Friday, 29 June 2018

Do Icelanders Really Believe in Elves?

Have you ever heard the term “Huldufólk”? In Icelandic, it roughly translates to “hidden people”. Huldu relates to secrecy or things that are hidden and fólk are people. While you may not be familiar with this term, you most definitely heard another word for Huldufólk: elves. One of the questions we get most frequently from disbelieving tourists is if Icelanders really believe in elves. In short, yes. We’ll get into the specifics in a bit but the answer is a bit more nuanced. Let’s dig a little deeper into the story of Iceland’s elves and exactly what percentage of the population believes in their existence.

Do Icelanders really believe in elves like this one?

The origin of elves in Iceland dates back centuries. They have always been a part of Icelandic folklore and we Icelanders cherish our tales and stories. Our connection to the natural environment has let our imaginations run wild and like many cultures throughout history, we come up with our own interpretations to explain the world around us. Ancient Greeks believed lightning was caused by Zeus throwing his thunderbolts and Germans have wizards in the Black Forest and singing nymphs called Lorelei along the Rhine, so are elves really that far off the mark?

Stories of elves have been passed down orally for generations. The mythical creatures live in hidden dwellings and they often served as fables or warnings to children so that they did not end up as cautionary tales. Like everything our parents told us, we believe these stories for a long time. The warnings were a way to protect children from wandering too far, as many times the hidden people lived in dangerous places like lava fields or places with sharp rocks and crevices. It also taught us to respect the raw power of nature. And in a country filled with harsh elements such as glaciers, volcanoes and earthquakes, it’s no wonder these myths have sprung up.

Icelanders believe elves live in natural places like these lava fields

While you’ll be hard-pressed to find an Icelander who will tell you “Yes, I believe in elves! I saw one last week at Hellisgerdi Park!” the polls tell a different story. Hellisgerdi Park, by the way, is rumored to be the home of one of Iceland’s largest elf colonies. When Icelanders were asked if they believed in the existence of elves with a simple yes or no, many said no. But when given the option of “definitely”, “probably” or “possibly”, pollsters received far more yes answers than no. According to a 1998 survey, around 54.4% of those surveyed said they believed in at least the possibility that elves existed.

So what do you think? Is it possible that elves really do exist in Iceland? Or is half the country just off its rocker? Would you be interested in taking an elf-hunting excursion? Not real hunting of course, only elf-spotting. We are very peaceful in Iceland and respect all creatures, even ones that may or may not exist. But you never know. As many Icelanders say, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so who are we to say elves don't exist?

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Thursday, 28 June 2018

Tech For Travelers: Make Your Trips Less Stressful With These Gadgets

Welcome to the 21st century, everyone. We've got phones we can talk to, drones delivering pizzas and even self-driving cars cruising our neighborhoods snapping pics of unsuspecting pedestrians for Google Maps. All of this technology and more seems to have made our lives easier. But what about when traveling? No app is going to prevent the person in front of us on the plane from leaning their seat back or stop that child from whining back in row 18. That being said, there are some gadgets that can help to make our travels less stressful. Let's look at some tech for travelers.

Portable USB and power chargers are useful tech for travelers

High-Tech Travel Solutions 

Smart Luggage 

We've got everything from smartphones and smartwatches to smart refrigerators and even smart water, so you knew smart luggage was just around the corner. While smart luggage may not be quite as impressive as Apple's iPhone, it definitely has some extras that can make your travels go more smoothly. Smart luggage usually has some sort of charger for your phone built in as well as location tracking. They also frequently come with the ability to weigh your suitcase. This comes in especially handy for those like myself who tend to overpack and are pushing the edge with those weight limits.

DIY Smart Luggage 

But of course, all of these bells and whistles come with a price. Like any technological upgrade, the more you receive, the more expensive it gets. Suitcases are no different. And if one or all of the components breaks, you're back to square one. An alternative to smart luggage that many travelers choose is simply buy the elements separately and save their pennies in the process. There's also confusion about security screening processes at the airport because of the lithium-ion batteries many of these smart bags contain. You might save yourself a headache, and some money, by purchasing a USB battery pack, a small USB travel scale and a Bluetooth tracker. The tracker will link to an app that you download to your phone. With a do-it-yourself smart bag, you’ve got the same tech with less hassle.

Smart luggage in an airport

Portable Power Sources 

In addition to charging your phone, you'll most likely want to charge other devices as well. This is where portable a power source comes in. You can use an external battery pack to charge your electronics. Like most savvy travelers, you probably have several devices and corresponding adapters. This presents a problem when you are staying at lodging that has a limited amount of outlets, or you are sharing your space with someone else. To solve the issue, why not bring a portable surge protector to increase the number of outlets you have at your disposal? Some portable power outlets even come equipped with USB ports.

Block Out the Noise 

Whoever said bring in the noise bring in the funk clearly was not talking about sleeping in a hotel room or being at a noisy airport. For many, silence is a sanctuary. But it doesn't always come free or even cheap. If you have trouble falling asleep in new or semi-loud environments, it could be wise to invest in a small white noise machine or download an app to your phone. Noise canceling headphones could also be useful when trying to watch your favorite Netflix shows on the plane or while waiting to board your delayed flight. They help drown out sounds like engines, crying babies or those people behind you having a loud conversation.

Low-Tech Travel Solutions 

Earplugs, Sleep Mask, Neck Pillow 

I can't tell you how many times having one or all of these items on my travels has helped me immensely and saved my sanity. Whether traveling by plane or bus, being able to shut the world out and fall asleep will go a long way towards making sure that you are well rested when you arrive at your destination. Additionally, when staying at an Airbnb or other unknown entity, you never know what external circumstances will be like. It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your sleep. Nobody wants to be grumpy the next day because they were in a bright room with noisy neighbors.

Man sleeping with sleep mask

Packing Cubes 

These little miracles are so handy; I don't know how we got along without them. There's nothing worse than rifling through your bag to find something and then having your clothes strewn everywhere. You have to repack your bag every single time rather than taking out only what you need. Packing cubes solve this problem by keeping everything separated, in their spot and easy to put back. Buy them if you haven't already.

Whether you decide to purchase a state-of-the-art pair of noise-canceling headphones or simply invest in a good pair of earplugs, we hope these suggestions of old and new technology will help you have a pleasant journey. Have a great trip!

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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Vatnajökull National Park: Home to Iceland’s Colossus of Ice

Iceland's beauty is vast and well-known. The land offers views that no one can find anywhere else on planet earth. Some spots even look like places we've only seen in outer space. The immensity of Iceland’s splendor is best on display at Vatnajökull National Park, a goliath of ice that has remained undisturbed for centuries. Welcome to the icy side of the Land of Fire and Ice.

