Fisherman’s Sunday 2019

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Events, Festivals, Food, Holidays, Iceland, TraditionTags , , , ,

This Sunday Icelanders will celebrate 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.

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). The festival reflects traditional Icelandic culture and the nation’s long-standing dependence on fishing.  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 have special offers. 

SKÝ Restaurant & Bar, located at CenterHotel Arnarhvoll has an incredible view over Harpa and the old harbour, will of course honor Fisherman’s day by offering guests a special offer on Fish & Chips and beer for only 2.900 kr. all day Sunday. SKÝ Restaurant & Bar also offers happy hour between 16-18.

Now go out and join the festivities.

2 Days Driving in the Snæfellsnes

Posted on Categories IcelandTags , , ,

Two hours driving from Reykjavík, an impressive coast of 90 kilometres long features dramatic cliffs and magnificent sceneries.  The Snæfellsnes Peninsula’s decorum has been shaped by volcanic ash and glacier erosion. It is home to a majestic nature and a rich culture. In fact, the communities of Snæfellsnes Peninsula were the first in Europe to receive a certification from Green Globe, an international benchmarking system for sustainable travel and tourism.

According to Google Map, you could go around the peninsula and be back in Reykjavik in less than 8 hours. The reality is that you will most probably stop every 15 minutes to enjoy the view and take pictures! Let’s be honest, you won’t be able to see everything in one day, or two… Although, if this the only time that you have, some great tour are available to see the most important landmarks of the region. Here, you can have a look at different tours.

I believe the ideal way to discover the gems of this almost untouched land is by car. The landscape is offering a remarkable selection of sceneries and having a car allows you to enjoy the ride at your rhythm. Of course, everyone is different and so is our tastes in travelling! If you enjoy driving, exploring nature and could savour a little bit of freedom, then that’s your way! This being said, remember to always be careful when you stop the car; Iceland’s roads are narrow and the weather conditions are not always the most favourable. So, enjoy the ride and be prudent!

 

On your way, you can find mineral springs in various places. For example, at Ölkelda and Lýsuhóll, which both have a thermal pool with naturally-carbonated water.

Likewise, you will find a secret hot spring called Landbrotalaug. Why secret? Because if you don’t know where to look, it’s impossible to find it! Indeed, it only fits 2-3 people at a time. It is worth the visit though. Especially with a loved one, as there is something majestic about the wilderness of Snæfellsnes and a hidden natural hot spring. As a matter of fact, there is no entry fee.  On the other hand, there are no changing facilities either… Be wild!

 

 

Gerðuberg Basalt Columns

Your next stop is approximately 3 minutes driving from the Landbrotalaug.

The Gerðuberg Cliffs of dolerite is a coarse-grained basalt rock formation. These basaltic lava columns are between 1 and 1.5 meters wide and between 7 and 14 meters high.  The even columns appeared during the solidification of the lava by the cold ocean water.

 

Stykkishólmur

We recommend to start with the northern part of the peninsula and stop by Stykkishólmur. The small town is surrounded by innumerable islands, creating an incredible view from the town’s lighthouse.

The inhabitants of Stykkishólumr have a strong will to preserve their nature and history for future generations. Their strong work led to receiving, in 2019, for the 10th consecutive time, the EarthCheck certification; making them the recipient of the Platinum Certification.

Snæfellsjökull National Park

One place you can’t miss is the country’s youngest national park, situated on the tip of the coast. Like the other national parks, the reasons for their official recognition is based on their geology, history and cultural significance. Because so, visitors can acquire a deeper insight into what makes Iceland so unique.  In fact,  the main attraction of the National Park is the mystical glacier and inactive volcano, Snæfellsjökull. It was made famous in 1864 by Jules Verne in his popular book “Journey to the center of the Earth”.

The national park extends also to Djúpalónssandur, the black Lava Pearl Beach. In the past, the area was home to the most prolific fishing villages in the peninsula. Now uninhabited, you can still test your strength with some lifting-stones of different weight; just like the fishermen used to do it. The decorum brings you the world of Game of Thrones, or simply another planet!

Arnarstapi, a small village, was an important trading post in the past. By the gorgeous cliffs of the village, you can watch the birds and the spectacular landscape. The contrast offered by the glacier, the lava formation, the blue ocean and the yellow-greenish moss is absolutely charming. When admiring a landscape, always remember to turn around and admire what is behind you as well.

