Monday, 21 May 2018

Planning Your Iceland Road Trip Part One: Car Rental or Campervan Rental?

Driving in Iceland is probably the best way to see the country. Whether you decide to rent a car or go by motorhome, taking an Iceland road trip or self-drive tour is definitely the adventure of a lifetime. We've created a short guide to help you plan your Iceland itinerary. You'll most likely want to take the ring road in Iceland, but if you decide to make Reykjavik your base and do short day trips on the western coast of the country, that's fine as well. You don't necessarily need to drive around the whole island to see some pretty cool things.

Road Trip sign in Iceland

Planning Your Road Trip - How long does it take to travel around Iceland?

One of the questions we frequently hear from those planning a road trip to Iceland is how long it takes to drive around the whole island. Most people organizing a longer trip to Iceland tend to create a 5-day or 7-day itinerary. I would say seven days is the minimum when making your way around the island in order to see everything and to not feel rushed. Iceland’s ring road is 1,332 km (828 miles) long and can technically be driven around in 12-13 hours. Given that the road usually has one lane in each direction and weather as well as other natural circumstances are unpredictable, a better estimate of how long it takes to travel around Iceland is probably closer to 16-18 hours. And besides, you'll probably be stopped by a herd of goats at some point or want to step out and take pictures of the magnificent views surrounding you.

Icy winter road in Iceland view from campervan

Planning Your Road Trip - What's the best vehicle for traveling around Iceland?

This is the age-old question when planning a trip to Iceland: Car rental or campervan rental. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, so let's take a quick look at the benefits and drawbacks of either renting a car in Iceland or renting a motorhome and camping in Iceland.

Due to the popularity of car rental by travelers, you'll find a lot of different car rental companies in Iceland and can usually find a pretty good deal. That being said, prices in Iceland are probably going to be higher than what you are accustomed to, no matter which company you use. If you are traveling on a budget, you want to factor in the cost of car rental plus the cost of hotels when thinking of doing this option. One bonus of car rental over campervan rental is that you'll spend less money on gas. It should also be noted that if you plan on traveling to Iceland’s highlands via F-roads, it's mandatory to have a 4x4 vehicle.

Off-road 4x4 vehicle for Iceland road trip to the Highlands

While renting a car is a great way to see the island, another equally popular option is campervan rental. One of the perks here is that you don't have to pay for a hotel or hostel during your Iceland trip. Sleeping overnight in your camper or staying at a campsite can be a great way to save money. Having a home on wheels gives you a lot of flexibility to explore Iceland at your own pace. It's also nice to have a kitchen, bathroom and bed waiting for you whenever you need them.

Whichever option you choose, you are sure to have a great time during your vacation in Iceland. Stay tuned for the second part of this Iceland road trip travel guide: itinerary suggestions and road trip routes.

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Friday, 18 May 2018

Why August is the Best Time to Visit Iceland

When contemplating a trip to this small Nordic Island, many people want to know the best time to visit Iceland. When you should go depends on what you're looking for. Summer is definitely not the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. While the Midnight Sun has vanished by August, very long days make it difficult (but not impossible) to see the Aurora Borealis in all its splendor. That being said, the summertime and especially August can be the perfect time for your Iceland vacation. The month of August officially marks the end of the Icelandic summer and the locals do their best to enjoy the ever-present sunshine and the many events taking place around the island.

Skogafoss waterfall during a visit to Iceland in August

August is normally still relatively hot, with temperatures around 12 ℃. However, temperatures can rise up to 18-20 ℃ on exceptionally beautiful days, and come down at less than 10 ℃ on cool days. The light is still very present with nights almost non-existent at the beginning of the month, but it changes after mid-August as the darkness comes back.

It is a fairly similar month to July but there are slightly fewer travelers traversing the roads. However, all seasonal sites are still open and the tourist season is still in full swing. The flora and fauna are exceptional and it is the last month to see the puffins that usually leave the island around mid-August.

Most of the roads and trails that lead into the Icelandic Highlands are still open, and wonderful sites like Landmannalaugar, Laki or Askja are within easy reach – if you have a suitable vehicle. Lovers of hiking and walks and those who prefer the quiet will enjoy traveling in August rather than in July. Some of the more remote parts of Iceland remain quiet and relatively deprived of travelers, whatever the season.

Female backpacker in Landmannalaugar hot spring in Iceland in August

August is the month for picking mushrooms and berries of all kinds that are found in Iceland. The hills of Iceland are filled with bilberries at the end of August. If you're taking a road trip and driving around the country, you will more than likely see groups of people just off the road in search of these famous fruits.

At the end of August, the first hints of the Aurora Borealis begin to appear with the darkness that slowly descends on Iceland in the evening. The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that fills the night sky with almost supernatural colors. You can join an excursion or go alone on the Aurora hunt.

Activities and events are everywhere in the four corners of the island in August and in particular in the Icelandic capital. They are gearing up for a winter that is never far away. Þjóðhátíð is the most anticipated event of the month, maybe even of the summer! The festival of merchants – Verslunarmannahelgi in Icelandic – brings together crowds from all over Iceland on the first weekend of the month. The biggest festival takes place on the Westman Islands. You can reach it by boat from Landeyjahöfn in the south of the main island. It's located just a few hours drive from Reykjavík. Remember to book your accommodation well in advance on these dates!

Woman in large crowd at festival in Iceland

The Dalvík Fish Festival in northern Iceland is held in early August and has gathered over 30,000 people in recent years. That's ten times the usual population of this small town. In mid-August, you can also enjoy fireworks near the glacial lake of Jökulsárlon. It's quite the show!

