Thursday, 16 February 2017

Petrol stations in Iceland. Useful tips

Since the economic crisis in Iceland in 2008 when the value of the Icelandic money weakened, Iceland became a more affordable place for travelers, pushing thousands of people to come to see why Iceland is the amazing country of which everyone speaks. A vast majority of travelers rent cars and go around the island, so we thought a little guide on service stations and gasoline in Iceland would be rather helpful.

Petrol stations in Iceland. Useful tips

You can find service stations throughout the country, except in the highlands of Iceland. Check your route and be prepared, you should not be driving more than 250 kilometers without finding a petrol station on your way. N1, Olis, Atlantsolia, Skeljungur are all service stations in Iceland spread around the country; their prices vary, gasoline and diesel are much less expensive in winter, below 200 crowns per liter (1.40 €). In the summer season, you have to pay around 250 kroner (€ 1.80) per liter. You can keep track of prices on this website: www.bensinverd.is

In some gas stations, especially in the Reykjavík, you pay one price for filling your gas tank yourself and a bit more if you wish to have an employee do it for you. Some service stations are automatic -those at Atlantsolia, for example, all are, and will only accept debit or credit cards. To use these automated stations, insert your credit card into the machine provided, type your code if necessary ( not always), then the maximum amount you wish to pay for gasoline or diesel for your car. The machine will return your card at the time. Fill your tank, and when you reach the maximum amount, the pump will stop (it will stop before full if done). To print the ticket, you have to insert your credit card again into the machine.

Petrol stations in Iceland. Useful tips

You can also buy pre-paid cards with the amount of your choice, but make sure the petrol station you have chosen is available on the roads on your route. Usually, in your rented car, you have a map that shows where the gas stations are located all over the country, but the pre-paid card doesn't specify which.

Petrol Station at Modrudalur

In Iceland, petrol stations are also places to hang out with friends; providing groceries, fast food restaurants, hot drinks, similar to the atmosphere at the Icelandic pool, people meet there to chat, eat ice cream ... In the larger service stations, you will have several fast-food chains available, a grocery store, a small souvenir shop and even an information point.

Petrol stations in Iceland. Useful tips

Useful links:

www.n1.is

www.atlantsolia.is

www.skeljungur.is

www.olis.is

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Visit Hauganes - Silence and relax in Iceland

It was a surprise for me to see the small village Hauganes following me on Twitter and starting its promotion as a tourist destination. I passed by Hauganes by chance a few days ago after I was told there isn't much to do there. Visit Hauganes! its tourism marketing efforts proved me wrong.

The slogan of the village of Hauganes, "A village so quiet you can hear your inner voice", speaks volumes. This small village of 137 inhabitants in Eyjafjörður sits halfway between Akureyri and Dalvík. Its name comes from Old Norse haugr, which means hill. Fishing is the main activity in the village and also, tourism seems to be growing. The website states "Hauganes is also a popular tourist destination”


Hauganes has a small industry that produces salted fish (Ektafiskur). There is a brasserie restaurant serving sea food specialties (Baccalá bar, open only in summer), three houses Airbnb accommodation for tourists, and offers whale watching excursions -an excellent way to discover the beautiful surroundings and with a little luck, you can spot whales and seals. The village is very close to the beautiful small island of Hrísey; I urge you to go during your visit in the north of Iceland.

Visit Hauganes - Silence and relax in Iceland

Hauganes boasts about being an ideal destination for peace and quiet -a commodity; I must say, which is becoming increasingly rare in the Icelandic summer. With the ocean, the birds and the wind, it is true that Hauganes may be the ideal place to relax and take your time - there's no hurry.

One activity in Hauganes takes you through the fisheries in the region and invites you to discover the history of local fishing -with shark tasting. This event called "the Ektafiskur experience" is only available for groups of ten or more. For others, you can always join an excursion and go fishing with professionals, and hope to catch cod, haddock or halibut. You can also take your rod and try to catch your dinner from the pier.

