Monday, 25 June 2018

Visiting Thingvellir National Park

Iceland is known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. One of the most popular of these is exploring one of the country’s many national parks. Snaefellsjökull, Skaftafell and Vatnajökull National Parks are home to some spectacular glaciers, waterfalls and hiking trails. Another one of Iceland's most frequently visited national parks is Þingvellir (or the anglicised version, Thingvellir). Not only is it one of the three stops on Iceland’s famed Golden Circle route, but it also has a fascinating history concerning Iceland's government.

Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Thingvellir National Park - When to visit 

The most popular time of year to visit Thingvellir National Park is from May to September. Not only are there more hours of daylight, but the weather is more pleasant during this time of year. It's also fishing season on lake Þingvallavatn. During the summer months of June, July and August, the weather is especially lovely. You will also find many day tours running from Reykjavik. It's a bit colder in the winter, especially December January and February. Reduced daylight hours will not afford you as much time to see the park, so we recommend visiting during the warmer months.

Thingvellir National Park - How to Get There

Located about 28 mi (45 km) northeast of Reykjavik, there are several different roads that you can take to reach Thingvellir National Park. If you’re coming from Reykjavik, take Road 1 going north. Once you’ve driven through Mosfellsbær, take the first exit on the right in the roundabout. This exit will lead you to Road 36, which goes to Thingvellir.

When coming from other stops on the Golden Circle like Geysir and Gullfoss, you’ll need to take Road 35 which goes to Road 37 towards Laugarvatn. Once you’ve gotten to the roundabout just outside Laugarvatn, take the first exit to your right onto Road 365 and then Road 36 to Thingvellir.

Icelandic flag marking location of Althingi in Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park - What to See and Do

Besides fishing and hiking, you can also go horseback riding and diving at Thingvellir. Perhaps one of the most interesting activities at the park is the Silfra fissure. For those who don’t know, Iceland is literally splitting in two! The volcanic island sits atop the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are slowly moving apart. The result? A massive crack in the ground that is growing year after year. Seeing continental drift in action and up close is pretty cool. Just be sure you don’t fall!

Camping is another favorite activity in the park. You can camp in two different areas during high season, from the beginning of June to the end of September. Children under the age of 13 can camp for free, and a group of 10 or more adults receives a 15% discount when they pay in full. You’ll need to obtain camping and fishing permits from the Information Center when you arrive. Þingvallakirkja or “the church at Þingvellir” is also open daily from mid-May to early September.

Lastly, Iceland's Parliament or Althingi started here. It's the oldest Parliament in the world, dating back to 930 AD. You'll find this extremely important historical site in the park.

© All rights reserved

Friday, 22 June 2018

Visit Iceland's Askja Volcano and Caldera

There’s just something about volcanoes that fascinates us. Maybe it’s the sheer power of their lava flows or the fact that they have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. It could also be the fact that the lurking giant could erupt at any moment. Regardless of your reason, if you are a fan of volcanoes, then you should definitely come to Iceland. It’s known as the Land of Fire and Ice in part due to the large number of volcanoes. One of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland is Askja along with its crater lakes and calderas.

Askja volcano and caldera in Iceland

Iceland has about 30 active volcanoes, and the one you may have heard of most recently is Eyjafjöll. Its eruption in 2010 grounded flights in European airspace for almost a week. But what about Askja? The name actually refers to zone with a volcanic mountain range located in Iceland’s Highlands north of Vatnajökull glacier. The area is famous for its calderas and volcanic crater lakes. A caldera is created when a volcano erupts, and it’s so powerful that the top of the magma chamber implodes. The volcano essentially collapses in on itself, which forms a crater.

Because Askja is in the Highlands, you can really only access it in the summer. The F-roads that lead inland are closed during the winter, so if you are planning a trip to this area make sure you come at the right time of year. Another important detail to keep in mind is that to access these F-roads, a 4x4 all-terrain vehicle is mandatory. If you’re taking a road trip around Iceland, you may not have rented one of these types of vehicles. Fear not, as there are a large number of companies and tour operators offering tours and excursions to Askja, Lake Myvatn and surrounding areas. You can also rent a jeep or go on a Super Jeep tour.

You can rent a Super Jeep or go on an excursion to visit Askja caldera and volcano

Close to Askja is Viti Crater, which is part of the Krafla volcano range. You can walk along the rim to look down at the turquoise blue water. The water is pretty warm as well (77 °F or 25 °C) so taking a swim is a favorite activity for families, hikers and others. It can be a bit difficult getting there as there are sharp rocks on the trail and descending to the crater itself can be a bit slippery. If you plan on hiking this route be sure to take good hiking boots and be very careful while trekking.

