Six destinations with year-round possibilities Gjögur
Experience the excitement of Iceland’s pure nature or get a bird’s-eye view of the country’s most beautiful places
Westman Islands One of the wonders of nature, surrounded by mountains, islands, volcanoes and seabirds.
Vatnajökull Region Witness the majestic power of Europe’s largest glacier or conquer Iceland’s highest peak.
North Iceland Visit Húsavík and Mývatn area, and witness the natural wonders of North Iceland.
The Westfjords Explore one of the country’s most isolated regions, rich in natural wonders.
For more information, pick up our brochure at your hotel or local tourist information centre, or visit eagleair.is
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Kayaking by the Glacier
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ATVâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s on Black Sand Beaches with visit to Plane Wreck
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Welcome to Iceland! Whether you are here for an adventure in Iceland’s stunning landscape or to enjoy what we consider the world’s most charming capital, we are delighted to have you with us. Sit back, relax and enjoy the free Wi-Fi. Before I tell you a little about our terrific tours, let me introduce myself and my team – I am Björn Ragnarsson, the CEO of Reykjavik Excursions. I am proud to lead a company that both honours tradition and drives innovation. Our guides, drivers, and planners are honoured to call Iceland home. This means that we love showing our country to you on our carefully crafted tours. We have also taken the time to put things in place to keep Iceland beautiful: achieving the professional accreditation of Vakinn Gold, the highest seal of quality a tourism company in Iceland can have, and obtaining the ISO 14001 international environmental standard, where we created an environmental management system to look after our nature. We strive to lead the way in sustainable travel, and so we have a fleet of new buses and fully trained guides who are experienced, enthusiastic, and eager to show you Iceland.
But back to these tours! My team has put together a range of day tours for you. My favourite thing about them is that you can experience the many things Iceland has to offer in just a few hours. Our tours can take you to majestic waterfalls that you can actually walk behind – check out Seljalandsfoss. Moreover, if you have come to Iceland to explore some of the 11% of the country that is covered by glaciers, we have got a range of tours to take you to these icy giants. We encourage you to explore our many tours and remember if you cannot quite find what you are after, we have got a dedicated team who can tailor make a tour to dazzle you. Please just ask. Iceland is a wonderful place. We hope you have a fabulous time here and do not forget to tell us about your magical adventures on our TripAdvisor site. Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy!
Björn Ragnarsson CEO Kynnisferðir - Reykjavik Excursions
Published by MD Reykjavík ehf. Laugavegur 3, 101 Reykjavík | +354 537-3900 | email@example.com Publisher: Sigurþór Marteinn Kjartansson Editor: Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir Layout & design: sbs Cover photo: Golli Printing: Oddi, Ecolabelled Printing Company
Opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the individual authors. While every effort has been made to ensure the information presented is accurate, prices, times, dates, and other information may be subject to change.
This magazine is published and distributed in exclusive collaboration with Reykjavik Excursions – a leading tour and coach operator in Iceland.
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Your adventure is just a click away. Our airport is conveniently located in downtown Reykjavik, and a trip across the country that’s as quick as your average commute means that you can get started in no time.
VOLCANO & EARTHQUAKE EXHIBITION The Gateway to Iceland’s Most Active Volcanic Area
Photo: Eyjafjallajökull Eruption 2010 Volcanic eruptions in Iceland Walk through the recent volcanic history of Iceland and learn about over 30 eruptions.
The Lava Centre A world class exhibition on volcanoes and earthquakes surrounded by active volcanoes.
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The creation of Iceland Learn how and why Iceland hosts so many volcanic eruptions.
Volcano & Earthquake Centre Austurvegur 14, Hvolsvöllur · South Iceland
The Golden Circle Ask any Icelander what you should see while you’re in Iceland and you’ll get the same answer: the Golden Circle! Why the Golden Circle, you ask? Isn’t all of Iceland beautiful, what’s so special about this specific route? I’m glad you asked… The Golden Circle is a 300km loop of road that usually opens and closes in Reykjavík. It covers three main locations: Þingvellir National Park, the waterfall Gullfoss, and the erupting geyser Strokkur in Haukadalur. On the way, you pass all kinds of different landscapes and attractions. The cherry on top is that these magnificent natural wonders are a convenient distance from Reykjavík, so you can be back in the city at a respectable hour after a day of exploring.
