Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Airlines in Iceland: PLAY Airlines

Remember when Icelandic discount carrier WOW Airlines went bust and ceased operations in March of 2019? Well, a new low-cost airline in Iceland has risen from the ashes of the former company’s bankruptcy. It's called PLAY Airlines and this new kid on the block of Iceland airline companies is causing excitement in industry circles.

PLAY Airlines is the new discount Icelandic carrier replacing WOW Air

At a press conference held by company representatives in Reykjavik’s famous Perlan building, they made the big announcement. They unveiled a new name as well as some details about the company's proposed operations.

WOW Airlines Iceland and PLAY Airlines 


For the uninitiated, let's give a quick history lesson. For a long time, the two main Icelandic airlines were WOW Air and Icelandair. The latter is considered the country's national airline while the former was a budget carrier. It became famous during a viral marketing campaign in which they offered $1 fares between North America and Europe.

People basically went crazy and WOW Airlines' cheap flights to Iceland became famous overnight. But eventually, they became a budget airline casualty when talks with Icelandair fell through and they were unable to raise much-needed funds. They abruptly canceled all flights and ceased all operations, leaving employees and customers in the lurch.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, one of the airlines that fly to Iceland has been resurrected.

Icelandic Airlines: PLAY Airlines


One of the biggest, most immediately noticeable differences between the two airlines is the color chosen for the new airline’s brand. They've traded WOW Air’s signature magenta shade for a bright red hue. All of the planes in its fleet are painted this eye-catching color. CEO Arnar Már Magnússon  explained that they chose red to “represent passion” as well as Iceland's fiery nature. After all, Iceland is nicknamed The Land of Fire and Ice thanks to its explosive volcanoes.

The new leader also shared what the company has been up to during the last four months in preparation for the big launch plus plans for the future. It should be noted that Magnusson previously served as WOW Airlines Vice President of Operations. Hopefully, he's learned from the mistakes of his former company and will not repeat them with PLAY Airlines. The more airlines in Iceland the better, as it keeps competition healthy and prevents monopolies from forming.

Icelandic airlines like PLAY will make travel to Iceland more accessible

From Then to Now 


Thus far they've received around $40 million in capital. this comes mostly from overseas investors including, Simon Whitley-Ryan. Ryan Has the aviation business in his blood as he is the grandson of one of Ryanair's founders. The Irish carrier is the largest low-fare airline in Europe.

Investors to resurrect the airline, and is taking things step by step. They plan to first begin by transporting cargo and then eventually move on to operating passenger flights as well. PLAY is in the process of obtaining its operating license and is nearing the end of that process.

The Airbus A320 jets that they operate can carry passengers or cargo both shorts to medium-range distances. For the time being they will only fly to six destinations in Europe. Long-term plans include expansion to North America in the spring when the airline increases its fleet to around six aircraft.

With the limited number of airlines to Iceland, this will be a welcome addition. After the WOW collapse, there was no other Iceland-based low-cost Airline for consumers to choose from. Goals are ambitious and they hope to operate up to 10 aircraft in the first three years, including transatlantic flights.

PLAY Airlines is giving away free plane tickets to Iceland

Free Airline Tickets to Iceland 


Yes, you read that right. I said free. if you've been researching airline tickets to Iceland and stumbled upon this article, then today is your lucky day. The company's website is up and running and later this month ticket sales will begin. As a promotion, PLAY Airlines Iceland is giving out 1,000 free plane tickets to kick off the start of operations next year. Its hub will be Keflavik International Airport (KEF), just outside of Reykjavik.

Would-be travelers can register on their website (flyplay.com) to enter the pool for free airline tickets. Winners will be drawn at a later date.

Additionally, the new airline will need large numbers of support staff to fill many different open positions within the organization. Everything from cabin crew and pilots to positions in customer service, marketing, finance, and more are available. This can help fill the gaping hole left for the 1,000 employees who found themselves without a job when WOW closed down.

Airlines in Iceland: PLAY Airlines 


So now you know what airlines fly to Iceland and what to expect in the coming years from PLAY Airlines. Let's see if they can stay out of the financial trouble that WOW encountered and have better luck in the Iceland budget airline market. We wish them the best of luck as they take off and hit the skies. Happy travels!

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Friday, 18 October 2019

Stuðlagil Canyon: The Newly Discovered Gem in Eastern Iceland

Iceland is a land blessed with breathtaking natural wonders and stunning landscapes. The combination of Fire and Ice has shaped are beautiful yet rugged terrain in unexpected ways. Two of the most gorgeous and dramatic sites you'll find are the newly discovered Stuðlagil Canyon and Stuðlafoss Waterfall in Jökuldalur Valley. The basalt canyon and basalt column waterfall are hidden gems along the River Jökla in eastern Iceland.

Stuðlagil Canyon is a newly discovered treasure in East Iceland

What makes these two geological treasures so special is that up until relatively recently they were hidden from outsiders. The secluded location meant that the canyon and waterfall were a secret for a very long time. It's still a relatively new discovery, which makes it perfect for getting off the beaten path when traveling to Iceland.

Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland 


The glacial river where these two natural attractions are located was one of the most powerful in Iceland. There are three parts, Jökulsá á Brú, Jökulsá á Dal, and Jökla. For hundreds of years, the River Jökla has made its way from the Highlands down through its namesake Jökuldalur Valley.

Stuðlagil Canyon and the nearby waterfall called Stuðlafoss were discovered when the Kárahnjúkavirkjun hydroelectric plant was built in eastern Iceland. The Hálslón Reservoir in the Highlands affected the water source flowing towards Jökuldalur. As a result, the water level subsided and new land features were revealed.

Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland is also known as the basalt column canyon. A beautiful turquoise river runs through the canyon and is surrounded by hexagonal volcanic pillars on both sides. It's a striking sight and you feel like you are entering some sort of volcanic Eden when you enter for the first time.

One of Iceland’s Most Beautiful Basalt Column Formations The 150 km (93-mile) long river that formed this zone was one of Iceland’s most powerful forces of nature. It was so strong that crossing it was impossible due to the sheer level of difficulty and danger. As it cut through the valley, it carried 120 tons of dirt, mud, and sand from Vatnajökull glacier every single hour.

