dark, but it is not darker than dusk though. When August is ending and September is beginning, a couple of hours in the night will be quite dark that is pitch black dark. Iceland is truly a place of mystery and beauty and you can enjoy summertime and daytime activities for quite a long time due to the midnight sun. So, if you are interested in going to a place where you can enjoy more hours of the day without it affecting your crazy nightlife, then Iceland is definitely the place to visit. Things that you can do in Iceland even though it is night is that you can play golf or go on a tour of the Golden Circle in Iceland or enjoy the attractions that are there on Route 1 of Iceland.


10 Sights to Visit in Reykjavik

Even though Reykjavik isn’t a very big city, it has a lot to offer and there are many lovely sites to visit. We’ve put together a list of our top ten sites to visit in Reykjavik – but of course there’s much more to see and do in Icelands capital.

1. Hallgrimskirkja Church

One of the most iconic buildings in Reykjavik is Hallgrimskirkja church. You can see it almost wherever you are and it is amongst the highest buildings in Iceland. You can go up the steeple and enjoy the magnificent view over the city and surrounding coastline. The church itself is beautiful and the organ is a work of art.

2. Perlan (The Pearl)

Perlan (The Pearl) stands out for its unique and modern architecture. Up on the fourth level there is a 360 degree viewing platform where you can get the best panoramic views of Reykjavík. When the sun sets, it’s a spectacular spot for the Northern Lights in winter if the forecast is looking good. You can also dine at the Perlan Restaurant and enjoy a view across the whole city. Visit the newly opened Glacier and Ice Cave Exhibition to learn about the Wonders of Iceland.

3. Tjörnin (The Pond)

Tjörnin or The Pond, is located in the city centre of Reykjavik. The birds on the Pond give the city a lively charm. You can take a walk around the Pond to see the sculptures set amongst the park grounds and enjoy the sunset. In winter the pond freezes over and people go ice skating on it. Hot geothermal waters are pumped into a small section of the pond where ducks and swans gathers. It’s ok to feed the duck in winter but please refrain from doing this in the summer time.

4. The Parliament

The Parliament, Althingi was founded at Thingvellir back in 930 up until 1799 when it was discontinued for some decades. Althingi is one of the oldest extant parliamentary institutions in the world. These days

In 1844 Althingi was relocated to the capital city and has be held here in Reykjavik ever since. The role of the Parliament has changed over the years but its main function today is to discuss and pass legislation. With 63 members voted by the public, they are refered to as ‘thingmenn’ which means People of the Althingi or Parliament.

The parliament is located in the heart of Reykjavik, in Austurvollur square. This square is the place to be in the summer time as the sun in shining and people gather on the grass. There are many nice restaurants to dine outside and enjoy the sun. At the centre of the square stands a statue of Jón Sigurðsson, the renowned figure who led Iceland to independence.

5. Harpa Concert Hall

Harpa Concert Hall is one of Reykjavik’s most unique buildings. It was designed by a Danish firm in co-operation with the Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson. Harpa stand at the edge of Reykjaviks Harbour and is Icelands biggest concert hall suitable for a broad range of concerts and cultural events.

The interior and exterior are both stunning but the interior is worth a visit and walk around. There’s a nice café on the ground floor and a restaurant on the top floor. There are guided tours on offer and some great short cinematography shows worth looking into.

In winter the glazed facade is eliminated with a magical light show representing the Northern Lights.

6. The Old Harbour

The old harbour is the first lasting harbour of Reykjavik and an area of great history. On the eastern pier you will find galleries, excellent restaurants, cafés and more. You will also find numerous whale watching companies willing to take you out to sea on unforgettable excursions. The atmosphere at the old harbour is friendly, the sea air is fresh, and there’s plenty of interesting activities to check out such as the Maritime Museum.

7. The Sun Voyager

The Sun Voyager is a beautiful sculpture on the coastline, a short walk from Harpa Concert Hall. The sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, serves as a reminder of the Icelanders history and heritage when the first Viking settlers sailed to Iceland. Designed as an ode to the sun symbolising freedom, progress, the promise of undiscovered territory and a dream of hope. The Sun Voyager is a lovely sculpture that has become one of Reykjaviks symbols.

