Friday, 15 November 2019

Reykjavik Sightseeing: Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral

If you plan on spending any time in Reykjavik, it's likely that you're going to be doing some sightseeing around town. One of the city's most famous landmarks is our beautiful Lutheran church on a hill, Hallgrimskirkja. This holy place has become a symbol of not only the country's capital but also Iceland itself. Let's go in-depth and learn all about the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral.

Hallgrímskirkja cathedral in Reykjavk at sunrise.

Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral: Basic Information

The church stands 74.5 meters tall (240 feet), which makes it the largest church in Iceland. It's also one of the tallest structures in the country. It's visible from just about anywhere in the city and serves as a reference point. Much like the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Hallgrimskirkja towers over Reykjavik.

After construction started in 1945, it took around 41 years to build and construction was completed in 1986. The church is free to enter, but if you want to go to the top of the tower it's going to cost you a little bit. Currently, the price is ISK 1000 or about $8 or 7€. Children ages 7 to 16 only have to pay ISK 100, which is less than a euro or a dollar.

I highly recommend taking a trip to the top of the observation tower. You can take the elevator straight up and enjoy the viewing deck. Much like the Perlan Observatory, it offers beautiful views over Reykjavik. It’s also a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the colorful houses that Iceland’s capital is so famous for.

Opening Hours

In the summer months (May to September), the church is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. During the winter (October to April), these hours are reduced to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The church is especially beautiful during Northern Lights season when the Aurora Borealis serves as a dazzling backdrop to the already illuminated church.

Hallgrímskirkja cathedral facade and Northern Lights

Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik Iceland’s Influence and Architect 

One of the first things people notice about Hallgrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik Iceland is its imposing facade. For those who know little about Iceland's geology or the history of the church, it might look like a large pipe organ. This is a normal assumption to make, as there is a rather large pipe organ inside. We'll touch more on that later, but for now, let's talk about the exterior of the Lutheran parish.

The man who designed this striking building was none another than Icelandic state architect Guðjón Samúelsson. He was also responsible for several other famous Icelandic buildings. These include the Church of Akureyri, the main building of the University of Iceland, the Landakot Roman Catholic Cathedral in Reykjavík, and the National Theatre of Iceland. Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral was his final work and his most famous masterpiece.

He drew his inspiration from Iceland's stunning volcanic landscapes, especially its hexagonal basalt columns. You'll find these natural rock formations in places like Svartifoss waterfall, Reynisfjara beach, Gerðuberg cliffs, and Stuðlagil canyon. These tall, geometric shapes can be found all over the island and are a unique part of the scenery. When you look at the front of Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik Iceland through this lens, it takes on a whole new dimension.

The solid concrete facade is both a nod to Icelandic nature and one of the more modernistic, expressionistic styles of architecture.

The Main Church in Reykjavik: Hallgrimskirkja and Its Massive Pipe Organ 

So while the exterior of the church has nothing to do with the huge pipe organ inside, I do still want to touch upon the topic. German organ builder Johannes Klais created this gorgeous instrument housed inside the cathedral. Its 102 ranks, 72 stops, and 5275 pipes weigh in at an impressive 25 metric tons. You’ll feel quite small standing beneath it, as it is 15 meters (49 feet) tall. The pipe organ’s construction ended in 1992.

It was also featured on CDs by famed organists Christoper Herrick (Organ Fireworks VII) and Mattias Wager (Live at Vatnajökull). Perhaps when you visit the famous church in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja, you’ll stumble in during a service and someone will be playing a beautiful hymn on the organ.

The church has an active congregation and is frequently used for religious services, weddings, and other events. Obviously, if there is a private event going on, please be respectful and do not enter the church or take photos.

Hallgrímskirkja cathedral statue

Who's that guy standing out front? 

So many times when we go to visit a foreign country, we'll see statues and monuments of famous people from that country. Many times, you will have no idea who that person is. Well if you go to Reykjavik and visit Hallgrimskirkja, you'll notice a handsome warrior standing boldly out front just waiting to defend his beloved cathedral.

This fine gentleman is none other than Icelandic Norse explorer Leif Erikson. According to the history books, he was the first European to set foot on continental North America, back then called Vinland.  For those keeping track, his travels were around 500 years before both Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus. Sorry Italy, but Iceland wins this one.

The statue by sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder was a gift from the United States to the Icelandic parliament in 1930. They wanted to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s Thingvellir Parliament, which began in 930 AD. Fun fact: Iceland wins here again as this is the world’s oldest and longest-running parliament. The statue was presented as part of the 1930 Althing Millennial Festival. This means that it predates the church, but eventually, the Icelandic government found the perfect home for it in front of Hallgrimskirkja.