The basalt columns were formed by volcanic activity, so they’ve been here for a very long time. But for much of recorded history in Iceland, they lay underwater as the river flowed above.

Now, because of the power plant, the Jökla changed from an intimidating glacial river to a smaller one fed from springs, creeks, and smaller rivers. It’s hard to picture now, with the peaceful birds and wildlife, but this was once an angry, raging rapid.

But we’re thankful for the changes because they’ve unearthed these spectacular, previously unknown basalt formations. They are one of Iceland’s most beautiful, and we’re lucky that we get to experience them in a way denied to previous generations.

Stuðlagil Canyon in East Iceland

Stuðlafoss Waterfall (Stuðlafoss) 


Stuðlafoss or Stuðlafoss waterfall is another highlight of Studlagil Iceland. The basalt column waterfall looks much different than Svartifoss, Iceland's most famous basalt rock cascade. As you hike through the valley, you'll come face-to-face but this beautiful Iceland waterfall. Make sure to include time to visit Stuðlafoss during your trek.

How to Arrive to Stuðlagil (Studlagil) Canyon Iceland 


It's quite easy to get to Studlagil Canyon Iceland. When you're coming from Egilsstaðir in East Iceland, head towards Akureyri in North Iceland. The Ring Road (Route 1) goes right through Jökuldalur. Once you get to Road 923 near Skjödólfsstaðir farm, turn south (left). You'll be entering the upper part of the valley which is home to both the waterfall and the canyon.

After driving around 18.6 km (11.6 miles) on the Jökuldalsvegur road, you'll reach the parking lot. It's located at the Grund farm and there's a short walking path to the river. It takes about 5 minutes and then, afterward, there's a narrow path that descends to the bottom.

Please proceed with caution as the slope can be quite steep. It can also be quite slippery, especially from September to April when we experience winter. Be careful and go slowly.

This is the canyon’s west side and it offers some spectacular views. This option does not go past Stuðlafoss, the basalt waterfall.

The second option for arriving is a little bit more physically demanding as it requires an 8 km (5 mile) round trip hike. If you opt for this choice, you'll approach the Canyon from the east side close to Klaustursel farm.

Stuðlagil Canyon Hike 


Should you choose to do the Stuðlagil Canyon hike, you won't be disappointed. You'll often times feel like you're walking in a Wonderland of basalt columns and this will surely be unlike any hike you've ever experienced.

To opt for this route, you'll still follow Road 923 close to Skjödólfsstaðir farm. Instead of driving all the way to Grund farm, you'll stop at a farm called Klaustursel. There's also a parking lot here but make sure you don't go all the way to the white bridge. It's very narrow and you're not allowed to cross it in a vehicle.

Park on the west side and then cross the bridge by foot towards the east riverbank. You need to follow the trail for about 4 km (2.5) miles until you reach Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland. The impressive basalt waterfall Stuðlafoss, one of Iceland's most beautiful is about halfway along the journey as an unexpected surprise.

Stuðlagil Canyon Iceland

Stuðlagil Canyon Tour 


You could hire a guide to do the Stuðlagil Canyon tour, but it’s also entirely possible to do it on your own. There’s a spot where it’s possible to climb down to the river, but you need to be extremely careful while climbing. It’s absolutely worth it though, because the view from below will be like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s like a fantasy scene of volcanic basalt columns.

Just take extra precautions as the rocks and stones are quite slippery when wet. Slow and steady is 100% the best way to proceed here. Take as much time as you need both going down and coming up.

It will probably take you around two to three hours to do the hike and look around the canyon. It’s best to go in the morning if you want to take some photos of this magnificent destination in Iceland. Get an early start and beat other explorers.

Stuðlagil Canyon: The Newly Discovered Gem in Eastern Iceland 


If you're taking a road trip around Iceland on the Ring Road, I strongly suggest you come do the Stuðlagil Canyon hike. Not only will it be an unforgettable experience, but you'll be adventuring where not too many people have before. Stuðlagil is a unique attraction with unparalleled beauty that you won't find anywhere else in the world.

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Friday, 20 September 2019

Prettiest Churches in Iceland: Which Ones to Visit

A visit to an Iceland church is a must on every traveler's itinerary. There are so many beautiful churches in Iceland that it can be hard to know where to begin. It seems like every town or village has its own small place of worship. We've narrowed it down from the over 350 churches in the country to bring you this list of the prettiest churches in Iceland.

Budir black church is one of the prettiest churches in Iceland

We've left out the more obvious Iceland churches like Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik or Akureyrikirkja in the north of Iceland. We wanted to go beyond that and include some of the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path churches in Iceland. Let's hit the Ring Road, start exploring Iceland's lesser-known countryside, and discover some real gems along the way.

Budir: The Black Church in Iceland 


Probably the most well-known religious building with the country’s traditional style architecture is Budir church Iceland. Also known as Iceland’s black church, this is a popular stop for travelers visiting the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

This beautiful structure is exactly what it sounds like: a black church. With the exception of the white windows and front door, the entire church is painted black. This is surprising given the church's traditional association of evil or the devil with this same color. The church is also quite striking because it's in a pretty isolated area. As you approach it, all you see are the surrounding fields and this little black church.

Seydisfjordur: The Blue Church 


As you wind your way along Iceland's east coast to take in its magnificent fjords, be sure to make a stop in Seydisfjordur. This town in eastern Iceland sits on the innermost part of a fiord and it's a lovely stop off close to Egilsstadir.

The Seydisfjordur blue church is one of Iceland's most recognizable landmarks and one of its most visited churches. The powder blue exterior and cheery rainbow path leading up to the church give the building a quirky and unforgettable look. The distinct color and traditional style make the blue church in Seyðisfjörður a must when visiting Iceland's prettiest churches.

Iceland’s Charming Turf Churches 


While making your way through Icelandic villages, you might stumble across something you’ve never seen before. Iceland's turf houses are buildings made of wood, rocks, and stone which have turf covering the sides and roof.

