Day Tripping-The Golden Circle

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Tours, WinterTags , , , , ,

The Golden Circle

 

When visiting Reykjavík you don’t have to go far to experience many of the country’s natural wonders.  For example if you are here on a long layover or only have a few days to spare, you can still manage to see and experience a lot by simply taking day trips from Reykjavík.

One of the more popular day trips from Reykjavík is the Golden Circle and it is popular for a reason.

On this tour you go to the world-famous Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss- the queen of Icelandic waterfalls and Thingvellir National Park.

But something that not everyone knows is that the Golden Circle is much more than just picturesque landscape and natural wonders, each one of the magnificent places visited actually have a story to tell..

 

Geysir

First stop is Geysir geothermal area which lies in the Haukadalur valley.
The oldest accounts of hot springs at Haukadalur date back to 1294, when earthquakes in the area caused significant changes in local neighbouring landscape creating several new hot springs.
The largest hotspring was named Geysir and eruptions at Geysir can shoot boiling water up to 70 meters in the air.  In 1845, Geysir reached a height of 170 metres and all geysers in the world owe their name to this one.
Geysir eruptions have become more and more infrequent in recent years and have in the past stopped altogether for years at a time.  However, Geysir’s brother Strokkur shoots up a column of water up to 30 meters (98 ft) into the air every few minutes.

 

Gullfoss

Next stop is by one of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland, Gullfoss with it’s spectacular view of the forces and beauty of untouched nature. The water plummets down 32 meters into a 62 meter deep canyon.  Gullfoss means Golden waterfall because on a sunny day, the water takes on a golden-brown color.  Also a beautiful rainbow appears over the waterfall when the sun shines making it very picturesque.

But Gullfoss is more than just a pretty waterfall, behind the waterfall is also a groundbreaking story about an inspiring woman of the early 20th century, Sigríður from Brattholt.

Sigríður lived on a sheep farm called Brattholt, located next to the massive waterfall and she loved the waterfall.  In 1907 wealthy English investors approached Sigríður’s father, a farmer who owned the land at the time, and wanted to buy the waterfall in order to build a dam for electricity production.  The farmer refused the offer but agreed to lease it.
Sigríður decided she needed to take matters in her hands and went through great efforts in order to protect the waterfall.  In order to get the lease contract voided, she often walked or rode on horseback 120km to and from Reykjavík to urge powerful business men and political leaders to let the waterfall be.  When all that failed she even threatened to throw herself into the waterfall in protest.  Eventually with help of her lawyer, Sveinn Björnsson, who later became the first president of Iceland, they managed to have the contract disposed.
Sigríður’s struggle to preserve the waterfall brought attention to the importance of preserving nature and today she is called Iceland’s first environmentalist and became an inspiration to many women and men to come.  Gullfoss and it’s environment was designated as nature reserve in 1979.

 

Þingvellir

The third sight is Þingvellir National Park which is both geologically and historically significant.

Þingvellir – which directly translates to ‘the parliament fields’ is the location of the oldest parliament in the world, Alþingi.  It became the assembly’s site in 930 AD where over thirty ruling chiefs met for the first time to discuss law on the island and to create a commonwealth.
Þingvellir also became the centre of Icelandic culture.  Every year during the Commonwealth period, people would flock there from all over the country.  And although the duties of the assembly were the main reason for going there, ordinary people also got together at Þingvellir for a various reasons.  It became a meeting place for everyone in Iceland, laying the foundation for the language and literature that have been a prominent part of people’s lives right up to the present day.
Due to its long history, Þingvellir became a National park in 1930 and in 2004, it was accepted as part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Apart from being the location of the oldest parliament in the world, the Þingvellir’s geological traits are also fascinating.
Iceland is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic ridge is above sea-level and the island is actually divided by the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates which pull the country apart by a couple of centimetres per year.
Þingvellir National Park lies in the valley between the two plates and nowhere else can you see the edges of both plates as clearly as in Þingvellir.
Some of the rifts are full of clear water, and one of them called Silfra has become a popular snorkeling and diving spot. It is a once in a lifetime experience where you get to dive between the two continental plates.

