Friday, 27 April 2018

2018 Iceland Car Rental Guide - Best Companies with Tips and Reviews

Driving is by far one of the best ways to see Iceland. The small country has a ring road which lets you access everything from Akureyri in the north to the Icelandic Highlands and the Westfjords. Self-drive tours are very popular but there are a few things to know before you go. The main questions we get regarding car rental in Iceland are what are the best car rental companies, how much does it cost to rent a car and how can I find a cheap car rental. We’ll address these questions and more in our Iceland car rental guide.

Knitted hat on rental car dashboard in Iceland

What are the best car rental companies in Iceland?

Iceland has a wide variety of car rental companies and agencies. You can choose from one of the major international players such as Hertz, Europcar, Thrifty, Budget, and others. Personally, we are big fans of buying local so to speak, so we recommend going through an Iceland-based car rental company such as Blue Car Rental or Lava Cars. You’ll most likely get better, more personalized attention than you would with a big multinational.

Icelanders also speak perfect English and are justly proud of their country, so they want you to have a good time. They will work quickly to resolve any problems that may arise with your rental. You can also look for cheap rentals by booking through third-party local sites such as Cars Iceland or Reykjavik Cars. Currently, the top-rated car rental companies on Google Reviews are Cars Iceland (200+ reviews), Reykjavik Cars (100+ reviews) and Iceland Car Rental (10+ reviews). You can also take a look at this breakdown of the best car rental companies from 2017.

Car rental sign

How much does it cost to rent a car in Iceland?

The cost of booking a rental car varies widely. Some factors to consider are the time of year, how far in advance you book, length of the rental, whether or not it’s a new or used car, whether the car is manual or automatic, and type of car (budget, mid-range, SUV, luxury, etc.) While it’s best to look at your specific dates and search criteria, in order to give you an idea of baseline prices, here are some rates that we found while searching car rental prices in Iceland for the summer.

Daily Rate: The lowest prices on the cheapest vehicles started around 45€ per day and usually hovered in the 50-80€ range.

Weekly Rate: The lowest prices on the cheapest vehicles started around 35€ per day and usually hovered in the 48-60€ range.

You can get a more comprehensive price breakdown here.

Blue compact SUV in Iceland at sunset

Please note that car rentals from Reykjavik airport started closer to 90€ per day.

In addition to the cost of renting a car, you’ll also want to spring for the insurance. Besides accidents, there are other factors to consider like sand and ash coverage, which may not be covered under standard car insurance. There are also the goats, horses and sheep on the road in Iceland (and let's face it, you're on their turf), so you can never be too sure.

Icelandic sheep sticking its tongue out

You should also factor in whether or not your car rental company charges for pickup. Not all of Reykjavik's car rental companies are located at the Keflavik airport, and some of these charge for pickup. If you decide to go on your own it will add an additional 15-20€ each way to your transport budget. Just be sure to read the fine print when weighing the costs of renting a car for your trip to Iceland.

Tips for getting a cheap car rental in Iceland

As you can see, Iceland is expensive but we make no bones about that. Some money-saving tips we can offer are booking as far in advance as possible in order to get the best deals. Be on the lookout for coupon codes or special deals to get the lowest price on your car rental. Additionally, many people use tools like Skyscanner to find low-cost car rental in Iceland. And again, we have to the insurance. While it may seem counterintuitive if you are trying to save money during your trip, spending the extra dough on car insurance could be the best decision you make. Even if you if you are the best, most cautious driver in the world, anything could surprise you when dealing with unfamiliar conditions in an icy country. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and we don't want anything to take the shine off of your amazing trip to Iceland!

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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Landmannalaugar and Hiking the Laugavegur Trail

If you love the outdoors, then Iceland is the place for you. Sweeping lava fields, plunging waterfalls, dramatic name it, Iceland’s got it. So where should you go once you’ve explored the capital of Reykjavik, dipped your toes into the Blue Lagoon and stared in awe at the sheer power of Dettifoss waterfall? You could head to Landmannalaugar, an extremely popular spot for hiking in Iceland. It’s here in the Icelandic Highlands that you will find the Laugavegur Trail, one of the country's best hiking trails. There are a few things to know before you go, so here’s your ultimate guide to hiking Iceland’s famous Laugavegur Trail.

Two hikers overlooking colorful volcanic mountains in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is part of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve and lies at the edge of Laugahraun lava field. While the scalding magma has since cooled, this magnificent area was formed after a spectacular volcanic eruption over 500 years ago. The region is also known for its hot springs and landscapes that seem like something from out of this world. The name literally translates to “the hot springs route”, most likely due to the large influx of people who bathe in the thermal waters of Landmannalaugar.

The Laugavegur Trail is located in the south of Iceland and connects Landmannalaugar with the Þórsmörk valley. Meaning Thor’s Valley or Thor’s forest, Þórsmörk derives its name from the Norse god Thor and the impressive mountains you see all around you. The idyllic landscapes are both varied and beautiful, from rolling green hills to steep paths of rock and lava. As soon as you have the opportunity to trek this immense territory, you will understand why it is listed as one of the most stunning hiking trails in Iceland.

