Friday, 21 September 2018

Iceland in Winter: 5-day Itinerary - Days 1 and 2

Although Iceland is considered by many to be a summer destination, those who come during the winter months are in for a wonderful surprise. The country is magically transformed from a place of lush, green scenery with flowing waterfalls into a frozen, icy landscape that much resemble a wintery snow globe. The Midnight Sun is replaced by the dancing Aurora Borealis as frost and snow blanket the ground in December, January, and February. Following a 5-day winter itinerary in Iceland is the perfect way to experience a wide array of the island’s most popular attractions. Traveling in Iceland during wintertime also has the added benefits of lower prices on everything from car rental to accommodation, less traffic on the roads, and the absence of hordes of tourists all jostling for the perfect spot to take selfies.

Frozen Gullfoss waterfall at sunset is part of any 5-day itinerary in Iceland

Before we dive into our 5-day itinerary for Iceland, I do feel the need to briefly mention what to pack. Iceland winter is not as extreme as the frozen tundra many people believe it to be. A good comparison would be winter in New York. It is important, however, to dress warmly and dress well. Bring thermal clothing, plenty of warm layers, a good pair of hiking boots (waterproof if possible), and a well-insulated, waterproof jacket. The days are short, and the cold can be intense. You want to be prepared for the weather, which can change at a moment's notice.

Day One: Arrival in Reykjavik

You've flown into Keflavik International Airport (KEF) and picked up your car rental. Now it's time to make the 50-minute drive to Iceland's capital. Be wary of icy conditions on the roads and always drive with caution. Windiness and poor visibility can make the drive take up to an hour. If the weather forecast shows calm conditions, we suggest taking the slightly longer and more scenic Route 420. In taking this less congested way to get to Reykjavik, you'll drive along the sea through the Reykjanes peninsula's black lava fields and otherworldly terrains

Depending on what time of day you arrive you will either check into your hotel and go to sleep or spend the day exploring Reykjavik. If you have extra time in the city and need some ideas for what to do, check out some of the suggestions for activities from some of our blog's previous articles about Reykjavik:

View of Reykjavik in the wintertime. The perfect place to start your five days in Iceland

Don't stay out too late though! You've got a big day ahead and want to be refreshed and ready to go in the morning.

Day 2: The Best of Nature with Iceland’s Iconic Golden Circle Route

The Golden Circle is one of the most popular day trips from Reykjavik and rightfully so. During your day out exploring the 186 mi (300 km) circuit, you will get to see some of the most popular attractions in Iceland for tourists.

Thingvellir National Park 

The day starts at Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most notable feature here is probably the Silfra Fissure. The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates collide in this spot, and there is a gaping tear in the ground where the Earth is actually coming apart. More adventurous travelers can go scuba diving between the plates in the summer. The park also holds a special historical significance for Iceland as it is the home of both Iceland's first parliament and in fact, the world's first parliament. The Althingi (the Icelandic government) held its first tribal meetings of the country’s most powerful chieftains here in 930 AD.

Geysir and Strokkur Geysers in Haukadalur Geothermal Area 

The 37 mi (60 km) drive from Thingvellir to the Haukadalur geothermal area will take a little over an hour. The lunar landscape is covered with steamy hot springs and bubbling mud pools due to the volcanic activity boiling just below the surface. In this zone, you'll find the famous Strokkur and Geysir geysers. While the eruptions at Geysir are much more impressive (its spewing column of hot water shoots 230 feet or 70 meters) into the air), Strokkur’s aquatic bursts are much more reliable. They happen every 10 minutes or so and launches 66 feet (20 meters) out of the ground. Tourists visiting should know that Geysir is not really that active anymore, but you are always guaranteed a spectacular show at Strokkur.

The powerful and explosive Strokkur geysir is part of your 5-day Iceland itinerary

Gullfoss Waterfall 

Once you've had your fill of geysers and national parks, it's time to head up the road for the last of the “Big Three” on Iceland's Golden Circle route. Gullfoss waterfall ( golden waterfall in Icelandic) has not one but two impressive drops to wow visitors. The waterfall’s second cascade falls 230 feet (70 meters) over icy cliffs into the chilly Hvítá canyon below.

Back to Reykjavik - Optional Stops

Head back to Reykjavik and have a night out on the town or stop beforehand in Stokkseyri, a cute little seaside town surrounded by the Þjórsárhraun lava field. They've got great lobster at their seafood restaurant Fjöruborðið, a favorite among locals. Be sure to try the "magical" langoustine soup; it's the restaurant's specialty and is legendary. Hveragerði Is also a popular bonus stop on the way back to Reykjavik. The town is known for its beautiful botanical gardens, lovely greenhouses, and geothermal activity.

Iceland in Winter: 5-day Itinerary - Days 1 and 2

You've had quite an eventful two days and have seen so much. But believe it or not, the best is yet to come. Tomorrow we will leave the Reykjavik region and head east on the Ring Road to explore Iceland's South Coast. Sleep well and see you soon.

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Wednesday, 19 September 2018

9 Famous People from Iceland You Might Not Know Are Icelandic

So, Iceland is a pretty small country. With a population of just under 340,000 people, our numbers are dwarfed by many cities around the world. Nevertheless, we have our fair share of talent, athletic excellence, and artistic minds. Maybe it's the cold weather, fresh Nordic air, and the fact that we have elves living among us, but there's something about Iceland that breeds creativity and imagination. So how many famous Icelanders can you name? Other than Björk, there are some famous people from Iceland that perhaps you did not know were Icelandic.

Iceland has many famous singers, actors, bands, musicians, and athletes

Famous People from Iceland #1: Actor Stefán Karl Stefánsson aka Robbie Rotten 

Stefán Karl Stefánsson was a stage and screen actor best known for his portrayal of Robbie Rotten on the Nick Jr. series LazyTown. Robbie was always getting up to no good by encouraging the other characters to eat junk food and not exercise. I personally don't see how this makes him a villain as I do much of the same. But I guess in the grand scheme of things, eating well and exercising are technically things that we should strive for. Sadly, he passed away due to cancer in August of 2018 at the young age of 43.

Famous People From Iceland #2: Musical Group Of Monsters and Men

Formed in 2010, this Reykjavik band is best known for the single Little Talks off of their 2011 album My Head is an Animal. The infectious, indie pop tune, with its brassy riff, is sure to bring back fond memories to all who hear it. The mostly black and white video is evocative of the Smashing Pumpkins ode Tonight, Tonight, which itself is inspired by the Georges Méliès classic A Trip to the Moon.

Famous People From Iceland #3: Musical Group Kaleo

This blues/rock quartet was founded in the town of Mosfellsbær (close to Reykjavik) in 2012 and has released two studio albums. Their 2016 hit Way Down We Go peaked at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart as well as the Top US Airplay chart. You might recognize the song from the movie Collateral Beauty and the trailers for the movie Logan or Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black.