8. City Hall

With an impressive modern design, the building sits right on the northern shore of Lake Tjörnin, The Pond. The building is also open to visitors, providing internet access and an information desk, exhibition halls and a cafe. Sit in the café and enjoy the magnificent view over the Pond, admire the birdlife through the huge class windows. Visit the galleries to admire one of the steady streams of new and exciting exhibitions. Make sure to have a look at the 3D map of Iceland in the entrance.

9. The Seaside

Wherever you are in Reykjavik you are never far from the sea and it’s refreshing to take a walk along the coastline. Ægissíða is a great place to walk. you might even see a seal swimming in the ocean. Grótta is another great place for a walk along the rocky coastline or black sand beach. The lighthouse is fun to walk out to but beware and check for high tide so you don’t get stuck. There is also a very small but cute geothermal pool where locals sit in and watch the sunset. Grotta is also a good place to check for Northern Lights at night.

10. Kolaportið Flea Market

At Kolaportið Flea Market you can find almost anything. An indoor flea market so no need to think about the weather. It’s open during weekends from 11:00 – 17:00 and is fun to visit. The atmosphere is unique and the old industrial building is usually filled with people hunting for books or antiques, grocery shopping, selling old garments, buying music and DVD’s, or digging through piles of stuff in search of hidden treasures. We recommend bringing cash as the majority of stalls are unable to accept card. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon in Reykjavik.


Festivals Made For Children

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Iceland is known to have wide range of cultural activities, there are numerous festivities that all-family can enjoy, but there are also lists of festivals made for children. These events take place to gather the youth beautiful youth in Iceland and visitors are also welcome to participate. Literature plays an important part in building youth’s minds into better citizens as well as future candidates for leadership in Iceland. Cultural arts keep the young minds to focus on what is good and not to the dangers of future. Icelander kids are well rooted in their culture, which is why Iceland never runs out with fun events and festivities that are culture themed. As a matter of fact, they have preserved their culture in the same way they did with their nature. Attending such events with your kids in Iceland will get your children value more what is right such as; literature, arts, music and religion. Many of these events participants are international young artists that can bring inspiration to everyone both young and old.

Children Culture Festival – There are three aspects of this event and they are; children’s culture, culture for children and culture with children. This festival is one of the festivals that are made and are focused to children and those becoming of age. It is a week long celebration of music, arts, and cultural activities. The children are the once being highlighted as artists and it is giving a huge impact to every growing kids in Iceland. The festival includes; activities for children like theater workshops, visual arts, puppetry, circus, dance activities, music, film and storytelling. The institutions such as schools, libraries, theaters, museum and those with cultural aspects are full forced to give the event life. There are almost 150 programs and special events that you and your kids will be an audience of. This festival is celebrated in Late April.

International Festival of Children’s Literature – Another addition to the festivals made for children is the International Festival of Children’s Literature which is held biennially in the Nordic House in Reykjavik. The festival is traditionally named after Moorland where the Nordic House Stands. There are special focus of each event and are pointing out to Moorland like; Cat in the Moorland (in 2001 when it started), Magic in the Moorland (2004), then came; Kids in Moorland (2006), Ghost in the Moorland (held in 2008), Pictures in the Moorland (2010) and the latest is Food in the Moorland (2012). In this festival, children from Iceland and abroad are participating to reading, panels and literary programs, author discussions, lectures by scholars, exhibitions and workshops as well as culture programs.

Young Art Festival – As this festival focuses on young people who acknowledge their talents, this can be a great inspiration for your kids even if they are still on the development in discovering their own talents. Commonly called as Unglist, this is a unique and awesome experience to any growing up kid because it can bring out the best in them. The program is packed with music, fashion, photography, design, paintings, theater, and all concepts that are art related. This is definitely one of the festivals that are made for children aspiring to step on music and arts. This is held annually in November.

When it comes to culture and arts, Iceland is never at the end of the list. This is how they build their character and how they keep on smiling from every challenge they face. Indeed a country with so much to treasure and one of what they value most are their children. The Icelander parents way in developing their kids to be a better person is through these festivals made for children.


