Friday, 30 November 2018

Iceland's 13 Naughty Yule Lads - A Christmas Tradition

Iceland’s Yule Lads have been called everything from the 13 Santa Clauses of Iceland to Christmas trolls. Technically, they're half-troll. These merry mischief makers have been a fixture on the Icelandic Christmas scene since at least the 17th century. Over time their image has morphed from that of the sons of child-eating ogres into a benevolent and more family-friendly holiday concept. During Iceland’s holiday celebrations, the Yuletide Lads bring the 13 Days of Christmas with them from their home in Dimmuborgir, North Iceland. These characters from Icelandic folklore have names that describe their unique personality traits, much like Snow White’s seven dwarves. But unlike the Disney character’s work companions, Iceland Yule Lads are definitely up to no good. Most of their activity revolves around causing mischief, pulling pranks, and eating or stealing food that doesn't belong to them. Lock up your cupboards and prepare to learn more about the Yulemen of Iceland.

Iceland 13 Yule Lads with pictures and names
Image: iceland.is

The Holiday Tradition of Iceland’s Yule Lads 


The Yule (jól) season is the holiday period that consists of Christmas, New Year's, and Epiphany. In the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, they pay a visit to Icelandic children. Icelandic kiddies have left shoes in the window and their hopes that they're good behavior throughout the year has paid off. Well behaved boys and girls get gifts or candy and bad children receive something awful, like rotting potatoes. But this isn't the biggest danger posed to Icelandic children on Christmas. There’s Jólakötturinn, the black Christmas cat who likes to eat children that aren't wearing their new Christmas clothes. And we can't forget the evil troll Grýla, Iceland’s Christmas monster and the Yule Lads’ mother. Once a year she descends from her home in the mountains searching for naughty children she can boil. With all of these dangers around them, it’s no wonder kids in Iceland are so well-behaved!

Who Are The Yule Lads? 


Each of the Yule Lads has a name that relates to some unruly behavior or a particular physical trait.

Sheep-Cote Clod (Stekkjarstaur) - Arrives December 12th


This fellow is a fan of harassing sheep and is every farmer (and sheep)’s worst enemy. He likes to slink into the sheep shed so he can suckle the milk from ewes. Unfortunately for him (and luckily for the sheep) his stiff pegleg makes it very difficult for him to accomplish this feat.

Gully Gawk (Giljagaur) - Arrives December 13th


Another Yule Lad providing headaches to farmers all across Iceland. This creeper hides out in gullies (a type of ravine) just waiting for his shot. When he sees an opening, he runs into the cowshed and steals milk.

Iceland's Yule Lad Gully Gawk stealing cow's milk

Stubby (Stúfur) - Arrives December 14th


Short little Stubby also goes by the name of Pan Scraper (Pönnusleikir). In addition to being abnormally short, he also has an affinity for stealing pans so he can lick up the remaining bits of burnt food. And here you thought hákarl was the strangest food in Iceland.

Spoon Licker (Þvörusleikir) - Arrives December 15th


Anyone who cooks knows that licking spoons at least a little is pretty commonplace. The problem with Spoon Licker is that he comes into your kitchen to lick all the wooden spoons and ladles you use to stir food in pots. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want him doing that in my house!

Pot Scraper (Pottaskefill) Arrives December 16th


Yet another hungry Yule Lad. Don’t leave your unwashed pots laying around! This Yule Lad will snatch them and steal the leftovers. By licking them off of course. Or if you’re not a huge fan of doing the dishes, just let Spoon Licker, Bowl Licker, and Pot Scraper do as they please.

Bowl Licker (Askasleikir) - Arrives December 17th


This sneaky individual hides under the bed waiting for unsuspecting mortals to put down their askur bowl. He grabs it and proceeds to finish whatever tasty morsel was left.

Door Slammer (Hurðaskellir) - Arrives December 18th


Door Slammer, you naughty boy! He likes to make a lot of noise in the house, especially at night. He walks around loudly, slams doors, and generally tries to keep everyone from getting a good night’s rest.

Skyr Gobbler (Skyrgámur) - Arrives December 19th


Alright, it’s confession time. If we’re being completely honest, I do think that some point in time I have been victimized by Skyr Gobbler. One recent Christmas I had giant, unopened tub of Skyr in the pantry just waiting to be eaten. Who doesn’t love this Icelandic dairy treat with some fresh berries? On the night of December 19th, my Skyr disappeared! Poof! Just like that! Was it you, Skyr Gobbler?

Skyr Gobbler is the Yule Lad who loves this Icelandic dairy treat

Sausage Swiper (Bjúgnakrækir) - Arrives December 20th


I tell you, these Yule Lads sure love to steal other people’s food. Even more than me! Sausage Swiper can’t get enough of sausages and eats them whenever and wherever he can. He’ll even hide out in order to steal sausages in the process of being smoked.

Window-Peeper (Gluggagægir) - Arrives December 21st


I’m pretty sure window peeping is illegal. And if it’s not, it should be. This Christmas snoop peeks through windows to see if there’s anything interesting going on. He’s not exactly casing the joint, but he has been known to steal a toy or two that he comes across.

Doorway-Sniffer (Gáttaþefur) - Arrives December 22nd


This Icelandic Christmas creeper uses his super-sized schnoz to locate (you guessed it) other people’s food. His eatable of choice is laufabrauð, so hide your traditional flatbread if you don’t want him sniffing it out.

Meat Hook (Ketkrókur) - Arrives December  23rd


This decidedly non-vegetarian Yule Lad uses a hook to swipe meat. Rumor has it he’s even stolen a smoked leg of lamb by lowering one of his extra long hooks down a chimney.

Candle Stealer (Kertasníkir) - Arrives December 24th


You need to know a little bit about candles. Candles here used to be made of tallow, a hard substance made from animal fat, so they were edible. Candle Stealer, like many of his brothers, is hungry and wants to eat. He follows children around so that he can steal their candles. In olden times candles were the only source of light, so this was a big no-no.

Iceland's 13 Naughty Yule Lads - A Christmas Tradition 


Phew! You made it through the 13 days of Icelandic Christmas. Hopefully, you’ve fended off the Yule Lads and their attempts to steal your food and toys or harass you and your sheep. If you’ve been good, remember to put your shoes on the windowsill so you can get a treat. If you find yourself in Iceland at Christmas, enjoy this special tradition and have a Merry Christmas.

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Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Iceland's December Weather

December is low season in Iceland, and it's one of the best times to visit the country. Not only are prices lower, but there aren’t as many crowds. Anyone planning a trip here during this special period needs to know about Iceland's December weather. The average temperatures, amount of snowfall and even daylight hours can have a significant impact on your trip. You also want to dress well for the winter and pack lots of warm layers made out of high-quality fabrics. Let's find out all you need to know about December weather in Iceland.