Famous People from Iceland #4: Strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson aka The Mountain from Game of Thrones 

That's right, not only is Game of Thrones shot in Iceland but one of its bigger, scarier characters also hails from here. In addition to being an actor, the man who plays Gregor Clegane is also a professional strongman and currently holds the title of the World's Strongest Man. Who knew? He also had a brief career as a professional basketball player.

Famous People from Iceland #5 Singer Björk

You know we had to include Björk! Iceland's most famous singer-songwriter is usually top-of-mind when people talk about our small island. She got her start in an Icelandic band called the Sugarcubes, but it wasn't until she launched her solo career in 1993 with hits like Human Behavior that things really took off. And no one can forget the outlandishly iconic swan dress that the artist wore to the 2001 Academy Awards. Lady Gaga who?

Famous People from Iceland #6 Former President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

Speaking of famous Icelandic ladies, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is one you may not know but definitely should. She holds the distinction of being the first democratically elected female president in the world. She joined other female trailblazers such as Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Eva Peron, Margaret Thatcher when she became head of state in 1980. After serving for 16 years, she paved the way for future female Icelandic politicians such as former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and current Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Famous People from Iceland #7 Footballer Aron Gunnarsson

Much of the world got swept up in the would-be Cinderella story that was Iceland's bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Captain Aron Gunnarsson became the public face of the underdog squad and though he’s back playing for Cardiff City in the English Premier League, many will remember cheering for his team in the summer of 2018. Other famous Icelandic footballers include Gylfi Sigurðsson who plays for Swansea City in the English Premier League and Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, the striker for the French team Nantes.

Iceland has multiple famous football players, including World Cup team captain Aron Gunnarsson

Famous People from Iceland #8 Astronaut and Scientist Bjarni Tryggvason 

Did you know Iceland had an astronaut? Bjarni Tryggvason is an engineer who later became an astronaut based out of Canada. He flew on a 12-day mission in 1997 as a payload specialist on a Space Shuttle mission to study Earth’s atmosphere. He now teaches and trains astronauts at Houston’s NASA Space Center.

Famous People from Iceland #9 Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness 

Iceland’s only Nobel Prize Winner won for Literature back in 1955. Halldór Laxness wrote poetry, short stories, plays, novels, and newspaper articles.

Famous Singers, Musicians, Actors, and Athletes from Iceland

So now you know a little bit more about Iceland and some of its more famous sons and daughters. Can you believe that such a tiny country has produced so many notable people? Now, you'll finally be able to yell more than just “Björk!” at your next trivia night when somebody asks you to name a famous person from Iceland.

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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Iceland's Haunting DC-3 Plane Crash on Sólheimasandur Beach

In addition to cascading waterfalls and icy glaciers, one of the most iconic images of Iceland is the wreckage of a US Navy plane that crashed on its shores many decades ago. The abandoned fuselage on the black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur has been a popular destination for both photographers and tourists alike. While some may think that visiting the site of a plane crash is a bit morbid, don't worry. The entire crew of this military flight survived the impact of the forced landing. So how do you find Iceland’s famous DC-3 plane crash site? Can you still camp there? Let's look at how to arrive and some other frequently asked questions about the eerie Sólheimasandur plane crash site.

Haunting image of DC-3 plane crash fuselage on black sand beach of Sólheimasandur in Iceland

So what exactly happened at Sólheimasandur? 

In the fall of 1973, a US Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was flying near Vík in southern Iceland. The story goes that after experiencing severe icing and possibly having a fuel emergency, the plane was forced to crash-land on Sólheimasandur beach. In the 40-plus years since the incident, erosion from black sand and harsh Icelandic elements have left the plane with no wings or tail and filled with holes. The juxtaposition of the solitary white aircraft against the volcanic black sand beaches makes for quite the haunting image. It's no surprise that many photographers come here to capture the perfect photo of the desolate site. The alien-like scene must be especially striking in black and white.

How to find the Sólheimasandur crash site 

Arriving at the crash site is a bit more difficult than it used to be. in the past, you could simply drive up to the wreckage, park on the beach, and explore to your heart's content. As the site gained in popularity, the landowners slowly but surely grew inconvenienced and decided to ban all vehicle access. They did this not only for their own well being and peace of mind but also to protect local flora. Nowadays, you'll need to park your car in the small parking area next to Route 1 and hike about 4 km (2.4 mi) to the crash site.

Google Maps image of directions to walking path for DC-3 plane crash site on Sólheimasandur beach

Heading east on Iceland’s Ring Road between Skógafoss waterfall and the town of Vík, you'll find the path to the Sólheimasandur crash site on your right. The entrance is about 2 km (1.3 mi) after the yellow and black sign on the left which points to the Sólheimajökull glacier access road. This is a small dirt road, so pay attention. Blink and you might miss it. Once you’ve reached the area with several cars and campervans all gathered in one place, you’ve arrived at the right spot. Please look for the parking area and don't just park your car on the side of the road. Route 1 is Iceland's Ring Road and the last thing you want to do is make it difficult for other vehicles to pass.

When is the best time to visit? 

The area is quite remote and you need to walk a long way on a dirt trail, so it’s probably best to go during the day. While I do recommend going during daylight hours, if aurora activity is particularly high around the time of your visit you can probably get some stunning photos with the Northern Lights dancing in the background should you choose to go in the evening. If you find yourself in Iceland during the summer, take advantage of the light of the Midnight Sun. There will be fewer people at night and you get the benefit of having lots of sunlight.

The white fuselage against the black sand beach at Sólheimasandur is every photographer's dream

Can I still camp at the DC-3 crash site? 

While people have camped out close to the twisted wreckage up until a few years ago, now you won't see it. Relatively recent changes in Icelandic law require that anyone not using a campsite while camping in Iceland must obtain the permission of the landowner before spending the night on private property. Additionally, because you can no longer drive out to the crash site, it's going to be highly burdensome to lug all of your camping gear for an hour there and an hour back even if you did somehow manage to obtain permission to stay on site overnight. So while sleeping under the stars of an abandoned fuselage may sound really cool (which it does), the reality is that without a vehicle to transport and shelter you it’s going to be extremely difficult. This is especially true if the howling winds kick up at night and you get blown away!

Iceland's Famous DC-3 Plane Crash on Sólheimasandur Beach 

This is one of the more interesting and unusual stops along the south shore and Iceland’s Ring Road. If you’ve got the inclination (and stamina) to make your way out to the crash site, be sure to stop by this photographer’s paradise. Visiting the wreckage itself will take less than half an hour but you can also explore the black sand beach and try to find some miniature glaciers littering the shore.

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Friday, 7 September 2018

Things to Keep in Mind When You Rent a Car in Iceland

Renting a car and driving around the Ring Road is a great way to see Iceland. If you come here on vacation, your best bet is to rent a car and hit the road with nothing but your suitcase and your favorite playlist. During your Icelandic road trip, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. From car rental companies to things to watch out for to planning which gas stations you will stop at (yes, you need to do this in advance), here’s a quick primer to help you make the most out of your trip to Iceland. We hope our car rental tips and advice will help.

