Thermal pools and hot springs in Iceland without breaking the bank

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When you think about hot springs in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is more then likely to be what pops into your mind. Well for a reason, it is the most famous geothermal lagoon in Iceland and it’s incredibly cool and worth the visit…if it’s in your budget.

With entry fee starting at 6990 ISK / 55€, it may not be in everyone’s budget to visit this famous lagoon. So we’ve decided to come up with a list of less expensive alternatives.

 

LOCAL SWIMMING POOLS

Visiting a local thermal pool is a quintessential thing to do while on a family vacation in Iceland.  Many of them offer water slides and shallow pools for kids and variety of hot tubs and steam baths for adults. A great and affordable alternative for those on a quick family stopover in Reykjavík or on a road trip around Iceland with the family.

 

LAUGARDALSLAUG

Laugardalslaug is Iceland’s largest thermal pool and the most popular amongst travellers.
It is located in Laugardalur valley, only a quick bus ride away from downtown Reykjavík and has a large outdoor pool, outdoor children’s pool and paddling pool, water slides, numerous hot tubs and a steam bath. The entry fee is 980 ISK. for adults, 160 ISK. for children 6-17 years old and free for children younger than 6.

After your soak it’s important to stop by the hot dog stand located outside the swimming pool because having an Icelandic hot dog is a crucial part of the whole Icelandic pool experience.

 

ÁLFTANESLAUG

Álftanes peninsula, a suburb of Reykjavik has an impressive local swimming pool, a whole lot of fun for kids. It has two large hot tubs, a kiddie pool, Iceland’s biggest waterslide and a wave pool (the only one of it’s kind in Iceland).
After playing and soaking in Álftanes pool we suggest you stop by Bessastaðir, the official residence of the President of Iceland, also located at Álftanes peninsula.

 

Vesturbæjarlaug

A small pool in close vicinity of downtown Reykjavik. The pool is one of the older once in Reykjavik and is popular amongst downtown locals. It’s a no frills swimming pool without slides or a fancy wave pool but just a nice and friendly local pool with great hot tubs, sauna and a steam room.

 

NATURAL HOT SPRINGS AND LAGOONS

Experience the magical feeling of floating in a natural hot spring in the beautiful Icelandic nature without spending a fortune.

 

Seljavallalaug

This remote pool was built in 1923 and is Iceland’s oldest man made pool. It is located close to the famous Eyjafjallajökull and the hot water comes from a natural hot spring near by. There is no entrance fee but there is a donation box  where you can leave some money to ensure the pool’s upkeep.

 

Landbrotalaug

Approx 1.5 hour from Reykjavík on Snæfellsnes peninsula you will find (if you look very carefully) a small hot spring called Landbrotalaug. The reason it’s not easy to find is because it’s tiny and only fits 2-3 people max at a time. It is worth the visit though, especially with a loved one as there is just something majestic about Snæfellsnes and soaking in this cozy little hot spring in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness. There is no entry fee but be prepared that there are no changing facilities at the location.

 

Nauthólsvík beach

A geothermal beach located in Reykjavík. On the beach you will find a man-made lagoon where hot water is pumped into so seawater and hot geothermal water mix so you can comfortably splash away. There is no entry fees to use the lagoon or other facilities at the beach which is also equipped with a large hot tub, steam-bath, changing facilities and showers.

 

Reykjadalur / Steam Valley

A popular hiking trail located 45 minutes from Reykjavík city.  It’s located on a geothermal area and the valley is filled with hot springs and mud pools. It is a beautiful and scenic hike and once you reach a certain point you will find a warm stream that runs down the center of the valley that you can bathe in. The higher up you go the warmer the water gets. A great place to rest your muscles after a good hike, and maybe have a beverage or two. Just make sure to pick up your empty bottles and garbage before heading back down.