Hallgrimskirkja Church: The Best of Reykjavik Sightseeing

This is a lovely church with a unique facade and a stunning interior.  In addition to the pipe organ, the vaulted ceilings are also quite impressive. While walking around Reykjavik, this building will certainly catch your eye. I highly encourage you to climb those steps at the end of Skolavordustigur street and pay Hallgrimskirkja (Hallgrímskirkja) a visit. It will likely be one of the highlights on your trip to Iceland.

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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Airlines in Iceland: PLAY Airlines

Remember when Icelandic discount carrier WOW Airlines went bust and ceased operations in March of 2019? Well, a new low-cost airline in Iceland has risen from the ashes of the former company’s bankruptcy. It's called PLAY Airlines and this new kid on the block of Iceland airline companies is causing excitement in industry circles.

PLAY Airlines is the new discount Icelandic carrier replacing WOW Air

At a press conference held by company representatives in Reykjavik’s famous Perlan building, they made the big announcement. They unveiled a new name as well as some details about the company's proposed operations.

WOW Airlines Iceland and PLAY Airlines 

For the uninitiated, let's give a quick history lesson. For a long time, the two main Icelandic airlines were WOW Air and Icelandair. The latter is considered the country's national airline while the former was a budget carrier. It became famous during a viral marketing campaign in which they offered $1 fares between North America and Europe.

People basically went crazy and WOW Airlines' cheap flights to Iceland became famous overnight. But eventually, they became a budget airline casualty when talks with Icelandair fell through and they were unable to raise much-needed funds. They abruptly canceled all flights and ceased all operations, leaving employees and customers in the lurch.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, one of the airlines that fly to Iceland has been resurrected.

Icelandic Airlines: PLAY Airlines

One of the biggest, most immediately noticeable differences between the two airlines is the color chosen for the new airline’s brand. They've traded WOW Air’s signature magenta shade for a bright red hue. All of the planes in its fleet are painted this eye-catching color. CEO Arnar Már Magnússon  explained that they chose red to “represent passion” as well as Iceland's fiery nature. After all, Iceland is nicknamed The Land of Fire and Ice thanks to its explosive volcanoes.

The new leader also shared what the company has been up to during the last four months in preparation for the big launch plus plans for the future. It should be noted that Magnusson previously served as WOW Airlines Vice President of Operations. Hopefully, he's learned from the mistakes of his former company and will not repeat them with PLAY Airlines. The more airlines in Iceland the better, as it keeps competition healthy and prevents monopolies from forming.

Icelandic airlines like PLAY will make travel to Iceland more accessible

From Then to Now 

Thus far they've received around $40 million in capital. this comes mostly from overseas investors including, Simon Whitley-Ryan. Ryan Has the aviation business in his blood as he is the grandson of one of Ryanair's founders. The Irish carrier is the largest low-fare airline in Europe.

Investors to resurrect the airline, and is taking things step by step. They plan to first begin by transporting cargo and then eventually move on to operating passenger flights as well. PLAY is in the process of obtaining its operating license and is nearing the end of that process.

The Airbus A320 jets that they operate can carry passengers or cargo both shorts to medium-range distances. For the time being they will only fly to six destinations in Europe. Long-term plans include expansion to North America in the spring when the airline increases its fleet to around six aircraft.

With the limited number of airlines to Iceland, this will be a welcome addition. After the WOW collapse, there was no other Iceland-based low-cost Airline for consumers to choose from. Goals are ambitious and they hope to operate up to 10 aircraft in the first three years, including transatlantic flights.

PLAY Airlines is giving away free plane tickets to Iceland

Free Airline Tickets to Iceland 

Yes, you read that right. I said free. if you've been researching airline tickets to Iceland and stumbled upon this article, then today is your lucky day. The company's website is up and running and later this month ticket sales will begin. As a promotion, PLAY Airlines Iceland is giving out 1,000 free plane tickets to kick off the start of operations next year. Its hub will be Keflavik International Airport (KEF), just outside of Reykjavik.

Would-be travelers can register on their website ( to enter the pool for free airline tickets. Winners will be drawn at a later date.

Additionally, the new airline will need large numbers of support staff to fill many different open positions within the organization. Everything from cabin crew and pilots to positions in customer service, marketing, finance, and more are available. This can help fill the gaping hole left for the 1,000 employees who found themselves without a job when WOW closed down.

Airlines in Iceland: PLAY Airlines 

So now you know what airlines fly to Iceland and what to expect in the coming years from PLAY Airlines. Let's see if they can stay out of the financial trouble that WOW encountered and have better luck in the Iceland budget airline market. We wish them the best of luck as they take off and hit the skies. Happy travels!

