Friday, 31 August 2018

How to Completely Destroy Your Iceland Car Rental (and Lose Tons of Money)

Please note: This is a list of things NOT to do while driving or renting a car in Iceland. You’d be surprised at how many people accidentally flip their vehicles by going too fast or inadvertently destroy their engine because they thought they could ford a river à la Oregon Trail. This isn’t Jumanji; it’s the real world and there are real consequences to driving recklessly, not thinking things through or not adhering to basic precautions. Let’s look at what NOT to do with your rental car so you can avoid becoming a cautionary tale or a car rental horror story. Thank you for taking the time to read this PSA, and now on to our post...

Flipped rental car in Iceland driver not taking precautions

So when people get to know me, and they ask me about my diet, I always use the same throw-away catchphrase: I treat my body like a rental car. I usually like to time this saying right before I chug a beer or eat something in one bite. It always gets a laugh. Joking aside, from what I’ve seen and heard, rental cars get pretty mistreated here in Iceland. People rightfully come to our volcanic, waterfall-filled island with adventure in mind but many times, common sense goes out the window. Visitors do all kinds of reckless and dangerous things with their rental cars.

I beg you, please don’t come to our beautiful country with intentions of reenacting the Fast and The Furious. The world already has one Vin Diesel, and we don’t need another one. Let’s go over some crazy things people have done with their rentals to prevent you from making the same mistakes. These unfortunate travelers destroyed their vehicles and consequently had to pay A LOT of money to their car rental company in Iceland. Don’t be that guy.

Cars are Not Meant for Watersports aka Hydroplaning or Driving Through Rivers 

Imagine you are in your car, you rev your engine and grip the steering wheel tight. In front of you, about a 100 yards, is a small lake. The Highland air is quietly sifting through your car windows as cascading peaks of golden-yellow rhyolite valleys surround you. A voice in your head is saying, “Do it! You’ve seen the YouTube videos! You got this man! **We**got this. We graduated from college. We know physics, we can do it! We are going to live forever!” You release the break on your car, and like a modestly priced rocket, you fly towards the water. The moment your wheels touch the lake, you begin to skitter across the top of the glistening water. “We are really doing it! We are living the dream!”, you exclaim mentally as your car has come to a stop and is now floating in the lake. Dream over. Womp womp.

This isn’t a piece of flash fiction. It happened last week to a friend of mine. Under absolutely no circumstance should you try to hydroplane across the water in Iceland (but if you’re still really keen, by all means feel free to try it with your own car back home. I’m not here to crush anyone’s dreams). I can however assure you that your rental car was not designed for this particular act. And I guarantee that you don’t want to be in the position of explaining to your car rental company back in Reykjavik or at the Keflavik airport why their precious vehicle is submerged in a lake 3 hours away in the Southern Highlands of Iceland. Just because you’ve seen someone hydroplaning in their Jeep on YouTube doesn’t mean that you should try it too, no matter how cool it may seem. You know what’s really cool? Having a ton of money for Icelandic hot dogs because you didn’t have to pay an exorbitant sum to a car rental company for damage or loss that could have been completely avoided. #LivingTheDream.

Car crossing a way too deep river in Iceland

On a related note, many people in Iceland like to explore the Highlands and backroads in 4x4 rental vehicles. This is all fine and good. The problem comes when they find themselves facing a small river. Some will speed up to try to jump the natural “ramp” that you sometimes see on either side of the river, while others will attempt to ford it even though they have no idea how deep the water actually is. As you can imagine, this is problematic. I’ve seen photos of flipped vehicles (from our aforementioned speeding friends) and have heard stories of people who drove through a river only to be surprised that their engine stopped working shortly afterward. Car engines are not waterproof; they get waterlogged just like anything else you put underwater and will cease to function. Remember, just because you saw it in a movie or in a video game as a kid doesn’t make it real. If only that were true!

Driving on Iceand’s F-Roads in Sedans

F-Roads in Iceland are the heavy-duty, 4x4 only, trails that are meant for driving. It’s actually the law that you need a 4x4 to drive on these mountain roads in Iceland, which is why Super Jeeps are so popular here among tourists. The roads can be quite dangerous and you have to meticulously check for road closures on these trails, because landslides can happen, and as such we take every precaution to make sure they are safe. However, many visitors to Iceland assume that since their car has the all-wheel drive, they can go flying up and down the mountain trails. This is not the case. If you have ever been on an F-Road, then you know that just about every single stone on that stretch of road can cause irreparable damage to a vehicle not properly outfitted to handle the conditions. This is part of why it’s a good idea to get the full suite of gravel protection and sand & ash insurance to cover your rental. It isn’t only about an having all-wheel drive, you must make sure that your car has enough clearance to circumnavigate the sea of baby boulders that litter the mountain. Again, confer with your rental company to find out the limitations of your vehicle.

Car rental agent checking the car for insurance purposes

Driving Too Fast or Skidding On Gravel

People who rent cars in Iceland love doing this. I have to admit, as a greenhorn driver, I also did this. However, it is highly dangerous and can be even fatal. For some reason, a significant portion of the planet's population goes nuts when they are driving on gravel. Drivers will swerve abruptly in an effort to act out their own personal Tokyo Drift rendition. They hope that somehow they will drift the car and look cool while doing it (though I’m not really sure who’s watching said coolness). Or, drivers will go overly fast and suddenly have to slam on the brakes, so they skid out. I can’t tell you how dangerous this is. There have been several near-fatal instances over the past few years of novice drivers attempting to skid on gravel in camper vans. Luckily, the majority of them walked away unscathed, but a great deal of them flipped their rental cars, put their passengers in danger, and again, had to pay vast sums to their car rental company. Be safe and be smart; slow and steady is the name of the game when driving in Iceland.

How to Completely Destroy Your Iceland Car Rental (and Lose Tons of Money)

With each passing day becoming colder and wetter, driver safety is paramount in the coming winter months. Under no circumstances should you ever take your car off-roading. Trails and paths for driving will be marked, unmarked areas are protected. If you drive on them you will receive a hefty fine or jail time in addition to destroying Iceland’s fragile ecosystem. Always remember to wear your seatbelts, and check the weather before heading out. And, lastly, never try to hydroplane or drive through a river without knowing its depth. I can’t tell you how bad of an idea it is to drive your car across a lake. Just writing the sentence makes me shake my head in disappointment, that some of you are willing to risk your lives for a silly stunt. Be safe. Have fun. And remember to bring your vehicle back in one piece. Your car rental company (and wallet) will thank you for it.

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Thursday, 30 August 2018

Day Tours from Reykjavik: An Enchanting Excursion to Landmannalaugar

Hiking the trails of Landmannalaugar is a must for anyone on vacation in Iceland. If you are planning on being in or around Reykjavik before we officially head into fall and face the bleak, rainy autumn months, I would suggest taking a one day trip to Landmannalaugar to explore parts of the famous Laugavegur Trail and Thórsmórk Valley. This beautiful area of sloping hills is situated in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of the eery cobalt Laugahraun lava fields. Located only a 3-hour drive from the country's capital, this destination is ideal for an excursion from Reykjavik. I always try to make a day trip out to Landmannalaugar at least once a year to take it all in, usually at the end of summer or sometime in early fall.