What’s hiking the Laugavegur Trail like?

The route is 55km (34mi) long and extends a further 30km (18mi) if you want to continue to Skógar. Normally, hikers finish the route in about 4-5 days. An added bonus is that the trails are well-worn and not too strenuous.

Dramatic view of lake and mountains in Landmannalaugar

The trail is actually quite varied and there are many different types of terrain along the way. You will see black and ash-colored volcanic fields, green elysian meadows and deep blue glacial caves. The area is pretty deserted and the notable lack of wildlife gives it a bit of a ghostly feel.

There are many different types of terrain and a wide variety landscapes, so it helps to know each one’s type and difficulty while planning your trip. The routes usually vary between ascending and descending. At one point you can even enjoy the views from the Háskerðingur mountain (around 1,281 meters or 4,203 feet above sea level). Each section is usually a 5-7 hour trek with the longest taking up to 9 hours.

You can start the route from two points – Landmannalaugar or Þórsmörk valley. If you decide to start in the south heading north, then there will be more climbing than if you hike the route heading north to south. Naturally, the first option is a bit less popular. Choose that one if you’re looking for a bit more solitude to contemplate the nature around you. The north-south direction tends to have more people on it, so it’s easier to meet fellow hikers along the way. This is the perfect option if you don’t mind the company of others or are looking to make friends.

How do I get to the Trail?

Of the various options available, the most economical would probably be bus transportation. Regardless of the direction you choose for your hike, you will have transportation that takes you to either end of the trail. The buses usually depart from Reykjavik and we advise you to have a copy of the schedule with you and to reserve your tickets well in advance. There are several companies that travel these routes and the most well-known are Trex and Reykjavik Excursions.

Bus on a mountain pass in Iceland

If you want something a bit more private and therefore slightly more expensive, there are also trips run by various tour operators. They usually offer both guided and non-guided routes with an option for accommodation along the way.

Where should I stay when hiking the Laugavegur Trail?

If you decide not to use one of the aforementioned tour operators, then you'll have to do a little more work on your own. Once you have planned your route and how to break it up, the next step is choosing your accommodation. As the Laugavegur Trail is quite famous, there are quite a few options for where to stay. Among them are campsites where you can spend the night in your tent or hostels and mountain huts. As with bus travel, if you decide not to use a tour operator then we recommend deciding your route as soon as possible and booking your accommodation far in advance.

Typical Icelandic mountain huts with grass on the roof

When choosing a place to stay, keep in mind that Iceland can be expensive. While there are small houses (known as mountain huts) along the trail, they can reach the price of a night at a hotel (50-60€ or $60-75). After a long day of hiking and facing inclement weather, you’re going to be tired. You’ll be thankful to have a hot shower, a quiet place to eat and a warm bed to rest in.

When is the best time of year to hike to Laugavegur Trail?

When you decide to go is a huge consideration given that your accommodation options will depend largely on the dates of your trip. The Laugavegur Trail lies in Iceland’s highlands, an area which is completely closed in the winter. It can only be accessed by F-roads, which are less like roads and more like trails. Typical Icelandic winters leave them totally blocked, so no service is offered to these areas in the colder months. If you plan to hike the Laugavegur Trail, you should know that you can really only do it from mid-June to mid-September. The weather changes during this period, and these are the optimal months. The bus routes and the options for accommodation also tend to close down outside of these dates.

What should I take with me for my hike?

You should be prepared for the Icelandic climate if you are going to Laugavegur. The weather is unpredictable and constantly changing. A safe bet is that it will probably be wet, windy and rainy. It’s essential to wear waterproof clothing, dress in layers and have some sort of windbreaker. Your shoes should be comfortable and specially designed for hiking and long walks. It’s also possible that you will encounter some snow along the way, depending on the time of the year.

HIking boots and water bottle for Laugavegur Trail hike

There really aren’t many places to stop for food on the Laugavegur Trail. Most of your options for buying food will be at the beginning of the route. You’ll have to prepare your snacks in advance and bring a portable stove with you.

Apart from all of these tips, our main recommendation is that you enjoy this unforgettable experience to the fullest. One-of-a-kind adventures like hiking the Laugavegur Trail are what make Iceland great.

Hiking in Landmannalaugar and the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland

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Monday, 23 April 2018

Best of Iceland in April

Spring has sprung (sort of!) and it’s time to start thinking about where you will head next. It may not have originally been on your radar, but going to Iceland on vacation could be an exciting option. This may be a small country, but many say you actually need to make two trips to Iceland in order to truly experience everything. That means the more Iceland holidays, the better! One trip should be during the darker season (mid-September to mid-April) in order to see the Aurora Borealis and explore the ice caves. The other recommended time to go is during the summer in order to see Iceland's diverse array of flora and fauna and bask in the glow of the midnight sun. It's difficult to choose the right time to visit Iceland because each month and season have their own pros and cons but here we will talk about the benefits of going in April.

