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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