Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Iceland’s Political Parties

The Althingi, Iceland’s parliament, currently has eight different political parties dividing the 62 seats that make up our representative democracy. Keeping track of a handful of parties can be tough enough for the average person in their own country, however, keeping track of 8 different parties is a task in of itself. If you are confused, or the uninitiated, no worries, I will enlighten you. We are going to take a brief look at the political parties that make up Iceland’s parliament.

Iceland has eight political parties with varying opinions

Independence Party 

The first party to be aware of is the Independence Party of Iceland. This party was originally created to try to unite the right-wing factions of Iceland under one unified party. Historically, the Independence Party has been the most powerful political party in Iceland. The Independence Party has won 28 of the last 29 elections, and all of the party leaders have been elected to the position of Prime Minister at least once.

This right-leaning political party favors economically liberal policies and advocates for a hands-off government approach. They were also responsible for implementing welfare-state policies in the 1930s. Their most beloved policy change came in the form of prohibition reform. The party led the charge in dismantling prohibition, so we could all enjoy beer again! No matter what your party affiliation is, I think we can all agree that tasty beer is a good thing.

The Left-Green Movement 

The second largest political party in Iceland, with 11 representatives on the Athingi, is the Left-Green Movement. And, it is interesting to note that they are one of the newer political parties in Iceland's democracy. Its inception came in 1999 after a kerfuffle arose between those who did not approve of a merger of parties that would have created the Social Democratic Alliance. Dissidents of the creation of the Social Democratic Alliance decided to split and form their own political party. Thus, the Left-Green Movement was born. Our current Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir is a member of the Left-Green Movement. Jakobsdóttir is the second female Prime Minister in Iceland’s history, with Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir being the first.

The party values democratic socialist viewpoints, feminism, and also places a high value on environmentalism. The Left-Green Movement also is famously against the many of the US’s decisions to intervene in countries across the world. They currently hold 16% of the countries seats in parliament.

The Left-Green movement supports the environment

The Social Democratic Alliance 

The third largest political party in Iceland has its roots in four separate left-leaning factions of the Icelandic political system. In 2000, the Social Democratic Party, the Women’s List, the People’s Alliance, and the National Awakening put aside their difference and decided to form a unified center-left front. Its creation was an attempt to combat the right-leaning Independence Party effectively. They are more commonly known as “The Alliance.” Last voting cycle, they gained four new votes in the Icelandic parliament, which was the most substantial positive differential for any party in the race.

Progressive Party of Iceland 

Originally, the Progressive Party of Iceland was created to better represent farmers during World War I. Since Iceland is an island nation in the middle of the North Atlantic, we require more imported goods than most countries. So, during WWI when the coastlines were effectively receiving no new ships with goods to take in or ship out, the agrarian working class was hit the hardest. Iceland’s farmers felt like they deserved better representation in decisions made by the Athingi.

While it has stuck to its farming roots, the party is noticeably more liberal now than it was in the past. Also, the Progressive Party is known for not following traditional politics and will align itself with both parties from either side of the aisle. Last election cycle the Progressive Party formed a coalition with the Left-Green Movement and the Independence Party to create a new Icelandic government. After the dust settled, it was decided that they would be in charge of Ministries of Industry, Fishing, Tourism, and Agriculture for Iceland.

The Pirate Party is a relative newcomer to Icelandic politics

Up and Comers in the Icelandic Althingi 

Four other parties hold seats in the Althingi. The Pirate Party, The People’s Party, Centre Party, and the Reform Party. The Pirate Party is best known outside of Iceland for being an offshoot political ideology that arose from the legal actions taken against Swedish torrent site PirateBay. Not everyone agrees with their political standings, but man does it make for a cool party name. Like, do I get a sword and a parrot if I join? Cause I wouldn’t be mad at that.