Turquoise Bruarfoss waterfall during Iceland's summer

There are only two seasons in Iceland: winter and summer. The month of April officially marks the beginning of summer with the first Thursday after April 18th being the official first day of summer in Iceland. To mark this occasion, parades and events are organized in the towns and villages of the small Nordic country. Children receive a gift to celebrate this day and it’s usually some sort of game that can be played outside.

However, before you pack your swimsuit you should know that the concept of “summer” in April is mainly a relative idea. The Iceland winter is still ending so the climate will feel more like spring than anything else. In practice, temperatures in April are still around 3 °C (37 °F) and many parts of the country are still very much covered in snow. The amount of daylight, on the other hand, is much more present than during previous months. During the month of April in Iceland, there are more than 14 hours of daylight.

Springtime midnight sun in Akureyri, Iceland

Winter sports are still on full display, with the popular AK Extreme Festival bringing together adventurers and lovers of skiing and snowboarding in Akureyri, northern Iceland. In the Western Fjords, you can also participate in the Fossavatn ski marathon. April is also the last month to visit the ice caves, as they are no longer accessible starting in mid-April. As slowly rising temperatures melt the ice across the country, the ice caves are deemed too dangerous and unstable, so they close until later in the year when conditions are a bit colder. At the beginning of April, you are still able to see the Aurora Borealis but by the middle of the month, it becomes much more difficult because the nights are no longer very dark.

On the other hand, you can start to see whales and puffins, as these animals begin to return to Iceland during this season. The chances of seeing them are not as great as during peak season in July, but you can still join an excursion and find out where the puffins are in Iceland.

Icelandic horned puffin in Latrabjarg during Iceland's summer

In April you can and should also go take a dip in a geothermal pool. It is a wonderful way to experience the joys of bathing and get acquainted with the Icelandic way of life. Can you imagine a better experience than lounging in a bath at 40 °C (104 °F), and taking in the views of the Icelandic landscape? If you prefer a more luxurious experience you can visit the Blue Lagoon or the Mývatn baths.

April is considered the mid-season in Iceland, and you can see that the month is split between winter activities and summer activities. Although the roads to Iceland’s highlands are still closed, most of the main and secondary roads are accessible. The western fjord roads reopen but access should be checked on a day-to-day basis as much of the access is dependent on the weather! Waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes and some of the most beautiful scenery in Iceland are all within your reach during this spectacular season.

Landscape of Laugavegur trail with Alftavatn Lake in Icelandic Highlands

If you like music, you should definitely head to Isafjörður in the Western Fjords. When you combine regional pride and musical genius, you'll get Aldrei For Eg Suður, the Isafjörður festival that takes place every year on Easter weekend. For children, the Reykjavik Children's Festival offers activities and events for several days in April. It’s also during this time that there is a writer’s retreat in Iceland as well as the Eve-Online video game festival. This unusual festival goes for three crazy days in Reykjavik and attracts players and developers from around the world.

We're sure you'll agree, April makes one of the best times of year to visit Iceland! Let us know what you think.

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Monday, 16 April 2018

Why Iceland's ice caves and lava tubes should be your next otherworldly adventure

There are more than 2,000 caves listed in the country with several more being discovered each year. It's an increasingly popular activity in Iceland - so popular that not only is it possible to visit dozens of natural caves (lava or ice), but it is also possible to access an ice tunnel under the Langjökull glacier that has been created artificially by man.

Blue crystal ice cave in Iceland

Here are some caves to explore and some tips to make the most of your expedition!

Iceland's Lava Caves

Leiðarendi Cave, literally 'the end of the road', is 30 minutes from Reykjavik; it is certainly the most popular cave in Iceland, and the most accessible. It is a 900-meter-long lava tube (2,953 feet) that formed over 2,000 years ago. Today, you can visit this cave with a guide. Access is relatively easy and several companies offer excursions to Leiðarendi. While some emphasize the scientific and recreational side of lava caves, others put more emphasis on adventure and physical activity. It's up to you to see what suits you best!

Multicolored Thrihnukagigur Magma Chamber in Iceland

Lofthellir is a 3,500-year-old lava cave that extends for 370 meters (1,214 feet) and features glacial formations that will leave you in awe. You can choose to start this tour from Akureyri or Lake Mývatn. More information can be sound in the local tourist office in Akureyri. Discovered in 1907, the Cave of Gjábakkahellir, 'cave of the little girl', is a 364-meter lava tube (1,194) located in Þingvellir National Park. It's a relatively easy cave to access and has all the typical features of a lava cave. The stalactites are particularly impressive. Inside the cave, there are many rocks on the ground making mobility difficult; you have to walk, crawl and climb to get around!

Man in Icelandic cave with headlamp

There are dozens of lava caves around Iceland that you can visit with a guide. Be prepared to find yourself in total darkness, except for the headlamps that your guide will provide you with. Take note: the caves tend to be very humid, so it's better to bring along waterproof clothing and shoes for this type of excursion.

