Fish Skin for Human Wounds

Iceland’s Pioneering Fish Skin Treatment For Human Wounds

Iceland’s Pioneering Fish Skin Treatment For Human Wounds

Text by Sonia Nicolson

These FDA-approved skin substitute reduces a patients inflammation and can transform chronic wounds into acute injuries using a simple solution; fish skins.

Amputations can be the result of trauma or an aggressive disease but a lot are caused by injuries that fail to heal; chronic wounds. This can be the result of the patient having diabetes. Diabetes is on the rise with 1 in 11 Americans suffering, and this is set to rise to 1:4 by 2050. Iceland has an exceedingly low rate of diabetes for a developed country. Genetic factors, and a higher percentage of A2 milk consumption (A2 beta-casein is the dominant form of casein protein found in a cows milk) are possible explanations for this low rate. Diabetes is when a person has high blood sugar levels and this can cause nerve damage and poor circulation meaning the body finds it harder to heal wounds. If wounds become infected, this can lead to amputation.

Current Treatment For Wounds

Wounds are currently treated with skin from animals; pigs (or human cadaver, corpuses) but both can risk infections or transfer of other diseases.

“I was interested in finding a source of material that is as similar to human skin as possible and the surprising thing is that cod fish skin is much more similar to human skin than for example pig skin” said Fertram Sigurjonsson, Chemist and CEO, Founder of Kerecis Ltd.

Gone Fishing

Iceland has worked with fish leather for a long time. “My grandfather’s first shoes were the skin of a catfish,” Sigurjonsson says, and instead of kilometers, Icelanders used old worn out fish shoes to mark distance.

“My first memories are of fish,” Sigurjonsson says, poking at a machine he designed to help dry out the skin. Like many men here in Iceland he spent his summers working in processing plants, cleaning the catch or driving forklifts. After graduating from the Technical University of Denmark with a Degree in Innovation and Product Management, he started working at prosthetics maker Ossur, where he saw many amputee patients with replacement limbs developing chronic wounds. An impromptu move to New Zealand where he was running business development for Keratech, who dressed wounds with sheep wool, got him thinking about substitute natural materials. When he returned to Iceland, he started researching the idea of using fish skins in wound dressing.

Fertram Sigurjonsson has spent his career treating chronic wounds and is turning cod skins into medical products. The Kerecis Ltd manufacturing facility, located in the fishing town of Isafjord which is 30 miles from the polar circle, mainly fishes for cod. Using a 583-ton trawler on a 3 day fishing trip as an example “If you take all the skins from that trawler…we would be able to treat one in five wounds in the world.” says Fertram Sigurjonsson

Today, trucks haul the fish to a commercial processing facility in Isafjordur. The fish land on a conveyor belt, where they get filleted and skinned. The meat is sold as food and, twice a week, Kerecis employees come to collect skins of the right size, age, and species.

Fish Skin for Human Wounds

Photo by Rebecca Scheinberg

Descaling And Cleansing

The cod is taken to a processing plant where Kerecis collect the skins and examine them for flaws such as holes, tears, traces of blood and parasites. When the best fish skins are collected, the team start the process of transforming them into medical grafts.

The first step is to remove the scales from the material. The skins are then put into a solution which gently removes cells. “You need to get the mucus away, but we didn’t want to use harsh chemicals or wash away the fats or elastin,” Sigurjonsson says, referring to the protein that makes skin flexible. The clean skins are then moved into a decontaminated room where a dehydrator begins the two day process of dehydrating them, whilst preserving the important 3D structural built up of the material. This structural build up is vital to the healing process. The skin is then cut into squares and sterilised for use in bandaging.

Testing The Skins

Dr John Lantis, the Chief of Vascular and Endovascular surgery, and a Kerecis adviser, has been using Kerecis products at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on his patients.

The cell structure of these Kerecis fish skins recruit the patents bodies own cells to form healthy tissue. The fish skin acts as a structure around which healthy cells can grow and gradually incorporate into the closing wound. It is not known why fish skin works so well but when comparing the use pig skin verses fish skin, the fish skin grafts close the patents wounds significantly faster.

The materials in fish skin yield natural anti-inflammatory effects, especially omega-3 fatty acids, that speed up healing. When placed on wounds, the fish grafts work as an extracellular matrix; a group of proteins and starches that plays a crucial role in a patients recovery. In a healthy person, a matrix surrounds cells and binds them to tissue which generated the growth of new epidermis. But this natural structure fails to form in chronic wounds. Much like a garden trellis, the fish skin grafts provide the body’s own cells with a structure to grow around so they can form healthy tissue, gradually becoming incorporated into the closing wound.

In the first three months of 2017, Kerecis sold as much product as they sold in 2016.

Iceland’s Pioneering Treatment

Photo by Rebecca Scheinberg

Use In The US Army

Kerecis are having huge growth, with Doctors working on diabetic patients and also the significant investment from the US Military. On the battle field, these fish skin grafts can be applied immediately to a burn wound to serve as a cover and protect the wound, reducing pain and is an antimicrobial.

Icelandic Fish

The fish in the waters surrounding Iceland have given a lot of sustenance and wealth to the Icelanders. Fish skins were once a byproduct, fed to farm animals, but they are now considered to be the most valuable part of the fish, with Kerecis products costing up to a thousand dollars. At that point, Sigurjonsson says, “one gram of fish skin is worth more than a gram of gold.”


Geothermal Energy

CarbFix, Icelands Power Plants Are Turning CO2 into Stone

CarbFix, Icelands Power Plants Are Turning CO2 Into Stone

Text by Sonia Nicolson

100% of Iceland’s electricity needs are generated from renewable sources, including geothermal energy. The landscape under Icelands crust is powering geothermal plants all over the country.

While other power stations, wether using Nuclear, coal or gas, would need fuel to heat up the water to produce steam, in Iceland they can take the steam directly from the ground. Geothermal activity underground here in Iceland is being used on a larger scale as it has the capacity to supply all of the countries domestic electricity. By adding geothermal to the already advanced hydro capacity, Iceland has become world leaders in renewable energy.

With the aim of cutting emissions even further, a unique carbon capture system called CarbFix is being pioneered at the Hellsheidi geothermal power plant in western Iceland. 

How Does A Geothermal Plant Work?

In short, a geothermal plant drills a hole into the ground at a depth of around 2-3 kilometres, where the steam is over pressurised so it comes by its own pressure through the production wells. The power plant can then collect the steam at the surface and there they produce power.

The geothermal plants here in Icelands only use a very small amount of the heat generated in the earth everyday so amazingly, there is enough heat in the earths crust for millions of years to come.

How To Turning CO2 Into Stone?

Carbon dioxide emissions are captured, mixed with water and re-injected back into the ground. Through this process, the CO2 is transformed into a mineral called Calcite. The process takes just six months. This solid form of CO2 storage is seen as one of the most effective ways of preventing the gas from entering the atmosphere.

Iceland To Work With The UK

The potential of this heat and steam is so big that plans to help supply other countries, such as the UK, with geothermal energy from Iceland have been discussed.

Hellsheidi geothermal power plant

Photo by MindsGrid

The Downsides Of The Process

It might be fully renewable but there is a downside. In the process of accessing the steam, naturally occurring gases like carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide are also brought to the surface. The emissions are absolutely minimal when compared to the more conventional coal or gas power station however there are still some emissions to deal with.

What Is CarbFix And How Does It Work?

CarbFix is a new aspect in the development of geothermal technology where any pollutants emitted from the power plant are captured and sealed underground in the form of rock.

“We want to do our part in trying to solve this problem of the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere,” says Ingvi Gunnarsson, a geochemist at CarbFix.

Iceland is doing their part in trying to solve the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere with CarbFix, a new project which aims to capture the CO2 from the power plant and re-inject it back into the ground.

The Re-injection Labs

The gas immersions are transported from the main energy plant via pipes to geometric pods where they are re-injected into the ground. Once they have produced electricity, the Engineers at the plant needed to find a solution to dispose of the left over water and gas, which would be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

“What comes from the power plant once we’ve produced electricity is hot water and gas. We need to dispose of that somehow. If we would not be capturing it, it would be released into the atmosphere.”

Geothermal Energy

Photo by Teratornis

Turning Air Pollution Into Rock

Re-injecting this waste water and gas into the ground enables the carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphite to permeate the volcanic basaltic rock and transforms it into stone. Water flows through the rock, fixing the CO2. The build up of this new rock is full of cavities, these pores are filled up with carbon minerals.

The CarbFix project replicates the natural process of weathering but instead of taking hundreds or thousands of years to turn into stone, CarbFix achieves it in just six months.

