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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. This year it’s held September 28 – October 8.  

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. This year the festival is held November 1-5.

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!

Berjamó

Posted on Categories Food, Iceland, NatureTags ,

Lately you may have heard Icelanders talk about ‘Berjamó’ with great enthusiasm.

That is because right now is berry picking season in Iceland and Berjamó is what we in Iceland call the activity of picking berries. It is a popular activity amongst Icelanders of all ages during late summer/early fall season. You may be asking why, and reasonably so..

Well, for some Icelandic families berjamó is a yearly tradition and a fun way to end the summer. Families gather, young and old, in the beautiful Icelandic nature and look for some ripened blueberries and crowberries to pick. Everyone has their own bucket and picks away, some families even create fun games and ‘who picks the most’ contests.  At the end of the day a serious jam session will take place at home where all the day’s pickings will be thrown into a pot and made into a delicious berry jam, pies or just served alone with some sugar and whipped cream. Yum!!

The best berry picking regions are generally in the north and north west, but there are also some great berry picking areas around Reykjavík. Heiðmörk recreational area is one and if you don’t find berries; it’s still worth the visit as Heiðmörk has great walking trails and cozy picnic spots. The slopes of Mt. Esja can also be good for berry picking and again worst case scenario you can always enjoy a spectacular Esja hike.

If you don’t have the time or ambition for Berjamó, you should be able to find fresh Icelandic blueberries this time of year at most major grocery stores. We also highly recommend stopping by Ísafold Restaurant and trying the September cocktail of the month ‘Blueberry Glacier’. Ísafold Restaurant is located at centerhotel Þingholt.  

Happy Berry Season!

Explore the majestic Snæfellsnes Peninsula

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Snæfellsnes Peninsula is 90 km long and features tall and dramatic cliffs that have been shaped by volcanic ash and glacier erosion. The peninsula is home to a majestic nature and rich culture and the communities of Snæfellsnes Peninsula were the first in Europe to receive certification from Green Glove, an international benchmarking system for sustainable travel and tourism.

On the tip of the peninsula is the Snæfellsjökull National Park, the country’s youngest national park and only park in Iceland that is situated at the coast. It features sites like the mystical glacier Snæfellsjökull, an inactive volcano and Djúpalónssandur or the black Lava Pearl Beach. There you will find peculiar rock formations, one which has a large hole in the middle and by looking through it you will see Snæfellsjökull..great place to stop and take a photo.

Mineral springs can be found at various places, such as at the farm Ölkelda and at Lýsuhóll, which has a thermal pool with naturally-carbonated water.  

Hellnar is an old fishing village on Snæfellsnes peninsula right beneath Snæfellsjökull glacier and a popular travel destination. There is a hotel and a cafe and a visitors center for the national park.  At Hellnar you will also find a large freestanding rock with one of Iceland’s most peculiar cave called Baðsofa with colorful interior walls that vary according to it’s exposure to light and tide.  If you are into photography then check out the Hellnar church which is build on a very picturesque site.

Arnarstapi is another village and was an important trading post in the past. Today it attracts many travelers, and there is a camping ground, guesthouse and a restaurant. At Arnarstapi you can arrange tours to Snæfellsjökull and you can also tour an 8000 year old cave called Vatnshellir Cave, that was created by volcanic eruption from a nearby crater.  This is the volcano that Otto Lidenbroch and his nephew descended into and started their adventures in the famous 1864 science fiction novel ‘Journey to the center of the Earth’ by Jules Verne.

Skarðvík beach is a cove located on Snæfellsnes peninsula, surrounded by cliffs, with white sand and blue waters. A number of hiking trails lead to and from the beach over the lava fields.

Finally when visiting Snæfellsnes Peninsula, make sure to ask about the tales and old ghost sagas about the area’s extraordinary happenings, which has given this beautiful area a mystical energy.

You can book your trip to Snæfellnes Peninsula right here.

Enjoy the mystic Snæfellsnes!

Reykjavík Marathon and Culture Night

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Reykjavík Marathon and Culture night (Menningarnótt) take place this Saturday, August 19th.

Reykjavík Marathon will start and finish in Lækjargata located in the center of Reykjavík and there are several things that make the Marathon stand out from other city marathons. First of all Reykjavik actually has some of the cleanest air of any city,  in addition to the Marathon and Half marathon distances; it also includes a 10k, 3k fun run and a kid´s marathon for children 8 years and younger which makes it an event for the whole family. Finally the course of the Reykjavik Marathon is exceptionally unique and scenic. The race is one lap and starts and finishes downtown within sight of the beautiful pond and the city hall. Runners pass along seaside with views of the ocean and Esjan and Snæfellsjökull glacier, through residential areas where many inhabitants come out of their houses to cheer the runners on. The participants also pass a number of famous buildings, including Höfdi House, a Reykjavik City Council reception venue where US President Ronald Reagan and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev met for a summit in 1986.