Visit Hauganes - Silence and relax in Iceland

Walking in the village you will discover some surrounding wonders of Eyjafjörður, like Mount Kaldbakur, or the Þorvaldsdalur Valley, a few kilometers west of the village. This valley, uninhabited since 1979, is known for its 20 kilometres hike, you can also look in on the event Þorvaldsalsskokk that takes place the first week of July. In winter, avalanche risks are frequent, and it is imperative to follow the advice of locals and inform someone of your route if you decide to venture out there in the snow.

Another easy walk four kilometres (one way) takes you to the nearby village of Litli Árskógssandur, or you can, optionally, visit the local Kaldi brewery, where the ferry takes you to the pretty Hrísey!

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Whale watching in Reykjavik! A few tips

Iceland is an ideal destination for observing whales. Iceland's cold waters are conducive to a vast and varied marine life. Whale watching usually happens between the months of April and September when more than twenty species of mammals are basking in Icelandic waters. Among them eight species are often spotted during the whale watching excursions. In winter you can also go on tours, but whale species are fewer and that narrows your chances of seeing a whale. But on the other hand, this time of year increases your chances of seeing the Northern Lights from the sea!

Whale watching in Reykjavik!

Some interesting facts Icewhale reported on their excellent site www.icewhale.is:

The first excursion for whale watching was in 1991.

The success rate for whale watching in summer is 90%.

The number of species you can expect to find in Iceland are 23.

22% of tourists visiting Iceland attend a whale watching excursion.

A few tips:

Remember that it is often cold at sea, even in summer; whale watching agencies provide travellers with warm suits, but be warmly dressed below your suit and take gloves and hat with you.

The tours usually last three hours, and if some boats have an indoor area where you can keep warm, sit back and enjoy a hot drink. A cozy indoor area is something to remember when booking your whale watching tour, especially if you are traveling with children.

Whale watching in Reykjavik!

Five agencies can take you whale watching in Reykjavik. Educate yourself well on different excursions and the services they provide. They are all near the harbour, near the city centre, across the road from the flea market Kolaportið.

From Reykjavík it is possible to go whale watching throughout the year; you will observe different species depending on the season. In the summer whale watching is more pleasant, and you will surely have the chance to see puffins during your trip. Winter, the weather is more uncertain and visibly reduced, but Bay Faxa (Faxaflói in Icelandic) is beautiful in winter.

Some species of mammals you can see during excursions:

Whale watching in Reykjavik!

The blue whale, which can be up to 27 meters long and weigh 120 tons, is the largest animal ever known, and its tail is eight meters wide, like a football field! Most often, you can see blue whales in the northern end of Iceland from April to early September and it even occurs that you see them around the Snaefellsnes peninsula and in autumn around the Reykjanes Peninsula.

The humpback whale, one of the species that we encounter very often on a trip, can grow up to 17 meters long and go to a speed of 27 kilometres per hour. Humpback whales are very active and acrobatic; we see them most often in the north of Iceland in the summer, but they travel more to the south of Iceland in winter, from January to April.

Whale watching in Reykjavik!

The white-beaked dolphin is a social animal that loves acrobatics -it is not uncommon to see them swimming near the boats. The white-beaked dolphins are in substantial quantity in Icelandic waters, especially at the end of winter (March) with their young.

The orca, a member of the dolphin family, can grow up to eight meters long and weigh eight tons. It's a fast animal that can go up to 50 kilometres per hour. The famous killer whale Keiko, star of the movie "Free Willy," was captured in Icelandic waters in 1979 and was returned to the same place nearly twenty years later. Orcas can be seen most often in Iceland during the winter months and early summer, particularly near the Reykjanes Peninsula area and the Westman Islands.

Whale watching in Reykjavik!

After your tour, take the opportunity to have lunch or dinner at one of the excellent restaurants or cafes along Reykjavík's harbour.

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Monday, 13 February 2017

The Árbaer Museum. Get to know the Icelandic lifestyle!

Árbærsafn is an outdoor museum located in Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital. Made up of over twenty buildings that form a central square, a village, and farm, the museum aims to show the Icelandic way of life at different times. The museum is on the site of the former Árbær farm in 1957.

The Árbaer Museum in Reykjavik. Get to know the Icelandic lifestyle!