Prettiest churches in Iceland like the Hof turf church

This unusual architectural style was originally developed in northern Europe. The insulation provided by this type of shelter protected locals from and their farm animals from harsh weather conditions. In some countries, this type of building has been around since the Iron Age.

This traditional architectural style was popular throughout the 17th century and into the 18th and 19th centuries in Iceland. Hofskirkja church in Hof, Öræfi was the last church built in the Old World style back in 1884. There are six turf churches left in Iceland that are still standing.

This particular Icelandic turf church is quite popular due to the fact that it looks as though it's emerging from the ground. We no longer build these rare types of churches and there's only a few left, so stop by to visit while they're still here.

Skalholt Church in Iceland 


While exploring Iceland Golden Circle route, many travelers decide to make additional stops along the way. In addition to Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geothermal valley, and Gullfoss waterfall, there are several other detours you can take.

One of these is the town of Skalholt for a visit to the Skalholt church in Iceland. The town's first church was built in the 12th century. It was the seat of power for the members of the clergy in Iceland for over 700 years. Although there have been 10 churches erected on this site, the one that currently stands here is a memorial cathedral.

When you visit, be sure to stop by the medieval tunnel and crypt mentioned in the Icelandic sagas. And take a look at one of the rare copies of the first edition of the Icelandic Bible.

Blonduos Church Iceland 


I've included the Blonduos church on a list of Iceland's prettiest churches, but not because of its beauty. In fact, pretty or beautiful are not the adjectives I would use to describe it. But I do think that it warrants a visit, which is why I wanted to mention it.

The futuristic architectural style of this building makes it look more like a spaceship than a church. Much like Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik and Akureyrikirkja in the north, this Icelandic church was also inspired by the country's volcanic landscapes.

The slate gray exterior is meant to look like the dark surface of a lava field or perhaps the decimated grounds after a volcanic explosion. The church itself looks like a conical volcano with its top missing. It's meant to resemble a volcanic crater, and if it weren't for the large cross next to the structure you'd have no idea that it was a place of worship.

Church in Vik Iceland: A Spectacular View from the Hilltop


Another iconic church in Iceland’s traditional style is the hilltop Vik i Myrdal church. From this vantage point you have picturesque views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the sleepy fishing village below. This church is representative of the typical Icelandic style with the building painted white and a colorful red roof. If you're stopping over in Vik to visit Reynisfjara beach, be sure to drive up the hill to visit the town's iconic church.

Vik i Myrdal church is one of the prettiest churches in Iceland

The Pagan Church Iceland 


Iceland converted from the old Norse religion to Christianity at the turn of the 11th century. It was a change inspired by convenience rather than a strong desire to embrace Christianity. As a result, some Icelanders continue to practice paganism despite it being outlawed. It never truly went extinct and has been having a comeback. In fact, the Ásatrú pagan religion has been the fastest-growing spiritual organization in Iceland in recent years.

They are erecting Iceland's first pagan temple in 1,000 years along the South Coast on Reykjanes peninsula. The construction site is about 13 minutes drive from downtown Reykjavik. The temple was originally supposed to open in 2018 and that was pushed to 2019. Check to see if it's open during your trip as this will surely be a unique experience.

The building is meant to be an Ásatrú sanctuary and the Ásatrú society practices the ancient Viking religion. They are a neo-pagan spiritual organization which worships the pantheon of Norse gods like Thor, Freya, Odin, and Loki.

The dedicated structure will be home to gatherings, religious ceremonies, and rituals known as blóts. Iceland’s pagan temple sits on Öskjuhlíd hill, a sacred area surrounded by forests with stunning views of the sea. The domed monument will be dedicated to the cosmic forces of nature.

Prettiest Churches in Iceland: Which Ones to Visit


Iceland has a wide variety of churches to visit. There are the imposing facades of the large churches in Reykjavik and Akureyri and the smaller more traditional architectural styles of churches like Budir, Vik, and Seydisfjordur. And of course, spectacular churches that you won't find anywhere else like the Blonduos church or turf churches. There really is something for everyone, it's just a matter of figuring out what you want to see and planning your itinerary.

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Friday, 6 September 2019

SIM Cards in Iceland: Mobile Network and Coverage

Whenever you travel, it's important to stay connected. This is especially true when taking a road trip in a place like Iceland. Mobile networks and coverage are important while driving in a place with large, remote stretches of highway and unpredictable weather. You're probably wondering if you can use your cell phone in Iceland during your trip. Or perhaps you'd like to get a SIM card in Iceland and would like to know where to obtain one.

Woman in cafe with Iceland SIM card and mobile coverage

We'll talk about Iceland cell phone providers as well as where to buy a SIM card in the Iceland airport.

Can I Use My Cell Phone in Iceland?


One of the first things people ask when discussing this topic is “Will my cell phone work in Iceland?”. Well, it depends. If you're coming from Europe, it's likely that your phone will work because European cell phones use the same system. Additionally, many countries have Europe-wide roaming plans. This means you can use your mobile phone in Iceland without any disruption to your service or any extra fees or surcharges.

Where you might run into problems are North American cell phones. Many North American cell phone providers run on a different network, which means your phone will not work abroad. The exceptions to this are T-Mobile and AT&T, which use the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) network. Those phones will likely work in Europe and in other countries around the world.

Using a Prepaid Cell Phone Iceland


If you're unsure or use another carrier, don't worry; there's a simple solution. All you have to do is make sure that you have an unlocked phone and then when you arrive, get an Iceland SIM card. Buying a prepaid SIM card in Iceland is as easy as walking into a convenience store and picking up some snacks. Whether it's an Iceland Wi-Fi SIM card or one with minutes for calling, you'll find different packages and options available.

Where to Buy a SIM Card in Iceland


Buying a SIM card in Iceland is pretty straightforward and you have a few different options. The first is to do it right at the airport after your plane lands, and we’ll go into further detail about how to do this below. The second option is to purchase your Iceland SIM card from a convenience store. But they're not as easy to find as the one at Keflavik International Airport, which is relatively small. Third, you can buy one directly from the cell phone store.