Testing The Theory, Proving It Works

To test this, Engineers sample the gases which they condense into liquid. It is a vital part in the project to demonstrate that the CO2 is being mineralised in the ground. The liquid can then be taken to a lab back in Reykjavik to be analysed for its CO2 and H2S levels. If the re-injected gases have successfully turned into stone then the sample should only contain the naturally occurring background levels of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.

What the Engineers hope to see when testing the liquid is that the CO2 levels in the steam do not raise above the background levels. When the levels are about the same as the natural occurring levels, the gases have turned to stone. This is a great approach to lower gas emissions.

Future Potential For The Project

This new process is not necessarily locked to just geothermal energy. Engineers report that if you have a relatively pure stream of CO2, which you can capture and dissolve in water, then you can in theory take that water and re-inject it back into the ground, as long as there is favourable rock composition in the area. Approximately 5% of the continents on earth are basalt, and the ocean, so more countries, companies and industries should be working this way. The potential is there to help our atmosphere and reduce climate change too.


3D Crossing

Optical Illusion Crossing in Iceland

Optical Illusion Crossing in Iceland

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Traffic accidents in Iceland

According to the Icelandic Transport Authority (ICETRA), there were fewer fatal and serious traffic accidents across Iceland in the first ten months of 2017 than during the same period in recent years. There was a 21% decrease in serious injuries or fatalities caused by traffic accidents in Iceland between 2016 and 2017. 157 serious injuries or fatalities in the first ten months of 2017, and a significantly higher 204 within the same period of 2016.

Welcome Developments

ICETRA Public Relations Manager, Þórhildur Elínardóttir says the decrease is a welcome development and a result of changes that began in 2013. The main improvements have been in the education of young drivers with a more comprehensive training program and prevention efforts helping new drivers drive safely and be more aware of potential dangers.

Despite the rise in tourist numbers, accidents involving foreign drivers has reduced. However, accidents involving cyclists have increased and was estimated at 150 accident in 2017. With new efforts to improve driving education, awareness of potential hazards and other methods to prevent accidents, Iceland is taking to new projects to curb their fatal and serious traffic accident numbers.

Street Art Ísafjörður

Ísafjörður, the small fishing town in Icelands Westfjords, is the latest destination to introduce an ingenious way to slow drivers down when approaching a pedestrian crossing. This 3D artwork creates a clever floating zebra crossing which is painted on the road and gives the illusion that the white stripes are floating above the ground and obstructing the road.

3D Crossing

Photo by MotoringSearch

Controlling Speed

The town of Ísafjörður has the standard speed limit of 30 kmh (18.6 mph) set but residents felt this was still simply too fast. The streets are narrow in this small village and residents wanted to find a way to slow motorists down further. The local council met to discuss ideas. Ralf Trylla, the Icelandic Environmental Commissioner was inspired when he came across a similar optical illusion drawn in New Delhi, India.

Painted Optical Illusion Crosswalk

This street painting project was led by Gautur Ívar Halldórsson, the manager of Vegmálun GÍH, a road painting company which created the crosswalk located in Ísafjörður in northwest Iceland.

Self taught, Gautur Ívar and Ralf Trylla practiced their 3D painting skills whilst waiting the few weeks it took for all necessary permits from the Transport Authority and Police to come through so work could start. From above, the white lines look like columns but as you approach them at street level you see the optical illusion come to life and they appear to be hovering.

Drivers and Pedestrians

This creative design gives the impression that the pedestrians crossing the road are walking on air. The idea is that drivers approaching the crossing will see the 3D artwork and think it looks like there is an obstacle in the road, and will therefore slow down. The aim is to make drivers lower their speed to reduce the risk of accidents in this pedestrian area.

The Inspiration

Crossing like this one are popping up across the globe in India, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan and China, but this form of street art is not the only unusual method being used to slow down traffic for pedestrian crossings. In Russia, road safety experts used a very unsubtle method of employing topless women to hold speed limit signs in an aim to get drivers to slow down – perhaps not the best method to try here in Iceland.

In the UK there is discussion of scrapping speed bumps as part of the government’s dramatic plans to curb pollution. It emerged that these publicly hated humps are not only stressful but bad for the environment as slowing down to cross them actually causes a higher level of nitrogen dioxide and so pollutes the atmosphere.

3D Crossing

Photo by BoredPanda

Delhi’s First 3D Zebra Crossing

New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC) newly installed crossing, painted at central Delhi’s Rajaji Marg, has helped reduce the average speed on this section of road down to 30 km per hour. “The new 3D zebra crossing has become a sight of amusement for commuters. Cars inevitably slow down and there is also excitement among pedestrians to use it,” said a senior traffic official.

This black and yellow crossing, painted as a trial project, had the aim to help make the city roads safer. New Delhi officials are now discussing more 3D pedestrian crossings to be created across the city to help make roads safer. “We did not know how people would respond to such 3D pedestrian ways, but the response is overwhelming. Our aim is to make the NDMC area a people-friendly space and such measures will ensure safety for pedestrians as well as drivers,” said Naresh Kumar, NDMC chairperson.

The average speed on this section of road is 50km/hr however the wide and well maintained roads make for the ideal place for drivers to speed through. Traffic officials have now monitored the crossing and an average speed of 30km/hr was recorded. “If you are driving, from a distance the crossing looks like the road has been dug up or is elevated, this automatically makes the driver slow down. During the day you will see pedestrians hopping through the painted blocks,” the official said.

It took Yogesh Saini, founder of Delhi Street Art, 3 days to paint the crossing in collaborated with NDMC. He said, “The entire crossing was painted in the morning during rush hour.”

A senior NDMC official said that five other locations have been identified where the crossing will come up in the coming months. “Instead of repainting the zebra crossings in black and white, we will replicate the 3D design,” the official.

Photo by Conor Lawless

Traffic on Ring Road One

Traffic on Icelands Ring Road is usually at its heaviest in July but it reached a record high last year, said the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA), with a record of 108,000 vehicles passing the 16 IRCA counters on the Ring Road daily. This number has increased over the past decade from 82,000 vehicles, meaning an increase of around 30% since 2007.

However, the increase in traffic between years is slowing down with an increased of only 7.3% in July 2017 compared to the pervious year. The greatest increase in traffic is in the north of Iceland with around 12% more visiters, and the South Coast is experiencing a growth of around 3.8%. Indications are that traffic between 2016 and 2017 increased 9% overall, which is a smaller increase than in the previous year.

The Future for Roads in Iceland

The local council has not decided if it will implement more 3D crosswalks like this one in Ísafjörður, but if the experiment proves successful more may follow.


Rye Bread

Iceland Rye Bread Baked by the Bubbling Geysirs

Iceland Rye Bread Baked by the Bubbling Geysirs

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Working with the Land

Iceland offers an incredibly unique landscape of lava, moss, glaciers, volcanos and active land, with bubbling hot springs breaking through rifts in the earth. Its incredible to live alongside this magnificent natural force, fire and ice. The Icelanders relationship with the natural world goes beyond mere resilience but reaches into the realm of harmony. The Icelanders have made this island and its formidable elements work for them, you can see this in one rather unsuspecting source, the Icelandic Rye Bread.

Rye Bread, known in Icelandic as Rugbraud, is a delicious Icelandic bread traditionally baked in the ground. The ground is heated by bubbling Geysir bubbling in the pebbled sand of the Laugavautn shoreline.

Geyser, Geysir

The English word geyser, with refers to a periodically spouting hot spring, derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself comes from the Icelandic Old Norse verb geysa, “to gush”. Eruptions at Geysir attracts visitors daily to watch the magnificent eruption of boiling water being hurled up to 70 metres in the air. However, the geysers used to bake this bread at Laugavautn are all underground and bubble away within the sand, no dramatic hurl of water but they’re very very hot.

Rye Bread

Photo by On The Luce

How to Bake Rye Bread

The recipe Icelanders use is typically handed down from generation to generation. Each families recipe is basically the same but some have adapted it and added a secret ingredient.

The standard recipe is as follows:

4 cups Rye Flour

2 cups Wheat Flour

2 cups Sugar

A pinch of Salt

4 tsp Baking Powder

1.2 litres Milk

Once the mixture is mixed together, bake it for 24 hours in an unconventional oven, i.e the ground heated by hot springs.

Rye Bread

Photo by Dvortygirl

The Traditional Baking Method

A hole is dug in the ground about a foot deep. The ground starts to boil, the temperature is around 97’c when the bread goes in to bake. The bread is baked in a pot, submerged into the hot sand and covered over. A stone is placed on top to mark to locals where the bread is being baked. The entire process takes around 24 hours, then the bread is ready to be dug back up. After cooling it with water from the lake, the vessel is then opened to reveal a fully cooked loaf of Rye Bread.

