Friday, 5 July 2019

Books in Iceland

The importance of literature and books in Iceland cannot be overstated. With one in ten Icelanders publishing a book in their lifetime, reading and writing are interwoven into the threads of society. And when the inhabitants of this small Nordic island aren't reading books writing them, they are giving them as gifts. Christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions are the perfect time to give both and receive fiction and non-fiction works.

Books in Iceland are a part of the culture

So why are Icelanders so literary? And how does our love of all things written show up in our culture? Put on your reading glasses and let’s dive into books in Iceland and their place in society.

Why is Iceland so Literary?


Maybe it’s because we spend so much time inside due to the weather. Or perhaps it comes from a strong literary tradition we inherited from the Sagas and tales of Vikings. Iceland is the third most literate country in the world after Finland and Norway, other countries where people are cooped up much during of the year. Whatever the reason, Iceland is a great place to be a book lover. It’s no surprise that Reykjavik was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011.

Iceland's Book Publishing Habit


Something that surprises many people about Iceland is that one in ten people will publish a book at some time in their life. While our numbers are small (just under 340,000 citizens), this is still an astonishing percentage of the population. In Iceland, everyone is either a writer, knows a writer, or is related to a writer. And many times we have some sort of personal writing project going on as well. Whether it’s poetry, a short story or an entire novel, the subject of literature is a favorite topic among Icelanders. Ask an Icelander their favorite book and you’ll have a great ice breaker and conversation starter.

The Icelandic Sagas


The famous little book of the Icelanders in the old days is one that you may have heard about. It details the early history and genealogy of Iceland, reaching back into the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries. The stories told in the Sagas are prose narratives which mostly recount tales of historical events. Some famous stories include the Saga of Erik the Red, which details the journey of Leif Erikson to Vinland (Newfoundland). This trip to North America took place long before the voyages of Christoper Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci.

Books in Iceland like the Sagas tell Viking history

These are the best-known examples of Icelandic literature. They were written in Old Norse (the language of the Vikings. And here’s a fun little fact: Because Iceland was so isolated from the rest of the world, modern Icelandic hasn’t changed much from the Old Norse of our Viking ancestors. This means that we can read the texts in their original language. Pretty cool, right?

Reykjavík International Literary Festival


Of course, in a country so obsessed with books and writers, it’s no surprise that we host a literary festival. The Icelandic book festival takes place every two years and is held in different venues around downtown Reykjavik. Highlights include author meet and greets, readingS from popular works, book workshops and seminars, and even a Literary Ball. Hobnob with your favorite authors while discovering some new books to check out.

Literature enthusiasts have been enjoying this biannual festival since 1985 and the tradition keeps going strong. The entertaining program features novelists, Nobel-prize winners, philosophers, illustrators, historians, and even a few political activists. As one of Europe’s most important literary festivals, it spans several days and is a must-do for lovers of literature. And as a bonus, admission to all events is free and everything is in English. What could be better?

Jólabókaflóð: The Christmas Tradition of Giving Books 


In Iceland, books are exchanged on Christmas Eve. It’s a lovely tradition and one that is not surprising in a country filled with bookworms. You carefully hand-select a book that you think your loved one will enjoy and gift it to them. After opening their present, you spend the evening reading and devouring the stories and tales inside. It’s so nice to be warm and cozy inside the house during wintertime snuggled up with a good book.

This is known as Jólabókaflóð, which roughly translates to “Christmas book flood”. Retailers gear up for Christmas shoppers in search of that perfect book. During the year, 93% of Icelanders read at least one book. Maybe they read the title they pick up on Christmas Eve cover to cover?

Books in Iceland are popular Christmas present

Books in Iceland 


Whenever you visit a new country, understanding the local culture is part of the fun. Now when you’re browsing in a book shop like Mál og Menning on Laugavegur street, you’ll appreciate just what these tomes mean to us Icelanders. And maybe you can even pick up a title of some famous Icelandic books in English. It’s a great souvenir and one you can treasure for many years to come.

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Monday, 24 June 2019

Iceland's Major Towns and Cities

The tourist industry in Iceland has grown significantly over the last few years. More and more travelers are discovering the charms of our tiny Nordic island and all that Iceland has to offer. Taking a journey around the country’s Ring Road has become the ultimate bucket list item. There’s something quite charming about Iceland’s major towns and cities; each one is different and worth a visit. We’ve compiled a list of the best villages, towns, and cities in Iceland to visit.

Iceland cities and towns like Stykkishólmur are highlights to visit

Iceland Cities, Major Towns, and Villages


You’ll often hear the phrase Icelandic villages to describe the small towns along your way. This is because the population in many urban areas is not large enough to warrant the designation of a city or town. You might even find just a small grouping of houses that barely qualifies as a village. While a large percentage of Icelanders live in the capital city of Reykjavik or another city like Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður, or Akureyri, going to a small town is also a huge part of the Iceland road trip experience.

In fact, one of the most popular places for tourists to stay in only has about 320 inhabitants! Vik and its black sand beaches are the quintessential seaside Icelandic village. There are about 70 towns and villages scattered across the island and in the Iceland countryside.

Reykjavik: Iceland’s Capital City 


Looking at a map of Iceland going counterclockwise to see the towns, villages, and cities in Iceland to visit, Reykjavik is obviously our first stop. Iceland’s population is just under 340,000, and over a third live in the capital. Reykjavik City is a modern, cosmopolitan metropolis that at the same time feels like it’s not too big. It’s manageable by foot as most of the city’s main sights are within walking distance from the downtown area.