Finally, when visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, make sure to ask about the tales and old ghost sagas of the region.  They have given mystical energies to this beautiful area.

You can book your trip to Snæfellnes Peninsula right here.

Icelandic Furry Friends

Posted on Categories Animals, history, Iceland, NatureTags , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When Iceland was first settled, back in the 9th century, the only native land mammal was the Arctic Fox. They came to the island at the end of the ice age, when frozen water was connecting Iceland with North America. The settlers were the ones bringing all the other Icelandic domestic breeds. 

Due to the island’s geographic isolation, most of the breeds have remained unchanged since. The Icelandic horse is a well-known example of this and of course the farmers best friend, the Icelandic sheepdog.   

These both amiable and furry creatures first came to Iceland with the Nordic Vikings, the original settlers of Iceland. 

 

The Icelandic Sheepdog

In terrain like in Iceland, the breed developed flexibility, strength, patience, as well as independence. Additionally, with being easily trainable, the dog became an excellent herder of sheep and other domestic animals. Also, with its loud bark, they made great guard dogs and protected the lamb from predators like eagles.

Today, not only he is the farmers’ favorite little helper and a great household pet. The Icelandic sheepdog is also helping in a variety of jobs, like avalanche tracking and field searches.

 

The Icelandic Horse

Like all the other non-native mammals, Nordic settlers brought the first horses on the island. More precisely, coming from British Isles between 860 and 935 AD. Known for being easy-going and friendly, the Icelandic horse is famous for its welcoming and nurturing temperament.

They are exactly like their country, little but strong! Their muscular silhouette,  shaggy fur, and small height (140 cm) typify them. Normally, we consider most horse breeds that are shorter than 147 cm as ponies. That being said, you can ask any Icelander, the answer will be the same; they are not ponies, they are horses!

While other horse breeds may perform 3 or 4 gaits (ways of walking), this Nordic beauty has the ability to perform 5. The Tölt and the Pace are the additional gaits to the common Walk, Trot, and Gallop.

The Icelandic horses have marked a lot the history of their island. Worldwide, they are known for being loyal, pleasant and strong creatures. Doubtlessly, they are popular for their camaraderie and comfortable ride.

 

Fun fact:

During medieval times, the Icelandic sheepdog was quite popular amongst the British.   Not only for sheep farmers but also as pets for elites. William Shakespeare even mentioned the Icelandic dog in his popular play Henry V.

Icelanders are very protective of their horse breed. First of all, authorities do not allow any other horse breed to enter the country, and this since 982 AD. Nonetheless, any Icelandic horse leaving Iceland is not allowed to enter back in either! Hence, there are more Icelandic horses living outside of Iceland then in.

 

A WEEK FILLED WITH ICELANDIC TRADITIONS

Posted on Categories Iceland

This week is a busy one in Iceland. Today starts the celebrations of three quirky Icelandic holidays filled with traditions, indulgence and innocent fun.

 

BOLLUDAGUR – BUN DAY

First things first; the week starts with Bolludagur or Bun day. Yes, we have a holiday 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. It marks the start of Lent.

Lent being the time for fasting, what is better than to stuff your face with puff pastry buns filled with jam and whipped cream, topped with chocolate glaze before it all starts?

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

Another interesting tradition associated with Bolludagur, is that kindergarten children make wooden decorated paddles which they use to spank their parents with.  On the morning of Bolludagur, while yelling ‘Bolla, bolla, bolla’, the kids chase their parents 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 the second day of overindulgence.
On Sprengidagur it is custom to eat a Lentil Soup or stew accompanied by salted lamb meat, potatoes, and other root vegetables. This dish is called ‘Saltkjöt og Baunir’ and is indeed, very savory and filling. Although Icelanders don’t celebrate Lent by fasting anymore, the tradition of feasting Saltkjöt og Baunir on Sprengidagur is still very much alive.

 

ÖSKUDAGUR – ASH WEDNESDAY

Lastly, 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. Children will dress up in costumes and walk between stores or houses and sing hoping to receive candies in return.

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So now you know why you’ll see costumed children run between stores singing.  Also, as most of us will be experiencing a mild case of food coma, we may seem a bit dazed. Join us in celebrating these traditions!