The Laugavegur Trail in Landmannalaugar makes the perfect excursion from Reykjavik

Exploring Landmannalaugar Alone or With A Day Tour 

It’s usually best that visitors come to this particular region of Iceland with a certified Icelandic tour operator. Driving in this terrain is difficult, as it isn’t uncommon for the road to be littered with rocks the size of your head. It isn’t impossible to navigate, but it takes a high level of driving prowess. Also, by opting in for a tour package, you reduce the risk of having to pay for any damage to your rental car, which is pretty standard when driving in the highlands. Go on a tour and let the guides worry about the rest.

Going with a group also has other advantages aside from being easier and mitigating risk. These tours are great opportunities to make new friends. When you are done with your day-long journey, you can head straight for a pub with your newly made friends. There isn’t anything more satisfying than downing a cold pint after a long tour. One of the tour companies I always recommend is Landmannalaugar Tours. I mean, they have the region in their name, so this kind of their specialty. They have a large variety Landmannalaugar tour packages and hiking excursions available. Let’s look at a quick explanation of the region.

HIking in Landmannalaugar will be one of the highlights of your Iceland trip

Landmannalaugar Profile 

Landmannalaugar, for me, is the one-stop destination for adventure. The sheer amount of activities you can enjoy, combined with its close proximity to Reykjavik, makes it an attractive sightseeing destination. The area was formed in the late 1400s after a violent volcanic eruption that tore the very fabric of the earth apart. After the dust settled, a stunning and ethereal landscape remained. The name, “Landmannalaugar,” translates into the People’s Pool. For hundreds of years, Icelanders have been making pilgrimages to this region to enjoy in the abundant naturally occurring geothermal hot springs in the area. The region has also been a haven for exhausted travelers to relax after an invigorating and challenging hike through the highlands of South Iceland’s highlands. Aside from the lagoons and pools that inundate the area, there are towering and sprawling rhyolite mountains.

Rhyolite What? 

Rhyolite is one of nature’s great examples that sometimes the most beautiful things are the most dangerous. The area of Landmannalaugar is made up a series of towering multi-colored peaks and mountains, and the volcanic eruption that took place in 1477. Eruptions that involve rhyolite are considered highly explosive and very dangerous. While their blasts may be cause for concern, the end result of these geological events is simply stunning. It is tough to convey the kaleidoscope of colors these mountains seem to be painted with. Typically, you would expect ranges similar to these to be coated in a salmon or granite color. However, the opposite is true here. Emerald moss is scattered amongst the bare and beautiful rhyolite rock faces in the area. Bring your camera, because you aren’t going to want to miss this.

Colorful Rhyolite rock formations make Landmannalaugar a popular destination for hiking in Iceland

Day Tours from Reykjavik: An Enchanting Excursion to Landmannalaugar 

Between the geothermal pools, the pure-black lava field nearby, and the cacophony of colors the rhyolite mountains produce, you have endless options for a captivating experience in Landmannalaugar. The area is also a popular for horseback riding and off-roading. If you plan on off-roading, always drive in designated areas, for your safety and for the protection of the local flora and fauna. Remember, this area becomes increasingly difficult to operate a self-tour as we inch closer towards winter. Hurry now, while the weather is still incredible. Happy trails.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Keys to Iceland's History: Erik The Red

Settling Iceland was no easy task. The wind and rain, lack of fertile farming soil, dangerous journey required to get to Iceland all played a significant role in hindering exploration parties and settlements from laying their claim over our Nordic island. However, if you thought settling Iceland was tricky, now imagine sailing even closer to the Arctic Circle. Imagine settling Greenland. Greenland is known for having a name that is ostensibly an oxymoron. The name suggests a paradise with fertile and lush lands. That, it is not. Let’s take a quick look at the Icelander who settled Greenland and is responsible for giving it its deceiving name.

Erik the Red was a famous viking and key to Iceland's history

Erik The Red - Immigrant to Iceland 

Like many original settlers to our Nordic island, Erik the Red’s family fled from Norway. It wasn’t persecution they were fleeing, but, rather Erik’s father, Thorvald Asvaldsson, had been convicted of manslaughter. The family hightailed it out of Norway, and made their way to much friendlier, Icelandic shores. Little did young Erik realize, he was fated to take a similar route to his father.

Erik eventually married Thjohild and moved to Haukadalr in the southeast of Iceland. In Haukadalr, it is documented that Erik built a farm (as ancient Icelanders are known to do) and was documents as owning slaves. These slaves, also known as thralls, apparently set a sequence of irreversible events in motion when they accidentally caused a landslide which spilled onto his neighbor’s property. It would be this event that would result in Erik the Red being banished from Iceland for three years and sending him to Greenland.

The landslide wasn’t received warmly by the landowner, Valthjof. Valjof’s friend, Eyiolf the Foul (what a name by the way) had heard what happened to his friend, and subsequently murdered Erik’s thralls. The civil dispute reached its climax when Erik slated Eyiolf in retaliation. Erik eventually moved to Öxney to rid himself of the situation, but trouble found him again, and he fought and killed more of his fellow Icelanders. Given Erik’s penchant for trouble, and uh, murder, the Althingi needed to decide what to do with Erik. They eventually choose to banish Erik for three years, and this banishment would result in Erik’s names forever being etched in the pages of history.

Iceland's history would not be complete without Erik the Red

Erik The Red And Greenland 

Many people incorrectly credit Erik the Red with discovering Greenland. Strong archeological evidence has concluded that previous Icelanders had made their way to Greenland. However, all had failed to settle it permanently by the time he arrived. Erik spent the entirety of his three-year banishment exploring the valleys, fjords, and glaciers of Iceland.

When Erik returned to Iceland after his exile, he would weave tall tales about a new land called, “Greenland.” The story goes that he named it Greenland not to trick would-be settlers to stay out of Iceland, but to entice adventurous Icelanders to come with him to settle this new promising land. He knew the island he hoped to settle was unforgiving (like Iceland), and it would be a massive undertaking which required as many hands to help as possible.

In 985, Erik and lead a party of 25 ships out from the coastline of northern Iceland towards Greenland. The seas were not hospitable to the adventurous Icelanders, as they lost almost half of their vessels. Erik pushed through and successfully established a permanent settlement on Greenland.

Erik the Red was one of Iceland's earliest Vikings

Keys to Iceland's History: Erik The Red  

Erik never had an easy life. To be uprooted from your home and everything you know, and to come across the sea to a harsh and cold country at the age of 10 must have shaped him into a rugged and driven man. The irony is that he ended up being banished from Iceland (his home), as his father before him fled from their ancestral home for similar reasons. However, Erik made the most of a bad situation. He explored and eventually settled one of the harshest and most unforgiving lands in the world. There is a ton of information about Erik the Red on the internet. If you possess even an inkling of interest into his story, I will urge you to do some research on him; Erik was fascinating. Leave a comment below for your favorite Icelander from antiquity.