Iceland's capital Reykjavik features a myriad of events. The Innipukinn Festival takes place on the first weekend of August, followed by gay pride, the dance festival, the jazz festival, the Lókal theater festival and the Reykjavík Marathon. Gay pride is a very popular event during which 100,000 locals and tourists take part in the festivities. It's a family holiday full of good spirit where the Icelanders celebrate diversity and freedom. Gay pride attracts as many, or more, people as Culture Night, during which the city's museums and cultural spots stay open all night.

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Vik, Iceland

Vík í Mýrdal, also known as Vik, is a small fishing village 2.5 hours southeast of Reykjavik on Iceland’s Ring Road. Sitting on the southernmost tip of the island, this charming little town rests between the volcanic black sand beaches of its Atlantic coast and the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which rests on top of Katla volcano. It's the southernmost village in Iceland and is rumored to be one of the warmest places in the country, although only by a degree or so. The tiny town is a popular stop off when people visit Iceland, so let's look at some of the best hotels in Vik for your Nordic adventure.

View of ocean and church in Vik, Iceland

Best Hotels in Vik, Iceland - Icelandair Hotel Vik (3-star hotel)

This charming yet contemporary hotel has all of the modern amenities plus an unbeatable natural surrounding. Not only are there great views but you are close to the Reynisdrangar Pillars, Reynisfjara Beach, Dyrholaey Island, Solheimajokull Glacier, and the Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. This makes the perfect base for your trips to the natural wonders close by.

Best Hotels in Vik, Iceland - Black Beach Suites (3-star hotel)

This luxury hotel opened in 2017 and features studio apartments with kitchenettes and a bathroom. Not only can you watch Netflix from your room, you also have views of beautiful black sand beaches. You can explore closeby natural attractions such as the Westman Islands, Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon, and Skaftafell National Park. You can also see the Northern Lights from the property when it’s the right time of year.

Volcanic black sand beaches near one of the best hotels in Vik, Iceland

Best Hotels in Vik, Iceland - Puffin Hotel Vik (3-star hotel)

This clean, simple hotel makes another great option in Vik. You should note that there is both a hotel and a hostel on the premises. Make sure you reserve at your desired accommodation option when you make your booking. The hotel is located about a 10-minute walk from Vik’s famed black sand beaches. They also offer free private parking to all of their guests. This is a great option for a one-night stopover along Iceland’s southern coast.

Best Hotels in Vik, Iceland - Hotel Katla (3-star hotel)

This countryside hotel lies about 5km east of Vik, between impressive mountains and gorgeous black sand beaches. All guests have access to the outdoor geothermal hot tub. The rooms are bright with lots of space and several even have kitchens. Nearby activities include glacier walks on Sólheimajökull glacier, Jeep tours, snowmobile tours on Mýrdalsjökull glacier, bird watching and boat tours in and around Dyrhólaey, visits to the Skógar Museum, and more.

Skogarfoss waterfall near hotel in Vik, Iceland

Wherever you decide to lay your head, you are sure to enjoy everything the small village of Vik has to offer. It’s a nice, quiet little town and could be just the rest you need during your relaxing trip to Iceland. As you’ve seen, Vik makes a great base for exploring the south of Iceland. It sits right on Iceland’s Ring Road and is close to many of Iceland best natural attractions. We hope you like the black sand beaches of Vik and enjoy your stay!

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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Iceland Fun Facts, History and Trivia

Iceland is a country that many people have little to no knowledge of. Sure, if you mention Björk they’ve definitely heard of her. And if you talk about Game of Thrones filming locations, they can probably imagine that scenes north of The Wall were captured here. But what else do we know about this small Nordic island? What is the capital of Iceland? What language is spoken in Iceland? What are some fun facts and Iceland trivia? If you’re planning to visit Iceland, it helps to know a little bit about the country. Let’s look at some Icelandic history as well as answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the country. Maybe you'll even learn something new before your trip to Iceland.

Map of Iceland with capital Reykjavik pointed out with pin

Iceland Questions: Where does the country get its name from?

Back in the days before Google Maps and satellite imaging, the only tool we had the discover far off places was word of mouth. The Vikings who first settled Iceland (see below) sent word back to other would-be conquerors that they lived on a tiny Island covered in ice. The ice-land story was the perfect cover for an island that was actually quite covered in green. To throw plunderers even more off the scent, the first Icelanders also spoke of a large green-land further afield. What's known today as Greenland was and is mostly covered with ice. It must have been quite the surprise for their enemies.

Iceland Questions: Who founded Iceland? 

Iceland's history is unique and quite distinct from that of other European countries. For a long time, the tiny island nation was uninhabited. The people currently living there are relatively recent arrivals when compared to their indigenous brothers and sisters on mainland Europe. It's believed that the first settlers in Iceland were Irish monks. Iceland's recorded history began with the settlements of Viking explorers from Norway and the British Isles. After multiple visits from Swedish and Norwegian Vikings, Ingólfur Arnarson settled in Reykjavik in 874. This marks the beginning of the long-term settlement of Iceland and later, the beginning of its Viking Age.

Vikings sailing on a ship towards Iceland

Iceland Questions: What makes Iceland so special?

