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/

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.

RAINBOW REYKJAVIK WINTER PRIDE

Posted on Categories Events, Northern Lights, Reykjavik, Tours, WinterTags , , ,

Pink Party, Queer Bingo Extravaganza, Northern Lights Hunt, Masquerade Ball and plenty more fabulous fun is on Rainbow Reykjavík Winter Pride’s agenda this weekend February 8-11.

Going on for the 7th year in Reykjavík, this small pride festival has been a great success as it combines amazing nature, northern lights and nightlife. It is the perfect winter getaway and a great introduction to Iceland.

Guests are welcomed from all over the world so if Iceland is on your bucket list; the Rainbow Reykjavik Program covers it all.  You will be walking along the Continental Divide between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America, seeing geysers, beautiful waterfalls and nature of unparalleled beauty.  You will also relax in the Blue Lagoon and dine in world-class restaurants, sit in cozy cafes and of course party until the wee hours of the morning with LGBT people from all over the world.

CenterHotels works closely with Pink Iceland, the coordinators of Rainbow Reykjavík and this year, like every year, we proudly offer accommodations for visitors of Rainbow Reykjavík Winter Pride Festival.

Winter Lights Festival in Reykjavík

Posted on Categories Culture, Events, Museums, Reykjavik, WinterTags , , , , ,

Winter Lights Festival is an annual event held in Reykjavík that celebrates both the winter world and the growing sunlight after a long period of darkness. The festival this year will be held February 1-4 and with the participation of all the major museums and thermal pools; it consists of light installations, culture and outdoor activities. There will be a Museum Night, Pool Night, Northern Lights Run and over 100 other events in the Greater Reykjavík area.

 

The Museum Night takes place on Friday, February 2nd and is Winter Lights Festival’s most popular event.  Museums across the capital area open their doors and entertain their guests with happenings such as dance, theatre, lectures, live music, film, literature readings and much more free of charge. All  museums are open from 18.00-23.00.

Check out the Glacier and Ice Cave exhibition at Perlan, it gives visitors the opportunity to experience travelling through a real man-made Ice Cave, and for you punks out there, the Icelandic Punk Museum will open their doors for public access and at the Saga Museum you will be able to meet real vikings where they will be entertaining visitors all night like only they know how.

In collaboration with the Winter Lights Festival, GoRed’s for women Heart walk will also take place on Feb 2nd. It starts at hallgrímskirkja church at 19:30 and ends at Harpa Concert Hall where a new interactive light installation dubbed ‘Heart’ will be revealed on Harpa luminous facade.

 

The Pool Night takes place on Saturday February 3rd and invites visitors to try many of the city’s exceptional thermal pools for FREE. Pool Night added attractions include thrilling in-pool activities, music and pool illuminations. And if you are lucky you might get a glimpse of the Northern Lights while relaxing in a hot tub in one of the outdoor pools. Here you can find a list of all swimming pools in Pool night.

 

Northern Lights Run is a part of the Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival and is a run or a walk through downtown Reykjavík where runners will see the city in a new and colourful light. All participants get their very own illuminating merchandise throughout the entire event, making you a part of the entire show from start to finish. The run takes place on Saturday night February 3rd.  More info on the Northern Lights Run here.

 

CenterHotels December Fun

Posted on Categories Events, our-hotels, WinterTags , , ,

We at CenterHotels are getting pumped for the holidays and to share the joy we will be hosting some fun events in December like Wine Tasting at Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar and Christmas Yoga & Spa at CenterHotel Miðgarður.  You are of course more then welcome to join in on the fun.


DECEMBER 14 | WINE TASTING EVENING AT JÖRGENSEN KITCHEN & BAR

A wine specialist will be visiting  us at Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar on December 14th offering a very special night for all you wine tasting fans.  Perfect addition to a good evening for couples and a wonderful twist for group of friends longing to meet up during the festive holiday season.

The wine tasting evening will take place at 19:00 on December 14th and in the wine tasting you’ll enjoy the wisdom of our wine specialist that will be offering you a taste of four different types of wines.

The wine tasting experience will cost only 3.900 kr (30€) per person and limited seats are available.

To reserve a seat by by the wine tasting table, please book here.


DECEMBER 18 | HOLIDAY YOGA AT CENTERHOTEL MIÐGARÐUR

How about enjoying a little extra in terms of relaxation during your visit in Reykjavík?  We are happy to announce that on December 18th we will be offering a special holiday yoga class at CenterHotel Miðgarður.

The wonderful yoga instructor Thorey Vidars will lead a one hour gentle hatha yoga class focusing on breathing exercises, easy poses and deep nourishing relaxation.

After the yoga class all our guests are welcome to try out our new Miðgarður spa which includes a spacious sauna and hot tubs both inside the spa as well as outside in a secluded garden.

The yoga will begin at 17:30 on December 18th.

The price of the yoga class & access to Miðgarður spa is only 3.900 kr (30€) per person.  Limited space is available.

To register for the holiday yoga, please register here


We can’t wait to see you all in your best holiday mood. Christmas hats are preferred but not mandatory.

