Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Vatnsnes Peninsula - Seals in the north of Iceland

Located about 200 km from Reykjavik, Vatnsnes is a peninsula in northern Iceland, home to Iceland's largest seal colony. The main town of the peninsula, Hvammstangi, which has a population of 600 inhabitants, is located six kilometers from the main road (Route 1), and in addition to an obligatory visit to the seal center, you can enjoy one of the restaurants, a stay at a guesthouses, a visit to a store or the pool. The Seal Center is open from 9 am to 7 pm from June to August, from 9 am to 4 pm in May and September and from 10 am to 3 pm the rest of the year. The entrance fee is 950 kronur (about 7 euros).

The Vatnsnes Peninsula - Seals in the north of Iceland

Route 711 goes around the peninsula along the coast, but it's almost entirely a track road, with only a small part of it paved. The peninsula is surrounded by the bay of Húnaflói, also know as the "bay of the bears" because several polar bears have come ashore here in the past. The main viewpoints of Vatnsnes are Borgarvirki, Hvítserkur, Illugastaðir and Kolugljúfur, a very scenic canyon with beautiful waterfalls.

The Vatnsnes Peninsula - Seals in the north of Iceland

Borgarvirki is a volcanic plug that was used as a fortress in the Sagas; Located at 177 meters in height, it dominates the region. Stairs lead to the top of this natural fortress, but the road is full of pebbles and slippery - though, if you reach the summit, a magnificent view awaits you.

Hvitserkur is a basalt formation 15 meters high, which has two holes at its base and resembles a dragon drinking water. Legend has it that Hvítserkur is a petrified troll. There is a small car park and picnic area at Ósar, where you can leave your vehicle and go by foot on the walking path to reach Hvítserkur. If you would like to view it from the top, there is a path available from the beach, in the summertime watch out for the Arctic tern, as there are many of these birds in the area at this time.

The Vatnsnes Peninsula - Seals in the north of Iceland

The best viewpoints for observing seals are Hindisvík, Ósar, Svalbarð, Illugastaðir and Hvítserkur. The best time to observe seals is two hours after low tide, and the chances of seeing them are especially high if the weather is mild. Every year in July, you can participate with some of the Illugastaðir locals, in the counting of seals. It is also a nice place for a coffee and something to eat.

The Vatnsnes Peninsula - Seals in the north of Iceland

The old farm of Geitafell is also worth seeing on the peninsula; today it is a small museum located in the middle of nowhere, with a tower worthy of a castle, which you can visit from May to September.

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Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Tips for travelling on a budget in Iceland

More and more people are booking flights to Iceland due to the attractive prices offered by airlines, however, once they get there they realise that their spending costs are high. Is it possible to travel to Iceland on a small budget?

The answer is mixed. Yes, we can travel to Iceland "cheaply", but it involves a lot of organisation and flexibility - if you want to participate in excursions, go to the highlands, hike on a glacier, fly over a volcano and stay in a hotel, your trip will end up being expensive. There is no secret, it is not possible to see and do everything on a tight budget, but with planning, you can still see and do quite a lot.

Tips for travelling on a budget in Iceland

The popularity of Iceland has led many airlines to offer direct flights, and more and more low-cost carriers are available: Wow air from Europe and North America, EasyJet or Transavia (subsidiary Air France). By booking in advance, you can find very good deals. The Icelandic airline, Icelandair, also has occasional flash deals where you can book a round trip to Iceland for less than 250 euros.

Tips for travelling on a budget in Iceland

On-site car rental is a good way to travel -this is certainly not cheap, but it gives you a flexibility that you will not get with public transport; for example, car rental may suit families or groups more as they will spend more on bus fares collectively to travel from place to place. Moreover, domestic flights are incredibly expensive. If you are travelling alone, consider getting a bus passport, or try to find fellow travellers to rent a car together. The carpooling website samferda.is can also be a good idea.