Icelandic Political Parties 

With this many political parties in Iceland, it can be tough to follow which parties are sponsoring legislation, who is introducing bills, etc. But, in my opinion, it is an incredibly unique situation to be in. By having so many different ideologies on how to create change and govern, there is a much better chance that a new party (that we never thought of before) could figure out an easier or better way to lead Iceland into the future.

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Monday, 13 August 2018

Best Ways to Save Money in Iceland

I hate to say it, but Iceland ain’t cheap. I guess the age-old adage “the best things in life are free” has some exceptions. Not only is Iceland one of the friendliest, safest, and happiest countries in the world, but it is easily one of the most expensive. If you aren’t careful, your spending can add up really quickly. We aim to get you through your next Icelandic adventure with a few extra bucks in your pocket. So, let us explore some ways you can save money in Iceland.

What are the best ways to save money in Iceland?

Never Buy Bottled Water in Iceland 

This is a massive mistake tourists often make when they come to Iceland. I have traveled to other parts of the world where it is necessary to stock up on bottled water. The opposite is true in Iceland; tap or faucet water here is fresh, delicious, and free. I would highly recommend buying a reusable water bottle before your next Icelandic trip. I always recommend BPA-free Nalgene reusable plastic water bottles. They could help you potentially save a ton of money.

Buy Your Booze In The Airport Duty-Free 

It is crucial that you try and buy your alcohol at the airport before you head off to Reykjavik, or elsewhere. The alcohol markup in Iceland can cost a pretty penny, especially for foreigners, and you don’t want to waste any money that you don’t have to. It should also be noted that eating and drinking is pricey in Iceland, so any ways you can cut corners (and have a good time) are always advisable.

One way to save money in Iceland is shopping at duty free at the airport

Stick to Icelandic Happy Hour 

Moving right along with the food and beverage tips, I always advise that you check for happy hour specials (especially if you are staying in Reykjavik). Eating out during your Icelandic adventure can start to feel financially burdensome after a few days in Iceland. So, to ease the pain of converting those euros or dollars to Icelandic krona, I always recommend that you seek out local happy hour specials. Getting a great deal on a burger and a beer is never a bad way to start off your night, and you will probably meet some friendly Icelanders. Scout out local bars and find a great happy hour deal.

Go Outside

Experiencing the best that the city has to offer can add up quickly, but the best that Iceland has to offer is outside the city. Who would have thought? Enjoying nature? What a crazy thought! Hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Iceland every year to explore and revel in the natural beauty that permeates throughout our stunning landscapes. Most of the attractions are free, and the ones that do cost money are relatively cheap. Try to do as many outdoor related activities as possible. Even just outside Reykjavik, there are a ton of incredible day trips that you could take. Search out some great hiking routes and enjoy the great outdoors.

Cook If Possible 

My favorite thing about exploring a new culture is experiencing their cuisine. I am obsessed with food. I think a culture’s cuisine can cue you into the subtle nuances and idiosyncrasies that are often overlooked by tourists. Iceland’s food is descended from our Viking heritage, and so it borrows heavily from the sea. While fresh fish are ubiquitous on our lunch and dinner menus, inexpensive prices are not. Utilize local grocery stores to try to cook during your stay here. I would say 95% of modern accommodations will give you access to some sort of cooking equipment. Save a little extra money for the back end of your Icelandic trip by eating at home on the front end. It will blow your mind how much money you will save.

Cooking will save you lots of money in Iceland

Use the Local Wifi 

International roaming fees can add up quickly during your trip to Iceland. Maybe it has something to do with the fact we are a tiny island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. I always recommend that travelers use our free wifi that you can find almost anywhere in the Reykjavik. By not using your cellular data as much, you also spend less time on your phone and more time enjoying Iceland. And in the end, isn’t that why you came here? You came to explore our breathtaking country, and not stare endlessly at your cell phone, right?