The Golden circle tour ends at Friðheimar greenhouse which is one of Iceland’s biggest greenhouses. There you will learn about growing vegetables in a country which doesn’t get much daylight for most of the year.

If you would like to join a Golden Circle tour and make your vacation to the land of fire and ice even more unforgettable you can book your tour here or with your friendly front desk staff.

Our idea of how to spend a winter day in Reykjavik

Posted on Categories Culture, our-hotels, Reykjavik, WinterTags , , , , ,

There is plenty to to in Reykjavík on a cold winter day.
If you’re still in doubt.. join us on this full day of fun.

 

Perlan museum Wonders of Iceland

After filling up on a delicious CenterHotels breakfast let’s visit Perlan.
Perlan (‘The Pearl’ in English) is a spectacular landmark building that overlooks Reykjavik and can be seen for miles around.  The building is a large glass dome placed on top of geothermal water storage tanks with a 360 viewing platform.  In the Perlan Wonders of Iceland museum you can learn about glaciers and even experience the feeling of walking through a real glacier cave, an accurate replica of an ice tunnel dug straight through a glacier and the only indoor ice cave of it’s kind in the world.  Perlan even offers a free shuttle bus from Harpa concert hall to Perlan daily from 9:00 – 17:30.

 

Soup at Svarta kaffið

It’s time for lunch so we’re heading to Svarta Kaffið, a little warm and cozy café on Laugavegur strip and they are known for these hearty bread bowl soups, and for a reason, they are YUMMY!    

 

Coffee at Reykjavík Roasters

We’re skipping our after lunch coffee at Svarta Kaffið because we’re going to Reykjavík Roasters for the best cup of Java in town.

 

Walking Tour of Reykjavík

Now that we’re full and high on caffeine it’s time to walk it all off by exploring Reykjavík on foot.
Citywalk offers a free 2 hour walking tour that takes you on foot around the heart of Reykjavík with an english speaking local.

 

Thermal pool or spa

After roaming around Reykjavík in the cold for 2 hours, a soak in one of Reykjavík’s many warm thermal pools does not sound bad at all.  

Soaking in hot water has many health benefits along with just being cozy on a cold winter day which is why bathing in warm thermal pools is a very common practice amongst Icelanders all year round and it dates back to the early settlement of Iceland.  It’s not only good for the body and soul but it’s an inexpensive fun for the whole family, approx 8 Euros for adults and FREE for children under 10 years old.  Our favorite thermal swimming pools in central Reykjavik are: Laugardalslaug and Vesturbæjarlaug.

If you fancy more pampering and don’t feel like venturing to one of the local swimming pools you should visit one of the CenterHotels wellness areas, Miðgarður Spa, Ísafold Spa or Arnarhvoll Wellness center.  You can book your admission with the friendly front desk staff.

 

Dinner at Ísafold Restaurant

We’re feeling fresh and rejuvenated but starting to get hungry again so the next and last stop is Ísafold Restaurant located at CenterHotel Þingholt.  Here we are literally going to get a taste of Iceland in one evening by ordering the Old Iceland menu, a three course speciality menu featuring the best of Icelandic culinary world.  The bacalou main course is to die for!! 

After dinner we will finish our evening with a  whiskey tasting at Ísafold lounge.  Their impressive whiskey collection features quality whiskeys from all corners of the world.

The day of the Icelandic tongue

Posted on Categories Culture, Iceland, languageTags , , ,

November 16th, has been deemed ‘the day of the Icelandic tongue’.  The date is the birthday of Iceland’s beloved poet Jónas Hallgrímsson who fought to protect the Icelandic language from Danish influence in the 19th century.  So to honour this day we have gathered some interesting facts about the Icelandic language:

 

Ancient

Due to Iceland’s geographic location, small population and of course the nation’s efforts to preserve the purity of the language, Icelandic hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years. It still sounds much like the Old Norse, a medieval language once spoken across the Nordic countries.