There are actually several things that make this tiny island nation of interest to many. One of the first things people talk about in conversations about Iceland is the country's natural beauty. Iceland possesses some of the most dramatic, varied and stunning landscapes in the world. From ice caves to lava fields, black sand beaches to glacier lagoons, fjords, volcanoes, and even geothermal baths, Iceland has a plethora of natural attractions not found in too many other places on earth. The unusual mix of volcanic activity, tectonic plates and proximity to the Arctic Circle have combined to form a unique geological spot on the planet.

Kirkjufell mountain with waterfall make Iceland a special and beautiful place

Iceland Trivia: Iceland has the world's oldest Parliament

The people of Iceland established a government in the year 930 AD. This legislative and judicial body consisted of the most powerful leaders at the time. Iceland's Althing (Parliament) passed down its laws orally for almost two hundred years. Iceland was not only ahead of the curve when it came to establishing a parliament. The country also produced the world's first elected female president in a democratic election, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, in 1980.

Judge's gavel at iceland's Althing

This is just the tip of the iceberg and there's much more to learn about Iceland. Why not come visit and learn for yourself? And in case you were still wondering, the capital of Iceland is Reykjavik and the locals speak Icelandic, a Scandinavian language descending from Protonordic. It was brought over by the Vikings and is part of the same language family as Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish.

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Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Best Hotels in Iceland for Families

Iceland is a large European island located far to the north. It's no doubt a place with one of the most phenomenal landscapes in the world. The large number of tourist attractions and stunning views in such a small area make the tiny island nation a desired destination. It's definitely worth it to visit Iceland and enjoy its treasures with your whole family. While planning your trip you need to take care of the itinerary and hotel reservations. As this trip is not only for you but the whole family, you want to make sure everything is set to ensure that everyone has a great time. Traveling in Iceland with kids can be fun and enjoyable with the right planning. There are plenty of hotels in Reykjavik and other cities. But which ones are the best for families during your vacation to Iceland?

Kids with parents wearing fuzzy socks in Iceland

As always we would like to make your life easier and help you organize your Iceland trip. If you're wondering where to stay in Iceland, we’ve compiled a list of the best hotels. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Iceland with Kids: The Best Hotels in Iceland for Families - Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, Reykjavik

This option for accommodation is located around 15 minutes from the city center by foot. Radisson Blu is a 209-room luxury hotel in Reykjavik with stunning views of the mountains, glaciers and the sea. Family suites are available and are equipped with special facilities for children as well as toys, games and a DVD player. It's the perfect way to keep your children entertained in the evening while you relax for a bit after a busy day of sightseeing. Why not treat your family for once?

Iceland with Kids: The Best Hotels in Iceland for Families - Hotel Ranga, Hella

Hotel Ranga is located around 75 minutes south of Reykjavik. Hella is a pickup spot for many day tours like Landmannalaugar. This is a great idea for a family excursion in Iceland. The hotel’s 52 luxury rooms are equipped with TV and wifi. It’s also close to spectacular and remote natural wonders of Iceland.

Landmannalaugar volcanic mountains are a great place to take your kids

Iceland with Kids: The Best Hotels in Iceland for Families - Reykjavik4you Apartment Hotel, Reykjavik

Both couples and families will love their stay here. This is mainly due to its central location very close to Laugavegur street. No more kids walking around too much and getting tired very quickly. This is a perfect way to keep them calm and relaxed – get an apartment in the city center! It contains 22 large, spacious, bright apartments equipped with a full kitchen and colorful modern decor. You can prepare meals for your family there on your own which is also good for your budget. We know how expensive it is to have meals in restaurants with a big family. If you’re staying in Reykjavik, this is definitely the best hotel choice.

Iceland with Kids: The Best Hotels in Iceland for Families - Hotel Grimsborgir

Hotel Grimsborgir is an exclusive 64-room hotel in a secluded location that is ideal for seeing the Northern Lights. The rooms are sophisticated and outfitted with a flat-screen TV, minibar and fully-equipped kitchen. It's considered one of the best hotels in Iceland and each apartment has a private bathroom and some have even jacuzzis. Doesn’t it sound like the perfect place to relax and play with your family?

A hotel for families on Lake Myvatn in Iceland

Iceland with Kids: The Best Hotels in Iceland for Families - Fosshotel Myvatn

This is a completely new hotel located in front of Lake Myvatn. It offers great facilities and is nicely decorated. In front of the hotel, there is parking available for guests. It's especially convenient for families because we know they have lots of luggage. We can also recommend booking a table at the hotel’s restaurant. It’s nice to have a satisfying meal with your whole family after a long day of trekking. It’s also a good location from which to see the Aurora Borealis. Your kids will love it! The rooms are spacious and comfortable with unique views from the windows.

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Monday, 14 May 2018

Best Romantic Ideas For Your Iceland Trip

Surprising your partner is something really nice to do and is almost always appreciated. At the very least, it adds a few unforgettable memories to your love story. If you are lucky enough to visit Iceland, keep in mind that the surprise factor in a country like this is not difficult to achieve. Here at Iceland24, we haven’t yet lost our romantic touch. It's our pleasure to bring you the best romantic ideas for your Iceland trip with your partner.

Happy Icelandic couple sharing a romantic moment

The Aurora Borealis

Let's come out with romantic guns blazing. Is there anything more beautiful than this phenomenon of nature? Not only is it entirely unique, but it will take both you and your partner’s breath away. Enjoying the show of lights right above your heads in the middle of nowhere is priceless. You'll be wrapped up with your beloved, holding each other close and staying warm with a nice warm blanket.