Stay tuned on our Facebook sites.

Iceland’s Beer Day

Posted on Categories Beer, Culture, Holidays, IcelandTags , , , , ,

Surprisingly, the Icelandic government prohibited beer during most part of the 20th Century. Once the authorities made the precious beverage legal again, it became the most popular beverage amongst locals. Every year, on March 1st, Icelanders celebrate Beer Day in honor of the abolition of the beer prohibition, which lasted 74 years (January 1st, 1915 to March 1st, 1989).

 

Beer always had an important place in the hearts of Icelanders. No wonders, since many locals had their own brewing equipment at home during the 19th Century! Nowadays, the Icelandic beer brewing industry is prospering rapidly. Several new breweries focusing on craftsmanship beers started their operations offering the widest selection of local beers Iceland ever had! The deliciousness of the Icelandic beers is not only due to the use of their pure and high-quality water but also to their ingenuity and rigor.

 

When the British invaded Iceland during the Second World War, many soldiers thought that their life was missing an important element… Beer! Hence, the government allowed Ölgerðin Brewery to produce beer for the British Navy, only for that period. You can still find this beer today under its original name; the Polar Beer. For the time being, it was still illegal for Icelanders to consume beer and it remained that way until the near end of the 20th Century!

 

Surprisingly enough, after the withdrawal of the prohibition, only a few breweries were producing a limited variety of beers. The main productions were pale lagers and lagers. The two major breweries were Ölgerðin Brewery and Vífilfell. Amongst many beers produced, you should try the following ones:

 

Ölgerðin classics

  • Egils Gull
  • Egils Premium
  • Egils Sterkur.

 

Vífilfell classics

  • Viking Classic (Vienna style beer with a slight taste of caramel and roasted malt)
  • Viking Sumaröl (Belgian style summer beer spiced with coriander and orange peel)
  • Viking Páskabjór (Most popular Dunkel beer in Iceland with rusty tones and flavors of coffee, chocolate, and caramel)
  • Thule.

 

In recent years, the beer market has flourished to give the drinkers an extended possibility of choices. Rather you are a beer lover or not, here are some beers you should definitely try before leaving. Some microbreweries, such as Ægisgarður are even offering tours allowing visitors to understand the process of beer making and taste many different products!

 

Later on, many smaller and creative breweries produce beer inspired from all around the world. Amongst many, the beer Bríó won several prizes for its distinct taste. The German hops and Pilsen Malt added to the recipe gives to the beer the interesting flavor. Once you try its sweet perfume, it is hard to let it go.

 

Lastly, you shouldn’t leave Iceland without trying the fruit of the first microbrewery that opened in 2006; Arskógssandur. Their brewing techniques are inspired by the Czech traditional ways. Kaldi, their pilsner beer offers dry and fresh taste with flavors of roasted barley and hops. The fermentation with burnt malt gives to the Kaldi Dark beer an additional dark color and intense flavors! You should visit the Kaldi Bar in the center of Reykjavik. Easier for you to taste more than one of their treasures!  

 

list of other beers worth your time and money:

  • Lava (Black Ale): Like wine, it ages very well and reaches its optimal taste quality after 3 years in cold storage! This beer won many championships, mainly the “United States Open Beer Championship”. Because of this, North American consumers can now enjoy this Icelandic delicacy from home!
  • Einstök Beers: White Ale, Pale Ale, Toasted Porter, DoppelBock etc. The Einstöck brewery offers a great selection of beers for all tastes. It is most likely to find them in the UK and the USA. A question of keeping the travel lasting a little bit longer!
  • Borg Brugghús Beers: Úlfur (Indian-styled Pale Ale), NR 8.2 Surtur (Imperial stout with vanilla and oaky aromas),  NR 8.4 Surtur  (Imperial stout with licorice, dark chocolate and coffee aromas) and Leifur Nr. 32 (Belgian White with arctic thyme and heaters flavors).

 

Skál (Cheers)!!

Konudagur / Woman’s Day.

Posted on Categories Culture, history, Holidays, Iceland, TraditionTags , , , , , , , , ,

Icelanders sure know how to keep their traditions alive! Many festivities throughout the year come from ancient celebrations from the pre-Christian Norse calendar. Þorri and Góa, for example, celebrate the beginning of the fourth and fifth month of winter.