Best Ways to Save Money in Iceland 

Iceland may not be the cheapest place to travel to, but with enough savvy, you can save boatloads of cash during your trip. All you need to do is to follow these steps, and maybe even come up with a few of your own, and you will be fine. The next thing you will know, you will be flying home with incredible memories, pictures, and if you follow this article, maybe even a few extra krona lining your pockets!

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Friday, 10 August 2018

The World’s First Parliament: Iceland’s Althingi

Iceland may be the youngest country in the world, geologically speaking, but we hold some very important records. We have Europe’s largest glacier and second largest national park, the Vatnajökull National Park. However, Iceland’s crown jewel with regards to firsts come in the form of the Alþingi, our parliamentary system. Iceland holds the record for having the oldest continuously running parliament in the world. Let’s explore a bit about the history and qualities of Iceland’s parliament, the Alþingi.

Icelandic parliament building in Reykjavik

Historical Context 

Today Iceland, statistically, boasts one of the worlds most educated populations, we lead the world in renewable energy production, and our culture is warm and welcoming. That has not always been the case. Originally, Iceland had more in common with Australia during the 1700s; at its inception, Iceland was a safe haven for outcasts, explorers, and refugees.

The first permanent settlement was created by the Norwegian Ingólfr Arnarson around 874 AD. Ingóflr had fled Norway to escape a vicious blood feud that was taking place and sought refuge in Iceland. He famously threw two pillars from his boat overboard and decided that where ever they washed ashore is where he would establish his settlement. Luckily for him, those pillars made their way to modern day Reykjavik. Reykjavik’s name comes from Ingóflr himself, and loosely translated to “Smokey Bay.” There is evidence that there were Viking and Gaelic settlements before Reykjavik, but those settlements never came to fruition. And so, the first permanent settlement was established.

After Ingólfr settled in Reykjavik, more and more settlers came from other Nordic countries. However, most of the settlers coming to our island were Norwegian. From this period on Iceland gradually grew larger with more and more immigrants coming to our shores. However, with Iceland becoming more and more populated, and there being no king, how was law and order kept? Enter the Alþingi.

Iceland's Althingi started as a place where Vikings settled disputes and made community decisions

Creation of The Alþingi 

Situated in Thingvellir National Park is a particularly stunning and beautiful lightly wooded area covered with vibrant green grass and emerald moss. In 930, local chieftains from across Iceland decided to convene here and form the Alþingi. It was necessary because there was no system in place to regulate laws, settle disputes, or deal with other administrative issues that came up. This foundational moment placed Iceland on a trajectory for the formation of a sovereign Iceland.

The Alþingi, initially, was a much different version that we currently enjoy today. At its inception, leaders would come together and decide what the rule of the land would be. However, these edicts and laws were not written down. A unique position was created which was called a “law speaker”.

Law speakers, when viewed retrospectively, held fascinating positions. The law speaker would be elected and serve three-year terms and was chosen as a chairman for the judiciary council of the Alþingi. But, the law speaker had no actual power, he would inform the people of the new laws decided by the Alþingi, but he wouldn’t dispense any justice. This, combined by the fact that the Alþingi had no real executive branch to execute rulings (and thus it was up to the chieftains and sometimes the people to uphold the rule of law) lead to many spectacular and dramatic conflicts. Many of these serve as the basis for some of Iceland’s most compelling historical sagas.

Iceland's first Althingi was in Thingvellir National Park

The Alþingi: Not All Politics 

The Alþingi served as an outlet in which Iceland’s most powerful chiefs and community leaders could convene to settle disputes, select jurors for trials, and to create or amend the laws of the land. However, it wasn’t always about politics. On the contrary. For two weeks in June, during the solstice, thousands of people came from far and wide to enjoy the weather. Farmers sold their wares, Icelanders traded and sold goods, people presented and settled personal disputes, and people told stories. If anything, it more represented a festival where the whole country convened, and then off in the distance, the chieftains handled political business.