Photo by jeffreyw

How to Eat Rye Bread

When cooked in this particular way, Rye Bread is sometimes referred to as hverabraud, which translates as ‘hot spring bread’. Many locals bake Rye Bread this way and have been doing so for many generations. Unique to Iceland, Rye Bread is enjoyed with butter, topped with smoked salmon, smocked tout, herring and egg; delicious.

Fontana Geothermal Spa

Fontana geothermal Spa in Laugavautn, a small lakeside town on the Golden Circle, is run by Sigurður Rafn Hilmarsson who has become something of a national icon for his Icelandic Rye Bread. Hilmarsson has prepared bread for countless visitors, including the president. When asked what makes his bread so special, Hilmarsson modestly replied “it has a bit more sugar in it than most,” he said. 

Rugbraud

Photo by Katrine Thielke

Cake, not Bread

The sugar content in Rye Bread results in a taste and consistency more akin to that of cake but most would say that the most remarkable element of Rye Bread is in its traditional preparation. Unlike most breads, this Rye Bread is buried in a bubbling geothermal pit and baked underground.

Experience it For Yourself

Rye Bread is still a staple in todays Icelandic cuisine but many now use the simpler and more convenient baking method of an oven. Sigurður Rafn Hilmarsson remains true to his Icelandic families roots “this method was passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me,” he explained. “That’s the one we are using here.”

This is a daily practice for Hilmarsson at the Fontana geothermal Spa where you can experience a demonstration of this unique method first hand on the lakeshore.


Drilling into a Volcano to Find Clean Energy

Drilling into a volcano to find clean energy

Text by Sonia Nicolson

We live in a world fuelled by dirty fossil fuels but times are changing and we are on the edge of a world that gets its energy from renewable, clean sources. Although geothermal energy is generally considered to be a sustainable source, it is not entirely renewable. The potential renewable and clean energy source are:

Space Based Solar Power

Every hour, more energy reaches us on planet earth than we could use in an entire year. To save this energy, engineers are looking into giant solar farms in space that can collect the solar radiation, mirrors would reflect onto solar collectors and this energy would be beaten back to earth wirelessly. Obviously this project would require a huge budget but doesn’t it sound incredible.

Human Power

Human powered devices already exist, but scientists are working on harvested power generating from normal human movement. Tiny electronics on billions of people means big potential. The idea is that one day, for examples, your phone will be able to change as you are walking down the street or it moves in your hand or as your fingers move on the screen. You can also wear small systems that pass electricity as you move. Human power wont solve the issues of global warming but every bit counts.

Tidal Power

Harnessing the motion of the ocean could power the world a number of times over, which is why so many companies are trying to figure out how. There has been a lot of focus on wind and solar energy so the tidal potential has been a little less explore, until now. Tidal systems are becoming more efficient from hydroelectric turbines to the world first ever desalination plant off the coast of Australia which is producing clean drinking water.

Hydrogen

The element Hydrogen is very high in energy, an engine that burns pure hydrogen produced almost no pollution. Nasa powered its shuttles and part of the space station with Hydrogen for years. Hydrogen works in combination with other elements such as oxygen. In the 80’s, Russia tested a passenger jet to run on it and more recently, Boeing tried out some small planes fuelled by it. It is possible to put hydrogen into mobile fuel cells in vehicles and they can convert it into electricity. These cars are being manufactured already. Honda is working on a car that can be plugged in to power a house, instead of the current electric powered cars which take energy from the house. The main problems with development is of course cost and a lack of hydrogen stations to refuel.

Volcano

Photo by peterhartree

Geothermal Heat from Lava

Geothermal, the method of converting the heat that rises from the depths of the molten core of the earth into energy. Geothermal energy currently powers millions of homes around the world. 25% of Icelands energy comes from geothermal technology. The current project looking for clean energy in the volcanos magma has only been tried once before, in Hawaii.

Iceland, where ice and fire meet, has drilled into a volcano in an effort to bolster geothermal clean energy. The energy company HS Orka is leading this project on a site is near the famous Blue Lagoon spa, in the Reykjanes region. Engineers are drilling into the superheated rock until they reach magma deposits in the hope to produce up to 10 times more power than conventional geothermal wells. The drills bore a hole, almost 5000m deep, into the Reykjanes volcano. This volcanic well, with its high temperature and extreme pressure produces ‘supercritical’ steam. The temperature at the bottom of the borehole is expected to be 427’c (800’f) but the team pumped water down into the hole, which the scorching magma instantly vaporised to a record of 500’c (932’f). The hotter the steam, the more energy it generates. The steam then pushes a turbine which creates energy. The steam is neither gas nor liquid but it produces much more energy than either.

This highly pressurised steam should lead to a giant leap in the energy generating capabilities of geothermal technology around the world.

Iceland is the only country in the world with 100% renewable electricity. Geothermal sources provide Iceland with 25% of its total energy needs, and this record breaking project means that Iceland can harness volcanic heat to produce clean energy in a pioneering new project. It could provide Iceland with 10 times more energy than gas or oil extraction. Iceland has been pioneering in geothermal energy, with 85% of its energy supply derived from renewable sources.

Albert Albertsson, an engineer on the project, named ‘Thor’ after the Viking god “to supply electricity and hot water to a city like Reykjavik with 212,000 inhabitants, we would need 30-35 conventional high temperature wells, compared to only three or five supercritical wells.”

Nuclear Waste

Nuclear fission power plants are the traditional reactors and have been in use around the world for decades and provide countries like the USA with 20% of its electricity. However, this method is highly inefficient and actually adds to the nuclear waste. The current system uses light water technology which surrounds the fuel rods with water to slow the neutrons and allows for a sustained nuclear reaction. This however only allows for 5% of the uranium atoms in the rod are used up when the rod has to be removed and adds to the ever growing stock pile of highly radioactive uranium nuclear waste. There appears to be a more efficient way called a fast reactor where the rods are no longer submerged in water but in liquid sodium. This means 95% of the uranium is used, a huge increase from the inefficient 5%. This change in liquid submersion reduces the 77,000 ton waste. The biggest obstacle is the high cost of building new nuclear power plants and political stigma surrounding nuclear energy.

Solar Windows

With production and installs getting cheaper, solar power is taking off. Photovoltaics are popular in Europe with Germany being the leader in this green energy. Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico mad a significant breakthrough in quantum dot solar cell technology. They have been developing highly efficient solar panels that can double as transparent windows. This means that every exposed window can now be converted into a mini power station.

Biofuels

The production of crop-derived ethanol and biodiesel has become a mainstream substitute or supplement to gasoline in cars. The discovery of vast amounts of cheap oil worldwide made the idea of Henry Ford’s Model T running on ethanol just an idea however renewable biofuels are making a strong come back. The main issue is that the currently dominant first generation of biofuels use the same land and resources as farming and growing food therefore driving up the cost of food, causing problems in the developing world. Algae has all the right ingredients to replace oil because its natural oil content is greater than 50% which means it can be easily extracted and processed. The remaining parts of the plant can be converted into electricity, natural gas, fertiliser to help grow even more algae chemical free. Algae grows quickly without the use of farm land or freshwater.

Flying Wind Farms

You may have already seen wind farms and turbines on the horizon but with the Bionic Air Turbine (BAT) floating above the ground, where winds are stronger and more consistent, we could soon be getting energy more efficiently. These flying wind turbines will soon replace the less efficient tower systems and could allow for the construction of offshore wind farms which are costly to build.

Fusion

Nuclear fusion doesn’t create deadly nuclear waste, unlike fission, because it fuses atoms together instead of splitting them apart. This means there is no threat of a runaway reaction that could potentially lead to a meltdown event. Easier said than done. Nobel Prize winning physicist described fusion as trying to put “the sun into a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don’t k ow how to make the box.” Fusion reactions will produce materials that are volatile and hot that it will damage the reactor that created it. However, private companies and governments are spending billions on research to try and solve these problems. If these challenges can be solved, fusion could provide virtually limitless energy to power the world.

What do you think the future of energy is?


Icelandic Decomposing Algae Water Bottles

Icelandic Decomposing Algae Water Bottles, by Ari Jonsson

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Plastic Waste

We all contribute in one way or anther to the growing problem of plastic pollution. Think of the packing in your weekly shop, think of your garbage, think of the items you work with and replace in time; it’s hard to avoid a plastic.

Plastic pollution is the build up of plastic products in the environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat and/or humans. Plastics that act as pollutants are categorised based on sizes into micro, meso or macro debris.

The main issue that we in society face is that plastic is an inexpensive and durable material which means it is used to high levels but the plastic we use is very slow to degrade. Plastic pollution can unfavourably affect lands, waterways and oceans which in turn effects living organisms, particularly marine animals. Problems such as entanglement, ingestion, exposure to chemicals an all cause issues in natures biological functions.