Remember that the northern auroral season usually takes place from September to April. The ideal circumstances to see the lights are very specific: cold, dark, clear skies. It is possible to see the Northern Lights from cities in Iceland. However, we recommend that you move away from areas with high light pollution so that the intensity of the Aurora Borealis will be even greater. You'll also get the benefit of privacy and the special setting that comes from the two of you being alone in the middle of the nowhere.

The Northern Lights over Godafoss Waterfall are the perfect romantic evening

Taking a dip in thermal baths 
Iceland is a country filled with geothermal baths. As a result, Icelanders love to spend time in spas, swimming pools and hot springs. Don’t be alarmed; we’re not going to offer you an Olympic-sized swimming pool as a romantic option. We are talking more about the beautiful areas with natural hot springs out in the middle of nature. You’ll find plenty of natural pools heated with geothermal energy and with lots of privacy.

For example, you have Landbrotalaug, a spring that has formed a natural pool and that is 44 °C (111 °F). It’s like having a natural jacuzzi. The spring is located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, in a setting as beautiful as it is secluded. It’s quite small, so two people fit perfectly. Submerged in the warm water, you can see the peaks of the surrounding mountains and the impressive landscape.

This is only one example, and in Iceland, these tiny, hidden geothermal springs are everywhere. You’ve got thousands of options to choose from, so find the one you like the most.

Girl swimming in a hot spring in Landmannalaugar during a romantic trip to Iceland

Dine with the best views
Both in Reykjavik and outside the city, there are multiple options to enjoy a delicious dinner with impressive views. Restaurants such as Perlan or SKY Restaurant & Bar in Reykjavík offer a wide variety of Icelandic dishes with views of either the entire city or Reykjavík bay.

If you go to the Blue Lagoon, it can also be a fantastic opportunity to visit LAVA Restaurant, with expansive views of the lagoon. This type of experience is not only restricted to cities. There are also restaurants and cafes in small fishing villages offering views of the fjords, cliffs and all kinds of natural beauty. They provide that final touch to a great evening.

Adventure-filled activities to do together 
If you prefer a more active itinerary, why not enjoy an outdoor activity together? There are multiple options in Iceland and some of them are totally unique and surprising. What do you think about hiking on a glacier? Visiting ice caves? Riding on an Icelandic horse?

View from ice cave in Iceland with romantic sunset

All these activities are available in Iceland. You will need to hire a guide or be part of a tour as you’ll need to go with a certified specialist. They will also provide you and your significant other with all the necessary equipment to safely complete your excursion. These types of activities won’t give you too much privacy though, because they are usually done in a group. They will, however, leave you with unforgettable memories to last for the rest of your lives. Is there anything more romantic than that?

Whichever option you choose, we are sure that Iceland will surpass your expectations. Tell us your experiences or if you have any other recommendations.

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Friday, 11 May 2018

Reykjavik's Best Restaurants

What's your favorite part of traveling? Is it seeing new places? Experiencing new cultures? Or maybe even meeting new people? For foodies like myself, the best part of traveling is discovering new dishes and places to eat. When you visit Iceland it's no different. So what is typical Icelandic cuisine exactly? And what are the best restaurants in Reykjavik? These are the questions that really matter during your trip to Iceland.

Wine glasses and cutlery at a restaurant in Reykjavik, Icelan

We've written a little bit about traditional Icelandic foods at Christmas as well as the world of Icelandic desserts. You can try these dishes and more while looking for the place to eat in Reykjavik city center. The capital city also has other types of cuisine if you've grown tired of Hákarl, Skyr or Hangikjöt.

Reykjavik's Best Restaurants - Grillmarkaðurinn 

Owners and head chefs Hrefna Rósa Sætran and Guðlaugur P. Frímannsson take pride in using local, high-quality products. The restaurant’s offering has been described as “traditional Icelandic food with a twist”. The downstairs area provides the perfect backdrop for a romantic date and recommended dishes include duck confit and puffin with blueberries. They tend to get a bit busy so we recommend making a reservation to ensure your spot.

Grillmarkaðurinn Contact Information
Lækjargata 2a, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 571 7777

Reykjavik chef at fine dining restaurant

Reykjavik's Best Restaurants - Kol Restaurant 

You can order a la carte or select from one of their three menus. The tasting menu changes daily, so you'll always be pleasantly surprised when you sit down at this fine dining establishment. Head chef Sævar Lárusson and his team have lovingly chosen only the freshest of seasonal ingredients to provide your palate with a sampling of the best Iceland has to offer. The three-course menu and gourmet menu feature delectable dishes such as Icelandic scallops, charred salmon, sauteed cod and lamb sirloin. To top it all off why not try the white chocolate cheesecake?

Kol Restaurant Contact Information
Skólavörðustígur 40, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 517 7474

Seafood amuse-bouche at an upscale restaurant in Reykjavik

Reykjavik's Best Restaurants - Fish Company 

What this fish restaurant lacks in imagination regarding nomenclature, it makes up for in taste and quality. Considered one of the best restaurants in Iceland, if you take a trip here you will not be disappointed. Owner and master chef Lárus Gunnar Jónasson prides himself on creating a culinary mix of cultures. According to the website, the dishes are “influenced by Nordic fusion, but grounded in solid Icelandic cuisine”. A quick glance at the menu also reveals fare inspired by far-flung destinations such as Hong Kong and Argentina.