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Friday, 18 October 2019

Stuðlagil Canyon: The Newly Discovered Gem in Eastern Iceland

Iceland is a land blessed with breathtaking natural wonders and stunning landscapes. The combination of Fire and Ice has shaped are beautiful yet rugged terrain in unexpected ways. Two of the most gorgeous and dramatic sites you'll find are the newly discovered Stuðlagil Canyon and Stuðlafoss Waterfall in Jökuldalur Valley. The basalt canyon and basalt column waterfall are hidden gems along the River Jökla in eastern Iceland.

Stuðlagil Canyon is a newly discovered treasure in East Iceland

What makes these two geological treasures so special is that up until relatively recently they were hidden from outsiders. The secluded location meant that the canyon and waterfall were a secret for a very long time. It's still a relatively new discovery, which makes it perfect for getting off the beaten path when traveling to Iceland.

Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland 

The glacial river where these two natural attractions are located was one of the most powerful in Iceland. There are three parts, Jökulsá á Brú, Jökulsá á Dal, and Jökla. For hundreds of years, the River Jökla has made its way from the Highlands down through its namesake Jökuldalur Valley.

Stuðlagil Canyon and the nearby waterfall called Stuðlafoss were discovered when the Kárahnjúkavirkjun hydroelectric plant was built in eastern Iceland. The Hálslón Reservoir in the Highlands affected the water source flowing towards Jökuldalur. As a result, the water level subsided and new land features were revealed.

Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland is also known as the basalt column canyon. A beautiful turquoise river runs through the canyon and is surrounded by hexagonal volcanic pillars on both sides. It's a striking sight and you feel like you are entering some sort of volcanic Eden when you enter for the first time.

One of Iceland’s Most Beautiful Basalt Column Formations The 150 km (93-mile) long river that formed this zone was one of Iceland’s most powerful forces of nature. It was so strong that crossing it was impossible due to the sheer level of difficulty and danger. As it cut through the valley, it carried 120 tons of dirt, mud, and sand from Vatnajökull glacier every single hour.

The basalt columns were formed by volcanic activity, so they’ve been here for a very long time. But for much of recorded history in Iceland, they lay underwater as the river flowed above.

Now, because of the power plant, the Jökla changed from an intimidating glacial river to a smaller one fed from springs, creeks, and smaller rivers. It’s hard to picture now, with the peaceful birds and wildlife, but this was once an angry, raging rapid.

But we’re thankful for the changes because they’ve unearthed these spectacular, previously unknown basalt formations. They are one of Iceland’s most beautiful, and we’re lucky that we get to experience them in a way denied to previous generations.

Stuðlagil Canyon in East Iceland

Stuðlafoss Waterfall (Stuðlafoss) 

Stuðlafoss or Stuðlafoss waterfall is another highlight of Studlagil Iceland. The basalt column waterfall looks much different than Svartifoss, Iceland's most famous basalt rock cascade. As you hike through the valley, you'll come face-to-face but this beautiful Iceland waterfall. Make sure to include time to visit Stuðlafoss during your trek.

How to Arrive to Stuðlagil (Studlagil) Canyon Iceland 

It's quite easy to get to Studlagil Canyon Iceland. When you're coming from Egilsstaðir in East Iceland, head towards Akureyri in North Iceland. The Ring Road (Route 1) goes right through Jökuldalur. Once you get to Road 923 near Skjödólfsstaðir farm, turn south (left). You'll be entering the upper part of the valley which is home to both the waterfall and the canyon.

After driving around 18.6 km (11.6 miles) on the Jökuldalsvegur road, you'll reach the parking lot. It's located at the Grund farm and there's a short walking path to the river. It takes about 5 minutes and then, afterward, there's a narrow path that descends to the bottom.

Please proceed with caution as the slope can be quite steep. It can also be quite slippery, especially from September to April when we experience winter. Be careful and go slowly.

This is the canyon’s west side and it offers some spectacular views. This option does not go past Stuðlafoss, the basalt waterfall.

The second option for arriving is a little bit more physically demanding as it requires an 8 km (5 mile) round trip hike. If you opt for this choice, you'll approach the Canyon from the east side close to Klaustursel farm.

Stuðlagil Canyon Hike 

Should you choose to do the Stuðlagil Canyon hike, you won't be disappointed. You'll often times feel like you're walking in a Wonderland of basalt columns and this will surely be unlike any hike you've ever experienced.

To opt for this route, you'll still follow Road 923 close to Skjödólfsstaðir farm. Instead of driving all the way to Grund farm, you'll stop at a farm called Klaustursel. There's also a parking lot here but make sure you don't go all the way to the white bridge. It's very narrow and you're not allowed to cross it in a vehicle.

Park on the west side and then cross the bridge by foot towards the east riverbank. You need to follow the trail for about 4 km (2.5) miles until you reach Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland. The impressive basalt waterfall Stuðlafoss, one of Iceland's most beautiful is about halfway along the journey as an unexpected surprise.

Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland

Stuðlagil Canyon Tour 

You could hire a guide to do the Stuðlagil Canyon tour, but it’s also entirely possible to do it on your own. There’s a spot where it’s possible to climb down to the river, but you need to be extremely careful while climbing. It’s absolutely worth it though, because the view from below will be like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s like a fantasy scene of volcanic basalt columns.

Just take extra precautions as the rocks and stones are quite slippery when wet. Slow and steady is 100% the best way to proceed here. Take as much time as you need both going down and coming up.

It will probably take you around two to three hours to do the hike and look around the canyon. It’s best to go in the morning if you want to take some photos of this magnificent destination in Iceland. Get an early start and beat other explorers.

Stuðlagil Canyon: The Newly Discovered Gem in Eastern Iceland 

If you're taking a road trip around Iceland on the Ring Road, I strongly suggest you come do the Stuðlagil Canyon hike. Not only will it be an unforgettable experience, but you'll be adventuring where not too many people have before. Stuðlagil is a unique attraction with unparalleled beauty that you won't find anywhere else in the world.

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Friday, 20 September 2019

Prettiest Churches in Iceland: Which Ones to Visit

A visit to an Iceland church is a must on every traveler's itinerary. There are so many beautiful churches in Iceland that it can be hard to know where to begin. It seems like every town or village has its own small place of worship. We've narrowed it down from the over 350 churches in the country to bring you this list of the prettiest churches in Iceland.

Budir black church is one of the prettiest churches in Iceland

We've left out the more obvious Iceland churches like Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik or Akureyrikirkja in the north of Iceland. We wanted to go beyond that and include some of the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path churches in Iceland. Let's hit the Ring Road, start exploring Iceland's lesser-known countryside, and discover some real gems along the way.

Budir: The Black Church in Iceland 

Probably the most well-known religious building with the country’s traditional style architecture is Budir church Iceland. Also known as Iceland’s black church, this is a popular stop for travelers visiting the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

This beautiful structure is exactly what it sounds like: a black church. With the exception of the white windows and front door, the entire church is painted black. This is surprising given the church's traditional association of evil or the devil with this same color. The church is also quite striking because it's in a pretty isolated area. As you approach it, all you see are the surrounding fields and this little black church.

Seydisfjordur: The Blue Church 

As you wind your way along Iceland's east coast to take in its magnificent fjords, be sure to make a stop in Seydisfjordur. This town in eastern Iceland sits on the innermost part of a fiord and it's a lovely stop off close to Egilsstadir.

The Seydisfjordur blue church is one of Iceland's most recognizable landmarks and one of its most visited churches. The powder blue exterior and cheery rainbow path leading up to the church give the building a quirky and unforgettable look. The distinct color and traditional style make the blue church in Seyðisfjörður a must when visiting Iceland's prettiest churches.

Iceland’s Charming Turf Churches 

While making your way through Icelandic villages, you might stumble across something you’ve never seen before. Iceland's turf houses are buildings made of wood, rocks, and stone which have turf covering the sides and roof.

Prettiest churches in Iceland like the Hof turf church

This unusual architectural style was originally developed in northern Europe. The insulation provided by this type of shelter protected locals from and their farm animals from harsh weather conditions. In some countries, this type of building has been around since the Iron Age.

This traditional architectural style was popular throughout the 17th century and into the 18th and 19th centuries in Iceland. Hofskirkja church in Hof, Öræfi was the last church built in the Old World style back in 1884. There are six turf churches left in Iceland that are still standing.

This particular Icelandic turf church is quite popular due to the fact that it looks as though it's emerging from the ground. We no longer build these rare types of churches and there's only a few left, so stop by to visit while they're still here.

Skalholt Church in Iceland 

While exploring Iceland Golden Circle route, many travelers decide to make additional stops along the way. In addition to Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geothermal valley, and Gullfoss waterfall, there are several other detours you can take.

One of these is the town of Skalholt for a visit to the Skalholt church in Iceland. The town's first church was built in the 12th century. It was the seat of power for the members of the clergy in Iceland for over 700 years. Although there have been 10 churches erected on this site, the one that currently stands here is a memorial cathedral.

When you visit, be sure to stop by the medieval tunnel and crypt mentioned in the Icelandic sagas. And take a look at one of the rare copies of the first edition of the Icelandic Bible.

Blonduos Church Iceland 

I've included the Blonduos church on a list of Iceland's prettiest churches, but not because of its beauty. In fact, pretty or beautiful are not the adjectives I would use to describe it. But I do think that it warrants a visit, which is why I wanted to mention it.

The futuristic architectural style of this building makes it look more like a spaceship than a church. Much like Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik and Akureyrikirkja in the north, this Icelandic church was also inspired by the country's volcanic landscapes.