Inserting Iceland SIM card with good mobile coverage

If you choose this option, be forewarned. The Vodafone store, for example, is a bit out of the way if you're staying in the city center. So if you had been hoping to get a Vodafone SIM card Iceland, you'll have to make a bit of a trek or take a taxi to the shop. Lastly, some carriers will deliver straight to your hotel. If you opt for a Síminn SIM card in Iceland, for example, it will be waiting for you at your accommodation when you arrive.

Just plop it into your phone and you’re ready to go.

Where to Buy a SIM card in the Iceland Airport 


If you're looking to pick up a local SIM card in Iceland, I recommend doing it as soon as you arrive at Keflavik International Airport. It will only take you an extra 10-15 minutes and is a very easy, straightforward process. After leaving the baggage claim area with your suitcases, there’s a 10-11 supermarket close to the Dunkin Donuts. One of the cashiers will give you a SIM card to put into your phone and activate it. There are also several 10-11 stores in downtown Reykjavik if you forget to do this at the airport.

SIM Cards come in three sizes: nano, micro, or standard. When you break your Iceland SIM out of its plastic frame, make sure it's the same size as your current Sim. Otherwise, it won't fit correctly. And of course, if you have an iPhone, you'll need the little paper clip to eject the phone’s SIM card holder

Inserting Iceland SIM card for best mobile coverage

So now that you know where to get SIM card in Iceland, let's talk about the different operators and who has the best Iceland cell phone coverage.

Iceland Cell Phone Carriers and Prices


Of all the carriers in Iceland, Síminn offers the largest mobile coverage network of all. Vodafone is also a popular operator, it doesn't have as wide a coverage map as Síminn. The third option for cell phones is a Nova SIM card in Iceland.

Taking a quick look at the Síminn website, they offer two main packages. The prepaid data plan comes with 10 GB of data. This is my recommendation for a prepaid data SIM card in Iceland. The prepaid starter pack comes with 5 GB of data, 50 minutes of phone calls, and 50 text messages. You can call 55 countries around the world. Both packages cost 2.900 ISK (20€ or $23) And you have up to 30 days to use your mobile credit.

If you opt for Vodafone or Nova for your Iceland cell phone, prices will be around the same. just number that you won't have as good of coverage, especially if you go somewhere like the Highlands.

SIM Card in Iceland: Mobile Network and Coverage


It's quite easy to buy and use an Iceland SIM while you are traveling. The different plans and packages available mean you'll be able to find something to suit your needs. Whether you want to make calls, send text messages, or just need data for your phone, Iceland's mobile operators have you covered.

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Friday, 30 August 2019

Iceland Demographics, History and Population

The Gaelic and the Norwegians were the first inhabitants of Iceland. The history and demography of the Icelanders (as diverse as it is right now) are not complete without the mention of these two origins.

Iceland demographics have many blonde descendants of Vikings

This is obvious from scientific studies on the earliest inhabitants such as the genetic studies and blood types including historical evidence dating back to the pre-settlement era.

Iceland’s landscape is one of the few in the world that has remained the same for thousands of years with treacherous mountains and active volcanos dotting the whole land which has until today makes the country a sparsely populated one But it's also one of the richest and most developed modern worlds we have presently.

Icelandic Ancestry – Where do Icelanders come from? 


The record has it that, Icelanders have about 60% Norse origin while the rest is of the Irish Gaelic. In fact, there is a whole lot of evidence of the Irish influence in Iceland across the country especially in the naming of some places in Iceland. For example, a place like Vestmannaeyjar is translated to mean ‘the Westman Islands’. This is so because the Norse usually refers to the Irish as ‘Westmen’ prior to the settlement period because Ireland was believed to be positioned in the westernmost part of Europe.

History also has it that, when the Norse raiders were coming back from their Viking expedition, en route to Iceland, they normally stopped by at some Irish settlement. They attacked and plundered these settlements and took slaves of many Irish men and women. They brought them to Iceland and made the women slaves after ‘mixing’ with the Norse Vikings. They would later go on to become mothers of the first generation of what today are trueborn Icelanders.

This Norse and Irish ‘merge’ no doubt explains why the majority of Icelanders have blonde or slightly ginger hair and blue eyes.

The Settlement Era in Iceland 


During the period of 874 to 930 AD, there was evidence of an already thriving population of entirely Norwegian men and Irish women in Iceland who had formed their distinct families and clans. By 930 AD, there were approximately 39 district assemblies all scattered throughout Iceland and run by 39 clans.

This culminated in the Alþingi assembly – the Icelandic Commonwealth of clans to help ease tension, conflicts and unnecessary rivalry amongst the clans. It was the first Icelandic Commonwealth that was run for decades and which later became the world’s oldest active parliaments of free people. This marks the end of the settlement era and the beginning of a new world.

New World Era 


The demographics of Iceland continued to change; a once deserted island with just few people now had clans all over the country who were determined to keep their commonwealth. The New World witnessed new ideologies, politics, and religion – including the Christian missionaries largely from Norway who were bent on upturning the old ways and making the people abandon the old Norse faith.

As the years went by, the people of Iceland gradually started submitting to the influence of the Norwegian and the Danish governments’ political and religious supremacy. Also, they were influenced by technological advancement brought about by these two countries.

Impact of the Whaling Industry


One such advancement was the explosion of the whaling industry in Iceland. This happened during the middle of the second millennium where although the infertile land was a discouragement for some new people to settle in Iceland, however, the natural abundance found in their waters like fishes and whales drew many ships from far and near to the coasts of Iceland.

This new discovery found in Iceland also brought about a new demographic structure - the mixture of sailors with the Icelandic women. Although such incidents were mostly not recorded due to the shame and punishment attached to such merger, nevertheless, such mixture did happen.

The Laki Eruptions


Regardless of the many changes, the Icelandic demographics have witnessed over the years, there is none that has really changed the demographic nature like that which happened during the Laki volcanic eruption of 1783 to 1784. This volcanic eruption brought about the largest mass exodus the country ever witnessed. The volcanic lava, pollution, and subsequent famine eradicated over a quarter of the population and compel another quarter of the population to migrate to North America.