Reykjavik Arts Festival

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One of Europe’s most eminent artistic events is Reykjavik Arts Festival. It is celebrated mid May of every year since 1970 and is the oldest yet the most respected event ever. Be there to witness the attractive and awe-inspiring display of arts in various ways. The streets of Reykjavik will be filled of all sorts of art projects and exhibitions from different participating countries and over 600 artists. They will showcase their arts with all known and even unique concepts in their most innovative ways. The festival will be colorful and magnificent which will blend with the city’s colorful aura. Music, arts display, theatres, and a lot more will be integrated together into a huge two week long program.
Reykjavik Arts Festival

History of Reykjavik Arts Festival

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The festival began with the initiative of Vladimir Ashkenazy, a pianist-conductor, with the former festival name; North Atlantic Festival. He has been the honorary president and is a rotating presiding officer with the Minister of Culture and the Mayor of Reykjavik. Reykjavik Arts Festival has been a success from the very beginning with a box office income because of the innovative arts and folk culture display from the outstanding international artists that have been participating. It went huge as the festival awes people from all over the world and it doesn’t fail even until now. Years and years of sponsorship, collaboration and participation for Reykjavik Arts Festival has been proven to be huge success every time. Being there and witnessing the event is one of the most memorable things to ever bring back home. The Reykjavik Arts Festival program consists of range of concerts (classical, jazz, and other different genres), choral performances in sign language, opera theatre performances, dance and exhibitions, art displays, and so many more to even mention. The focus of the event is on Icelandic culture from the past up to the present. If you have adored Culture Night in Reykjavík and Airwaves, then you will certainly want to experience this wonderful event along with the several arts events around Iceland.

Reykjavik Arts Festival

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Where exactly in Reykjavik is Reykjavik Arts Festival being held?

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The Reykjavik Arts Festival doesn’t own any spaces; in fact it uses all the spaces from the theaters, concert and music halls, churches, art galleries and museums and even the streets. The performances can be witnessed in every corner of the city. There is public programming where people (locals and tourists) will have a taste of true arts. It stimulates the cultural activity and to offer locals as well as tourists to enjoy prestigious international arts and the aim is to increase on cultural related tourism. Iceland is not just famous for its breathtaking landscapes but also with its culture rich up bring. Experimental venues are the thrill of Reykjavik Arts Festival.
Reykjavik Arts Festival


Food and Fun Festival

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For the love of food, Food and Fun Festival really brings out the lighthearted pleasure out of food prior to the fact that food, itself is already a fun treat. Iceland holds this festival annually where there you can see different kinds and techniques of culinary from the world-acclaimed chefs. Who doesn't love food right? And with the dazzling lights of the city and the world-renowned nightlife on weekends, the celebration will be a mix of culinary and entertainment.

The festival is divided into three parts as it runs for several days. The first part is the collaboration of Iceland’s finest restaurants together with the guest chefs from America, Scandinavia Europe and other parts of the world. The chefs will be assigned to each restaurant as they introduce their creation from where the ingredients are Icelandic produced. They would let you taste their enticing well crafted menu that will be available on the participating restaurants. You can complement the chef, as for sure you will, because they would be on the site for three nights while the festival is active. Take advantage of the culinary masterpiece and go restaurant hoping, it would definitely make your mouth urge for more and it is worth it. Just be sure to set aside your diet factor though, but I believe since the ingredients are Icelandic produce that it would be a healthy treat for everyone. So no diet will be ruin as the Food and Fun Festival runs.

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The second part of the Food and Fun Festival is where the chefs now battle for whoever makes your taste buds wants to take home the chef to cook for your family alone. The chefs at this point would be competing for that title (chef you wish to drag to your kitchen) and the award for “Food and Fun Chef of the Year” which is a prestigious award in the culinary community. That would be the main and the major part of the festival. They will prepare three main courses and the ingredients will be again, only made with Icelandic produce. From the meat to the herbs, all should be all-Icelandic. The challenge is that how they will make their dish more enticing than the ingredients itself, because as you should know, the products from Iceland are well prepared, especially the meats from sheep which has a distinctive delicious flavor together with the cows’ milk and meat, not to mention the fish products which Iceland is more proud of.

The Chef Judges at the Food and Fun Festival

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The last part would be the world-famous city nightlife in Reykjavik. It will be the additional factor for fun to the Food and Fun Festival.

From February 26th to March 2nd is when you can catch Food and Fun Festival .


