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/

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/

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.

 

Iceland Airwaves

Posted on Categories Events, ReykjavikTags , , , ,
Get ready for the coolest music festival in the world 

Iceland Airwaves is the most spectacular music festival in Iceland and is held every year in early November at various music venues, record stores, art museums, bars and even in a church, all located in downtown Reykjavík. This year the music festival will also be held for the first time in Akureyri, the northern capital of Iceland.

Iceland Airwaves was founded in 1999 and the idea was to showcase Icelandic bands for foreign industry leaders and to attract foreign travellers in the low season. At first Airwaves was a one-off gig held in an air plane hangar with only 5 bands. But since then it has established itself as the biggest and hippest music celebration in Iceland, attracting thousands of festival visitors from all over the world.

Why is it the coolest

There is a reason music lovers flock to Iceland for this one of a kind festival. Live music literally fills the city center, but it’s not just about the concerts. You get a true feel for the Reykjavík music culture, underground to mainstream. You also get the opportunity to check out the most diverse places and venues around town, have a taste of some quality Icelandic beer and indulge in some fine Icelandic cuisine.

This year the festival boasts an awesome line-up of both established and up-and-coming artists such as Mumford & Sons, GusGus, Pinegrove, Emiliana Torrini, Billy Bragg and Fleet Foxes. There are still festival tickets available and you can get yours here.

CenterHotels Off-Venue Events

If you don’t plan on getting a ticket to the festival; don’t worry because CenterHotels is a proud partner with Iceland Airwaves and will be hosting three off-venue events showcasing nine incredible bands. Happy Hour at the bar food and drink specials will be offered.  The line-ups are mind blowing and admission is FREE so don’t miss out!

See CenterHotel’s full off-venue schedule here

 

See you at Iceland Airwaves!

Reykjavik for the budget conscious

Posted on Categories Culture, Food, ReykjavikTags , , , ,

Dining in Reykjavik can indeed be heavy on the wallet, however there are also some great eateries that shouldn’t break your budget and here are a few worth the mention.

 

Bæjarins Beztu – Not just a hot dog

The famous hot dog stand that offers one menu item only: The best hot dog in the Universe. The hot dog is served with raw and crispy fried onions, sweet mustard, ketchup and remoulade sauce. A must try quick bite.

 

Curry in a hurry – For your quick curry fix

For only 950 ISK you get a choice of 3 curry dishes, meat or veggie, served with Naan bread.  Curry in a hurry is only served for lunch and for take away at Shalimar, a Pakistani restaurant located downtown Reykjavík. 

 

Hlemmur Food Hall – Something for everyone

After a refreshing happy hour drink at Jörgensen Kitchen, we suggest you walk across the street to Hlemmur Food Hall.  This new Reykjavík culinary treasure offers all kinds of food, whether it may be Vietnamese street food, Mexican burritos or cured meats with a glass of french wine, you can be sure to find it there.  

 

Icelandic Street food – Icelandic cheap

A perfect stop for traditional Icelandic taste. There are only a few things on the menu but you can’t go wrong with the lamb or fish soup. Perfect meal for a chilly autumn day. 

 

Fish and Chips Truck– Down by the harbor

If you’re a fish and chips lover then you won’t be disappointed by this small fish and chips stand located on the old harbor. Serving fresh quality Icelandic cod, cooked to perfection and served with fries and mushy peas. YUM!

 

Kaffi Vinyl – Hip and Cool

A vegan friendly cafe on Hverfisgata 76, offering light food and a great selection of vinyl.  Stop by and try their ‘Oumpf Sandwich’, have a cup of coffee and listen to some tunes.

 

Bio Borgari – Organic fast food

A new..ish burger joint located on Vesturgata 12, in very close vicinity to CenterHotel Plaza.  Unlike other fast food joints across the city, Bio Borgari specialises in offering a healthier alternative, using only products that are either organic or have been sustainably farmed. Burgers are served on a organic roll with root vegetable chips.

 

Ramen Momo – Ramen..Amen

A tiny noodle bar offering delicious Ramen, dumplings and other delights. The first noodle station in Iceland to produce organic fresh noodles and most of the ingredients used are made in Iceland to support local market.

 

Skúli Bao bun-The perfect savory snack

Chinese bao bun food truck parked outside Skúli Craft Bar, also short walk from CenterHotel Plaza, offers steamed bread like buns filled with variety of fillings like portobello mushrooms, beef strips or pulled pork with Korean Kimchi and sriracha mayo. Served with sweet potato fries, Bao bun is a great substitution if you can’t stomach another Icelandic hot dog :).

Illumination of the Imagine Peace Tower

Posted on Categories Events, Iceland, ReykjavikTags , , , , , , , , ,

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

Reykjavik International Film Festival

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RIFF –  Reykjavík International Film Festival will be held for the 14th time from Sept 28th-Oct 8th 2017. So for 11 days Icelandic movie fanatics and tourists alike will flock to the theatre to see the latest and greatest of international film making. The goal is to present new up and coming filmmakers with the main prize-the Golden Puffin, which is awarded only to first or second time directors.

The festival shows a wide range of dramas and non-fiction films from over 40 countries.  Attendees get to interact with directors, attend lectures and workshops, concerts and exhibitions. They also have the opportunity to watch films in the most peculiar environment, for instance while bathing in a thermal swimming pool or in the filmmaker’s home.

Iceland is geographically a great place for this festival due to the location between Europe and North America so many people from all over the world come to the Reykjavík International Film Festival.

 

6 Museums in Reykjavík worth visiting

Posted on Categories Culture, ReykjavikTags , ,

There is no doubt that Iceland’s number one attraction is the beautiful nature and picturesque landscape. However, Reykjavík city has a great deal of local culture and history and so spending at least one or two days strolling around the city and visiting museums is an absolute must. So for you museum goers we’ve gathered a list of six interesting museums in Reykjavík that are worth checking out.

Árbær Open Air Museum

A quaint outdoor museum that showcases architecture and way of life in Reykjavík in the 19th and 20th century. Árbær Museum was founded in 1957 due to a concern that ‘old Reykjavík’ was disappearing. There are over twenty houses that were relocated from central Reykjavík to the museum and they form a small village, a town square and a farm with real life farm animals on bate in the summer. One hour guided tours in English are offered where guests get to hear the history of each house. You get a real feel of the way of life in the past. The museum also benefits from its proximity to the Ellidarár valley, an extensive outdoor recreation area with beautiful groves of trees. It’s a fun experience for the whole family.

The National Museum of Iceland

Established in 1863, The National Museum of Iceland is the oldest museum in Iceland. It’s role is to increase and relay knowledge of Icelandic cultural heritage, from the nation’s earliest Viking settlements through to the current day.

Reykjavík Maritime Museum

Located at Grandinn by the Old harbor in a building that was originally built as a fish freezing plant, the Maritime Museum exhibits and shares history of Icelandic Fishing industry and culture, it exhibits Sea related items that tell this important story. The newest addition to the museum is the former coast guard ship Óðinn and guests of the museum have now access to guided tours of the vessel.

Whales of Iceland

The Whales of Iceland is 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 at the cafe and enjoy a cup of java or hot chocolate while munching on a whale themed cake.

The Iceland Punk Museum

Located in a former public toilets in Bankastræti near Lækjatorg square is Iceland punk museum. It was opened  by the famous punk rocker Johnny Rotten of the legendary band Sex Pistols in 2016 and offers a fascinating look at the Icelandic punk history.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum

Possibly the only penis museum in the world and it’s located right here in Reykjavik.  This is no joke..you just have to see it to believe it. 

 

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.