The Alþingi Moving Forward 

To this very day, Iceland is run by a much more modern version of the ancient Alþingi. While it retains its original name, they hold considerably more power than in the past. Nonetheless, it is impressive that Iceland has been able to maintain this form of government seemingly uninterrupted for over a thousand years (there was a 45-year period from 1800 to 1845 where it could be considered as interrupted, but we tend to ignore it). To think that one of the world’s most stable governments has its roots in a 2-week long outdoor festival is fascinating. The Alþingi is worlds away from where it once was, but it still holds the same weight as it once did on that fateful day in 930 AD.

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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Why Iceland should be your next travel destination

I find it genuinely surprising that it took so long for Iceland to become a popular tourist destination. There are a plethora of compelling reasons that make Iceland one of the most unique travel destinations in the world. However, up until very recently people and didn’t even stop to consider that they should come to Iceland. Our tourism sector has seen exponential growth in the last decade, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The Land of Fire and Ice has something to captivate people from all walks of life. If you are still on the fence, let me explain why Iceland should be your next tourist destination.

Iceland's spectacular Godafoss waterfall

Road Trippin' 

Listen, I know we just met, but I have to tell you something. I love road trips. I think they are an integral part of growing up, and in my opinion road tripping is the optimal way to travel. You only need a few things to have the experience of a lifetime; close friends, great music, some snacks, and the open road. Now, traveling to another country, renting a vehicle and planning logistics all seem like daunting undertakings for going on a road trip in another country. But, Iceland has got you covered.

Several reasons position Iceland as the perfect country for road tripping. First, the island nation's infrastructure appears to be inadvertently designed for those seeking to plan a road trip. The most popular route to see the entire country, and all of its most popular sightseeing locations, is called the Ring Road. The Ring Road circumnavigates the whole island. The route is already ostensibly planned out for you! Boom! Done! Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I have found that the hardest part of planning any of these trips is trying to figure out which path your journey will take. Iceland has cut the middleman out and basically done the planning for you.

Concordantly, there are plenty of options for accommodation. You can rough it and camp in the wilderness. There are tons of campsites along the way (my preferred choice). Or, you can stay in any one of the small towns or villages. In these locations, you can either stay in an Airbnb, cottage, bed, and breakfast or even a hotel. There are options for all different types of budgets. So, find some close friends, get a ticket, rent a car, and you are just moments away from the greatest adventure of your lifetime.

Couple planning road trip in Iceland


Iceland is a land filled with adventure. The unique landscapes provide thrill-seekers infinite outlets to get their adrenalin rush. Glacier hikes, ice and glacier cave explorations, snowmobile trips, ice climbing and plenty more await curious travelers in Iceland who seek something new. And those are just the winter activities. We also have plenty of hidden geothermal pools and lagoons that litter our cities and countryside. My favorite recommendation for those searching for a truly unforgettable experience is actually an aquatic activity.

If you have the nerve and the right diving certifications, Iceland is home to one of the top scuba diving locations in the world: The Silfra Fissure. The underwater crevasse is a gap in between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. On one of these diving expeditions, you will find yourself in crystal clear water as you swim in between the tectonic plates that hold our planet together. Imagine the look on someone's face when you tell them that you dove in-between literal crust of the earth. In terms of adventure, you will be hard pressed to find that anywhere else.

Northen Lights 

Picture this: you are standing on the edge of a massive frozen glacier, looking out over a frosty field of white ice whose surface is scarred with deep fissures and crevasses. You look above, and the sky has come alive. Brilliant emerald green waves of light slowly and methodically pulsate across the heavens. Standing here at the edge, you can feel like you are no longer on earth. The real question is, why wouldn’t you take the short trip to Iceland just to experience this? Rack your brain to try to find an answer, I doubt you will.