Vatnajökull National Park's glacier and mountains

Vatnajökull National Park - A Bit of History 

The park lies on the eastern side of the island. It is so vast that it covers around 14% of Iceland’s territory. Vatnajökull is currently the second largest national park in Europe. Here, you can enjoy different types of landscapes and experience the force of rivers, geothermal activity and even volcanoes. The national park was established in 2008 as a method of protection of flora and fauna of this area. The park was divided into four different regions, each with their own management.

The park is named after Vatnajökull, an impressive glacier that takes up most of the park area. The glacier began its formation in the Ice age, around 3,000 years ago. It used to be even bigger, but it has since retreated to its current size.

As mentioned before, Iceland’s nickname is the Land of Fire and Ice, and by visiting Vatnajökull National Park, we understand why. Right below this behemoth of ice, there are a few active volcanoes: Esjufjöll, Grímsvötn, Kverkfjöll, Þórðarhyrna and Bárðarbunga. This last one erupted back in 2014. So the contrast of the white, spotless snow with the dark lava below is just stunning.

Skaftafell glacier in Iceland's Vatnajökull National Park

What to Visit at Iceland's Vatnajökull National Park

Being one of the largest national parks in Europe has a lot of advantages. One of them is the variety of the activities offered as well as the scenery. It is also home of the famous Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

On the north side of the park, you can visit the famous Askja Caldera. The access to this area is quite complicated. So if you do not have enough experience with fording rivers and tough terrains, it's better to join a group excursion. Many companies offer daily tours with expert guides to the area. Close to Askja, you can also visit Viti crater. This crater has now become a bathing resort. Doesn't swimming inside a volcanic crater in geothermally heated water sound cool?

When heading eastwards, you can detour to Kringilsárrani. Here you will see the reindeers grazing freely. If you prefer a more adventurous activity, then why not visit an ice cave? You can do so at Eyjabakkajökull glacier. The caves are impressive and striking. You will be in awe while descending to the depths of the glacier through these ice tunnels.

If you are looking for hiking areas, then head south. Stafafellsfjöll mountain ridge offers great trails through the canyon. Öræfajökull volcano lies in this same area. It's the largest active volcano in Iceland.

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is located in the southeast of Vatnajökull National Park

West Vatnajökull National Park has beautiful and otherworldly lava fields as well as famous craters such as Lakagígar. These natural wonders are the result of several eruptions of the Grímsvötn, the most active volcano in the island.

How to Reach Vatnajökull National Park

The park can be easily reached by taking route number 1. You can use a 2WD vehicle unless you take an F-Road. 4x4 vehicles are mandatory in Iceland when driving the inland F-Roads. How long the drive takes highly depends on which part of the park you are visiting. To get a rough idea, it takes 4-5 hours to get to Jökulsárlón from Reykjavik. The glacier lagoon is in the southeast region of the national park.

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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Explore Iceland in a Campervan or Motorhome This Summer

The great outdoors have attracted thrill seekers and adventurers since the beginning of time. As we have become more advanced so too has the camping experience. No longer are we stuck lugging around awkwardly shaped tent poles and backpacks bursting at the seams with equipment. This problem often plagues those who go backpacking or camping, especially in Iceland. The weather can turn in an instant, and being stuck outside in the rain while setting up a tent is nothing short of a nightmare. The modern outdoor enthusiast can choose a more straightforward route: an RV.

Dashboard of a motorhome rental in Iceland

Renting an RV to explore Iceland has never been easier. Besides offering a slew of creature comforts, they also provide a way to plan a highly customizable trip. Signing up for a shuttled tour is great if you are limited on both time and money. The drawback of this is that you are beholden to their schedule, their destinations, and the other tourists. Go off the beaten path and plan an adventure in Iceland that you will never forget.

Before we go any further, there are some important distinctions about RVs that need to be made. The first image that is conjured in most of our minds when we see or hear RV is a motorhome. Motorhomes are the largest and the most luxurious of RVs (recreation vehicles). They generally have full beds, bathrooms, kitchens, and are outfitted with a dizzying amount of electronics. Driving a motorhome can feel like operating a submarine. Which can be interesting, but there is a multitude of different RVs that are utilitarian in their design and much easier to manage.

Motorhome rental in Iceland and Scandinavia

The second most common RV to rent for a trip to Iceland is the camper van. Camper vans are repurposed vans that have been retrofitted with sleeping cots, kitchenettes, and small living spaces. They are the most cost-efficient option, along with rental cars, and backpacking coming in behind them. Although I would not recommend the latter. Stick to an RV, you won’t regret it.

Camper vans and motorhomes are, in this writer's humble opinion, the most comfortable and reliable way to traverse Iceland’s rugged terrain. You can rent a car, but then you have to camp. And if we are all being honest with ourselves here, no one likes the hassle of setting up and breaking down a campsite. You save time and energy by renting an RV. Not only that, but you spend more time enjoying the great outdoors instead of struggling with it.

Iceland’s popularity has been exponentially exploding over the last decade, and as such, there are more and more companies to rent RVs from. Regarding renting a camper van, you can’t go wrong with Campervan Iceland or Happy Campers. Both are based out of Keflavík and offer a wide range of upgrades and financially attractive packages. It should be noted that Campervan Iceland also has some incredible motorhome packages for those willing to pay a little extra. Another motorhome rental company besides Campervan Iceland is Motorhome Iceland. Also based out of Keflavík, they offer 12 different camper van and motorhome options. The best part is that these companies have onsite support to help with any problems that may arise.

Customer service representative for a motohome rental company in Iceland

Camping in the traditional sense is slowly being phased out. With the world becoming increasingly connected, and sometimes more complicated, why not make things as easy as possible? Isn’t the reason for taking a trip to enjoy yourself? And the destinations that you have trekked to reach? Setting up the campsite of yesteryear can be burdensome and quite frankly is antiquated. Join us in the twenty-first century and rent an RV.

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Monday, 25 June 2018

Visiting Thingvellir National Park

Iceland is known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. One of the most popular of these is exploring one of the country’s many national parks. Snaefellsjökull, Skaftafell and Vatnajökull National Parks are home to some spectacular glaciers, waterfalls and hiking trails. Another one of Iceland's most frequently visited national parks is Þingvellir (or the anglicised version, Thingvellir). Not only is it one of the three stops on Iceland’s famed Golden Circle route, but it also has a fascinating history concerning Iceland's government.

Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Thingvellir National Park - When to visit 

The most popular time of year to visit Thingvellir National Park is from May to September. Not only are there more hours of daylight, but the weather is more pleasant during this time of year. It's also fishing season on lake Þingvallavatn. During the summer months of June, July and August, the weather is especially lovely. You will also find many day tours running from Reykjavik. It's a bit colder in the winter, especially December January and February. Reduced daylight hours will not afford you as much time to see the park, so we recommend visiting during the warmer months.