As the capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik has a thriving cultural scene and lively nightlife. In fact, Iceland’s main city is known for its bars, clubs, and nocturnal activities. Parties start late go well towards the dawn. You’ll also find fantastic cuisine with Michelin-starred restaurants, a robust café culture, and lots of shopping on Laugavegur street.

Iceland cities to visit include Reykjavik, the capital

And course there are the museums. From the Punk Museum to the National Gallery to historical exhibits tracing settlement in Iceland, there’s something for everyone. You can even get to know the island’s cetaceans at the Whales of Iceland exhibition. The interactive installations and life-sized models provide a nice complement to seeing the creatures in real life on a whale watching excursion.

If you’re looking for relaxation, Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon is only about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik. You’ll spend the day floating in the milky, turquoise waters of our popular geothermal spa. Be sure to give yourself a silica face mask to help remove impurities from your skin. Finish off the day with lunch and a massage for the ultimate treat.

Of course, the Blue Lagoon isn’t necessarily everyone’s favorite way to unwind and de-stress. You’re also only about 20 minutes away from the Oddur golf course if you’d like to get in a few holes during your visit.

Kópavogur 


This is the second largest city in Iceland with around 30,000 residents and is developing rapidly. Its proximity to Reykjavik makes it a sought-after place to live, and the city is known for its striking architecture and the Kópavogur Art Museum. A stunning architectural jewel of this Icelandic city is Kópavogur Church, which towers over the rest of the city.

The Westman Islands 


When looking at a map of South Iceland, you’ll see a small archipelago just off the coast near Route 1. This group of small islands in south west Iceland is known as the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar). They were formed by underwater volcanic activity and have 70-80 volcanoes above and below the sea. The largest island in the group is called Heimaey, and its largest town is Vestmannaeyjabær.

Iceland cities and towns like the Westman islands are perfect to visit

Geological activities on the island include a visit to Eldfell volcano, the Eldheimar 1973 volcano eruption remembrance museum, and hiking Helgafell volcano. The Sæheimar Sea Life Trust Aquarium also warrants a visit. This marine life preservation organization is home to both an open water sanctuary for beluga whales and a cornish seal sanctuary. Animal lovers will enjoy their time here with these beautiful and at-risk animals.

Vik: A Lovely Seaside Village in the South of Iceland 


As you travel along the South of Iceland on the Ring Road, you’ll pass the pleasant little town of Vik. Though small, the seaside town is one of the most popular stop-offs on any trip around Iceland. Not only is it located halfway between Reykjavik and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, but it’s home to something very special. Iceland is famous for its volcanic, black sand beaches, and this is the place to see them. Not only that, but the hexagonal basalt columns of Reynisfjara beach are also a major attraction in the area.

Many tourists in Iceland choose to stay the night here and even use it as a base for exploring the area. After visiting the volcanic formations at the beach, you can also take a trip to Vatnajökull National Park. Svartifoss waterfall, Skaftafell glacier, the glacier lagoon, and Diamond beach all await you here. The hiking trails of Landmannalaugar are also close to Vik.

Nestled among Iceland’s dramatic Eastfjords is the colorful and quaint waterfront town of Seyðisfjörður. As you make your way along Iceland’s winding east coast, you’ll want to be sure to include a short stay here. With a vibrant art scene, you’ll find your creative side truly inspired. The locals are also extremely friendly and welcoming. There’s hiking in the area and plenty of cascades to discover in and around the fjords. It’s a relaxing place to spend a few days in nature before continuing onward to Húsavik and the Diamond Circle.

Vik is one of the Iceland cities and towns you must visit

Húsavik: The Whale Watching Capital of Iceland 


Another one of the best cities and towns in Iceland is the coastal town of Húsavik. Resting on the shores of Skjálfandi bay, this cute little town is known as the capital of whale watching in Iceland. If you have the chance to do a summertime whale watching excursion while here, Húsavik is the place to do it.

Húsavik is also the starting point for the Diamond Circle route and is a good base for excursions. Some highlights of the 260 km (162-mile ) circuit include Lake Mývatn, Ásbyrgi Canyon, Dettifoss waterfall, Godafoss waterfall, and Hverir geothermal area.

Akureyri - The Capital of North Iceland 


Akureyri is known as Iceland’s second city and is the capital of the North. The surrounding area includes a botanical garden, ski trails, the Akureyri Contemporary Art museum, and the famous Church of Akureyri (Akureyrarkirkja). The Lutheran church sits on a hill overlooking the town. As one of the major cities in Iceland, Akureyri is port of call for both winter sports enthusiasts and those looking to explore the North of Iceland. As the gateway to the North, Akureyri is definitely one of the best cities to visit in Iceland.

Iceland cities like Akureyri should be visiting during your road trip

The Town of Siglufjörður 


Perhaps the most striking feature of Siglufjörður is the town’s colorful buildings. Shades of crimson, violet, and tangerine cover the facades of these traditional Icelandic houses. Resting on a fjord of the same name, this often-visited Icelandic town has a history of fishing. You can learn more about its ties to this industry and economic growth at the Herring Era Museum. The Þjóðlagasetur Folk Music Centre and Museum will also give you a taste of Iceland’s culture and musical heritage.

Nature lovers should also take an excursion to Héðinsfjörður fjord as this zone in North Iceland is known for the beauty of its fjords. One of the best times of year to visit Siglufjörður is wintertime. The plethora of winter activities is wide-ranging. Take part in snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and more. In the summer, golfing and fishing are common activities for inhabitants and visitors alike.

Hofsós: Fjords and Thermal Pools


A list of the most beautiful cities in Iceland wouldn't be complete without mentioning a place with one of our renowned thermal swimming pools. Hofsós is particularly striking because it features an thermal bath that looks like an infinity pool with views of Icelandic fjords steeply jutting out and descending into the water below.