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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

All About Iceland's Northern Lights

September will officially mark the beginning of Northern Lights season here in Iceland, and we couldn’t be happier. Over the course of the coming months, the skies will come alive in an otherworldly display of color. No matter if you are a first time visitor to our country this fall, or a multi-generation Icelander, catching the Aurora Borealis can be tricky. Despite living in one of the best places to see the Northern Lights and fall being one of the best times of year to spot them, sometimes it can be easy to miss the atmospheric light show. Let's go over exactly what the Northern Lights are, and how to best see them.

Iceland's Kirkjufell mountain is one of the best places to see Iceland's Northern Lights

What Are The Northern Lights? 

Let’s have a quick science lesson. The sheer amount of violent energy generated by a solar flare is difficult to comprehend, and yet, it is this same solar energy that creates the tranquil waves of pulsating light that make up the Northern Lights. So, how do they work? Five words: solar flares and earth’s magnetic field.

It all begins with the sun. The gigantic gas sphere, known as the sun, generates all of its heat from its core. The core is continually trying to release that heat to the surface. On its way to the sun’s surface, it is funneled into roads or channels by eddies on the sun’s surface (an eddy is similar to a vortex). However, sometimes that energy doesn’t want to get displaced over the surface, and it tries to break free. The sun’s magnetic field fights to hold it in place and eventually there is an eruption. This release of energy creates a solar flare and the energy finally breaks free from the sun’s grasp. That energy then begins its 18-hour journey towards earth. This is called a solar storm. These storms can reach unbelievable speeds, sometimes upwards of 7 million kilometers per hour. Slightly weakened by its interstellar journey, the solar storm descends upon the earth.

Without our magnetic field this storm could be devastating. Due to its existence, we remain unfazed and thankfully unaware of these solar storms. The solar energy grapples with the magnetic field, trying its hardest to reach the planet, and a small portion of that energy becomes pulled into the magnetic field on of the side of the earth that is facing away from the sun. And finally, the energy that tried so desperately to be set free ends up being harmlessly dispersed across our night sky. The end result of this process is the peaceful and relaxing waves of light called the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights.

Camping out beneath Iceland's green Northern Lights

How to See The Northern Lights Iceland 

The auroras don’t appear just anywhere on the planet. Only regions located near either the north or south pole will be able to see the Northern Lights. This means places like Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc. But, why? Both poles of our planet have the highest level of magnetic energy, so when the energy from the solar storm is dispersed across the magnetic field, the visual results are seen in areas closest to those poles. Subarctic and arctic regions of the world benefit from this, as they are the premiere destinations to witness the astrological light show. But, despite all the favorable geographic conditions, you still need a great deal of luck. You need the sun to experience a significant solar flare 18 hours earlier, and you need to have a clear night with little light pollution. The latter two items are two aspects to ensure that you catch a great night for the aurora.

Icelandic Northern Lights Checklist - Find A Clear Sky 

You may be scratching your head right about now, and saying, “Finding a clear sky? Wh-what does that even mean? How do I do that?”. You can put your iPhones and Androids away because there are no detailed apple apps for figuring out cloud cover. Apps for predicting the weather can be buggy or sometimes have the wrong information. If you really want to see what the clouds are doing, particularly here in Iceland, I recommend you visit the Veðurstofa Íslands website. This site is the brainchild of the IMO (Icelandic Meteorology Office), which is the official governing body that deals with the weather. Since Iceland is known for its unpredictable weather, these guys always have their work cut out for them. However, their Northern Lights predictions are usually spot on, and you can trust their recommendation. The information on this site is crucial to have before you go hunting.

On the website, you will see an outline of Iceland with patterns of either dark, light, or faded green. The green indicates how dense the cloud cover is, and exactly where the clouds are passing over. Rarely will you see the entire map white, meaning no clouds are in those areas, but you want to hunt for the regions of Iceland that don’t have much cloud cover. This is essential because the aurora takes place high up, in the upper atmosphere, and if there are clouds, it will inevitably obstruct your view of the magnetic fireworks display above you. The site also has an aurora forecast on the top right-hand side which I have found to be both handy and accurate.

Icelandic Northern Lights Checklist - Get Out Of The City 

Light pollution plays a key role in being able to watch the Aurora Borealis. The darker out it is, the better. However, if you are in or around Reykjavik, your chances of seeing the Northern Lights drops dramatically. Even though we are in a hot spot of geomagnetic activity, if the sky is already filled with city lights you aren’t helping your odds of catching them. I always recommend driving outside the city and into the countryside. Use the IMO’s map (Veðurstofa Íslands) in conjunction with a sightseeing map to plan out a tremendously unique Northern Lights viewing experience. I always recommend watching the spectacle from the pure black sand beaches of Vík.

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon provides a beautiful backdrop to Iceland's Northern Lights

If you have no means to leave the city of Reykjavik, but still want a better chance to catch the northern lights, then I recommend heading out to the Grotta Lighthouse at the edge of town. The lighthouse is far enough away from Reykjavik to diffuse some of the light pollution in the atmosphere, and I have found if you watch with the lighthouse between you and Reykjavik it substantially helps.

Icelandic Northern Lights Checklist - Take A Tour 

Some of you may be wary of navigating through Iceland’s countryside at night. Heck, I’m from here and I hate doing it, but its probably because I’m lazy. If either is the case, then I highly recommend taking a guided tour to see the Northern Lights. Tour operators have tried and true experience hunting the Aurora Borealis. So, you can spend less time researching and planning, and let them bring you to the best locations out available. Most tours take you to several locations, and they are generally good at communicating the odds of seeing the lights on a particularly difficult night. A friend came to visit me last year and went on a Northern Lights tour with Landmannalaugar Tours from Reykjavik. She said the tour was incredible. Check it out, because the Northern Lights season is almost upon us.

All About Iceland's Northern Lights 

Even though the Midnight Sun has come and gone, we are fortunate to have another atmospheric spectacle to behold during these autumn months: the Northern Lights. The mass exodus of tourists leaving Iceland will officially take place in the next few weeks, but for those willing to bear the brunt of the autumn winds and rain, I have to say that it’s totally worth it. Seeing the northern lights is something you will never forget. The moment you lay your eyes on the cornucopia of color, pulsating and gyrating across a clear sky will leave you speechless. Comment below on which area of Iceland is your favorite to see the Northern Lights. Good luck on your aurora hunt in Iceland.

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Monday, 27 August 2018

Iceland’s Climate and Weather in the Fall

By the end of this week, we will be entering the month of September and will officially welcome the beginning of autumn. This season is one of the best times to visit Iceland and is a special time here. The fall foliage will quickly cover the country in a sea of orange, red, and yellow-hued leaves. While it may not be the most hospitable climate, there is no doubting that the colors that autumn creates are vivid and stunning. For the uninitiated to Iceland’s fall weather, let's do a quick rundown of what to expect this autumn (besides pumpkin spice lattes of course). Just kidding! There’s no Starbucks in Iceland.