More than 5 million tonnes of plastic are consumed annually in the UK alone. An estimated 24% of this makes it into recycling systems, that leaves a remaining 3.8 million tonnes of waste which is destined for landfills. Plastic reduction efforts have occurred in some areas in attempts to reduce plastic consumption and pollution, and promote plastic recycling.

Plastic Pollution

Photo by Kevin Krejci

Creating a Biodegradable Bottle

After reading about the amount of plastic waste produced daily, Ari Jónsson started to explore the concept of a replacement material.

“I read that 50 per cent of plastic is used once and then thrown away so I feel there is an urgent need to find ways to replace some of the unreal amount of plastic we make, use and throw away each day,” Jónsson told Dezeen.com

“Why are we using materials that take hundreds of years to break down in nature to drink from once and then throw away?”

What is DesignMarch?

DesignMarch is Iceland’s most important design festival and is held annually, from 10-13 March, this year will be the festivals 10th gathering. DesignMarch is organised by Iceland Design Centre and works to promote Icelandic design and architecture. It’s the largest and most significant design gathering in Iceland and brings together designers and Architects from all over. Located across Reykjavik, the most northerly capital city in the world, there are around one hundred different events from discussions and lectures to exhibitions and networking events. It transforms the city into one big venue for design where fashion and furniture, architecture and food design come together. The festival opens with DesignTalks, a day of lectures by internationally acclaimed designers and the foremost local design thinkers.

The festival showcases the best of local design alongside exciting international names, it’s a great chance for newcomers to display their work and be seen. Product Design student studying at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, Ari Jónsson, created a biodegradable bottle from a combination of red algae powder with water, and his work was exhibited during DesignMarch 2016. Jónsson’s decomposing bottles were presented at the Drifting Cycles student exhibition which was held inside a remote lighthouse.

Testing Materials

Ari began by studying the strengths and weaknesses of different materials to determine which materials would be best suited for use in the development of his water bottle. Working with natural materials and materials inspired by nature, Ari discovering a powdered form of agar, a substance made from algae. He found that when agar powder is added to water it forms a jelly-like material which can be formed into functional objects. He experimented with different promotions of water and algae to create a pliable formula. Then, slowly heating the substance, he poured it into frozen bottle shaped moulds to help him achieve the perfect form.

Photo by Youth Express

Working with Algae

As the material was in a liquid form, he needed to cool it to set the bottles shape and solid form. He found that rotating the mould whilst submerged in a bucket of ice cold water set the liquid substance making it take its bottle shape. The agar form was then refrigerated for a few minutes before it could be extracted from the mould.

“If it fails, or if the bottom is too thin or it has a hole in it, I can just reheat it and pour it into the mould again,” said Jónsson. So as he develops the perfect thickness and material use, he can adapt and remould as he works.

How it Decomposes

The interesting finding of this new material was that the bottle kept shape as long as the bottle is full of water. As soon as it was empty, it began to decompose and loose both its form and function.

As the bottle is made from algae, a 100% natural material, the water the bottle stores is completely safe to drink. As the bottle is made from powdered agar and mixed with water to create the material, Jónsson did note that after a while it may extract a small amount of taste from the bottle. This is not being seen as a negative aspect and the designer even suggested that if the user likes the taste, they can start to eat the bottle itself when they have finished drinking.

Algae

Inspired by Nature

Designers are increasingly experimenting with other forms of algae and seaweed. Arup revealed their design for the worlds first ever algae powered building, a Dutch designer has created bioplastic for 3D printing from algae, and the IKEA lab Space10 created an algae producing pavilion in Copenhagen. Seaweed has also recently been used in the development of furniture combining paper and seaweed to create a new material.

This is being explored in architecture too; the Modern Seaweed House on the Danish Island of Laeso uses seaweed in its exterior cladding. This project revisits the tradition of constructing using locally found materials such as seaweed. At one stage on Laeso, there were many homes constructed using seaweed as trees were scares. Nowadays only twenty houses like this remains so this inspired Vandkensten studio and non-profit Realdania Byg’s preservation project.

Algae has even been implemented as an energy source to power buildings.


Waterfalls of Iceland

Top 10 Waterfalls of Iceland

Top 10 Waterfalls of Iceland

Text by Sonia Nicolson

When in Iceland, we say DO go chasing waterfalls. There are some incredibly beautiful waterfalls in very dramatic surroundings and a lot of them are easily accessible. From the Golden Circle to the South Coast and further up north, you don’t have to go far to experience one. The Icelandic waterfalls are very dramatic and you can see water drop from a great height, gush through lava rocks, over ledges meaning you can walk behind them and certainly see a rainbow or two.

So here are our top 10 waterfalls in Iceland here to help you plan out your trip.

Gullfoss

On the Golden Circle you will find Gullfoss, meaning Golden Falls, is located on the Hvítá River and is one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls. The glacier water from Langjökull cascades 32m down in two stages. It’s a dramatic display of power and is incredibly beautiful to watch. The waterfalls power does spray up a lot of moisture into the atmosphere so make sure to wear waterproofs. Access the viewing platforms from the lower car park for the most accessible view, the top car park also has a cafe and shop. Great tour to see Gullfoss is the Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon and Bubble tour

Gullfoss

Seljalandsfoss

On the South Coast of Iceland you will discover the picturesque Seljalandsfoss. One of the more famous waterfalls in the country, Seljalandsfoss is Iceland’s highest waterfalls, at 63m. Make your way up the steep staircase to get a unique chance to walk behind a waterfall, a very unique experience. Feel the power as the water drops from the famous glacier, Eyjafjallajokull. Slightly further along the mountainside is Gljúfrabúi, a hidden waterfall which is often overlooked by the large tour groups, and so you might get it to yourself.

Seljalandsfoss

Photo by Ævar Guðmundsson

Skogafoss

Further on along the South Coast and the next waterfall is Skógafoss. Measuring around 25m across, with a drop of 60m, Skogafoss is Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls. You can walk right up to the falls and be hit by the spray. If you are lucky enough to be visiting on a sunny day then you might spot a rainbows in the spray from the powerful cascade. If you have the time, climb the 60m of stairs to the top of the falls.

Skogafoss

Photo by Mitchel Jones

Dettifoss

Located in the Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland and said to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss flows from the glacier Vatnajökull, with an average waterflow of 193m3 per second. Dettifoss measures 100m wide with a powerful drop of 45m down into Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. Dettifoss  is Icelands largest waterfall in terms of volume discharge, having an average water flow of 193 m3/s.

Dettifoss

Photo by carlabits

Godafoss

Located on the River Skjálfandafljót in the North of Iceland, Godafoss waterfall is the fourth largest river in Iceland. A spectacular waterfall with a width of 30m, falling from a height of 12m, it truly is dramatic. Godafoss means Waterfall of The Gods. It’s said that when Christianity was declared the official religion in Iceland, by lawspeaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, he threw the statues of the old Norse gods into the waterfall. The river, originating deep in the Icelandic highland, runs from the highlands through the Bárðardalur Valley from Sprengisandur in the Highlands.

Godafoss

Svartifoss

Svartifoss, as know as the Black Falls as it is surrounded by dark lava columns. Located in Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park on the South Coast of Iceland. Similar natural formations can be seen throughout Iceland and abroad, at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and on the Scottish island of Staffa. These basalt columns give inspiration to many buildings in Iceland such as Hallgrímskirkja church. in Reykjavík.

Svartifoss

Photo by Victor Montol

Hraunfossar

Located in the district of Borgarfjordur, Hraunfossar is a series of beautiful waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming from a short distance out of the Hallmundarhraun lava field. This lava field was formed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjokull. Some of the most magnificent falls found in Iceland, catch them in the summer or as the colours turn in autumn.

Hraunfossar

Photo by Jun

Haifoss

Háifoss is located near the volcano Hekla on the South Coast of Iceland. The third highest waterfall in Iceland, the water falls from a height of 122m streaming from the River Fossá. There is a car park above the waterfall. You can hike to the waterfall along the River Fossá from the historical farm Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng. The farm was destroyed by a volcanic eruption of Hekla in the Middle Ages abut has since been reconstructed. The hike both directions will take you around 5-6hours.

Haifoss

Photo by James Petts

Barnafossar

Barnafoss, also known as Bjarnafoss, is located near Hraunfossar and burst out of Hallmundarhraun, a huge lava plain in the west of Iceland and about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Reykjavík. Barnafoss is on the River Hvítá and flows out of a lava field, creating a dramatic and very picturesque scene.