Thingvellir National Park - How to Get There

Located about 28 mi (45 km) northeast of Reykjavik, there are several different roads that you can take to reach Thingvellir National Park. If you’re coming from Reykjavik, take Road 1 going north. Once you’ve driven through Mosfellsbær, take the first exit on the right in the roundabout. This exit will lead you to Road 36, which goes to Thingvellir.

When coming from other stops on the Golden Circle like Geysir and Gullfoss, you’ll need to take Road 35 which goes to Road 37 towards Laugarvatn. Once you’ve gotten to the roundabout just outside Laugarvatn, take the first exit to your right onto Road 365 and then Road 36 to Thingvellir.

Icelandic flag marking location of Althingi in Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park - What to See and Do

Besides fishing and hiking, you can also go horseback riding and diving at Thingvellir. Perhaps one of the most interesting activities at the park is the Silfra fissure. For those who don’t know, Iceland is literally splitting in two! The volcanic island sits atop the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are slowly moving apart. The result? A massive crack in the ground that is growing year after year. Seeing continental drift in action and up close is pretty cool. Just be sure you don’t fall!

Camping is another favorite activity in the park. You can camp in two different areas during high season, from the beginning of June to the end of September. Children under the age of 13 can camp for free, and a group of 10 or more adults receives a 15% discount when they pay in full. You’ll need to obtain camping and fishing permits from the Information Center when you arrive. Þingvallakirkja or “the church at Þingvellir” is also open daily from mid-May to early September.

Lastly, Iceland's Parliament or Althingi started here. It's the oldest Parliament in the world, dating back to 930 AD. You'll find this extremely important historical site in the park.

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Friday, 22 June 2018

Visit Iceland's Askja Volcano and Caldera

There’s just something about volcanoes that fascinates us. Maybe it’s the sheer power of their lava flows or the fact that they have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. It could also be the fact that the lurking giant could erupt at any moment. Regardless of your reason, if you are a fan of volcanoes, then you should definitely come to Iceland. It’s known as the Land of Fire and Ice in part due to the large number of volcanoes. One of the most famous volcanoes in Iceland is Askja along with its crater lakes and calderas.

Askja volcano and caldera in Iceland

Iceland has about 30 active volcanoes, and the one you may have heard of most recently is Eyjafjöll. Its eruption in 2010 grounded flights in European airspace for almost a week. But what about Askja? The name actually refers to zone with a volcanic mountain range located in Iceland’s Highlands north of Vatnajökull glacier. The area is famous for its calderas and volcanic crater lakes. A caldera is created when a volcano erupts, and it’s so powerful that the top of the magma chamber implodes. The volcano essentially collapses in on itself, which forms a crater.

Because Askja is in the Highlands, you can really only access it in the summer. The F-roads that lead inland are closed during the winter, so if you are planning a trip to this area make sure you come at the right time of year. Another important detail to keep in mind is that to access these F-roads, a 4x4 all-terrain vehicle is mandatory. If you’re taking a road trip around Iceland, you may not have rented one of these types of vehicles. Fear not, as there are a large number of companies and tour operators like Visit Askja offering tours and excursions to Askja, Lake Myvatn and surrounding areas. You can also rent a jeep or go on a Super Jeep tour.

You can rent a Super Jeep or go on an excursion to visit Askja caldera and volcano

Close to Askja is Viti Crater, which is part of the Krafla volcano range. You can walk along the rim to look down at the turquoise blue water. The water is pretty warm as well (77 °F or 25 °C) so taking a swim is a favorite activity for families, hikers and others. It can be a bit difficult getting there as there are sharp rocks on the trail and descending to the crater itself can be a bit slippery. If you plan on hiking this route be sure to take good hiking boots and be very careful while trekking.

This makes a great destination for those looking to do something a little unusual during their trip to Iceland. Hiking through lava fields and swimming in blue-green calderas isn’t something you do every day. Experiences like this are what make trips to Iceland memorable, unique, and worth repeating.

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Thursday, 21 June 2018

Where to Rent Camping Gear in Reykjavik

One of the most popular ways to see Iceland is to do a camping road trip around the country’s Ring Road. But it's a bit of a hassle to lug all of your camping gear on the plane. Additionally, Iceland's harsh climate requires tents and sleeping bags designed for more extreme elements than you may be used to at home. Many times it's easier to just rent locally and return your specialized gear after the trip. We've created a list of the best camping rental equipment stores in Reykjavik to help you out. You can buy or rent camping gear once you've landed to be fully prepared for your camping trip to Iceland.

Rent camping gear in Reykjavik and enjoy a sunset mountain vista like this one

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Iceland Camping Equipment Rental 

Address: Barónsstígur 5, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 647 0569

Think of this as your one-stop-shop for any and all equipment for your Iceland camping needs. They've got everything you could ever possibly hope to rent for your camping adventure. Maps, tents, portable wifi, GPS, stoves, sleeping bags, gas canisters, the list goes on. You can peruse the selection of items in their online store and pre-order the camping gear you want to rent from the comfort of your own home. Also, their extremely knowledgeable staff can provide any advice and support you might need.

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Gangleri Outfitters 

Address: Hverfisgata 82, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
Phone: +354 583 2222

Lots of Iceland blogs and travel forums list this as one of the top camping equipment rental stores in Reykjavik. They offer items both to sell and rent. Much like the aforementioned Iceland Camping Equipment Rental, they also have a wide range of products to meet your camping needs. This store is not as big as our first recommendation, but you'll still find plenty of things here. From first aid kits to hiking boots and snowshoes, they’ve got you covered.

Reykjavik's best camping rental equipment stores rent tents, hiking shoes, hiking poles like these

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Fjallakofinn 

Address: Laugavegur 11, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 510 9511

This camping equipment store, whose name means “mountain hut” in Icelandic, is one of the higher end options for camping gear. In addition to equipment and accessories, they also offer clothing. They have a wide selection of items to purchase including thermal clothing and other pieces to keep you warm. You can also shop for other outdoor activities such as skiing and snowboarding. While they don’t have as many items for rent as the other two stores, you should definitely pop into their shop on Reykjavik's famed Laugavegur shopping street and have a look.