Three Icelandic Jeep rentals driving on a snowy road at sunset

Car Rental in Iceland - Best Car Rental Companies

First and foremost, you’ll want to get a rental from a reputable, local company. This may seem like obvious advice but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t really do their research when renting a car in Iceland. Check out Google Reviews or Trip Advisor to see the top companies and what people have to say about their experiences with these providers. It’s always a good idea to support locally owned and operated businesses, so we wholeheartedly recommend that. The level of customer service is a huge factor to consider when reading honest, customer-driven reviews of car rental companies. Nothing is worse than having to deal with a rude or incompetent customer service agent if your car breaks down or you have another problem with your rental. Cheap car rentals may be ideal for your pocketbook, but sometimes it’s better to spend a bit more and receive excellent customer service.

Check out our 2018 Car Rental Guide for an overview of the best car rental companies in Iceland.

Check out our official 2018 Car Rental Guide for Iceland

Practical Advice - Plan Your Stops at Gas Stations in Advance

Google Maps will be your best friend in Iceland for many reasons. In addition to providing driving times and distances for your trip, it can help you plan out your route by showing you where gas stations are located. Iceland’s roads, even the main ones, can get quite remote. Once you’ve left Reykjavik, you’ve can never be sure when your the next chance to fill up your tank will be. We recommend that when you are looking at a map to decide your stops and where you will stay overnight, you also look at which gas stations are along the way. Decide on where you will stop for gas so you never have to experience that dreaded feeling of seeing the reading on the fuel tank slink dangerously close to E without knowing where the nearest gas station is. Stay out of the scary red zone, plan your fuel stops in advance, and top up at reasonable intervals.

A quick tip: many gas stations have food and mini-supermarkets, If you haven’t stocked up at Bónus or some other discount supermarket chain, take advantage of these roadside oases to buy snacks, provisions or just some Icelandic hot dogs.

Watch Out For The Sheep! 

You may think I’m joking but this piece of advice is 100% serious. In many ways, Iceland is unlike anywhere on earth. If you’re a city slicker who is not used to country roads, you’re in for an unusual surprise when driving in Iceland. We let our beloved animals roam free and graze to their hearts’ content, so you’ll see sheep everywhere. Unless you’ve traveled somewhere like New Zealand, Scotland, or other countries with large rural areas, sheep blocking the road (or dashing out in front of your car) is probably not something that you’re used to. Well, be very careful and watch out for our wayward, adventurous friends. You’ll end up paying the cost of these little guys to their owner (and incur the wrath of an Icelandic sheepherder) should you hit a beloved member of the flock.

Sheep blocking the road and cars in Iceland

Care For Your Rental As If Your Life Depended On It 

Yes, this is another obvious point but hear me out. For some reason, people seem to think that they can take risks with rental cars that they would never take with a vehicle that they have actually purchased with their own hard-earned cashed. Photos and videos of sunken vehicles and flipped cars litter the internet. Car rental horror stories exist in many forms, and no one wants to be that person returning from a vacation to Iceland thousands of dollars in debt to the car rental company. Make sure there is no damage or anything to repair when you hand the keys back in Reykjavik or the counter in Keflavik.

On a related note, if your rental doesn’t already include it, be sure to get the minimum of Sand & Ash Protection for your car. This also goes for Gravel Protection if you plan on exploring the country’s F-roads (mountain roads) in a 4x4 vehicle such as a Jeep. While many people tend to pass on opting for the insurance on their car rentals (I know I normally do), Iceland is different. The weather here is more extreme than anything you’ve ever seen and you don’t want to be responsible for unexpected damage brought on by Mother Nature bringing on a sudden sandstorm or tons of roadside volcanic ash blowing onto your vehicle.

Beware Icelandic Weather Conditions and Road Closures 

As you can tell, Iceland is known for its extreme elements. People don’t call it The Land of Fire and Ice for no reason! There are a few websites that will serve you well during your trip. The homepage for the Iceland Meteorological Service will keep you up to date on weather conditions for the area where you plan on driving. Additionally, you’ll want to monitor the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) website. This body is responsible for all of Iceland’s 8,077 miles (13,000 km) of roads. On their webpage, you’ll see regular updates, notices of road closures, and any other information that can affect travelers.

Road closure in Iceland; if you rent a car you need to be aware of which roads are open

Things to Keep in Mind When You Rent a Car in Iceland 

Driving in Iceland is a fun, relaxing, enjoyable way to experience all that our small and increasingly popular island has to offer. That being said, it would be foolish to assume that you don’t need to exercise some precautions in order to prevent your Icelandic vacation from going awry. I want you to have an unforgettable trip, and hopefully, these quick pointers will help you do just that. Happy (and safe) travels!

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Thursday, 6 September 2018

Iceland's Seljalandsfoss Waterfall aka The Beauty

Heading south from Reykjavik towards Vík on Iceland’s Ring Road, you’ll find the stunning Seljalandsfoss waterfall. This careening cascade has consistently been ranked as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland by travel bloggers and tourists alike. In fact, this waterfall’s nickname is “The Beauty”, in stark contrast to Dettifoss waterfall, affectionately known as “The Beast”. If you’ve seen that iconic photo of a beautiful waterfall in Iceland with the sky streaked in shades of orange, pink and purples chances are it was Seljalandsfoss. Let’s dive deep (pun 100% intended) into one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and a star attraction in south Iceland.

Seljalandsfoss, pictured at sunset, is considered Iceland's most beautiful waterfall

Where is Seljalandsfoss located?

About two hours southeast of Reykjavik on Route 1 (the Ring Road) you’ll come across Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Assuming you’re on a day trip from Iceland’s capital, you’ll pass the towns of Selfoss and Hella and shortly thereafter you’ll turn left onto Road 249 which goes toward Thórsmörk. Once you’ve turned onto Road 249, it’s only a short distance to the entrance for parking at Seljalandsfoss. After finding a spot for your car, you’ll be able to see the falls in the distance. Get excited, you’re almost there!

What makes this beautiful waterfall so special?

First, a few facts about Seljalandsfoss. The falls are part of the Seljalands river, which gets its water from Eyjafjallajökull. This seemingly unpronounceable Icelandic name may ring a bell. Eyjafjallajökull is the volcanic glacier that gained international fame in 2010 when the volcano resting beneath the ice cap exploded. European airspace was shut down for nearly a week and around 10 million travelers were displaced as the erupting volcano spewed smoke and ash into the air. Pretty exciting stuff, right? At any rate, the glacier still has melting ice and the runoff water eventually makes it’s way over the edge of the rocks at Seljalandsfoss.

Seljalandsfoss plunging 60 meters (200 feet) down to the blue pool below

One of the cooler things about this particular waterfall that distinguishes it from the rest is that you can actually climb behind it. There is a small cave that sits behind the gushing fall and you’ll find plenty of tourists trying to capture that postcard-perfect shot of their vacation in Iceland. The majority of pictures on the internet of this natural wonder were actually taken from behind. While it is stunning from the front, be sure go into the tiny cavern in the back to get the best views of Seljalandsfoss. Sunsets tend to be particularly striking and you’ll wonder why you didn’t visit Iceland sooner.