Þingvellir Þingvellir (pronounced Thing-vet-leer) is an amazing location, not just for its natural beauty but for its rich history, reaching all the way back to the age of settlement. It’s where the Icelandic parliament was founded in 930 AD, shortly after the island’s settlement. This Viking government institution was way ahead of its time and its members met every year at Þingvellir for centuries. It was temporarily disbanded in 1799, only to be reconvened some 50 years later, this time in Reykjavík. Some major matters in Icelandic history have been settled at Þingvellir. For instance, it was there that the decision was made, in the year 1000 AD, that Icelanders would turn their backs on the old Norse gods and convert to Christianity. Þingvellir is also where Iceland submitted to the Norwegian king in the 13th century and where they declared their independence in 1944.
In addition to the area’s historical importance, it’s also quite impressive from a geological point of view. As you might know, Iceland is a volcanic island and sits on the rift between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. At Þingvellir you can actually see that rift, cracking the ground. This makes for some impressive landscapes, the whole area is covered in cliffs, cracks, and fissures, some of them filled with crystal clear water. You can go snorkelling at Þingvellir and even go diving if you have the necessary permits. If you’d rather stay on dry land, simply enjoying the incomparable views is activity enough. Gullfoss When you are able to tear yourself away from Þingvellir, head on towards Gullfoss, a waterfall in Hvítá river. Simply describing Gullfoss as a waterfall might be accurate but 5
REYKJAVÍK EXCURSIONS’ GOLDEN CIRCLE TOURS Golden Circle Direct On this Golden Circle tour, we will experience the thrill of an erupting geyser, one of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls and Iceland’s bestloved national park, all within the space of a few hours. We will visit the high-temperature Geysir geothermal area, the nearby Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir National Park, the site of Iceland’s ancient parliament. Come join us on Iceland’s most popular excursion!
Golden Circle & Friðheimar The Golden Circle includes a few of Iceland’s most stunning sites; Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir. Additionally, we visit the Friðheimar greenhouse, where we learn about the magic behind growing delicious, pesticide-free tomatoes and cucumbers with the aid of geothermal heat which Iceland has in abundance. Unique food experience!
Golden Circle & Fontana Wellness This tour combines the very popular Golden Circle tour with a visit to the geothermal baths at Laugarvatn Fontana. At Laugarvatn Fontana, we will get a firsthand experience of how locals use hot springs for baking bread. We will be offered to take to do its natural beauty justice, you’re going to need to get more descriptive. Gullfoss is a two-tiered, bellowing stream of water; a constant display of the thundering power that nature can unleash when it gets its act together. The amount of water frothing white over cliffs before it goes roaring down into a deep canyon is almost unbelievable, until you see it with your own eyes. The best part about Gullfoss is that it’s still relatively unspoilt by humans. There are just some steps down from the road and a walking path, with a safety rope, up to the spot where the waterfall can best be viewed. This means you have to be careful and watch yourself while you’re there, (don’t cross the ropes! Just don’t do it!) but it also means that you can enjoy the splendour of the unobstructed view, just like nature intended. 6
Geysir When you leave Gullfoss, you’ve seen all you need to see of water streaming down, now it’s time to see it shoot straight out of the ground and into the air. Iceland has a few examples of one of nature’s most amazing spectacles – geysers or erupting hot springs. Geysir is one of the most famous geysers in the world, and the one that gave the phenomenon its name. Unfortunately, due to geological shifts in the earth, it doesn’t erupt regularly anymore, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see.
a short walk (2 min.) down to the lake shore and
Strokkur, Geysir’s neighbour, puts on a show every 6-8 minutes, blowing hot water high into the air. The spectacle is amazing to witness. All around are pools of scorching hot water, some muddy, others clear and yet others bubbling like cauldrons. Icelanders have loved visiting Geysir for a long time, and tourists have been able to get coffee and refreshments there since 1928.
Gullfoss waterfall, the high-temperature
observe a rye bread being taken out of a hot spring. Experience the beauty and wellness of Iceland!