Best Camping Gear Stores in Reykjavik - Rent-a-Tent 

Address: Smiðjuvegur 6, Rauð gata, 200 Kópavogur, Iceland
Phone: +354 848 5805

This camping renting equipment is store precisely what it says. If you're looking to rent a tent, this no-frills shop is your spot. They’ve got you covered with the basic for camping gear rental without all of the bells and whistles of some other stores. It should be noted that this store is just outside of Reykjavik in the town of Kópavogur. But if you’re camping in Iceland, you’ll probably have already picked up your vehicle at the airport

Rental all of the camping gear in this flatlay in Reykjavik

We hope this list of stores where you can rent camping gear in Reykjavik has helped. You’re going to have an unforgettable time camping in Iceland, so let us know how your trip goes!

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Secret Solstice Music Festival is Here

We are only one day away from the official start of summer. Every year around June 21st, people breath a little easier knowing that the days are going to be longer, the weather will be warmer, and midday drinks on patios are not only socially acceptable but somewhat expected. If you are looking to truly soak up all the rays you possibly can, while listening to tasty tunes, and having an experience unlike any other, then Reykjavik's Secret Solstice Festival is right up your alley.

Crowds at Iceland Secret Solstice Music Festival

Fun fact about Iceland’s capital city: not only is it the northernmost capital city in the world but during the summer solstice, it experiences up to 96 hours of continuous sunlight. If you think you read wrong, you didn’t: there are up to 96 hours of non-stop daylight during the solstice. I can’t think of a better way to usher in summer 2018 then going to a festival with an insane musical lineup while being bombarded with vitamin D.

The four-day festival will feature an eclectic line up that is sure to have something for every music lover. There are just too many big names to name performing at the festival, but I’ll give you a taste: British Grime phenom Stormzy, legends of death metal Slayer, founders of funk themselves George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, EDM grandmaster Steve Aoki, the multitalented hip-hop producer and artist Goldlink, and many, many more.

The festival is not only unique in the circumstances surrounding the weather (96 hours of continuous sunlight cannot be stressed enough), the diverse lineup of artists that will be taking the stage, but also some of the packages offered for this festival are absolutely out of this world. Festival goers may have some hesitancy surrounding packages and music festivals, especially after 2017's infamous Fyre festival fiasco.

Secret Solstice Music Festival

No one wants to end up stranded, sitting in FEMA disaster relief tents, eating cold ham sandwiches, wishing they could post something cool to Instagram. I would also hazard a guess to say no one wants to see a picture of a sad millennial’s ham sandwich either. Worry not music festival lovers. Secret Solstice has got you covered. This will be the fifth year of the Secret Solstice festival. They have been around the block. And, if you are still on the fence about going, the festival recently received a nomination from the European Festival Awards. There is good reason why they have earned the distinction as, “The Worlds Most Unique Festival.”

This prestigious title puts pressure on the festival organizers to keep it fresh and exciting year after year. This year they have met or exceeded expectations, and will easily hold onto that distinction once again. The “Must-See: Festival Pass + Hotel” package is a steal and will put you in the lap of luxury while you bounce between acts like Gucci Mane and Death From Above. Meant for couples or those seeking a luxury experience, the package includes a stay downtown at the magnificent Hotel Reykjavik Natura for three nights, with a queen bed, and a whole slew of amenities (wifi, electronic key cards, etc.).

If hotels are too fancy for you, they offer the “Must-See: Festival Pass + Camping Pass.” I have always been under the impression that camping is the way to go when it comes to music festivals. It gives you an excellent opportunity to meet people, inundate yourself in the festival atmosphere, and most importantly, it is much cheaper. For those with families or who can afford it, the hotel package may seem more attractive. International travelers may worry about lugging their camping equipment on flights, and subsequently showing up to the festival a sweaty mess. The Secret Solstice festival has options to rent tents, and if you pre-order they even have it set up for you by the time you arrive.

Camp out at Reykjavik's Secret Solstice Music Festival

Music and accommodation packages aside, 14 Iceland excursions are offered apart from the festival. 14 trip options, 96 hours of sunlight, and some of the most popular musical acts touring! What’s not to love? Trips range from glacier excursions that bring you to the Langjökull Glacier ice cap where you will rediscover your sense of wonder as you wander through the 500 meter long ice cave, to a day trip where you will experience the undeniable, overwhelming cuteness of the Icelandic Puffin (there is also whale watching on this tour, but let’s be honest with ourselves: we want to see the puffins, we want to steal the puffins, we need to befriend a puffin). These tours take you to and from the festivals and may serve as a significant change of pace from the festival atmosphere.

Festivals are great avenues for making new friends, experiencing new music, and having a great excuse to nosh on festival food. The main issue with international festivals is that festival goers rarely have an opportunity to take in the culture of the country they are visiting. The cost and logistics of getting to and from a festival in another country are overwhelming enough. However, Secret Solstice makes that travel worth it.

You can quickly and affordably split your time between seeing your favorite musical acts, and seeing aspects of Iceland that you would otherwise not have time or money to visit. Also, there is going to be 96 hours of continuous sunlight due to the summer solstice (if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon, it will blow your mind, and you also might fall into a slight hibernation after the festival is over). Whether you are looking for an excuse to go to Iceland, start your summer off with a unique music festival, or if you want to see Gucci Mane and then immediately go hang out with some puffins, then Secret Solstice festival is perfect for you. Make sure you pack your sunglasses and sunscreen as there is going to be 96 hours of continuous sunlight (in case you can't tell, I still cannot get over it).

Magnús, Iceland24
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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

6 Travel Photography Tips for Iceland

Iceland is probably one of the most photographable places on earth. Its varied landscapes provide the perfect backdrops for your travel photos. Some say you can simply point anywhere, click, and you’ll come up with a great picture every time. While that may be true, we’d also like to give some additional travel photography tips for Iceland as well as some do’s and don’ts. So grab your cameras shutterbugs, let’s jump right in!

Iceland Travel Photography Tips Young Woman with Camera

Iceland Photography Tip #1: Don’t get bogged down by equipment 

Iceland is a place where you will spend a lot of time outdoors. You’ll do a lot of hiking, exploring and walking to find the perfect shot. The last thing you need is to be carrying too much equipment, so pack light.

Iceland Photography Tip #2: Do bring your tripod

While we don’t want you to get too weighed down with tons of different lenses, accessories and the like, one item you should definitely bring is a tripod. You’ll want one of these for those long exposure shots of waterfalls, both big and small. And not to mention the Northern Lights, which require a slower shutter speed.

Iceland Photography Tip #3: Protect your camera from the elements 

Icelandic weather is notorious for being changeable. You’ll want to protect your precious, expensive equipment from the rain and snow by carrying some kind of rain sleeve. Although to be honest, having an umbrella often works better as it will protect the front elements of the camera. And of course, there’s always the old standby of a plastic bag or case for when things really start to go crazy.