Fish Company Contact Information
Vesturgata 2a, Grófartorg, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 552 5300

Chef drizzling sauce over dish at one of Reykjavik's best restaurants

Reykjavik's Best Restaurants - Dill Restaurant 

As the first Icelandic restaurant to receive a Michelin star, this fine dining establishment is a source of pride for the whole island. Reykjavik’s Dill restaurant offers food and wine pairings in order to help you have an unforgettable dining experience. Considered New Nordic cuisine, Dill is one of the more high-end restaurant options in Reykjavik and its popularity continues to grow. We recommend booking in advance in order to secure a table.

Dill Restaurant Contact Information
Hverfisgata 12, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 552 1522

Wherever you decide to dine, we’re sure you’ll have a great meal. Please let us know what you think and if you have any additional restaurant recommendations for Reykjavik. We'd love to hear them.

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Thursday, 10 May 2018

Iceland's Most Spectacular Natural Disasters

Our readers already know that Iceland is a country with impressive natural beauty. It should be noted, however, that brutal forces of nature shaped the island nation’s stunning landscapes. Although today the island is pretty much formed (with the exception of the occasional underwater volcano), it’s not exempt from Mother Nature’s fury. Let's look at some of Iceland's most spectacular natural disasters.

Tectonic plates in Iceland's Thingvellir National Park

Located in the North Atlantic and resting on the fault between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, Iceland is a country that is constantly changing, at least geologically speaking. One of the more interesting changes is the fact that Iceland is literally splitting in two. The aforementioned tectonic plates are separating every year at a rate of about 2.5 cm. In fact, in Thingvellir National Park you can see where the earth is splitting.

Laying atop tectonic plates in constant movement means that the area becomes a zone with a high seismic risk. If we also add in the fact that the area is extremely active volcanically speaking, it is only a matter of time before another geological event happens. Geological events on the volcanic island have not had serious consequences (yet!) in part because they have not been particularly devastating. Here are some of Iceland's most famous natural disasters.

Iceland's Most Spectacular Natural Disasters - The 2000 Earthquake

This quake happened on June 17th, Iceland's National Day, and had aftershocks for several days afterward. It measured 6.6 on the Richter scale but luckily there were no casualties. There were, however, injuries and considerable damage to infrastructure and buildings.

Seismic graph measuring earthquake activity in Iceand

Iceland's Most Spectacular Natural Disasters - The 2008 Earthquake

Like the earthquake in the year 2000, this one also occurred in Southwestern Iceland. There were actually two seismic events that took place. The first earthquake was registered on May 29th with a magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale and the second had a magnitude of 5.8 on the same scale. As with the 2000 earthquake, this one also luckily had no fatalities. There were more than 30 injuries and additionally, several herds of animals were recorded as lost. The earthquake had its epicenter about 45 km (28 mi) outside of Reykjavik, between Hveragerði and Selfoss waterfall.

Iceland's Most Spectacular Natural Disasters - The Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 

The eruption of this now infamous volcano not only affected Iceland but also the rest of Europe. The ashes and smoke cloud spewed out by this giant blocked airspace for almost a week.

In March 2010, the volcano began to spout molten lava throughout southern Iceland in areas that were uninhabited. After having been asleep for nearly 180 years, the colossus began to gradually awaken from its long slumber. It was not until April 14th that it would release all of its fury. This eruption caused the surrounding glacier to melt, which in turn caused major floods. Around 800 people had to be evacuated from neighboring towns.

Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption, Iceland 2010

The volcano would begin making its mark on a larger scale with its second eruption. Huge amounts of ash were shot into the atmosphere at a high altitude, where the jet stream would be responsible for distributing it across almost the entire European continent. This resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights and paralyzed Europe and its airspace for 6 intense days.

Iceland's Most Spectacular Natural Disasters - The Eruption of Grímsvötn in 2011

It seems like Icelandic volcanoes really have a thing for causing chaos, disruption and blocking airspace. This is certainly the case of Grímsvötn volcano located in the Highlands of Iceland. It's one of the most active volcanic mountains on the island. The astonishing eruption was accompanied by legendary earthquakes. In addition to lava, the volcano ejected large amounts of ash. Due to this, about 900 flights had to be canceled between May 22-25th, 2011.

Given the conditions and location where Iceland is located, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we woke up to news of some other sleeping giant waking up. In Iceland there are approximately 180 volcanoes, 32 of which are active. With this many active volcanoes in Iceland, another eruption is simply a question of when rather than if. They don't call it the Land of Fire and Ice for nothing.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Icelandic Desserts: Get to Know Iceland's Sweet Side

There are two types of people in the world: those who love sweet things and those who prefer more savory fare. But as a friend always said, regardless of the side you choose, we all need a dessert for our coffee. I like their way of thinking. And the truth is, you shouldn't worry if you have one preference the other. With Icelandic cuisine and desserts, there are so many options that the biggest problem will be choosing between them.

Delicious cake in a Reykjavik cafe - one of Iceland's famous desserts

Pastries and baked goods are present in the lives of Icelanders on a daily basis. In Reykjavik, there are more than 20 bakeries. Every city and town, no matter how small, has its own as well. Each place usually has its particular specialty that ranges from biscuits to specific types of bread and buns. But where does all this Icelandic baking tradition come from?

In the past, planting grain on Icelandic soil was not very easy with the technology that existed at the time. And the little that could be sown was usually reserved for animals rather than for bread. The tradition of pastries later began to arrive from the European continent. It came mainly from the Danes, who were the first bakers and pastry makers in the country. The influence of Denmark on the sweet side of Icelandic cuisine was quite strong. Today they still sell typical Danish buns in bakeries and cake shops.