Golden Circle & Snowmobiling On this day tour, you will get the adventure of a lifetime – a one-hour snowmobile ride on Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. Additionally, we will make stops at the stunning geothermal area Geysir with its numerous hot springs and Þingvellir National Park. Get up close with some of Iceland’s most stunning natural wonders!
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REYKJAVÍK AUSTURSTRÆTI 5 • VESTURGATA 4 • ÞINGHOLTSSTRÆTI 2-4 • LAUGAVEGUR 1 • LAUGAVEGUR 89-91 OUTLET • SKÓLAVÖRÐU STÍGUR 38 • FÁKAFEN 9 OUTLET • SMÁRALIND SHOPPING MALL • AKUREYRI HAFNARSTRÆTI 106 • STRANDGATA 16 • VÍK Í MÝRDAL AUSTURVEGUR 20 • VESTMANNAEYJAR BÁSASKERSBRYGGJU 2 Visit our webstore icewear.is - Enjoy the easy shopping and quick deliveries
Iceland is a land of contrasts, of ice and fire. It may be a cliché at this point but that doesn’t make it any less true. This volcanic island, just south of the Arctic Circle, has green valleys and jet-black deserts, glacial rivers and hot springs, fields of lava and jagged mountaintops. Situated atop a geological hot spot as well as a rift between the earth’s tectonic plates, Iceland is a constantly evolving country, with volcanic eruptions approximately every four or five years! Exploring Iceland’s extraordinary landscapes is a chance to see something completely different, so what are you waiting for? Waterfalls They say that when you travel in Iceland, you see a lot of water. It comes in many different forms but one of the most striking ones is the waterfalls you’ll find all over the mountainous country. The most famous ones (or at least the most photographed ones) are two waterfalls on the south coast of Iceland, flowing over the edge of the Eyjafjöll mountains, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Skógafoss is a thundering white sheet of water flowing straight down to the plains below, and Seljalandsfoss flows over a cliff into the mouth of a wide cave. You can even walk behind the waterfall to see it from the other side. Be careful, you might get wet! Glaciers Another form of water you can’t miss seeing are the icy glaciers covering about 11% of Iceland’s surface area. Each of Iceland’s glaciers has a specific character. There’s the mysterious Snæfellsjökull, for example, which Jules Verne
cast as the opening to the centre of the earth and Langjökull, where you can actually go into the glacier, into a man-made cave at the heart of the glacier’s blue ice. Exploring the surface can be just as enjoyable, going glacier hiking or even snowmobiling. Don’t go onto a glacier without a guide however, they can be dangerous for the inexperienced traveller. Volcanoes and lava fields Iceland has a volcanic eruption approximately every 4-5 years. The landscape is constantly evolving and as you travel around Iceland you’ll see everything from rough, black fields of fresh lava to older, greying lava, covered in a thick blanket of grey-green moss. Be careful not to disturb it, the moss might look sturdy but it’s a delicate plant and takes years to recover if it’s torn. You can still see ash from past eruptions in some areas, in black patches on glaciers and as shadows on the icebergs floating on Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. 9
NATURE TOURS FROM REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS South Shore Adventure We drive along the south coast of Iceland, one of the country’s most scenic regions. Along the way, we stop at the gorgeous Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which is unique in that you can walk behind it. We also stop at the majestic Skógafoss waterfall and visit the Skógar Folk Museum. Other highlights include the stunning Mýrdalsjökull glacier and the black sand coastline near Vík. A full day of awe-inspiring sights!
Quad Biking Adventure in Iceland This tour shows you the raw Icelandic nature of South Iceland. From Reykjavík, we drive towards Mýrdalsjökull glacier, where the volcano Katla is. There we get our ATVs and cross rivers, go to the promontory Dyrhólaey, and go to Sólheimasandur beach where the famous aircraft wreck is. To make this tour even more special, we will stop at the magnificent Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. Raw Icelandic nature!
Wonders of Snæfellsnes Raufarhólshellir
Geothermal areas and geysers Even when there aren’t any active eruptions in Iceland, the heat that continuously boils underground is visible on the earth’s surface. The geothermal force is evident in bubbling pools of mud, still and clear blue pools of water at boiling temperatures, and mud in every colour of the rainbow, from blue to red and yellow. One of the most popular destinations in Iceland is the geothermal area around Geysir, the original erupting hot spring that gave its name to the phenomenon in the English language. While Geysir doesn’t erupt anymore, there’s another geyser just a few metres away, Strokkur, which erupts with an impressive force every 6-8 minutes.