Another interesting fact: This area used to be part of the Icelandic coastline. Iceland is a country with lots of geological activity and there are frequent seismic shifts in the landscapes. The story is that a glacier that existed during the Ice Age actually pushed down the land to create the coastline with its massive weight. When the glacier melted, the land eventually rose and the former coastline now resided further inland. The falls drop 60m (200ft) over this former seaside cliff.

The small cave behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, perfect for taking pictures

Iceland's Seljalandsfoss Waterfall aka The Beauty

If you have some extra time before you head back to Reykjavik or if you are continuing on toward Vík, we have an additional suggestion for your itinerary. Another beautiful waterfall that is very close is Skógafoss. In order to visit Skógafoss you’ll need to go back to Route 1 and head east for another half hour or so. Like Seljalandsfoss, it’s also part of the former coastline of Iceland. While Skógafoss may not be as well known for its beauty as Seljalandsfoss, both are definitely must-see sights on your trip to Iceland. Enjoy your waterfall tour of the south.

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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Iceland's Weather in September: What to Expect

Well, it’s official: summer is (basically) over. September is here, and autumn is rapidly approaching. I hesitate to say that we are wholly out of summer. However, given that fall officially begins in two weeks, the warm season is more or less kaput. Tourists are leaving, the colors of the foliage are starting to change rapidly. It’s going to get chilly sooner rather than later. Temperatures haven’t fully dropped, which makes this month one of the best times to go to Iceland. Let’s take a quick sneak peek at what Iceland weather in what September holds for us with regards to climate and average temperatures, rainfall, daylight hours, and even what you should pack and wear during your trip.

September weather in Iceland has cooler temperatures and fall colors

Sweater Weather Has Arrived In Iceland 

If I have said it once, I have said it a million times, I love autumn weather and the fall. Many of my fellow Icelanders will probably let out an audible groan when they read that statement, but it’s true. The brilliant change of hues in our scenery, coupled with the fact I am not sweating profusely means the cooler fall weather is perfect for me. And let's not forget about warming up with traditional Icelandic desserts and a hot drink. However, I am no fool; I know what winter brings. While Iceland’s famed Northern Lights will be on full display, I am not exactly looking forward to the short days and freezing nights. But, fall in Iceland isn’t all that bad. In fact, when you check the weather forecast September is quite lovely. And it’s warmer than Iceland’s weather in October.

Throughout September in Iceland, the average low temperature hovers around 5 or 6 °C (40 - 42 °F), and the average high is 11 °C (52 °F). However, Iceland is famous for weather that can dramatically shift at a moments notice. This means that while it sure is nice to have these averages, they really don’t mean anything. Maybe that’s too cynical. What I mean to say is that they give you a decent range, but it isn’t uncommon for the reading on the thermostat to exist outside of that given set. So, long story short, expect September to be much cooler than June or July.

Iceland's weather in September can be rainy and unpredictable

Iceland’s Rain Averages in September 

Approximating average rainfall in Iceland may seem like an exercise in futility to outsiders. Given the unpredictability of ocean-driven storms, it can be difficult to judge how wet or dry a region will be. However, you should always expect rain here in Iceland. A good rule of thumb is to always count on the showers to be heavier near the ocean because they tend to lose strength as they make landfall. Iceland often experiences the majority of its rainfall during the autumn and spring months, but in my experience, I would say the fall is definitely the wettest season. Whether looking at the weather in Reykjavik or further afield, rain should always be one of your considerations.

Amount of Light in Iceland During September 

The days of the Midnight Sun are officially in our rearview. Some of you may be sobbing at this fact, while people like me are relieved. I enjoy the Midnight Sun, but after a while, 16 hour days can be a little much. Expect the available daylight to dwindle down from 16 hours to around 13 hours. This three-hour difference is much more akin to what the world average regarding sunlight, so if you are visiting Iceland don’t fret too much about bringing a sleeping mask with you. Less daylight means you can also start to catch glimpses of the Aurora Borealis from the middle of September onward.

Beautiful Kirkjufell mountain on the Snafellsnes peninsula during Iceland in September

Clothing Recommendations for September Weather in Iceland 

Iceland during September is cool, wet, and windy. This isn’t to say that every day will be dreary and miserable, but you should be prepared. If you are visiting, I would highly recommend that you pack a sturdy rain jacket, water-resistant pants, a sweater, thermal layers, wool socks, and some water resistant walking shoes. A good rain jacket is paramount when visiting Iceland in September, so make sure you invest in one you can trust. Besides that, enjoy the incredible fall colors that burst from flora in our countryside, bring plenty of rain resistant gear, and keep up to date with the latest weather announcements from the IMO (Icelandic Meteorological Office). Follow these tips, and you are sure to have a great September in Iceland. Bless Bless.

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Monday, 3 September 2018

Overcoming Your Travel Fears

Many of us still have fears associated with taking the leap and traveling to a new culture and land. How can we overcome those travel fears so that we can explore the world and gain a new perspective on other cultures, and ourselves? Luckily for us, traveling around the world has never been easier. For the majority of recorded history, travel was inhibited by technological barriers along with social ones. You couldn’t simply decide to uproot yourself and travel to some far-flung pocket of the world. In most instances, you would have to save up vast sums of money just to travel relatively short distances. Even if money wasn’t an issue, time certainly was. Now with modern advances in technology, travel has become ubiquitous, and tourism is thriving. So let’s overcome our travel fears and explore the big world that awaits us.

Blue suitcase on blue background for overcome travel fears concept

The Benefits Of Traveling 

If you are on the fence, or nervous, about traveling, pause and reflect on the enormous benefits that come with travel and exploration. Most of those with hesitations surround travel almost always report that they don’t travel more because they don’t like going alone. I would argue the point that traveling alone is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about yourself and build up inner-confidence. When you are alone, you have no one tangible with you to lean on. You have to struggle through things. And while this is scary, it can lead to some revelations about who you actually are. Everyday life is inevitably monotonous and safe. We all have routines. When we stick to those regular routines, we never challenge ourselves. It is only when you are alone do you realize how much you can actually achieve.

I found this to be no more accurate than when I went to Spain for the first time. Visiting from Iceland, I did not know Spanish and I had never experienced Spanish culture. I will admit, almost instantly when I arrived in Spain, I suffered culture shock. I couldn’t speak to anyone, I frequently became lost, and I didn’t know what to do. I eventually grounded myself and realized the only way I was going to find my experience pleasurable was to learn a bit of Spanish. I purchased a pocket dictionary and phrasebook and proceeded to butcher the language at every possible opportunity. I found by the end of my trip I could form broken phrases and ask simple questions. This changed my perception of the journey. I had never imagined being able to pick up the basics of Spanish so quickly, However, by the end of my trip, I felt accomplished.

The quickest way to progress in life is to free yourself from your comfort zone. Travel, especially to a country with a widely different culture and foreign language, is the quickest way to do this. Don’t underestimate yourself. You need only to buy a plane ticket and believe in yourself. You will be amazed at the things you can accomplish.