Tips for travelling on a budget in Iceland

Accommodation is certainly expensive in Iceland. Travel out of the high tourist season (June-August) to get lower prices, use airbnb, save a few euro by staying in a guesthouse with shared bathroom facilities, camp if you are travelling in the summer time, or try Couchsurfing - even though this is difficult in Iceland. The hostels have fairly reasonable prices but it is imperative to book several months in advance if you go in the summer.

Forget the traditional restaurants and opt to eat out in a cafe where you can avail of various lunch offers. Expect to pay around 15 euros for soup or salad. Eating out is an expensive element of travelling in Iceland. If it is possible to prepare your own food, do it and you will save a lot of money.

Tips for travelling on a budget in Iceland

Going on tours can be difficult if your budget is tight, even if some agencies have quite competitive prices. But do not worry - Iceland is full of wonders, whether your wallet is empty or full.

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Sunday, 7 January 2018

Looking for a getaway? The isolated Vesturbyggð, in Westfjords

Vesturbyggð is located in the south of the Westfjords, Iceland. The main villages Birkimelur, Bíldudalur, and Patreksfjörður form the municipality of Verturbyggð. These destinations are way off the beaten track, but like most places in Iceland, are becoming increasingly popular for travellers. The landscape in the West Fjords is both magnificent and fragile, and so it's important for visitors to respect the local plant life and vegetation.

Looking for a getaway? The isolated Vesturbyggð, in Westfjords

Patreksfjörður has 700 inhabitants and got its name from its first settler, Örlygur Hrappson whose spirit guide was St. Patrick. The campsite in Patrekfjörður is relatively new, with excellent facilities including showers, toilets, a washing machine, dryer, and a kitchen. This high standard camping site is a good practice run for visitors in Iceland who wish to get used to camping in the unpredictable Icelandic summer weather. South of Patreksfjörður you can admire the highest mountain in the Westfjords, Kalbakur (998 meters).

Looking for a getaway? The isolated Vesturbyggð, in Westfjords

They are so many wonderful outdoor activities to try in Patreksfjörður in the summer time. You can rent a bicycle, or take a fishing trip out to sea, or just walk and admire the many birds in the area, such as the white-tailed eagle, the razorbill, the guillemot, and the gannet. One of the main attractions in Patreksfjörður is Látrabjarg (a rock 14 kilometers long and up to 440 meters high) where thousands of nesting birds live in the summer time, including the puffin. If you're lucky, you will see the arctic fox (the only non-marine mammal native to Iceland), which is more commonly seen on the coastline of Iceland. You can see plenty of seals around the rocks at Látravík, Rauðasandur, and at Látrabjarg, Patreksfjörður Fjord where you can also see whales if you go out to sea.

The valleys of Sauðlauksdalur and Rauðasandur ("red sand") are known for their large variety of natural herbs used for culinary and medical purposes. In 1758, an Icelandic priest in Sauðlauksdalur was the first to grow potatoes and vegetables in Iceland. These valleys are home to beautiful promenades and are a paradise for botanists!

Looking for a getaway? The isolated Vesturbyggð, in Westfjords

Birkimelur is a quiet community whose main attraction is the local pool, as with many villages in Iceland. Nearby at Birkimelur, near the road number 60, you can bask in the natural water hot pot, Hellulaug (N65 ° 34 '36,661 "W23 ° 9' 48.289").

Bíldudalur is a village of about 200 inhabitants that organises an annual alternative folk festival called Baunagrasið. The local music museum exhibits Melodiur Minninganna“ (Melodies of Memories) immersing you in the Icelandic pop music of yesteryear with songs that are delightful to the ears!

Looking for a getaway? The isolated Vesturbyggð, in Westfjords

A little further, to Arnarfjörður, is the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum, that tells the story of sightings of sea creatures around the local area ... Arnarfjörður is one of the most beautiful western fjords, with its varied landscapes and towering mountains and above all, Arnarfjörður is known for sheltering the majestic waterfall Dynjandi, from an impressive height of 100 meters.