This makes a great destination for those looking to do something a little unusual during their trip to Iceland. Hiking through lava fields and swimming in blue-green calderas isn’t something you do every day. Experiences like this are what make trips to Iceland memorable, unique, and worth repeating.

© All rights reserved

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Where to Rent Camping Gear in Reykjavik

One of the most popular ways to see Iceland is to do a camping road trip around the country’s Ring Road. But it's a bit of a hassle to lug all of your camping gear on the plane. Additionally, Iceland's harsh climate requires tents and sleeping bags designed for more extreme elements than you may be used to at home. Many times it's easier to just rent locally and return your specialized gear after the trip. We've created a list of the best camping rental equipment stores in Reykjavik to help you out. You can buy or rent camping gear once you've landed to be fully prepared for your camping trip to Iceland.

Rent camping gear in Reykjavik and enjoy a sunset mountain vista like this one

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Iceland Camping Equipment Rental 

Address: Barónsstígur 5, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 647 0569

Think of this as your one-stop-shop for any and all equipment for your Iceland camping needs. They've got everything you could ever possibly hope to rent for your camping adventure. Maps, tents, portable wifi, GPS, stoves, sleeping bags, gas canisters, the list goes on. You can peruse the selection of items in their online store and pre-order the camping gear you want to rent from the comfort of your own home. Also, their extremely knowledgeable staff can provide any advice and support you might need.

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Gangleri Outfitters 

Address: Hverfisgata 82, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
Phone: +354 583 2222

Lots of Iceland blogs and travel forums list this as one of the top camping equipment rental stores in Reykjavik. They offer items both to sell and rent. Much like the aforementioned Iceland Camping Equipment Rental, they also have a wide range of products to meet your camping needs. This store is not as big as our first recommendation, but you'll still find plenty of things here. From first aid kits to hiking boots and snowshoes, they’ve got you covered.

Reykjavik's best camping rental equipment stores rent tents, hiking shoes, hiking poles like these

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Fjallakofinn 

Address: Laugavegur 11, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 510 9511

This camping equipment store, whose name means “mountain hut” in Icelandic, is one of the higher end options for camping gear. In addition to equipment and accessories, they also offer clothing. They have a wide selection of items to purchase including thermal clothing and other pieces to keep you warm. You can also shop for other outdoor activities such as skiing and snowboarding. While they don’t have as many items for rent as the other two stores, you should definitely pop into their shop on Reykjavik's famed Laugavegur shopping street and have a look.

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Rent-a-Tent 

Address: Smiðjuvegur 6, Rauð gata, 200 Kópavogur, Iceland
Phone: +354 848 5805

This camping renting equipment is store precisely what it says. If you're looking to rent a tent, this no-frills shop is your spot. They’ve got you covered with the basic for camping gear rental without all of the bells and whistles of some other stores. It should be noted that this store is just outside of Reykjavik in the town of Kópavogur. But if you’re camping in Iceland, you’ll probably have already picked up your vehicle at the airport

Rental all of the camping gear in this flatlay in Reykjavik

We hope this list of stores where you can rent camping gear in Reykjavik has helped. You’re going to have an unforgettable time camping in Iceland, so let us know how your trip goes!

© All rights reserved

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Secret Solstice Music Festival is Here

We are only one day away from the official start of summer. Every year around June 21st, people breath a little easier knowing that the days are going to be longer, the weather will be warmer, and midday drinks on patios are not only socially acceptable but somewhat expected. If you are looking to truly soak up all the rays you possibly can, while listening to tasty tunes, and having an experience unlike any other, then Reykjavik's Secret Solstice Festival is right up your alley.

Crowds at Iceland Secret Solstice Music Festival

Fun fact about Iceland’s capital city: not only is it the northernmost capital city in the world but during the summer solstice, it experiences up to 96 hours of continuous sunlight. If you think you read wrong, you didn’t: there are up to 96 hours of non-stop daylight during the solstice. I can’t think of a better way to usher in summer 2018 then going to a festival with an insane musical lineup while being bombarded with vitamin D.

The four-day festival will feature an eclectic line up that is sure to have something for every music lover. There are just too many big names to name performing at the festival, but I’ll give you a taste: British Grime phenom Stormzy, legends of death metal Slayer, founders of funk themselves George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, EDM grandmaster Steve Aoki, the multitalented hip-hop producer and artist Goldlink, and many, many more.

The festival is not only unique in the circumstances surrounding the weather (96 hours of continuous sunlight cannot be stressed enough), the diverse lineup of artists that will be taking the stage, but also some of the packages offered for this festival are absolutely out of this world. Festival goers may have some hesitancy surrounding packages and music festivals, especially after 2017's infamous Fyre festival fiasco.