Search engine for booking flights. Face your travel fears and go

Common Travel Fear #1: I Don’t Have Enough Money To Travel 

I used to think that traveling to the far off locations I daydreamed about as a child were impossible to reach. I always assumed I never had enough money to go and explore the world. This isn’t true. We all have bills, we all have expenses. However, when you get stuck in a routine, you become blind to things you purchase that you really don’t need. If you have any fears associated with travel that stem from monetary concerns, consider minimizing your life or downsizing. Decide what the absolute essentials are to live day to day, and cut everything else out. By adopting a more minimalist lifestyle, you will quickly find that the money you always thought you never had was actually in front of you the entire time. If it is indeed your desire to travel (especially internationally), then you need to be vigilant with your spending and budget. Budget. Budget. Budget. I promise, with a little hard work and effort, you will enough saved up in no time for your dream trip, wherever that may be.

Common Travel Fear #2: I Won’t Make Friends or I’ll Be Alone 

Everyone is different. We all have different backgrounds, preferences, and personalities. Some of us are introverts, extroverts, and others lie somewhere in the middle. Being an introvert, like myself, can raise serious anxieties about traveling alone in a foreign country. The idea of never making friends on your travels can infest your mind like a cyclical plague. For me, that was my own biggest personal hurdle. I imagined myself being alone on my travels and never having anyone to share it with. This is a fallacy. I am a firm believer that if you put out positive energy, you will get back positive energy. When traveling alone, always remember to be friendly and smile. Find bars or restaurants that are specifically for expats of your home country, or throw yourself into uncomfortable situations and go to where the locals are. I have found that most locals are generally interested in where you come from and your culture. They will be warm and accepting of you as long as you are of them. You will make friends, I promise.

Solo traveler looking at a map and overcoming fear of travel

Make Your Travel Dreams Come True: Strike While The Iron Is Hot 

If you have the travel bug itching away at you now, don’t ignore it. One day you could wake up, and those plans you had to visit Morocco, or Iceland, or Thailand in the near future will have passed you by. No time is better to start planning than now. Pick a place you have always wanted to go to. Start researching the culture now. Make a rough itinerary and refine it day by day. Begin setting aside money immediately. If you make your travel plans a part of your daily life, they become part of your daily routine. And, the next thing you will know is that you have the plan, you know the culture, and you have the money to visit.

Overcoming Your Travel Fears 

It is ironic that I am writing a blog post about this very topic. I always thought my dreams of visiting other countries and cultures were just that, dreams. I was too nervous to set anything in motion because I didn’t think I had enough money, or that I wouldn’t be able to make friends along the way. Then, at the behest of a dear friend, I threw caution to the wind. I picked a place I had always wanted to visit and made it my singular goal for the immediate future. I saved, I planned, I researched, I learned a bit about the language and culture before going, and the next thing I knew I was boarding a plane to a country across the world. I took a leap of faith in myself and in the universe. That trip ended up being a formative experience in my life. I became an entirely different person. And, all of that wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t take the leap. Take the leap. Trust yourself. Go on an adventure, and who knows, it could change your life.

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Friday, 31 August 2018

How to Completely Destroy Your Iceland Car Rental (and Lose Tons of Money)

Please note: This is a list of things NOT to do while driving or renting a car in Iceland. You’d be surprised at how many people accidentally flip their vehicles by going too fast or inadvertently destroy their engine because they thought they could ford a river à la Oregon Trail. This isn’t Jumanji; it’s the real world and there are real consequences to driving recklessly, not thinking things through or not adhering to basic precautions. Let’s look at what NOT to do with your rental car so you can avoid becoming a cautionary tale or a car rental horror story. Thank you for taking the time to read this PSA, and now on to our post...

Flipped rental car in Iceland driver not taking precautions

So when people get to know me, and they ask me about my diet, I always use the same throw-away catchphrase: I treat my body like a rental car. I usually like to time this saying right before I chug a beer or eat something in one bite. It always gets a laugh. Joking aside, from what I’ve seen and heard, rental cars get pretty mistreated here in Iceland. People rightfully come to our volcanic, waterfall-filled island with adventure in mind but many times, common sense goes out the window. Visitors do all kinds of reckless and dangerous things with their rental cars.

I beg you, please don’t come to our beautiful country with intentions of reenacting the Fast and The Furious. The world already has one Vin Diesel, and we don’t need another one. Let’s go over some crazy things people have done with their rentals to prevent you from making the same mistakes. These unfortunate travelers destroyed their vehicles and consequently had to pay A LOT of money to their car rental company in Iceland. Don’t be that guy.

Cars are Not Meant for Watersports aka Hydroplaning or Driving Through Rivers 

Imagine you are in your car, you rev your engine and grip the steering wheel tight. In front of you, about a 100 yards, is a small lake. The Highland air is quietly sifting through your car windows as cascading peaks of golden-yellow rhyolite valleys surround you. A voice in your head is saying, “Do it! You’ve seen the YouTube videos! You got this man! **We**got this. We graduated from college. We know physics, we can do it! We are going to live forever!” You release the break on your car, and like a modestly priced rocket, you fly towards the water. The moment your wheels touch the lake, you begin to skitter across the top of the glistening water. “We are really doing it! We are living the dream!”, you exclaim mentally as your car has come to a stop and is now floating in the lake. Dream over. Womp womp.

This isn’t a piece of flash fiction. It happened last week to a friend of mine. Under absolutely no circumstance should you try to hydroplane across the water in Iceland (but if you’re still really keen, by all means feel free to try it with your own car back home. I’m not here to crush anyone’s dreams). I can however assure you that your rental car was not designed for this particular act. And I guarantee that you don’t want to be in the position of explaining to your car rental company back in Reykjavik or at the Keflavik airport why their precious vehicle is submerged in a lake 3 hours away in the Southern Highlands of Iceland. Just because you’ve seen someone hydroplaning in their Jeep on YouTube doesn’t mean that you should try it too, no matter how cool it may seem. You know what’s really cool? Having a ton of money for Icelandic hot dogs because you didn’t have to pay an exorbitant sum to a car rental company for damage or loss that could have been completely avoided. #LivingTheDream.

Car crossing a way too deep river in Iceland

On a related note, many people in Iceland like to explore the Highlands and backroads in 4x4 rental vehicles. This is all fine and good. The problem comes when they find themselves facing a small river. Some will speed up to try to jump the natural “ramp” that you sometimes see on either side of the river, while others will attempt to ford it even though they have no idea how deep the water actually is. As you can imagine, this is problematic. I’ve seen photos of flipped vehicles (from our aforementioned speeding friends) and have heard stories of people who drove through a river only to be surprised that their engine stopped working shortly afterward. Car engines are not waterproof; they get waterlogged just like anything else you put underwater and will cease to function. Remember, just because you saw it in a movie or in a video game as a kid doesn’t make it real. If only that were true!