The slate gray exterior is meant to look like the dark surface of a lava field or perhaps the decimated grounds after a volcanic explosion. The church itself looks like a conical volcano with its top missing. It's meant to resemble a volcanic crater, and if it weren't for the large cross next to the structure you'd have no idea that it was a place of worship.

Church in Vik Iceland: A Spectacular View from the Hilltop

Another iconic church in Iceland’s traditional style is the hilltop Vik i Myrdal church. From this vantage point you have picturesque views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the sleepy fishing village below. This church is representative of the typical Icelandic style with the building painted white and a colorful red roof. If you're stopping over in Vik to visit Reynisfjara beach, be sure to drive up the hill to visit the town's iconic church.

Vik i Myrdal church is one of the prettiest churches in Iceland

The Pagan Church Iceland 

Iceland converted from the old Norse religion to Christianity at the turn of the 11th century. It was a change inspired by convenience rather than a strong desire to embrace Christianity. As a result, some Icelanders continue to practice paganism despite it being outlawed. It never truly went extinct and has been having a comeback. In fact, the Ásatrú pagan religion has been the fastest-growing spiritual organization in Iceland in recent years.

They are erecting Iceland's first pagan temple in 1,000 years along the South Coast on Reykjanes peninsula. The construction site is about 13 minutes drive from downtown Reykjavik. The temple was originally supposed to open in 2018 and that was pushed to 2019. Check to see if it's open during your trip as this will surely be a unique experience.

The building is meant to be an Ásatrú sanctuary and the Ásatrú society practices the ancient Viking religion. They are a neo-pagan spiritual organization which worships the pantheon of Norse gods like Thor, Freya, Odin, and Loki.

The dedicated structure will be home to gatherings, religious ceremonies, and rituals known as blóts. Iceland’s pagan temple sits on Öskjuhlíd hill, a sacred area surrounded by forests with stunning views of the sea. The domed monument will be dedicated to the cosmic forces of nature.

Prettiest Churches in Iceland: Which Ones to Visit

Iceland has a wide variety of churches to visit. There are the imposing facades of the large churches in Reykjavik and Akureyri and the smaller more traditional architectural styles of churches like Budir, Vik, and Seydisfjordur. And of course, spectacular churches that you won't find anywhere else like the Blonduos church or turf churches. There really is something for everyone, it's just a matter of figuring out what you want to see and planning your itinerary.

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Friday, 6 September 2019

SIM Cards in Iceland: Mobile Network and Coverage

Whenever you travel, it's important to stay connected. This is especially true when taking a road trip in a place like Iceland. Mobile networks and coverage are important while driving in a place with large, remote stretches of highway and unpredictable weather. You're probably wondering if you can use your cell phone in Iceland during your trip. Or perhaps you'd like to get a SIM card in Iceland and would like to know where to obtain one.

Woman in cafe with Iceland SIM card and mobile coverage

We'll talk about Iceland cell phone providers as well as where to buy a SIM card in the Iceland airport.

Can I Use My Cell Phone in Iceland?

One of the first things people ask when discussing this topic is “Will my cell phone work in Iceland?”. Well, it depends. If you're coming from Europe, it's likely that your phone will work because European cell phones use the same system. Additionally, many countries have Europe-wide roaming plans. This means you can use your mobile phone in Iceland without any disruption to your service or any extra fees or surcharges.

Where you might run into problems are North American cell phones. Many North American cell phone providers run on a different network, which means your phone will not work abroad. The exceptions to this are T-Mobile and AT&T, which use the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) network. Those phones will likely work in Europe and in other countries around the world.

Using a Prepaid Cell Phone Iceland

If you're unsure or use another carrier, don't worry; there's a simple solution. All you have to do is make sure that you have an unlocked phone and then when you arrive, get an Iceland SIM card. Buying a prepaid SIM card in Iceland is as easy as walking into a convenience store and picking up some snacks. Whether it's an Iceland Wi-Fi SIM card or one with minutes for calling, you'll find different packages and options available.

Where to Buy a SIM Card in Iceland

Buying a SIM card in Iceland is pretty straightforward and you have a few different options. The first is to do it right at the airport after your plane lands, and we’ll go into further detail about how to do this below. The second option is to purchase your Iceland SIM card from a convenience store. But they're not as easy to find as the one at Keflavik International Airport, which is relatively small. Third, you can buy one directly from the cell phone store.

Inserting Iceland SIM card with good mobile coverage

If you choose this option, be forewarned. The Vodafone store, for example, is a bit out of the way if you're staying in the city center. So if you had been hoping to get a Vodafone SIM card Iceland, you'll have to make a bit of a trek or take a taxi to the shop. Lastly, some carriers will deliver straight to your hotel. If you opt for a Síminn SIM card in Iceland, for example, it will be waiting for you at your accommodation when you arrive.

Just plop it into your phone and you’re ready to go.