Iceland's Glaciers and Ice Caves

Depending on weather conditions, ice caves can usually be visited from mid-November to mid-March. Often referred to as crystal caves, they are located near the Langjökull and Vatnajökull glaciers.

Ice cave detail at Iceland's Vatnajökull Glacier

Outside these dates, the cellars are dangerous because they can collapse, so it's not possible to visit them. Vatnajökull Glacier is a 4-5 hour drive from the capital Reykjavik and Langjökull is about 2-2.5 hours away by car. It's a very popular activity and if you intend to explore an ice cave, reserve your trip as early as possible. Visits are often fully booked several months in advance.

You must always be accompanied by a sworn guide to go into an ice cave. Glaciers are dangerous places, dotted with crevasses, and only an experienced guide will be able to shepherd you safely through.

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Friday, 13 April 2018

What to Expect During July in Iceland

Iceland in July is great for a variety of reasons. The rough weather and precarious driving conditions of winter have given way to never-ending days of sunshine and access to almost all of the country’s roads, parks and places of interest. The country comes alive with festivals, concerts, outdoor activities, and more. You can go hiking, bird watching, whale watching, explore the fjords, go camping, and go for days on end without seeing the sun set.

Sunset and waterfall at  Kirkjufell mountain during July in Iceland

Things to Do - Festivals

The month of July sees several different music festivals. The Eistnaflug Music Festival in Neskaupsstaður (East Iceland) features three days of non-stop partying for rock and heavy metal fans. By contrast, you can hear traditional Icelandic and Scandinavian music at the Folk Music Festival in Siglufjordur (North Iceland). Medieval enthusiasts are able to relive the olden days at the Gásir Trading Weekend (North Iceland). These are in addition the LungA Art Festival in Seydisfjordur (East Iceland), the Kexport outdoor concerts in Reykjavik (West Iceland) and the Bræðslan Music Festival (East Iceland).

Revelers celebrating during an Icelandic music festival in July

Places to Visit

Reykjavik is Iceland's largest city as well as its capital. Famous for its nightlife and proximity to the Blue Lagoon, it should be your first stop on your Icelandic trip. You’ll really get a feel for how people live because even though it's a capital city, it's not overwhelming. Another great stop off is the capital of the North, Akureyri. As Iceland's second largest city, this makes a great jumping off point for outdoor activities such as whale watching or skiing during the winter months.

Natural Wonders

Iceland is known for its natural beauty. From the Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull National Parks to Europe's most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss, you will be awed by the array of things to see and do. After you’ve explored to your heart's content, it's time to head toward the fjordlands. Whether you decide to head for the Eastfjords, the Westfjords, or the Northfjords, you're sure to be blown away by the great views and beautiful landscapes. The Icelandic Highlands have reopened as well. So rent that four-by-four and go on an adventure.

Blue waters at Dynjandi waterfall in July

The Weather

The official summer months in Iceland are June, July, and August but May and September are also quite nice. The country’s climate benefits from Gulf Stream currents, which provide it with temperate summers. We specifically recommend going to Iceland in July because there is better weather than in June but fewer crowds than in August. While July is one of the warmest months in Iceland, be advised: it's not exactly bikini weather. The average monthly temperature is about 10 °C (50 °F) and the maximum will hover around 20 °C (68 °F). In other words, perfect for whale watching...not so perfect for joining the whales in the water. Unless you happen to be a member of your local Polar Bear Club of course. In that case, hop on in.

Iceland's colorful midnight sun over a field in July

It’s worth noting that you can’t see the Northern Lights during this time of year. The beloved Midnight Sun that prevents you from ever having to worry about seeing darkness also prevents you from seeing the Aurora Borealis. If you want to see the sky lit up at night with colors, it’s best to go when it gets dark at night. Any time before mid-April or after mid-September is your safest bet. So it looks like you just might have to come back! And after falling in love with Iceland during your summer trip, we have no doubt that you will.

Lisa. Iceland24
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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Travel Essentials: clothes you should pack for your trip to Iceland

Packing is an easy and enjoyable task! Said no one ever. It can be even more complicated if you are traveling to a country whose weather is nothing but changeable and unsteady. So what should you pack for your Icelandic trip? We totally understand that it is hard to know because you can actually have four seasons in just one day. In this post, we will try to give you some basic guidelines that can be useful, whatever time of year or season it is.

Checklist notepad to write what to pack for a vacation in Iceland

Seasons in Iceland change, but not dramatically. Be relieved, there are two basic constants in the Icelandic weather: wind and rain. Now we have somewhere to start from! You should always take into account that regardless of the season, Iceland is windy and humid, hence the importance of having the right clothes in your suitcase. Being cold and soaked is not a good idea at all when trying to have the time of your life in a foreign country.

The best advice we can give to any traveler is: learn the layering technique. Let’s get nerdy with my "Three-Layer Theory": We need to keep our body warm and dry, so the first step would be avoiding condensation from our own sweat. As you will be hiking, walking and simply doing some light or heavy physical activity, your body temperature will rise and you will sweat. Taking off your coat when it is windy and rainy outside is not a good idea unless you want to catch a cold and ruin your Nordic vacation.