Driving on Iceand’s F-Roads in Sedans

F-Roads in Iceland are the heavy-duty, 4x4 only, trails that are meant for driving. It’s actually the law that you need a 4x4 to drive on these mountain roads in Iceland, which is why Super Jeeps are so popular here among tourists. The roads can be quite dangerous and you have to meticulously check for road closures on these trails, because landslides can happen, and as such we take every precaution to make sure they are safe. However, many visitors to Iceland assume that since their car has the all-wheel drive, they can go flying up and down the mountain trails. This is not the case. If you have ever been on an F-Road, then you know that just about every single stone on that stretch of road can cause irreparable damage to a vehicle not properly outfitted to handle the conditions. This is part of why it’s a good idea to get the full suite of gravel protection and sand & ash insurance to cover your rental. It isn’t only about an having all-wheel drive, you must make sure that your car has enough clearance to circumnavigate the sea of baby boulders that litter the mountain. Again, confer with your rental company to find out the limitations of your vehicle.

Car rental agent checking the car for insurance purposes

Driving Too Fast or Skidding On Gravel

People who rent cars in Iceland love doing this. I have to admit, as a greenhorn driver, I also did this. However, it is highly dangerous and can be even fatal. For some reason, a significant portion of the planet's population goes nuts when they are driving on gravel. Drivers will swerve abruptly in an effort to act out their own personal Tokyo Drift rendition. They hope that somehow they will drift the car and look cool while doing it (though I’m not really sure who’s watching said coolness). Or, drivers will go overly fast and suddenly have to slam on the brakes, so they skid out. I can’t tell you how dangerous this is. There have been several near-fatal instances over the past few years of novice drivers attempting to skid on gravel in camper vans. Luckily, the majority of them walked away unscathed, but a great deal of them flipped their rental cars, put their passengers in danger, and again, had to pay vast sums to their car rental company. Be safe and be smart; slow and steady is the name of the game when driving in Iceland.

How to Completely Destroy Your Iceland Car Rental (and Lose Tons of Money)

With each passing day becoming colder and wetter, driver safety is paramount in the coming winter months. Under no circumstances should you ever take your car off-roading. Trails and paths for driving will be marked, unmarked areas are protected. If you drive on them you will receive a hefty fine or jail time in addition to destroying Iceland’s fragile ecosystem. Always remember to wear your seatbelts, and check the weather before heading out. And, lastly, never try to hydroplane or drive through a river without knowing its depth. I can’t tell you how bad of an idea it is to drive your car across a lake. Just writing the sentence makes me shake my head in disappointment, that some of you are willing to risk your lives for a silly stunt. Be safe. Have fun. And remember to bring your vehicle back in one piece. Your car rental company (and wallet) will thank you for it.

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Thursday, 30 August 2018

Day Tours from Reykjavik: An Enchanting Excursion to Landmannalaugar

Hiking the trails of Landmannalaugar is a must for anyone on vacation in Iceland. If you are planning on being in or around Reykjavik before we officially head into fall and face the bleak, rainy autumn months, I would suggest taking a one day trip to Landmannalaugar to explore parts of the famous Laugavegur Trail and Thórsmórk Valley. This beautiful area of sloping hills is situated in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of the eery cobalt Laugahraun lava fields. Located only a 3-hour drive from the country's capital, this destination is ideal for an excursion from Reykjavik. I always try to make a day trip out to Landmannalaugar at least once a year to take it all in, usually at the end of summer or sometime in early fall.

The Laugavegur Trail in Landmannalaugar makes the perfect excursion from Reykjavik

Exploring Landmannalaugar Alone or With A Day Tour 

It’s usually best that visitors come to this particular region of Iceland with a certified Icelandic tour operator. Driving in this terrain is difficult, as it isn’t uncommon for the road to be littered with rocks the size of your head. It isn’t impossible to navigate, but it takes a high level of driving prowess. Also, by opting in for a tour package, you reduce the risk of having to pay for any damage to your rental car, which is pretty standard when driving in the highlands. Go on a tour and let the guides worry about the rest.

Going with a group also has other advantages aside from being easier and mitigating risk. These tours are great opportunities to make new friends. When you are done with your day-long journey, you can head straight for a pub with your newly made friends. There isn’t anything more satisfying than downing a cold pint after a long tour. One of the tour companies I always recommend is Landmannalaugar Tours. I mean, they have the region in their name, so this kind of their specialty. They have a large variety Landmannalaugar tour packages and hiking excursions available. Let’s look at a quick explanation of the region.

HIking in Landmannalaugar will be one of the highlights of your Iceland trip

Landmannalaugar Profile 

Landmannalaugar, for me, is the one-stop destination for adventure. The sheer amount of activities you can enjoy, combined with its close proximity to Reykjavik, makes it an attractive sightseeing destination. The area was formed in the late 1400s after a violent volcanic eruption that tore the very fabric of the earth apart. After the dust settled, a stunning and ethereal landscape remained. The name, “Landmannalaugar,” translates into the People’s Pool. For hundreds of years, Icelanders have been making pilgrimages to this region to enjoy in the abundant naturally occurring geothermal hot springs in the area. The region has also been a haven for exhausted travelers to relax after an invigorating and challenging hike through the highlands of South Iceland’s highlands. Aside from the lagoons and pools that inundate the area, there are towering and sprawling rhyolite mountains.

Rhyolite What? 

Rhyolite is one of nature’s great examples that sometimes the most beautiful things are the most dangerous. The area of Landmannalaugar is made up a series of towering multi-colored peaks and mountains, and the volcanic eruption that took place in 1477. Eruptions that involve rhyolite are considered highly explosive and very dangerous. While their blasts may be cause for concern, the end result of these geological events is simply stunning. It is tough to convey the kaleidoscope of colors these mountains seem to be painted with. Typically, you would expect ranges similar to these to be coated in a salmon or granite color. However, the opposite is true here. Emerald moss is scattered amongst the bare and beautiful rhyolite rock faces in the area. Bring your camera, because you aren’t going to want to miss this.

Colorful Rhyolite rock formations make Landmannalaugar a popular destination for hiking in Iceland

Day Tours from Reykjavik: An Enchanting Excursion to Landmannalaugar 

Between the geothermal pools, the pure-black lava field nearby, and the cacophony of colors the rhyolite mountains produce, you have endless options for a captivating experience in Landmannalaugar. The area is also a popular for horseback riding and off-roading. If you plan on off-roading, always drive in designated areas, for your safety and for the protection of the local flora and fauna. Remember, this area becomes increasingly difficult to operate a self-tour as we inch closer towards winter. Hurry now, while the weather is still incredible. Happy trails.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Keys to Iceland's History: Erik The Red

Settling Iceland was no easy task. The wind and rain, lack of fertile farming soil, dangerous journey required to get to Iceland all played a significant role in hindering exploration parties and settlements from laying their claim over our Nordic island. However, if you thought settling Iceland was tricky, now imagine sailing even closer to the Arctic Circle. Imagine settling Greenland. Greenland is known for having a name that is ostensibly an oxymoron. The name suggests a paradise with fertile and lush lands. That, it is not. Let’s take a quick look at the Icelander who settled Greenland and is responsible for giving it its deceiving name.