Towns in Snaefellsness Peninsula: Stykkishólmur and Arnarstapi


Many of the towns and villages on this western peninsula got their start because they acted as a trading post for fishermen and other types of commerce. Their proximity to the shore meant the early fishing industry in Iceland could slowly begin to flourish. They still have their maritime roots but have begun catering to the tourist industry. While this territory makes for a great day trip from Reykjavik, there are also several places of interest for those looking to explore the area more in depth.

Two towns in particular often catch the attention of most travelers. Once you’ve explored Snaefellsnes peninsula and Kirkjufell mountain and waterfall, Stykkishólmur is a wonderful spot to spend the night. Located close to Breiðafjörður Bay, this is the epitome of a small Icelandic fishing town. There’s a church, a volcano museum, great restaurants, and a nice campsite. With beautiful surroundings and excursions to Snæfellsjökull glacier, Berserkjahraun lava field, and Lóndrangar, this is charming town to spend some time in.

The second town in Snaefellsnes peninsula that I recommend is Arnarstapi. It’s home to one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the country. This is a popular spot for travelers to rest and refuel while making their way to Snaefellsjökull National Park from Reykjavik. A hike to admire the rocky basalt cliffs between towns in the area is a wonderful way to spend the evening before heading back to town for dinner. Nearby Hellnar village and Breiðavík farms are the most common destinations. Taking a trek up Mt. Stapafell is also a great option.

Iceland's Major Towns and Cities 


A map of Iceland with cities and towns shows lots of places to visit sprinkled all around the island. Taking a road trip in Iceland will ideally be a wonderful mix of big city living and staying in picturesque little villages that look like something out of a postcard. I hope this list of cities in Iceland and towns will help you plan a fantastic trip and help you get to know the country inside and out. You’ll have more of a chance to meet locals when staying in small towns, so be sure to include a few on your itinerary.

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Friday, 14 June 2019

A Traveler's Guide to Icelandic Currency

When traveling abroad, one of the things to consider is how you will pay for everything. After all, vacations to Iceland aren’t free. You’ll probably be interacting with the local money, so it’s helpful to know about exchange rates, how to pay for food, where to get cash, etc. We’ve created this traveler’s guide to Icelandic currency with essential information to help you prepare for your trip.

Icelandic currency 1000 króna banknote

What is the Currency in Iceland? 


The official currency of Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK). Krona currency is issued by the Bank of Iceland, our central bank. They oversee the printing of money and also monitor the currency in circulation. We’ve used the króna since the late 1800s, back when we were under Danish rule. Later on, we began making our own Icelandic króna and eventually we fully took over our currency.

What Does Iceland Money Look Like?


Icelandic currency is some of the prettiest national money you will ever see. It features famous historical figures and rich illustrations on colorful bills. I like to bring foreign currency home as a souvenir, and you may find yourself thinking the same during your trip to Iceland.

Krona currency comes in both coins and banknotes. The coins have values of 1, 5, 50, and 100 krona. Our bills have denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10000. They feature various shades of red, green, blue, purple, brown, and even some multicolored hues. We wanted our money to reflect our national pride, especially after struggling for so long to gain independence.

Some of the historically significant Icelanders on our bills are Jón Sigurðsson, a leader of the Icelandic independence movement, Brynjólfur Sveinsson, a Lutheran bishop, and Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir, a prominent woman in Icelandic society.

Icelandic currency króna coins

Do I Need Iceland Currency During My Trip? 


It’s understandable if you want to carry at least some cash with you; after all, you never know what emergencies might pop up. If you’d like to keep a couple of bills of Iceland currency in your back pocket, I’d suggest taking it out at the ATM once you’re there. Double check with your bank to see if they charge you a fee or commission for this. You can also request krona from your local bank, as they have very reasonable rates. Just give them ample lead time as it can take anywhere from a few days to a week to receive the money.

You may also find vendors who accept dollars, euros, or Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian krones.

What I don’t suggest is using the currency exchange bureaus you’ll find in the airport. These offer the worst deal you can get for your money, so I would avoid them like the plague.

Can I Use Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland?


To be perfectly honest, you don’t really need keep to cash on you during your Iceland trip. Both credit cards and your debit card are widely accepted, even at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik.

One thing you might not be aware of is that you need your credit card PIN if you plan on paying for anything with a credit card. If you don’t know what yours is, call your credit card company so they can mail it to you. And again, allow time for it to arrive because credit cards PINs are usually sent through standard mail.

What’s the Exchange Rate? 


The rate of currency exchange fluctuates according to global trends and seasonal factors. But just to give you an idea for planning your trip, here are the most recent rates for some common currencies.

1 USD = 126 ISK
1 EUR = 142 ISK
1 GBP = 159 ISK

Scandinavian Countries 

1 NOK = 15 ISK
1 SEK = 13 ISK
1 DKK = 19 ISK

Here’s a useful calculator to help you compare Iceland currency to USD and other world currencies.

Icelandic currency 5000 króna banknote

Tax-Free Shopping in Iceland and the VAT Refund 


You may have heard about getting a tax refund on your purchases in Iceland. As a tourist, you are entitled to getting up to 24% back on items you buy and plan on taking out of the country. This includes clothes, souvenirs, and other items. As long as you’ve spent at least 6000 Icelandic króna, you are eligible.

The process is very straightforward, but make sure you allow yourself ample time to get everything done. You’ll need to take care of this before you check your bags in, and the line for the VAT refund point can be quite long. Many tourists get turned off by this and forfeit their refund when they see how long the lines are. Arrive early!

