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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