The Laki eruptions impacted Iceland's demographics and population

While this was a significant tragedy to the people of Iceland; subsequent years saw some that left to North America returned home with new families and new Icelanders.

The 20th Century


By 1940-1946, a new set of people comprising the British and Americans soldiers also came and added to the demographic picture of Iceland. These well-dressed and polite soldiers became a darling amongst the Icelandic women compared to their men whom they perceived as being conservative, unruly, and aggressive. This was even more so when the Americans completely replaced the British soldiers in 1941.

The Second World War saw Reykjavik became the center of every activity in Iceland and this was the place the American soldiers were stationed. For the Icelandic women there was a huge movement to the city as there were a great many opportunities of employment due to the American presence; especially for young Icelandic ladies who are not as conservative as their elders.

After the war, the country signed an agreement with the US, where visitors would have a permanent base in Iceland. During the post-war period when Iceland was fully independent of Denmark, we saw more of the American presence who had already had families with the Icelandic women.

Since 1944 after the independence of Iceland, it is safe to say that it hasn’t just been the Norwegian, the Danish, Germans, or the Americans that have helped shaped who the traditional Icelanders were. With the massive technological development (apart from fishing and agriculture) which culminated into Iceland’s industrial development leading to more research centers and universities, Iceland became short of people to fill in the gap in the work market.

The Impact of Immigration


Migrating to Iceland became much easier from Europe when the country joined the European Economic Association (EEA) in 1994 and also when they signed the Schengen agreement in 1995.

The opening of Icelandic borders to new immigrants saw the influx of newcomers from Lithuania, Poland, Britain, Denmark, and Germany taking up residence in Iceland. In fact, these newcomers were not only from Europe, but from the Philippines but also from Thailand as well as many from North America. Many from Asia were thronging into Iceland to partake in the economic growth of the country.

By 2006, when the US finally decided to close down its military base in Keflavík, Iceland, the country’s demography had changed from a homogeneous population into a diverse group of people with roots from almost every continent.

Iceland's Current Demographics


At present, in Iceland, 6% of the populations are foreign-born, while about 10% are believed to be from first or second-generation immigrants. And it is projected that by 2030, the first-generation immigrants in Iceland should account to about 15% of the population. Iceland has thus come a long way from its homogeneous bloodline into a more diversified multi-racial society from across the continent.

Therefore, if the question of ‘where do Icelanders come from’ arises again, the simple truth is that they come from everywhere. However, we must not forget that the founding fathers and the oldest generations are the Norse and the Gælic and just like what is happening all over the world, national and ethnic lines are gradually giving ways to a new and modern heterogeneous society in Iceland.

Area and Population Density in Iceland


In all, Iceland has a land area of 103,001 square kilometers (39,770 square miles) and comes in at 108th with the largest landmass in the world. However, it still remains one of the sparsely populated areas due to its harsh geographical landscape. Iceland population density is put at 3 people per kilometer making it the least populated in all of the European countries.

There are many factors that affected the population of Iceland – the early days saw the volcanic eruption, over 35 famines recorded from the period of 1500 to 1804. The outbreak of plague including the harsh winter were some drawbacks that affected the population growth.

The first census conducted in Iceland shows a population of more than 50,000 in 1703 and by 1783-1784 the Laki volcanic eruption declined the population to 40,000. By 1850 when the living condition improves once again saw an increase to 60,000 and by 2008 the population had hit 320,000 people.

Immigration and Re-migration in Iceland


Most of the increase that happened in Iceland came from people who are settling here. The first quarter saw a total of 970 children born and 600 people die. Thanks to foreign nationals, the net migration saw a positive movement of 1,740 people to Iceland, while the net migration of Icelandic citizenship changed by 20 people.

Iceland demographics are affected by immigration

During the first quarter also, a total of 560 Icelandic citizens immigrated to Nordic countries. 370 moved to Denmark, Sweden or Norway. Another 400 moved to other Nordic countries.

The first quarter also witnessed large migration from countries like Poland, accounting to 770, from the 2,530 foreign nationals who came to Iceland. Lithuania followed second with 320 nationals.

The median age in Iceland is put at 36.5 years of age with a life expectancy of 83.1 years making it a fairly young population for a developed country. The fertility rate in Iceland is quite rare compared to other European nations – here the fertility rate is above 2.1 children born per woman.

The Icelandic ethnic composition presently is 93%, while the largest ethnic minorities living in Iceland today are the Poles, accounting for about 3% of the total Icelandic population. This is about 8,000 Polish people residing in Iceland and having about 75% of the total workforce in Fjarðabyggð.

Also, Iceland has about 88,000 people of Icelandic descent living in Canada and 40,000 living in the United States.

Religion in Iceland


The church in Iceland is and has always been part of the people here even before the 20th century when most Icelanders were farmers and fishermen. The church religious customs of prayer and devotion were also part of their daily life.

The church in Iceland is and has always been part of the people here even before the 20th century when most Icelanders were farmers and fishermen, the church religious custom (prayer and devotion) was also part of their daily lifestyle.

The fact that is common and cannot be disputed was that the first sets of inhabitant on Icelandic soil were the Irish hermits who were Christians trying to find refuge in the remote shores of Iceland to practice their faith.

As Christianity begins to thrive in Iceland, missionary priests from England, Germany, and Eastern Europe where conspicuously noticed among the people Despite the unrest and persecution that marks the Christian era and its continuity in Iceland, Roman Catholicism still held sway for close to five centuries during the Iceland settlement era.

The Reformation


In 1540, the Lutheran Reformation was founded in Iceland and its doctrine was forcefully pushed on the Icelandic people by the Danish crown. The king of Denmark, in a move to fully establish its authority as the supreme head of the church, had the Roman Catholic monasteries dissolves and all its episcopal properties confiscated under his authority. In fact, in an effort to show his authority and make the people accept the Lutheran Reformation, the king went as far as to slay the Bishop and his sons who were by then the last clergy officials presiding over the affair of the Roman Catholic Church at Hólar in 1550.