What makes Icelandic Christmas special

Posted on Categories Culture, Food, Iceland, Reykjavik, WinterTags

We LOVE our Christmas traditions in Iceland and most families hold onto them very tightly.  As a matter of fact Iceland is so full of Holiday traditions that it’s not easy covering them all in just one blog post. We did our best but keep in mind that December has just started so there is more to come. 

 
 

Advent and the Christmas spirit

It will certainly not go unnoticed when Christmas season in Iceland begins as it becomes a 6 week party for all of your senses.
The season starts for most when Advent begins which is the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas. This is when you see Christmas lights and decorations pop up everywhere, you will hear the sound of Christmas music and get a whiff of gingerbread cookies and mandarins wherever you go. The stores become busier and public places generally more lively.  So in other words this is when you start to see, smell, hear and feel the spirit of Christmas everywhere around you.

 

The 13 Santa Clauses or Yule lads

Originating from Old Icelandic folklore there are 13 mischievous pranksters that live in a cave in the mountains and in modern days these lads have somehow become the Icelandic version of Santa Claus. Each Yule lad has their specific idiosyncrasy and will behave in a particular manner. For example Pot Licker steals leftovers out of pots, Door slammer likes to slam doors, especially during the night, and Skyrgámur has an affinity for skyr (Icelandic version of Greek yogurt).

But they’re not just bad, because starting 13 days before Christmas they come to town, one each night, and leave a treat in children’s shoes (or a rotten potato, depending on how the child behaved the preceding day). This is why children place their favourite shoe in their bedroom windowsill each evening starting 13 days before Christmas and of course try to be on their best behaviour in order to get a nice treat from Santa.

 

Fun time for the whole family

This is the season for kids after all so what really sets the Christmas tone in Reykjavík is the Christmas ice skating plaza, located at Ingólfstorg square, across from CenterHotel Plaza. You can rent ice skates for 990 ISK and enjoy food, drinks and other goods while getting into the Christmas spirit.  The ice rink is open every day until December 24 from 12:00-22:00.

Another fun Christmas activity for the whole family would be to visit the Christmas village located in downtown Hafnafjörður (aprox 15-20 minute drive from Reykjavík).  It offers live entertainment and you can walk through little Christmas houses with all sorts of handcrafted Icelandic designs and yummy home baked goodies for sale and of course Santa and elves will be around greeting the children. The Christmas village is open every Saturday and Sunday in December until Christmas.

 

White Christmas and Northern Lights

Who doesn’t wish for white Christmas?  Well if you’re in Iceland you’re in luck because your chances of getting white Christmas here are a lot better than in many other places.
Your chances of seeing the northern Lights are also a reality since December is the darkest month of the year in Iceland. To view the Northern Lights in all their glory it’s best to be slightly away from the city lights so you might want to consider joining a guided tour.

 

Food & Drinks 

Again, most Icelanders hold tightly onto their Christmas traditions and certainly no less when it comes to food, with recipes being handed down generations. The Christmas meal is the most special meal of the year so we go ALL OUT.  Most families stick to the same meal every Christmas although this has changed in the last few decades.

The most common and traditional Christmas meal is smoked lamb or ‘Hangikjöt’ served with bechamel sauce, potatoes, peas and pickled red cabbage. This has been a Christmas classic for centuries.
Other popular Icelandic Christmas foods are Glazed rack of ham or ‘Hamborgarhryggur‘ which is traditionally a Danish meal or Ptarmigan ‘Rjúpa‘ which is a member of the grouse family and most people will serve it with caramelised potatoes, and of course pickled red cabbage.

Baking is also a big part of Icelandic Christmas like in many other cultures and most families will bake few sorts of cookies but one baking tradition is especially important to Icelanders and sticks out from other cultures and that is the baking of Leaf Bread or ‘Laufabrauð‘. Sometimes called ‘snowflake bread’ Leaf bread is a crispy thin cake, decorated with leaf-like geometric patterns and fried briefly in hot oil or fat and served with Christmas dinner.

We also have our traditional Christmas drinks, like Jólaöl which is a mixture of local non alcoholic Malt drink and orange soda and Jólaglögg or Mulled Wine, a spiced and usually alcoholic drink that is served warm and then of course we have a variety of Icelandic Christmas beer that are brewed only for the holiday season. Going Christmas beer tasting has become a fun part of the Icelandic holiday tradition in recent years. We suggest you visit the hotel bar and try some delicious Christmas beers.


If you are visiting Reykjavík for the holidays, we recommend booking a table at a restaurant in advance for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve as not nearly all restaurants are open those days and the once that are open book up quickly.  Most restaurants also offer a set holiday menu that are usually a more festive version of their normal menu.
All our three hotel Restaurants will be open those days and you can view our holiday menus here: SKÝ Restaurant & Bar, Ísafold Restaurant and Jörgensen Kitchen.

Day Tripping-The Golden Circle

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

The Golden Circle

 

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

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

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

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

 

Geysir

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

 

Gullfoss

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

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

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

 

Þingvellir

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

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

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

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

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

Our idea of how to spend a winter day in Reykjavik

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

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

 

Perlan museum Wonders of Iceland

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

 

Soup at Svarta kaffið

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

 

Coffee at Reykjavík Roasters

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

 

Walking Tour of Reykjavík

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

 

Thermal pool or spa

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

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

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

 

Dinner at Ísafold Restaurant

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

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