The date of the marathon is planned to coincide with ‘Reykjavík Culture night’ or Menningarnótt.

The Reykjavik Culture Night is a yearly event that brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate. It is held on or around August 18th every year which is the anniversary date of Reykjavík city. There is a long program of cultural events throughout the day and night such as art exhibitions, outdoor karaoke, youth circus for the children, food and music events and graffiti artists. The event peaks with a concert by Arnarhóll at 20:00 and ends with a not to be missed fireworks show over Harpa and the old harbour at 23:00. 

Enjoy a full day of fun this Saturday in Reykjavík!

Reykjavík Pride

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This week Reykjavík will be full of colors, happiness, glitter and glamour while celebrating Reykjavik Pride. The Pride has been an annual event celebrated in the Reykjavík since 1999.  When looking even further the event really goes back to 1993 when Icelandic gays and lesbians gathered together in the city demanding freedom and human rights.

Today the festivities are one of the largest events held in Reykjavik that attracts thousands of guests from all around the world. The celebration goes on for six days offering various events all around the city center. Some of the events are free of charge to attend while others are accessible for a moderate fee.

The events include amongst other the mayor of Reykjavík painting rainbow on the streets of Reykjavík, a photograph exhibition showing beautiful moments from queer couple’s stories at Skólavörðustígur, outdoor fun with the queer sport group at Klambratún,  George Michael tribute concerts at Gamla bíó and finally the Pride parade that will be held on Saturday (August 12th).  The parade becomes bigger and more glamorous every year attracting more participants and viewers.  This year the parade will depart from Hverfisgata at 2 o’clock ending up with a set of concerts at Hljómskálagarðurinn.

So, if you’re in town – you should definitely go and check it out!

Coming up this weekend: Verslunarmannahelgin

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This weekend Icelanders will be celebrating the Verslunarmannahelgi which is by far the biggest domestic travel and festival weekend in Iceland.

Verslunarmannahelgin which can be translated as the Shopkeepers weekend, is a labour day/bank holiday dedicated to Icelandic merchants and is celebrated every summer on the first Monday in August. Of course, only a small group of Icelanders really belong to the class of merchants but those that don’t still welcome this long weekend with a significant enthusiasm. And so, thousands of people get together and camp in the great outdoors to attend organized festivals with a lot of live music that are held all around the Island.

The festivals being held vary in size and so some of them are calmer ideal for families whereas others are quite busy and loud and do attract the younger that do like to party.

The biggest festival held during the Verslunarmannahelgi is without any doubt is the Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum (The Festival of the Nation in Westman Island) which is a festival held in Vestmannaeyjar, a small island on the southern part of Iceland. During this weekend, around 12.000 people travel from the mainland to the Island of 4000 inhabitants to enjoy the event which includes performances by famous and less famous musicians.

Other large festivals held during the weekend are the Ein með öllu (One with everything) festival held in the capital of the north, Akureyri, Mýrarboltinn (Mud-football and music) in the Westfjords and Síldarævintýrið (Herring adventure family festival) in Siglufjörður town. And then of course for those that do not prefer to go camping to enjoy live music and festivities they can just stay home in Reykjavík and attend the Innipúkinn (the couch potato) downtown Reykjavík music festival.

In conclusions, everyone should be able to find whatever suits them and enjoy the festivities during Verslunarmannahelgin.

Have a happy weekend!

Reykjavík in the rain

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Explore Reykjavík on a rainy day

Icelandic weather can be quite unpredictable, even in the summer. One moment may be sunny and the next it is rainy and windy. So don’t be surprised of the sudden weather changes and just look at it as a part of the Icelandic experience. Besides, there are still plenty of fun things to do and see in Reykjavík on a rainy day and here below we have gathered a few ideas. And if you just happen to need a raincoat you can pick one up at Reykjavík Raincoats.

Thermal Swimming pools
One big factor about Icelandic culture are our public geothermally heated outdoor swimming pools. We love them, even when it rains or snows. And what’s even better; it’s an inexpensive fun, approx 8 Euros for adults and FREE for children under 10 years old. Some of them even have a spa-like feel, with jacuzzis, steam rooms and saunas. Our favorite swimming pools in central Reykjavik are: Laugardalslaug, Vesturbæjarlaug and Sundhöll Reykjavíkur (this last one is indoors). After bathing with the locals make sure to have a hot dog as it an important part of the whole experience.

Omnom Chocolate Factory Tour
It´s hard to think of a more productive way of spending a rainy day then to learn the process and craft of chocolate making all the way from the cocoa bod to the chocolate bar. Tasting is of course included and believe me Omnom chocolate is AMAZING.

Kolaportið
Due to the unpredictability in Icelandic weather, the city’s flea market is located indoors and is open from 11-5 every weekend.
If you love vintage clothes, books and great food, visit Kolaportið located by the old harbor, as it’s a great way to spend a rainy afternoon and get a great deal while you’re at it.