Black beaches Much like Björk, Iceland always has to do things a little bit differently than others. In Iceland, the beaches aren’t a soft golden colour, they’re jet-black! The colour comes from the fact that the sand consists of groundup particles of the volcanic basalt that makes up the base of Iceland. The black beaches can make for some dramatic photos, but be careful, another thing that separates the Icelandic beaches from their southern counterparts is that they can be quite dangerous if you get too close to the water. Beaches like Reynisfjara often have dangerous sneaker waves, powerful waves that can pull people into the water if they get too close.
Caves You haven’t really explored Iceland if you’ve just stayed on the surface. To really get in touch with the bedrock of Iceland, go underground! The young (in geological estimates) country is cut through with caves and underground tunnels, which, at some point in history, were filled with liquid lava! The caves stretch far underground, going from tight spaces to airy underground halls along the way.
The Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland is almost a miniature version of the island. In addition to its characteristic Snæfellsjökull glacier, there are black sandy beaches, bird cliffs, spectacular mountains, and volcanic craters. On this tour, we will, for example, stop at the small fishing village Arnarstapi, the ancient fishing village Hellnar, visit Djúpalónssandur beach, and the iconic Kirkjufell mountain. Experience the magic of Snæfellsnes!
Glacial Lagoon Day Tour by Bus On this tour to Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, we drive the south shore, one of Iceland’s most scenic routes. Amongst the stops are Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, but we will also see beautiful mountains, glaciers and beaches. With its enormous and ancient icebergs breaking off from Vatnajökull glacier, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon is a natural wonder of Iceland and a sight you absolutely cannot miss. It produces a feeling of incredible tranquillity as the over 1000-year-old ice silently drifts into the lake and slowly melts away. You may recognise the lagoon from scenes in Batman Begins, Tomb Raider, as well as two James Bond movies. Beautiful scenery all day long!
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LIVE MUSIC EVERY NIGHT Ingólfsstræti 3, 101 Reykjavík | Tel: 552-0070 | danski.is
ReykjavĂk Food Halls
How about an old fish factory for lunch and a run-down bus station for dinner? Treat your taste buds at Icelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first street food halls. Hlemmur Food Hall & Grandi Food Hall. mathallir.is
Have an Adventure in Iceland
If watching Iceland’s stunning nature from a bus window isn’t enough for you, you always have a choice to take a more active approach to exploring Iceland. Iceland’s unique landscapes and out-of-this-world nature are the perfect venues for the adventure of a lifetime, whether you feel like driving in a modified jeep to places inaccessible to the rest of the population, riding in an open vehicle like an ATV or a snowmobile, or hiking on your own two feet to places no vehicles can reach. Superjeeps Iceland is not really a small country, even though the population is small. One of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, Iceland’s population mostly resides around the coastline, as the mountainous highlands in the centre of the country are uninhabitable. The landscapes in this inhospitable wilderness are some of the most magnificent you’ll ever witness, but the gravel roads leading there are usually extremely rough, sometimes even requiring you to ford rivers. If you want to see these natural wonders with your own eyes (and you
do, trust me), no ordinary city car is going to survive the trip. The only way is to take a tour in a modified 4x4 jeep that can handle the roads and get you where you want to go. ATVs You don’t always have to go farther or to an unknown location to get to know a different side of Iceland. Sometimes just changing your mode of transportation is enough to get a whole new experience. Sitting in a car is one thing but feeling the air rush around your head as you zoom across a black sand desert on an ATV is a whole other thing. 13
REYKJAVÍK EXCURSIONS’ ADVENTURE TOURS Langjökull Ice Cave Experience – Into the Glacier Visit a unique and remote man-made ice cave in Langjökull glacier. We begin the tour by driving to Húsafell with stops at hot spring Deildartunguhver, as well as the beautiful Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls. After a lunch break in Húsafell (not included), we head on up to Langjökull, almost to the top of the glacier, where we enter the magnificent cave. Imagine standing on an ice cap reaching 200m below your feet!