Therefore, for your first layer, you should pack clothing made of synthetic fabric as it repels rather than absorbs water. It is also lightweight and dries faster. Forget about using cotton thermal underwear as they will get damp easily, stick to synthetic underwear, leggings and gloves.

Suitcase bursting with winter clothes for the Icelandic weather

For the second part of our Iceland survival layering theory, our main objective is to create an isolating layer. This one will not directly warm us up but it will prevent the loss of body heat, which is so important for those frosty northern nights. Here, we should choose isolating materials such as polyester or wool. This will apply to your fleece jacket, hiking pants, beanies, and socks.

The final third layer will be a protecting one. As we mentioned before, Iceland is humid, rainy and windy. If you get wet and the air is blowing, the wind chill factor can affect you considerably. This last layer must be waterproof, wind-cheating and breathable. So be sure to pack a windbreaker jacket, softshell coat and waterproof pants.

It may sound like a lot but if you purchase the right type of clothing, it's not really that much and definitely worth the investment. If it happens to be a sunnier day, you can just take off some pieces of clothing. And in case the weather worsens, then you will have a way to stay warm and dry. That is why we recommend this type of outwear. You will be able to fully adapt to the changing Icelandic weather, whatever the season it is.

Young woman thinking on what to pack for her Icelandic trip

If you are coming during the summer season, then a great tip is to bring an eye mask. In summer, we have the midnight sun, this means that the sun never sets and nights are bright instead of dark. Having an eye mask will definitely help you get to sleep at the right time. A full night of rest is also necessary to recharge your batteries.

Now you have everything you need to enjoy this fantastic trip! pack u
p and get ready for what
Iceland has to offer!
Now you have everything you need to enjoy this fantastic trip! Pack up and get ready for everything Iceland has to offer!

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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Reykjavik Nightlife and Best Bars for a Saturday Night

You've heard the stories. People in Europe like to party, and Iceland is no exception. As the country's capital, Reykjavik has plenty to do during a Friday or Saturday night out. The proximity of its bars and restaurants to one another makes it easy to have a night on the town and then wander home on foot. So if you're wondering “Where is the party in Reykjavik on the weekend?”, then read on. We’ve got you covered with where you should go, what you should do, and what you should wear.

What to Expect During a Saturday Night in Reykjavik

Nightlife in Reykjavik has a lot going for it. Everything is within walking distance because it's located in one central area. Most of the bars and restaurants are concentrated around Laugavegur street, Hverfisgata street and further down from the main drag, Bankastræti street and Austurstræti street. The word “stræti” means “street” in Icelandic. Another bonus: you almost never have to pay to get in. You'll never really wait in line and if you do, it's not for very long. In addition to being kind and friendly, Icelanders are very practical. They know it's cold outside.

Five cocktails on a bar on Laugavegur street

While it’s always best to check, dress codes are almost non-existent unless it’s a really upscale place. You can wear what you like, which is great for backpackers or people traveling on a budget. Like many cities in Europe, the party in Reykjavik goes into the wee hours. Many bars and clubs stay open until 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning.

Where to Go for Reykjavik Nightlife

Once you get your dancing shoes on, it's time to head on down to Laugavegur. In addition to being the center of Reykjavik’s nocturnal activities, it's also the city’s main shopping area. Bar crawling is extremely popular as people rarely stay in the same place all night. As you make your way from establishment to establishment, you'll discover many different types of bars. From Bar Ananas (the tropical Banana Bar) to Lebowski's movie-themed bar, you’ll want to explore the various themes and decor. Some of the unusual interiors might even end up in one of your Instagram stories!

People partying in Reykjavik on a Saturday night

When you get a case of the munchies, make a beeline for the food carts.The famous hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur make a great late-night snack. Lobster Hut is also a favorite to satisfy cravings for Scandinavian comfort food. For those looking for greasier fare, be on the lookout for chips shops. Who doesn’t love a late-night french fry run on the weekend? You can also scout for a convenience store to pop into to pick up a bag of Doritos or package of Oreos.

Best Bars in Reykjavik

Known as KB, the legendary Kaffibarinn Bar features electronic music and alternative tunes. The bar is co-owned by Blur’s Damon Albarn and is Reykjavik’s most popular hangout.

The French-themed Le Chateau des Dix Gouttes lounge bar serves double duty. During the day it’s a mild-mannered basement café known as Tiu Dropar (Ten Drops). At night it is magically transformed into an elegant wine bar that also serves cheese plates, waffles, and a selection of charcuterie. You can also sample the blend of blueberries, crowberries, rhubarb, and Icelandic herbs known as Kvöldsól, a delicious Icelandic wine.

Line of wine bottles at Reykjavik wine bar

Beer lovers will want to check out one of Reykjavik’s best microbreweriesMicro Bar. Other popular venues are Kex Bar, the bar housed in an abandoned biscuit factory and Gallery Bar, where you can get your daily art fix along with quality cocktails. Gaukurinn is one of many gay-friendly bars and clubs in Reykjavik such as Club Kiki’s.

