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/

Thermal pools and hot springs in Iceland without breaking the bank

Posted on Categories Activities, IcelandTags , , ,

When you think about hot springs in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is more then likely to be what pops into your mind. Well for a reason, it is the most famous geothermal lagoon in Iceland and it’s incredibly cool and worth the visit…if it’s in your budget.

With entry fee starting at 6990 ISK / 55€, it may not be in everyone’s budget to visit this famous lagoon. So we’ve decided to come up with a list of less expensive alternatives.

 

LOCAL SWIMMING POOLS

Visiting a local thermal pool is a quintessential thing to do while on a family vacation in Iceland.  Many of them offer water slides and shallow pools for kids and variety of hot tubs and steam baths for adults. A great and affordable alternative for those on a quick family stopover in Reykjavík or on a road trip around Iceland with the family.

 

LAUGARDALSLAUG

Laugardalslaug is Iceland’s largest thermal pool and the most popular amongst travellers.
It is located in Laugardalur valley, only a quick bus ride away from downtown Reykjavík and has a large outdoor pool, outdoor children’s pool and paddling pool, water slides, numerous hot tubs and a steam bath. The entry fee is 980 ISK. for adults, 160 ISK. for children 6-17 years old and free for children younger than 6.

After your soak it’s important to stop by the hot dog stand located outside the swimming pool because having an Icelandic hot dog is a crucial part of the whole Icelandic pool experience.

 

ÁLFTANESLAUG

Álftanes peninsula, a suburb of Reykjavik has an impressive local swimming pool, a whole lot of fun for kids. It has two large hot tubs, a kiddie pool, Iceland’s biggest waterslide and a wave pool (the only one of it’s kind in Iceland).
After playing and soaking in Álftanes pool we suggest you stop by Bessastaðir, the official residence of the President of Iceland, also located at Álftanes peninsula.

 

Vesturbæjarlaug

A small pool in close vicinity of downtown Reykjavik. The pool is one of the older once in Reykjavik and is popular amongst downtown locals. It’s a no frills swimming pool without slides or a fancy wave pool but just a nice and friendly local pool with great hot tubs, sauna and a steam room.

 

NATURAL HOT SPRINGS AND LAGOONS

Experience the magical feeling of floating in a natural hot spring in the beautiful Icelandic nature without spending a fortune.

 

Seljavallalaug

This remote pool was built in 1923 and is Iceland’s oldest man made pool. It is located close to the famous Eyjafjallajökull and the hot water comes from a natural hot spring near by. There is no entrance fee but there is a donation box  where you can leave some money to ensure the pool’s upkeep.

 

Landbrotalaug

Approx 1.5 hour from Reykjavík on Snæfellsnes peninsula you will find (if you look very carefully) a small hot spring called Landbrotalaug. The reason it’s not easy to find is because it’s tiny and only fits 2-3 people max at a time. It is worth the visit though, especially with a loved one as there is just something majestic about Snæfellsnes and soaking in this cozy little hot spring in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness. There is no entry fee but be prepared that there are no changing facilities at the location.

 

Nauthólsvík beach

A geothermal beach located in Reykjavík. On the beach you will find a man-made lagoon where hot water is pumped into so seawater and hot geothermal water mix so you can comfortably splash away. There is no entry fees to use the lagoon or other facilities at the beach which is also equipped with a large hot tub, steam-bath, changing facilities and showers.

 

Reykjadalur / Steam Valley

A popular hiking trail located 45 minutes from Reykjavík city.  It’s located on a geothermal area and the valley is filled with hot springs and mud pools. It is a beautiful and scenic hike and once you reach a certain point you will find a warm stream that runs down the center of the valley that you can bathe in. The higher up you go the warmer the water gets. A great place to rest your muscles after a good hike, and maybe have a beverage or two. Just make sure to pick up your empty bottles and garbage before heading back down.

 

Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon is a geothermal area near the small town of Flúdir. It was formed in 1891, making it one of the oldest geothermal pools  in Iceland. Today the pool area has all the modern facilities that a modern person may need, however the lagoon has been kept to stay natural and unique and the pool’s natural surroundings and steam rising into the air gives the place a magical feeling. The fee to enter the Secret Lagoon is 2800 ISK for adults and free for children under 14.

Let’s not forget how vulnerable our nature is so let’s treat the land with respect by sticking to the beaten paths and not leaving our garbage behind.  

Enjoy!

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.

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.