Take a Walk on the Ice Side
Only a few hours’ drive away from Reykjavík is Eyjafjallajökull glacier, and just a little further the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue extends down from Mýrdalsjökull. We take a walk on crampons up onto the ice field. We will provide and teach you how to use basic glacier equipment, but ice climbing is not included. On the way back there’s a stop at the striking waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Challenges and thrills!
Lava Cave and Geothermal Adventure Super Jeep
Glaciers About 11% of Iceland’s surface is covered with glaciers. We also have the largest ice cap in Europe, Vatnajökull. From afar, these glaciers look like solid fields of white ice but as you get closer, you see the texture of the ice, sometimes cut through with crevasses, or streaked black with ash from a recent volcanic eruption. Visiting these glaciers is an experience unlike any other and going hiking on a glacier is highly recommended. Just be sure to travel with an experienced glacier guide, the glaciers can be dangerous for the uninitiated. If hiking on a glacier isn’t fast enough for you, you can always go snowmobiling. Whooshing across the white blanket of snow is an amazing feeling and the view is incomparable. It’s the perfect chance for a selfie to make people believe you really visited ICE-land. 14
Inside a glacier
Finally, you don’t have to stick to just exploring the surface of the glacier. You can also travel into the glacier! At the heart of the Langjökull glacier, the part where the ice is the thickest, you can climb into a man-made ice cave and explore the glacier from the inside. Caving Just like with glaciers, you don’t have to limit your explorations to the earth’s surface. Iceland’s unique geology has resulted in some interesting phenomena, such as the lava tube cave. These long and winding caves stretch far underground because at one point, liquid lava flowed through the tunnels. Now empty, the lava tubes are incredible places to explore due to the impressive rock formations you’ll come across.
On this tour, we will visit Iceland’s largest natural lava cave. The stunning Víðgelmir cave (148,000m3) is one of the largest natural lava caves in the world. There we start an adventurous and guided walk down the great, colourful and beautiful lava cave. Following the cave adventure, we relax at the geothermal pool at Húsafell. A family-friendly adventure!
Lava Tunnel – Caving in Raufarhólshellir On this brand-new tour, we visit the lava tunnel Raufarhólshellir located only 30 minutes from Reykjavík. We will witness the inner workings of a volcanic eruption while we walk in the path of lava that flowed thousands of years ago. The lava tunnel is one of the biggest in Iceland and gets up to 30m wide and 10m high. Challenge your senses!
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Noi Sirius is Icelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading confectionery manufacturer, producing many types of premium chocolate. The delicious taste of the milk chocolate is due to the special breed of Viking cow, native to Iceland, that free roam the countryside, grazing and drinking the purest glacial water in the world.
BRING ON THE
HY HEALT A LOC L OOD FAST F CHAIN
Mexican food that is a true fiesta for your taste buds!
Visit us at one of our eight locations in the Reykjavík area, like at the N1 service station just next to the BSÍ bus terminal. You'll also find us in Reykjanesbær which is close to the airport and in Akureyri, the capital of the North.
Rent a Car
Around two-thirds of Icelanders live in Reykjavík or the surrounding area and the rest of the country is sparsely populated – it’s mostly wilderness with patches of farmland, and a small town or a fishing village here and there. Exploring the Icelandic countryside is an adventure all on its own, with spectacular landscapes everywhere you look. If you have the time, renting a car and driving around Iceland is an experience you’ll never forget.