Snowy Reykjavik in December weather

Average December Temperatures in Iceland 


People tend to think of Iceland as a place that is freezing all year long. They shudder at the thought of visiting this frozen tundra during the frosty winter months of December, January, and February. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not as bad you might think. Iceland’s winter temperatures are comparable to places like New York. Even though the island rests close to the Arctic Circle, it’s lucky to receive the warm North Atlantic currents of the Gulf Stream. These more tepid waters provide Iceland, especially the South Coast, with higher temperatures than most people expect.

Before you start breaking out the swimsuit, I have to warn you that it does get cold. Average highs only climb to about 39 ºF (around 4 ºC). You’ll definitely need to dress in warm layers in order to keep out the chill. Average lows in December dip to around 28 ºF (-2 ºC).

Iceland’s December Precipitation and Snowfall 


If you love snow, Iceland is the place to go in December. The high amounts of rainfall in December and January combined with low readings on the thermometer mean that the country will be covered in ice and snow during this time. Reykjavik average rainfall reaches 1.25 inches or 32 mm. The monthly precipitation can come in many forms. Rain, sleet, snow, and hail are all common in Iceland in December. And given the country’s famously unpredictable weather, you could experience all three along with some sunshine all in the same day.

One thing that I want to mention here is that things can get quite stormy in Iceland. The country regularly experiences winter snowstorms and inclement weather. While December is still a good time to visit Iceland, it's important to keep this fact in mind if you are planning a trip during the winter. You may have to put your travel plans on hold for a few hours or even a few days if there's a powerful storm rolling in. Driving in winter in Iceland can be dangerous due to the weather. You will want to exercise every precaution and use good sense. Constantly check the weather forecast during your trip.

Wintery weather conditions in December on Iceland's ring road (hringvegur) in Námaskarð, near Mývatn, North Iceland

What to Pack and Wear For Iceland in December


Now that you know what kind of weather to expect in Iceland in December, it's important to know how to dress for these low temperatures and wet conditions. Nothing will ruin your vacation faster than not having the wind bite through your clothing enough or your socks getting soaked with freezing water. It's just plain uncomfortable. Depending on the situation, it can even be downright dangerous. So what are some guidelines for winter dressing in Iceland? I'm a big fan of sticking with the four-layer rule. In order to stay warm and dry in Iceland, you’re going to need a base layer, a mid layer, an insulating layer, and a shell layer.

For your base layer and mid layers, you’ll want to select breathable materials that trap body heat and wick moisture away from the skin's surface. Fabrics made from Merino wool are perfect for this. Fleece is another great option, especially for your mid layer. The third layer needs to be an insulating coat or jacket made from goose down or a GORE-TEX parka. Be careful with down, as it will deflate when it gets wet. It also takes a long time to dry out. You may not have time to wait during your Iceland trip. Lastly, you want to top off your ensemble with a windproof, waterproof outer shell. This layer is key to keeping out Iceland’s December weather elements. Trapping body heat and keeping dampness out are your priorities in dressing for Iceland in December.

December view of Aldeyjarfoss waterfall with clear winter weather

Daylight Hours in Iceland in December


Perhaps something just as important as the weather in Iceland in December is knowing how many hours of daylight to expect. The winter solstice means that as we approach the 21st or 22nd of the month, daylight winds down to just four hours of full sunshine per day. Don’t let this scare you, however. In Iceland, civil twilight (the extra daylight before sunrise and after sunset) makes it closer to seven hours between the times when it's pitch black outside. The beginning and the end of the month have around five hours of daylight, eight if you include civil twilight.

December 1st: Sunrise 10:45 am | Sunset 3:47 pm | Civil Twilight 9:35 am & 4:57 pm
December 15th: Sunrise 11:16 am | Sunset 3:29 pm | Civil Twilight 9:58 am & 4:47 pm
December 31st: Sunrise 11:20 am | Sunset 3:41 pm | Civil Twilight 10:03 am & 4:58 pm

Iceland's December Weather 


Planning a trip to Iceland in December is a great idea. You just need to come prepared. Knowing what to expect with the weather and what clothes to wear will go a long way in your enjoyment of your vacation. Check the weather forecast before driving anywhere, dress warmly, and take advantage of civil twilight for your outdoor excursions. December is one of the best times to come, so soak up all of the cool outdoor activities.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Is It True That You Can Camp Anywhere in Iceland?

Our small Nordic island had 2.2 million visitors last year. Many of these travelers decided to partake in one of Iceland’s favorite activities: camping. Both tourists and Icelanders alike take advantage of Iceland's beautiful natural surroundings by setting up a tent and enjoying the outdoors. There's been some confusion and some recent changes in the law with regards to exactly where you can camp. It used to be that you could camp anywhere in Iceland, but that is no longer the case. Let's look at what used to be legal, the problems that arose, and how things have changed recently.

Iceland has many beautiful campsites like Strutur, which are perfect for camping

Camping in Iceland Before 2015 


It's true that in the past you could camp anywhere in Iceland. Due to a “survival rule” that existed on the country’s books, would be campers could stay a single night on uncultivated grounds. In other words, non-farmland. This comes with the caveat that there were no signs posted by the landowner that forbid camping and that there were no more than three tents set up. This system worked very well for a very long time. The problem came when Iceland experienced a tourism boom. The surge in foreign visitors and the influx of tourists caused a lot of problems with people camping anywhere.

Problems With Camping Anywhere


A lot of problems cropped up. Some of the less respectful tourists would leave their garbage scattered around private property rather than properly throwing it away. People would go off-roading in their cars in search of the perfect camping spot and destroy fragile vegetation along the way. Even something as innocent as setting up camp in a remote grassy area was problematic. If one person does it, it's not such a big deal. But if the hundred people who come before you and the hundred people that come after you have the exact same idea (which of course they will, because it's human nature), that lovely little grassy area quickly ceases to be grassy. It gets replaced by an ugly brown patch.

One of the primary tenets of sustainable tourism is to at the very least leave the area in better shape than you found it. That was definitely not happening here in Iceland.

Many Icelandic campsites have zones for wild camping

Houston, We Have a Problem


Another issue that was extremely problematic is something really gross, but at the same time, I have to mention it. When camping outside of designated campsites, which have toilet facilities, eventually you'll have to “go”. When Mother Nature calls, and there's a bathroom nowhere in sight, most people will take care of their business in the closest semi-private location. That's all fine and good, but put yourself in the shoes of the Icelandic farmer has to wake up to see (or smell) people peeing on their property. Or worse, someone has done number two and just left it there because it's “nature” and it will biodegrade. That's not an excuse. If you poop somewhere, you need to clean up after yourself. Pure and simple. Because if you don't do it, someone else has to. And the only thing worse than cleaning up your own poo is cleaning up someone else's.

Unfortunately, many people didn't get the memo. As a result of their bad behavior, the Icelandic government passed laws in 2015 and 2017 that changed where and how people could camp.