Rolled sugar cookie dough with Iceland silhouette cut out and rolling pin

Let's start our sweet adventure with one of Iceland's most famous buns, the kleinur. While the recipe itself is of Danish origin, its name seems to derive from the German word "klein", meaning small. It’s a kind of donut dough made with grated lemon, cream, flour, eggs, and butter. Once the dough is ready, it is extended, cut into a diamond shape and twisted at the corners. Finally, it’s fried in a bath of hot oil. Depending on where the kleinur is made, it is usually scented with vanilla or cardamom. The tradition of making these delicious baked Icelandic treats go back hundreds of years. They are even mentioned in books from the 18th century. They've become extremely popular and quite famous, especially in areas of North America with a large concentration of immigrants from Iceland.

If you are a lover of cinnamon then we have the perfect dessert for you: snúður. They’re a kind of large cinnamon roll whose dough features essence of cardamom. Here, the dough is not fried, but baked. The result is a delicious little sweet bun that Icelanders almost always accompany with kókómjólk. This tasty drink is a chocolate shake quite popular on the island.

If you happen to be a diehard chocolate lover, then your perfect Icelandic dessert is probably skúffukaka. This sweet treat is fluffy and made with dark chocolate. These little bites of heaven may remind you of brownies, but with a special touch: grated coconut on top. Yummy, right? A true chocoholic’s dream.

Icelandic skúffukaka brownies on a white plate

Another scrumptious Icelandic dessert to go along with your coffee is mondlukaka or almond cake. The layers of cake have strawberry jam between them and whipped cream on top. Once it’s put out on display it doesn’t last very long as it’s one of Icelander's favorites.

To avoid going completely into a diabetic coma, let's move on to some more savory options. Flatkaka or "flat pie" is a type of unleavened rye bread. It was traditionally cooked in wood ovens using the direct heat of the hot embers, but it can also be made at home in a high-temperature iron pan. The most common way to eat it is with butter and some slices of roasted lamb.

Did someone say cheese? Don't Iceland, there are cheeses for everyone and every occasion. Not that you need a special occasion to eat cheese, of course. Do you love cheese? Great, because you have the delicious ostaslaufur. These are rolls of soft bread stuffed with cheese... can you say wow! They're especially popular among kids but let's face it, you're never too old for something so tasty.

We hope you enjoyed this small tour of Icelandic desserts, sweets and pastries. What was your favorite or which one are you most interested in trying? If you’re not quite sure, why not take a stroll through all of the coffee shops and bakeries in Iceland and try them all? Someone has to be in charge of quality control!

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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Why was beer banned in Iceland?

For those of you who have gone (or are yet to go) to Iceland, you will discover that beer is largely present in Icelandic social life. Reykjavik’s nightlife has gradually gained fame and followers. Their nightclubs and the weekend vibe would not be comparable if beer was not on tap. Perhaps nowadays it seems totally normal for this delicious drink to be a part of our lives, but it hasn't always been this way. Iceland actually banned beer in the early 1900s, much like American Prohibition in the 1920s. Why would Iceland ban beer you ask? Let's find out.

Three beers on counter in Reykjavik bar

According to historians, this alcoholic beverage was created by the Egyptians and Sumerians. It is one of the oldest drinks in the world and seems to have developed along with bread about 10,000 BC. The result obtained from the fermentation of barley and hops is a bitter-tasting drink that can vary in hue from light to dark. It has been a part of both Eastern and modern Western cultures throughout time.

In the specific case of Icelanders, this particular brew came to the island at the time of colonization by the Norwegians. Self-production and the creation of breweries in Iceland was almost impossible because the land was not entirely suitable for growing barley. Most of the product was imported from countries such as Norway or Denmark, countries where this drink was part of their culture and daily life.

It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the notion of beer changed radically. It got to the point where it was flat out banned in Iceland. But why? Well, there are several reasons for the prohibition of beer in Iceland. A social movement called the "Temperance Movement"began to grow. This movement and its activists were completely against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. These ideas not only had an impact on Iceland but also extended to the Anglo-Saxon world. The Temperance doctrine was based on religious and moral principles. It equated the consumption of alcohol with inappropriate behaviors that trigger problems such as alcoholism and domestic violence.

1920s man holding alcoholic drink and sign

Apart from the social and moral aspect, there were also political reasons. It was about the same time that Iceland, then under Danish rule, began to develop a movement for independence. The Danish Crown's lack of interest in the needs of the Icelanders, the development of an increasingly hegemonic society and a growing national consciousness were fueling such uprisings. Norway and Denmark were still the biggest importers of Icelandic beer at this time. As a result, drinking beer began to be associated with the Danes and it was viewed as an unpatriotic option for Icelanders.

In 1908, Iceland held a referendum to approve the prohibition of importing alcohol and 61% of the electorate voted in favor. Soon, those strongly in favor of prohibition would begin to weaken their stance. Iceland’s ban on alcohol affected imports of wine from Spain and Portugal. These countries responded in kind by deciding to stop imports of salted cod to the Iberian Peninsula. This threat to the Icelandic fishing industry caused the rules to loosen a bit. Prohibition was partially lifted in 1921 and lifted altogether in 1989.

As you can see, Iceland spent some time with alcoholic beverages, especially beer, being banned. Does this mean that the Icelanders went all that time without it? Nothing could be further from the truth. You know how human nature is. When you tell people they can't do something, what’s the first thing they run out and do? As the old saying goes: Where there's a will, there's a way.