Secret Solstice Music Festival

No one wants to end up stranded, sitting in FEMA disaster relief tents, eating cold ham sandwiches, wishing they could post something cool to Instagram. I would also hazard a guess to say no one wants to see a picture of a sad millennial’s ham sandwich either. Worry not music festival lovers. Secret Solstice has got you covered. This will be the fifth year of the Secret Solstice festival. They have been around the block. And, if you are still on the fence about going, the festival recently received a nomination from the European Festival Awards. There is good reason why they have earned the distinction as, “The Worlds Most Unique Festival.”

This prestigious title puts pressure on the festival organizers to keep it fresh and exciting year after year. This year they have met or exceeded expectations, and will easily hold onto that distinction once again. The “Must-See: Festival Pass + Hotel” package is a steal and will put you in the lap of luxury while you bounce between acts like Gucci Mane and Death From Above. Meant for couples or those seeking a luxury experience, the package includes a stay downtown at the magnificent Hotel Reykjavik Natura for three nights, with a queen bed, and a whole slew of amenities (wifi, electronic key cards, etc.).

If hotels are too fancy for you, they offer the “Must-See: Festival Pass + Camping Pass.” I have always been under the impression that camping is the way to go when it comes to music festivals. It gives you an excellent opportunity to meet people, inundate yourself in the festival atmosphere, and most importantly, it is much cheaper. For those with families or who can afford it, the hotel package may seem more attractive. International travelers may worry about lugging their camping equipment on flights, and subsequently showing up to the festival a sweaty mess. The Secret Solstice festival has options to rent tents, and if you pre-order they even have it set up for you by the time you arrive.

Camp out at Reykjavik's Secret Solstice Music Festival

Music and accommodation packages aside, 14 Iceland excursions are offered apart from the festival. 14 trip options, 96 hours of sunlight, and some of the most popular musical acts touring! What’s not to love? Trips range from glacier excursions that bring you to the Langjökull Glacier ice cap where you will rediscover your sense of wonder as you wander through the 500 meter long ice cave, to a day trip where you will experience the undeniable, overwhelming cuteness of the Icelandic Puffin (there is also whale watching on this tour, but let’s be honest with ourselves: we want to see the puffins, we want to steal the puffins, we need to befriend a puffin). These tours take you to and from the festivals and may serve as a significant change of pace from the festival atmosphere.

Festivals are great avenues for making new friends, experiencing new music, and having a great excuse to nosh on festival food. The main issue with international festivals is that festival goers rarely have an opportunity to take in the culture of the country they are visiting. The cost and logistics of getting to and from a festival in another country are overwhelming enough. However, Secret Solstice makes that travel worth it.

You can quickly and affordably split your time between seeing your favorite musical acts, and seeing aspects of Iceland that you would otherwise not have time or money to visit. Also, there is going to be 96 hours of continuous sunlight due to the summer solstice (if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, it will blow your mind, and you also might fall into a slight hibernation after the festival is over). Whether you are looking for an excuse to go to Iceland, start your summer off with a unique music festival, or if you want to see Gucci Mane and then immediately go hang out with some puffins, then Secret Solstice festival is perfect for you. Make sure you pack your sunglasses and sunscreen as there is going to be 96 hours of continuous sunlight (in case you can't tell, I still cannot get over it).

Magnús, Iceland24
© All rights reserved

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

6 Travel Photography Tips for Iceland

Iceland is probably one of the most photographable places on earth. Its varied landscapes provide the perfect backdrops for your travel photos. Some say you can simply point anywhere, click, and you’ll come up with a great picture every time. While that may be true, we’d also like to give some additional travel photography tips for Iceland as well as some do’s and don’ts. So grab your cameras shutterbugs, let’s jump right in!

Iceland Travel Photography Tips Young Woman with Camera

Iceland Photography Tip #1: Don’t get bogged down by equipment 

Iceland is a place where you will spend a lot of time outdoors. You’ll do a lot of hiking, exploring and walking to find the perfect shot. The last thing you need is to be carrying too much equipment, so pack light.

Iceland Photography Tip #2: Do bring your tripod

While we don’t want you to get too weighed down with tons of different lenses, accessories and the like, one item you should definitely bring is a tripod. You’ll want one of these for those long exposure shots of waterfalls, both big and small. And not to mention the Northern Lights, which require a slower shutter speed.

Iceland Photography Tip #3: Protect your camera from the elements 

Icelandic weather is notorious for being changeable. You’ll want to protect your precious, expensive equipment from the rain and snow by carrying some kind of rain sleeve. Although to be honest, having an umbrella often works better as it will protect the front elements of the camera. And of course, there’s always the old standby of a plastic bag or case for when things really start to go crazy.