The famous Nordic Northern Lights. What can I say that hasn’t already been said. During the winter months in Iceland, if you have a bit of patience, luck, and a warm jacket, you can watch one of nature’s most compelling natural light shows. I feel like it is folly trying to convey the Northern Lights accurately; words, photos, and videos rarely do the experience justice. To really understand the beauty and abstract sense of wonder they command, you need to come here and see them for yourself.

The Northern Lights in Iceland

Attractive Travel Packages 

Now, let us talk about less noble reasons to visit us: money. Greenbacks. The moolah. Iceland isn’t cheap. There I said it, that's the ugly truth. All Nordic countries are notoriously expensive, and that has historically has detoured droves of tourists. But, the times have changed. We are in the age of an information renaissance. If you look hard enough, you can find anything on the internet, and that includes airfare and travel packages. Here is the thing though…you don’t even have to look very hard for an attractive package to Iceland. There are a ton of options for getting here on a budget that won’t break the bank.

WOW airlines is an Icelandic air carrier that caters to thrifty thrill seekers. They regularly have great prices on flights to Iceland. Stay glued to their site, or have Google push notifications set up, and I assure you that you will find the perfect trip. Also, price aggregators like Momondo, Kayak, and Skyscanner will find you error fares, deals and steals from across the web. Finally, to help tourists make their way to our beautiful island in the North Atlantic, companies are offering travel packages that are inexpensive and include accommodation. All you need to do is look, and your Icelandic adventure is but a few clicks of a mouse away!

Why Iceland Should Be Your Next Travel Destination 

I have only listed a few of my personal reasons why I think Iceland should be your next travel destination. Truth is, I could go on for days about why I believe Iceland is so captivating. Our country is a combination of indescribably beautiful landscapes, tons of adrenaline-inducing activities for the adventurous, and friendly Icelanders. This complex combination of factors has made Iceland a truly unique travel destination. And, affordable travel options, tour packages, and accommodations which means that there is no better time to come than now!

Finally, we are getting closer and closer to the fall season. Most tourists come here in summer, and as such, it can be crowded and extra pricey. Once everyone leaves though, you can enjoy everything that we have to offer without waves of other visitors. Plan your next trip to Iceland for the fall, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. See you soon!

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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Reykjavik Jazz Festival

We are just one month away from Reykjavik’s longest continually running music festival: The Reykjavik Jazz Festival. Venues across Iceland's capital will come alive with expertly improvised melodies across multiple genres of the soulful style. If jazz has always seemed complicated and distant to get into, fear not, because this festival has something for everyone. Novices and life-long fans alike will be welcomed with opened arms! Come curious and leave impressed with the skill with which these musicians wield their saxophones, electric guitars, and pianos. Let's take a sneak peek at the festival and some of the headlining acts.

The 2018 Reykjavik Jazz Festival is a fantastic September event

Details About the Reykjavik Jazz Festival 

First things first, don't worry about rushing out to buy tickets for the festival. The Reykjavik Jazz Festival starts Sunday, September 2nd at 20:00 (8:00 PM). That Sunday, Bryggjan Brugghús will be hosting the official pre-party for the festival. I honestly couldn’t think of a better location! The independent brewery has an impressive array of local Icelandic beers, and the brewhouse itself is warm and welcoming. There is no price for admission, which is a major plus. If you have a hankering for some delicious malt beverages, are looking to save some cash, and want to meet some new friends, then head to the Bryggjan Brugghús for the pre-party. It will surely be a great way to kick off the week-long extravaganza.

The Streets Come Alive With Music 

The festival’s official start date is that same Wednesday. To celebrate the festival, organizers have scheduled a lively welcome parade. The procession will begin at 17:00 (5:00 PM) and will weave through the streets of Reykjavik. This is music to my ears because I loathe Wednesdays, so I am looking forward to it. I’m pretty sure no one really likes Wednesdays, except maybe camels. You know, because they say Wednesday is “Hump Day.” I digress.

