Iceland’s South Shore for movie buffs

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Iceland has become quite the popular destination for film shooting in the recent years due to its unique landscape. It is also easy to travel to from the US and Europe, it has a developed economy and infrastructure, and everyone speaks English. This affords the big-budget movie producer some extraordinary opportunities here.

Among the more popular areas for film shoots In Iceland is the South Coast with it’s black sand beaches, stunning waterfalls and glaciers and of course Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon which was seen in two James Bond movies, A view to a kill and Die another day and also Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.  

Iceland´s South Coast is also portrayed as the planet Lah’mu in the Star Wars film Rogue One where Jyn Erso and her parents are in hiding at the very beginning of the film. Those black, sandy and alien looking beaches can be found in the south of Iceland. This is Mýrdalssandur which will also play a key role in the next season of the hit TV series Vikings. The trailer seems to show one of the main characters of the series, Flóki, standing on a black sand beach in South Iceland.

The nearby Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe is also popular site for filmmakers. In the 7th season of Game of of Thrones, everything that happens north of the wall is filmed there or at Svínafellsjökull which is a part of Vatnajökull, same location as in Batman Begins.

Too see all these landscapes with your own bare eyes we suggest you try the South Shore Adventure Tour or Jökulsárlón Glacial Boat Tour by Reykjavik Excursions or if you prefer to drive yourself it´s only approximately a 3 hour drive from Reykjavík, for car rental we recommend Procar.

Enjoy the incredible South Shore, we know you will!

 

Midsummer night – Jónsmessa

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Jónsmessa, also known as Midsummer Night, is an Icelandic holiday celebrated on June 24th. The holiday is named after John the Baptist and June 24th is supposedly his birthday.

The beauty of this holiday is how it interweaves magic and religion. According to Icelandic folklore there are four particular nights of the year when both good and evil forces unleash and you can expect mysterious things to occur, the nights are: Christmas eve, New Years Eve, Thirteenth Night (January 6th) and Midsummer night.

The tales tell that on Midsummer night various things gain special powers for example seals become human, cows gain the ability to speak in human tongue and the earth has special healing powers which is why rolling around naked in mud or dewy grass at midnight is considered good for your health and you can receive unbelievable healing. And while you are rolling around in the dew, be sure to make a wish because it is likely your wish will be granted on this special night. Icelandic folklore also states that if you sit at a crossroads where all four roads lead to separate churches, elves will attempt to seduce you with food and gifts.

There are some interesting midsummer events this weekend including the Midnight Sun Run which will take place on the evening of June 23rd and the Reykjavík Midsummer Music, a top notch music festival with some of today’s leading artists, held at Harpa music hall June 22-25.

Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavík

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Iceland’s Midnight Sun Run takes place for the 25th time on June 23rd in Reykjavik. The run is unique because it starts late in the evening, in the bright summer night. The race is held around summer solstice which means that during the night it does not get dark at all– it’s very much a midsummer celebration!  

The timing of the run is also unique because according to Icelandic folklore this particular night is considered very mystical. It is the night prior to Jónsmessa or Midsummer night, an Icelandic holiday named after John the Baptist, held on June 24th. The folklore claims that at midnight on June 23rd both good and evil forces unleash and you can expect mysterious things to happen.

Participants of the Midnight sun run can choose between three distances, 5k, 10k and half marathon. Close by the start and finish of the race is one of the city’s wonderful geothermal outdoor swimming pools, Laugardalslaug where participants are invited to take a midnight swim or relax in the hot tubs after the race. 

Icelandic Independence day – JUNE 17

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June 17th, 1944 is when Iceland was formed as a republic and gained its independence from Danish rule. The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a major figure of Icelandic culture and the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.

Like in many countries, Icelanders celebrate their independence day with style starting with a parade down Laugavegurinn, the main shopping and restaurant strip in the city center. There will of course be a marching band and families singing and waving the Icelandic flag some with their face painted in the national colors.

Downtown there will be a big family festival with all sorts of shows, vendor booths and live music that goes on until late hours in the evening.

There will be a family concert in the beautiful Hljómskálagarðurinn, by the Reykjavík pond that starts at 14:00 and ends at 18:00.  

At Ingólfstorg, directly in front of centerhotel Plaza, MOLD SKATEBOARDS will host a skateboarding party starting at 15:00 with good music and skilled skateboarders showing off their tricks.  

Each urban area and towns in the country will have their own June 17th celebration with parades, music and lots of family fun.

Happy June 17th! ~ Gleðilegan 17.júní!

Secret Solstice Festival

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Secret Solstice held this weekend (June 15-18) has been referred to as the most unique music festival on earth as it is held on the summer solstice weekend when the sun never fully sets in Iceland. This midnight sun music festival is a surreal party experience where you watch over 150 bands under the Icelandic midnight sun and this year the line-up is awesome.

Several big name artists will perform like Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Dusky, Richard Ashcroft and of course the creme de la creme of local Icelandic artists such as Agent Fresco, Auður and many many more.

The festival is held in Laugardalurinn, a peaceful outdoor recreational area in Reykjavík where families often come together on weekends. There are acts playing all day and night and you will see locals bring their kids during the day and early evening hours. There will be 6 stages named from the nordic, viking mythology and lots of vendors and delicious food trucks.

If partying under the midnight sun isn´t enough musical adventure for you there will be several side events offered such as the once-in-a-lifetime party inside a glacier or a lava tunnel. And last but not least the Midnight Sun boat party.

Fisherman’s Sunday held in Reykjavík

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This Sunday Icelanders will be busy celebrating Fisherman’s Sunday – a day especially dedicated to fishermen in Iceland.  Seaman’s Sunday has been celebrated since 1938 to honor the hard work and sacrifices of the Icelandic fisherman. The day became a legal holiday in 1987 and so this year the holiday will be celebrating it´s 30th birthday.