Although the Icelandic constitution of 1874 guarantees religious freedom for all Icelandic people, the constitution also makes provision for the Evangelical Lutheran Church to become a national church and as such should be protected and supported by the State. This constitutional provision still remains unchanged even in the 1944 Republic of Iceland constitution.

Modern Day


The beginning of the 20th century also witnessed the emergence of two Lutheran free churches which were based on the same confession just like the national church but with different management that is structured to be more financially independent. Also, during the early decades of the 20th century, Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal missions were established and flourishing in Iceland.

Although Iceland is known to be a Christian country, since the 1970's the popularity of religious activities has greatly declined with a very few percentages of the country's population still attending church services except for ceremonial days like Christmas, a relative's funeral or weddings. Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland has about 70% of the population while 90% belongs to Christian churches.

Statistics show that nine out of every ten children in Iceland are baptized during their first 12 months, 85% of the populace get married in the church while funerals take about 99% church attendance. While special events organized by the churches and church festival still draws lots of large crowds, however, Sunday morning services have witnessed much lower turnout.

Most Populated Areas In Iceland


Reykjavík


Reykjavík is the capital and the largest city in Iceland and is an official trading town and was believed to have been founded in 874 AD. Ingólfur Arnarson was the first to arrive in this town but it was not until the 19th century that the town started growing rapidly and subsequently turned into a town. Population: 130,345.

Iceland's demographics and population show Reykjavik as the largest city

Kópavogur 


This town is also located within the capital city (southwest region) and has an area landmass of 31 square miles with an estimated population of about 33,205 and was founded in 1948. The town is mostly residential with just a few commercial and industrial companies in operation.

Hafnarfjörður 


Also located in the capital region (southwest coast) with an area of 55 square miles and an estimated population of 28,200 making it the third-largest town in Iceland. This town is home to many local industries.

Akureyri 


This city is located in the Northeast territory with a land area of 53 square miles and a population of 18,191 people. Akureyri got its municipal charter as a seaport and a fishing center in 1786 and after the Second World War has witnessed mass rural to urban migration.

Reykjanesbær 


This is the fifth-largest municipality in Iceland and is located in the southern peninsula. It was the merger of three smaller towns that form Reykjanesbær they are Keflavik, Njarovik, and Hafnir. It has an area landmass of 56 square miles and a population of 15,379 people.

Other Cities In Iceland


Garðabær


This is also one city inside the capital and is also located in the southwest region. The town was first inhabited in the 9th century but got its municipal charter in 1878. It has a population of 14,453 and a land area of 29 square miles.

Mosfellsbær 


Also located in the southwest region and has a population of 9,075 with a land area of 71 square miles.

Árborg 


This is a town in Iceland and has an area landmass of 61 square miles and a population of 7,889.

Akranes


This port town is located in the Northwest region of Iceland; it got its municipal charted in 1942 with an area of 3.5 square miles plus a population of 7,000 people.

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Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Is a 4x4 Camper Rental Needed in Iceland?

An Iceland campervan rental is hands down one of the best ways to see our beautiful Nordic island. We are blessed with the natural beauty of mammoth glaciers, powerful waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and more. And when deciding upon the best vehicle for your trip, an important question pops up. Do you need to have a 4x4 camper rental in Iceland? There are a few factors to consider when making this very important decision. It's one that will affect your trip, your itinerary, and even driving safety.

4x4 camper rental with Iceland's Northern Lights

4x4 Campers and Your Iceland Itinerary


At the end of the day, whether or not a 4x4 camper van rental in Iceland is right for you comes down to one thing. Your itinerary is going to dictate whether or not your camper rental needs a four-wheel drive, pure and simple. If you plan on visiting the Highlands at any time during your road trip, by law you have to have a special vehicle. This is because Iceland's wild interior has a special type of driving paths which are called F-Roads. These mountain roads are unique and that they're made entirely of gravel.

They can be a bit tricky to navigate, especially for first-timers. This is why you'll need to have either a 4-wheel drive SUV or an Iceland 4x4 rental camper. The small stones and pebbles that will be crunching beneath your vehicle make it easier to slip and slide. You're going to need as much traction as possible while traversing these roads.

You also want to be sure that you get Gravel Protection (GP) insurance to protect against any potential damage. Flying pieces of rock, either from yourself or other drivers, can easily dent or scratch your rental. And after all, you don't want to be punished just because Iceland's inland roads are rough.

Please note that the roads to access the Highlands only open during the summer months. They vary depending upon when they are deemed safe, but almost all are passable by July. If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend visiting this part of the country. With its untouched landscapes and unspoiled nature, the beauty of the zone will take your breath away.

But the Icelandic Highlands are not on everyone's itinerary. Unfortunately, we don't all have the time spend multiple days there. You might just prefer to drive around the island instead. If you plan to experience Iceland solely by driving around the Ring Road, then it's possible to rent a camper with only a two-wheel drive. Of course, this also has an exception which depends entirely upon personal preference.

Iceland 4x4 Camper Van Rental in the Winter 


The second scenario in which you might want to consider a 4x4 camper in Iceland is if you are traveling here in the winter. From November through March (and sometimes April), you'll find snow on the ground and can often get caught in inclement weather conditions. If you're not used to driving through icy, slushy, snowy roads, you might want to consider a vehicle that gives you more control.

4x4 camper rental Iceland winter road conditions

Having a four-wheel drive will not only help you to steer better, but also comes in handy in case of dangerous driving conditions. If you hit a patch of black ice and start to skid, you'll be able to get things under control much faster with a 4WD than with a 2WD.

Iceland Camper Rental Advantages


Saving money is probably one of the biggest benefits of Iceland camper rental. This is a small, expensive island, so it's no wonder that so many people opt for a home on four wheels. You save money with an Iceland camper no question.

With camper rental versus car rental and hotel, there's no comparison. Even though car rentals are more fuel-efficient, a camper van is cheaper overall. In a place where hotel rooms can start between $120 to $150 per night (107€ to 133€), just the savings on accommodation alone are enough to convince people to choose a camper in Iceland.