Where to Get Those Unique Icelandic Souvenirs

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Iceland is very focused with tourism so it very easy to spot souvenir shops around the country who sells those fancy Key chains, fridge magnets and trinkets, but if you want something rather unique souvenir from Iceland, then you can check out some shops that caters them. Almost every famous tourist destinations around Iceland has a souvenir shop. But we have to admit, we are kind of getting fed up with key chains or fridge magnets or not to mention the button pins. I mean, every traveler who travels around the world might have bought the same thing, just a different logo or flag of the country visited. So let’s get you to some unique souvenir shops who sell some really worth it Icelandic souvenirs.

the-puffin

1. Lundinn – Also known as “The puffin”. If you want to take not only the photos of these colorful beaked feathered friends from Iceland’s highland, then get yourself a really cool stuffed toy. And no they aren’t the taxidermy birds, but the huggable ones with cotton and all.

2. Minja (Skólavörðustígur 12, Reykjavík)– This shop had these excellent looking, but faux puffins. They do look like real stuffed birds, but actually they’re not. Also, they have all you need for your home and body.

3. Hrim (Hof, Strandgata 12, Akureyri)– If you want to buy your significant other some jewelry, then this shop is for you. They a unique Icelandic souvenir. Also have these locally woolen blankets that make your souvenir special because it has a personal touch by the Icelanders.

4. Sirka – Every Icelandic design are featured here. A perfect gift shop for everybody who wants to take home not just souvenirs, but useful stuff as well.

5. Myrin (Skipagata 5, Akureyri)– Accessories, ceramics, books and artworks! Everything is Icelandic designed. Whenever you need something so Icelandic then you do need to head to this shop. It is definitely worth it.

6. Fotografi (Skólavörðustígur 22, Reykjavík)– When you are a sucker of pictures old and new, then this shop is the place to be. Prints by Icelandic photographers, postcards that are old and charming, even an old camera, they are all available here. The photography books that they sell have photos of all the wonderful places in Iceland and are quite detailed and angled at their best.

7. Kirssuberjated (Vesturgata 4, Reykjavík)– Another shop that sells useful things for your home. They are all handmade so whenever you buy ceramics or glasses for your home, you will remember the Icelanders who laid their hands down for it to be created carefully and beautifully.

8. Alafoss (Alafossvegur 23, Mosfellsbaer)– This shop is popular because of the handicrafts stalls all over the store building. This helps out the local handicraft producers and a great way to grab some really good kind of lopapeysa, an Icelandic wool sweater, articulately made and sure that will represent Iceland. They also sell some cute figurines of elves and miniature Icelanders.

9. The Viking (Hafnarstræti 3 and Laugavegur 1, Reykjavik) – All of those specialties above, The Viking covers them all. This shop offers common souvenirs to unique Icelandic souvenirs. And they have warm good quality wool sweaters that will be useful for your sightseeing around Iceland.

10. Kolaportid market (19, 101 Reykjavik)– Want to get all those stuff but you are in a great budget? Fear not for your pocket as in this market, you can find great deals and great prices. They aren’t cheap because when you say cheap it is kind of off for most like the quality or something, the products here are mostly locally produced but with high quality. Go to a thrift shop in Kolaportid market and you’ll definitely find some great finds to take home with.

lopapeysa

Unique Icelandic Souvenirs to Buy

Here is the list for you not to miss some great finds, but you can always find some unique souvenirs of your taste in the shops below. But to give you a heads up what you will exactly find in most of the mentioned shops. If not displayed, feel free to ask the shop owners or managers if they have them, the items might just be lying in their store room, or if they really don’t have one you can ask them where you can find some of this items;

1. Lava Rock Jewelry – rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. They are all made with rounded black rock from the volcanic eruption.

2. Icelandic woolen goods – the ones made by the Icelandic housewives are the best kind.

3. Viking Beer glasses – they can be quite heavy so just take a mug or two.

4. Blue Lagoon beauty products – These have silica on them that is a rejuvenating element. If you are on a budget, you can bring a small container with you when you visit Blue Lagoon and just scoop out some silica for you to take back home.

5. Icelandic hot dog mustard – It is the best thing ever made. Enough said.

6. Puffin stuffed toy – If Aussie have those jumping kangaroos and Americans have their eagles then we have these cute little feathered friends. It is one of unique Icelandic Souvenir.


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.