Whatever you decide to do, your weekend plans are sure to be great! Saturday nights in Reykjavik are a time to have fun, get warm and meet new people. So get out there and get your party on.

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Friday, 6 April 2018

Best Things to Do in Dalvik

Iceland is known for its striking natural beauty. Its seaside towns and fishing villages look like something straight out of a postcard. With a population of approximately 1,400 inhabitants, Dalvík is the quintessential small Icelandic harbor town. The small municipality, whose name means “valley bay”, is the perfect stop while traveling in Dalvíkurbyggð in northern Iceland. We decided to compile a short list of the best things to do in Dalvík to help you get the most out of your trip. Keep reading to find out just what makes this little corner of the world so special.

Gísli, Eiríkur, Helgi Café - One of Dalvik's Best Spots

This coffee shop (kaffihús in Icelandic) is a favorite in town. The owners Heiður and Bjarni are extremely hospitable hosts and will make you feel right at home. They own the hostel across the street, so they know how it’s done. They and their children are a fixture on the local scene and Bjarni is famous for his storytelling. The quirky decor and stunning views of the sea from upstairs make this a rustic find that captures the feeling of traveling in Iceland. You can get the Icelandic coffeehouse staples of coffee, tea and beer or even take the chill off while sipping a cup of hot chocolate. Our recommendation from the menu is its tasty, warming fish soup. It comes with a choice of three different homemade breads and is probably some of the best food in Iceland. Sounds yummy, right?

Three friends drink coffee at a café in Dalvik, Iceland

Byggðasafnið Hvoll Folk Museum - Learn Iceland's History

Learn about the culture and heritage of Dalvík by visiting this unusual collection of objects and artifacts. Many items in Dalvík’s folk museum will surprise you; is that a stuffed polar bear over there? Nevertheless, you’ll find it fascinating to see odds and ends from Iceland’s cultural patrimony. Of special note are the rooms which tell the story of Jóhann K. Pétursson. He was known as The Icelandic Giant and was Iceland’s Tallest Man. Measuring 2.34m (7ft 8in), you can see why much shorter Icelanders were fascinated by him.

Winter Activities - Skiing and Snowboarding in Dalvík

Located in northern Iceland’s Svarfadardalur Valley, Dalvík is a prime destination for skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts. The Dalvík Ski Area on Böggvisstaðafjall mountain has top-rate facilities and is considered one of the best skiing areas in the country. There are 5km (3mi) of slopes available, including a 1,200m (3,937ft) floodlit run. You’ll also find bunny slopes for the less seasoned skiers in the family. The new snow production system also keeps the fresh powder coming. You couldn’t ask for better snow conditions. Here's another bonus: the ski resort is within walking distance of the town. It’s easy to see why one of the best things to do in Dalvík are winter activities.

Skis resting on a mountain top in Dalvík

Outdoor Activities - Bird Watching and Hiking in Dalvík

Proximity to the mountains makes hiking and bird watching extremely popular. One of the best things to do in Dalvík is packing a lunch from the Samkaup-Úrval (the town’s central supermarket) and head for the hills. In late May and June, all the migrant birds have arrived and this is prime time for birding. You can even shout the famous Icelandic phrase “Lóan er komin!” (the Golden Plover has arrived!) and really impress people with your knowledge of Icelandic bird species. The saying is also used to convey that winter is over and all is well in the world.

Outdoor Activities - Whale Watching in Dalvík

The diversity of Iceland's flora and fauna is one of the first things that will catch your attention when you are traveling here. As an island nation, the country’s plethora of marine life is especially striking. The Atlantic puffins who return to land to form breeding colonies are a favorite for spectators. Icelandic waters are home to seven species of dolphins, including the beautiful black and white orca. And yes, that’s no typo. Killer whales are actually dolphins.


But one of the best things to do in Dalvík is to look for the ocean’s largest mammals submerged beneath the surface of the icy waters. Dalvík’s location on the eastern part of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula makes it the perfect departure point for a whale watching excursion. Imagine seeing one of these magnificent creatures jumping out of the Norwegian sea and splashing down! Were you able to tell if it was a blue whale, a humpback whale or a minke whale?

Summer Activities - Dalvík's Fiskidagurinn Mikli Fish Festival

All the fish you can eat for free? Yes, please! This daylong summer festival features a free seafood buffet and everyone is invited. The local fishing industry sponsors this day by the harbor in order to enjoy the fare Iceland is so well known for. If you happen to find yourself traveling around northern Iceland’s Tröllaskagi Peninsula during the 1st or 2nd weekend in August, check the festival calendar. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the summer.

Man grilling fish and making a sandwich in Dalvík

Whatever time of year you decide to visit, you’ll find lots of activities awaiting you in Dalvík. The seaside town is located only a 35-minute drive from Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri. It makes a great stop off on your trip around North Iceland. And remember to pack well! Iceland's climate requires planning and you want to make sure you have the trip of a lifetime, regardless of when you go.