Camping Now - The 2015 and 2017 Camping Laws in Iceland 


So what are the up-to-date rules with camping in Iceland? Legally, where can you camp? And more importantly, where can you not camp? The answer is relatively straightforward. The majority of people will direct you to the hundreds of well-equipped campsites that were specifically designed to cater to people on camping trips. It's always recommended to camp at designated campsites. These expansive zones have large open areas where you can park your vehicle and set up your tent in isolation. This might come as a disappointment to someone coming from a country where the concept of camping means heading out into the woods of a national park with just a tent and sticks for roasting s’mores. But things are done differently in different parts of the world. And Iceland is one of many countries where camping is done at campsites. These wide open spaces allow you to feel like you are out in the wilderness.

Wild camping is illegal in parts of Iceland

If you do decide that you want to try to camp outside of designated campsites, you need to obtain the landowner's permission beforehand. You're on their property, so you need to ask before using it. They may also direct you to use a nearby campsite. Wild camping with a tent trailer, tent camper, caravan, campervan, or motorhome was also banned, so keep that in mind. And in 2017 the police chief for Iceland’s South Coast made the announcement that wild camping that zone was illegal as well.

Camping at Iceland's Campsites 


Camping in Iceland is an extremely popular activity. For this reason, the country is filled with campsites. Depending on where you go, you'll find modern facilities such as wi-fi and electric charging stations for vehicles. A great website for researching Iceland's campgrounds is http://www.tjalda.is/. It's got a comprehensive list of campsites in Iceland. Many of the entries feature descriptions of the campgrounds, tell you what facilities they have, and even list prices. One of the great things about campsites in Iceland is that you generally don't need a reservation. You just show up and check in. The reception desks are usually open 24 hours a day. Another good thing is that there are several natural attractions in Iceland with campgrounds nearby. You can still wake up next to a waterfall, which is the next best thing to camping in the wild.

Is It True That You Can Camp Anywhere in Iceland? 


So to answer your question, unfortunately you can't camp anywhere in Iceland anymore. But the country has plenty of wonderful campsites to choose from, and you definitely won't be disappointed. If you really want to stay elsewhere, just be sure to acquire the permission of the landowner before driving down your tent stakes. And as always, be respectful of the environment and your surroundings.

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Friday, 23 November 2018

What is Low Season in Iceland?

If you're thinking about traveling to Iceland, you're probably wondering what the best time of year is to go. The answer varies as each season and each month have their own advantages and disadvantages. Many people come during the summer high season because of the weather and longer days thanks to the Midnight Sun. Others choose to come during low season to take full advantage of fewer crowds and lower prices. If you're thinking of coming during this period, you're probably curious as to what is considered low season in Iceland and what can you do during the less popular months. Coming to Iceland during the off-season can be the perfect way to save money and find great deals on everything from car rental to accommodation to airfare. The least busy time of year is actually one of the best times to visit Iceland.

Visit Iceland when it's low season in the fall

When to Go to Iceland - High Season or Low Season 


The majority of Iceland's 2.2 million annual visitors come during the summer months of June, July, and August. This peak tourist season is quite concentrated. You will see vacationers packing the streets of Reykjavik, filling up tour buses and excursions, and taking up space at hotels, hostels, guest houses, B&Bs, and campsites all across the country. If you're someone who prefers to avoid large throngs of people, it's easy to see why visiting during the low season is such an attractive option. There will be way fewer people in cities, towns, and even driving around Iceland’s Ring Road. Even traditional tourist traps like the Blue Lagoon will not be as overcrowded as they are in the summer.

What is Low Season in Iceland? 


While low season typically runs from September to May, more and more tourists are coming earlier and staying later. This means that the crowds really don't start to trail off until shoulder season in mid to late autumn. During the off-season, January through April is when you will find the smallest crowds in Iceland. People start coming back in May, and by June we are back into full-fledged summer and tourist season. The best time of year to go to Iceland during the low season is probably September and October or February and March. You're most likely to see Iceland's Northern Lights during these months. Be forewarned, however, that October is one of the wettest months in Iceland. Be sure to pack your raincoat, especially if you come in the fall.

Low season is the best time to visit Iceland and see the Northern Lights

Benefits of Coming to Iceland During the Low Season 


In addition to fewer crowds and shorter wait times at major attractions, one of the benefits of traveling in Iceland during the offseason is that you will save a lot of money. The months during the low season are the cheapest time to fly to Iceland. In addition to inexpensive flights, it's also when hotels and car rental companies offer their steepest discounts. Some rental companies will even offer their cars, campervans, or motorhomes at up to 50% off during slow periods. Check with your rental company for low season pricing. The same goes for hotels and other types of accommodation. It's much easier to book a room in Iceland at a discounted price when you travel outside of peak tourist season. You're much more likely to find a place to stay overnight during low season because not everything is fully booked. Places with vacancies are waiting for you.

Activities and Things to Do During Iceland's Low Season 


More and more travelers are taking notice of the fact that Iceland gets really crowded in the summer. They also know that people who only come in the summer are missing quite a lot. Everything from going on a Northern Lights excursion to trekking in an ice cave to witnessing the unnatural beauty of the frozen Gullfoss waterfall suspended in motion are things that summer travelers simply do not get to experience.

Every season and time of year offer something special. Fall, winter, and spring in Iceland are no exception. From skiing and snowboarding in the north to ice caves, glacier caves, and glacier trekking in Vatnajökull National Park, there's plenty to do. This is in addition to summertime activities such as visiting the Diamond Circle and the Golden Circle, boating around Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, visiting Diamond Beach, exploring Snaefellsnes peninsula, touring Iceland’s fjords, soaking in hot springs, and more. Depending on when you come, the ground might even be covered in a layer of freshly fallen snow. The country's icy landscapes will have you feeling as if you've somehow ended up inside of a snow globe. Winter is especially a truly magical time.

An icy winter view of Kirkjufell during low season in Iceland

What is Low Season in Iceland? 


Low season in Iceland runs from early to late fall through to spring. You could think of September and October as the first shoulder season, November through February as off-season, and March through May as the second part of shoulder season. There are tons of advantages to visiting during these low season months, such as economical prices on airfare, accommodation, and car rental. Not only that, but you can only see Iceland’s famous Northern Lights and go trekking in ice caves after all of the tourists have left. Discover all that Iceland has to offer during low season. You'll be really glad you did.

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Thursday, 22 November 2018

Whale Watching in Iceland: Get To Know These Beautiful Creatures

When coming to Iceland, there certain things that should be on every traveler's bucket list. The exciting glacier hikes in Vatnajökulll National Park and a thrilling Northern Lights hunt immediately spring to mind. The country’s stunning waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and many other natural wonders are another. But one of Iceland's most spectacular natural sights lurks below the surface of its Arctic Waters. Iceland's whales are among some of the country's most elegant and majestic creatures. With over 20 different species of whales in swimming in its seas, a whale watching tour in Iceland could be just the activity for you. There's a lot to discover about the gentle giants of the sea. Do you know the difference between a humpback whale, blue whale, and a fin whale? You’ll probably see all three and more on a whale watching excursion. Not to mention dolphins, porpoises, and orcas.