Where to Buy a SIM card in the Iceland Airport 

If you're looking to pick up a local SIM card in Iceland, I recommend doing it as soon as you arrive at Keflavik International Airport. It will only take you an extra 10-15 minutes and is a very easy, straightforward process. After leaving the baggage claim area with your suitcases, there’s a 10-11 supermarket close to the Dunkin Donuts. One of the cashiers will give you a SIM card to put into your phone and activate it. There are also several 10-11 stores in downtown Reykjavik if you forget to do this at the airport.

SIM Cards come in three sizes: nano, micro, or standard. When you break your Iceland SIM out of its plastic frame, make sure it's the same size as your current Sim. Otherwise, it won't fit correctly. And of course, if you have an iPhone, you'll need the little paper clip to eject the phone’s SIM card holder

Inserting Iceland SIM card for best mobile coverage

So now that you know where to get SIM card in Iceland, let's talk about the different operators and who has the best Iceland cell phone coverage.

Iceland Cell Phone Carriers and Prices

Of all the carriers in Iceland, Síminn offers the largest mobile coverage network of all. Vodafone is also a popular operator, it doesn't have as wide a coverage map as Síminn. The third option for cell phones is a Nova SIM card in Iceland.

Taking a quick look at the Síminn website, they offer two main packages. The prepaid data plan comes with 10 GB of data. This is my recommendation for a prepaid data SIM card in Iceland. The prepaid starter pack comes with 5 GB of data, 50 minutes of phone calls, and 50 text messages. You can call 55 countries around the world. Both packages cost 2.900 ISK (20€ or $23) And you have up to 30 days to use your mobile credit.

If you opt for Vodafone or Nova for your Iceland cell phone, prices will be around the same. just number that you won't have as good of coverage, especially if you go somewhere like the Highlands.

SIM Card in Iceland: Mobile Network and Coverage

It's quite easy to buy and use an Iceland SIM while you are traveling. The different plans and packages available mean you'll be able to find something to suit your needs. Whether you want to make calls, send text messages, or just need data for your phone, Iceland's mobile operators have you covered.

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Friday, 30 August 2019

Iceland Demographics, History and Population

The Gaelic and the Norwegians were the first inhabitants of Iceland. The history and demography of the Icelanders (as diverse as it is right now) are not complete without the mention of these two origins.

Iceland demographics have many blonde descendants of Vikings

This is obvious from scientific studies on the earliest inhabitants such as the genetic studies and blood types including historical evidence dating back to the pre-settlement era.

Iceland’s landscape is one of the few in the world that has remained the same for thousands of years with treacherous mountains and active volcanos dotting the whole land which has until today makes the country a sparsely populated one But it's also one of the richest and most developed modern worlds we have presently.

Icelandic Ancestry – Where do Icelanders come from? 

The record has it that, Icelanders have about 60% Norse origin while the rest is of the Irish Gaelic. In fact, there is a whole lot of evidence of the Irish influence in Iceland across the country especially in the naming of some places in Iceland. For example, a place like Vestmannaeyjar is translated to mean ‘the Westman Islands’. This is so because the Norse usually refers to the Irish as ‘Westmen’ prior to the settlement period because Ireland was believed to be positioned in the westernmost part of Europe.

History also has it that, when the Norse raiders were coming back from their Viking expedition, en route to Iceland, they normally stopped by at some Irish settlement. They attacked and plundered these settlements and took slaves of many Irish men and women. They brought them to Iceland and made the women slaves after ‘mixing’ with the Norse Vikings. They would later go on to become mothers of the first generation of what today are trueborn Icelanders.

This Norse and Irish ‘merge’ no doubt explains why the majority of Icelanders have blonde or slightly ginger hair and blue eyes.

The Settlement Era in Iceland 

During the period of 874 to 930 AD, there was evidence of an already thriving population of entirely Norwegian men and Irish women in Iceland who had formed their distinct families and clans. By 930 AD, there were approximately 39 district assemblies all scattered throughout Iceland and run by 39 clans.

This culminated in the Alþingi assembly – the Icelandic Commonwealth of clans to help ease tension, conflicts and unnecessary rivalry amongst the clans. It was the first Icelandic Commonwealth that was run for decades and which later became the world’s oldest active parliaments of free people. This marks the end of the settlement era and the beginning of a new world.

New World Era 

The demographics of Iceland continued to change; a once deserted island with just few people now had clans all over the country who were determined to keep their commonwealth. The New World witnessed new ideologies, politics, and religion – including the Christian missionaries largely from Norway who were bent on upturning the old ways and making the people abandon the old Norse faith.

As the years went by, the people of Iceland gradually started submitting to the influence of the Norwegian and the Danish governments’ political and religious supremacy. Also, they were influenced by technological advancement brought about by these two countries.