Where to go One of the most popular destinations in Iceland is the south coast. Not only are there beautiful natural wonders every few kilometres, the landscape is also varied and diverse. Black beaches meet snowy farmlands, volcanoes slumber underneath caps of glaciers and tall mountains are cut off abruptly by flat coastal areas, waterfalls tumbling over the edges. If you want to drive the road less travelled, consider visiting the Snæfellsnes peninsula on the west coast of Iceland. The area is like a microcosm of Iceland’s nature, with lava
fields, black sand beaches, picturesque fishing villages, and the Snæfellsjökull glacier watching over it all. Not only does the glacier play a part in world literature, as Jules Verne’s opening into the centre of the earth and the titular glacier in Halldór Laxness’s Under the Glacier, it’s also been rumoured to be a favoured landing spots for aliens! Even closer to Reykjavík is the Reykjanes peninsula. You’ve already seen parts of it, as Keflavík International Airport is situated at the tip of the peninsula, but there’s plenty more to it than the road from the airport. Rough lava
fields, beautiful lakes, and geothermal areas with bubbling cauldrons of mud and water are well worth the drive. If you have the time (at least 4-5 days), you can drive the whole way around the country, discovering its many secrets and wonders along the way. Route 1, or the ring road, is a 1332km (828mi) looped road connecting most of the inhabited parts of Iceland. It roughly follows the coastline of Iceland, since most people in Iceland live within a short distance from the ocean – the bit in the middle is mostly mountainous wilderness. 17
Dos and Don’ts while driving in Iceland Do make a road trip playlist. Extra points for including Icelandic music! Don’t stop or slow down on the road to take photos. Most roads with great views have intermittent scenic stops. In their absence, you should still find a safe place to park before you pick up the camera. Akureyri
Where to stay Akureyri is the largest town in Iceland outside of the Capital Region, with a population of just over 18,000. Attractions include a picturesque historical centre, an impressive art museum, a lively town centre with shops and cafés, and in winter, the best ski resort in Iceland. The surrounding area is beautiful, with the lovely fishing villages of the Eyjafjörður coastline as well as the natural wonder that is the Lake Mývatn area. Vík í Mýrdal is the southernmost village of mainland Iceland. It’s easy to reach because it’s located on the ring road. It’s a small town with around 400 inhabitants, but since it’s the biggest town in the area, it’s an important service centre for surrounding settlements and for travellers.
Do stop along the way, sometimes the unexpected detours can be a highlight of the trip. Look for a road sign with a square with looped corners, indicating interesting things ahead.
It’s the perfect destination for those wishing to explore the beautiful south coast of Iceland. On the way to Vík, you will pass Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, Sólheimajökull glacier tongue, and the basalt columns of Reynisfjara beach. Stykkishólmur was home to affluent Danish merchants in the past and the charming town centre is reminiscent of that time. Situated on the north coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, Stykkishólmur looks over the many islands and rocks of the Breiðafjörður fjord. Taking a cruise out among the islands is a lovely way to spend the day, as is visiting the many interesting museums in town. Don’t forget to drive out to the rest of Snæfellsnes peninsula, exploring the tiny villages along the way.
Don’t forget to consult the weather forecast. The weather is fickle and can change suddenly. Do consider exploring one area instead of driving all over the country if you’re short on time. If you’re just here for a few days, you don’t want to spend all your time in the car.
ENTERPRISE RENT-A-CAR Enterprise Rent-A-Car, one of the largest car rental companies in the world, joined forces with Reykjavik Excursions in 2014. The partnership was formed because of their shared belief in customer care, value, and outstanding service in the ever-expanding Icelandic travel network. For over 45 years, Reykjavik Excursions has proudly served travellers keen on exploring Iceland. They offer their customers a chance to explore Iceland safely and economically on their own terms. Iceland has a reputation for being an exciting alternative destination for travellers looking for a unique experience. Renting an Enterprise car allows visitors to explore our beautiful country at their own pace. The office is located at Klettagarðar 12 in Reykjavík. Meet & greet service available at Keflavík International Airport.
Why choose Enterprise?
»» Only the newest car models in all categories. »» Competitive prices. »» Unlimited mileage. »» Free hotel pickup within Reykjavík city limits. »» 2 Flybus+ return tickets included with every rental. »» 24/7 breakdown service. The rental offices are located at Klettagarðar 12 in Reykjavík and at the Keflavík International Airport.
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ICELANDIC SEAFOOD makes world’s best sushi The best of Icelandic produce with a nod to Japan and South America. Modern Icelandic flavours, share plates and award winning cocktails. Our kitchen is open 17.00–23.00 sun.–thu. 17.00–24.00 fri.–sat.