Whale tail during whale watching excursion in Eyjafjordur, Dalvik, North Iceland

Iceland Whale Watching Tours 


One of the best ways to get up-close-and-personal with these beautiful beasts of the deep is with a whale watching tour or excursion. You can head out to chilly waters in a large wooden boat that holds large groups of tourists or have a more intimate experience by taking a kayak out to sea. This option is definitely for adventure enthusiasts as the whales will come right up to your 2-person kayak. Imagine being able to almost touch a friendly humpback! The more standard option is the larger group tours. You can watch the whales breach from a safe distance and not worry about them tipping over your vessel or causing too many waves.

Where is The Best Place to See Whales in Iceland? 


North Iceland is hands-down the best place for whale spotting in Iceland. It is in this area of the country that you will find Húsavík. Not only is this town of just over 2,000 inhabitants the beginning of the Diamond Circle route, it's also considered the whale watching capital of Iceland. The municipality’s serene Skjálfandi Bay sees a wide variety of cetaceans swim in and out of its waters during the summer months. Whale watching boats start running in late March and finish their last tours at the end of October. Akureyri, Iceland's second largest city and the capital of the North is also another great jumping-off point for your whale watching adventure. Nearby Dalvik is yet another port of call for would-be whale lovers. Orca fans will want to head to Snaefellsness peninsula in the west, as Shamu's cousins often frequent that area.

Wooden whale watching excursion boat in Húsavík, Iceland's whale watching capital

Whale watching is also possible in Reykjavik, the country's capital. There are several whale watching tour operators in Reykjavik, so while the numbers may be more abundant in Húsavík, you definitely won’t miss out if you go whale watching further south. Tours run year-round in Reykjavik.

When is Peak Whale Watching Season in Iceland? 


The best time for whale watching in Iceland is in the summer. June, July, and August are peak season and offer the best opportunity to see the largest number of species. You can really start to see whales in Iceland in April and have a pretty good shot through October. Marine life fills the country’s coasts and the bays of it seaside towns.

What Species Will I See On a Whale Watching Excursion? 


Iceland is one of the world's top whale watching destinations. It ranks right up there with Arctic Canada, Alaska, and Antarctica. So which aquatic species call the island’s waters home? The most common whale species you’ll see on whale watching excursions in Iceland are minke whales, blue whales, fin whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, killer whales. Harbor porpoises and white-beaked dolphins also tend to make an appearance in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans surrounding the island.

Humpback whale breaching in Húsavík during whale watching excursion

Whale Watching in Iceland: Get To Know These Beautiful Creatures 


A whale watching excursion in Iceland, whether it be via boat or kayak, is something you definitely don't want to miss during your trip. Seeing these one-of-a-kind creatures up close and in their natural habitat its a special experience that everyone in your family will enjoy. It gets wet out there, so just make sure you pack a good waterproof rain jacket along with your sense of adventure.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

7-Day South Iceland Itinerary | Day 3: Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach

South Iceland is one of the most popular regions of the country to explore. That's why we've created a seven-day itinerary to help you plan your trip. We started by driving from Reykjavik to Vík while stopping at Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur along the way. We've seen black sand beaches and waterfalls, which are two of Iceland's most typical and iconic natural attractions. Over the course of the next few days of our Iceland itinerary, we’ll explore a third: the glaciers at Vatnajökull National Park. This includes the floating mini icebergs in the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the abandoned pieces of ice scattered across Diamond Beach.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is one of the top stops on our 7-day Iceland itinerary

Day 1: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur
Day 2: Vík, Reynisfjara, and Dyrhólaey
Day 3: Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach
Day 4: Vatnajökull National Park and its Glaciers
Day 5: Reykjavik City and Nightlife
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
Day 7: The Golden Circle

After staying the night in Vík, you'll find it quite easy to get to Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach. Just head east on the Ring Road (Route 1) towards Vatnajökull National Park. You’ll pass Skaftafell on your left and then the minuscule village of Hof during the two and a half hour drive. You may even begin to catch glimpses of Vatnajökull glacier on clear days.

Hopefully, you've dressed warmly and brought a waterproof jacket!

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 

This glacier lake is probably one of the cooler things you'll see in Iceland. Not only does the lagoon its runoff water from the source at Vatnajökull glacier, but it's also filled with broken-off pieces of ice that float around like ghostly remnants. These tiny icebergs will eventually make their way out to the Atlantic Ocean and melt. The glacier Lagoon is actually a fairly recent natural occurrence. One of the best ways to explore the glacier lagoon is to take a boat tour. You want to get as possible to the white blocks of ice and the icy towers found here. Weather can affect tour availability and the tours usually run from May to October. The tours generally last 30 to 60 minutes. If you're here in the winter, keep your eyes peeled for Arctic seals. Be sure not to miss one of Iceland's greatest natural wonders.

Giant floating iceberg in Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

Diamond Beach

Once you’ve made your way around the glacier lagoon, it's time to make like a chicken cross the road. No, seriously. Across the highway (Route 1) is the Dimond Beach, the next stop of the day. Before you start conjuring up images of undiscovered treasure in Iceland and begin planning an early retirement, you should know that there aren't real diamonds on the beach. Rather, what you'll find are chunks of ice ranging in size from small stones to a large SUV.

An icy "diamond" on Iceland's Diamond Beach

7-Day South Iceland Itinerary | Day 3: Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach

If you're feeling really adventurous, you could tackle the glaciers in Vatnajökull National Park the same day you visit Jökulsárlon and Diamond Beach. I recommend doing the glacier hike or ice cave exploration first. But if you really want to take your time driving around and enjoying all of the sights in this very special area, I recommend stretching it out over two days. Besides you want to also leave decompression time to relax, have a hot meal or a hot drink, and bask in just how cool Iceland is. Tomorrow we'll finish up in Vatnajökull National Park and then make our way back to Reykjavik.

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Monday, 19 November 2018

7-Day South Iceland Itinerary | Day 2: Vík, Reynisfjara, and Dyrhólaey

Hello and welcome back to our 7-day itinerary exploring South Iceland. We started off the first leg of our journey with visits to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skógafoss waterfall, and the DC-3 plane crash site at Sólheimasandur beach. Let's continue by exploring the quaint coastal village of Vík í Mýrdal (Vík), the black sand beaches and hexagonal basalt columns of Reynisfjara, and the lighthouse and rock arches of Dyrhólaey peninsula. South Iceland has a lot to offer, so let's visit one of the most popular areas of the Ring Road.

Day 1: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur
Day 2: Vík, Reynisfjara, and Dyrhólaey
Day 3: Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach
Day 4: Vatnajökull National Park and its Glaciers
Day 5: Reykjavik City and Nightlife
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
Day 7: The Golden Circle


Vík's black sand and black pebble volcanic beaches

Vík í Mýrdal


This is a more relaxed stop than yesterday, which was jam-packed with sightseeing activities. Iceland’s southernmost village is the perfect place to stop either on your way to or from Vatnajökull National Park. You'll find lots of restaurant and accommodation options in this area. People come for the black sand beaches and many times will use Vík as their overnight base to explore other nearby attractions. Located around 110 miles (186 kilometers) from Reykjavik, it’s the ideal setting to rest, recharge and get to know small-town Iceland. It will take you about two and a half hours to reach here from the country's capital.