Barnafoss has been associated with many Icelandic folk tales, most famously the one about two boys from the nearby farm of Hraunsás. One day, the boys’ parents went to church with their ploughmen, the boys were supposed to stay at home but as they decided to follow their parents as they had gotten bored. Making a shortcut across the stone bridge over the waterfall, they suddenly felt dizzy and fell. The boys sadly drowned and when the news reached their mother, she put a spell on the bridge saying that nobody would ever cross it without drowning again. The bridge was demolished in an earthquake sometime after this.

Barnafossar

Photo by fr.zil

Faxi

Faxi, or the Vatnsleysufoss waterfall, is located on the Tungufljót River on the popular tourist route to the east of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle. Find Faxi around 12 kilometres from Geysir and Gullfoss, and 8 kilometres from Skalholt. Park up and walk away from the main road on a gravel track where there is a picnic area and small car park. The waterfall is a popular fishing spot as it is full of salmon. Please note that Kayaking in the waterfall is forbidden.

Faxi

Photo by Adam Fagen

Which waterfalls are on your bucket list?


Turf House

The Icelandic Turf House

The Icelandic Turf House

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Icelandic turf houses, “torfbaeir” and sometimes referred to as ‘hobbit homes’, were the built to withstand the brutal Icelandic climate, survive earthquakes and use zero energy. They offered superior insulation compared and good ventilation compared to the more modern wooden or stone constructions.

When the Vikings settled in Iceland they forested around 30% of the trees, clearing land and leaving a devastating mark on the natural landscape. Iceland had a large amount of turf suitable for construction and as many settlers were used to the idea of turf roofs from their time in Norway, this was an obvious building material. The turf house is now one of the more iconic buildings in Iceland.

Icelandic Turf House

Photo by Matito

The oldest turf house in Iceland is the historical farm of Keldur on the South Coast of Iceland. A typical Icelandic turf farm was a cluster of buildings connected by earth corridors. Keldur is one of very few preserved turf houses in South Iceland, along with the f.ex. the turf house at Austur-Meðalholt, now a museum, and the reconstructed houses of Skógar museum.

Keldur farm is a historical place of important for Iceland Saga of Njáll, Ingjaldur Höskuldsson, who lived here from 974 until around 1000. In the 12th and 13th century, Keldur was one of the manors of the most powerful clans in Iceland; the Oddi clan. Jón Loftsson, one of the most powerful chieftains in Iceland in the 12th century, and lived at Keldur until his death in 1197. The turf houses here have been rebuilt many times, reconstructed after both earthquakes in 1896 and 1912. In addition, the ruins of around 18 farmsteads have also been found on this site. Close to Keldur is the well known volcano Hekla, erupting on average every 50 years. Lava rocks from eruptions were used as building materials for the farmstead and driftwood was also used.

Turf House

Photo by PIVISO

In 1942, The National Museum of Iceland bought the old turf farm and farmhouse as part of the National Museums Historic Buildings Collection. The site is open to visitors from June – August.

The turf houses were all of the same proportions, regardless of class, social status or wealth. They were representative of a communal way of living in Iceland. All members of the family lived and spent their time together in the living room, the only room with a window, where they ate, slept, were born, and died.

Turf Roof

Photo by Theo Crazzolara

The typical construction of an Icelandic turf house starts with a large foundation made of flat stones. The back of the building was often dug into the hillside and the front stuck out with a pointed roof which was covered in grass. Then the wooden frame was constructed to hold the load of a turf roof. The frame is then clad with turf, often in two layers to help insulate. The sturdy walls were made of stone sandwiched between turf bricks, sometimes played out in a fashionable herringbone style. The entire structure was covered in turf and the growing grass helps to make the structure more sturdy. The only exposed wood was at the doorway where the frame was decorated. This door led you into a hall where you were usually met by a fire. The rooms were often below ground where the earth doesn’t freeze. All the warmth in the home was provided by the fire in the kitchen since heating from coal, oil, or wood stoves was not available until the 19th century. The flooring was typically wood, stone or just earth, depending on the buildings purpose.

Easy to maintain, the turf roofs and walls needed to be trimmed regularly but the structures do collapse eventually and need to either be rebuilt or repaired. When the houses do collapse, they only leave a mound of earth behind.

Turf House Interior

Photo by Theo Crazzolara

Turf houses had been continually constructed over a period of 1000 years but Icelandic architecture changed a lot in that time. In the 14th century the Viking style longhouses were gradually abandoned, replaced by many smaller and specialised buildings which interconnected. Later, in the 18th century, a new Burstabaer style started to gain momentum, the most common version of the Icelandic turf house. Many have survived well into the 20th century.

After World War I, a wave of modernisation swept the island and nearly eradicated the turf houses. Slowly, people moved into a more modern urban building style of wooden houses, clad in corrugated iron. These were later replaced with earthquake resistant reinforced concrete buildings.

In the late 20th and 21st century, the tourist boom brought a rise of interest in this traditional building type. The Icelandic turf house was given a help in its preservation in 2011 when turf housing was nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Turf Roof construction

Photo by Thomas Ormston

The practice of building turf houses is not widely known today and so new initiatives for heritage preservation have been set up to pass on these skills. Every year there is a seminar run by Fornverkaskólinn in collaboration with Hólar University and Skagafjörður Heritage Museum, where you can learn how to construct a traditional Icelandic house. Over the last years the participants of this seminar have helped in restoring Tyrfingsstaðir, a turf house deserted in 1969. This seminar not only helps maintain knowledge of this cultural construction method but it also works to preserve Icelandic heritage.

The typical life expectancy of a turf house was 20 years, serving one generation depending on frost, before it must undergo repairs. The more sturdy of houses could often last from 50 to 70 years.

Icelandic House

Photo by Marco Bellucci

Turf houses took a lot of maintenance and so sadly not many are still standing. Around half of the Icelandic nation still lived in turf houses in 1910. As Reykjavik grew, people moved into more modern dwellings and by the 60’s there were 234 inhabited turf homes in Iceland. Moving into the 70’s, most of these turf houses were deserted with families opting for corrugated timber homes instead.

These buildings are biodegradable, eco-friendly and energy-efficient. Rooted strongly in the Icelandic culture, would you stay in a turf house?


Iceland, Healthiest Country in the World

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Iceland, Healthiest Country in the World

One of the key topics discussed at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2017 was the future of healthcare, and Iceland topped a new ranking of the world’s healthiest countries. The study, published by The Lancet, assessed 33 health-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators in 188 countries across 25 years. The results from the SDG present a global picture of the progress made, and the work still needed, to achieve the Millennium Developments global goals.

Using the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study 2015, the research examines health in countries around the world to create a global ranking. Iceland, Sweden, Singapore, Andorra and the UK were the top 5 ranking countries; Iceland took the top spot by one decimal place. The report singled out major factors such as tobacco control measures and Iceland’s publicly funded healthcare.

Improved Icelandic Healthcare

In the past 15 years, there has been significant progress with universal healthcare showing the greatest improvement followed by family planning and hygiene developments. It’s not all good news however with hepatitis B on the increase, alcohol consumption becoming more problematic and numbers of overweight children now worse than in 2000.

“Although considerable progress on the health-related MDG indicators has been made, these gains will need to be sustained and, in many cases, accelerated to achieve the ambitious SDG targets,” write the authors of The Lancet.

The authors examined the link between the health-related indicators and the socio-demographic Index; a measure based on income per person, average educational in the population over 15 years old, and total fertility rate.

Icelandic Diet and Lifestyle

There is a wealth of contributing factors to a good Icelandic diet and lifestyle; water, food and exercise. The diet often focuses on fish and healthy dairy products such as Skyr. A nation is famous for its rivers, waterfalls, glaciers and hot springs, the water in Iceland is some of the cleanest in the world. Icelandic homes are heated using volcanic water pumped from a variety of hot springs all around the country. These hot springs have been used for centuries by locals to bathe, wash clothes and cook in. Its also thought that the natural hot water and minerals it contains can do wonders for your health and skin.

People eat a lot of fresh and dried fish, and lamb. There are roughly a million sheep living in Iceland, 3 times the population. Sheep are left to roam the countryside freely throughout summer, grazing on thyme and adding to their flavour. Recently, Icelanders have become more concerned with eating healthily, with athletes promoting healthy options. Vegans and vegetarians have gained more healthy options in the city and restaurants such as Glo are doing well.

The average life expectancy in Iceland is just over 82 years old. Exercise plays a big part in this with many people going hiking, swimming, signing up for marathons and trying out yoga. The typical modern Icelandic lifestyle includes a selection of fitness options focusing on strength, protein intake and a clean diet. Icelandic women practice weight lifting in their gym routine, and teens compete in nationally televised CrossFit-style obstacle courses, gaining a lot of attention.