Both of these celebrations are also known as Husband’s Day (Bóndadagur), and Woman’s Day (Konudagur). Bóndadagur marks the beginning of the Icelandic month of Þorri. Whereas, Konudagur marks the start of the month of Góa. Konudagur is the first day of Góa. It always falls on a Sunday on the second-to-last winter month, marking the time when the days start being visibly longer.  Centuries ago the tradition was that the housewives would  wake up and go lightly dressed out in the snow, to welcome Góa by saying:

 

“Góa is coming, kind and true;

she´ll be warm enough.

Þorri, you´ll be missed by few;

you´ve been plenty rough.”

 

The expression “Ladies’ Day” goes back to 1900. It made it to the official calendar in 1927 and has been on it since then.

On both Þorri and Góa, it is tradition to pamper your loved one with sweet attentions throughout the day.      

So for that reason and the fact that it’s in February, Woman’s Day (Konudagur) has been considered the Icelandic equivalent to Valentine’s Day. Although the day of love gained international popularity over the last years, Icelanders prefer to follow their traditions and reserve a special day for both parties.

Here are some reasons to adopt this new love tradition after your visit to Iceland!

 

  • Always lands on a weekend!

It is known, Valentine’s Day is always on the 14th of February, which may cause you to celebrate in the middle of the week or having a belated lovely dinner during the weekend… Well, Konudagur is always on a Sunday and Bóndadagur is always on a Friday! Needless to say more.

 

  • Specially confectioned cake

Every year, Icelandic bakers hold a competition for “The Cake of the Year”. The most beautiful and delicious cake is sold especially for Konudagur! Here you go ladies, the best cake is showcased in the windows just for you. You deserve it!  

 

  • Two instead of one!

Bóndadagur and Konudagur both focus on pampering the individual instead of the couple itself. This means that you get the whole day to treat your other half without compromising; food, activities, surprises, everything at your loved one’s preferences! And you know you’ll get yours too.. Not bad eh?

Anyhow, remember that we should be celebrating love every day, not only because of a special date and should always treat our loved one like a prince and a princess! Have a good day!

20 Intriguing Fun Facts About Iceland

Posted on Categories IcelandTags , , , , , , , , , ,
Credits: UEFA Nations League

Iceland is not only the country of wonderful breathtaking landscapes. It’s inhabitants share a rich and fascinating culture. Here are 20 fun facts that will make you want to visit Icelanders and their intriguing island. Enjoy!

 

Food

NEVER SAY NO TO ICE CREAM

Cold temperature does not discourage Icelanders from standing in line at the Ice cream shop regardless of the season. You will find an Ice cream shop in almost every neighborhood in the capital area. Try Ísbuðin Valdís, Joylato or Brynja, our favorite ones!

 

NO MCDONALD’S OR STARBUCKS

Fast food restaurants do exist in Iceland but you will not find a McDonald’s or Starbucks anywhere unlike in most other cities. Although, the consumption of Coca Cola per capita is higher than in any other country!

 

BEER WAS ILLEGAL FOR 74 YEARS

Yep, there was a ban put on alcoholic drinks in Iceland in 1915. In 1935 the ban was partially lifted where stronger spirits were legalized but beer was not included until March 1, 1989. Still, to this day, the 1st of March is the Beer Day and it is very well celebrated by the locals.

 

TRADITIONAL FOOD IN ICELAND CAN BE QUITE SURPRISING…

These include hákarl (fermented shark), súrir hrútspungar (boiled and cured ram’s testicles) and lundabaggi (sheep’s loins also cured in lactic acid). These delicacies are mostly found during the annual festival of Þorrablot, celebrating the 4th month of winter according to the ancient Norse traditions and calendar. Oh, in Iceland, when someone thanks for the food, the answer will be “Verði þér að goðu!” Which can be translated into “Hope the food will do you well”! We will see about that…

 

Country

YOUNGEST LAND, OLDEST DEMOCRACY

Iceland has the world’s oldest extant parliamentary institution, Alþingi Parliament formed in 930. Which is remarkably interesting since Iceland is the last land in history to be populated. It is also, geologically, the youngest country to be formed.

 

ONE OF THE MOST ECO-FRIENDLY COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD

Roughly 90% of Icelandic homes enjoy heating and electricity from renewable energy and natural geothermal resources. This is one of the main factors that make Iceland rank one of the greenest environments in Europe.