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Thursday, 5 April 2018

Your Unforgettable Trip to Iceland in June

It's difficult to choose the right time to go to Iceland. Each month and each season have their own distinct charm. You may want to consider going to Iceland in June. This is the perfect month to discover the island, which really starts to awaken in the summer. There are wonderful flora and fauna to discover as well as numerous festivals and sporting events taking place.

Iceland's Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in June

The end of Spring is the beginning of a really beautiful season and the light in Nordic countries is endless. Nights are non-existent at this time of year in Iceland. This means that you can explore without paying attention to the time or worry about it getting dark. Sunset just never comes! The average temperature at this time of year is 9 °C (48 °F), and it rarely rains in June. Although if you know Iceland a little, you'll know not to trust the averages!

If the winter weather has been sufficiently mild, the roads and paths leading to the Icelandic Highlands open in mid-to-late June. You’ll be able to venture out and discover Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk, Laki or Askja, provided you have a suitable vehicle. The fjords of the west are also easily accessible in June. They are the perfect destination if you are looking for both mild weather and a peaceful, quiet place. Most travelers visit southern Iceland or eventually tour the island, but few venture into this magnificent peninsula. If you want to visit Iceland in the summer but the number of tourists puts you off, the western fjords are for you!

Volcanic mountain over a green fjord during June in Iceland

June 17th is an Icelandic national holiday and is celebrated in every town and village. Guided tours, free concerts and exhibitions are all on the program for this special day. In Akureyri, northern Iceland, concerts are held for the whole family around the main square. There are also attractions at the Botanical Garden. In Reykjavik, the festivities take place in Austurvollur Square with the appearance of the Fjallkona. She is a mountain woman, who is the human figure that embodies Iceland. Wild, beautiful and independent, the lady of the mountains has read a poem each year on this day since the independence of the country in 1944.

If you are athletic, the month of June is for you, especially if you like cycling. Three races in the south of Iceland are right up your alley. The Blue Lagoon Challenge, the Wow Cyclotron and the Kexreið create a trifecta of summertime racing. If you prefer running, don’t miss the Midnight Sun Run, the Colour Run or the Mount Esja Ultra. This run is the Esja marathon.

Bike race in Iceland in June

For the those who love the sea, the Sea Festival was made just for you. It takes place in Reykjavik’s Grandi district and in all coastal towns and villages in Iceland. Started in 1938, this festival pays tribute to the sea and sailors. While it's not quite warm enough to swim, it’s a great opportunity to find out more about Icelandic marine culture. If you prefer Viking history, go to the Viking festival of Hafnafjörður. You’re in for a full day of handicrafts, storytelling, archery, and sword fighting!

Finally, for music lovers, the Secret Solstice Festival is an event not to be missed. The festival has steadily gained popularity since its inception in 2014. In 2017 the site will be even bigger and will include a small children’s village. The festival takes place in the Laugardalur Valley in Reykjavik for three days. Some artists who have performed since 2014 are Massive Attack, Wu-Tang Clan, Radiohead and Of Monsters and Men. This year, the Foo Fighters and Prodigy are headlining, as well as many popular Icelandic groups. Summer just doesn't get any better than music festivals!

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Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Fun Things to Do Near Keflavik Airport

As the country’s main hub for international transportation as well being the largest airport in Iceland, the award-winning Keflavík International Airport (KEF) sees many visitors come and go. It is a modern space which is compact, and luckily for travelers, relatively easy to navigate. For many, the Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport, is simply a 24-hour stopover on their way to their final destination. For others, it's the beginning of their trip to Iceland. Either way, you might find yourself with some extra time while flying into or out of Keflavík Airport. Be sure to check out these fun things to do on a layover in Keflavik.

Watching Planes Take Off From Keflavik Airport

Keflavík Activities - City Tour of Reykjavik

If you have 12 hours free so close to Reykjavik, why not make the most of your layover by going out to see the city itself? The Icelandic capital sits on the beautiful Faxa Bay and is the country’s cultural and economic center. The city is known for its colorful houses, and you can easily make your way around by foot. Take photos while oohing and ahhing at all the different variations of vermillion, emerald, and cobalt. For those interested in Viking culture, you’ll want to visit the 871 Settlement Museum. You can learn about the history of Iceland through a series of interactive exhibits. Another favorite stop off is the Hallgrímskirkja church.

Reykjavik's Faxa Bay at Night

There is a large variety of options for food in Iceland, and many people who live in Reykjavik recommend a restaurant called Fish (yes, that’s really its name). Just ask anyone to direct you to the Bonus supermarket and it’s located directly across the street. You can also go sample Iceland’s unofficial national food: hot dogs. Head to the iconic hot dog stand Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (which roughly translates to “best dogs in town”) and order one in Icelandic with everything “ein með öllu”. Or you can order a “Clinton”, which is one with only mustard. That’s how former president Bill Clinton had his when he visited the famous stand back in 2004.