The town itself is small, with only about 300 residents or so. Resting at the foot the massive Mýrdalsjökull glacier and nearby by Eyjafjallajökull, the town's geology and history have been shaped by Katla volcano, the fiery giant laying just beneath Mýrdalsjökull ice cap. One of the town’s most recognizable landmarks is the Reyniskirkja church. The typically Icelandic building features signature white walls and a colorful, pointy red roof. This wooden church dates back to 1929 and is a beloved part of the community.

The Reyniskirkja is a beloved symbol of Vík and is a typical Icelandic church


Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Hexagonal Basalt Columns


As you head from Vík towards the shoreline, you'll find yourself at Reynisfjara black sand beach. Not only will you be mesmerized by the black sand, but the beach also features mysterious hexagonal columns of volcanic basalt rock. The long structures create a dramatic backdrop to an already otherworldly setting. This breathtaking zone Is especially lovely at night during the Northern Lights period in Iceland and during the Midnight Sun. Something to be aware of here are the waves. They have a strong pull and can sneak up on you very quickly. Please be careful! Whatever you do, don't go swimming here and stay relatively far away from the water's edge. Once voted as one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world to visit, Reynisfjara is a must to do.

Dyrhólaey Promontory and Rock Arch


Just west of Vik you'll find Dyrhólaey, the nearly 400 foot (120-meter) promontory and rock arch that form part of the cliff. Its name actually means “door hole” in Icelandic. When there are no large waves, some boats can sail right through it. Keep an eye out for the Reynisdrangar rock formations. According to legend, they were two trolls trying to drag a ship onto land. When the sun rose in the middle of their exploits, they turned to stone and have remained that way ever since. Bird life is abundant in this area, and Dyrhólaey’s cliffs are a prime spot for bird watching. Icelandic puffins and Eider ducks what are the dominant species in the area. Come between the months of May and August to see huge populations of puffins during their mating season.

Dyrhólaey peninsula and rock arch close to the lighthouse

Dyrhólaey Lighthouse 


Atop the cliff rests the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse. It gets quite windy here, so be careful not to approach the cliff ledge.


7-Day South Iceland Itinerary | Day 2: Vík, Reynisfjara, and Dyrhólaey


After you've spent the morning or the afternoon exploring Vik and environs, it's time to head inside for a warming bowl of something hot and tasty. Stop in at one of Vík’s best restaurants and prepare for tomorrow's adventure. It's a big day as we will be exploring Europe's largest national park, Vatnajökull, and its famous glaciers and glacier lagoon.

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Thursday, 15 November 2018

7-Day South Iceland Itinerary | Day 1: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur

If you're visiting Iceland, you’re most likely going to do a 5-day or 7-day itinerary. Some people are lucky and have more time. But for the majority of people, this trip of a lifetime is going to be relatively short. And a week in Iceland is better than nothing, right? I really do recommend longer than seven days to really get to know the country, but if you’re pressed for time then it’s best to focus on driving around one region. The following itinerary focuses on Iceland’s South Coast, which is where most visitors spend their time. The first part is a 5-day itinerary for just the outdoor pursuits of the South Coast. This is for those especially short on time. It leaves out the sights closest to Reykjavik, which I highly recommend adding. Including the additional two days will also allow you to explore Reykjavik and environs.

Day 1: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur
Day 2: Vík, Reynisfjara, and Dyrhólaey
Day 3: Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach
Day 4: Vatnajökull National Park and its Glaciers
Day 5: Reykjavik City and Nightlife
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
Day 7: The Golden Circle

Seljalandsfoss is a must on any 5-day or 7-day itinerary in South Iceland

Day One: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur


We start off our South Iceland itinerary with some of Iceland’s most breathtaking waterfalls and the haunting plane wreck site at Sólheimasandur beach. After leaving either Reykjavik itself or the Keflavik International Airport, head east along Iceland’s Ring Road (Route 1). It’s a nice 80-mile (128 km) drive that takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete. Give yourself an extra 15-30 minutes in winter or with other less than ideal weather conditions. Turn left onto Thórsmörkvegur and follow it for a little bit until you reach the parking lot on your right. Seljalandsfoss will also be on your right.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall


As you approach this waterfall, you’ll be hit by the sound of gushing water and the smell of damp grass. Be sure to bring a sturdy rain jacket and waterproof protective gear for your camera. You’ll also want to wear a good pair of waterproof hiking boots as the rocks and hiking path around the cascade can be quite slippery. Seljalandsfoss has a reputation as being the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. In fact, it has the nickname “The Beauty” as compared to Dettifoss waterfall, known as “The Beast. When approaching Seljalandsfoss from the front, you may be wondering what makes it so special. Sure, the cascade has a long, elegant drop...but doesn’t every waterfall? As you get closer, however, you’ll see that behind the falls there is a small cave. There’s a small trail to follow that leads around and behind the waterfall and its rocky arch.

After you’ve walked around, taken pictures, and enjoyed the impressive views, it’s time to head off to our second waterfall of the day: Skógafoss. You’ll drive back toward the main highway. When the road splits, you’ll need to go left and continue onward in the direction of Vík. A little less than 30 minutes up the road (about 18 miles or 29 km) is the turnoff for Skógafoss. There’s a red and white sign on your left that points the way.

Majestic Skógafoss waterfall on South Iceland 5-day or 7-day itinerary


Skógafoss Waterfall


One of the coolest things about this majestic waterfall is that you can walk right up to it. Be prepared to get soaked, however. The waterfall’s sprays travel quite the distance from their source. Approach the 197-foot (60-meter) drop if you dare. If you didn’t pack your raincoat and waterproof clothing you can still stand back and enjoy the single and double rainbows this waterfall is so well known for. This is a great place to take kids as it’s not as treacherous as Seljalandsfoss.

Sólheimasandur Beach Douglas DC-3 Plane Wreck Site


In the fall of 1973, a US Navy aircraft crash-landed on the shores of Sólheimasandur beach in South Iceland after the engines iced up. Thankfully, all of the crew members survived. There’s was a bit of a dispute about whose job it was to clean up the wreckage (Iceland’s government refused) so the plane was abandoned. All that remains is the plane's fuselage and part of the cockpit. The missing wings and tail have been lost to time. You'll need to park in the parking area and then walk for about an hour to reach the crash site. You can actually go inside the plane to take photos. Once you are done exploring, walk around the area to see the black sand beaches. Head to Vik for the evening and enjoy dinner there.

Sólheimasandur crash site is the final stop on our 7-day South Iceland itinerary

7-Day South Iceland Itinerary | Day 1: Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Sólheimasandur


Next up, we’ll continue on our South Iceland itinerary by visiting Vik and Reynisfjara peninsula along with the wonders of Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and Diamond Beach. Then we’ll finish up with some time in Reykjavik, a visit to the Blue Lagoon, and a trip around the Golden Circle route. There’s a lot to do, so get plenty of rest.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2018

How Dark is Iceland in the Winter?