And it's even better with a 4x4 camper, because you can explore Iceland's inner territory. Accommodation like the famous Icelandic mountain huts is booked up months in advance. It's also not quite as comfortable as sleeping in your bed in the back of your camper. This is the perfect area to go on a Northern Lights excursion. You'll be so far away from civilization that there's no danger of light pollution obscuring your views of the Aurora Borealis.

Camper Van Rental in Iceland: 4x4 Models Available


Let's say you've decided to go for it and make your camper van rental in Iceland a 4x4. There are plenty of different options available for camper rentals. There are some models available here and Iceland that you can't rent in other countries or other continents.

The VW California 4x4 is a beloved model that embodies the free spirit of flower children of the 60s. It’s that same sense of adventure that attracts many travelers to Iceland.

You can also get a Mercedes camper van rental with a Mercedes Marco Polo 4x4. This model comes with an expandable roof tent which allows extra space for passengers. You'll feel like a kid going camping all over again.

Mercedes camper van 4x4 roof tent in Iceland

The VW Transporter 4x4 is another wonderful option that is suitable for F-roads. It's spacious and has the perfect camper for navigating Iceland's diverse and varied landscapes.

There are also larger models such as the VW Crafter 4x4, which seats and sleeps five. It's great for families and for large groups of friends that want to explore the Highlands and beyond.

The model that you choose depends entirely upon your travel preferences and the size of your party. That being said, the wide array of options means there truly is something for everyone. Whichever camper you choose, you are sure to have a great time and make lots of memories. And isn't that the whole point of an Iceland camping trip?

Is a 4x4 Camper Rental in Iceland Necessary?


Camper rental in Iceland is a fun, easy, inexpensive way to experience everything there is to see and do on our volcanic island. Getting an Iceland camper 4x4 rental will give you the freedom to roam and get off the beaten path. It also gives you peace of mind during hazardous winter driving conditions.

Remember that you will need to have a valid credit card both at pick up and drop off. This serves as a guarantee on your rental. Double-check with your rental company, but they usually do not block in a specific amount on your card. Rather, it's used as a backup in case there are any damages which are not covered by your camper rental insurance. Make sure you also go the speed limit, because any speeding tickets or fines that you rack up can also be charged to the card.

As long as you drive safely, stay smart, and obey the rules, you'll be fine. Also, be aware of pick-up and drop-off times and locations for your camper. Some companies are located just outside of Keflavik Airport, while others are in Reykjavik city center. The offices are not necessarily open 24 hours, so make sure you have enough time within their window for all of the things you need to do.

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Thursday, 1 August 2019

Guide to Using Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland

Is it really true that you can pay for everything with credit cards in Iceland? And that you absolutely have to have one to hire an automobile? Or is car rental in Iceland without a credit card possible? Many travelers have a lot of questions surrounding this common topic. Whether you're debating cash or credit card in Iceland or simply want to know whether or not you can use your debit card for car rentals, read on. Consider this your comprehensive guide to debit and credit cards in Iceland.

Iceland credit card chip and PIN

Does Iceland Accept Credit Cards Everywhere?


One of the big questions we frequently get asked is exactly where they accept credit cards. I've got some great news for you. In Iceland, credit cards are accepted almost universally as a means of payment. They even take them at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik. So feel free to go ahead and put down plastic to pay for your “ein með öllu” (one with everything).

You can also use your card in Iceland at gas stations, souvenir shops, with tour operators, and more. While you will occasionally run into one or two vendors who only take cash, you'll generally find the cards are widely accepted everywhere. Icelanders use credit cards to pay for everything, and you can too. They are as ubiquitous here as debit cards are in some other countries.

Best Credit Card to Use in Iceland


When traveling abroad, some credit card companies and banks charge for their services or cash withdrawals. It's important to check this before you leave so that you don't come home to a nasty surprise on your monthly statement. For this reason, the best credit card to use in Iceland is one with no foreign transaction fees. You don't want to get charged a few bucks every time you make a purchase.

Whether you're using signature cards, or chip cards, as long as you have one of the main card providers, you'll be fine. American Express, Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly used and accepted cards around the island.

Iceland Credit Card and PIN Numbers


If you've used credit cards and debit cards elsewhere, you've probably used to a chip and signature card or a chip and pin card. It's easy to assume that things here work the same way as they do wherever you're from. Don't make that rookie travel mistake. While it's true that you can use your credit card in Iceland just about anywhere, there is something to be aware of.

Iceland credit card PIN

Your Iceland credit card PIN is extremely important and you shouldn't leave home without it. You can't just swipe and sign like you do in some places. Many people are not aware of their credit card PIN or that they even have one. That's because credit card companies send them separately from your physical card. You may have tucked that little piece of paper away somewhere and completely forgotten about it. Unless you’ve needed to get a cash advance from your credit card, it's likely that you don't know your PIN.

In Iceland, you need a credit card pin number pure and simple. So if you don't know yours, contact your credit card company in advance of your trip. They have to send it to you through regular mail, so allow a few weeks for it to arrive. And of course, your debit card already has a PIN that you know and use.

Car Rental in Iceland Without a Credit Card


When booking a car or camper van, the customer service agent will tell you to bring a credit card as a guarantee for your rental. They don't put a block on your card, but rather keep it on file just in case. When your rental ends, there may be some unforeseen costs like speeding tickets, parking fines, or damage to the vehicle not covered by rental insurance. In any of these scenarios, your card can be charged.

But what if you're like many people, and don't have a credit card? Is car hire in Iceland with no credit card still possible? If you don't possess a card, the companies are willing to accept the credit card of someone traveling with your party. They just have to be present for pick up and for the drop off inspection.

But what if neither you or any of your travel companions have a card? Can you still do car rental in Iceland without a credit card? Don’t worry; where there's a will, there's always a way. You can rent a car in Iceland without a credit card, it just takes a little bit of flexibility. Most rental companies are willing to work with you to find a solution.

Car rental in Iceland with no credit card is possible

There are usually two options presented, and both of them involve spending a bit more money. You can pay for your rental using your debit card, and you can also use your debit card to pay for one of the two options. The first is to choose full insurance coverage on your rental. This is usually in the form of a platinum package or other comprehensive insurance. If you get into an accident and have some or have some sort of damage to your vehicle, you are covered.