 

ICELAND IS THE MOST PEACEFUL COUNTRY

First of all, the country does not have an army, navy or air force. Iceland has only waged one war, and it can barely be called war. Its name is “Þorskastríðið”, The Cod War, political disputes between the governments of Iceland and the UK over fishing grounds. The only weapons Icelanders used were scissors, to cut the enemies fishing nets…and WE WON! Also, the crime rate is very low in Iceland, hence, the police do not carry guns. The only officers permitted to carry firearms are on a special force called the Viking Squad, and they are seldom called out. One man has been shot by the police, ever.

 

IMPORTANT MAIN ROAD!

The “Ring Road”, road number 1, is the only national highway and goes all around the country. When it closes for bad weather conditions, there is no way around. One needs to wait for the main (and only) road to re-open!

 

Language

NAMING COMMITTEES

The government of Iceland has a naming committee for newborns. The Naming Committee approves the first names of all newborns in order to preserve the traditions and culture. The Icelandic Naming committee maintains an official register of approved Icelandic given name. Fun fact; the country also has a non-official government body, which two members are appointed by a government agency, regulating the name of horses, The Horse Naming Commission.

 

NO SURNAMES OR FAMILY NAMES

The Icelandic phone book 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.

 

ICELANDERS SPEAK 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.

 

A VERY PROUD NATION

The official written and spoken language in Iceland is Icelandic. It comes from the Old Norse and changed so little through time that students still read manuscripts written hundreds of years ago. On the 16th of November is “Dagur Íslenskrar Tungu”, The day of the Icelandic tongue (language).

 

Nature

NO MOSQUITOES

Yep, you can relax and enjoy a summer evening in Iceland without worrying about getting bit by these annoying insects. The weather stays too cold and windy during the summer to welcome them! There are also no reptiles or amphibians naturally in Iceland, hence there is none and is prohibited to own a pet lizard, turtle or snake.

 

THERE IS NO NIGHT DURING ALMOST 3 MONTHS

Because of its geographical position, Iceland gets extremely short days during the winter (only 4 hours) and no night between the end of May until the end of July. During the summer, the annual Arctic Open Golf Tournament in Akureyri, offers golfers to compete under the midnight sun, attracting players and watchers from all around the world.

 

Culture

GEOTHERMAL POOLS

Icelandic people use outdoor swimming pools in the winter just as much as in the summer as they are all heated with geothermal power all year round. Going to the swimming pool for an Icelander is like going to church for some. It’s a place where locals come together, chill in the Jacuzzi and catch up with other locals. And of course, it’s a blast for the kids with all the water slides.  Pools are very important in the Icelandic culture, and this, no matter the time of the year, the weather or the time.

 

ICELANDIC BABIES NAP OUTSIDE

Also no matter the season, it is very normal to see strollers and prams outside a coffee shop or a home as parents often let their babies nap outdoors (bundled up of course).

 

ICELAND IS A READING NATION

There is a word in Icelandic Jólabókaflóð, which means the Christmas book flood. Many books are being published before Christmas, as books are a very popular Christmas gift in Iceland! Surprisingly, they also watch more movies in the movie theatre than any other nation worldwide

 

AN EGALITARIAN NATION

Iceland became the first country in the world to democratically elect a female president in 1980 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and then an openly gay prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in 2009.

 

THE SMALLEST NATION EVER TO QUALIFY FOR WORLD CUP FINALS

A mere year after making into the quarterfinals at the 2016 Euro cup with an epic win against England, the Icelandic football team beat the odds again by qualifying for the world cup finals in 2018.

 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Iceland has a total of 13 Santa Clauses called the Yule Lads, and they are all brothers and vicious Sons of the dreadful ogress Grýla and her husband Leppalúði. They also have a Christmas Cat, who eats children if they are not wearing a new piece of clothes on Christmas Day. Brutal I know!

Hot Spring Wonders

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Nature, WinterTags , , , , , , , , , ,

If you are staying in Reykjavik for few days, you might want to take a day (or two) of travel in the countryside close to the city. Iceland is full of breathtaking landscape and the wonderful thing is that you don’t need to go very far to explore them.