From 1 June to 31 August, the museum is open daily, from 10 am to 17 h. The rest of the year, it is possible to attend tours at 13:00 hr daily; it is also feasible to visit the museum at other times by appointment. Admission is 1,500 kroner (11 euros) per person and free for children under 18 years.There are many events held during the year, such as the crafts days, the annual exhibition of old vehicles or the Christmas show.

In summer, do not be surprised to see sheep and goats wandering around the gardens of the museum. There is also a souvenir shop, a charming café (home of Dillon) and also a library on the premises.

The Árbaer Museum in Reykjavik. Get to know the Icelandic lifestyle!

Among the buildings that can be admired at the museum Árbær you will find:

The farm Árbær: is the only building in its original place, the farm gave its name to the outdoor museum.

Laugavegur 62: the building where you buy your entry tickets in the museum is the original house, was once located on the main street of Reykjavík.

The professor's home is now the administrative building at the Museum of Árbær but was once a residence for the head of the department of the Klepper psychiatric hospital.

Landakot (or house ÍR): built in 1897 to serve as Catholic Church, the first since the reform. Later the building served as a gym.

Laufasvegur: this building was a gift from the British Embassy, and the museum received it in the 1960s Today, this house is the residence of museum guard and his family.

Suðurgata 7: first located in the center of Reykjavík, the building divides into three sections: a wealthy family home of 1910 is open for visits, a jeweler shop and one can see an exhibition of the different styles of clothing for women according to the times.

Lækjargata 4 is currently the building that presents the history of Reykjavik and is also the store office.

The barn: a typical town centre barn seen in the nineteenth century.

Efstibær: the home of a nineteenth-century worker, also presenting an exhibition on living conditions during the Great Economic Depression of 1929.

Thingholtsstraeti 9: This XIXth century house presents the life of the family that lived there just after its construction.

The Árbaer Museum in Reykjavik. Get to know the Icelandic lifestyle!

The blacksmith's house and that tells you everything.

Hábær and Miðhús: Houses that were originally homes to workers-farmers who do not own land. The first is a house in half made of stone.

Nissen hut: a hut from World War II, which serves as storage.

Ívarssel: Originally the home of a famous captain, the building is being renovated.

The Abattoir: a factory from the nineteenth century which describes the construction techniques in Reykjavík between the years 1840-1940.

The Árbaer Museum in Reykjavik. Get to know the Icelandic lifestyle!

Forge a replica of a forge built in the 1960s.

The scout hut: the first hut for scouts made in Iceland.

The church and rectory, the church comes from the North of Iceland and can be rented for various religious events. The rectory is from the 1960s.

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

7 day hiking trip in Eastern Iceland - Trip report

Below you will see a seven-day hiking schedule we’ve compiled to guide you through this popular 80 kilometres long walk in the East of Iceland.

Day 1: Snæfell

There is no public transport to the Snæfell mountain hut "Snæfellsskáli"(GPS 46 ° 48.250 to 15 ° 38.510). If hiking alone and wish to have transport, contact a travel agency in the region to arrange transportation. Snæfellsskáli shelter accommodates up to 62 people, is heated and comes equipped with sleeping mattressses and kitchen utensils, and has a similar layout to most shelters you might encounter when trekking. If it's good weather, a climb to the summit of Snæfell mountain is worth the effort, the magnificent view of the region is breathtaking. Not including Iceland's glaciers, Snæfell at 1833 meters high is the highest mountain in Iceland.a

7 day hiking trip in Eastern Iceland - Trip report

Day 2: Bjálfafell - Geldingafell

Distance: 20 km - Estimated walking time: 8-10 hours. The hike begins at the Hill Bjálfafell, then twelve kilometers after leaving the shelter Snæfellsskáli you will pass over the glacier walking along Eyjabakkajökull to the Geldingafell hut, which accommodates up to 16 people (GPS 64 ° 41.690 to 15 ° 21.690). You can stay several nights at the shelter and make small hikes in the area.

7 day hiking trip in Eastern Iceland - Trip report

Day 3: Geldingafell - Kollumúlavatn

Distance: 15 km - Estimated walking time: 7-9 hours. The third day takes you from Geldingafell shelter at Lake Kollumúlavatn; you might like to take a detour to admire the beautiful waterfall of Jökulsá í Loni. When you get to the refuge at Kollumúlavatn (accommodates 22 people) (GPS 64 ° 36.680 to 15,108.750), you’ll feel welcomed for the night.