Fall weather in Iceland brings a beautiful change of color in the leaves

General Overview of Icelandic Weather 

Before we take a look at the weather in Iceland during September, October and November when temperatures drop, let's discuss they country’s weather as a whole. Summers are long and filled with sunshine, spring is warm(ish) and dry(er), and the winters are unforgiving. Fall...well, it’s wet. Iceland contains millions of breathtaking natural wonders. However, our otherworldly landscapes come at a cost: the weather is sometimes, how should I say it...not optimal.

Looking at a map, Iceland is situated off the coast of Europe, right above the United Kingdom, and between Greenland and mainland Scandinavia. That means we are smack dab right in-between the northern region of the Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea. As such, we incur many storms, and the fall is no exception. While autumn produces crisp weather, warm color in our foliage, and an excuse to consume as many kleinur and hot chocolates as possible, it is also the wettest season in Iceland.

Iceland’s Weather in the Fall - Rain, Rain, Go Away

Autumn in Iceland is rainy and overcast. However, there is a fascinating scientific reason behind this. As we inch closer toward fall, the Gulf stream starts to bring warm air in from over the Atlantic ocean. These Gulf wind currents eventually make their way towards Iceland. When they arrive over our Nordic island, they immediately come in contact with cold Arctic wind currents. These two forces of mother nature clash and this results in overcast skies, sudden storms, heavy winds, and rapidly changing climate conditions. It is truly a strange, yet beautiful time to be in Iceland. One minute it can feel like summer, and, in the blink of an eye, you can seem like the middle of winter. Going from sunshine to hail, sleet or a snowstorm so quickly can be a bit disconcerting, but as many Icelanders say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change”.

Be prepared for rainy, unpredictable weather if you go to Iceland in the fall

It Can Get Pretty Chilly

Autumn is, in many ways, very similar to spring. Both seasons proceed our most drastic seasons, and they are both windy, and sometimes chilly. The temperature in Iceland can drop to below 0° C (32° F) at night, and get as high as 10°C (50° F) during the day. However, the most significant difference is the wind. Icelandic autumn winds are blustery and will cut through your outerwear. If you plan on visiting us during this particular season, it is paramount that you come prepared with a top-notch rain jacket, some warm layers, and weatherproofed boots and pants. Otherwise, you will be a soggy log on your fall Icelandic vacation. Remember, it is extremely important that you check the weather of the region you are headed to. I can say for a fact that it rains more in the south. However, it would be folly to try to predict the weather from a month out. I had to guess, I would say always prepare for rain.

The Weather Brings Stunning Fall Colors & Berry Picking to Iceland 

Fall may be a wet and windy season in Iceland. However, it is one of the country’s most beautiful times of the year. The rains are substantial, the winds can be cutting, but the autumn foliage is bright and brilliant. This is especially true in parts of Iceland were freshly fallen snow covers a sea of contrasting red, orange, and yellow leaves and moss. Photo opportunities in Iceland during autumn are exciting and abundant.

Even though there is a mass exodus of both migrating birds and visiting tourists, fall in Iceland means plenty of time to go foraging for wild berries and mushrooms in the Icelandic countryside. Berries bloom in the autumn season here, and seas of bilberries (a type of blueberry found in northern Europe) are ripe for the picking. Grab your rain jacket, a basket, and get ready to find some juicy wild berries.

Go picking mushrooms and bilberries in Iceland this fall

Iceland’s Climate and Weather in the Fall 

The unpredictable weather of autumn is a signal that tourism will slow, and life will quiet down. Despite the rainy conditions, Iceland during the fall evolves in a beautiful rust-colored, orange-tinged, berry-filled, wet wonderland. Many tours and excursions will close for the season. However, there is plenty of hiking and backpacking for the more adventurous among us. Just make sure that you come prepared with the appropriate weather-proofed clothing, an appetite for fresh fruit, and a hankering to chow down on endless hot chocolates and kleniur to keep you cozy and comfortable in our beautiful Nordic country.

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Friday, 24 August 2018

Noble and Beautiful Icelandic Horses

When people talk about Iceland, they almost exclusively talk about the landscapes. While its true that our vistas and landscapes are second to none,  what about our animals? Iceland is full of unique and exotic animals, and my personal favorite of these is the Icelandic horse (with a very close second being the puffin. I mean, who doesn’t love a puffin?). Let’s take a look at these majestic Nordic stallions.

Icelandic horses are a special breed that descend back to Viking times

History of Icelandic Horses 

The Icelandic horse is one of the rarest and purest breeds of horses on the planet. Today’s Icelandic horse is directly descended from its original Norwegian ancestors. The original Viking settlers of Iceland brought their sheep and horses with them from the mainland. As such, these breeds have stayed homogenous and pure-blooded. There are two different types of Icelandic horse breeds; both types are strong and handsome, but there are some slight differences.

Are They Horses or Ponies? And What are the Breeds?

First things first, Icelandic horses are much smaller than other breeds of horses from around the world. Standing at between an average height of 52 to 56 inches (132 to 142 cm), when most people first see them, they immediately think of a pony. They are Icelandic horses, so please don’t call them ponies. The two types of breeds are the Svaðastaðir and the Hornafjörður.

Svaðastaðir are highly prized for their beauty and their attractive gaits. A gait is the way in which a horse moves naturally or through human training. All animals that move on appendages have a gait, and, fun fact, I have been told I have a beautiful running gait. Lucky me I guess. The Svaðastaðir bloodline is also considered to be smaller and weaker than their Hornafjörður cousins.

Icelandic horses have two different breeds

Hornafjörður are the most powerful of the Icelandic horse breeds Their incredible endurance and courage make them the horse of choice for backcountry riding. While they may not be as pretty as their Svaðastaðir brethren, they are brave and noble beasts (which I will take over looks any day). While there may be variations among the two breeds, both types of Icelandic horses are surefooted, comfortable to ride, kind, and gentle.

Interesting Facts about Icelandic Horses 

The first aspect that makes Icelandic horses incredibly interesting is their demeanor. Icelandic horses are, for lack a better word, chilled out. They are easy going and are not easily bothered. This definitely has something to do with the 1,000+ years of getting acclimated to one of the harshest winters in the world. Their demeanor also has made them pseudo members of many Icelandic families around the country.

Due to their pleasant demeanor, Icelandic horses are highly sought after outside of Iceland. However, once an Icelandic horse leaves the country, it can never come back. It may seem like a joke, but it is not. Iceland has had a standing law regarding this for close to a thousand years. Let me explain. Ancient attempts to create hybrid breeds of half Icelandic, half Asianic breeds of horses resulted in breeders becoming frustrated. So, in the late 900s AD, Iceland’s parliament decided that it was paramount to keep the bloodline pure. This also resulted in a ban on bringing in other breeds of horses. And that’s how the Icelandic horses' bloodline has stayed pure for so long. Fun fact, the Icelandic horse, due to the stringent and strict regulations placed on the breed, are very resilient to livestock diseases.