Icelandic Diet

Icelands Strongest Man and Woman

Iceland is famous for its Sagas with tales of heroes with incredible strength. From Vikings and Norse Gods, to Strongman champions, the nations football team to the modern trend of CrossFit.

The glorification of raw strength is nothing new in Iceland. Þór was known as the God of Thunder, Wrestling and Fertility, and Týr, was the God of War and Tactics. Both were described as physically, fiercely fit and strong but while Þór tended to smash things with his hammer, Týr used his brain too.

A Land of Rough and Unforgiving Natural Conditions

Iceland has over the years required a certain physical strength to survive with an attitude that everyone had to pull their own weight. Moving into the 20th century, Icelandic women in Reykjavik carried washing loads from the city centre to the pools in Laugardalur, a 5 kilometres walk. They would work for around 10 hours before carrying their mountain of wet laundry back home again. Foreign travellers often likened the Icelandic washing woman’s strength to the power of a pack horse.

Throughout history, Icelanders tested their strength by lifting stones. On Djúpalónssandura black sand beach in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula you will notice four large stones of varying sizes weighing between 23kg (50lbs) and 155kg (342lbs). These were used to test the strength of fishermen. The stones are named Amlodi (useless), Halfdreattingur (weakling), Halfsterkur (half-strong) and Fullsterkur (full-strong). A person of ‘Full Strength’ gains the Fullsterkur status by lifting, carrying and placing a rock of 155kg or heavier on a platform waist height or higher. Icelander might not need fishermen who can lift the Fullsterkur stones anymore but many still value strength as a representation of an enduring spirit. 

Strongman, Strongwoman

Originally, militant leaders who had keep command by their sheer force of will, rather than raw physical strength were referred to as a ‘strongman’. In the mid 19th century the word was linked to specific forms of athletic strengths common in circus acts. Todays strongman is a phenomenon seen in films and advertising, idols to look up to, not commonly seen on a battlefield.

Iceland has long been know for its strength and power, a nation of just 334,000 people with an outstanding number of ‘world’s-strongest’ men and women; Jón Páll Sigmarsson, Magnús Ver Magnússon and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (the Mountain from Game of Thrones).

The Icelandic strongman is the most famous of Iceland’s power icons but the country is home to plenty of superwomen too. Katrín Tanja, worlds fittest women in 2015, and Anníe Mist, two times fittest woman CrossFit Games and six times Games competitor. The world famous weightlifter, Ragnheiður Sara Sigmundardóttir, is known for her strength and physical prowess inspiring younger stars such as recent winner of the European powerlifting championships, Sóley Jónsdóttir. Sóley performed an astonishing 215kg squat at the tender age of 15.

Icelandic Strongman

Photo by sumoman.co.uk

Icelandic Wellbeing

With clean air and low pollution, wellbeing in Iceland is good. Though the population is small, the country is comparatively large meaning everyone has space. Equal rights are strongly fought for and the gender gap is the smallest in the world. Crime is rare and which helps the people of Iceland feel safe and therefore happier.

It’s easy to see that Iceland can be considered one of the healthiest places in the world.


Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay in Iceland

Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay in Iceland

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay in Iceland

It’s now illegal to pay men more than women for similar work in Iceland or companies can face a gender pay gap fine.

Top of the World Economic Forum’s

Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s ranking for the 9th year as the nation with the smallest gender gap. However Iceland’s overall gender gap is now just 12%.

Closing the Gender Pay Gap

A new law was passed on International Woman’s Day 2017.

The aim is to close Iceland’s gender pay gap by 2022 and so a new law was introduced at the start of 2018 that asks public and private companies, with a staff of over 25 people, to pay employees equally. These companies are now are obliged to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies or they could face financial penalties. 

Employers must prove that they offer equal pay regardless of:

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Sexuality
  • Nationality

Iceland, the First Country to Legalise Equal Pay

Iceland is the first country in the world to legalise equal pay and is a world leader on gender equality. Though there has been legislation in place previously saying that pay should be equal for men and women but there is still a pay gap. Icelandic women earned, on average, 16% less than men (in 2016).

Global Gender Gap

Though other countries such as Switzerland and the US state of Minnesota have similar schemes in place with an “equal-salary certificate policies”, Iceland is the first to make equal pay compulsory for both private and public firms with a staff of 25 people. The bill was supported by Iceland’s centre-right administration, as well as its opposition. According the the Global Gender gap Index 2017, World Economic Forum, the global average annual earnings were $12K for females and $21K for males (in 2017), a huge gap.

“The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations… evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera News.

Iceland is a relatively small country with a population of 323,000 people. It has a strong economy based on tourism and it’s fisheries.

Improving Equality for Women

Iceland has brought in measures to improve equality for women. One of these is a quotas on corporate boards and government committees. In 2016, female representation in the Icelandic parliament had reached a record of 48%, but this has since dropped. In December, a new Icelandic coalition government took office with left-green party leadership led by Katrín Jakobsdóttir. Known to be a feminist, she is the second woman to head a government in Iceland.

Despite an ongoing commitment to tackle this issue, Iceland’s gender pay gap has not shrunk fast enough.

Gender Pay Gap

Photo by Perzon Seo

The Icelandic Women’s Protest

In October 2016, thousands of women across Iceland walked out of their workplaces at 2.38pm in protest. The pay discrepancy means that Icelandic women effectively work without pay after this time, according to unions and women’s organisations. Two years later and Iceland is talking this seriously and making its statement to the world.

Men Are Still Being Paid More

At a time when it appears that other countries around the world are stalling on economic gender parity, Iceland is committed to working on closing its gender pay gap by 2022. For now however, men are still being paid much more than women and, in addition to this, mens wages are increasing rapidly meaning it will be more challenging to meet the 2022 aim (according to the World Economic Forums wide-reaching Global Gender Gap Report, 2017). In Switzerland, women earn just 72% of the average male salary for similar work.

“The time is right to do something radical about the issue Equal rights are human rights” says Thorsteinn Viglundsson, Iceland Equality and Social Affairs Minister

Equal Pay in Iceland

Photo by WOCinTech Chat

Global Gender Gap Report

The Global Gender Gap Report looks at the differences between men and women in four key areas:

  • Health
  • Economics
  • Politics
  • Education

Although much progress has been made over the past decade, this report found that the gender gap widened for the first time in 2017 since records began in 2006.

Iceland has been one of the fastest-improving countries in the world over a 10year period according to the Global Gender Gap Report which uses markers such as economic opportunity, political empowerment, and health to measure gender equality in the country.

What’s the gender gap like in your country?


When Is The Best Time To Visit Iceland?

Text by Sonia Nicolson

When’s The Best Time To Visit Iceland, Summer or Winter?

First off, of course you can travel to Iceland all year round as there really isn’t a high season anymore, but one of the main questions we get asked is wether to visit Iceland in the summer or winter. Weather is a big factor in planning a trip to Iceland. The weather here is incredibly unpredictable and it is commonly said that “if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes”. You can often experience both summer and winter weather in one day, and in any season, so it’s advised to expect the worst and hope for the best.

Many travellers come to Iceland in summer as they feel winter will be too challenging but winter is slowly becoming as popular so which is better? It’s a hard question to answer as both seasons have a lot to offer, so instead of recommending one, here are a few highlights for each season to help can decide.

WINTER – A Winter Wonderland

Let’s start with winter (October – April), winter in Iceland is so different from the soft green mossy landscapes of summer (June – August). This otherworldly landscape is covered in a white blanket of snow with stark contrasting black lava pecking through. Both are beautiful and should be experienced if you are lucky enough to travel here more than once.

Snow, Sunsets and Frozen Waterfalls

In winter the days are short with sun rising at 10:45 and setting at 16:00. The sunsets are stunning with pink, yellow and orange glowing wisps across the afternoon sky. You will probably see some of the most incredible sites set with a wonderful wintery wonderland backdrop. Frozen waterfalls are just stunning but be careful as they can be very slippery and dangerous. If there is a ‘no access’ sign, please respect this as it’s there for your own protection.

Northern Lights

The first and more obvious reason to visit in the winter months is for the Northern Lights. This breathtaking natural phenomenon can only be seen in winter, when it’s dark and the sky is clear. The rule is that if you can see the stars then you will have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. The best time to see the Aurora is from 1st September, through winter, until 15th April. Make sure to check the Aurora forecast for activity levels, there is a scale of 0-9 with the most common activity is 3-4.