When buying something at a store, ask for a tax-free receipt and be sure that you get the signature of the vendor. Then, when you arrive at Keflavik International Airport, head to either Arion bank or customs (depending on the amount of your purchases). Once you get your tax-free form validated, then head to the International Refund Point to get your VAT refund.

A Traveler's Guide to Icelandic Currency 


Now you’re ready to for your vacation. Traveling to Iceland is a great adventure, just make sure to pack your plastic. You’ll most likely be using cards to pay restaurants, tour operators, and the souvenir shop where you buy your traditional lopapeysa sweater. We use cards everywhere, so if you bring a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, you’re all set. And maybe take some Icelandic legal tender home with you as a way to remember our amazing little country.

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Thursday, 6 June 2019

Eldhraun: The Moss-Covered Iceland Lava Field

As you explore Iceland, you’ll come across some truly mesmerizing and out of this world sights and scenery. Whether it’s the crystal turquoise interior of a glacier cavern or the ghostly floating icebergs at Jökulsárlón. Now, picture this: you’re making your way around the country on the Ring Road, and you find yourself surrounded by rolling moss-covered lava fields. That seemingly neverending sea of yellow-green clumps is Eldhraun Lava Field, one of the world’s largest lava fields.

Eldhraun Lava Field, Iceland

Eldhraun Lava Field


This spectacular sight is another one of those “only in Iceland” attractions, as it took a unique combination of natural factors to occur. Eldhraun is a natural wonder that you just happen to stumble across, ooh and aah, and then pull out your travel guide to learn more.

Here are some interesting facts for you. Eldhraun lava field’s 565 square kilometers (218 square miles) also served as the training ground for the Apollo 11 crew and their 1969 moonwalk mission. The area supposedly recreates the conditions on the surface of the moon.

This territory is also the biggest lava flow in the world (at least in recorded history), which is why it stretches so far and wide.

Eldhraun: How Did it Happen? 


It's true that you don’t run across kilometers of endlessly sprawling green woolly fringe moss covering volcanic lava every day. So what were the geological events that took place which caused this otherworldly, one-of-a-kind popular Icelandic sightseeing destination?

This special place started off as any regular Icelandic lava field does: with a volcano erupting. Although this particular event was especially traumatic for the island.

It all began with the Laki eruption, probably the most poisonous eruption Iceland has experienced in historical times. This cataclysmic event took place from 1783 to 1784, and the fallout was immense. Not from the explosion of fire, ash and subsequent lava flows, but rather the crop failure, disease, and starvation that came afterward. The aftermath was devastating, wiping out 20-25% of the island’s population and nearly 80% of domestic animals.

The eruption was so massive, that allegedly smoke from its ash cloud traveled all the way to France. Supposedly when it blocked out the sun, people thought the world was ending, and this contributed to the French Revolution.

Lava flows in Iceland form lava fields

Iceland Volcanic Moss


So we had the catastrophic and violent volcanic eruption. How does that turn into verdant fields of volcanic Icelandic moss that stretch as far as the eye can see? Well, at some point after the volcanic lava cooled and hardened, moss spores were carried by wind and water into the area. Unlike most plants, moss doesn’t have roots, so it can anchor itself to trees, rocks, and yes, dried lava. It prefers moist environments, which explains why it blossomed so close to the sea.

Eldhraun Iceland and Conservation Efforts


The recent boom in tourism has seen an increase in conservation efforts, especially at Eldhraun. Iceland and its landscape were forged in harsh conditions, but surprisingly, much of our flora and fauna is quite delicate. If you step on or destroy volcanic moss, it can take a century to grow back, if it grows back at all.

We want to raise awareness about this, as many people simply do not know. Justin Bieber, for example, rolled around in Icelandic moss while shooting the "I'll Show You" music video. Many Icelanders were rightfully horrified and outraged. We need to protect places like Eldhraun, and Iceland tourists need to be aware that their actions have consequences.

Eldhraun Lava Field Location


Something that people ask on travel forums is the Eldhraun lava field location. There aren’t really any exact GPS coordinates because it’s more of a zone than a specific place. You’ll find it in South Iceland as you drive towards the glacial lagoon at the southeast end of Vatnajökull National Park. It's closer to Vik than Jökulsárlón.

Eldhraun Lava Field in Iceland with volcanic moss off the Ring Road

Where to Stay When Visiting Eldhraun


If you’re looking for accommodation close to the Eldhraun lava, the Eldhraun Guesthouse is probably your best bet. It gets rave reviews on booking websites and is by far much cheaper than the Eldhraun Holiday Home. Please note that the Eldhraun Guesthouse reflects Iceland prices. So paying $100 a night for a shared kitchen and bathrooms, as you do at this 3-star hotel, is not surprising.

If you want something more private, the Eldhraun Holiday Home is Iceland luxury at its finest, but it will cost you. Checking rates for the next few months (including the off-season), rooms were around $320-350 per night. If you’ve got the cash, I say go for it and enjoy the mountain views and private hot tub in your cabin.

Eldhraun: The Moss-Covered Iceland Lava Field


While taking a road trip around our beautiful island, make sure to include the Eldhraun lava field on your Iceland itinerary. It’s an awe-inspiring sight and one you won’t find anywhere else on the planet. Just please remember to be respectful and help us protect our fragile ecosystem. Don’t step on the volcanic moss and always try to leave places you visit in better shape than you found them.

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Thursday, 30 May 2019

Tap Water in Iceland

When traveling to any foreign country, there are always certain questions you have to ask. From thinking about lodging and accommodation to exchanging money, you always inevitably end up asking the same things. Drinking water is one of these fundamental inquiries. So can you drink tap water in Iceland or do you need to buy bottled water during your entire trip? Let’s find out.