When there was a full ban, there were smugglers who brought in various alcoholic beverages. When the ban was partial or on a specific proof of alcohol, the Icelanders still managed to get beer imported. They also created secret breweries. To get around proof limits, they produced beers with a legally allowed alcohol proof and then later added in Brennevin. This is a typically Scandinavian distilled alcohol made from potatoes.

Icelandic beer being poured into a glass

All of these limitations affected the behavior of Icelanders with respect to alcoholic beverages. After lifting the ban, the Icelandic society stopping consuming stronger drinks and wine and beer became the norm. Today, twice as much beer is sold in Iceland as any other alcoholic beverage. With Iceland's growing tourism industry, this is certainly a good thing for tourists as well.

It's quite easy to find craft breweries throughout the streets of Reykjavik. There are also many pubs that specialize in local as well as international beers. And although the price of beer is still quite high (about € 8-9 for local beer and € 9-15 for imported beer) you can always go to bars in Reykjavík during everyone’s favorite time: Happy hour. The Appy Hour app will show you when and where to get discounts on beers in Reykjavik. Happy drinking and bottoms up!

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Monday, 7 May 2018

Traveling in Iceland During Christmas - Traditions and Typical Food

Christmas in Iceland is a very special time of year. Most of the island’s breathtaking landscapes are blanketed in snow, shops and homes are decked out in holiday regalia and Icelanders are happy at home, preparing feasts for the festive season. If you visit Iceland in December, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the remarkable holiday atmosphere. Traveling in Iceland during Christmas is a great idea and is one trip you won't soon forget.

Red christmas tree decorations in Iceland

The majority of restaurants offer Christmas menus or buffets. This can be a great way to try traditional Icelandic cuisine. The menu normally includes hangikjöt (smoked meat), hamborgahryggur (marinated pork), laufabrauð (crunchy bread) or more sophisticated dishes such as hreindır (reindeer) or rjúpa (snow partridge).

In the days leading up to Christmas, you’ll find holiday markets in Reykjavik and all over the island, outdoor ice skating, exhibitions, concerts, and many other enjoyable Yuletide activities.

From December 12th to 24th, the thirteen Yule Lads come one by one to leave a small gift in the shoes of children who have behaved well. Bad children receive a potato. The Yule Lads are thirteen brothers who live in the mountains with their mother Grýla. During the month of December, you can find them in Dimmborgir in the Myvatn zone in north Iceland.

Christmas presents in Iceland

Þórlaksmessa takes place on December 23rd. This is the day when Icelanders eat skata, a type of fermented skatefish, or hangikjöt, which is lamb meat that has been boiled and smoked. Most of the stores stay open until 11pm to cater to last-minute shoppers. Reykjavik’s main shopping street is filled with people until the stores close. Thousands of people go there to make purchases, walk around, and enjoy the overall Christmas ambience.

Aðfangadagur is Christmas Eve, and this is the most important day of Christmas holidays in Iceland. In the evening, families gather to have dinner, attend Christmas mass, or listen to the radio while they exchange and open presents. They spend the rest of the night reading new books, playing new games and eating chocolate. It is said that Jólakötturinn, the monster and vicious Yule cat, comes for children who do not received new clothes on Christmas Eve and takes them to the mountains.

On the table, you're likely to find some sort of smoked meat such as hangikjöt and laufabrauð ( a typical Icelandic type of lightly fried bread in the shape of a small, flat cake with geometric patterns that have been carved by small knives). The meat dish is generally pork such as hamborgaryggur, but some people prefer to eat freshly caught partridge (rjúpa). For dessert, Icelanders often serve homemade cookies called smákökur.

Christmas dinner table set in Iceland with Christmas tree in background

On Christmas Day, Jóladagur, and Boxing Day, Annar í Jólum, most people spend time with their family eating and resting.

What to do during Christmas in Iceland
Pretty much everything is closed in Iceland from midday on Christmas Eve until the 27th of December. The increase in tourism has changed things a little bit but not that much.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that there is no public transportation or any domestic flights during these dates. Every year, the official websites of Iceland's two biggest cities ( and publish an updated list of restaurants, pools and museums that stay open during the holidays.

It's extremely important to make a reservation at a restaurant during this period to assure you have a place to eat. In other parts of Iceland, most hotels and restaurants are closed, so you need to be well prepared if you're planning to visit Iceland during this time of year. Some travel agencies offer excursions during the holidays and you can find more information on the websites provided above.

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Thursday, 3 May 2018

Top Things to Do in Borgarnes, Iceland

Located about 75km (46mi) north of Reykjavik, Borgarnes is a small, friendly town of approximately 2,000 inhabitants. Situated between the capital and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, the city's economy relies heavily on tourism and industry. Here are some ideas for what to do in Iceland when you visit Borgarnes.

View of Borgarnes coast overlooking the water

The Borgarnes Settlement Museum offers two permanent exhibitions: one on the Saga of Egill and one on the settlement of Iceland. The exhibits are based on two books, "The Icelandic Book" and "The Settlement Book". The exhibition tells us more about the discovery of Iceland, the arrival of the Norwegian Vikings and the establishment of the world’s first parliament, the Alþingi. Visitors will go on a journey of discovery via storyboards, sounds, shows, theater, and sculptures. You can also get an audio guide which is available in English, Spanish, French, Icelandic, and nine other languages. In addition to this, they have an excellent coffee shop offering local and homemade products. We strongly recommend a visit to this museum as it is one of the more interesting highlights of Iceland’s attractions. The museum is open all year round from 10am to 9pm.