Protect your camera in the snow with Iceland travel photography tips

Iceland Photography Tip #4: Please watch where you step

This warning is two-fold. First, Iceland has a very delicate ecosystem, and the rise in tourism has been almost overwhelming for the small country. Many of its flora and fauna are being destroyed due to careless tourists, and I know you don’t want to fall into that category. Respect the signs of where you are and are not allowed to go. Secondly, Iceland can be quite dangerous, so please use common sense when trying to get that perfect shot. We want you to come home from your Iceland vacation unscathed.

Iceland Photography Tip #5: Bring your wide angle lens 

Iceland is famous for its sweeping landscapes, and the last thing you want to do is get boxed in with a narrow lens. Sure, you could stitch them together later in Photoshop or the photo editing program of your choice, but why not cut out the middleman? You’ll also want to be sure you’re bringing lots high capacity memory cards. As you know, shooting in RAW mode takes up tons of space, but it’s necessary to have the best files for photo editing.

Iceland Photography Tip #6: Try various angles

One of the differences between a good photo and a great photo could just be the difference of moving left or right by a few feet, climbing up on a rock, or even crouching down on the ground. As any seasoned photographer knows, you rarely get the perfect shot on the first try. You can take dozens (or even hundreds!) of shots just to get the right one. The beauty of digital cameras is that you’re not wasting tons of film if you take a lot of photos. Now, you can just delete the unwanted pics from the memory card on your DSLR.

Bringing a wide angle lens is an Iceland travel photography tip

Hopefully, these tips will help you get the most out of your photographic expedition to Iceland. You’ll bring home unforgettable photos of this unique and beautiful land. Maybe you can even share them with us!

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Monday, 18 June 2018

The interesting story of Greenland and Iceland and its hidden connection

While many of us have heard the names Greenland and Iceland, something both places have in common is they are almost entirely unknown to the general public. They seem to be so far away, up there close to the North Pole, that the information we get in the media is quite scarce. This blog is all about learning, and Iceland is our main topic. That is why today, we want to share the intriguing story of Greenland and Iceland, whose connection is stronger than you may think.

Glacier in Greenland, not to be confused with Iceland

Both islands are in the North Atlantic Ocean, quite close to the Arctic Circle. This line does cross some areas of Iceland, as well as Greenland. Many believe that Greenland is a country, but that's not exactly true. This enormous island is part of the kingdom of Denmark as a self-constituent state, so it is similar to a country but not quite. I know, politics always make things more complicated. If you have been reading our blog, you may already know that Iceland was also part of the Danish kingdom before becoming an independent country.

As you can see, Greenland and Iceland seem to have a similar political past, but there is way more than that. Let’s dig into it!

The Story of Greenland and Iceland – The Settlement of Both Islands

Traveling back in time, we'll find some links between Greenland and Iceland. Iceland is a Viking nation because the Vikings settled on the island back in the 9th century. The same thing happened to Greenland. The Norsemen, who were powerful seafarers, also discovered this remote island around the 10th century while they were trying to get to Iceland.

Despite this common past, there is also a huge difference between these two lands. In the case of Iceland, when the Norse arrived there were no inhabitants other than a few Irish monks who were there for a spiritual retreat. They ended up being expelled by the fierce Vikings. In the case of Greenland, it had been settled by the Inuit. The Inuit are indigenous people of northern Canada who traveled from North America and ended up in Greenland.

Viking ships sailing to conquer

Unlike the Irish monks, the Inuit ended up staying in Greenland, and that is why nowadays 80% of the population are Greenlandic Inuit. By contrast, in Iceland, the vast majority of the population descends directly from Viking settlers.

The Story of Greenland and Iceland – Where do their names come from?

Both lands have very descriptive names. One could think, well they chose Iceland because the country is full of ice and Greenland because the territory is green, right? Well not quite. The truth is only 11% of Iceland is covered by ice, while Greenland is 80% ice. That's not so green. So how come they have those names?

Besides talking about the origins of these two nations, it seems we should also talk about marketing during the Viking era. Erik the Red was expelled from Iceland for manslaughter. He and his family ended up in this newly found land they decided to call Greenland, hoping this would attract many settlers to the area. This way, people would think the land was lavish and green even though it wasn't.

Green landscapes in Iceland

In the case of Iceland, some say the name comes from the icy sights the first settlers found when arriving at the island. But there is also a different story stating that since the land was tough but still fertile and habitable, the Vikings named it Iceland to scare newcomers away.

The Story of Greenland and Iceland – Other shared similarities 

  • Even though Greenland is closer to North America than to Europe, it has more in common with Icelandic and European culture. Maybe the Danes have something to do with it. 
  • Both countries have long, dark winter nights where one can enjoy the Northern Lights. But when the summer finally arrives, both nations have the Midnight Sun. That means the sun doesn't set at all! 
  • Greenland and Iceland rely heavily on their fishing industry and have a strong seafood culinary tradition.

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Friday, 15 June 2018

Your Unofficial Guide to Iceland in July

You know the feeling. Spring is in full force and you can see summer right around the corner. You’re getting restless and those itchy feet just can't stay still. The travel bug is starting to bite and you're wondering “Where should I go for my next vacation?”. If you're a fan of unforgettable road trips, otherworldly natural beauty, and some of the most unique experiences on the planet, then spending July in Iceland could be your next adventure. Summer holidays are the perfect time to explore this tiny island nation.

Mountains descending into deep blue Atlantic waters along Icleand's Ring Road in July

Iceland’s National Parks 

While in Iceland, you should definitely stop at one of the country’s three national parks. Vatnajökull is home to Iceland’s largest glacier and one of the biggest glaciers in Europe. This massive beast covers 8,100 square meters (just over 87,167 square feet). There are Jeep tours available to traverse the snowy ice caps and when you finish, you can explore the thrilling ice caves. To the west lies Snæfellsjökull National Park and in the southwestern part of the country is Pingvellir National Park. Here you can see continental drift in action throughout the park’s rift valley. The park sits on the juncture of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.

Exlplorers in ghostly Iceland's blue ice caves

Iceland's Fjords

Iceland is a nature lover's haven. While Norway is famous for its fjords, Iceland also has a plethora of natural beauty to be found in the icy glaciers and plunging fjords of its magnificent landscapes. But what is a fjord exactly? During the Ice Age, these valleys were carved out by colossal glaciers and eventually filled with seawater to become inlets. The majority of Iceland’s fjords are found concentrated on the east and west coasts of the volcanic island with a few located in the north. There are over 100 fjords in Iceland and the best way to see them is a self-drive tour. You set your own itinerary and see as few or as many as you like. The fjords closest to Reykjavík are Borgarfjörður (“fortress fjord” in Icelandic) and Hvalfjörður (“whale fjord”). It is called this due to the large number of whales that frequent the area. Strandir near Hólmavik lies further north and is a part of the Westfjords. The Eastfjords are home to puffin colonies and Seyðisfjörður makes a wonderful home base from which to explore the east.

