Why Iceland

Posted on Categories heritage, Iceland, Music, Nature, Northern Lights

Iceland has been a sizzling hot travel destination in recent years and it doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon.

But what is it that attracts travelers to this island in the north Atlantic?

 

NATURE

Iceland is known for its unspoiled dramatic and oh so picturesque landscape with drastic cliffs, black beaches and spectacular waterfalls. It is unlike most places you see which is why your Instagram feed might be bombarded with pictures from Iceland. The country is often called the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ due to the numerous volcanoes and glaciers. 11% of the Iceland is actually covered by glaciers. Jökulsárlón, a large glacial lake in south-east Iceland is one of the most popular attractions and is most definitely worth the visit.

Another attraction for visitors are of course the infamous Northern Lights which can be visible from September to mid April and in the summertime you will experience the Midnight Sun where the sun never fully sets and the country comes alive with fun Midnight Sun events.  

 

HOT SPRINGS

Iceland is situated on a hot spot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge causing a lot of geothermal activity which is why you will find many hot springs and geothermal pools in Iceland. The most famous hot spring/lagoon in Iceland is called the Blue Lagoon, located only 30 minutes from Reykjavík and another popular hot spring  is Mývatn Nature Baths located in north Iceland. 

 

NO CRIMES

Iceland has a very low crime rate and according to the 2017 Global Peace Index Iceland is the safest country in the world, a position it has held since 2011.

However due to Icelandic rough nature and unpredictable weather one must take precaution when traveling around Iceland.

 

FOOD

Iceland is known for spectacular seafood and lamb and has many excellent restaurants serving Icelandic lamb and seafood dishes consisting of fresh locally sourced ingredients.

Other must tries while in Iceland are the Icelandic hot dogs, skyr (Icelandic jógurt) and make sure you stop by at least one bakery and try ‘Snúður’, a large cinnamon bun with chocolate frosting, a particular favorite of ours.

 

ICELANDIC HORSE

The Icelandic horse is a special breed that has captivated animal enthusiasts from all over the world and for a long time was Iceland’s main tourist attraction. 

 

MUSIC

Iceland has created quite the buzz in the world of art and music, so music lovers flock to Iceland yearly for the music and art scene or to visit one of the popular music festivals hosted in Iceland like Iceland Airwaves or Secret Solstice festival.

And last but not least majority of Icelandic people speak English fairly well  and with the country being ideally located in direct flight route between North America and Europe it makes the perfect stopover.

A week of three bizarre Icelandic holidays

Posted on Categories Events, Food, heritage, Holidays, Tradition, WinterTags , , , , , , ,

This week is a busy one in Iceland with international events and holidays like Valentines Day but today we’re going to focus on three quirky Icelandic holidays filled with indulgence and innocent fun.

 

Bolludagur – Bun Day

Bolludagur or Bun day is the first and yes we have a day named after a delicious chocolate glazed cream puff. Bolludagur always falls on a Monday six weeks prior to Easter and the tradition came to Iceland from Norway and Denmark and marks the start of Lent.

Lent being the time of self denial; what makes more sense than to stuff your face with puff pastry buns filled with jam and whipped cream, topped with chocolate glaze two days prior?

Traditionally local families will bake their own buns but you will find all sorts of buns in bakeries and grocery stores with variety of fillings and toppings.

Another interesting tradition associated with Bolludagur is that children in kindergarten make wooden decorated paddles which they use to spank their parents with in the morning of Bolludagur while yelling ‘Bolla, bolla, bolla’ in order to get a bun in return. A quite lovely tradition for us parents.. say no more. 

 

Sprengidagur

Sprengidagur is the day before Lent and day 2 of overindulgence.  
On Sprengidagur it is custom to eat a Lentil Soup or stew accompanied with salted lamb meat, potatoes and other root vegetables, a dish called ‘Saltkjöt og Baunir’. This meal is very savory and filling and although Icelanders don’t celebrate Lent by fasting anymore, the tradition of overeating Saltkjöt og Baunir on Sprengidagur is still very much alive.

 

Öskudagur – Ash Wednesday

The Icelandic tradition associated with this day is a bit strange. Young women would try and pin small pouches filled with ash onto the boy they fancied without them noticing.

Today however, Ash Wednesday has turned into more of a Halloween where children will dress up in costumes and walk between stores or houses and sing in hopes of receiving candy in return.

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So now you know why you’ll see children run between stores in costumes singing and the rest of the population may seem a bit dazed as most of us will be experiencing a mild case of food coma.

But don’t forget that Wednesday is not only Ashday but it’s also VALENTINES DAY and believe me when I say that we at CenterHotels are getting geared up for the day of loooove. Stay tuned on our Facebook sites.

Þorrablót – Midwinter Festival

Posted on Categories Culture, Culture, heritage, Iceland, TraditionTags , , , ,

Hip Hip Hooray-it’s midwinter in Iceland which means only one thing..it’s celebration time again!

According to the old Icelandic calendar which was developed in the 10th century, the fourth month of winter (mid January to mid February) is called Þorrinn (Thorrinn).  The word is most likely derived from Thor, the thunder god from the Norse mythology or from the Norwegian king Thorri Snærsson.
The old Icelandic calendar is not in use anymore but some Icelandic holidays and annual feasts are still calculated from it.

 

Þorrablót (Thorrafeast)

In pagan Iceland Þorrablót was a midwinter sacrifice, held to honor the Nordic gods, however with the Christianisation of Iceland the sacrificial festival was banned. Then in the 19th century, when Icelanders gained religious freedom, Þorrablót festival was brought back but without the sacrifices. This midwinter festival is still a popular tradition in Iceland today and is a feast where locals get together and celebrate their heritage by singing, dancing and eating traditional viking food and of course lots of drinking because, how else should we keep warm during these cold winter days?

The food, often served in wooden trays, consists of uncommon delicacies, like boiled sheep’s head, rams balls, blood and liver sausages, fermented shark, traditional herring and more.  All this is often washed down with an strong Icelandic schnapps made out of potato and caraway called Brennivín, also known as Black Death.

Assuming your mouth is starting to water, most grocery stores sell tasting trays during the month of Þorri.  And you can also find some Þorra inspired menu items at some local restaurants. Last but not least, the local breweries also take advantage of these festivities to create a selection of seasonal Þorri beers! You can find them in the Vínbúðin stores, our state-owned liquor shops.

Bóndadagur (Farmers Day)

The first day of Þorrinn is called Bóndadagur (Farmers Day) and this year Bóndadagur is on Friday January 25th. On this day it is customary that the wives and girlfriends are especially attentive to their men.

So ladies, why not make your man feel like a viking for the night by treating him to the Old Iceland menu at Ísafold Restaurant, a three course menu that showcases the best of Icelandic traditional cuisine with a modern twist (don’t worry there is no rotten shark on the menu).  And if your man is a whisky fan, you can end the evening with the whisky flights tasting which consists of three different types of exquisite whiskeys on a specially designed tray.