Impact of the Whaling Industry

One such advancement was the explosion of the whaling industry in Iceland. This happened during the middle of the second millennium where although the infertile land was a discouragement for some new people to settle in Iceland, however, the natural abundance found in their waters like fishes and whales drew many ships from far and near to the coasts of Iceland.

This new discovery found in Iceland also brought about a new demographic structure - the mixture of sailors with the Icelandic women. Although such incidents were mostly not recorded due to the shame and punishment attached to such merger, nevertheless, such mixture did happen.

The Laki Eruptions

Regardless of the many changes, the Icelandic demographics have witnessed over the years, there is none that has really changed the demographic nature like that which happened during the Laki volcanic eruption of 1783 to 1784. This volcanic eruption brought about the largest mass exodus the country ever witnessed. The volcanic lava, pollution, and subsequent famine eradicated over a quarter of the population and compel another quarter of the population to migrate to North America.

The Laki eruptions impacted Iceland's demographics and population

While this was a significant tragedy to the people of Iceland; subsequent years saw some that left to North America returned home with new families and new Icelanders.

The 20th Century

By 1940-1946, a new set of people comprising the British and Americans soldiers also came and added to the demographic picture of Iceland. These well-dressed and polite soldiers became a darling amongst the Icelandic women compared to their men whom they perceived as being conservative, unruly, and aggressive. This was even more so when the Americans completely replaced the British soldiers in 1941.

The Second World War saw Reykjavik became the center of every activity in Iceland and this was the place the American soldiers were stationed. For the Icelandic women there was a huge movement to the city as there were a great many opportunities of employment due to the American presence; especially for young Icelandic ladies who are not as conservative as their elders.

After the war, the country signed an agreement with the US, where visitors would have a permanent base in Iceland. During the post-war period when Iceland was fully independent of Denmark, we saw more of the American presence who had already had families with the Icelandic women.

Since 1944 after the independence of Iceland, it is safe to say that it hasn’t just been the Norwegian, the Danish, Germans, or the Americans that have helped shaped who the traditional Icelanders were. With the massive technological development (apart from fishing and agriculture) which culminated into Iceland’s industrial development leading to more research centers and universities, Iceland became short of people to fill in the gap in the work market.

The Impact of Immigration

Migrating to Iceland became much easier from Europe when the country joined the European Economic Association (EEA) in 1994 and also when they signed the Schengen agreement in 1995.

The opening of Icelandic borders to new immigrants saw the influx of newcomers from Lithuania, Poland, Britain, Denmark, and Germany taking up residence in Iceland. In fact, these newcomers were not only from Europe, but from the Philippines but also from Thailand as well as many from North America. Many from Asia were thronging into Iceland to partake in the economic growth of the country.

By 2006, when the US finally decided to close down its military base in Keflavík, Iceland, the country’s demography had changed from a homogeneous population into a diverse group of people with roots from almost every continent.

Iceland's Current Demographics

At present, in Iceland, 6% of the populations are foreign-born, while about 10% are believed to be from first or second-generation immigrants. And it is projected that by 2030, the first-generation immigrants in Iceland should account to about 15% of the population. Iceland has thus come a long way from its homogeneous bloodline into a more diversified multi-racial society from across the continent.

Therefore, if the question of ‘where do Icelanders come from’ arises again, the simple truth is that they come from everywhere. However, we must not forget that the founding fathers and the oldest generations are the Norse and the Gælic and just like what is happening all over the world, national and ethnic lines are gradually giving ways to a new and modern heterogeneous society in Iceland.

Area and Population Density in Iceland

In all, Iceland has a land area of 103,001 square kilometers (39,770 square miles) and comes in at 108th with the largest landmass in the world. However, it still remains one of the sparsely populated areas due to its harsh geographical landscape. Iceland population density is put at 3 people per kilometer making it the least populated in all of the European countries.

There are many factors that affected the population of Iceland – the early days saw the volcanic eruption, over 35 famines recorded from the period of 1500 to 1804. The outbreak of plague including the harsh winter were some drawbacks that affected the population growth.

The first census conducted in Iceland shows a population of more than 50,000 in 1703 and by 1783-1784 the Laki volcanic eruption declined the population to 40,000. By 1850 when the living condition improves once again saw an increase to 60,000 and by 2008 the population had hit 320,000 people.

Immigration and Re-migration in Iceland

Most of the increase that happened in Iceland came from people who are settling here. The first quarter saw a total of 970 children born and 600 people die. Thanks to foreign nationals, the net migration saw a positive movement of 1,740 people to Iceland, while the net migration of Icelandic citizenship changed by 20 people.

Iceland demographics are affected by immigration

During the first quarter also, a total of 560 Icelandic citizens immigrated to Nordic countries. 370 moved to Denmark, Sweden or Norway. Another 400 moved to other Nordic countries.