Iceland's horses are the country's cutest animal, after the North Atlantic puffins

Icelandic Horses: Admirable and Adorable 

The Icelandic horse comes in a wide variety of different colors, they are small and robust, and they are a perfect representation of Iceland itself. They have grown with our people, they have helped us survive devastatingly bleak winters, and they are beautiful and kind (like all Icelanders). If it weren’t for our equestrian counterparts, we might have never fully settled our small island nation, or we may have not survived at all. Icelandic horses are revered in our culture, and they are often considered a part of the family for those who own them. If you are coming to Iceland for the first time, I would recommend taking a private Icelandic horse tour. Experiencing the Icelandic countryside is best enjoyed from horseback. Book your tour before you come, and make sure to bring your selfie stick so that you can snap a picture of you and your new Icelandic bestie.

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Thursday, 23 August 2018

Icelandic Kleina aka Iceland's Delicious Fried Dough

Autumn is nearly upon us, which means crisp mornings and extra delicious kleinur. I rarely ever use the singular (kleina), because what is the point of only eating one? In Iceland, we eat these tasty treats most mornings, however, for me, they taste better when its chilly outside. I usually pop into a bakery to get a handful of kleinur and a coffee. If you have never known the joy of trying a kleina or shoving your face full of multiple kleinur, let me explain. Kleinur are knots of delicious deep-fried dough that are traditional in Iceland and throughout the region of Scandinavia. Kleinur is a regular breakfast option here in Iceland, but in other Nordic countries, it isn’t. Let us take a look at some interesting facts about kleinur, and even a recipe so you can make them at home.

Icelandic kleinur are a traditional delicious breakfast option

Kleinur - Klenät - Fattigmann - Kleynur: It's All Good

Like I previously mentioned, this Nordic pastry isn’t solely enjoyed in Iceland. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all have storied histories with this fried dough. However, Iceland is the only one to seem to eat this Scandinavian donut regularly. The diamond shaped breakfast pastry was originally thought to have become popular because they are delicious and very cheap to produce. Linguistics and Norwegian enthusiasts will tell you that when the word “Fattigmann” (the Norwegian version of kleinur) is split up; it translates to “poor man.” No one knows where this originated from, and that's fine by me. Call me whatever you want as long as I get my morning kleiner.

We are fortunate in Iceland to be able to enjoy kleinur as regularly as we do. In Sweden and Denmark, they are considered a Christmastime delicacy. That blows my mind. They are so delicious why wouldn’t you eat them every day? I have trudged through many cold, windy, wet mornings, and I don’t think I would have survived some of them without the promise of a kleinur at the end of my commute. Thankfully, here in Iceland, we have many options for enjoying fistfuls of kleinur. They are sold in pre-packed bags of 12 at the supermarket, every cafe has them as a breakfast option, or if you have some time to kill, you could make some yourself.

Recipe for Traditional Icelandic Kleina

The basic recipe is straightforward, and lucky for you I found an extremely simple recipe right here. Out of all of the recipes that I have found for kleinur, this one is the easiest to modify if you are living in continental Europe or in North America. I recommend that you tweak your recipe, and swap out things that may be a pain in the butt to hunt down. A perfect example of this being the “½ tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds.” Cardamon isn’t in most kitchens outside of Iceland, and I usually recommend swapping it out for a sprinkle of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. The salt is for good luck, obviously.

Kleinur are easy to make with a good recipe

Kleinur are great to make in batches at once and keep them in the fridge for breakfast. Obviously, the best way to enjoy kleinur is fresh from the fryer accompanied by a piping hot cup of coffee. However, if you make a bunch of them, you can wrap a few in a damp paper towel then pop ‘em in the microwave. They are incredibly portable and delicious for commuters on the go. There are a few us Icelanders out there who sprinkle powdered sugar or chocolate glaze on them (but only if we really need that an extra boost in the morning).

Icelandic Kleina aka Iceland's Delicious Fried Dough

Lastly, if you have never been to Iceland, and want to make a fun, delicious autumn snack with friends, there is no better way to do that than to make some kleinur. The recipe is easy, they don’t require a whole lot of work to prepare (besides the kneading, but its basically a great forearm workout), and they will warm your soul when paired with a freshly made hot chocolate or coffee. And, the kicker is that you probably have all of those ingredients in your home already. So get cooking! Let me know if you have a secret ingredient in your families kleinur recipe that you think we should try.

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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Islendingabok Book of Icelanders

Today we are going to take a brief look at one of the most prolific and significant Icelanders in our country’s history: Ari Þorgilsson. While much of the specifics surrounding Ari Þorgilsson have been lost to history, we still know a great deal of information about one of Iceland’s most instrumental historians and researchers. We are going to look at some brief facts about his life, and the effects he had on his society and the future of the country.

One of Iceland's most famous sons is Ari Thorgilsson, the author of the Isledingabok

Ari Þorgilsson- Early Life

By all accounts, historians place Ari Þorgilsson’s birth around the year 1067 AD. Þorgilsson in his later years meticulously traced his heritage back to some of the most important original settlers of Iceland. According to his own investigations, his family was instrumental in the creation and development of Iceland in its youth.

Young Þorgilsson had the great fortune of being apart of the Haukdælir clan and received tutelage at the Haukadalur school. By chance, he would become a pupil of Teitur Ísleifsson. It should be noted, that Ísleifsson’s father was the first bishop of Iceland (Íselifur Gissurarson). You generally get a leg up on everyone else around you if you lived in the medieval ages and had any education at all. Þorgilsson not only had an education, but he received a stellar one at that. Through his tutelage in classical studies, Þorgilsson quickly became we versed in Latin (most notably within the focus of a chronicler). It was as if Þorgilsson had a preternatural ability to accurately document and chronicle events. By far his most prominent accolade has to be his creation of the Ísledingabók.

The Ísledingabók is one of Iceland's most important historical documents

Þorgilsson and the Ísledingabók

If you are Icelandic, your mind probably immediately jumped to the more modern, more controversial The website, which honors the original Ísledingabók, in today's society this website has a slightly different importance to Icelanders, as it is used to make sure that a potential love interest isn’t actually a distant cousin (with a country that has just over 330,000 people, you can never be too sure). However, Þorgilsson’s had far more noble intentions; the original Ísledingabók set out to document the genealogy of every prominent Icelandic family, while also providing written source material for Iceland's oral histories.

And, Þorgilsson did just that. Historical accounts often praise Ari’s insanely meticulous and scrupulous interviewing techniques. He would often receive first-hand accounts of stories from eyewitnesses, and he even went so far as to quote the majority of the individuals he was interviewing. All the time. With no formal written record, Ari devoted himself entirely to document Iceland’s proud and sorted history concretely. He was the first Icelander to put quill to parchment to write the Ísledingabók in a common Icelandic vernacular. Sadly, his original work was lost to history (along with many other facts about him) and the only thing we have that remains of his, is a rewritten version of the Íslendingabók. His contributions though, to Icelandic culture and the advancement of the Icelandic language are still felt today.