Erik the Red was a famous viking and key to Iceland's history

Erik The Red - Immigrant to Iceland 

Like many original settlers to our Nordic island, Erik the Red’s family fled from Norway. It wasn’t persecution they were fleeing, but, rather Erik’s father, Thorvald Asvaldsson, had been convicted of manslaughter. The family hightailed it out of Norway, and made their way to much friendlier, Icelandic shores. Little did young Erik realize, he was fated to take a similar route to his father.

Erik eventually married Thjohild and moved to Haukadalr in the southeast of Iceland. In Haukadalr, it is documented that Erik built a farm (as ancient Icelanders are known to do) and was documents as owning slaves. These slaves, also known as thralls, apparently set a sequence of irreversible events in motion when they accidentally caused a landslide which spilled onto his neighbor’s property. It would be this event that would result in Erik the Red being banished from Iceland for three years and sending him to Greenland.

The landslide wasn’t received warmly by the landowner, Valthjof. Valjof’s friend, Eyiolf the Foul (what a name by the way) had heard what happened to his friend, and subsequently murdered Erik’s thralls. The civil dispute reached its climax when Erik slated Eyiolf in retaliation. Erik eventually moved to Öxney to rid himself of the situation, but trouble found him again, and he fought and killed more of his fellow Icelanders. Given Erik’s penchant for trouble, and uh, murder, the Althingi needed to decide what to do with Erik. They eventually choose to banish Erik for three years, and this banishment would result in Erik’s names forever being etched in the pages of history.

Iceland's history would not be complete without Erik the Red

Erik The Red And Greenland 

Many people incorrectly credit Erik the Red with discovering Greenland. Strong archeological evidence has concluded that previous Icelanders had made their way to Greenland. However, all had failed to settle it permanently by the time he arrived. Erik spent the entirety of his three-year banishment exploring the valleys, fjords, and glaciers of Iceland.

When Erik returned to Iceland after his exile, he would weave tall tales about a new land called, “Greenland.” The story goes that he named it Greenland not to trick would-be settlers to stay out of Iceland, but to entice adventurous Icelanders to come with him to settle this new promising land. He knew the island he hoped to settle was unforgiving (like Iceland), and it would be a massive undertaking which required as many hands to help as possible.

In 985, Erik and lead a party of 25 ships out from the coastline of northern Iceland towards Greenland. The seas were not hospitable to the adventurous Icelanders, as they lost almost half of their vessels. Erik pushed through and successfully established a permanent settlement on Greenland.

Erik the Red was one of Iceland's earliest Vikings

Keys to Iceland's History: Erik The Red  

Erik never had an easy life. To be uprooted from your home and everything you know, and to come across the sea to a harsh and cold country at the age of 10 must have shaped him into a rugged and driven man. The irony is that he ended up being banished from Iceland (his home), as his father before him fled from their ancestral home for similar reasons. However, Erik made the most of a bad situation. He explored and eventually settled one of the harshest and most unforgiving lands in the world. There is a ton of information about Erik the Red on the internet. If you possess even an inkling of interest into his story, I will urge you to do some research on him; Erik was fascinating. Leave a comment below for your favorite Icelander from antiquity.

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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

All About Iceland's Northern Lights

September will officially mark the beginning of Northern Lights season here in Iceland, and we couldn’t be happier. Over the course of the coming months, the skies will come alive in an otherworldly display of color. No matter if you are a first time visitor to our country this fall, or a multi-generation Icelander, catching the Aurora Borealis can be tricky. Despite living in one of the best places to see the Northern Lights and fall being one of the best times of year to spot them, sometimes it can be easy to miss the atmospheric light show. Let's go over exactly what the Northern Lights are, and how to best see them.

Iceland's Kirkjufell mountain is one of the best places to see Iceland's Northern Lights

What Are The Northern Lights? 

Let’s have a quick science lesson. The sheer amount of violent energy generated by a solar flare is difficult to comprehend, and yet, it is this same solar energy that creates the tranquil waves of pulsating light that make up the Northern Lights. So, how do they work? Five words: solar flares and earth’s magnetic field.

It all begins with the sun. The gigantic gas sphere, known as the sun, generates all of its heat from its core. The core is continually trying to release that heat to the surface. On its way to the sun’s surface, it is funneled into roads or channels by eddies on the sun’s surface (an eddy is similar to a vortex). However, sometimes that energy doesn’t want to get displaced over the surface, and it tries to break free. The sun’s magnetic field fights to hold it in place and eventually there is an eruption. This release of energy creates a solar flare and the energy finally breaks free from the sun’s grasp. That energy then begins its 18-hour journey towards earth. This is called a solar storm. These storms can reach unbelievable speeds, sometimes upwards of 7 million kilometers per hour. Slightly weakened by its interstellar journey, the solar storm descends upon the earth.

Without our magnetic field this storm could be devastating. Due to its existence, we remain unfazed and thankfully unaware of these solar storms. The solar energy grapples with the magnetic field, trying its hardest to reach the planet, and a small portion of that energy becomes pulled into the magnetic field on of the side of the earth that is facing away from the sun. And finally, the energy that tried so desperately to be set free ends up being harmlessly dispersed across our night sky. The end result of this process is the peaceful and relaxing waves of light called the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights.

Camping out beneath Iceland's green Northern Lights

How to See The Northern Lights Iceland 

The auroras don’t appear just anywhere on the planet. Only regions located near either the north or south pole will be able to see the Northern Lights. This means places like Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc. But, why? Both poles of our planet have the highest level of magnetic energy, so when the energy from the solar storm is dispersed across the magnetic field, the visual results are seen in areas closest to those poles. Subarctic and arctic regions of the world benefit from this, as they are the premiere destinations to witness the astrological light show. But, despite all the favorable geographic conditions, you still need a great deal of luck. You need the sun to experience a significant solar flare 18 hours earlier, and you need to have a clear night with little light pollution. The latter two items are two aspects to ensure that you catch a great night for the aurora.

Icelandic Northern Lights Checklist - Find A Clear Sky 

You may be scratching your head right about now, and saying, “Finding a clear sky? Wh-what does that even mean? How do I do that?”. You can put your iPhones and Androids away because there are no detailed apple apps for figuring out cloud cover. Apps for predicting the weather can be buggy or sometimes have the wrong information. If you really want to see what the clouds are doing, particularly here in Iceland, I recommend you visit the Veðurstofa Íslands website. This site is the brainchild of the IMO (Icelandic Meteorology Office), which is the official governing body that deals with the weather. Since Iceland is known for its unpredictable weather, these guys always have their work cut out for them. However, their Northern Lights predictions are usually spot on, and you can trust their recommendation. The information on this site is crucial to have before you go hunting.

On the website, you will see an outline of Iceland with patterns of either dark, light, or faded green. The green indicates how dense the cloud cover is, and exactly where the clouds are passing over. Rarely will you see the entire map white, meaning no clouds are in those areas, but you want to hunt for the regions of Iceland that don’t have much cloud cover. This is essential because the aurora takes place high up, in the upper atmosphere, and if there are clouds, it will inevitably obstruct your view of the magnetic fireworks display above you. The site also has an aurora forecast on the top right-hand side which I have found to be both handy and accurate.