Iceland tap water glass: Sulphur taste or safe to drink?

I’ve got great news for you: Icelandic water is some of the freshest and tastiest in the world. While you may have heard rumors about Iceland tap water and sulphur, rest assured. You won’t be drinking sulphur-infused water (bleck!) during your Iceland vacation. Let’s talk about where these rumors come from and why the water in Iceland is so delicious.

Iceland Tap Water: Sulphur Smell or Taste? 


So the first thing I want to point out is that tap water in Iceland can sometimes smell like sulfur. There’s no getting around this fact, I won’t try to deny it, and it’s important to clear up. We are a volcanic island heated by geothermal energy, so this is a completely normal thing. You’ll probably also experience this phenomenon when you visit a hot spring or go to a geothermal area like Hverir.

But the important thing to note is that the taste of tap water is not related to the smell. Our water runs our precious glaciers, and it tastes like it is fresh from a natural spring. It’s the purest, cleanest type of water you can drink; even fresher than the H2O from water bottles. And if you’re looking to quench your thirst, there are also some things you can do to cut down on the sulfur smell.

Tips For Iceland Tap Water 


So just to prepare you, here are some important things to know. Hot water smells like sulphur, and if for some reason you choose to fill your glass with hot water, it might taste like it a little but usually, it won’t. Cold water neither smells nor tastes like sulphur. If you’ve been using hot water, close the tap, then want cold water, the mixture may have a slight taste of sulphur.

To remedy this, the solution is quite simple. You can either start the water running on cold or just let it run for a little bit in order to not have a mixture before pouring your drinking water into the glass. And it will be extremely tasty, I promise!

Iceland tap water faucet: Sulphur taste or can you drink it?

Other Factors 


The sulphur smell also varies by region. When taking a shower in the North, for example, you might notice a stronger odor than down south in Reykjavik or along the South Coast. Again, it’s all completely normal, even if it’s not what you’re used to. Just think of it as a way of getting back to nature.

Can You Drink Tap Water in Iceland? 


So if you’re wondering is the tap water safe to drink in Iceland, the answer is a resounding yes. You just have to remember that if you want to avoid an unusual odor, it’s better to have cold water that has been running for a little bit. That is the freshest, best-tasting, option. If you’re looking for good tap water, Iceland is the place to go.

Why Icelandic Water is Great For Tourists 


As we all know, Iceland is an expensive place. In a country where a sandwich will set you back $15, anyone traveling here will look to cut corners any way they can. Well, luckily, the drinking water here is one way to do that. Our bodies need around 2 liters a day of water (those 6-8 glasses that doctors always recommend). Otherwise, we can easily become dehydrated.

It’s especially important to stay hydrated during all of the glacier hikes and scaling of waterfalls that you’ll be doing. As a visitor, Iceland is all about outdoor activities and being physical. You’re going to lose a lot of fluids just through sweating alone.

You’ll save a ton of money because you won’t be spending it on plastic water bottles, which are also bad for the planet. Just come armed with a reusable aluminum, stainless steel or Nalgene BPA-free water bottle, and you’ll be ready to go. You can also use it to grab water on your hikes from natural springs in the area.

Iceland tap water: Bring a reusable water bottle

Tap Water in Iceland 


So I hope I’ve answered all of your questions about Iceland tap water. Yes, it can smell like sulphur. No, it doesn’t taste like sulphur, especially when it comes out of the tap cold. Yes, you can absolutely drink tap water in Iceland. It’s 100% safe (despite the sometimes funny smell) and its some the best water you will ever drink. And who knows; maybe after a 7-day itinerary around Iceland’s Ring Road, you won’t even notice it anymore! Bottoms up.

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Thursday, 23 May 2019

Rent a car in Iceland: Car Comparison by price in Iceland + Tips for Renting a Car in Iceland 2019

If you’re planning to tour Iceland by car, then Iceland car rentals provide the cheapest and best way to explore the vast island. With public transportation being scarce outside major cities like Reykjavík, renting a car becomes the cheaper and most viable option for tourists to explore the island fully. Though it may seem expensive initially, it is much cheaper and less strenuous than having to purchase a car or travel by bus. With plenty of car rental companies in Iceland at your disposal, you will never fail to get a deal that suits your budget. 

Car Rental Iceland - Iceland Car Rental - Rent a Car in Iceland

The wide array of vehicles available for hire also makes it possible for you to get a car that can take you almost anywhere on the island from SUVs, four-wheel cars, luxury cars, 4×4 rental cars and jeeps just to mention a few. In this article, we give you some tips on picking an Iceland car rental provider as well as taking a look at some of the best car rental companies on the island. 

CAR COMPARISON BY PRICE
July 11th to July 19th - 2019 (8 days)

Option A - New cars:

CARS ICELAND                      BEST COMPANY 2019 (1st place)
Toyota Aygo / Kia Picanto:          429€
Dacia Duster 4x4:                       778€
*prices with all insurance included


REYKJAVÍK CARS                    BEST COMPANY 2019 (2nd place)
Hyundai i10:                                344€
Dacia Duster 4x4:                       652€

HERTZ
Toyota Aygo:                                860€
Toyota Rav4:                               1.503€

REYKJAVÍK AUTO                     BEST COMPANY 2019 (3rd place)
Renault Clio:                                349€
Dacia Duster 4x4:                        662€

EUROPCAR
Hyundai i10:                                 720€
Suzuki Grand Vitara 4x4:             1.190€

AVIS
Hyundai i10:                                  719€
Suzuki Jimny 4x4:                      1.083€


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Option B - Older cars:

CARS REYKJAVÍK                     
Toyota Yaris                                 379€
Toyota Rav4 4x4                          710€

SS CAR RENTAL
Toyota Yaris:                                  547€
Toyota Rav4 4x4:                           858€

REYKJAVÍK CARS (they also rent older models)
Hyundai i10:                                357€
Suzuki Jimny 4x4:                       634€

KEFLAVIK CARS
Toyota Yaris                                 402€
Toyota Rav4 4x4                          784€

ICELAND CAR RENTAL
Hyundai i10:                                503€
Toyota Rav4                                 848€

GEYSIR
Hyundai i20:                                480€
Hyundai Tucson:                          790€

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Renting a car is really the best and only way to see the country so be sure to factor it into your budget. We went there thinking we would just take a bus to other areas. We were wrong. The only buses that exist outside the capital city of Reykjavik are tour buses. So technically you can take a bus but you will pay for it because it will be part of an organized tour and it will add up fast. If you are travelling with another person, a car is the cheapest way to see the country. Plus, driving in Iceland is very easy and there isn’t much traffic.

7 TIPS FOR RENTING A CAR IN ICELAND

Renting a car in Iceland may not be the cheapest way to explore Iceland (it’s tough to beat hitchhiking) but it doesn’t have to blow your budget. With public transportation being non-existent outside of the larger cities like Reykjavik, renting a car gives you the freedom at a fraction of the cost when compared to the sightseeing tours sold at tourist information centres.

Below are seven ways to save money on your Iceland car rental:

Don’t buy it: You don’t need theft insurance for the vehicle. According to our agent, car thefts in Iceland are rare and he actually told us not to bother with any of the additional insurance (yes, they have insurance for ash from volcanoes), so we didn’t. 

Go online: The best deals can be found online for Iceland car rentals. By booking online, you will find a better deal than renting directly from the tourist centre in Iceland. Some online companies even offer discounts if you book online, therefore, you will be able to save a lot by booking online. There are a variety of car rental companies on the island so take your time and visit their websites, compare prices, and look at their packages and whether or not they offer discounts for booking online. By doing this, you will be able to get a good deal at a pocket-friendly price. 

Pick up at Keflavik International Airport: Because the airport is located about an hour from Reykjavik, you will have to spend €15 – €20 each way to get to and from the airport. So, you might as well just rent your car from the airport and roll your shuttle bus fees into the price of your car rental. 


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Get to know your vehicle: The longer you keep the rental car the cheaper it becomes.

Petrol Blues: When considering renting a car be sure to factor in the cost of gas. In Europe, petrol is sold by the litre, not the gallon; therefore, expect to pay about $5 per gallon. 

Choose Your Rental Dates Wisely: Sept. 1 in Iceland signals the beginning of the low season, which runs until May 31. Renting a car in Iceland becomes even cheaper at that time. And by cheaper I mean €35/day vs. €85/day – it’s a HUGE price difference. 

Consider your budget: Look for a car rental company that falls within your budget. Remember you do not have to spend a fortune on car rental, therefore, try to get a car rental service that will leave you with some cash to spend on the road.


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DRIVING IN ICELAND

Driving Conditions in Iceland are in many ways unusual and often quite unlike what foreign drivers are accustomed to. It is therefore very important to find out how to drive in this country. We know that the landscapes are beautiful, which naturally draws the driver’s attention away from the road. But in order to reach your destination safely, you must keep your full attention on driving.

-The speed limit in populated areas is usually 50 km/hr.
-The speed limit is often 60 km/hr on thruways, but in residential areas, it is usually only 30 km/hr.
-The main rule in rural areas is that gravel roads have a speed limit of 80 km/hr, and paved roads 90 km/hr.
-Signs indicate if other speed limits apply.

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HIGHLAND DRIVING

Driving in the Icelandic highland is quite different from driving in the lowland. The conditions can change fast due to weather, rain and even sometimes snow. Therefore roads can be closed and rivers can be too big to cross. Before you start your travel you should get information about the area as well as leave your travel plan with someone who can check up on you if needed.

You can make your travel plan here:

-Start by checking if the area you are going to visit is open
-Get as much information about the area as you can
-Information centres, rangers and hut wardens can help you get the information needed
-Are you sure that you have the experience and knowledge needed to go the highland?
-If you are driving be on a 4x4 jeep, other cars will only get you into trouble
-If you are not sure how to cross a river skip it or wait for the next car to assist you over

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ILLEGAL OFF-ROAD DRIVING

When the fact that the country lies right below the Arctic Circle is taken into consideration, along with the fact that the growing season is short, it is apparent that the environment can take many years, decades or even centuries to recover. For example, many people don't realise that by uprooting or driving on moss, the damage is caused that can take at least a decade or, more likely, some hundreds of years to mend – and we're not even talking about the highlands where the summer is much shorter.

Whilst travelling around the country, the highest respect for the Icelandic environment must be shown. It's good to remember to take nothing besides photographs and leave nothing behind except footprints.

-Check out the roadmap and see where the roads and trails are.
-Get information about the appropriate routes at visitor centres, and from rangers or staff.
-Find out in advance when mountain roads are likely to be open, along with other related information, at visitor centres or here.

While on your trip around the country you’ll quickly see that in many places, road ruts and paths have formed from other people. Often they are closed off with nothing more than a row of small rocks. Don’t be caught in the pitfall of following those paths; only stay on roads and marked trails. Instead, think about the damage off-road driving has caused, take photos and educate friends and acquaintances. See how long such damage takes to heal. Notice that ruts don’t just look ugly; they draw in water and thereby cause even further damage, leading to erosion of soil and vegetation. Walk around a short distance or turn around if you can’t go any farther by driving. That’s the only right thing do. Besides, you can easily expect a sky-high fine or prison term for offences.