The first quarter also witnessed large migration from countries like Poland, accounting to 770, from the 2,530 foreign nationals who came to Iceland. Lithuania followed second with 320 nationals.

The median age in Iceland is put at 36.5 years of age with a life expectancy of 83.1 years making it a fairly young population for a developed country. The fertility rate in Iceland is quite rare compared to other European nations – here the fertility rate is above 2.1 children born per woman.

The Icelandic ethnic composition presently is 93%, while the largest ethnic minorities living in Iceland today are the Poles, accounting for about 3% of the total Icelandic population. This is about 8,000 Polish people residing in Iceland and having about 75% of the total workforce in Fjarðabyggð.

Also, Iceland has about 88,000 people of Icelandic descent living in Canada and 40,000 living in the United States.

Religion in Iceland

The church in Iceland is and has always been part of the people here even before the 20th century when most Icelanders were farmers and fishermen. The church religious customs of prayer and devotion were also part of their daily life.

The church in Iceland is and has always been part of the people here even before the 20th century when most Icelanders were farmers and fishermen, the church religious custom (prayer and devotion) was also part of their daily lifestyle.

The fact that is common and cannot be disputed was that the first sets of inhabitant on Icelandic soil were the Irish hermits who were Christians trying to find refuge in the remote shores of Iceland to practice their faith.

As Christianity begins to thrive in Iceland, missionary priests from England, Germany, and Eastern Europe where conspicuously noticed among the people Despite the unrest and persecution that marks the Christian era and its continuity in Iceland, Roman Catholicism still held sway for close to five centuries during the Iceland settlement era.

The Reformation

In 1540, the Lutheran Reformation was founded in Iceland and its doctrine was forcefully pushed on the Icelandic people by the Danish crown. The king of Denmark, in a move to fully establish its authority as the supreme head of the church, had the Roman Catholic monasteries dissolves and all its episcopal properties confiscated under his authority. In fact, in an effort to show his authority and make the people accept the Lutheran Reformation, the king went as far as to slay the Bishop and his sons who were by then the last clergy officials presiding over the affair of the Roman Catholic Church at Hólar in 1550.

Although the Icelandic constitution of 1874 guarantees religious freedom for all Icelandic people, the constitution also makes provision for the Evangelical Lutheran Church to become a national church and as such should be protected and supported by the State. This constitutional provision still remains unchanged even in the 1944 Republic of Iceland constitution.

Modern Day

The beginning of the 20th century also witnessed the emergence of two Lutheran free churches which were based on the same confession just like the national church but with different management that is structured to be more financially independent. Also, during the early decades of the 20th century, Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal missions were established and flourishing in Iceland.

Although Iceland is known to be a Christian country, since the 1970's the popularity of religious activities has greatly declined with a very few percentages of the country's population still attending church services except for ceremonial days like Christmas, a relative's funeral or weddings. Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland has about 70% of the population while 90% belongs to Christian churches.

Statistics show that nine out of every ten children in Iceland are baptized during their first 12 months, 85% of the populace get married in the church while funerals take about 99% church attendance. While special events organized by the churches and church festival still draws lots of large crowds, however, Sunday morning services have witnessed much lower turnout.

Most Populated Areas In Iceland


Reykjavík is the capital and the largest city in Iceland and is an official trading town and was believed to have been founded in 874 AD. Ingólfur Arnarson was the first to arrive in this town but it was not until the 19th century that the town started growing rapidly and subsequently turned into a town. Population: 130,345.

Iceland's demographics and population show Reykjavik as the largest city


This town is also located within the capital city (southwest region) and has an area landmass of 31 square miles with an estimated population of about 33,205 and was founded in 1948. The town is mostly residential with just a few commercial and industrial companies in operation.


Also located in the capital region (southwest coast) with an area of 55 square miles and an estimated population of 28,200 making it the third-largest town in Iceland. This town is home to many local industries.


This city is located in the Northeast territory with a land area of 53 square miles and a population of 18,191 people. Akureyri got its municipal charter as a seaport and a fishing center in 1786 and after the Second World War has witnessed mass rural to urban migration.


This is the fifth-largest municipality in Iceland and is located in the southern peninsula. It was the merger of three smaller towns that form Reykjanesbær they are Keflavik, Njarovik, and Hafnir. It has an area landmass of 56 square miles and a population of 15,379 people.

Other Cities In Iceland


This is also one city inside the capital and is also located in the southwest region. The town was first inhabited in the 9th century but got its municipal charter in 1878. It has a population of 14,453 and a land area of 29 square miles.


Also located in the southwest region and has a population of 9,075 with a land area of 71 square miles.


This is a town in Iceland and has an area landmass of 61 square miles and a population of 7,889.


This port town is located in the Northwest region of Iceland; it got its municipal charted in 1942 with an area of 3.5 square miles plus a population of 7,000 people.

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