The south of Iceland is extremely rich in astonishing and dreamy landscapes. It has to be one of the reason why the popular Golden Circle features several points of interest in that region! Geysers, waterfalls, glacier, geothermal rivers, volcanoes and many more natural wonders. If you feel a little bit more adventurous and wouldn’t mind some exercise, then this experience is for you!

Only 45 km away from Reykjavik, there is a small town called Hveragerði. They call themselves the hot springs capital of the world, or the earthquake town; you can see where this is going! The town is situated in the geothermal area of the Hengill Volcano; still active, but its last explosion is going back to more than 2,000 years ago. Such volcano activity is not dangerous but means several geothermal mud pools, hot springs and thermal rivers!  

 

Reykjadalur Valley, which is approximately 5 minutes driving from Hveragerði,  is one of the popular stops in the Hengill area. The name of the breathtaking valley translates to “Steamy Valley”, which will make sense once you see the numerous fumaroles decorating the landscape.

The access is very easy to find and there is a parking lot and a small coffee place near the entrance of the trail.

 

The hike itself is not very hard; it’s 3 km long (6km back and forth) with plenty of photo stops on the way. It lasts between 1 hour and 1 hour and a half depending on the experience of the hikers. In general, there are few steep paths and several flat ones. The quality of the trail is quite great, but of course one needs to be careful in nature; muddy in warmer period, icy in colder ones. Also, the trail could be impressive for someone uncomfortable with heights. As you can see on the picture, the landscapes are quite impressive and the trail follows the top of some hills.

The best and most rewarding part of this hike is reaching the hot springs. You will know when you are getting close as the sulfur smell gets more intense and steam pops out of the ground and from the mud pools. Those are extremely hot, it is dangerous to leave the path to get closer. Once you get to the geothermal river, there are some wooden paths that have been installed to facilitate your safety and also protect the surrounding nature; please use them.

After changing behind the panels installed, you jump in the warm river and feel the tickles eating your toes and enjoy! If going during the weekend, there are more people, but it is a lot more quiet on weekdays. The higher up the stream you go, the warmer the water is.

The trail is open all year long and we highly suggest to do it during winter time. The contrast between the warmth and the cold makes the hot springs even more welcoming. Not only this, but the snow and the cold creates a white paradise that brings you on another planet for few hours. When the light of the afternoon hits the top of the hills and colours the snow with an orange and pink light, the feelings is indescribable. The pictures speak for themselves.

What you will need for a perfect hike:

  • – Hiking boots OR sports shoes
  • – Bottle of water
  • – Warm unders
  • – Warm coat
  • – Gloves, hat, neck warmer
  • – Swimsuit
  • – Towel
  • – Extra pants (if you are cold when coming out of the hot springs)
  • – Extra socks
  • – Something to take pictures (you probably thought of that one already…)
  • – Snacks
  • – A trash bag (please make sure to take all of your trash with you when you leave)
  • – Beer (Why not enjoying your time in the hot springs a little?)
  • – Happiness
  • – Your smile!

 

If you would like to know more about other warm bathing options, in nature or not, I invite you to read another of our blog: https://www.centerhotels.com/2018/09/06/pools-and-hot-springs/

Ice Cold Ocean Swimming

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Iceland, Nature, ReykjavikTags , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Iceland and Icelanders are known for soaking in hot springs and warm geothermal pools. But Ocean swimming, not as much. 

As you can understand, swimming in whichever conditions is part of the wonderfully curious Icelandic culture. It is not rare to see Icelanders on their daily (or weekly) visit to the public pool, enjoying the hot tub and dipping into the cold tub after coming out of the steamy sauna, and this all year long! 

So taking a cold dip is a popular Nordic tradition. The Finnish and the Russians enjoy an ice cold ocean dip after coming out of the steamy sauna. The same applies to Icelanders, but don’t forget the Víking factor… They live more intensely!after  Moving back and forth from steamy saunas or hot pools into the the cold ocean. 

So it is not uncommon to see Icelandic locals go dipping into the ice cold ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean! Even now, in January with ocean temperatures as low as 4°C (39.2°F). Oh, those Viking genes…

The most common place to go ocean swimming in Reykjavik is Nauthólsvík beach (www.nautholsvik.is/en/), a geothermal beach not so far from the center of Reykjavik.  It is open all year long and can be very busy during warm summer days. During the winter, obviously, you won’t find many people sunbathing… But definitely, the ice cold dipping as become more popular over the last years. In the winter season, there is a small fee of 650 Kr. for the access to the locker room, steam bath and most importantly, the geothermal hot tub.