Ari Thorgilsson is a famous Icelander who has been an important part of the country's history

Famous Icelanders: Ari Þorgilsson 

Like I said: much of the facts about this literary pioneer have been lost to the annals of history. Here is what we do know: Ari was a passionate scientist, inquisitive historian, a dedicated priest, and a just Icelandic chieftain. The groundwork that Þorgilsson laid in the early 1000s has paved the way for Iceland’s well-documented and preserved, genealogical history. It isn’t uncommon to meet an Icelander who can trace their family history back to a single Viking forerunner. His methods for safeguarding data and fact-checking was centuries ahead of his time. While it's sad that we may never know more about this fascinating Icelander, we should count our blessings that he was so dedicated to progressing our language and giving us the resources to track our lineage. Truly a fascinating Icelander.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Best Vintage Clothing Stores In Reykjavik

Laugavegur street in Reykjavik is filled with colorful shops and bustling restaurants. Tourists and Reykjavik residents alike often spend autumn afternoons wandering in and out of stores looking for the perfect gift, for themselves or others. However, if you are looking for a truly unique article of clothing, book, or vinyl, then exploring the vintage shops of Reykjavik is your best bet. Vintage and second-hand stores are filled with gems that you cannot find elsewhere. Shopping for vintage items can be tricky if you don’t know where to look. If you are a fashionista or a fashion-forward man, then let's boost those clout meters by finding you the next centerpiece of your wardrobe. Let’s look at the best vintage clothing stores in Reykjavik.

Reykjavik offers tons of great vintage shopping and a wide selection of stores

Vintage Clothing in Reykjavik: Spúútnik, Laugavegur 28 

Spúútnik has been a staple of Laugavegur street for the better part of 25 years. You can truly find some stellar gems here. The walls and racks are filled with well-curated and unique pieces. Secondhand and vintage clothing stores are different in how the clothing is curated and the overall price. Generally, you will find less curation with better prices at secondhand stores. Vintage shops, on the other hand, take pride in only displaying the best of the best, and you tend to pay more at the register. Spúútnik is definitely a vintage shop.

The prices are not the best for those looking for a great deal. If you are in the market though for an article of clothing that cannot be found anywhere else, that is stylish, and of high quality then head to Spúútnik. You can trust the selections the staff puts out for sale; Spúútnik is known for sorting through large collections of clothing while meticulously only picking out the most on-trend stylish options. Make sure you leave extra space in your luggage when heading to Iceland because you are definitely coming home from Reykjavik with more clothes than you left with.

Word to the wise: Spúútnik has offers a wide selection of vintage clothes across all genders and sizes. It should be noted though, that women may find a better and more diverse selection here than men. So, if you are a guy and looking to up your style game, be prepared for a smaller selection when coming to Spúútnik.

Vintage shops are extremely popular in Reykjavik

Vintage Clothing in Reykjavik: Nostalgía, Laugavegur 32 

For all the ladies out there looking for vintage clothes that lean towards the higher end in terms of price and quality, then look no further than Nostalgía. This quaint, colorful, and eccentric store has a truly diverse selection of vintage clothes. From evening gowns to big, bulky throwback slacks, this store has it all. Nostalgía is a fashionista's dream. The prices are not accessible for all shoppers, but the quality and range of styles is second to none. If you have some cash to burn, and genuinely want to set yourself apart from your peers, get your credit cards out and head to Nostalgía.

Vintage Clothing in Reykjavik: Red Cross, Laugavegur 12 

Shopping at the Red Cross can feel like gambling; sometimes you walk out with an incredible steal, and other times you leave empty handed and bummed out. I hesitate to label the Red Cross as a vintage shop, due to the fact that the curation of clothes is lackluster, and the quality of the items can seem all over the place. However, this list wouldn’t be complete without it. Luck is the single most significant factor when shopping at the Red Cross. Every once in a while I will find designer brands hidden in the racks. Roll the dice and stop by. You never know what you will find here. Also, it should be noted that a portion of your purchase with go towards benefiting the community of Reykjavik, along with other international organizations.

Vintage Clothing in Reykjavik: Fatamarkaðurinn, Laugavegur 118 

Last, but certainly not least, on our list of best vintage clothing stores in Reykjavik is Fatamarkaðurinn on 118 Laugavegur street. In my opinion, Fatamarkaðurinn is affordable, well-curated, and your best bet to find a unique article of clothing at a decent price. The curation of the garments is not as purposeful and robust as shops like Spúútnik. However, if you have the time to dig through the shelves and racks, you can find almost anything. They have clothes, accessories, fanny packs, bags, shoes and just about anything you could imagine here. When I am shopping on Laugavegur street, I always try to head here first before blowing all my money at the other stores. Get here early before the rush, and get sorting. You never know what you could find.

You'll find a wide selection of items in Reykjavik's vintage stores

Best Vintage Clothing Stores In Reykjavik  

The vintage clothing scene is thriving in Reykjavik. The stores mentioned above are only a handful of the secondhand and vintage clothing stores in Iceland capital city. We have vintage and secondhand bookstores, tobacco shops, and record stores. If you have a day to kill you should explore the entire street and peruse all the shops we have to offer. If you are in the market for clothing, then I recommend any one of the stores I mentioned above. Come to Iceland with adventure in mind, and leave looking stylish and suave.

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Monday, 20 August 2018

6 Driving Tips to Help You Enjoy the Open Road in Iceland

Renting a car and exploring Iceland has never been more accessible. The rental car market is filled with friendly and professional rental companies. Seeing all that Iceland has to offer is made simple by the Ring Road, a route that circumnavigates the entire country. Even though getting on the road and exploring the country is easy, driving is decidedly not an easy or straightforward task. This is due to the constantly changing weather. Thankfully we are not in the dead of winter yet, so we don’t have to worry about snowdrifts and hazardous roadways. But, even driving through Iceland during autumn can be dangerous. Let’s review some tips for enjoying the open road as you drive through Iceland.

Driving tip to make your road trip in Iceland easier and better

Tip #1: Switch It Up - Driving in Iceland

If you find yourself on a solo Icelandic road trip, then it may be impossible to find a driving companion. I know our Icelandic sheep are cute and fuzzy, but please don’t shanghai one of our furry friends and make them your co-pilot. Leave the sheep be! They want to bleat in peace. If you are alone, I would recommend finding a good podcast or playlist. That is all you really can do. If you do have the good fortune of traveling with a friend, then you are in luck. This one is a biggie: switch up who is driving.

Bearing the brunt of driving responsibilities is not only a pain in the butt, but it can also be dangerous. Given how unstable our weather is you should always have a pair of fresh eyes behind the wheel. Driving long for periods of time has been proven to be as dangerous as drinking and driving. Make sure you are sharing driver responsibilities. It is only fair and safe.