Icelandic Northern Lights Checklist - Get Out Of The City 

Light pollution plays a key role in being able to watch the Aurora Borealis. The darker out it is, the better. However, if you are in or around Reykjavik, your chances of seeing the Northern Lights drops dramatically. Even though we are in a hot spot of geomagnetic activity, if the sky is already filled with city lights you aren’t helping your odds of catching them. I always recommend driving outside the city and into the countryside. Use the IMO’s map (Veðurstofa Íslands) in conjunction with a sightseeing map to plan out a tremendously unique Northern Lights viewing experience. I always recommend watching the spectacle from the pure black sand beaches of Vík.

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon provides a beautiful backdrop to Iceland's Northern Lights

If you have no means to leave the city of Reykjavik, but still want a better chance to catch the northern lights, then I recommend heading out to the Grotta Lighthouse at the edge of town. The lighthouse is far enough away from Reykjavik to diffuse some of the light pollution in the atmosphere, and I have found if you watch with the lighthouse between you and Reykjavik it substantially helps.

Icelandic Northern Lights Checklist - Take A Tour 

Some of you may be wary of navigating through Iceland’s countryside at night. Heck, I’m from here and I hate doing it, but its probably because I’m lazy. If either is the case, then I highly recommend taking a guided tour to see the Northern Lights. Tour operators have tried and true experience hunting the Aurora Borealis. So, you can spend less time researching and planning, and let them bring you to the best locations out available. Most tours take you to several locations, and they are generally good at communicating the odds of seeing the lights on a particularly difficult night. A friend came to visit me last year and went on a Northern Lights tour with Landmannalaugar Tours from Reykjavik. She said the tour was incredible. Check it out, because the Northern Lights season is almost upon us.

All About Iceland's Northern Lights 

Even though the Midnight Sun has come and gone, we are fortunate to have another atmospheric spectacle to behold during these autumn months: the Northern Lights. The mass exodus of tourists leaving Iceland will officially take place in the next few weeks, but for those willing to bear the brunt of the autumn winds and rain, I have to say that it’s totally worth it. Seeing the northern lights is something you will never forget. The moment you lay your eyes on the cornucopia of color, pulsating and gyrating across a clear sky will leave you speechless. Comment below on which area of Iceland is your favorite to see the Northern Lights. Good luck on your aurora hunt in Iceland.

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Monday, 27 August 2018

Iceland’s Climate and Weather in the Fall

By the end of this week, we will be entering the month of September and will officially welcome the beginning of autumn. This season is one of the best times to visit Iceland and is a special time here. The fall foliage will quickly cover the country in a sea of orange, red, and yellow-hued leaves. While it may not be the most hospitable climate, there is no doubting that the colors that autumn creates are vivid and stunning. For the uninitiated to Iceland’s fall weather, let's do a quick rundown of what to expect this autumn (besides pumpkin spice lattes of course). Just kidding! There’s no Starbucks in Iceland.

Fall weather in Iceland brings a beautiful change of color in the leaves

General Overview of Icelandic Weather 

Before we take a look at the weather in Iceland during September, October and November when temperatures drop, let's discuss they country’s weather as a whole. Summers are long and filled with sunshine, spring is warm(ish) and dry(er), and the winters are unforgiving. Fall...well, it’s wet. Iceland contains millions of breathtaking natural wonders. However, our otherworldly landscapes come at a cost: the weather is sometimes, how should I say it...not optimal.

Looking at a map, Iceland is situated off the coast of Europe, right above the United Kingdom, and between Greenland and mainland Scandinavia. That means we are smack dab right in-between the northern region of the Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea. As such, we incur many storms, and the fall is no exception. While autumn produces crisp weather, warm color in our foliage, and an excuse to consume as many kleinur and hot chocolates as possible, it is also the wettest season in Iceland.

Iceland’s Weather in the Fall - Rain, Rain, Go Away

Autumn in Iceland is rainy and overcast. However, there is a fascinating scientific reason behind this. As we inch closer toward fall, the Gulf stream starts to bring warm air in from over the Atlantic ocean. These Gulf wind currents eventually make their way towards Iceland. When they arrive over our Nordic island, they immediately come in contact with cold Arctic wind currents. These two forces of mother nature clash and this results in overcast skies, sudden storms, heavy winds, and rapidly changing climate conditions. It is truly a strange, yet beautiful time to be in Iceland. One minute it can feel like summer, and, in the blink of an eye, you can seem like the middle of winter. Going from sunshine to hail, sleet or a snowstorm so quickly can be a bit disconcerting, but as many Icelanders say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change”.

Be prepared for rainy, unpredictable weather if you go to Iceland in the fall

It Can Get Pretty Chilly

Autumn is, in many ways, very similar to spring. Both seasons proceed our most drastic seasons, and they are both windy, and sometimes chilly. The temperature in Iceland can drop to below 0° C (32° F) at night, and get as high as 10°C (50° F) during the day. However, the most significant difference is the wind. Icelandic autumn winds are blustery and will cut through your outerwear. If you plan on visiting us during this particular season, it is paramount that you come prepared with a top-notch rain jacket, some warm layers, and weatherproofed boots and pants. Otherwise, you will be a soggy log on your fall Icelandic vacation. Remember, it is extremely important that you check the weather of the region you are headed to. I can say for a fact that it rains more in the south. However, it would be folly to try to predict the weather from a month out. I had to guess, I would say always prepare for rain.

The Weather Brings Stunning Fall Colors & Berry Picking to Iceland 

Fall may be a wet and windy season in Iceland. However, it is one of the country’s most beautiful times of the year. The rains are substantial, the winds can be cutting, but the autumn foliage is bright and brilliant. This is especially true in parts of Iceland were freshly fallen snow covers a sea of contrasting red, orange, and yellow leaves and moss. Photo opportunities in Iceland during autumn are exciting and abundant.

Even though there is a mass exodus of both migrating birds and visiting tourists, fall in Iceland means plenty of time to go foraging for wild berries and mushrooms in the Icelandic countryside. Berries bloom in the autumn season here, and seas of bilberries (a type of blueberry found in northern Europe) are ripe for the picking. Grab your rain jacket, a basket, and get ready to find some juicy wild berries.

Go picking mushrooms and bilberries in Iceland this fall

Iceland’s Climate and Weather in the Fall 

The unpredictable weather of autumn is a signal that tourism will slow, and life will quiet down. Despite the rainy conditions, Iceland during the fall evolves in a beautiful rust-colored, orange-tinged, berry-filled, wet wonderland. Many tours and excursions will close for the season. However, there is plenty of hiking and backpacking for the more adventurous among us. Just make sure that you come prepared with the appropriate weather-proofed clothing, an appetite for fresh fruit, and a hankering to chow down on endless hot chocolates and kleniur to keep you cozy and comfortable in our beautiful Nordic country.

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