Looking for a getaway? The isolated Vesturbyggð, in Westfjords

While checking out the local area, don´t forget to go visit the small village of Látravík that is surrounded by beautiful coves with almost turquoise water and white sand beaches.

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Wednesday, 27 December 2017

3 gems in the Highlands of Iceland to visit this summer!

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is a pearl of the highlands of Iceland, located in the nature reserve of Fjallabak. It is found at the extremity of the lava field of Laugahraun and was formed during a volcanic eruption in 1477. This place is known for the beauty of its landscape, its geothermal sources and hiking trails - the surrounding nature is breathtaking.

3 gems in the Highlands of Iceland to visit this summer!

You can take three roads to reach the site, but it is not accessible by 2x4 vehicle, and it is advisable to have a 4x4 of sufficient size to reach it. You can also take a bus to Landmannalaugar (from Reykjavík, Selfoss, Hella or Leirubakki) or join a super jeep excursion.

3 gems in the Highlands of Iceland to visit this summer!

Þórsmörk

Thórsmörk or Þórsmörk, a small mountain range in southern Iceland, is a beautiful area where you can enjoy Icelandic nature to the fullest. Surrounded by the Krossá valley to the south and Þrönga and Markafljót to the north, the region is one of the most popular in the country for hiking. The vegetation of the region is lush because it is a protected area, and the climate is very mild because the valley is surrounded by glaciers. It is therefore generally better weather in Thórsmörk than in the rest of southern Iceland.

3 gems in the Highlands of Iceland to visit this summer!

Thórsmörk offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the valley offers many hiking opportunities. The most popular hikes are well signposted and information is available to find out which hiking route is best suited to your level and desires.

3 gems in the Highlands of Iceland to visit this summer!

From 1 May to 15 October, a daily 4x4 bus journey takes you from BSI Reykjavík to Thórsmörk. You can also join a super-jeep tour to get to the site.

Askja

Located in Iceland's remote highlands, Askja is a caldera of 45 km² (a crater formed by the collapse of a volcano) and it is filled with a splendid limpid blue lake: the Öskjuvatn, which, with its 217 m depth, is the deepest lake in Iceland. Right next to this lake is a second lake with green and milky waters in the Vìti crater. The volcanic zone is active (the last eruption dates from 1961).

3 gems in the Highlands of Iceland to visit this summer!

The discovery of this giant crater offers a true lesson in volcanology, a must-see experience on a trip to Iceland. Many travelers also descend to the crater to bathe in its warm waters despite the surrounding snows that never really leave the area. An unusual experience and memories are guaranteed!

3 gems in the Highlands of Iceland to visit this summer!

Access to Askja requires an all-terrain vehicle (4x4) whether you come from the North or from the East. You can also join a 4x4 or super jeep tour.

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Monday, 25 December 2017

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

For thirteen nights from December 12th until 24th, Icelandic children leave one shoe in the window, and while sleeping, the thirteen Icelandic “Santa Clauses" arrive one by one to drop a small gift in the shoe of well-behaved kids, and a potato in the shoe of the naughty ones. The thirteen Santa Clauses are the children of the trolls Leppalúði and Grýla, and leave one by one after Christmas to go back to the mountains where they live.

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

Þórlaksmessa is on December 23rd; it's the day where you can enjoy Skata or Skate (a fish related to sharks and has a strange smell). Many Icelanders boil smoked meat, hangikjöt, so their house smells of good food. Most shops stay open until 23 hours to allow those last minute shoppers to buy their christmas gifts.

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

Aðfangadagur is Christmas Eve, December 24th, and it is the most important day of the Christmas calendar in Iceland. This evening the family gathers to share a meal, hear Mass on the radio or go to the local church and this is also the time when people exchange and open their Christmas presents. The evening is spent reading the new books received as gifts, playing board games and eating chocolate.

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

The story goes that the Christmas Cat, Jólakötturinn, carries children who do not receive new clothes as a gift into the mountains!