Icelandic puffin overlooking a fjord during July's nesting season

The Blue Lagoon

Located in the Grindavík lava fields, this geothermal spa is probably one of the coolest attractions in Iceland if not in the world. With an average temperature of 38 °C (100 °F), the Blue Lagoon is sure to keep you warm during even the chilliest of Icelandic days. The mineral-rich water gets its turquoise tint from the healing elements of silica and sulfur. While these are great for the skin, they tend to make your hair a bit stiff, so be sure to pack your bathing cap.

Summertime bathers in the Blue Lagoon's turquoise blue waters in July

Whale Watching in Iceland

The best time for whale watching is over the summer. Nestled between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, Iceland has over 20 species of whales. Icelandic waters are home to blue whales, humpback whales, minke whales, sei whales, and fin whales to name a few. Many of the best places for whale watching are in the north. Húsavik is known as the whale capital of Iceland and Akureyri is a popular departure point as well. Reykjavik also has its fair share of cetaceans, with its harbor location making it ideal for taking a boat ride to spot marine mammals. You’ll find harbor porpoises and white-beaked dolphins swimming alongside their larger brethren.

Killer whale breaching in Atlantic waters in July

Summer Camping in Iceland

Camping and traveling by campervan are an extremely popular way to experience the country. You can take your time seeing everything, plot out your route, and just have more freedom to explore in general. There's nothing better than hitting the road in the summer with a house on four wheels. Be sure to check out this guide to camping in Iceland to make sure you don't forget anything.

View from green tent of Skogafoss waterfall during summer camping trip

Summer Festivals in Iceland

Summer in Iceland brings a wide variety of festivals to satisfy many different tastes. From Reykjavik’s early summer Secret Solstice Music Festival and Hafnarfjörður’s Viking Festival in June to the Dalvík Fish Festival at the beginning of August, there's something for everyone. And July is no exception. Seydisfjordur’s LungA Art Festival features concerts and exhibitions while celebrating all things related to culture and creativity. East Iceland’s Bræðslan Music Festival takes place in a factory from the 1960s and features indie, pop, and rock artists such as Icelandic group Of Monsters and Men. A comprehensive list of events in Iceland throughout the year can be found here.

People celebrating during midnight sun outdoors in July

Hopefully, this will get you pumped about planning your unforgettable trip to Iceland in July. You won’t be disappointed and just might have the summer of a lifetime roadtripping, going to awesome music festivals and getting out into nature all beneath the midnight sun. So what are you waiting for?

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

2018 World Cup: Smite the World, Iceland!

Comb your beards, grab your Viking horns, and put on the war paint because the thunderclap is back! The World Cup is nearly here and so too is the tournament’s first-time participant: Iceland. Expect all-out bedlam when our team steps onto the field. Our boys have a scrappy team, but given this is our first appearance we are going to play fearlessly. Iceland may be the smallest country, in terms of population, ever admitted to the tournament but don’t let the numbers fool you. We might be a small Nordic nation, but we play with heaps of heart, grit, and precision. The World Cup officially kicks off June 14th and culminates July 15th. If you don’t know anything about the World Cup, I would be surprised and concerned, but it is possible. For the uninitiated, let me catch you up to speed.

Icelandic and Portuguese flags representing the 2018 FIFA World Cup

32 national squads receive bids to compete in the tournament. Each team starts in a group of four other teams, eight groups in total. If they make it out of the group stage, they proceed through regular play (round of 16, quarterfinals, etc.) until hopefully, they reach the championship. Each group is different, and the group dynamic can swing wildly. Iceland’s group, Group D, is arguably the most competitive. We are up for a challenge as we face perennial favorites Argentina and Nigeria. Argentina always puts forward a strong team, and with Lionel Messi in his prime, as well as with what may be his final chance to win the elusive top prize, they are looking to run the table. Nigeria’s team is nothing to scoff at either. Not only do they have the most stylish soccer kits ever, but they also have a team built to go the distance.

Our journey to the World Cup was nothing short of a Cinderella story. After winning the 2016 Euro league by beating Kosovo, we are riding a wave of skill and luck as far as it will take us. With coach Heimir Hallgrimsson and captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson leading us, we are in sure and steady hands. The other supporting cast members of this extraordinary run are center-backs Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kari Arnason, and our devilishly handsome midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. It is Hannes Halldorsson, our goalie, who has the weight of our entire nation on his shoulders. The one time 2012 Eurovision director, yes THAT Eurovision, finds himself staring down the barrel of some of the game’s top talent: a trophy hunting Lionel Messi, Chelsea scoring machine and Nigerian national Victor Moses, and Croatian midfield magician Luca Modrić will all be looking to put points on the board.

Argentinian and Icelandic flags during World Cup game

No matter the outcome, our presence in the World Cup is an accomplishment on its own. By defeating European powerhouse England in the 2016 Euro League and then knocking out Kosovo to punch our ticket to the World Cup, against all the odds, was the just the beginning. With our fans behind us, beers in front of us, and thunderclap Viking chants booming across our country, I believe we can go the distance. Join us as we smite the world, Áfram Ísland!

Magnús, Iceland24
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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Akureyri - Iceland's Capital of the North

Akureyri is Iceland's second largest city and is known as the capital of the north. There, the pace of the town, which has only 18,000 inhabitants, is quite a contrast to that of Reykjavik with its tourist-filled streets. While most visitors to Iceland head south along the Ring Road, fewer make their way to the north. It's a shame because they are missing out on one of Iceland's cutest little towns and all that it has to offer. Let's look at places to eat and drink, places to go and where to shop when you come to discover Akureyri for yourself.

Scenic country road in Iceland leading to Akureyri

Akureyri Guide - Where to Stay

Right next to Akureyrarkirkja, Akureyri's church, you’ll find Hotel Kea. This hotel option is located right in the heart of the city, and if you're lucky, you'll be able to snag one of the rooms that overlook the fjords. Icelandair Hotel Akureyri is a relatively new, modern hotel with bright, sunny rooms. From this hotel, you will have easy access to the city's swimming pool. An option for those traveling on a more limited budget is Akureyri Backpackers, a great hostel in the city.

Akureyri Guide - What to Do 

Iceland’s second city has no shortage of things to see and do. One of the best things about being in tiny little towns like this in Iceland is exploring on foot. Get out your walking shoes and go check out all of the shops, stores, cafes, bars, and other establishments where you can see people living their daily lives. Be on the lookout for the heart-shaped red stop light at Akureyri’s traffic lights. Of course, you also have the famous Akureyrarkirkja church (with great views from the hill) and the Akureyri Museum, which covers the history of the town. Be sure to also take a dip in the Akureyri swimming facility. They've got pools at different temperatures as well as a steam room.