We should all set a good example. Together we share the responsibility of ensuring that everyone gets the chance of enjoying a pristine natural environment for years to come.

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CROSSING A RIVER

One thing is for sure when you go hiking in Iceland and that’s what you’ll not get far without coming to the first stream. Usually, they’re little brooks, which are good to get a fresh drink from. On the other hand, they can be large rivers and you will need to wade them, in which case you should bear some things in mind:

-Rivers often have less volume earlier in the day, so organising hiking trips accordingly is not a bad idea.
-Look around for suitable locations to ford. Be aware that places that are good for crossing with jeeps are seldom good for crossing on foot.
-Look for meanders in the river which are places where there are loose gravel and sand and the current dies down as the river expands.
-Meanders are usually the best location you’ll find for fording a river through the river may be wider there.
-Preferably wade the river with two or three other people at a time by clasping arms together at the elbows.
-Loosen any straps on backpacks and be sure not to have anything tied tight that could complicate things if you or someone else might fall.
-It’s best to have special wading shoes as it is not wise to cross barefoot - this can increase the likelihood of a fall.
-Before fording, it’s smart to decide on a spot farther down the river where everyone will go to if someone might unfortunately fall.
-If you fall, roll onto your back, keep your feet in front of you and trudge to the place - or near to it - that was previously decided upon.

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When planning your hiking trip get information about rivers, if they are possible to cross on foot and then what time is best and etc. Never cross a river unless you are 100% sure of how to do it and feel safe doing it.

Helpful Tips on 4x4 Driving in Iceland

If you have plans to visit Iceland's countryside then you should also pick a 4x4 vehicle since you will most likely be driving on some gravel roads. And should you go off the beaten path to visit the Iceland highland then you are sure to encounter some F-roads that are only drivable by larger 4x4.

Iceland gravel roads. All major roads in Iceland are paved. But keep in mind that of 13.000 km total roads in Iceland only about 5.000 is paved with asphalt.

Most gravel roads are not difficult to drive on or dangerous, you just need to keep special attention while driving and make sure you are not going to fast. These roads are often narrow and many bridges only have one lane. You are also likely to meet some sheep and Icelandic horses so make sure you are paying attention.

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List of the most popular F-roads

Here is a list of the most popular F-roads in Iceland and average opening times:
F-RoadNameAvg. opening date
F206 Lakagígar June 12th
F208 Fjallabaksleið nyrðri(Landmannalaugar and Eldgjá) June 12th
F225 Landmannaleið, Landmannalaugar June 15th
F35 Kjölur (Hveravellir) June 11th
F26 Sprengisandur June 27th
F88 Askja June 20th
F902 Kverkfjöll June 19th
F52 Uxahryggir June 5th
F550 Kaldidalur June 13th

Driving in snow and difficult weather conditions

Make sure you are always driving according to road and weather conditions. If there is snow and the roads are slippery make sure to take it slow and drive safe. If you are driving outside of populated areas make sure to find out the conditions of the roads on your route. You should also check out the weather forecast.

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Kolla, Iceland24
© 2019 Iceland24

6 days itinerary trip in Iceland by Brooke (October 5th-10th)

In thanks for all of the tips I picked up from other travellers, here is a brief trip report. Six of us were in Iceland on October 5-10, six days on the ground. We rented a van from Mike at Reykjavík Cars and it worked out great.


He met us at the airport, everything was incredibly convenient, even as I changed our car requirements as our group grew shortly before the trip.

Day one 

We landed in the morning, dumped the luggage at the Reykjavik Centrum Hotel, and set off on a self-led walking tour of sites in Reykjavik, including Hallgrimskirkja, the National Museum and the harbour area.


We had a tasty lunch of local fish at Icelandic Fish and Chips and took a rest. We had a truly outstanding dinner celebrating the 60th birthday at Grill Market. Service, led by waiter Yoel, was great.


The presentation of the food was lovely, the food was delicious (fish, lamb, duck, veggie) and the special setting. When our staying/celebrating at the table was holding up other guests who needed to be seated, Yoel moved us into the bar area for complimentary coffee.

We then moved on for drinks at Loft Bar, properly recommended by Yoel as a good place for “older” folks.

Day two

We took on the Golden Circle, focusing on the traditional stops: Pingveller, Geysir and Gullfoss. I would say the waterfall was the most impressed spot for us.


That night we had dinner at a restaurant called Slippbarinn at the Marina Hotel that was recommended by a local contact; very nice, good food (we ate mostly fish) and a nice atmosphere.


Since according to the websites and the hotel the solar activity forecast was promising, we took a Northern Lights to drive back to Pingveller, but it was too overcast to see anything.

Day three

We set off on the Ringroad heading East - stopped at the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall, walked behind the waterfall which was nice, had lunch in Vik at a lovely café, Halldorskkaffi.


We stopped at the little museum/shop dedicated to the Eyafjallajokull earthquake and then onto the breathtaking Jokulsarlon and a boat trip on the iceberg lagoon.

We arrived at Hofn in time for sunset and had good fish and lobster dinners where we were staying at the Hotel Hofn.

Day four

We walked along the coast, harbour and through town and then back on the Ringroad headed West. We stopped at Jokulsarlon to see the changes that take place from hour to hour and day to day, quite amazing and then down to the beach to see the smaller (and not so small) pieces of ice that washed up on the black sand shore.