Many people have exaggerated or untrue ideas about certain things in Iceland. One is the cold. Yes, we have our fair share of icy, snowy weather, but it’s no worse than in places like New York. Maybe it’s because the winter in Iceland lasts longer than in other places? Another big one is the number of daylight hours during the colder months. So how dark is Iceland in winter? We all know that with daylight savings time and shorter days in general, December, January, and February don’t see much light. Iceland’s northern latitude and proximity to the Arctic Circle make this even more pronounced. But that doesn’t mean it’s dark all the time! I guess the reasoning goes that if there is nearly 24-hour sun in the summer, the same must be true for darkness in the winter. Not true. Daylight is reduced, but not as drastically as you might think.

Iceland's winter darkness depends on civil twilight

What is Considered Winter in Iceland?


First things first, let’s discuss winter in Iceland. In many parts of the world, most people consider winter to be the colder months of December, January, and February with autumn and spring falling on either side. Iceland actually experiences frigid temperatures from October to March or April. As a result, we consider this period to be “winter”. Not only is it the low season for tourism, but it also shares winter characteristics like reduced daylight hours.

Shorter Days and Longer Nights


The good news is that Iceland is not entirely dark in winter. During the period surrounding the winter solstice and consequently, the shortest day of the year, Iceland’s minimum daylight is around four hours per day. I know this isn’t much, but as you move away from the shortest day of the year, you’ll have five, six, and seven-hour days. November sees days with up to eight hours. October starts off with a whopping 11 hours per day of sunlight. So as you can see, it varies.

Here’s a useful list of sunrise and sunset times along with daylight hours. It will give you a better idea of how dark it gets in Iceland during the winter months of October, November, December, January, February, March.

Iceland has reduced daylight in winter but it's not completely dark

Sunrise and Sunset Times in Winter Along With Hours of Daylight 


These are the sunrise and sunset times in Iceland in the winter according to timeanddate.com’s Reykjavik forecast. Other parts of the country may be different and the north, close to the Arctic Circle, will be more extreme.

Beginning of October - Sunrise: 7:36 am | Sunset: 6:56 pm (11 hours 20 minutes)
Beginning of November - Sunrise: 9:10 am | Sunset: 5:10 pm (8 hours)
Beginning of December - Sunrise: 10:45 am | Sunset: 3:47 pm (5 hours)
Beginning of January - Sunrise: 11:19 am | Sunset: 3:43 pm (4 hours and 23 minutes)
Beginning of February - Sunrise: 10:09 | Sunset: 5:14 pm (7 hours and 5 minutes)
Beginning of March - Sunrise: 8:36 am | Sunset: 6:45 pm (10 hours and 8 minutes)

But sunrise and sunset times aren’t the whole story. To get the full picture of the actual amount of light that you have on a basis, you need to take civil twilight into account.

What On Earth is Civil Twilight?


If you’ve never heard of it before, civil twilight is something that’s going to make you very happy. Essentially you’ve got more hours of light in the day than you think. The way that it works is that instead of looking at strict sunrise and sunset times, you’ve actually got more time of actual brightness. If the sun officially rises at 10:45 am, for example, civil twilight might be at 9:30 am. So instead of the pitch black and complete darkness of night, you’ve actually got some light in the sky. This is especially true if you are driving east, the direction from which the sun rises. And naturally, the dawn light increases as you inch closer to sunrise. The same goes for the evening. Dusk might last 20, 30, 40 minutes, or even an hour after the sun has officially set.

Icelandic town with daylight in winter after the sunset

How Does Darkness in Iceland Affect My Travel Plans and Activities? 


At the end of the day, what most people want to know is how darkness in Iceland will affect the tours they book and their travel itinerary. If you’re worried that shorter days will negatively impact your trip, don’t worry. With a bit of planning, you’ll be able to fit in plenty of activities. Not as many as during the Midnight Sun of course, but definitely enough.

Take advantage of civil twilight (and maybe a little before) to drive to the day’s first destination. One of the many great things about Iceland is that driving distances are short. Leaving an hour beforehand means you’ll get there right when the sun rises and be ready to face the day. The same goes for driving after sunset. Some people don’t like driving at night, especially on the icy conditions of Iceland’s roads. To be honest, I don’t blame them. But driving when the sky is still lit up is not nearly as bad. And if you are driving west, north, or south, it’s great.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving in the dark, you can always book an excursion and leave the driving to the professionals. They are familiar with driving times and distances and know what to expect from civil twilight. You’ll be in good hands.

How Dark is Iceland in the Winter?


With the sun rising as late as 11:30 am and then setting just four hours later at 3:30 pm, it’s easy to see why people think Iceland does not get many hours of daylight in winter. This is the worst case scenario though, and most of the winter season isn’t so severe. If you’re really worried about the lack of daylight affecting your winter trip to Iceland, try to go closer to the beginning or the end of the season. And take advantage of civil twilight. We Icelanders certainly do!

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Monday, 12 November 2018

Speaking Icelandic: Useful and Funny Phrases

One of the best ways to get to know a country’s culture is to study its language. The words people use in Iceland and our colorful, funny expressions give you a small peek into the mind of the typical Icelander. What I’m talking about goes beyond the simple greetings and everyday expressions for travelers like “hallo” (hello), “takk” (thank you), and “gaman að kynnast þér” (nice to meet you). I want you to do more than just get by. Now don’t get scared; I’m not asking you to master the Icelandic language! Germanic languages can be a little tricky, and I’m sure the fact that we’ve got some funny symbols and letters might be a little intimidating. But there are just some expressions that I think you might find culturally interesting and perhaps they’ll even give you a little chuckle. Let’s dive in and learn some useful and funny phrases in Icelandic.

Man contemplating funny and useful expressions in Icelandic

I Will Find You on a Beach (Ég mun finna þig í fjöru) 


This is perhaps my favorite unusual saying in Icelandic. Lest you think all Icelanders are sweet, innocent, mild-mannered Nordic folk, let me relieve you of that illusion. We descended from the Vikings! And just like anyone else, we get mad! Except when we get angry, we threaten our newly-formed enemies with a vow to track them down and strike when they are least expecting it. If someone tells you “Ég mun finna þig í fjöru“, you must never ever let your guard down. And keep that in mind next time you see a sweet-looking, little old lady wandering the streets of Reykjavik. You know she’s found a few people on a beach. Maybe she’s on her way there now.

Correct usage: Hey! You just cut in front of me in line at Sandholt Bakery and bought the last croissant. I WILL FIND YOU ON A BEACH! *Shakes fist angrily*.

Icelanders will find you on a beach

You are such a latte-drinking wool scarf (Þú ert nú meiri lattelepjandi lopatrefillinn) 


It’s pretty safe to say that people who live in large cities have nicknames for people who live in the country and vice versa. Iceland is no different, and there’s a phrase in Icelandic similar to calling someone a city slicker. Being a “latte-drinking wool scarf” is reserved for people who live in Reykjavik’s city center and is a derogatory term. The negative connotation comes from the idea that we sit around in our posh wool scarves sipping lattes all day like total snobs. To be fair, I do like doing both of those things, but I have other hobbies as well.