 

Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon is a geothermal area near the small town of Flúdir. It was formed in 1891, making it one of the oldest geothermal pools  in Iceland. Today the pool area has all the modern facilities that a modern person may need, however the lagoon has been kept to stay natural and unique and the pool’s natural surroundings and steam rising into the air gives the place a magical feeling. The fee to enter the Secret Lagoon is 2800 ISK for adults and free for children under 14.

Let’s not forget how vulnerable our nature is so let’s treat the land with respect by sticking to the beaten paths and not leaving our garbage behind.  

Enjoy!

Reykjavik celebrates it’s birthday

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Get ready for the most happening Saturdays of the year in Reykjavik this Saturday, August 18th.

This Saturday we celebrate the birthday day of Reykjavík city and it brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate.

The day starts with Reykjavík Marathon which kicks off at 9:00 on Lækjargata, downtown Reykjavik.  Following the marathon, Reykjavik Culture Night will take place with a long program of cultural events throughout the rest of the day and night. The events take place all throughout the city, on the streets and squares, in art exhibitions and in peoples backyards. You will come across art, food and live music events all through central Reykjavík. The public parking lot at Hverfisgata 20 will be turned into an LA style lounge top bar, there will be a Hip Hop festival on Ingólfstorg square and DJ Margeir (one of the countries most popular DJ’s) will host his yearly Karnival party on the corner of Hverfisgata and Klapparstígur.  

The event peaks with a concert by Arnarhóll at 20:00 and ends with a ‘not to be missed’ fireworks show over Harpa and the old harbour at 23:00.

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.

Keep in mind that most streets in and around downtown Reykjavik will be blocked off, but who wants to leave the city during the cities greatest celebration of the year.

Verslunarmannahelgin, the Icelandic Labor Day Weekend

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Events, Festivals, Iceland, Music, NatureTags , , , , ,

The first weekend in August, just a regular weekend for you perhaps, but for Icelanders this is our biggest festival weekend of the year and the most travelled one. We call it Verslunarmannahelgi or (Labor Day Weekend), a three day long weekend that many people use to get out of town to different camp sights around the country, many of which offer outside festivals with live music and entertainment for the whole family.

Some popular festivals held on this big party weekend are Þjóðhátíð í eyjum held in Westman Islands, Ein með Öllu in Akureyri, Mýrarboltinn in Bolungarvík and Innipúkinn in Reykjavík to name just a few.

 

Þjóðhátíð – Westman Islands

The biggest festival of the weekend and an event that many look forward to all year round is Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum.  It starts on Thursday and ends on Monday and is held in the Westman Islands.  With a population of barely 4.000 inhabitants, the population of the island rises to 16.000 during Þjóðhátíð.

It is a long fun filled weekend with all sorts of entertainment, two music stages, big Sunday night bonfire and firework show.  People gather in the valley in their ‘lopapeysa’ (Icelandic wool sweater) and sing along to classic songs, both in Icelandic and English.

 

Ein með Öllu – Akureyri

A family festival held in Akureyri (the capital of the north). You can expect the city to be full of live with entertainment for the whole family, concerts and a firework show on Sunday night.

 

Mýrarboltinn – Bolungarvík

Mýrarboltinn or ‘Swamp soccer’ is a popular football match held in Bolungarvík in the North West fjords of Iceland.  The match takes place on a mud covered field so get ready to get mud filthy. Everyone can sign up for the match and in addition to the football there is live music and party throughout the weekend.

 

Innipúkinn – Reykjavík

Will you be in Reykjavík for the weekend? Don’t worry..there is a music festival held in Reykjavík as well called Innipúkinn.
Innipúkinn is a small indoor music festival held in Reykjavík on Labor Day weekend at music venues like Húrra and Gaukur á Stöng both located in down town Reykjavík.  You can see the line up and purchase festival tickets here.

Many Icelanders often plan this weekend or their camping location according to the weather forecast because who wants to set up camp in pouring rain.

Happy Verslunarmannahelgin!