Icelandic Hot Dogs Close to Keflavik Airport

Keflavík Activities - The Blue Lagoon

One of the best ways to rejuvenate after a long flight is to have a soak in the restorative waters of Iceland’s world-renowned geothermal baths. While the entry ticket can be a bit pricey (35€ or $50USD), it’s definitely worth it. As you watch the steam rising gently from the silica-filled, bright turquoise water, you’ll feel your stress melting away. There are plenty of options for going to and from the airport via bus, and since it’s only about 20km (13mi) away, why not go dip your toes into the Blue Lagoon? Buy your ticket advance so you can skip the lines and head straight to the changing rooms. Relaxation awaits you!

Bathers soaking in the Blue Lagoon on a Day Trip from Keflavik Airport

Keflavík Activities - The Golden Circle

Further afield is the collection of natural wonders known as the Golden Circle. The gushing geysers at Geysir, cascading waterfalls at Gullfoss, and tectonic plates at Pingvellir (anglicized as Thingvellir) are just a taste of the diverse landscapes you are sure to encounter in and around Reykjavik. You can rent a car or hire a tour for a one-day excursion. Pingvellir National Park lies about 40km (25mi) northeast of the capital and here’s a word of warning for those who decide to go by camper or car: Make sure you pay the ISK500 ($5USD) parking fee as the guard will go around checking every single vehicle!

Tectonic Plates in Pingvellir National Park

This by no means covers everything there is to see and do close to Reykjavik and Keflavik airport. If you do only have a day to explore the areas in and around the Nordic capital, these suggestions are a good place to start. You’ll love the hospitality and friendliness of the people you meet and if you’re lucky, make like one of the locals and order one with everything at Iceland’s most famous hot dog stand.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Three Unmissable Experiences on Your Trip to North Iceland

Known as the land of Fire and Ice, Iceland is a Nordic island nation filled with natural wonders. From bubbling hot springs to slowly-moving glaciers, flowing lava fields and bursting volcanoes to majestic waterfalls and gurgling geysers, you can see why this land of contrasts is a nature lover's paradise. In addition to its wild, dramatic landscapes, the country is also quite modern. Did you know that the cosmopolitan capital city of Reykjavik runs completely on geothermal power? And while Reykjavik, along with its Viking history museums and modern art are definitely a must-do on your Icelandic itinerary, making it your only stop would cause you miss out on a lot. Many of the country's most spectacular attractions lay further north, so if you’ve got three days to spare, be sure to check out these awesome things to do in North Iceland.

Hvitserkur Rock Seen From Fjord in North Iceland

Dettifoss Waterfall

With a height of over 44 meters (144 feet) and spanning 100 meters (328 feet) across, you can definitely see why Dettifoss Waterfall is affectionately known as “the Beast”. Set against a rocky backdrop, the seemingly never-ending flow of water crashes down so strongly that the mist from its spray can be seen several miles away. Located in Northeast Iceland, this mighty powerhouse is reputedly Europe's most powerful waterfall. As you explore northern Iceland’s Diamond Circle route around Húsavík and Lake Mývatn, the Dettifoss Falls will certainly be one of the highlights of your trip.

Dettifoss Waterfall in North Iceland at Sunset

Whale Watching Off The Icelandic Coast

What is that you see over there? Emerging from the depths of the icy blue waters of the Norwegian Sea are the gentle beasts that call these waters home. The anticipation of spotting one of the large numbers of species such as humpback whales, blue whales, and minke is sure to bring out the kid in you. As they leap up and come crashing down, let’s hope you don't get sprayed! One of the best places for spotting whales in Iceland is in the northern part of the country, with Húsavík, Eyjafjörður, and Skjálfandi being great jumping-off points. Proximity to sheltered bays along with calm seas and good weather make conditions ideal for a summertime boat ride in one of Iceland's famed oakwood sailing boats. You might even spot a friendly family of dolphins poking their heads out of the surface of the water to say hello.

Whale Jumping Out of the Water in North Iceland

The Aurora Borealis

No article about North Iceland would be complete without at least a mention of the spectacular Northern Lights because they are...well...spectacular. The streaks of luminous greens, teals, and turquoises lighting up a blue or purple sky will leave you breathless. Pictures can never truly capture the otherworldly beauty of this nighttime light show, so it's best to see it with your own eyes. You’ll have your best shot at viewing this natural phenomenon during high season, which runs from September to April. While it can be seen on clear nights from towns in northern Iceland such as Akureyri, a better viewing point would be from the mountains, where low light pollution makes viewing conditions ideal. Be sure to pack those coats!

Green Northern Lights Over Rocks in North Iceland

We’ve only touched the surface as there is so much to see and do in North Iceland. In addition to these suggestions, make sure you also take a hike in one of the national parks that Iceland is famous for, check out the Drangajökull glacier, which is the northernmost glacier in Iceland and land of the midnight sun, take a dip in one of the country's many geothermal baths, and have a short stay in the capital of the north, the port town of Akureyri. This lovely urban center on the water makes a great base camp from which to explore the northern part of Iceland.

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