Cathedral of Akureyri town (Akureyrarkirkja) in bluish dusk light

Akureyri Guide - What to Eat 

Icelanders are crazy about hot dogs. They're pretty big fans of burgers as well. Bautinn Restaurant has some of the best burgers in town, and you won't be disappointed if you order the birthday burger from its menu. Rub 23 is great for sushi lovers, while those looking for more traditional Scandinavian fare should head to Restaurant Strikið. They've got some great seafood options, as is to be expected from an island completely surrounded by water.

Akureyri Guide - What to Drink 

Microbreweries are very popular and Iceland and especially in Reykjavik. Icelanders love their beer, but a pint can get quite expensive, especially if you are not used to Scandinavian prices. Be sure to take advantage of happy hour whenever and wherever you can. The R5 pub is a great place to grab a local brew, put your feet up and start chatting with some locals. Ölstofa Akureyrar also has a pretty decent happy hour.

Get a delicious meal at one of Akureyri's restaurants

Akureyri Guide - Where to Shop 

Favorite Scandinavian clothing shop Geysir has a locale in Akureyri to meet all of your Icelandic fashion needs. The 66°North outlet is great for picking up any last minute items should you find that you didn't quite pack warmly enough for your Iceland trip.

Hopefully, this is giving you a slightly better idea of some of the things to see and do in Akureyri. Good luck planning your trip and let us know how it goes.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Protecting Iceland's Puffins

Puffins have become a symbol of Iceland. These adorable little creatures return to the island every summer to socialize, mate and nest. Their homes on the sea cliffs are a favorite site for visitors. But with Iceland's booming tourism industry, much of the tiny Nordic nation’s flora and fauna has begun to suffer. We need to be careful and make sure that we take care of Mother Nature's most precious creations and creatures.

An Atlantic puffin gazes into the distance. Iceland wants to protect this almost-endangered species

The Atlantic bird gets its name from the puffed-up appearance of its chest. They are easy to spot due to their brightly colored orange beaks and feet. Think of them as penguins with flair. Like certain species of penguins, they only lay one egg per year. They spend a large part of their lives out at sea but during their reproductive years, return home every spring and summer. The breeding colonies they form from April to September are where they search for a partner to pair up with. While Atlantic puffins do not always mate for life, they are generally monogamous once they've found the love of their birdie lives.

Around 60% of Atlantic puffins breed in Iceland and many travel to other parts of Scandinavia as well as the UK. Over the years, population numbers have been dropping drastically. Some even say the bird could be extinct within the next hundred years if dramatic steps are not taken. They've even started showing up on lists of endangered animals.

Wild Puffins in Dyrholaey, Iceland overlooking the ocean

So what's causing the decrease in the number of Icelandic puffins? Well first, the low reproductive rate of one egg per year already puts the birds at a distinct disadvantage. It can take them a long time to recover from significant changes to their environment. The second reason is predators, and I don't mean like the one in the movie. Puffins are prey to hunters from both humanity and the animal kingdom. Controls are now kept on puffin hunting by humans, but they are still under threat by some animals such as rats. The fact that puffins spend two-thirds of their life at sea is also a problem because sometimes they come into contact with pollution and contaminated waters. The extreme weather, change in water temperature and lack of food caused by climate change have also been factors in the falling puffin population.

Conservation is extremely important and we need to do everything within our power to protect these elegant creatures. By introducing measures such as sustainable harvesting, protection from predators and tracking and monitoring, we can hopefully begin to reverse the trend of declining puffin populations in Iceland. We also need to continue the path toward making sure that climate change is something that does not destroy our home, planet Earth.

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Monday, 11 June 2018

What does the Icelandic flag symbolize?

Flags are a common element of our society. They’re so ubiquitous that we often don’t even stop to think about them. At school, you simply study them, memorize them and associate them with a particular country. Rarely do we go any deeper into their meanings. The truth is, a country’s flag is not something they just randomly picked one day. There’s always a story behind that flag, sometimes on many levels. Let’s go beyond the surface and take look at the Icelandic flag and what it symbolizes. That way, when you visit Iceland you will know a little bit more about the country than the average visitor.

Three Icelandic flags symbolizing the Atlantic Ocean, Scandinavian Christianity and the country's fiery volcanoes

Who hasn’t proudly whipped out their country’s flag at the Olympics, the World Cup or some other international event? Or maybe you’ve even painted your face with the colors of your flag? Perhaps during a day of national celebration like Independence Day in the United States or Bastille Day in France. You are sure to see flags waving during these types of parades and processions. The point is, at some time in our lives we’ve all used a flag for something. The function of a flag is to represent a specific group within society, transmit certain messages or delimit territories. Although it may be hard to believe, flags are not a modern invention. Did you know that one of the first mentions regarding the existence and use of flags dates back to 5,000 BC? They frequently used the chiefs of the tribes as a symbol representing specific groups.

Returning to a less distant past, other ancient civilizations like the Romans used banners with symbols related to the empire. These banners were molded in such a way that they became more flexible and portable. They were used with the cavalry and were placed on animals or on poles to fly in the wind. These banners eventually became flags as we know them today. The Roman legions were represented by an eagle. But what about the Icelanders?

Flag of the alquila (eagle) in Siena, Italy

What the Icelandic flag symbolizes

The Icelandic flag is relatively new. It was officially adopted on June 1944, the day on which Iceland became a republic.

Iceland was previously under the rule of the Danish crown, which is why they did not have a national symbol that they could call their own. Even so, part of the history and relationship with the Danish people is still reflected in the symbolism of the flag. The Icelandic insignia consists of a blue background with a white cross and inside of it, a slightly smaller red cross. This cross is known as the Nordic or Scandinavian cross. All Scandinavian countries, with the exception of Greenland, have adopted this symbol in their modern flags.

The first flag to carry the cross was the Danish one, which was used as a badge on their merchant ships. The cross represents Christianity and has the peculiarity of not being centered, but rather is located in the left of center on each flag. You can see why when the flags are hung from a different angle.

All of the Nordic flags with the cross representing Christianity

What the colors of the Icelandic flag mean

Apart from the symbolism of the cross, the colors of the Icelandic flag are also loaded with meaning. For most Icelanders, it is the reflection of the landscape of their beautiful country. The flag has a blue background that represents the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, which surrounds the island on all four sides. The red inside the cross is reminiscent of the lava of the many active volcanoes that the island has. And finally, the white background of the cross is for the snow and ice that covers much of the country.