Day 4: Víðidalur

Distance: 12 km - Estimated walking time: 8 hours. The fourth day is usually spent hiking around the hut at Kollumúlavatn and also the Víðidalur Valley. It's a beautiful deserted valley, where people once lived, the last inhabitants left the area in the early twentieth century. Here you will find ruins in a beautiful landscape.

7 day hiking trip in Eastern Iceland - Trip report

Day 5: Kollumúlavatn - Múlaskáli

Distance: 6 km - Estimated walking time: 6-8 hours. Northwest of the Kollumúlavatn shelter, in the Sandar area, you will find a collection of rocks formed by wind and erosion named Appellees Tröllakrókar, "trolls arrows." The trail then descends into a small birch forest where you can then follow the river Jökulsá to the Múlaskáli shelter that accommodates 25 people (GPS 64 ° 33.199 to 15 ° 09.077). Around the shelter, there are many opportunities to make small hikes.

Day 6: Múlaskáli - Illikambur

There are two kilometers from the hut Múlaskáli to Illikambur. On Illikambur, you can spend several days doing short walks; if you head west until Rauðhamar you can admire Öxarfellsjökull, the most glacial tongue is the Vatnajokull glacier. You may wish to conclude your hiking trip and organize your return from there, or take the remaining 25 kilometers to the farm Statafell.

7 day hiking trip in Eastern Iceland - Trip report

Day 7: Illikambur - Stafafell

Distance: 25 km - Estimated walking time: 10 hours. You will need to cross the river Jökulsá í Loni to join the farm Stafafell at the end of your hike. You will find the shelter at Eskifell just before crossing the river.

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Sea swimming in Iceland. Feel icelandic!

It is understandable that bathing in the North Atlantic Ocean, off the shores of Iceland, is not a very popular tourist activity, yet one can enjoy many health benefits from taking a dip in the Icelandic sea, which are even mentioned in the Sagas. It is believed that Grettir Ásmundarson travelled seven kilometres by swimming in northern Iceland. The water is permanently on the chilly side, temperatures rarely go above 12 degrees!

Sea swimming in Iceland. Feel icelandic!

But there is nothing like taking a cold swim in the sea, followed immediately by a relaxing soak in a hot tub ... which you can do at the geothermal beach, Nauthólsvík. After swimming in the sea, where temperatures vary from -2 degrees in winter, to about 12 degrees in summer (a little higher than average, due to geothermal water flowing into the bay), you can bask in a hot bath with temperatures around 40 degrees. Icelanders truly believe that cold sea water swimming is good for your wellbeing, and they are right: cold water helps the blood circulate and makes you feel energised. Alternating between hot and cold water is especially good for the circulation system. All year round, groups gather at Nauthólsvík to enjoy both the cold sea and a hot water bath afterwards. Every year on the first of January, locals meet to take part in a traditional new year swim, which is a perfect hangover cure.

Nauthólsvík

You can swim in the sea anywhere in Iceland during the summer, provided the weather conditions are right and you are familiar emergency numbers. This summer I met a fifty-year-old woman who was swimming in the cold sea off the pretty little island of Hrísey and was trying to convince her friends to join her in this icy water. She carried a thermometer with her which indicated that the water was at 11 degrees, and assured me that at the beginning of the season the same water was only 1 degree! She seemed quite at ease, but her companions could not stick it and only managed to stay in the water for a minute or two. She quietly continued to swim for nearly ten minutes, whilst receiving a few stunned looks! This lady, who lives on the island, does not bathe in the sea in winter, because the currents are too dangerous, but there is no doubt that the cold sea bathing does a great deal of good to her health.

Sea swimming in Iceland. Feel icelandic!

The film "Djúpið" by Baltasar Kórmakur tells the true story of an Icelandic sailor, Guðlaugur Friðþórsson (born in 1961), who survived swimming for six hours in water that was only 5 degrees, near the coast off the Westmann islands, after his fishing vessel was wrecked.

Sea swimming in Iceland. Feel icelandic!

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