Summer Festivals in Iceland

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Icelandic summer may not be the warmest or sunniest but that doesn’t stop Icelanders from celebrating it in various ways.

There are tons of festivals, big and small, held throughout the country every summer. The bigger once you may have heard of but the smaller local festivals probably not, but they can be just as fun. It’s a good opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals of the town.

The list of summer festivals is long but here you can learn about a few of our favorites.

 

JUNE

FISHERMAN’S SUNDAY
Fisherman’s Sunday, held the first Sunday in June to celebrate and honor the hard work and sacrifices of the Icelandic fisherman and importance that the fishing industry has had on the Icelandic culture. Each town has a celebration by the harbour with sea related entertainment for the whole family.

Learn more about Fisherman’s Sunday in our ‘Seaman’s Sunday blog’.

 

SECRET SOLSTICE
The Secret Solstice Music Festival takes place in Reykjavik over the summer solstice during the brightest part of the year. With over 150 acts both local and international, performing on several stages this festival has become one of the biggest music festivals in Iceland.

Learn more about Secret Solstice in our ‘Secret Solstice blog’.

 

KÓTELETTAN
A BBQ festival held in Selfoss, a town in the south of Iceland, with the focus on Icelandic meat and barbecuing. In addition to the presentation of Icelandic food there is an impressive program for the whole family from morning until night.

 

JULY

IRISH DAYS
An Irish festival held in Akranes, a port town located on the West coast of Iceland. The town was supposedly settled by the Irish in the 9th century so every July, the town celebrates so-called Irish days to commemorate their Irish heritage and celebrate the summer at the same time. It’s a family festival with Irish themed entertainment from morning until night.

 

FJARÐARBYGGÐIN HIKING WEEK
This is one of Iceland’s biggest outdoor recreation events held in Fjarðarbyggð located in the East fjords of Iceland. It is 8 days of entertainment and organised activities to suit the entire family which spans from family walks to historical walks and even to challenges for hiking mountaineers, as well as categories in between.

 

EISTNAFLUG
A metal festival held in Neskaupstaður a quaint little town located on the Norðfjörður fjord on the Eastern coast of Iceland. Eistnaflug is held annually on the second weekend of July each year.

 

BRÆÐSLAN
A fun annual music festival held the last weekend of July in Borgarfjörður Eystri which is located in East Iceland about 70 km from Egilsstaðir. The line up is usually mostly local bands. Most people camp and many bring their whole family.

 

AUGUST

VERSLUNARMANNAHELGIN / LABOR DAY WEEKEND
The first weekend of August is the Icelandic Labour Day weekend, a three day long weekend and the most travelled weekend in Iceland. Icelanders pack their camp gear and wool sweaters and flock out of town to set up camp at various festival sights around the country.  The main festivals are Þjóðhátíð in the Vestman Islands, Neistnaflug in Neskaupsstaður and Innipúkinn in Reykjavík to name a few.

 

FISKIDAGURINN MIKLI / THE GREAT FISH DAY
An annual festival held in North Iceland in a town called Dalvík,  held the first or the second Saturday in August. Fish producers invite guests to a sea food buffet between 11:00 and 17:00 at the harbour in Dalvík. The reason for this generous offer is to get as many people as possible together to taste fish and enjoy a good day in Dalvík. In the evening there is a big concert down by the harbour.

 

GÆRAN
Gaeran, which means lambskin rug, is a music festival held in Mid-August in the northern part of Iceland, in the town of Sauðárkrókur. The festival focuses on offering a wide variety of genres, from folk to rap and everything in between.

 

CULTURE NIGHT

Another annual event held in Reykjavík on the Saturday on or around August 18th, the anniversary date of Reykjavík city. It is by far the biggest celebration in Reykjavík and brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate with music, arts and more.

See more on Culture Night in our previous blog.

How to spend your quick stopover in Iceland

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Are you here for a quick stopover? There is plenty you can do, see and experience in Iceland in just a couple of days as you can see in this example of how to spend two days in Iceland.