Tip #2: The Sheep in the Room 

Speaking of sheep, you need to always be aware that there is always the possibility of a wayward sheep wandering near the edge of the road. Here in Iceland, we let our little bleating buddies roam freely. They travel where they please and receive a healthy natural diet, and we in return receive pristine natural sheep. While this is a biological benefit received by our livestock, it can make for dangerous driving conditions. The roads here in Iceland effortlessly carve long winding paths from one unbelievable natural wonder to the next. As such, drivers tend to have their eyes on the road, not paying attention to what's directly around them. The easiest way to fix this is to have a designated sheep lookout in your car. Their sole mission is to spot wooly wanderers walking along the road. That will free up the driver to watch the road, which is crucial.

When driving in Iceland, be sure to watch out for sheep!

Tip #3: Gas Station Food: Excellent…In Iceland

Small townships and villages coat Iceland’s countryside. These small communities often rely on their gas station for all types of supplies you would typically expect elsewhere This is due to a lack of infrastructure in the remote areas of Iceland. You can basically find anything at a gas station in Iceland, including delicious food. It isn’t uncommon to walk into a gas station and in one quick pan of the head, see an aisle for car supplies right next to a fully functioning restaurant. If you are traveling through Iceland for the first time, this can be a great way to try local dishes. The quality of the food is ridiculously high for being served at a gas station. In 99% of countries this would be the opposite, but not in Iceland. And, if you are in a genuinely minuscule town, their tourist center will more than likely be at the gas station.

Tip #4: Check roads and other sites religiously 

No matter where you are in Iceland or how long your journey is, your phone’s homepage while traveling in Iceland should be the Road Administration is the best avenue for keeping tabs on incoming storm fronts, road closures, and general safety warnings. There is nothing worse than driving clear across Iceland to hike through a valley or up to a peak, only to find the road is closed when you get to your final destination. Given the volatility of Iceland’s weather, it is paramount to stay updated with the latest information. We want safe and responsible motorists here in Iceland.

Also, side note, if a road says that it is closed, I promise you it is indeed closed and there is always a very good reason. Trust me, we don’t just haphazardly decide that a road closure would be fun. There are professionals who dedicate their entire lives to keeping road travelers safe and they are the experts, not you. Unfortunately, many tourists come to Iceland every year, ignore our warning signs, and then they get stuck or worse.

Tip #5: Get The Full Insurance 

This is more of a tip for visiting tourists, but it applies to all drivers. Our roads here, especially in late autumn and winter, can be worn down by heavy rain or snowfall. It isn’t uncommon for gravel or rocks to crack windshields, damage lights, or even shatter mirrors. Having accidental damage put a damper on your trip is no way to spend your time in Iceland. Drive with a clear conscious by opting for a full insurance package. That way, if anything bad happens, you know you are covered.

Always get the full car insurance for your Iceland car rental

Tip #6: Relax

Driving should be relaxing. There was a period in time where driving a car was considered a leisure activity. And many people truly enjoy a relaxing drive. I usually encounter these people when I am in a genuine rush. I know they exist, and I often suspect that they plan their joyrides around my schedule. Anyways, driving through Iceland (especially outside the city) can be a truly visceral experience. As your vehicle glides through one after another picturesque landscape, it is common to become overwhelmed by ridges, fields, and ice caps that surround you. Try to relax. Drive slowly. Take your time. Iceland has a very modest speed limit in comparison with other countries, and for a good reason. There are so many things to see just outside your window, that it is easy to get distracted. So go slowly. You won't regret it.

6 Driving Tips to Help You Enjoy the Open Road in Iceland

Whether you are a life-long citizen of Iceland or if you are someone coming for a short time and you if you plan on driving, then these tips apply to you. I think we often get so caught up in getting from point A to point B that we forget to enjoy the journey. Follow the rules of the road, go slowly, get some good Icelandic gas station food, check Icelandic websites about road closures, and finally, opt-in for the full insurance. If you are in need of a pair of wheels for your trip to Iceland, I recommend Cars Iceland and Reykjavik Cars are two of the top companies in Iceland according to Google Reviews. They both have fair prices, and their customer service is top-notch. Besides that remember to have fun. Iceland is special and should be treasured at every moment, even when you are just driving to the gas station.

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Friday, 17 August 2018

WOWcitybike: The Eco-Friendly and Fun Bike Sharing Service in Reykjavik

Bike sharing programs are steadily becoming a necessity of life for daily commuters. The ease of access combined with the affordability of rental prices can be compelling motivators. Last year, bike sharing finally came to Reykjavik, and we couldn’t have been happier. Iceland’s former favorite airline, WOW air, took the initiative by manufacturing a fleet of Iceland’s very own, orchid-colored, aluminum-reinforced, stylish bicycles. They are called WOWcitybikes to be specific. Reykjavik has never been more fun or convenient to cycle through. These signature purple WOWcitybikes make life more comfortable, but most importantly they are helping to protect Iceland environmentally.

WOWcitybike is an eco-friendly option for bike ride sharing in Reykjavik

Iceland: The Land Of Cars 

Iceland has one of the highest vehicle ownership rates in the entire world. The reason for these excessive numbers is actually quite simple. For the longest time, Iceland suffered from lackluster public transportation. Icelanders had to get to work, school, or out into the countryside. Up until last year, the people of Reykjavik always had an excuse to drive. Not anymore. WOW air’s bike sharing program, in coordination with the local government, is seeking to curb this trend of vehicle owners.

Having so many cars not only presents a challenge with our narrow streets becoming congested, but also the added vehicles emit vast quantities of harmful carbon emissions. The tourism explosion has certainly helped make this problem worse. However, by utilizing WOWcitybikes’ new ride-sharing system, we can help curb the pollutants from the ever increasing collection of cars on our Nordic island.

Bike Sharing Cuts Down on Pollution

For me, bicycle riding is the preferred method of transport whenever possible. I, of course, am speaking only about within the city. You definitely aren’t going to find me trekking through the Western Fjords on a Huffy two-wheeler. Bike sharing is not just a perfect way to promote sustainability and reduce air pollution, but it is great for reducing noise pollution as well. Even though it has only happened a handful of times, being ripped out of REM sleep by a honking horn is an unsettling feeling. Just disconcerting.

Reykjavik’s streets aren’t like most other capital cities. We have relatively narrow streets. We don’t need big sprawling four-lane roads. Given the high percentage of drivers on the road in our capital, things can get noisy. Icelanders are far too polite to be constantly laying on the horn. However, the quiet hum of an army of cars packed into a narrow street can start to get pretty loud. Instead of taking your vehicle, maybe think about hopping on a violet-hued WOWcitybike. You will get a bit of cardiovascular activity as you travel and a little exercise never hurt anyone.