Whales of Iceland
The largest whale exhibition in Europe showcasing full size models of 23 whale species found in Icelandic waters. The displays are interactive and audio guides will give you various information of these incredible creatures. It’s almost like being underwater with these giant mammals of the sea. Once you’re done exploring you can sit down and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate while munching on a whale themed cake while trying out virtual reality glasses that let you swim with killer whales.

Libraries
Icelanders have a great appreciation of books and literature and we can’t think of a more cozy way to spend a rainy day then to read a good book. There are a number of libraries in Reykjavík and they have a lot to offer aside from just reading. To name a few: The Reykjavík City Library, The National Library of Iceland and The Nordic House Library.

Harpa
Located on the old harbor in Reykjvaík is Harpa concert and conference hall. It’s not only an architectural marvel but offers a lot of activities on a rainy day like variety of events and concerts. You can also take a guided tour of Harpa where you get to visit areas that are not open to the general public.

Happy Hour
After an active day of exploring Reykjavík in the rain you will without a doubt become quite thirsty. No worries because Icelanders love a good Happy hour. You can enjoy a drink with a spectacular view (over some of the sites you may have been visiting that day or maybe a rainbow across the horizon) at SKÝ Restaurant & Bar. Happy hour at SKÝ is every day from 16:00 to 18:00.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass..it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” -Vivian Greene.

Catch a selfie with the Icelandic Horse

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The Icelandic horse.
Originally from Mongolian descent, the Icelandic horse was moved here from Scandinavia by vikings more than 1000 years ago. It is aesthetically unique as it is shorter than other horse breeds. It also is built very strong and is conditioned to handle the worst kinds of weathers. It is generally easy to train and has a mild temperament which is one of the reasons the Icelandic horse is admired by horse lovers all over the world. There is just something very adorable about the Icelandic horse with those kind, intelligent eyes and shaggy long hair.

Horseback riding tours have been very popular tourist activity in Iceland for some years and still is, but now with the popularity of social media we are seeing another trend within our horse loving visitors which includes ‘selfies’ with the Icelandic horse.
When driving along route 1 you will often see travelers pulled over on the side of the road with the sole intention to catch a photographs of the Icelandic horse and some even try to feed them grass to lure them closer.

Sturlureykir horse petting and selfie stop.
Unfortunately due to the unforeseen weather and road conditions in Iceland it is not recommended to pull over aside the main road for the obvious reason of causing a road accident and it is also not popular by many horse owners and farmers that their horses are feed without permission. Some claim that it may ‘teach their horses bad habits’.
To solve this problem, a couple who breed and train horses in West Iceland decided to set up the perfect petting- and selfie-stop for horse lovers at their farm Sturlureykir in Borgarfjörður fjord! Sturlureykir has offered horse tours for more than two decades, but the new service will satisfy the needs of a broader group of travelers. For a small entrance fee visitors who might have a busy schedule can get a personal experience with horses and an Icelandic horse farm. The new meet-and-greet stable opened on June 1 and will remain open each day from 10-16, year-round.

Happy and Safe petting!

Extreme Chill Festival

Posted on Categories Events, ReykjavikTags

The 8th anniversary of the Icelandic music festival Extreme Chill will be held July 6th – July 9th in Reykjavík.

The festival is the first pure electronica festival in Iceland where both local and foreign musicians come together and perform under the inspiration of Icelandic nature. It caters to fans of underground Ambient, Electronica and Downtempo music.

The four day music festival has been held for seven years, 5 years in Hellissandur, a village on the mystical Snæfellsnes peninsula, one year in Berlin and last year in Vík í Mýrdal.

This year Extreme Chill will be held for the first time in Reykjavík and the reason for bringing the festival to the capital this year was simply because there aren’t many events in Reykjavík in the month of July.  There will be six different venues around the city: Húrra, Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík, Bíó Paradís, Mengi, Lucky Records & CenterHotel Miðgarður.

It will be the biggest to date featuring an impressive lineup of internationally renowned musicians such as The Orb (UK), Mixmaster Morris (UK), Courtesy (DK), Studnitzky (DE), Christopher Chaplin (UK), along with a host of talented local musicians: Jónas Sen, Jón Ólafsson & Futuregrapher, Yagya, Gyða Valtýsdóttir, Stereo Hypnosis, Reptilicus, Tonik Ensemble, Mikael Lind, SiGRÚN, Poco Apollo (Halldór Eldjárn) and many more.

Centerhotel Miðgarður will be hosting Extreme Chill on Saturday July 8th (14:00 – 18:00) with a great line up of Icelandic artists performing in a beautiful surrounding. Admission to this venue is FREE so we can´t wait to see you there!

Tickets to the festival are only 7,900 ISK, with a limited amount of festival passes being available this year at midi.is.