We invent new words rather than borrowing them

There is actually a government committee with Icelandic linguists that work to create unique Icelandic terminology for new things rather than adopting foreign words, such as:

TV = ‘Sjónvarp’ (“vision projection”)
Computer = ‘Tölva’ the combination of ‘tala’ (digit) and ‘völva’ (seeress)
iPad = Spjaldtölva, the combination of ‘spjald’ (tablet) and ‘tölva’ (computer)

Icelandic Names

The Icelandic phonebook lists people by their first name and the reason is that Icelanders do not use family names. Instead they use the traditional Nordic naming system where the last name is taken from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son.  Jón Ólafsson’s offspring, for example, might be Einar Jónsson and Sigríður Jónsdóttir.

Alphabet

The Icelandic alphabet consists of 32 letters versus 26 in the English alphabet.  Some of the letters are duplicated with acute accents and in addition it includes the letter Ðð, the runic letter Þþ, Ææ and Öö.

We talk on the inhale

This may be a surprise to some Icelanders (only because it is so natural) but we often speak on the inhale, mostly when saying Já (yes). The reason is a mystery but if you pay attention; you’ll notice and hopefully get a giggle.

Devilishly difficult to learn

It’s just a hype, don’t be fooled.  Although it may not sound like it, Icelandic is in fact closely related to English.
So if you put in the time, you’ll get there.  Just keep in mind that only about 0.005% of the seven billion people on this globe speak Icelandic making it NOT the most practical language to learn.  But
Icelanders do love when you try to speak it to them in Icelandic..you may get laughed at a bit but it’s all a part of the fun.  

On that note we’ll leave you with a few common Icelandic phrases/sentences so you can start practising:

‘Áfram með smjörið’ (On with the butter), meaning = stop slacking.

‘Takk fyrir síðast’ (Thanks for last time), meaning = nice seeing you again.

‘Góðan daginn’ (Good day), meaning = Hello or Good morning

‘Þetta reddast’  (chill, It’ll work out)

‘Glugga Veður’ (Window-Weather), meaning = the weather looks good through the window but is actually not good at all

‘Gefa undir fótinn’ (Give under the foot) meaning = Flirt

Harpa, Reykjavík Concert Hall

Posted on Categories Culture, Music, News Feed, ReykjavikTags , , , ,

If you’ve been to Reykjavík, it is rather unlikely that you haven’t noticed the large glass building down by the harbour. The building is called Harpa and is one of Reykjavík’s greatest and most distinguished landmarks. It is also the cultural and social centre of Reykjavík and offers the best facilities for concerts and conferences in Northern Europe.

Harpa’s design was influenced by the Icelandic exceptional and dramatic nature. It even lights up at night with a light show resembling the Northern Lights.  The distinctive glass facade which was designed by visual artist Ólafur Elíasson changes Harpa into a great canvas where all sorts of color can be displayed upon it, giving Reykjavík and the old harbour a certain oomph especially during the dark winter months.

There are various cultural events, concerts and shows almost every day all year round at Harpa ranging from electronic music festival (Sónar), to Reykjavík Jazz Festival, to heavy metal concerts to being the home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera. Guided tours of the building in English are also available daily.

 

For those who are interested in seeing a show at Harpa and learning about Icelandic culture in one shot, check out the following shows:

The Pearls of Icelandic Song series:  A popular concert series in Harpa with classical Icelandic music consisting some of the most beloved Icelandic songs, fold-songs and hymns.

How to Become Icelandic in 60 minutes:  The entire show is in english and is not only hilariously funny but it’s a great way to get a little insight on Icelanders and the Icelandic culture. You will laugh and learn and at the end of the show leave the theatre feeling 100% Icelandic.

Icelandic Sagas The Greatest Hits:  A funny and interactive theatrical comedy show featuring the old Icelandic Viking Sagas. The entire show is in english and is not only hilarious but also informative about Icelandic history.  A great way to get a glimpse through Iceland’s literary heritage.