Renting a WOWcitybike is the best way to get around Reykjavik

Iceland in the future 

Iceland has always been a leader in the environmental community. With the previously mentioned astronomical number of people who own cars in Iceland, we all need to be taking ride sharing bikes more. They use essentially no fossil fuels, they are nearly silent, and they significantly reduce harmful emissions that are collected in the atmosphere. Also, cycling provides a way to reduce traffic congestion. Most interestingly though, did you know that cycling on your commute can also reduce the journey time of not only yourself but other Icelanders on the road?

WOWcitybike Specs 

Not only can Icelanders in Reykjavik help the environment, but they can also look good doing it. WOW’s signature purple color scheme is a big reason for the extra swag you feel when riding one of these bikes. You feel like you own the streets riding on one of their bikes. The bicycles are crafted from sturdy aluminum, and the fat 28’’ wheels provide a smooth and comfortable ride. All the safety features are top notch as well; the breaks are well-maintained, and the bike even comes equipped with powerful and highly visible lights. You have seen them in the city. No need for me to gush about them. I take them all the time, and I love it.

Price of WOWcitybikes

WOWcitybike is not only convenient and eco-friendly, but the different plans you can sign up for will save you a few extra bucks. There are four options for renting a bike:

350 ISK (3 USD) for a 30-minute ride
3900 ISK (36 USD) for a 30-day pass
9900 ISK (91 USD) for a 90-day pass
16900 ISK (156 USD) for a one year pass.

I currently have a 30-day pass, because as we are in the summer, I don’t want to push my luck. However, maybe if the weather is favorable, I could see myself riding one of these bikes in the fall. Thanks for watching out for my wallet and the environment WOW air. You guys rule.

WOWcitybikes are the eco-friendly way to see Reykjavik

WOWcitybike: The Eco-Friendly and Fun Bike Sharing Service in Reykjavik 

We need more companies like WOW air to step up in their communities to make this mode of transportation a reality. Bike sharing programs are viable modes of public transportation, and every metropolitan city has some version of it. Cycling 10km (6 mi) to and from work has been theorized to save around 1500kg of harmful ozone damaging emissions every year. Why aren’t we all doing this? Sign up for WOWcitybike to help you save some money, and to help add a few extra years to our ozone layer.

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Finding Cheap Airfare To Iceland

We are just weeks away from the official end of summer in Iceland. The waves of tourists will gradually subside, the weather will get colder, and the days will become longer. But, little-known fact: Iceland is actually much more enjoyable during our off-season. Shocker, I know, right? The city will become your playground if you decide to visit us during the fall, and you get the added bonus of maybe catching the Northern Lights. Also, accommodation, rental car prices, and flights to Iceland all drop significantly. If you have those vacation days piled up and want to do something different, then secure an inexpensive flight and come to visit us. Let’s review the best ways to find cheap airfare to Iceland.

Icelandair plane, company who usually offer cheap airfare to Iceland

Off-Season Deals 

I have already given you a hint of an obvious way to find cheap airfare to Iceland: come to visit us during the offseason. The offseason, the fall and winter months, are statistically when the fewest tourist come and visit Iceland. I think it probably has something to do with the fact our winters can be quite brutal for those who aren’t used to the cold weather here in the North Atlantic.

While the winters may be tough here, they also afford travelers the opportunity to take advantage of some spectacular wintertime activities Iceland has to offer. Northern Lights expeditions, exploring ice caves, and four wheeling across sprawling frozen tundras are just some of the many options thrill seekers can partake in. However, across the board, people prefer to come to Iceland during the summer. As such, airfare will always be cheaper heading into fall. The few weeks bridging summer and fall are what I would consider the sweet spot, in terms of visiting Iceland. Keep your eyes peeled for any dates where the price for a flight to Iceland drops dramatically during this time. Trust me.

Icelandic Budget Airlines 

WOW air is by far the most popular airline travelers use to get to Iceland. The company is proudly Icelandic and seeks to help visitors from around the world experience all that Iceland has to offer. Rising to popularity during Iceland’s original tourism boom, WOW airlines has one mission: to get you to Iceland in style while saving some money. And boy do they deliver! The customer service of this airline is stellar, and their ticket prices are even better.

Plane ticket with cheap air fare to Iceland

Sign up for notifications about price drops and other attractive travel packages. WOW air is known to have flash sales on flights, and from time to time they offer all-inclusive travel options. Sometimes it requires digging on your part to find a cheap ticket to our Nordic winter wonderland, but they are there. I promise. Stay up to date with their website and jump on any deals you find.

P.S: Unfortunately, by early 2019, WOW air announced their bankruptcy and will no longer be operating.

Price Aggregators

Price aggregators are more commonly known by the brands that each website cultivates. Momondo and Google Flights are the most popular by far for finding a cheap ticket. You can also use Skyscanner and Kayak, but I tend to stick to the former not the latter. Basically what these sites do is search the internet, high and low, for the best prices on a flight to a given destination. By using sophisticated algorithms, science, and sometimes what seems like magic, they can dig up some incredible travel deals. If you are looking for a cheap and easy way to find that perfect ticket to Iceland, that matches your budget, then using one of these sites is your best bet.

Error Fares 

Finding an error fare is a little bit like finding money on the street; it only happens a few times in your life, but every time it does occur you are giddy with excitement. You need a great deal of luck to find an error fare on your own. These accidental tickets prices occur when corporate airline employees accidentally set the price of an airline ticket way below market value. Sometimes the deals you can find are truly outrageous. But, you have to act quickly to secure an error fare price for your ticket to Iceland. Usually, airlines catch on pretty quick to their pricing mistake and correct the error.

Checking cheap air fare to Iceland on internet

If coming across an error fare feels overwhelming, don’t worry; there are a handful of helpful and altruistic websites that seek to help every day, non-airline savvy, individual hunt down these incredible deals. Check out Airfarewatchdog, Secretflying, and Theflightdeal when looking for a possible error fare to Iceland this fall. You never know what these sites can dig up. Set up notifications changes on these sites and vigilantly stalk their blogs. I promise you that perfect ticket for your budget exists and is out there somewhere.

Finding Cheap Airfare To Iceland 

Finding cheap airfare takes equal parts luck and dedication. Using these tips and tricks, you should be able to acquire a great flight at an even better price. I like to think you can find anything on the internet, you just have to know where to look. Iceland is a pretty pricey tourist hotspot. Save some money by finding a cheap ticket, and also coming in the offseason. Autumn in Iceland is spectacular. Summer is overrated in my opinion. Then again, fall is my favorite season so I may be biased. Get to work on finding that perfect flight. Time is running out. Happy hunting.

Johanna, Iceland24
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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Iceland’s Political Parties

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

Iceland has eight political parties with varying opinions

Independence Party 

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

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

The Left-Green Movement 

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

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

The Left-Green movement supports the environment

The Social Democratic Alliance 

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

Progressive Party of Iceland 

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

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

The Pirate Party is a relative newcomer to Icelandic politics

Up and Comers in the Icelandic Althingi 

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

Icelandic Political Parties 

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

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