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!

12 fun facts about Iceland and Icelanders

Posted on Categories Culture, Equality, Food, Iceland, Nature, TraditionTags , , , , , ,

Since you’re visiting Iceland; we wouldn’t want you to be too shocked or surprised by our wonderfully unique culture or quirky habits. So here are 12 fun facts about us and our country so you can be properly prepared.

 

1. We LOVE Ice Cream

Cold temperature does not discourage Icelanders from standing in line at the Ice cream shop regardless of the season. You will find a Ice cream shop in almost every neighborhood in the capital area. 

 

2. 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.

This is also the reason why Icelandic people use outdoor swimming pools in the winter just as much as in the summer as they are all heated geothermally 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.  

 

3. No mosquitoes

Yep, you can relax and enjoy a summer evening in Iceland without worrying about getting bit by these annoying insects.

 

4. 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.

 

5. 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.

 

6. 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). 

 

7. 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.

 

8. The smallest nation ever to qualify for World Cup finals

A mere year after making into the quarter finals 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.

 

9. 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.

 

10. No McDonald’s or Starbucks

Fast food restaurants do exist in Iceland but you will not find a McDonalds or Starbucks anywhere unlike in most other cities.

 

11. Iceland 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…we won!

 

12. The Icelandic police does 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.

Summer Festivals in Iceland

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Events, Festivals, Iceland, Music, Nature, Reykjavik, TraditionTags , , , ,

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

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Nature, ToursTags , , , , Leave a comment on How to spend your quick stopover in Iceland

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.

Surf’s up in Iceland

Posted on Categories Activities, Iceland, Nature, surfTags , , , , ,

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.

Things to reconsider when planning a trip to Iceland

Posted on Categories Food, Iceland, Nature, Northern Lights, ReykjavikTags , , ,

When planning or packing for your Icelandic vacation, there are few things that you may want to reconsider. For example, don’t bother to…

 

BRING YOUR UMBRELLA

Sure, it does rain in Iceland..however, the wind blows even more frequently and an umbrella and the wind do not go together.

 

BUY BOTTLED WATER

Icelandic tap water is about as clean as water can be. But not just clean, it’s delicious.  

Just run it for a few seconds, get it nice and cold and you will never want to buy another bottle of water again.  

 

CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST IN ADVANCE

Weather in Iceland is way too unpredictable. Just be prepared for any kind of weather condition, rain, wind, snow, fog, sun. You could actually experience all the above in the same day.

 

SAVE LUGGAGE SPACE BY LEAVING YOUR WARM JACKET OR COAT AT HOME

Bad idea, because of the above comment.

 

LEAVE YOUR BATHING SUIT AT HOME REGARDLESS OF THE SEASON

Winter or summer you don’t want to miss out on visit Iceland without taking a dip in a naturally heated thermal pool or in a natural hot spring.  

 

EXPECT SEEING POLAR BEARS, PENGUINS OR IGLOOS.

Because if you do you’re in the wrong place.  The name Iceland may be a bit misleading because temperature in Iceland are quite mild thanks to the Gulf Stream. However approximately 11% of Iceland is covered by glaciers so glacier related trips and activities are very popular. You can see some of them here.

 

GET VACCINATED.

Unless you are arriving from countries that suffer from certain infectious diseases.  But Iceland is a very safe country to visit and infectious diseases aren’t a problem.

 

BE A VEGETARIAN

Well..most restaurants in Reykjavík do cater to vegetarians and have vegetarian options on their menus but it is almost a crime visiting Iceland without trying the Icelandic lamb, fish and of course HOT DOGS. We shouldn’t leave out other Icelandic delicacies like fermented shark but that may actually turn a meat lover into a vegetarian. 

 

GET A HOT DOG FROM ANY OTHER PLACE THEN ‘BÆJARINS BEZTU’.

They are simply the best.

 

GET UPSET WITH THE HOTEL STAFF BECAUSE THE  NORTHERN LIGHTS WEREN’T VISIBLE

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 they are NOT visible in the summertime when the sun never sets and only when weather conditions are favorable.

So don’t come to Iceland with the main or only purpose to see the Northern Lights, there are plenty of other things to see and explore.

On the other hand, if you are visiting in the summertime we can guarantee you plenty of Midnight sun. 🙂

 

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.

New CenterHotel; CenterHotel Miðgarður

Posted on Categories Iceland, Nature, our-hotels, ReykjavikTags , , ,

This summer the new extension of CenterHotel Miðgarður was finalized and with that the hotel now offers 170 beautifully decorated rooms, breakfast room, open and spacious lobby and lobby lounge, bar and well-designed meeting rooms.   The hotel building is designed in a u-shaped form with a beautifully decorated secluded garden in the middle that is accessible for guests both from the lobby as well as from the hotel’s restaurant; Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar.

With the extension of the hotel, a SPA was also added to the hotel that includes an indoor and an outdoor hot tub, sauna, gym and two treatment rooms.  Various types of beauty treatments and massages will be available at Miðgarður SPA.

The design and at the same time the theme of the hotel is the nature that reflects in numerous flowers and trees that are found throughout the hotel, both indoor and outdoor.  The “Klöpp” or the flat rock the building was built on is well visible in the garden showing the true nature surrounding the hotel.  The interior design is light, bright and beautiful and it’s aim is to give guests a place where they can really enjoy a relaxing and cozy time during their visit in the city center.

 

Why visit Iceland in the Autumn

Posted on Categories Autumn, Iceland, Nature, ReykjavikTags , , ,

You may have heard that the only time to visit Iceland is during the summer months.  

Well, we beg to differ. It really depends on what you are looking to experience. Sure, June to late August is the peak travel season in Iceland due to warmer weather, long days and accessibility to more remote sites. But there is still plenty to experience in other seasons and several reasons why it actually makes more sense to visit Iceland in the autumn.

Beautiful

Although temperatures are lower and the days are shorter, the weather is still favorable in the fall and most roads are still accessible at least in September and October. Furthermore, Iceland is so incredibly beautiful in the Autumn with the leaves changing colors, rainbows and berries everywhere and of course the amazing sunsets, now that the sun actually sets.

Things to do

First of all did you know that the Northern Lights start making their first appearance in early September? Autumn is a great time to spot one of the 7 natural wonders of the world as the dark nights have returned and the weather conditions are still good. 

September is also the time to join in on one of Iceland’s oldest cultural traditions; the annual sheep round-up, a.k.a Réttir. Sounds like fun? Well, Réttir is the biggest farming event in Iceland. It is when farmers gather and round up all their sheep and horses from the mountains and it becomes a big community celebration. Farmers invite family, friends and anyone who’s interested to help out with rounding up the sheep and of course it’s followed by a night of singing, dancing and drinking.  And if you haven’t already, this is the time and season to try fresh organic Icelandic lamb. It doesn’t get better.. anywhere else.. promise!

For you movie buffs, be sure to check out Reykjavík International Film Festival. RIFF is an independent non profit organization and the festival takes place every year in late September for eleven days. 

Another huge autumn event in Iceland for music lovers in particular is the notorious Airwaves music festival, held every year in late October/early November. 

Crowds and Prices

Now that the summer tourist is gone; you will experience less crowds at the popular destinations making it easier for you to spread out and catch those awesome Instagram shots without random tourists with selfie sticks ruining your view.

Last but not least, most airlines and hotels drop their prices significantly in the fall/winter seasons making Iceland a bit more affordable so think about the money you could save visiting Iceland in the Autumn.

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!