Day one:

Start the day by going on the Golden Circle tour, one of the more popular day trips from Reykjavík and for a reason. On the tour you will visit three of Iceland’s most captivating sights, the world-famous Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss- the queen of Icelandic waterfalls and Thingvellir National Park. The driving distance is approximately 220 kilometres and the entire tour takes 8 hours. 

After seeing three of Iceland’s natural wonders it’s time for dinner. Sky Restaurant & Bar is located on the 8th floor of CenterHotel Arnarhvoll and offers a spectacular view over the bay and Harpa Music Hall, great food, cocktails and a versatile group menu. And the best part is that CenterHotel guests receive a 10% discount of the  à la carte menu. 

Now if you have energy left we suggest you check out the Reykjavík nightlife. There are tons of bars, pubs and clubs in Reykjavík and they are all located within short walking distance from each other making bar hopping easy. You can even take a Pub Crawl tour for only 2.500 kr. which offers a guided tour of the Icelandic nightlife AND discounted drinks.  Can’t beat that! 

How to spend two days in Iceland

Day two:

Depending on how long you stayed out pub crawling we suggest spending your second day going on either a Glacier Adventure tour or a more relaxing but scenic tour of the South Coast.

The Glacier Adventure tour takes you on a snowmobiling adventure on top of Mýrdalsjökull glacier where you enjoy the beautiful view over South of Iceland, one of the most scenic part of the country.

If you want to experience this beautiful part of the country without the glacier/snowmobiling part then you can take the South Shore Adventure tour, a scenic drive along Iceland’s south coast. Along the way you will see the gorgeous Skógafoss waterfall and Seljalandsfoss waterfall which you can actually walk behind. Then you will stop at Reynisfjara black sand beach, one of the most spectacular beaches in Iceland and visit the charming village of Vík surrounded by beautiful bird cliffs.

After a full day of sightseeing you must be hungry so let’s end the day at Ísafold Restaurant, a cozy and romantic restaurant located at CenterHotel Þingholt with outstanding food and high-quality Icelandic ingredients.

Bring on the World Cup 2018

Posted on Categories Activities, Events, Football, IcelandTags , , , ,

Here we are again, anxiously waiting to cheer on “our boys” (as we like to call our men’s national football team) when they compete against football giants like Argentina in the FIFA World Cup 2018 that starts next week. HUH! (viking sheer)

 

Two years ago we watched the Icelandic team successfully reach the quarter-finals in the Euro Cup 2016, beating huge football nations like England. Being the total underdog and making it so far; the team along with their dentist coach became one of the most talked about teams of the tournament. Their indomitable team spirit and enthusiasm and of course the infamous viking cheer; made the Icelandic team a new favorite of many in the world. HUH!

 

The next challenge for the team was to qualify for the World Cup finals. Surely they did just that by winning their group outright, proving that their success at the Euro was no fluke. Being the smallest nation ever to qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals makes this a remarkable achievement for a nation so small. HUH!

 

So here we are, 7 days away from the World Cup kick off on Thursday, June 14th and 10 days away from Iceland’s first match against Argentina on June 16th. The second match of the group is against Nigeria on June 22nd and the final game on June 26th against Croatia. If you happen to be in Iceland during these matches get ready for some craziness. All bars, restaurants and many other places will most likely be broadcasting the matches and you will hear screaming and cheering and hopefully Icelandic people celebrating until the wee hours of the night. HUH!

 

You might as well join in on the festivities and celebrate with us.
Centertainment will be hosting World Cup events at both CenterHotel Plaza and CenterHotel Miðgarður, where all the World Cup matches will be broadcasted, offering Happy Hour prices on drinks and other fun bar specials. See more on the events here.
So, next Saturday  let’s all cheer for the underdogs when Iceland meets Argentina and hope that Iceland will beat the odds once again!

ÁFRAM ÍSLAND! HUH!!