Seaman’s Sunday is celebrated in fishing towns all over Iceland with sea-related entertainment for the whole family. In a way this is a fun reason for everyone to come together and remember the importance and impact that the fishing industry has had on the Icelandic culture.

In Reykjavík the festival “Festival of the sea” will be held in the old harbor area from Harpa to Grandagarður (West Harbor). There will be a diverse program starting with an opening ceremony by the old harbor on Saturday morning. Guests can enjoy sailing and sea swimming, there will of course be various entertainment for children at all ages like pier fishing, face painting and even a fun play area will be made from recycled material from the sea and nature for the youngest.  There will be a parade from Harpa music hall to Grandi area and the coast guard ship Óðinn will be welcoming visitors to explore the ship where crew members of the ship will be welcoming guests, telling stories of their stay on board.  

Various restaurants along the harbor and in Grandagarður will take part in the festivities and some of them will offer a special on Fish and Chips and other refreshments throughout the festivities. 

For those who would like to observe the festivities from a comfortable distance, SKÝ Restaurant & Bar, located at Centerhotel Arnarhvoll has an incredible view over Harpa and the old harbor and of course we recommend one of their delicious fish dishes in honor of Seaman’s Sunday. SKÝ Restaurant & Bar also offers happy hour between 16-18.

Now go out and join the festivities.

Esjan hike

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A dominant part of Reykjavík city´s beautiful backdrop is Mount Esja, a volcanic mountain range situated about 15 km north of Reykjavík.

Esjan was formed in the beginning of the Ice Age or approximately 2,5 million years ago. It is not a single mountain, but a volcanic mountain range and the highest tip reaches 914 meters or 2,999 ft.

Esjan has become a very popular recreation area and hiking spot for Reykjavík locals with several well marked hiking trails that run up the mountain that vary in difficulty ranging from 1 boot (easy) to 3 boots (challenging). At a certain point up the mountain more experienced hikers can choose to continue directly to the top or like most you can choose to stop and turn around at a popular turnaround point marked with a big rock called ‘Steinn’ (rock in Icelandic). This is where you catch your breath and take in the breathtakingly beautiful view.
Once you’ve completed your hike you can grab a beverage or light lunch at Esjustofa, a cozy family owned cafe/restaurant at the bottom of Esjan. Their traditional Icelandic meat soup is delicious and worth trying.

Keep in mind to always keep the weather and snow conditions in mind before hiking Esjan. The weather in Iceland can change very quickly and the hike can become very difficult in bad weather.

Mt. Esja is an easy 20 minute car ride from Reykjavík on Route 1 past the town of Mosfellsbær and you can park your car for free by the starting point. It is also accessible by the number 15 bus from Hlemmur bus station. Get off at Háholt in Mosfellsbær, then take the number 57 to the foot of Esja at Hiking Centre Esjustofa.

Other fun hiking spots around Reykjavík include Úlfarsfell which is a short but sweet hike up Úlfarsfell mountain. Also located off Route 1 about 10 km north of Reykjavík, Úlfarsfell mountain is only approximately 15 minute drive from Reykjavík and the total hike is 4,6 kilometer long and only takes about an hour and half. It is perfect if you’re in Reykjavík and in the mood for a quick but fun hike and some fresh air. You start the hike by walking through some woods which makes your hike even more adventurous.

Enjoy your hike!

Reykjavik harbor

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The Old Reykjavik harbor was built between the years 1913 and 1917 and has a long history of being one of the largest and more important service harbors in Iceland.

In recent years it has transformed into a popular spot for tourists. Walking down Reykjavíks old harbor you will find colorful sheds that offer all sorts of services for tourists including whale watching companies like Elding and Special Tours, shops and restaurants and even scooter and bike rentals like Puffin Scooters. The harbor is also quite photogenic with views of fishing boats, Harpa concert hall and snow capped mountain tops.  

Whether you prefer visiting stores, museums and/or sampling some of the best of Icelandic culinary culture it is very likely that you will find something that floats your boat at the Old Harbor.  

We have gathered a few things that the Old Harbor has to offer:

Harpa concert hall

Located on the old harbor in Reykjavik and is not only an architectural marvel but offers a lot of activities like variety of events and concerts.

Harpa also has a restaurant and café, a design store as well as the Iceland Expo Pavillion.

Kolaportið flea market

Located at the north-east corner of the harbor is the city’s flea market, Kolaportið.  It’s indoors and is open from 11-5 every weekend.

There you can get great deals on vintage clothes, books and food. You can even sample fermented shark or buy a bag of stockfish.

Across the street from Kolaportið is the famous hot dog stand Bæjarins Beztu, where you can get the best hot dogs in Reykjavik!

Restaurants

Several fish restaurants can be found on the Old Harbor, including Mar and Sea Baron which has been known to serve the ‘World’s Greatest Lobster Soup’ and the friendly café Haití. Other restaurants at the Old Harbor include the traditional Icelandic restaurant Höfnin, and the popular burger joint Hamborgarabúllan.

Grandinn

On the western edge of the harbor is the trendy Grandi area. It was named after the old fish factory there and is also loaded with amazing and cool restaurants such as the Coocoos nest and Matur og drykkur. Kaffivagninn is a super cozy coffeehouse shed that has been there since 1935.  At Grandinn you will also find museums such as Aurora Reykjavik and The Maritime Museum and the most popular ice cream shop in Reykjavik called Valdís which is located directly in front of the Maritime museum and has a massive selection of ice cream flavors.  

Have fun at the Old Harbor!