The Reykjavik Jazz Festival features many different types of jazz

A comprehensive selection of diverse genres will be on display during the festival. Festival-goers can expect to enjoy avant-garde jazz, Nordic jazz, and traditional jazz. The diverse selection the concert organizers have selected will inevitably produce music that will resonate with everybody. So again, even if you are tentative about going to your first jazz festival rest comfortably knowing that their will be something for everyone to enjoy. It isn’t a surprise that the Reykjavik Jazz Festival is the longest running music festival in the city. They simply know what they are doing!

Also, even if this particular genre isn’t your favorite, this event provides an excellent opportunity to explore Reykjavik’s premier music venues and restaurants. I am never one to say no to exploring the city, and if it is your first time in Iceland, it is the perfect chance to get an insight into what Reykjavik has to offer.

The Reykjavik Jazz Festival - Line Up 

Festival organizers have really outdone themselves this year. The lineup for this year's weeklong musical spectacle features some of the best musicians Iceland has to offer. From Wednesday to Sunday there will be 22 official events and shows across six different locations in Reykjavik. Some of the featured artists include Richard Andersson, NOR, Dóh Trió, Una Stef, Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Katrín Halldóra and the Arctic Swing Quintet, and many, many more. For the uninitiated, these names may seem like a string of nonsensical Nordic names, but after you see any one of these artists live, you surely won’t forget them.

The Reykjavik Jazz Festival features many different acts

Final Thoughts - Reykjavik Jazz Festival 

No matter if you are young or old, a jazz newbies or an expert, (or even just a curious tourist), this event is going to going to be a blast for everyone! If you happen to be Reykjavik during the festival, I urge you to check out a few of the shows performed by these professional musicians. Also, it will be an excellent chance for foreigners to experience some of our best and brightest local musicians. Maybe, just maybe, it will turn some of the more cynical musical aficionados into newly-minted jazz fans. Come with an open mind, stay for the music, and if you are lucky you can grab a drink after with some new friends!

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Icelandic Cuisine: Favorite Traditional Desserts

It's no surprise that Iceland has some of the tastiest desserts you can imagine. I think it’s due to our long winters. What better way to combat the seemingly unending darkness than something mouthwatering? The desserts we hold closest to our Nordic hearts are likely to be unknown by outsiders. If you are visiting Iceland anytime soon, you are going to need a cheat sheet of what to order to after dinner to accompany your coffee. I am going to give you the inside scoop on our country's most famous desserts.

Traditional Icelandic desserts go well with coffee

Kleina - The World's Best Fried Dough 

The first dessert on our list has been making Icelanders' mouths salivate for over 200 hundred years. Kleina is basically fried dough. Now, who doesn’t love fried dough? I still haven't met this person, and I'm pretty sure they don't exist. That's like saying you don't like happiness. Joking aside, these geometric, fried, flaky, fresh-from-the-oven treats are to die for. They are sweet, but not too sweet, and they pair well with coffee. Originally, Kleina was fried in fat from all sorts of animals. Now we have a much less barbarian means of creating one of our favorite pastries, as we use oil. If you are looking for the perfect accompaniment for your post-dinner cup of coffee, then look no further than Kleina.

Icelanders Love Ice Cream 

Icelanders are absolutely obsessed with the delicious, frosty, frozen, goodness that is ice cream. You would think that for a country whose winters are so harsh we would choose a warmer after dinner treat, right? Wrong. We have some of the best and freshest ice cream in the world. Usually, we take it two ways: either 1, plain with nothing added, or 2, we mix in nammi (nammi are the self-serve candies you scoop out of plastic bins at supermarkets) and create a sugar-fueled super sweet! I would highly recommend ordering a few scoops of fresh ice cream and then asking for an unabashedly massive helping of nammi. Even though your sugar levels will skyrocket, and you may end up vibrating around the room, you will be filled with unyielding happiness and joy! It'll partly be the delicious flavor, but mostly it'll be your blood sugar reaching for the stratosphere.

