Ice Cold Ocean Swimming

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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/

Illumination of the Imagine Peace Tower

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In 1967 John Lennon asked Yoko Ono to create a peace tower for him in his backyard in England.  Although this never happened, 40 years later on October 9th 2007 on what would have been her late husband’s 67th birthday, the Imagine Peace Tower rose in Reykjavík, Iceland.

You may wonder why Iceland?  Well for many years Iceland has been ranked as the most peaceful country in the world and this is why Yoko considered Iceland to be the perfect place for the peace tower to be situated.

The sculpture is in the shape of a wishing well and shoots out a powerful tower of light beams into the dark evening sky. The tower symbolizes Lennon’s and Ono’s continuing campaign for world peace and the words IMAGINE PEACE are inscribed on the well in 24 different languages.

The electricity for the light comes entirely from Reykjavik Energy, which produces the electricity from geothermal power.  Another good reason why Iceland is a great location for the memorial.

The Imagine Peace Tower is located on Viðey Island, a short ferry ride just outside of Reykjavík Harbour and every year, on October 9th, the tower is lit with an illumination ceremony.  The tower stays lit until December 8th (the anniversary of Lennon’s death).  Yoko Ono visits Iceland every year to attend the illumination of the tower and she also offers free ferry rides to and from the island to encourage people to come and attend the ceremony.

You can also experience the light glory from a distance at the rooftop restaurant SKÝ Restaurant and Bar located at Centerhotel Arnarhvoll. From there you should be able to view the light beams coming from the island while munching on a delicious meal and/or sipping on a refreshing cocktail.

Peace and Light

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.

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!

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!

Iceland’s South Shore for movie buffs

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Iceland has become quite the popular destination for film shooting in the recent years due to its unique landscape. It is also easy to travel to from the US and Europe, it has a developed economy and infrastructure, and everyone speaks English. This affords the big-budget movie producer some extraordinary opportunities here.

Among the more popular areas for film shoots In Iceland is the South Coast with it’s black sand beaches, stunning waterfalls and glaciers and of course Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon which was seen in two James Bond movies, A view to a kill and Die another day and also Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.  

Iceland´s South Coast is also portrayed as the planet Lah’mu in the Star Wars film Rogue One where Jyn Erso and her parents are in hiding at the very beginning of the film. Those black, sandy and alien looking beaches can be found in the south of Iceland. This is Mýrdalssandur which will also play a key role in the next season of the hit TV series Vikings. The trailer seems to show one of the main characters of the series, Flóki, standing on a black sand beach in South Iceland.

The nearby Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe is also popular site for filmmakers. In the 7th season of Game of of Thrones, everything that happens north of the wall is filmed there or at Svínafellsjökull which is a part of Vatnajökull, same location as in Batman Begins.

Too see all these landscapes with your own bare eyes we suggest you try the South Shore Adventure Tour or Jökulsárlón Glacial Boat Tour by Reykjavik Excursions or if you prefer to drive yourself it´s only approximately a 3 hour drive from Reykjavík, for car rental we recommend Procar.

Enjoy the incredible South Shore, we know you will!

 

Midsummer night – Jónsmessa

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Jónsmessa, also known as Midsummer Night, is an Icelandic holiday celebrated on June 24th. The holiday is named after John the Baptist and June 24th is supposedly his birthday.

The beauty of this holiday is how it interweaves magic and religion. According to Icelandic folklore there are four particular nights of the year when both good and evil forces unleash and you can expect mysterious things to occur, the nights are: Christmas eve, New Years Eve, Thirteenth Night (January 6th) and Midsummer night.

The tales tell that on Midsummer night various things gain special powers for example seals become human, cows gain the ability to speak in human tongue and the earth has special healing powers which is why rolling around naked in mud or dewy grass at midnight is considered good for your health and you can receive unbelievable healing. And while you are rolling around in the dew, be sure to make a wish because it is likely your wish will be granted on this special night. Icelandic folklore also states that if you sit at a crossroads where all four roads lead to separate churches, elves will attempt to seduce you with food and gifts.

There are some interesting midsummer events this weekend including the Midnight Sun Run which will take place on the evening of June 23rd and the Reykjavík Midsummer Music, a top notch music festival with some of today’s leading artists, held at Harpa music hall June 22-25.

Icelandic Independence day – JUNE 17

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June 17th, 1944 is when Iceland was formed as a republic and gained its independence from Danish rule. The date was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a major figure of Icelandic culture and the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.

Like in many countries, Icelanders celebrate their independence day with style starting with a parade down Laugavegurinn, the main shopping and restaurant strip in the city center. There will of course be a marching band and families singing and waving the Icelandic flag some with their face painted in the national colors.

Downtown there will be a big family festival with all sorts of shows, vendor booths and live music that goes on until late hours in the evening.

There will be a family concert in the beautiful Hljómskálagarðurinn, by the Reykjavík pond that starts at 14:00 and ends at 18:00.  

At Ingólfstorg, directly in front of centerhotel Plaza, MOLD SKATEBOARDS will host a skateboarding party starting at 15:00 with good music and skilled skateboarders showing off their tricks.  

Each urban area and towns in the country will have their own June 17th celebration with parades, music and lots of family fun.

Happy June 17th! ~ Gleðilegan 17.júní!