 

Surf’s up in Iceland

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When you’re planning a surf vacation, Iceland may not be the first place you think of.
However in recent years the surf community in Iceland has slowly been growing and it is starting to attract surfers from all over the world. Despite the cold water, surfers are looking at Iceland as a new surfing destination due to its world class surf spots and unspoiled nature, offering surfers a unique one of a kind surfing experience.

Iceland offers all kinds of surf breaks, from beach breaks and mellow point breaks to heavy reef slabs and you don’t have to go far from Reykjavik to find good surf spots. The closest one to Reykjavik city is Grótta, located on the west tip of Reykjavik city. You will see Grótta lighthouse and the break is visible from the parking lot.

Reykjanes peninsula is also known to be heaven for windsurfers and surfers alike with some of the best and most consistent waves in Iceland. It also is very picturesque with it’s volcanic landscape and geothermal pools.
The magical Snæfellsnes peninsula also has some great surf spots. It is located about  2.5hrs drive North of Reykjavik and has some great south facing beach breaks and incredibly stunning landscape.

For advanced surfers; the best time to surf in Iceland is between October and March. That is when the heavy storms and big swells come in. Just keep in mind that during the winter months the water is cold, 3-5°C, and can sometimes drop down to freezing temperature but you can also expect some amazing northern lights to light up the darkness.

The summer time is not as consistent and big as the colder months but it is warmer and you get 24/7 daylight. This is a better time for beginners or intermediate surfers to experience some Icelandic surf. Arctic Surfers offers  surf school / day at the beach programs running June, July and August.

As the weather keeps changing in Iceland you will have to be constantly checking the forecast. And in case the conditions aren’t good or the weather not favorable then don’t worry, there is plenty of other things to do in Iceland as you can find out in our previous blogs.

Day Tripping-The Golden Circle

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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.

The Northern Lights season starts again

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Nature, Northern Lights, Reykjavik, ToursTags , , , , ,

The Northern Lights are back.

It is with great excitement that we announce that the Northern Lights season has begun once again in Iceland and the forecast tonight, September 6th is looking GOOOOD!
The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are caused by the collisions of electrically charged particles from the sun with the earth’s upper atmosphere near the North Pole.
Although the Northern Lights are active all year round; you can only spot them in the dark and when the sky is clear. Which means that the early fall is a great time to spot the dancing lights of the aurora in Iceland because the dark nights have returned and the weather conditions are still favorable.
The aurora can appear in many colors although the green and pink are the most common. The lights can appear like a shooting ray across the sky or as a soft silky cloth that lights up the sky with an eerie glow.
To view the Northern Lights in all their glory it’s best to be away from the city lights.
One of the more common destinations for Northern Lights hunting is ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK as it is extremely photogenic and only approximately an hour drive from Reykjavík. If you don’t have a car or have the ambition to drive aimlessly into the night you can easily book a guided Northern Lights tour with an expert guide that know the best places to spot the lights depending on weather conditions. Just keep in mind that the tour is usually 3-4 hour long so make sure you have eaten dinner and are well rested. Since many visitors like to nap prior to their Northern Lights tour we at Centerhotels offer our guests Northern Lights wake up service free of charge.
There are also several spots in and around Reykjavík that are good for Northern Lights hunting.
GRÓTTA LIGHTHOUSE is a popular spot as it’s in close vicinity of downtown Reykjavík.Giving the close vicinity to downtown and the fact that is very poorly lit makes it a great spot for Aurora hunting. For last minute Aurora hunting on a clear night you might very possibly catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights by the Old harbour downtown. SKY Restaurant & Bar is located on the 8th floor at Centerhotel Arnarhvoll across from Harpa music hall and has a breathtaking view over the Old Harbour. Tonight might be the perfect night to grab a bite or a cocktail while experiencing one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Keep in mind that as a Centerhotel guest you receive 10% discount of the food menu.

Happy Aurora hunting!