Freshly made ice cream is a tradional Icelandic sweet treat

Icelandic Blueberry Hjónabandsæla

This savory pastry’s name translates into English as “wedding bliss”, that should be a good indicator of how good it tastes. Mostly because wedding bliss can be hard to come by, kind of like people who don't like fried dough. Essentially, Hjónabandsæla is a pastry latticed into strips with a blueberry paste-like, jam smothered in-between its layers. This baked delicacy sounds too sweet on paper, but when made properly it is just right. Again, as with most Icelandic pastries, it pairs spectacularly well with coffee. Grab a slice of Hjónabandsæla, pour a fresh cup of piping hot coffee, and you are good to go.

Chocolate Skúffukaka Cake

Traditionally, Skúffukaka is a family-centric dessert. Every household in Iceland has a different take on this yummy dessert, which means when you try one it'll be unique. All Skúffukaka will be some variation of a chocolately cakey baked good topped with coconut flakes. The most common ingredients to make the base of a good Skúffukaka are butter, cocoa powder, milk, butter, and flour. However, since each family makes their Skúffukaka differently, it isn't uncommon for some special, secret items to be mixed in. You can really taste the love in every bite. Or maybe that's just coconut? Who knows!

Skúffukaka is a popular traditional chocolate dessert in Iceland

Icelandic Cuisine: Favorite Traditional Desserts 

These are just a handful of the most popular desserts in Iceland. Each region, town, and family has their own unique twist on these after dinner treats, plus many more! If you are visiting Iceland, I would recommend that you try several, if not all, of the aforementioned desserts. We have a very refined culinary culture, which borrows heavily from other Scandinavian countries. But, we are proudly Icelandic. And our pride can be felt through gooey chocolate glazes, freshly picked blueberry pastes, and locally sourced ice cream. Personally, my favorite method of showing my Icelandic pride is to grab a hot cup of coffee and devouring a huge helping of Icelandic desserts.

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Monday, 6 August 2018

Driving Tips and Safety For Your Trip to Iceland

August marks the official end of summer here in Iceland. Enjoying the last little bit of good weather is paramount to us Icelanders. However, it is important to remember to be safe while we are out enjoying our stunning natural landscapes. If you are a first time visitor to Iceland, I am both excited for you and happy you are coming to visit! During your trip, there are some essential safety tips to keep in mind if you are driving in our beautiful country or just visiting. Here is a quick list of safety tips to keep in mind during your trip to Iceland.

Safe driving in Iceland is extremely important - get our tips

Driving In Iceland 

You have just landed at Keflavík airport, you have rented a car, and you are about to set off on your Icelandic adventure. Driving in Iceland is not like driving in other places. There are a few nuances that separate us from the rest of the world. The first comes in the unlikely form of in our small, furry, bleating, vertically challenged friends: sheep.

Icelandic sheep are absolutely adorable. We let our sheep graze freely through our untouched wilderness, thus allowing them to have a natural diet. While this bodes well for our diets, it doesn’t always agree with our motorists. Since Icelandic sheep tend to wander where they please, these precocious animals are notorious for walking into busy roads. When you are traversing our Nordic island keep a look out for these little guys. Hitting a sheep is both a headache and a sad experience. Let's keep you on the road, and not have you holding a makeshift funeral for a formerly hungry sheep.

Driving In Iceland - Speed Limits and Driving Techniques 

In Iceland, we tend to drive pretty slowly. This may frustrate tourists from other parts of the world, but there is a method to the madness. We have two types of roadways, paved and unpaved. The speed limit for paved roads is 90 km (56 mph), and for unpaved roads, it is 80 km (50 mph). This is actually pretty fair in my opinion, because in reality, what is the rush. We have so much natural beauty throughout our countryside that you shouldn’t want to throw your vehicle into high gear and race around the country. Not only will you miss out on the roadside attractions like waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, and mountains, but you can also easily get into an accident.