Protect your camera in the snow with Iceland travel photography tips

Iceland Photography Tip #4: Please watch where you step

This warning is two-fold. First, Iceland has a very delicate ecosystem, and the rise in tourism has been almost overwhelming for the small country. Many of its flora and fauna are being destroyed due to careless tourists, and I know you don’t want to fall into that category. Respect the signs of where you are and are not allowed to go. Secondly, Iceland can be quite dangerous, so please use common sense when trying to get that perfect shot. We want you to come home from your Iceland vacation unscathed.

Iceland Photography Tip #5: Bring your wide angle lens 

Iceland is famous for its sweeping landscapes, and the last thing you want to do is get boxed in with a narrow lens. Sure, you could stitch them together later in Photoshop or the photo editing program of your choice, but why not cut out the middleman? You’ll also want to be sure you’re bringing lots high capacity memory cards. As you know, shooting in RAW mode takes up tons of space, but it’s necessary to have the best files for photo editing.

Iceland Photography Tip #6: Try various angles

One of the differences between a good photo and a great photo could just be the difference of moving left or right by a few feet, climbing up on a rock, or even crouching down on the ground. As any seasoned photographer knows, you rarely get the perfect shot on the first try. You can take dozens (or even hundreds!) of shots just to get the right one. The beauty of digital cameras is that you’re not wasting tons of film if you take a lot of photos. Now, you can just delete the unwanted pics from the memory card on your DSLR.

Bringing a wide angle lens is an Iceland travel photography tip

Hopefully, these tips will help you get the most out of your photographic expedition to Iceland. You’ll bring home unforgettable photos of this unique and beautiful land. Maybe you can even share them with us on our Facebook page.

© All rights reserved

Monday, 18 June 2018

The interesting story of Greenland and Iceland and its hidden connection

While many of us have heard the names Greenland and Iceland, something both places have in common is they are almost entirely unknown to the general public. They seem to be so far away, up there close to the North Pole, that the information we get in the media is quite scarce. This blog is all about learning, and Iceland is our main topic. That is why today, we want to share the intriguing story of Greenland and Iceland, whose connection is stronger than you may think.

Glacier in Greenland, not to be confused with Iceland

Both islands are in the North Atlantic Ocean, quite close to the Arctic Circle. This line does cross some areas of Iceland, as well as Greenland. Many believe that Greenland is a country, but that's not exactly true. This enormous island is part of the kingdom of Denmark as a self-constituent state, so it is similar to a country but not quite. I know, politics always make things more complicated. If you have been reading our blog, you may already know that Iceland was also part of the Danish kingdom before becoming an independent country.

As you can see, Greenland and Iceland seem to have a similar political past, but there is way more than that. Let’s dig into it!

The Story of Greenland and Iceland – The Settlement of Both Islands

Traveling back in time, we'll find some links between Greenland and Iceland. Iceland is a Viking nation because the Vikings settled on the island back in the 9th century. The same thing happened to Greenland. The Norsemen, who were powerful seafarers, also discovered this remote island around the 10th century while they were trying to get to Iceland.

Despite this common past, there is also a huge difference between these two lands. In the case of Iceland, when the Norse arrived there were no inhabitants other than a few Irish monks who were there for a spiritual retreat. They ended up being expelled by the fierce Vikings. In the case of Greenland, it had been settled by the Inuit. The Inuit are indigenous people of northern Canada who traveled from North America and ended up in Greenland.

Viking ships sailing to conquer

Unlike the Irish monks, the Inuit ended up staying in Greenland, and that is why nowadays 80% of the population are Greenlandic Inuit. By contrast, in Iceland, the vast majority of the population descends directly from Viking settlers.

The Story of Greenland and Iceland – Where do their names come from?

Both lands have very descriptive names. One could think, well they chose Iceland because the country is full of ice and Greenland because the territory is green, right? Well not quite. The truth is only 11% of Iceland is covered by ice, while Greenland is 80% ice. That's not so green. So how come they have those names?

Besides talking about the origins of these two nations, it seems we should also talk about marketing during the Viking era. Erik the Red was expelled from Iceland for manslaughter. He and his family ended up in this newly found land they decided to call Greenland, hoping this would attract many settlers to the area. This way, people would think the land was lavish and green even though it wasn't.

Green landscapes in Iceland

In the case of Iceland, some say the name comes from the icy sights the first settlers found when arriving at the island. But there is also a different story stating that since the land was tough but still fertile and habitable, the Vikings named it Iceland to scare newcomers away.

The Story of Greenland and Iceland – Other shared similarities 

  • Even though Greenland is closer to North America than to Europe, it has more in common with Icelandic and European culture. Maybe the Danes have something to do with it. 
  • Both countries have long, dark winter nights where one can enjoy the Northern Lights. But when the summer finally arrives, both nations have the Midnight Sun. That means the sun doesn't set at all! 
  • Greenland and Iceland rely heavily on their fishing industry and have a strong seafood culinary tradition.

© All rights reserved