When going for the first time, it is recommended to stay NO MORE than 30 to 60 seconds in the ice cold water. Remember that it can be quite a shocking experience for your body! The idea is evidently to use as little clothes as possible, as if you would go swim normally, in a pool. Hence, no wet suit! There is no “Ice cold swimming police”, but understand that you get the benefits (and the fun) from it by getting cold.  Granting all this, they recommend using special shoes in order to avoid being hurt by the rocks dotting the ocean floor. The shoes are available there and cost about 15$.

With practice, some of the experienced swimmers are able to stay in the ice cold water  for up to 15 minutes. On average, people stay 5 minutes, and it is more than enough, believe me! Regardless of the amount of time in the water, it is absolutely necessary to move around and make the blood circulate throughout the body. The prickling and numbness in the extremities and on the skin is completely natural and the muscles will start to contract, normal as well!

Many Icelanders believe in the many benefits of the activity on their health condition. Take Haukur Bergsteinsson, for example, an eighty-two years old man swearing by cold ocean swims for good health. When interviewed by MBL in April 2017, he said “I’m going to keep swimming, the feeling is just indescribable. For me, it is definitely unmissable!”

 

 

Some studies even showed that getting your body used to very cold water on a regular basis can help with the blood circulation (increasing the level of white blood cells),  to boost your immune system, to bring your endorphins higher and reducing stress. Overall, including this exercise in your routine assures a happier, healthier and more energized life, according to Icelanders!! Well being and energy; this is what the ice cold water from the North Atlantic Ocean can provide you with! Don’t think about it too much, just do it!

What makes it great, is the whole experience. Coming out of the water is extremely fulfilling and cold doesn’t seem so bitter anymore. Yet, it is nothing compared to the warmth feeling filling up your heart when jumping in the 38°C hot tub. The fizzing feeling on the whole body brings back alive some body parts you thought you might have left in the ocean… It feels like your body melts a little bit and as if the system reboots from the inside. It can be very addictive… You are warned now!

DO NOT TRY ocean swimming just anywhere in Iceland as waves can be EXTREMELY STRONG and it can be VERY DANGEROUS!

Nonetheless, by trying this experience in Nathólsvík, you get to enjoy your viking experience AND then award yourself by with a dip in a warm geothermal pool! Oh, and Nauthólsvík also sells coffee and snacks to warm you up after the adventure! Not bad, not bad at all!

I invite you to have a look! https://nautholsvik.is/en/

The Toy Spreader

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Iceland, ReykjavikTags , , , , , ,

Superheroes, brave soldiers, furry cats, teddy bears, Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Tinker Bell, rubber ducks, cowboys, dinosaurs, the ninja turtles and many others can be seen around Reykjavik.

You may not have noticed them..yet..but if you pay close attention you will find little tiny toys glued to signposts, windows, rooftops, shop’s ensigns, all around downtown Reykjavik! And one thing is sure, once you see one, you pass the point of no return; you will start noticing them everywhere!

So now you must think: WHY AM I SEEING LITTLE TOYS ALL AROUND TOWN?

Dótadreifarinn, which translates into the Toy Spreader, is an anonymous someone who has been spreading these toys around town and no one knows who it is..kind of like the Icelandic Banksy.  The toys seem to all have the following things in common; small in size, has at least one flat surface, can stick easily to anything with glue, since they are all placed in some very difficult to reach spots.

But why, you say? We do not have the answer, unfortunately… Maybe because Iceland is one of the few country without a military force and the Toy Spreader is trying this as a solution? Jokes apart, it remains a mystery who the Toy spreader is and weather he/she works alone or with partners, if he is still in operation! Is it maybe the work of elves?  I personally prefer to imagine tiny elves laughing… Your choice eh!

Take a stroll around town and see if you can find some yourself. And welcome some friends to join! Just pay attention next time you walk in the downtown area of Reykjavik, you will see them. Here’s a little help…(keep in mind they may have changed places)

So, rather you start looking for them or just accidentally see one waving at you on your way to work, don’t forget to enjoy this little piece of simplicity and joy the Toy Spreader is gently offering to the citizen and visitors of Reykjavik!

 

Have a good day!