Things To Do

There is plenty to see and do in Iceland, popular winter activities include glaciers hikes, skiing, snow mobile trips, ice fishing and ice cave exploring and winter is when the caves are the most accessible. Many people visit Iceland in the run up to Christmas and to celebrate New Years. People decorate their houses with fairy lights and these are kept on throughout winter, bringing an extra light and magic to the city. There is a small festive market and ice skating rink in downtown Reykjavik too. New Year in Reykjavik is an extraordinary experience with fireworks exploring all around. There are no official firework displays but many locals purchase them and have their own displays. The proceeds from the sale of these fireworks goes towards supporting the Icelandic Search and Rescue teams.

Driving in Winter

Driving in winter can be a little tricky, especially if you are not used to wintery conditions but all hire cars have winter tires to aid in driving on snow and ice. Snow storms are very common in winter and so your journey may be interrupted. The weather can effect airline travel with some flights being delays or cancelled so keep an eye on your flight prior to travel. Also sections of the ring road around Iceland can be effected with road closures throughout winter so it is best to check Vegagerdin for road updates. http://www.road.is/

The downside to visiting Iceland in the winter is that the days are shorter so your sightseeing time is a lot more limited. However the light, though sparse, is beautiful for photography as the sun is low on the horizon so it looks similar to a day-long sunset.

Wildlife

Though Iceland isn’t know as a wildlife destination, you can see birds, Icelandic horses and if you are very lucky you might also spot an arctic fox.

SUMMER – The Midnight Sun

Preferred by the locals, summer provides mild weather and the famous long summer nights. The days are long with sun rising at 03:20 and setting at 23:30 so you will have more light for longer adventures. This can be fun and the endless daylight can merge days into one but it can also be difficult to sleep. Come prepared with a good eye mask and be aware of the time, try to take rests when driving. Obviously the lack of darkness means you wont see the Northern Lights so make sure you plan for the right month to visit.

Waterfalls and Hiking Trails

Most sites are generally more accessible so you can walk right up to, and sometimes behind, the waterfalls. There are some hiking trails which can be accessed all year round but you will have more to choose from in the summer months.

Budget Considerations

If you are travelling on a budget then summer might be more for you. Camping is easier and certainly more pleasant, and hitch hiking is much more common.

Moss and Lava

The icy blanket of snow melts away to reveal a green and lush mossy blanket over the lava fields. Road become easier to drive and are generally more accessible, with some of the highland roads being opened though it’s never advised to drive off-road. The northern part of the island is much more accessible now.

Wildlife

Though Iceland isn’t know as a wildlife destination, you can take a whale watching tour in any season, see Icelandic horses and often spot geese. Puffins are most commonly seen in summer along with other bird.


Regrowing the Icelandic Forests, Reducing Emissions

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Regrowing the Icelandic Forests

There is a particular lure to visiting this otherworldly island. Some describe the landscape as a ‘moonscape’ and last year alone 1.8 Million tourists visited. This dramatic landscape is a huge draw for the film and tourism industry but for Iceland, its barren land is problematic.

Iceland is one of the most deforested countries in Europe, technically 40% of the country is a ‘wet desert’. Before the Viking settlers arrived in the 9th Century, Iceland was almost entirely covered in trees. There is archeological evidence that a quarter of Iceland was covered in forests until these settlers arrived. Vikings, living in the Iron Age, chopped down forests for timber, farmland and grazing, removing these vital pillars from the ecosystem. Now Iceland is almost tree-less.

Vegetation struggles to gain a foothold so farming and grazing are near impossible in many parts of the country. Strong winds and sandstorms also destroy the land and this has been a problem for decades now, particularly the east of Reykjavik. But Iceland is committed to bringing its trees back and returning natural life to a largely barren landscape. The main reasons for regrowing its forests are to improve and stabilise soil, help agriculture and fight climate change as trees can help offset emissions.

Taking Action

The government took medial actions and established a reforestation and soil conservation program at the turn of the century. First they started with conserving existing forests but in the 1950s and onwards, afforestation was seen as the only way. Reintroducing a small percentage of these trees could aid in Icelands aim to curb climate change emissions between 50% – 75% by 2050, the governments pledge in its Climate Change Statement, with less economic pain. Reinstating some of Icelands forests could help balance these emissions with the trees capturing carbon dioxide to help them grow.

Reforest sites are popping up across the countryside with native Birch and non-native Spruce being planted. These sites are overseen by the State backed Icelandic Forest Service who also manages the National Forests. Head of the Agency, Thröstur Eysteinsson, believes that even planting a small portion of Icelands long lost forests will do some good. “Over the past decades, the absence of vegetation to hold the soil caused farming and grazing to be nearly impossible in many parts of the country,”…“This was further compounded by the nation’s legendary strong winds, which contributed to severe soil erosion.”

Icelands Energy

85% of Icelands energy is supplied from domestically produced renewable energy sources such as hydropower and thermal energy. According to the Icelandic and Northern Energy Portal, this is the highest share of renewable energy is any national total energy budget. However, Iceland has a high per-capita emissions of greenhouse gasses from transport and industry such as the aluminium smelting plant. Iceland could look into reducing its production and consumption but this would effect the economy, and changing a nations behaviour is very challenging i.e car sharing, taking public transport, etc.

The best investment is to plant trees as this is a financial investment and will eventually pay for itself, or even yield profit. Though it is a huge amount of work. Icelands climate is highly unpredictable and it varies each year which means slow, unpredictable growth for trees.

Regrowing the Forests

So Iceland is regrowing its forests but “it’s definitely a struggle,” said forester Mr. Jonsson who works for the private Icelandic Forestry Association and volunteers to plant saplings. They are growing around 3 Million new trees per year and restoring around 123,000 acres of long lost forests. It’s a slow and seemingly endless task. According to the Icelandic Forest Service, this is only around 2% of Iceland countryside.

Watch Our ‘Regrowing the Icelandic Forests’ Video

Preparing for the Trees

The process is to first evaluate the site and its existing vegetation to gain an understanding of the soils richness and help determine which trees to plant. Lyme grass is planted first which grows quickly and helps stabilise the soil. Lupine comes next, spreading across the landscape. Finally the trees are then planted, grown as saplings in local greenhouses first as importing live trees is prohibited in Iceland. Birch has been found to be best about 30% of the time, this links back to pre-settler times. It grows well in poor soil but slowly, everything grows slowly in Iceland and so meeting targets is challenging.

The sheep in Iceland roam freely and fencing is uncommon due to its cost. The sheep love saplings and so they need to be protected in order to grow and not have the natural spreading of trees interrupted. The goal is to replant 2.5% of Icelands forests but it has been said that this would take around 200 years at the rate they are going.

Funding has also been a challenge. The 2008 banking crash meant support was cut and, although the economy has since recovered, the pre-recession funding for 6 Million new trees did not.

Footing the Bill, Meeting the Target

Iceland is a small country with a small population of 350,000 people per acre. This means fewer tax payers per acre. Forestry is just another item that has to compete with all the other worthwhile items people want to use tax money for. Therefore, sadly reforestation will continue to represent a very small part of the national budget.

Working with the European Union and Norway, Iceland is looking to reduce the emissions by 40% from its 1990 levels by 2050. Iceland might not grow 2% of its forests back but it could be a strong enough sign to other countries, and the international community, to show its solidarity and commitment to the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement.


10 Pools To Try In Iceland

Text by Sonia Nicolson

Top 10 Pools In Iceland

A trip to Iceland isn’t complete without a trip or five to a hot pool, especially a natural geothermal one set in a beautiful landscape where you might be lucky enough to have it to yourself. There is a lot more to Iceland than the Blue Lagoon so today we are sharing ten pools to try in Iceland. 

1. BLUE LAGOON

It’s the most obvious one so let’s start here. The Blue Lagoon is everything you have imagined it will be. It’s a truly relaxing experience and can be a very romantic one too. Located near Keflavik International Airport, it’s an ideal stop on your way to or from the airport. Recently extended in size with a new swim up bar and in-water massage area, the Blue Lagoon is a great welcome to Iceland. The distinctive blue hue of the water comes from that sulphur, so it’s a good idea to remove copper or silver jewellery before bathing as it can cause discolouring. Swim around in the calming blue waters, try out the waterfall, steams rooms, cave, algae and silica mud masks. Enjoy a refreshing drink at the swim up bar whilst your mask works its magic. With a rather large price tag and appearing on almost everyones bucket list, keep in mind that there are other options.

2. REYKJADALUR

Located an hours hike from the town of Hveragerði (45min drive from Reykjavik) is a hot river that welcomes you after a pretty stunning hike. The landscape is beautiful and changes from bubbling brown mud to green moss, steam billowing from the ground and rising from the algae filled waterfalls. Reykjadalur, meaning steaming valley, is the first of our completely natural (and free) recommendations. Once you arrive at the section popular for bathing, you’ll notice there are no changing huts. Strip down to your swimming costume and brave the few steps into the water. Access has been made easy by a manmade boardwalk with steps into the river. There are some screens to shelter behind and change but this is a pretty wild experience, especially if the weather is wild too, though it’s an unforgettable one. Walk or paddle upstream for hotter water, lie by the small damns and take in the view.

