Why visit Iceland in the Autumn

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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.

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!

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.

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.

Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavík

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Iceland’s Midnight Sun Run takes place for the 25th time on June 23rd in Reykjavik. The run is unique because it starts late in the evening, in the bright summer night. The race is held around summer solstice which means that during the night it does not get dark at all– it’s very much a midsummer celebration!  

The timing of the run is also unique because according to Icelandic folklore this particular night is considered very mystical. It is the night prior to Jónsmessa or Midsummer night, an Icelandic holiday named after John the Baptist, held on June 24th. The folklore claims that at midnight on June 23rd both good and evil forces unleash and you can expect mysterious things to happen.

Participants of the Midnight sun run can choose between three distances, 5k, 10k and half marathon. Close by the start and finish of the race is one of the city’s wonderful geothermal outdoor swimming pools, Laugardalslaug where participants are invited to take a midnight swim or relax in the hot tubs after the race. 

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!

Secret Solstice Festival

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Secret Solstice held this weekend (June 15-18) has been referred to as the most unique music festival on earth as it is held on the summer solstice weekend when the sun never fully sets in Iceland. This midnight sun music festival is a surreal party experience where you watch over 150 bands under the Icelandic midnight sun and this year the line-up is awesome.

Several big name artists will perform like Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Dusky, Richard Ashcroft and of course the creme de la creme of local Icelandic artists such as Agent Fresco, Auður and many many more.

The festival is held in Laugardalurinn, a peaceful outdoor recreational area in Reykjavík where families often come together on weekends. There are acts playing all day and night and you will see locals bring their kids during the day and early evening hours. There will be 6 stages named from the nordic, viking mythology and lots of vendors and delicious food trucks.

If partying under the midnight sun isn´t enough musical adventure for you there will be several side events offered such as the once-in-a-lifetime party inside a glacier or a lava tunnel. And last but not least the Midnight Sun boat party.