Accidents don’t often occur here, but when they do, it is usually because motorists are speeding. The two most significant contributing factors that lead to accidents while driving here in Iceland are the weather, and road changes. Iceland isn’t known for stable weather, which can behave like a petulant child. It is seemingly fine one moment, then unleashing a rainstorm like you wouldn’t believe. By keeping your speed within the limit, you buy yourself time to adjust to the weather. Climate aside, changing conditions on the road are ever-present and can happen in at a moments notice.

Roads in Iceland frequently change from paved to unpaved. The signage is present alerting drivers, but sometimes we are so caught up in looking at the nature around us that we don’t slow down. When approaching an unpaved road, you should slow your vehicle down and prepare for the change. If you are unprepared and don’t reduce your speed, you can quickly lose control of your car (especially if you are driving a camper van or RV). I would say besides sheep, losing control on an unpaved road is one of the leading causes of accidents in Iceland. So, keep a lookout for signs warning of a change in road conditions and keep your speed low. You'll be happy you did.

Icelandic sheep are frequently found on the country's roads

Driving In Iceland - Roadside Pictures & One-Lane Bridges

Taking pictures near or on major roads is very dangerous. So what is a photo-fanatic tourist to do? I always recommend that if a particular vista or landscape truly captures your imagination and you need to stop, look for the nearest pull off and safely park your car. Then, while paying attention to your surroundings, make your way to the site to take a picture. I pass countless tourists every year who have ostensibly stopped their car right off the side of the road, and take a picture right in the middle of the road. This is not only bad etiquette, but it is dangerous. You don’t want to risk your life for a photo (it is not worth it).

Lastly, concerning driving, it is extremely important that you have proper etiquette when you come to a one-lane bridge. We have many single-lane bridges in Iceland, and they can be deadly. Make sure that when approaching these structures that you reduce your speed and look for oncoming traffic. If there is a long line of cars coming from the other direction, just be patient. I always err on the side of caution when it comes to these things. Just allow them to pass, and then you can freely continue your journey throughout our beautiful country.

Visiting Iceland - General Safety Tips For Your Next Trip

We have a few other pieces of business before I send you on your way. Selfies, love ‘em or hate ‘em, everyone is taking them. If you had told me seven years ago that I would be receiving selfies from my grandmother of her and her dog on a weekly basis, I would have called you a crazy person. But, alas, I guess we live in the future. Tourists around the world have been getting hurt, or even dying, in record numbers trying to take the perfect selfie. They are not aware of their surroundings while in precarious situations, and then fate takes over. Be mindful of what's around you, please, for me!

If you plan on hiking, then you came to the right place. We have tons of locations here in Iceland for incredible hiking and outdoor activities. As I mentioned previously, the weather here can change at a moments notice. Make sure you investigate what gear or clothing you need, before you head out into the great outdoors.

Lastly, our beaches here in Iceland are beautiful, but they can be dangerous. The tides can shift suddenly and dramatically, and massive waves can come from seemingly nowhere to envelop the beaches (or that rock you're standing on). If you are strolling down one of our famous Icelandic black sand beaches, be aware that the waters can rise rapidly. We also generally advise against going into the water. The currents surrounding our coasts are incredibly strong, and the undertow can be fatal. Be cautious and careful.

Vik's black sand beach has been a deadly site in Iceland

Driving Tips and Safety For Your Trip to Iceland

I don’t want to scare you before your next trip to Iceland. The safety tips I have outlined here in this article are more of reminders more than anything. Iceland is actually ranked as being one of the safest countries in the entire world. Our crime rate is infamously low, our people are warm and welcoming, and we have the perfect infrastructure for adventurous tourists. But, keep in mind, when you visit Iceland, that this isn’t exactly like any other place on earth. This is especially true with our ever-changing environmental conditions. Remember to stay aware of your surroundings, check the weather frequently, and if you see a furry looking bush next to the road, it is probably a sheep.

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