Fun facts and trivia about Iceland’s flag

Icelandic law will put you in prison for up to a year in cases of disrespecting the country’s national symbol. There are also a series of instructions on how to fly it.

  • It should not be flown until 7:00 in the morning. 
  • It is not recommended to fly it after sunset. If it is still flying at this time, it shouldn’t go past midnight. This does not apply to official events, funerals or other acts of commemoration where the flag can fly as long as the event lasts.
So there you have it! You are now an expert on Iceland's flag!

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Iceland on a Map - Discover the Eight Regions of Iceland

Iceland is a small island with few inhabitants. But even in small places, we need a little bit of order, right? In this Nordic country, you’ll find that’s just the case. Whether planning a trip by car or campervan, you’ll want to know the different areas of the country when deciding the route for your trip to Iceland. We want to fill you in on where Iceland’s attractions are located when looking at Iceland on the map. So without further ado, here are the country’s regions and what you can find in each place.

Iceland map with natural landmarks and cities

When looking at a map of Iceland, the country is divided into eight regions:

Iceland on a Map - Region One: The Capital District 

This zone is also known as "The Capital Region" in Icelandic or the metropolitan area of Reykjavik. This is one of the largest urban areas of Iceland and is where around 60% of the Icelandic population resides. This area is formed by the Icelandic capital in addition to six municipalities nearby, including Kópavogur and Hafnarfjörður. In the Capital Region, many of the public services are shared by the different communities. That is, they have joint public cleaning and transportation services.

In this region, you have a large concentration of some very important stops for travelers. Most of them are in Reykjavik: Hallgrímskirkja church, the Old Port, Tjörnin Lake, Laugavegur shopping street, and several others.

Iceland on a Map - Region Two: Reykjanes or The Southern Peninsula 

This part of southern Iceland is officially known as Suðurnes. Like the capital district, it is a densely populated area with some 22,000 inhabitants. This is mainly due to its proximity to the capital, Reykjavik.

You’ll be sure to stop by here at some point because this is where the international airport is located. Many people think Iceland’s main international hub is in Reykjavik, but it’s actually based in the city of Keflavik. The famous Blue Lagoon is also located nearby in the lava field of Grindavik. The peninsula is an area rich in thermal water wells, so this is where one of the main geothermal power plants in Iceland is located. The Svartsengi geothermal plant is located about 45 kilometers from Reykjavik.

Iceland on a Map - Region Three: Vesturland or The Western Region

While the city with the larger population is Akranes, the capital of this region is actually Borgarnes. This municipality is home to the entire administrative and bureaucratic system of the area. It is also a territory with places of great historical importance for Iceland and landscapes that will leave you speechless.

Vesturland has a great variety of flora and fauna, so the scenery is anything but boring. The wide variety of terrain includes everything from lava fields and mossy black rocks to snowy mountains and glaciers. One of my favorite places in the region is the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Here, you’ll find remote fishing villages, black pebble beaches and Snæfellsjökull National Park. The zone is home to the Snæfellsjökull volcano which is topped by a glacier bearing the same name. Many call it "Little Iceland" because you can find a small, concentrated sampling of everything the country offers.

Quaint houses near a fjord in Iceland

Iceland on a Map - Region Four: Vestfirðir or The Westfjords 

This peninsula is located in the northwestern part of the country, off the coast of Greenland. It’s a mountainous region and can sometimes be difficult to access. With only 7,300 inhabitants, it’s pretty sparsely populated. If you have enough time, there are some really great places to visit that you should definitely consider including in your Iceland itinerary.

The capital is Ísafjörður which, as the name implies, is located smack dab in the middle of a fjord. There are stunning views throughout the peninsula and plenty of activities to keep you occupied. You can visit the Drangajökull glacier, the fifth largest in the country, or go bird watching on one of its many cliffs. I assure you, it's worth it.

Iceland on a Map - Region Five: Norðurland Vestra or the Northwestern Region 

The capital of this Icelandic region is Sauðárkrókur, which is also nestled between the descending slopes of a fjord. It is the second largest city on the north coast of Iceland (after Akureyri). This municipality is of great importance for trade, especially in the fishing industry. The city has a long, storied history. Around the 9th century, Vikings lived here, and this place is mentioned in the Icelandic sagas.

Typical activities in this region include hiking or visiting the volcanic island of Drang. The remote spot is home to the rocky remains of a 700,000-year-old volcano.

Iceland on a Map - Region Six: Norðurland Eystra or The Northeastern Region 

This is probably one of the more varied parts of Iceland. The northern zone is a mix of natural beauty and the eternal struggle between the elements. It’s here that we can begin to understand why Iceland is called the Land of Fire and Ice. The contrast between landforms has something for everyone. This region is quite well known because it's where the city of Akureyri is located. As Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri is known as the capital of the North. With about 18,000 inhabitants, the city rests at the end of the Eyjafjörður fjord, which is the longest fjord in the country.

After the southern region, the northeastern region is one of the areas most visited by travelers. You’ll find some of Mother Nature’s treasures like the Askja caldera or Lake Mývatn here. If you come to Iceland, these destinations are an essential part of your travel plans. You absolutely have to visit these two places. Fans of whale watching can use Húsavik as a jumping-off point for an excursion.

Myvatn Lake is one of Iceland's most popular attractions

Iceland on a Map - Region Seven: Austurland or The East Region 

Austurland is a large, wild and isolated area. It’s the home of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier and Eskifjorður fjord. If you want to experience the vastness of being in the middle of nowhere, this region has what you are looking for. It’s just you, the wild outdoors and nothing else. The most famous spots to visit in this area are Vatnajökull National Park with it enormous glacier and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This otherworldly wonder will likely be one of the highlights of your Iceland trip.

Here you’ve got thousands of options at your fingertips such as hiking trails, outdoor activities and extreme sports. The region’s most populous city only has about 2,300 residents, so peace and quiet are virtually guaranteed.

Iceland on a Map - Region Eight: Suðurland or The South Region 

We could say that this is the best known (or at least the most visited) part of Iceland, and it’s no surprise why. This region is home to cities such as Vik with its famed black sand beaches as well as the iconic Selfoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. It is also here where you can find the much sought after Golden Circle. This traveler favorite is home to attractions such as Thingvellir National Park with the Silfra fissure, the geysers at Geysir and the powerful Dettifoss waterfall.

If you are looking to combine the scenic beauty of Iceland with having many useful facilities available, then this is your region. Here you’ll find many different restaurants, hotels, tour operators, and much more. This may also be due to the fact that the climate of the region is relatively mild, so access to the areas mentioned is usually also easier.

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