The second option is to leave a deposit, usually around the same price as full insurance coverage.

Cash or Credit and Debit Cards


Of course, there are those who don't feel comfortable using credit and debit cards as a sole means of payment on road trips. If this is your case, then, of course, get some Iceland money to have some Icelandic krona in your pocket. My best advice is to either do this in advance at your bank or take the money out of an ATM once you've landed. If you plan to go through your bank, give them ample time (at least a few weeks) to receive the foreign currency. Please note that you may be charged by either your bank, the dispensing bank, or both when taking money out.

What I don't recommend is using the currency exchange at the airport or in town. They offer really poor exchange rates and usually charge a commission on top for their service.

Guide to Using Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland 


Using your credit card in Iceland (or your debit card) might be the best way to save money on fees or commissions for exchange services. Talk to your card provider beforehand to see what they have to say on the matter. You'll also want to alert them that you are traveling abroad so that they don't block your card for suspicious activity.

Credit cards and debit cards in Iceland are an easy and hassle-free way to pay for expenses that come up during your trip. As long as you know the policies of your particular company, you should have a pretty smooth experience. And if you're still a little worried, bring a backup card or another means of payment like traveler’s checks.

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Friday, 19 July 2019

Day Tours in Iceland

Iceland is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and if you're planning your trip, it may be hard to know where to start. While some people rent a car, camper, or motorhome and drive around the island, not everyone takes this route right away. Perhaps you just want to spend some time exploring the area close to Reykjavik to get acclimated or before your flight home. Iceland day tours are the perfect way to dip your toe into Icelandic tourism and start sampling the mind-blowing highlights that await you. Here are some of the different options for day tours in Iceland.

Iceland day tours of the Golden Circle Oxarfoss in Thingvellir

Best Iceland Day Tours from Reykjavik


While it is possible to do day tours in other places on the island, like the Diamond Circle, I think those warrant multiple days. Additionally, all international visitors fly into Reykjavik, so it's the most likely starting point for a day trip. It's smart to take day tours from Reykjavik because there's quite a lot to see close to Iceland's capital. It's also a good way to have a home base so that you don't feel like you're living out of a suitcase. or constantly on the move. Or if you’ve rented a camper, you know where you'll be laying your head at night.

A Full-Day Golden Circle Tour in Iceland


The most popular day tour from Reykjavik is probably the Golden Circle tour. This 250 km (150-mile) circuit encompasses þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and the geysers in Haukadalur Geothermal Valley among other places. Thingvellir has both historical and geological significance to Iceland. It's not only home to the country's and the world’s first Parliament, but you'll also find the Silfra Fissure here. This meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates is quite the sight to behold.

The Earth is literally ripping apart and some of the openings are large enough that they've actually filled with water. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, strap on some flippers, a wetsuit, and a breathing tank to go scuba diving in the cerulean waters of the Silfra Fissure.

There's also the stops on the Golden Circle which are off the beaten path. Places like the Secret Lagoon, Kerid Crater, or Langjökull glacier are also great places to visit.

Iceland Day Tours: Waterfalls Along the South Coast


Of course, no trip to Iceland would be complete without a visit to one of the country's spectacular waterfalls. You'll find to particularly gorgeous ones along Iceland’s South Coast just off the Ring Road. Seljalandsfoss waterfall bears the nickname “The Beauty” thanks to its reputation as Iceland's most beautiful waterfall. An equally striking cascade is Skógafoss waterfall, which is further east along Route 1 heading towards Vík. Skógafoss has a hiking trail that lets you trek up to the top and enjoy amazing views from the lookout point.

Iceland day tours Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Reykjavik Day Trip to the Blue Lagoon


And not every outing in Iceland has to be about hiking a waterfall or another semi-strenuous activity. It's entirely possible to dedicate an entire day to chilling out and practicing the underrated art of relaxation. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa about 40 minutes away from Reykjavik by car. It has a milky blue turquoise shade thanks to the high amount of silica and other minerals. Its healing waters have been used as a treatment for psoriasis, eczema, and other skin conditions.

Vík and Iceland's Black Sand Beach


The seaside village of Vík may not have a huge population. But what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in otherworldly natural landscapes. The volcanic black sand beach at Reynisfjara is known not only for the midnight-hued grains of sand. There are also the dark hexagonal basalt columns close to the shore. Be wary of the sneaker waves at this beach as they can be a bit dangerous.

It’s a 2.5 hour drive to get to Vík, so if you're thinking of this option, I’d recommend a South of Iceland full-day tour. That way, you'll have plenty of time to stop for lunch at one of Vík's best restaurants. You can make a really nice day out of it.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula


This is another option that's on the longer side for a one-day excursion. If you can break it up into two days, I would recommend doing that. Snæfellsnes peninsula is frequently called Iceland in Miniature because it possesses many of the natural attractions the island is so famous for. From the Snaefellsjökull glacier to Kirkjufell mountain and Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, this part of western Iceland possesses some stunning scenery. There are also the Vatnshellir lava caves, the secret Landbrotalaug hidden hot pot, Eldborg Crater, and more.

Iceland day tours Snaefellsnes peninsula

Further Afield


Visiting an ice cave or doing a glacier tour or Super Jeep tour in a small group are some of the most requested day tours. These are really cool activities and I completely get why people want to do them. They're a bit far from Reykjavik, however. If you want to take part in these activities, I suggest using Vík as your base as it's close to Vatnajökull National Park. The same is true for visiting an area like Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which is on the southeast side of the island.

Find a reputable tour operator like Landmannalaugar tours to take you on your journey. These types of companies have fully licensed guides, which are required if you're going to be trekking a glacier. Many of these companies also offer Northern Lights excursions if you're here during Aurora Borealis season.

Day Tours in Iceland 


With a car rental, camper or motorhome in Iceland, you're ready to hit the road. Taking a one-day excursion is one of the best ways to explore all the country has to offer. So take a look to see what interests you most and start planning your trip. Regardless of how long you stay, prepare to be awed by Iceland.

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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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