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

On the Icelandic Christmas dinner table, you can find smoked meat, hangikjöt, the laufabrauð (bread that resembles a cracker decorated with motifs drawn by hand before baking with a small knife). The meat is usually pork, hamborgarhryggur, but some people eat ptarmigan (rjúpa) they have hunted themselves. For dessert, they often serve homemade cookies, known as smákökur, and the number and variety often show the baking skills of the hostess.

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

On Christmas Day, Jóladagur, December 25th, is a repeat of the previous day. Icelanders meet with their families and share a good meal together… December 26th( is the second Christmas) annar í jólum.

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

Gamlársdagur, literally "the day of the old year" is on 31st December. The festivities begin at 18 o'clock, just like on Christmas Eve. Some people go to church or attend a big bomb fire. On this night, everyone is enjoying a good meal and afterward, look at the comedy Áramótaskaupið on television, a satirical program that includes all the past year's events. At midnight, the Icelandic set off the fireworks they’ve purchased the previous days leading up to the New Year. Nýársdagur is January 1.

How is Christmas celebrated in Iceland? - New Year's Eve in Iceland

Þrettándinn is January 6, and it is the last day of the festivities. Everyone takes down their Christmas trees and decorations, and the last Christmas elf goes back into mountains. The last of the fireworks go off this day.

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Saturday, 23 December 2017

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

It's difficult to choose the right time to go to Iceland because each month and each season has its own charm. The month of January reveals the winter in all its splendor, and marks the beginning of long months of cold, darkness and snow.

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

Temperatures in January oscillate between -1 ° C and 1 ° C; This is the coldest month of the year, and temperatures can drop to -10 ° C. The sun rises at about 11 am and sets at around 3 pm, and on a grey day you may get the impression that there is no daylight at all! The phenomenon is reversed in summer, where the bright nights give the impression that it is never night!

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

In winter, roads and trails leading to the highlands are inaccessible, as are most of the secondary roads - always check the road conditions on the Icelandic road administration site. If you stay on the main road a 4x4 is not compulsory but highly recommended. It is not a good idea to travel in Iceland in the winter with a small city car - if you decide not to rent a 4x4 make sure you take a large car and not a small sedan.

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

When traveling in January, do not expect to make the round trip to Jökulsárlón during the day or the tour of the island via road number one in six days. Travel times increase by about a third when travelling on snow, ice and in the dark. However, the snowy scenery is magnificent and the month of January is one of the snowiest of the year! With caution and organization, it is quite possible to explore the country in this season. If you are not comfortable driving on the snow, you can enjoy day trips that will take you to northern Iceland, for example.

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

The month of January will give you the opportunity to observe the Northern Lights, provided the sky is clear. Follow our tips to maximize your chances of seeing them, or join an excursion. There is no shortage of winter activities: snow scooters, sled dogs, excursions to the northern lights, walks in the city or in the countryside, and discovery of cultural life are all possible choices at this time of year. If you like skiing, it is also a very good time to come to Iceland! In Reykjavik, you can ice skate on the frozen lake in the city centre.

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

We can not repeat it enough: go to the pool! It is a wonderful way to experience the joy of bathing and to get acquainted with the Icelandic way of life. Can you imagine a better way to relax than basking in a bath at 40 ° C, surrounded by snow and darkness? If you prefer a more luxurious experience, the blue lagoon or the Mývatn baths are good options for bathing.

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

The Icelandic authorities seem to be anxious to promote Iceland in the off-season but there is plenty to occupy travellers and locals during this dark period. The Icelandic capital is always full of events and exhibitions.

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

The festival "Dark Music Days" is a contemporary music festival that was created in 1980 and continues today, on the darkest days of the year. You can also participate in the Icelandic tradition of swimming in the Atlantic on the first day of the year. See you on the 1st of January, along with other brave people, on Nauthólsvík beach! Rest assured, a hot-pot awaits you after the swim!

January in Iceland. What to do in Iceland?

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