It began to snow and rain, and we headed to Skaftafell National Park and took a walk for around 2 KM to a glacier while it snowed. After lunch at truckstop, we headed back towards Vik. It was raining in Vik so we took a quick look at the black sand beach and the Rrenisdranger “Troll Rocks” and then onto the lovely Volcano Hotel where we were staying for the night.


We were having dinner in the hotel dining room and had finished eating before dessert when another guest ran in at 8:30 told us that the Northern Lights were visible in the sky. We stood outside and watched the natural light show.


We felt really lucky to catch this phenomenon during our short visit to Iceland. When we returned inside for dessert, we had a really informative and lovely conversation (includes pictures) with the hotel owner Johan, about his experiences living in the region.

Day five 

In the morning we did a wonderful two-hour glacier walk on Myrdalsjokull with Tomas from Arcanum. Continuing West, we stopped at the impressive Skogarfoss waterfall, climbed up the steep metal stairs to the top and then walked along the muddy path which produced additional views of beautiful waterfalls, communing with sheep and vistas.


We ate a fish and chips lunch at the restaurant near the waterfall and then headed to the lodge-like Hotel Ranga, outside of Hella. An upscale place, we took advantage of happy hour, the hot tub and a nice dinner in their dining room.

Day six

This was our departure day so we headed directly to the obligatory Blue Lagoon for a couple of hours and then lunch in their dining room.


From there it was to the airport and an end to a too short Icelandic holiday.

Thanks again to all for the ideas you shared that helped us construct our trip.

Brooke
Iceland24

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Reykjadalur Hot Springs: Bathe in Iceland’s Hot River

Iceland travel is filled with many new and exciting activities. What else would you expect from a place known as The Land of Fire and Ice? Our massive glaciers, brewing volcanoes, and careening waterfalls are just some of the wonders that await you. But have you heard about the Reykjadalur hot springs? They’re not as well known as other places to go and things to do but are a cool suggestion if you’re looking for day trips from Reykjavik. Hot springs in Iceland give you the chance to relax, unwind, and even heat up a little on those chilly Icelandic days.

Reykjadalur hot river in Iceland hiking trail

Iceland Hot Springs 


You may have already heard of these types of zones thanks to places like Landmannalaugar and the Laugavegur trail. This is the most popular area of Iceland for hikers thanks to the stunning, colorful rhyolite mountains. You’ll find little hot springs scattered all over this territory and taking a soak at the end of a hike is something many hiking enthusiasts enjoy. In fact, the name of the area (Landmannalaugar) means “the people’s pools,” thanks to all of the hot pools in the area.

Iceland hot springs are known for their warm to extremely hot water. You’ll find tens of thousands of them all over the country. We call them hot pots, with some being only holes in the ground just big enough for two people and others being more of a man-made swimming pool type of structure. The “hidden” Landbrotalaug hot pot is a famous one, as is the Hofsós swimming pool. The Mývatn Nature Baths are another alternative if you’re looking to explore geothermally heated pools and springs in other parts of the country.

Reykjadalur Valley 


The Reykjadalur valley is filled with Icelandic hot springs, the most famous of which is the hot river. You’ll find this geothermal area in South Iceland, and its most famous attraction is the “hot river” where people go to go swimming, bathe, and pass the day. It’s quite pleasant, and you’re surrounded by lovely scenery that is so typical of Iceland’s world famous landscapes.

The Hot River Iceland 


The river at Reykjadalur is an Iceland hot spring that flows through this beautiful valley. It’s often referred to as the hot river in Iceland (perhaps because people are scared to pronounce its name). The Icelandic language isn’t that difficult, is it? Well, you can call it whatever you like, just make sure to include it on your itinerary!

Reykjadalur hot river in Iceland during the winter

Is Reykjadalur Hot or Just Warm? 


Because Icelandic hot springs are heated geothermally, their level of warmth varies and fluctuates. After all, you can’t really control the temperature setting of a volcano. Make no mistake; Reykjadalur is hot. With an average temperature of 40 ºC (104 ºF), most people can’t stay in the water for more than about five minutes. Be sure to bring your towel (or several) because it can be quite cold outside of the river. There might even be snow on the ground.

How to Get to Reykjadalur 


Reykjadalur is very close to the Ring Road, so it’s really more of a detour off of the main highway. When you get close to the town of Hverasvæði, you’ll come to a roundabout and take the Breiðamörk exit (the last one) which takes you onto the road that leads you to the parking lot. You’ll continue on this road for less than ten minutes before arriving.

The Reykjadalur Hot Springs Hike 


After you’ve found somewhere to park, it’s pretty obvious where the beginning of the hiking trail is. The Reykjadalur hot springs hike is 3 km (1.9 miles) and unfortunately, is slightly uphill. But the good news is that on the way back it’s downhill.

Once you’ve started the hike, it takes about 45 minutes to arrive. It’s a moderate physical activity, so if you’re not used to strenuous activities, it might take you an hour. Just go slowly at a comfortable pace, and you’ll arrive in your own time.

When you decide to make the hike to the hot river, be sure to bring a plastic bag along with your bathing suits and hiking boots. There’s nothing worse than getting your belongings damp thanks to a wet swimsuit or trunks. And if you’re traveling through Iceland using a backpack, this can be very inconvenient.

Reykjadalur hot springs hiking trail path

Reykjadalur Hot Springs: Bathe in Iceland’s Hot River 


Located just 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik, it’s the perfect distance for those looking to do something slightly off the beaten path. I highly recommend this day trip as a way to escape the crowds of the Blue Lagoon but at the same time enjoy Iceland’s famous hot springs. If you’re staying in the nation’s capital and have already done the Golden Circle, this is another fun way to spend the day during your Iceland road trip.

Come visit Reykjadalur. You definitely won’t regret it!

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