Correct usage: Berglind and Leif came to visit me at the farm this weekend, and neither knew how to ride a horse. They’re such latte-drinking wool scarves! *Eye roll*.

It’s Window Weather (Gluggaveður) 


Much like the word “window shopping” reflects any culture obsessed with buying things (and sometimes things they can’t afford), this expression comes from a land where we frequently experience weather that is quite nice to look at but not so great to be in. Whether it’s a gentle snowfall during the holidays or a stormy, rainy fall afternoon, sometimes it’s just nice to be inside where it’s warm and dry while admiring the weather from afar. Bonus points if you’ve got a blanket and a hot drink in your hand.

Gluggaveður is the common Icelandic expression for window weather

Correct usage: Is your Netflix subscription up to date? There’s a winter storm headed from Vik to Reykjavik this weekend, and it looks like we’re in for some window weather.

Speaking Icelandic: Useful and Funny Phrases 


There are plenty of little gems like these in Icelandic. Master these first three, and you are well on your way to impressing your new friends in Iceland. And if you really want to blow them away, learn how to pronounce (or just how to spell) Eyjafjallajökull. If that slightly complicated name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the volcano in southern Iceland that wreaked havoc back in 2010. With your newly-learned Icelandic language skills, you are ready to go to Iceland and blend in with the locals. All it takes is a little practice, as and as we say in Iceland, “No one becomes a bishop without a beating” (Enginn verður óbarinn biskup). That roughly means “you have to work toward your goals and be ready to face the challenges along the way”. Good luck!

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Friday, 9 November 2018

All You Need to Know About Renting Camping Gear in Reykjavik

Camping is one of the best ways to see Iceland and save money, especially during the high season of summer. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come every year to get back to the elements and enjoy time in nature. Whether you’ve decided to rent a car, motorhome, or campervan, doing some form of camping in Iceland is a great idea all around. While it's possible to bring your own gear, the majority of people actually rent the camping equipment for their trip. This may come as a surprise if you’ve never done it, but I can assure you that it’s perfectly normal. So normal in fact, there are multiple locales where you can rent camping gear all over the island. We’ve got a list of some of the best places to rent camping equipment in Reykjavik as well as things to keep in mind and the benefits of renting gear.

Best camping equipment rental and gear stores in Reykjavik

Renting Gear Versus Bringing Your Own 


The first question that comes to mind is why you should rent camping equipment instead of bringing your own. It’s true that there is something to be said about having your tried and tested gear with you on your Iceland camping trip. But something important to keep in mind is that many things are different in Iceland, especially weather conditions. The same tent that has served you faithfully on numerous backpacking trips to the mountains may be ill-suited for the snow, sleet, hail, winds, and rain of small, stormy island such as Iceland. Unless you already own an all season tent made from durable materials, it’s likely that you’ll need something sturdier to brave the elements here.

Another thing to factor in when deciding whether to rent or buy your camping equipment for Iceland is how much it’s going to cost to bring everything with you. Extra luggage fees combined with the hassle of lugging bulky tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, camping stoves, and other camping equipment around the airport are enough to turn off any seasoned traveler. Save yourself the stress of wrangling with your gear by just renting it at a store and throwing it in your rental vehicle.

Things to Keep in Mind 


As we mentioned above, Iceland has extreme weather conditions. Only the most durable and well-built equipment will do when spending time in such an extreme environment. For example, your tentpoles should be made out of materials like super strong aluminum. Tent floors should be extremely well-insulated in addition to placing tarp underneath. Not only are you trying to keep out the cold and frost, but also the dampness that can seep in from the grass and dirt below. Wind is another thing to be aware of. Iceland gets very windy, and if you don’t have strong tent spikes driven into the ground, you can easily get blown away.

Rent a tent in Reykjavik and wake up to beautiful view of a waterfall

Top Camping Equipment Rental Stores in Reykjavik 


So where can you rent camping gear once you arrive in Iceland? Reykjavik has several different options for all different budgets and camping styles from budget to top quality. These stores are filled with friendly, helpful staff members who are experts at helping you pick out just the right camping equipment to meet your needs. They know how to use their years of experience and general knowledge of Iceland to give you the best advice possible.


Iceland Camping Equipment Rental 


Website: https://www.iceland-camping-equipment.com/
Address: Barónsstígur 5, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 647 0569

This is probably one of the best (if not the best) camping equipment rental stores in Reykjavik. Their wide variety of products include the standard tents, sleeping bags, camping stoves, and gas canisters. You can also get more modern camping convenience like GPS, portable Wifi. They even offer maps. Take a look at their online store to see the huge selection of products and pre-order anything you think you’ll need.

Gangleri Outfitters 


Website: http://www.outfitters.is/
Address: Hverfisgata 82, Reykjavik 101, Iceland
Phone: +354 583 2222

You’ll see lots of positive word of mouth online about Gangleri Outfitters, another top camping gear rental store in Reykjavik. They too have an extensive product selection and offer items both on sale and for rent. It’s a smaller store than Iceland Camping Equipment Rental, but they still have a lot. You can even get some high-quality snowshoes and hiking boots in case you don’t have a pair from back home.

Some of Reykjavik's top camping equipment rental stores also sell hiking boots

Rent-a-Tent 


Website: http://www.rentatent.is/ 
Address: Smiðjuvegur 6, Rauð gata, 200 Kópavogur, Iceland
Phone: +354 848 5805

The name says it all. Tents are what they love, and tents are what they do best. This is your no-frills, one-stop shop to get the basics covered for your camping trip. They offer slightly lower prices on some items and are located just outside of Reykjavik. You’ll want to pick up your car rental at Keflavik and then head to the small town of Kópavogur.

Fjallakofinn 


Website: https://www.fjallakofinn.is
Address: Laugavegur 11, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Phone: +354 510 9511

Fjallakofinn or “mountain hut” in Icelandic, is a higher end camping equipment rental store. They offer not only camping equipment and accessories but clothing as well. Their store on Reykjavik’s chic Laugavegur street is home to items for skiing and snowboarding as well as basic thermal pieces. If you’re looking for a camping gear specific store, this may not be your best bet as the other three stores I mentioned have a much greater selection. But if you’re looking for more select pieces and high-quality winter clothing, this could be a good option.

All You Need to Know About Renting Camping Gear in Reykjavik 


Hopefully, this has helped you get a better handle on where to go and what to look for when renting camping gear in Reykjavik. I really do encourage you to go this route when camping in Iceland. You’ll save time and money and have just the right equipment for your trip. The stores pride themselves on the high quality of their inventory, so they are sure to have just what you need in stock. Let us know how it goes!