 

You can get tickets to all these shows plus many more right at the front desk at your hotel and prior to the show be sure to try the delicious Pre-Show menu available at SKÝ Restaurant & Bar located right across the street from Harpa at CenterHotel Arnarhvoll.

 

CenterHotels Off-Venue event at SKÝ November 4th

Posted on Categories Culture, Events, Music, News Feed, our-hotels, ReykjavikTags , ,

Our third and final Airwaves off-venue event this year will be held on Saturday, November 4th at the rooftop restaurant and bar SKÝ located at CenterHotel Arnarhvoll.  Three mind blowing artists will be performing: Blindur, Hekla and Indolore.

 

Blindur – 17:00-18:00

The evening starts with the Italian band BLINDUR. Blindur is a musical project; a collective; a crossroad of artists; an idea; an hallucination; a confession; a clear demonstration of fidgetiness; a mix of beautiful and ugly things, artless and articled things, and for all these reasons, sincere things.

 

Hekla – 18:00-19:00

Hekla plays electronic music out of thin air. The music is centered around layers of theremins that interlace with one another creating a cinematic sci-fi atmosphere. Theremins come disguised as voices and other times vocals are disguised as theremins.

 

Indolore – 19:00-20:00

Last on stage is INDOLORE.  Exploring pop/folk-based influences like Nick Drake and Damien Rice, french indie-folk musician INDOLORE began his career in London in a band called Shine, opening for Sia and Morcheeba and working with British rock legend Terry Reid. His debut EP “Positive Girls” got hundreds of streams. He was invited to SXSW in Austin, Texas in 2016. INDOLORE is back to Iceland where he recorded his new EP “Love Letters From Eylenda” in the studio of the magic Sigur Rós last summer. It’s out now on all digital platforms.

 

SKÝ Restaurant and Bar will be offering Happy Hour prices during the event as well as special Airwaves food & beer combos.  Be sure to ask for the Airwaves Cocktail, it’s a good one this year.

Check out our other two off-venue events here.

 

Can’t wait to see you Friday!

CenterHotels Off-Venue event at Ísafold November 3rd

Posted on Categories Culture, Events, Iceland, Music, News Feed, our-hotels, ReykjavikTags , , , ,

Our second Airwaves off-venue event this year will be held on Friday, November 3rd at Ísafold/CenterHotel Þingholt with three great bands: Ylfa Marín, Keto and Ingunn Huld.

 

Ylfa Marín – 17:00-18:00

The musician Ylfa Marín starts the show with her smooth and sweet voice. Ylfa is passionate about diverse genres of music and has participated in various projects that mostly have gained popularity abroad. Earlier this year she released an electronica record and since then she has been working on a solo project.

 

Keto – 18:00-19:00

Second on stage is Keto. Keto bring their own style of lo-fi folk, likened to Cat Power and Elliot Smith, with audience members describing it ashypnotic. Playing shows alongside Lower Dens, Eaves, and getting the chance to sing with Sun Kil Moon in Hackney, Keto has gained support from 6music, Drowned in Sound, Clash Mag, and John Kennedy, with her single ‘Change’. 

 

Ingunn Huld – 19:00-20:00

Ingunn Huld is a singer-songwriter that studied jazz singing and released her debut album, Fjúk in November 2015. She has performed at various cafes and smaller venues in and around Reykjavík. Despite her studies as a jazz vocalist and her interest in jazz, she mainly performs pop and folk music. In October 2017 she released her song Splendid along with a music video. In the off-venue concerts she will be accompanied by the bassist Árni Magnùsson and together they will play new songs in English along with a few songs from the album Fjúk.

 

Ísafold Lounge will be offering Happy Hour prices during the show and 10% discount will be off the a la carte menu at Ísafold Restaurant.  Be sure to try the Moscow Mule, our official Airwaves Cocktail this year.

Check out our other two off-venue events here.

 

See you Friday!