3. GAMLA LAUGIN / SECRET LAGOON

This pool is visited on our Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon & Bubble Tour and is a great introductory pool with easy access, changing facilities and showers. The Secret Lagoon is a unique natural hot spring, the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, built in 1891. It’s a large pool that was once used by local women to wash clothes in, and was the local swimming pool where children learnt to swim until 1947. The water holds at 38-40C (100-104 Fahrenheit) all year around. Here you can swim and float around, using the noodles provided, to find the hottest part of the lagoon. Once you are warm enough, take a short walk around the lagoon to see the beautiful landscape, original changing hut, natural geysirs heating the lagoon and the nearby greenhouse. There is a cafe here for a hot chocolate or snack afterwards.

4. SELJAVALLAUG

Seljavallalaug is an algae pool located in a very dramatic setting at the base of the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. It’s relatively easy to find but is quickly changing from a local, secret pool to one being visited by tourists. Located on the south coast and just a short drive from Seljalansfoss waterfall. To access, drive up the farm road past Hotel Edinborg and park at the car park by the guest houses. Make your way up through the valley following the river path. It’s a short 15-20min walk on rocky terrain, crossing one waterfall, but is relatively easy and kids will manage. The pool is manmade and built into the rock face. There is a small but basic changing hut where you can change and leave your belongings. The pool is naturally heated but can be a little cooler if it has rained or snowed recently. The tap feeding the pool is located at the top of the pool, where everyone gathers but hot water also trickles down the rock face. The pool is an algae pool so can feel a little odd but is amazing for the skin. Lie back and enjoy the landscape, imagine the activity of the mighty Eyjafjallajökull and the history of this pool.

This pool is cleaned by volunteers annually and you can make a donation by the entrance to the changing hut. Please enjoy but be respectful of the pool and its landscape, leave no trace.

5. FONTANA

A manmade geothermal spa located near the Golden Circle. This is popular with tourists and can be a good alternative to the Blue Lagoon, though on a much smaller scale. Take in the healing powers of the geothermal springs with natural pools. If you are brave enough then take a dip in the refreshing lake. After you have enjoyed the spa, head to their geothermal bakery to try the Icelandic way of making pot-baked lava bread. 

6. MÝVATN NATURE BATHS

The Blue Lagoon of the North, though a lot smaller, Myvatn was developed in 2004. Located on the sloped of Dalfjall, the baths have a beautiful backdrop of ochre coloured hills. Dalfjall is home to Icelands first geothermal power station. The milky blue colour of the water comes from 25 metres below you. The perfect place to enjoy a long hot soak in the 38-40 ̊C water or a seat in a sauna after hiking and travelling. There’s a cafe here too.

7. STÓRAGJÁ

Located at the bottom of a steaming lava fissure is a fairy tale hot spring. This is a very secret pool where the waters temperature is safe to bathe in but it’s often not recommended due to the algae growth. Make sure to read the signs as information is updated regularly. This is one for the more adventurous, bathe at your own risk.

8. GRETTISLAUG

Known in the Icelandic Sagas, this pool feel like its on the edge of the world. Grettislaug is located in the north of Iceland, on the coast. It is said that the famous Icelandic outlaw Grettir Ásmundason once swam 7km to the Icelandic shore from Drangey Island and regained his strength by bathing in the 42°C waters of this steamy pool.

9. VITI

Viti, meaning hell in Icelandic, is a volcanic crater filled with milky blue water. Located in the eastern Icelandic highlands, this is a pretty wild place for a swim where the water fluctuates between 20-60°C. When the Askja volcano erupted it moulded the landscape, forming the carter and making it one of Icelands most dramatic landscapes. Only accessible by 4WD and so winter is out due to dangerous weather and road conditions. This is another one for the more adventurous but we do recommend taking a tour here or listening to an experienced local guide before accessing.

10. LANDMANNALAUR

Set in some of the most stunning and dramatic scenery Iceland has to offer, this geothermal bath is located in the highlands of Iceland. The landscape here changes with the movement of the sun, a truly unique place surrounded by over 500 year old lava fields and mountains of yellow, blue, white and orange. The water here is 36-40°C all year round. Stay in one of the local cabins or camp, and hike the many treks. You will need to join a tour or self drive a 4WD to get here, access in the winter can be very challenging.


A Night in the Bubble

Text by Sonia Nicolson

A Night in the Bubble

Last week I had the chance to stay overnight in one of the Bubbles, so I took my Mum and we headed off for a night under the stars. A beautifully crisp winters day, we arrived into a winter wonderland, ready for the Aurora and to sleep under a blanket of stars. 

Some childhood dreams stay with us our entire lives. Sleeping under the stars or watching the Aurora Borealis dance might be one of them. To fulfil these dreams, the Bubble concept was born. It’s the ultimate glamping experience and perfect for viewing the Northern Lights. 

What are the Bubbles?

The Bubbles are a fully transparent, inflatable structure made out of fire-retardant PVC tarpaulin. Nestled in a small Icelandic wood they make for ideal Northern Lights viewing. Somethings referred to as the Bubble Hotel, these structures sleep two adults in a comfortable double bed. The bubble structure is kept inflated by a slight over-pressure from a noiseless ventilation system. It permanently renews the air inside 2-7 times the volume per hour and this way it prevents humidity. The system has heating elements with thermostat so the Bubble stays warm all winter.

Are the Bubbles all transparent?

Yes, although some offer a little more privacy with a white panel wrapping around the bottom of the walls at bed height. This however does not interfere with your view of the sky and you still feel like you are sleeping right in the woods.

Where are the Bubbles?

The Bubbles are located in the countryside, near the Golden Circle, however the location is kept secret until you have booked. This secret location is around an hours drive from Reykjavik and two hours from Keflavik Airport. Set back from the road and surrounded by trees, the Bubbles are nestled in a beautiful spot where you can see volcanos Katla and Eyjafjallajökull on the horizon. 

What is there to see?

The Bubbles are located in a very beautiful landscape which is picturesque, especially at sunrise. If the sky is clear of clouds then you will hopefully see a starry sky with some magical Northern Lights dancing above your head.

What is there to do?

Not a lot which is a good thing. This is an opportunity to truly chill out so lie back and take it all in. Nearby is the town of Fludir where you could take in the waters of the Secret Lagoon. This is a unique natural hot spring, the oldest swimming pool in Iceland (made in 1891). The water holds at 38-40 Celsius (100-104 Fahrenheit) all year around. Swim and float around, try to find the hottest part of the lagoon. You can also take a short walk around the lagoon to see the beautiful landscape, original changing hut, natural geysirs heating the lagoon and the nearby greenhouse.

Is food provided?

No, but you can store and prepare food and drinks in the service house. There is a fridge, kettle, coffee machine and a two-ring electric hob. There are plenty of dishes and a dish washer too.

Nearby is Minilik, an Ethiopian Restaurant which gets great reviews, and Mika, a family run restaurant specialising in handmade chocolates and langoustine dishes.

What should I bring?

Pack a small rucsac with you pyjamas, wash bag, camera (and tripod for Aurora shots), a good book and your swimming stuff for the Secret Lagoon. Wear good walking boots, a wind / waterproof coat, and layer up. You won’t need a towels or bedding, these are provided and the Bubble has extra blankets, electric blankets and a spare air heater so you will be cosy and warm. As the Bubbles are small, there isn’t enough room for a suitcase so leave that at your hotel or in a left luggage facility and just bring a small bag.

Where is the toilet?

The toilets are in the service house, a short walk from your Bubble. There are two shower rooms with sink and toilet. Towels are provided but bring your own for the Secret Lagoon.

Can I stay without the tour?

Unfortunately not, the Bubbles are part of the tour on offer by Northern Lights Iceland so you cannot stay without booking the tour. Northern Lights Iceland is a travel agent and not a Hotel. The tour is fabulous and takes you in a luxury suburban jeep to the Golden Circle stopping at Geysir, Gulfoss and the Secret Lagoon. The tour group is small, maximum six people, and there are only nine Bubbles on the site so it feels very private.

Can I self drive?

Yes, there is a small parking bay on site for self drivers but you still pay the full cost of the tour even if driving yourself.

How much does it cost?

59,900ISK per person (use a currency convertor for USD or other currencies)

Please note, the minimum age is six years old, for health and safety reasons.

Where do I book?

Book your Bubble Tour here


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


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


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.