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Tuesday, 6 November 2018

4 Best Cafés in Reykjavik - Warm Up When It's Cold Outside

The cold has arrived in Reykjavik, and with it, one of my favorite pastimes. Relaxing in a café with a mug of something piping hot in your hands as you let the aroma waft towards your nose is probably one of the best feelings on earth. Compound this with frigid temperatures outside and a rainy or snowy backdrop through the window and you’ve got all the makings of the perfect fall or winter day. So if you happen to find yourself in Iceland’s capital and are looking for the perfect spot to chill out and get warm, we’re here to help. Café culture is thriving in Iceland, and these are some of my favorite places to get coffee, tea, and other warm beverages. Enjoy exploring Reykjavik’s best cafés and let us know which ones you like best.

Friends enjoying coffee in one of Reykjavik's best cafés

Reykjavik's Best Cafés - Kaffitár 

Address: Bankastræti 8, 101 Reykjavík

This eco-conscious café not only strives to take care of the planet, but they also aim to be experts in all things coffee-related. The staff is made up of passionate individuals who have received training in the different types of ways to roast the beans, the nuances of blending and combining flavors, and of course how to make the perfect coffee drink, ranging from Americano to double espresso. You’ll also get a special treat with the patterns, swirls, and designs they create with the milk foam on their cappuccinos. They are such pros that one of their own, head barista Khadija Ósk, competed in the 2018 World Barista Championships in Amsterdam.

Reykjavik's Best Cafés - Café Haiti

Address: Geirsgata 7b, 101 Reykjavík

Entrepreneur and Reykjavik’s "Coffee Queen" Elda Thorisson-Faurelien came to Iceland in 2007 with two kilos of roasted coffee, 20 kilos of raw coffee beans, and a dream. She quickly set up shop, bringing along her extensive knowledge and background with coffee. After growing up on her father’s coffee plantation in Haiti and learning all about java from a young age, she made the move to Iceland and has been bringing Haitian-influenced brews to the masses on the small Nordic island ever since. She offers freshly roasted coffee from both her home country and Guatemala, along with an assortment of homemade cakes, soups, and creole fare. If you’re looking for coffee with a complex character and brewed with love, Cafe Haiti is the place for you.

Barista preparing coffee in one of Reykjavik's best coffee shops

Reykjavik's Best Cafés - Mokka-Kaffi 

Address: Skólavörðustígur 3A, 101 Reykjavík

Mokka is a Reykjavik institution and holds the distinct honor of operating the first espresso machine in the city. The bold interior and classic decor give the coffee shop a distinct feel that is both old school and welcoming. The dreamy smells that greet you as you walk in the door are a mix of roasted coffee beans and tasty treats. On an artistic note, the cafe has also doubled as an art gallery since its opening in 1958.

Reykjavik's Best Cafés - Café Babalú 

Address: Skolavoerdustigur 22a, 101 Reykjavik
This colorful, eclectic café features kitschy decor that is as unique as the coffee is tasty. With knick-knacks like ceramic teapots, wooden roosters, and various currencies hanging from the ceiling like prayer flags, you’ll feel as if you’ve wandered into a coffee-slinging vintage store. Rest assured, the baristas at Babalú will take good care of you during your visit. Grab the coffee, tea, or hot chocolate of your choice along with one of their signature giant chocolate chip cookies (yum!) and find a spot one of their comfy couches. They’ve also got vegan and vegetarian food and dessert options. It’s the perfect way to spend a cozy afternoon in Reykjavik and escape winter’s wrath.

Milk foam designs at one of Reykjavik's best cafés

Reykjavik's Best Cafés - Warm Up When It's Cold Outside 


So there you have it. Whether you’re hoping to find a frothy cup of hot cocoa, fresh green tea, or a nice strong brew of a Colombian or Brazilian roast, there’s something for everyone in Iceland’s capital. These are by no means all of the coffee shops and cafés in Reykjavik but are definitely an excellent place to start. Other great options are Reykjavik Roasters, Stofan Café, Grái Kötturinn, and Kattakaffihúsið (the Reykjavik Cat Café) among others. Let’s us know how your search for the perfect cup of coffee goes and if you have any recommendations to add to this list.

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Monday, 5 November 2018

Iceland News: Icelandair to Acquire Wow Air

In breaking news out of Iceland, national airline Icelandair is in the process of acquiring low-cost carrier WOW air. The young airline has faced financial hardships as of late despite its popularity and viral marketing campaigns. Their telltale bright purple color has become a trademark for both the company’s planes and their bicycle ride-sharing service seen around Reykjavik, WOW Citybike. They will now reside under the umbrella of Icelandair after all of the company’s shares are acquired. It is still unknown how many of the company’s 36 national and international destinations will continue after the stock purchase. WOW air flies mainly to North America and Europe from Iceland.

Plane on tarmac. WOW air will be acquired by Icelandair

WOW Air’s Background and Viral Marketing Strategies 


Founded in 2011 by Skúli Mogensen with its hub at Keflavik International Airport, WOW air quickly gained popularity due to their distinctive branding and creative marketing campaigns. Budget-conscious travelers went crazy for the $99 one-way fares that the company introduced back in 2017 and brought back in 2018. They also generated a ton of buzz with their 2018 online guerilla marketing campaign to find digital travel guides. New Yorkers Brad and Rob were the two lucky brand ambassadors chosen from tens of thousands of applicants for the “World’s Best Summer Job".

In spite of the excitement surrounding the company and yearly growth, it seems it was just not sustainable. The company has been experiencing some financial trouble lately, and Icelandair decided to swoop in and take advantage of the opportunity presented. As Icelandair’s leading domestic competition, the time was right for WOW air to come under the umbrella of the Icelandair Group and bring their respective strengths together in order to become stronger as one while remaining serious players in the market for international flights.

Woman working on transatlantic flight from Iceland to North America

How the Acquisition Benefits Both Wow Air and Icelandair 


In the words of Bogi Nils Bogason, Interim President & CEO of the Icelandair Group: "WOW air has in recent years built a strong brand and enjoyed great success in the company‘s markets to and from Iceland and across the Atlantic. There are many opportunities for synergies with the two companies, but they will continue to operate under their own brands and operating approvals. The tourism industry is one of the cornerstones of the Icelandic economy, and it is important that flights to and from Iceland will remain frequent".

WOW air is also looking forward to the acquisition. Says Skúli Mogensen, CEO and founder of WOW air: "I am very proud of the success and development that we at WOW Air have enjoyed in the past few years, and I am thankful for the response we have received since our very first flight. We have created a strong team that has reached remarkable success and has been a pioneer in low-cost flights across the North-Atlantic. A new chapter now starts where WOW air gets an opportunity to grow and prosper with a strong backer like Icelandair Group that will strengthen the foundations of the company and strengthen its international competitiveness even further”.

White model plane on blue background. Icelandair is ready to acquire WOW air with a stock purchase after shareholder approval.

Iceland News: Icelandair to Acquire Wow Air


While the sale of shares has not been finalized yet, Icelandair Group is taking the final steps toward approval of the acquisition. The announcement came on Monday and still needs to be approved by the parent company’s shareholders, the Icelandic Competition Authorities, and must pass due diligence. These next steps are scheduled to happen within the next few days.

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