The Borgarnes Swimming Pool is a nice place for everyone. Whether you are young or old, alone or with family or friends, want to swim or simply soak up the hot water, this is the place for you. There is an indoor pool, an outdoor pool with sea views, two water slides, a sauna, and four jacuzzis with temperatures around 40 °C (104 °F). Grab your towel and swimsuit and hop on in!

People swimming at Borngarnes Swimming Pool

The Borgarnes Museum is a fascinating place for those who are curious about Iceland. You will be able to travel back in time to Iceland at beginning of the 20th century. You can also visit a peat house which will give you an idea of how everyday life was for Icelandic families at that time. The exhibition 'Oh, to be a bird!' is quite lovely. The museum is open from 1pm to 5pm during the four summer months and until 4pm the rest of the year.

For a breathtaking view and hearty breakfast, the Geirabakarí bakery is the perfect option. You can also enjoy the local and seasonal produce of the Ljómalind Cooperative, open every day from 10am to 6pm (12pm to 5pm in winter). For those who love to hike, climbing up Hafnarfjall Mountain (2.5 hours to reach the summit) is a good option. You can also take nice walks along the marked trails at the Einkunnir Nature Park and have a picnic or barbecue.

Hafnarfjall mountain near Borgarnes

For family-friendly activities, you can stroll through Skallagrímsgarður Park or visit Bjössaróló's Playground. This children's play space was created in 1979 by the carpenter Björn Hjörtur Guðmundsson using only recycled materials. An environmental pioneer, he wanted to instill in children the idea that nature requires attention and respect. The Brúðuheimar Puppet Center is also a fun and engaging activity to do with your children!

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Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Keflavík’s Unusual History and Noteworthy Attractions

Keflavík is a small town in the western part of Iceland. With the neighboring town of Njarðvík and the village of Hafnir, they form the municipality of Reykjanesbær. With a population of just over 15,000 inhabitants, this is Iceland's third largest urban concentration. While Keflavík’s claim to fame is being home to the country's international airport, that’s not the only thing that makes it special. There are many things to do in Iceland, and Keflavík’s unique history and interesting attractions may convince you to stop here after you land at Iceland’s airport.

Kelfavik view of sea and mountains

Keflavík’s Military History

Keflavík started as a 16th-century fishing village and began to grow from there. It became best known as an airbase in the 1940s after the United States built an international airbase. This crucial stop off point allowed the American military to control North Atlantic air routes during World War II. It became an important hub for transporting personnel, equipment and consumer goods to and from Europe.

Military plane on tarmac

American forces left Icelandic soil in 1947 but returned in 1951 when the base was taken over by NATO. If officially closed in 2006 and is currently being used by the Icelandic Coast Guard. Many of the army buildings have been transformed into different types of housing or workshops. More and more hotels and guesthouses are appearing in the region, so if you need to spend the night before an early international flight, Keflavík has you covered with plenty of options.

Vikingaheimar - Keflavík’s Viking World Museum

The Viking world of "Vikingaheimar" immerses you in the realm of the Vikings. This museum, which opened in 2009, offers five exhibitions on various themes related to Vikings and the history of Iceland. The biggest attraction in the museum is the replica of the Gokstad Viking ship from the 9th century. Known as Íslendingur, which means “Icelander” in Icelandic, the grand vessel was manufactured by Westman Islands shipbuilder Gunnar Marel Eggertsson. The shipwright sailed this boat from Iceland to New York in the year 2000 to celebrate the millennial anniversary of Leif Erikson’s journey from Europe to America. Erikson is one of Eggertsson’s ancestors and explored parts of North America (known as Vinland at the time) with other Norse Vikings in the year 1000. This predates Christopher Columbus by 500 years and is one of the Vikings’ greatest sailing achievements.

Viking ship on open water like Gunnar Marel Eggertsson's Íslendingur

Vikingaheimar is open daily from 7am to 6pm from February 1st to October 31st.. During the winter months (November 1st to January 31st), the museum is open from 10am to 5pm. Please note that the museum closes between the December 12th and January 7th for Christmas holidays.

Entry costs are:
1500 ISK (12€ or $15) for regular admission
1300 ISK (10€ or $13) for students
Free for children under the age of 14.

You also receive a 10% discount when you book on their website.

Keflavik’s Rock Museum - The Icelandic Museum of Rock & Roll

Keflavík is often referred to as the Liverpool of the North because of its connection to rock music. While Liverpool in the UK is home to legendary 1960s rock group the Beatles, in the 1960s and 1970s the city of Keflavík was full of talented and successful Icelandic musicians as well. The Icelandic Museum of Rock & Roll opened in 2014 and is filled with trinkets and information about Icelandic artists. The artists featured range from old to new. You’ll find everything in this museum from the sequined costumes of Páll Óskar to memorabilia from Björk’s former band, the Sugarcubes.

Man playing guitar

There is a lot to discover about the Icelandic music scene. The Keflavík rock museum provides each visitor with a computer tablet. You’ll have the opportunity to fully enjoy an interactive guided tour while listening to your favorite Icelandic artists and discovering new ones! Admission costs 2000 ISK (16€ or $20) and is free for children under 16 years of age. The museum is open daily from 11am to 6pm.

In addition to a well-stocked library in Icelandic and English, Keflavik is full of restaurants, shops, hotels, and guesthouses. It’s also close to the famous Blue Lagoon and the Reykjanes Peninsula. You can visit either of these attractions on your way to the airport for your departure.

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