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Sushi Social Þingholtsstræti 5 • 101 Reykjavík Tel 568 6600 • sushisocial.is
A LOCAL FAVOURITE FOR 19 YEARS Experience tapas the Icelandic way, made with the freshest local ingredients in an energetic and vibrant atmosphere.
late night dining Our kitchen is open until 23:30 on weekdays and 01:00 on weekends
Vesturgötu 3B | 101 Reykjavík | Tel. 551 2344 | www.tapas.is
A Journey to the Center of the Earth and more The wonders of Snæfellsnes Peninsula If you only visit one part of Iceland outside of Reykjavík, make it Snæfellsnes. The area is a microcosm of Iceland, easily reachable by a convenient Reykjavik Excursions day trip from Reykjavík. Prepare for majestic mountain views, black sand beaches, a volcano and glacier rolled into one (a volclacier, a glaciano?) and, scattered around the scenery, quaint little towns full of stories. The centre of the earth The reigning king of Snæfellsnes’ landmarks is without a doubt Snæfellsjökull glacier, sitting atop an active volcano on the tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The volcano is 700,000 years old and has erupted about 20 times since the last ice age. In his book A Journey to the Centre of the Earth Jules Verne used Snæfellsjökull as the point of entry through which Lidenbrock and his team start their journey. Closer to home, the glacier is also the backdrop and titular glacier in Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’ Under the Glacier. The area surrounding the glacier is a national park, where, among other things, you will find Djúpalónssandur beach, where you can test your strength with three rocks, called Strong, Full Strong and Half Strong. These were used by sailors of ages past to compete in strength. The heaviest one is 154kg (339lbs). Arnarstapi Arnarstapi is a partially abandoned fishing village, pretty desolate in wintertime, even though more and more people find their way to vacation houses in the area. It has a campground, an inn, and a restaurant. You can hike around the surrounding area and enjoy the view of the mind-blowing rock formations of the 20
coastlines from the observation deck to which the Reykjavík Excursions tour will take you. Stykkishólmur Stykkishólmur is a picturesque and beautiful fishing town with only 1,100 inhabitants, although that number doubles in the summertime, with all the fishermen and tourists. It serves as the centre of transportation for the area – it’s where you catch the ferry for Flatey island, and Brjánslækur in the Westfjords. The picturesque town has wooden houses from the 19th and early 20th century, the oldest of which is the Norwegian House, built in 1832, which now houses the local folk museum. Stykkishólmur also has a volcano museum and a swimming pool, among other attractions. We’ve only counted a few of Snæfellsnes peninsula’s attractions, not even mentioning the scattered little farms, the area’s rich history (the peninsula was where the Book of the Icelanders, one of the main historical sources of Iceland was written, and it’s the setting of the ancient Laxdæla Saga), the magnificent Gerðuberg basalt columns, and mountains like Helgafell and Hólahólar. To learn more, book a trip and see for yourself! Tours of the whole area and all the sights are available through Reykjavik Excursions.
Reykjavik Excursions BSI Bus Terminal, Vatnsmýrarvegur 10, 101 Reykjavík +354 580 5400 | www.re.is
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HÚSAVÍK ORIGINAL WHALE WATCHING
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SILENT WHALE WATCHING
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Glide silently alongside the whales on an electric boat. A tranquil whale watching experience.
WHALES AND PUFFINS
WHALES AND SAILS
The perfect combination. A whale watching excursion with a stop by the peaceful Puffin Island.
Get close to the whales on board a traditional Icelandic sailboat and learn the old ways of sailing.
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Reykjavík City Tours
Reykjavík is a city like no other. This northernmost capital of an independent country may not match other capitals in population numbers, but we make up for it in other ways. History Iceland’s first permanent settler in the 9th century, Ingólfur Arnarson, also happened to be Reykjavík’s first inhabitant. According to legend, he made his homestead in Reykjavík after throwing the beams from his chieftain’s seat overboard and vowing to make his home where they washed ashore. Even though Reykjavík has old roots, it had a long way to go before becoming the city it is today. Up until the 18th century, Reykjavík wasn’t even a town, just a single farm just like any other in Iceland. Sheriff Skúli Magnússon chose the location for his wool workshop, which set off the industrialisation of Iceland. It’s for this reason that he’s known as the father of Reykjavík. At the turn of the 20th century, Reykjavík had just around 6,000 inhabitants and most Icelanders still lived in rural communities. The following century was one of the most turbulent in history and the changes to Icelandic society were incredible. Today, about two-thirds of Icelanders live in Reykjavík or the surrounding area and Reykjavík has blossomed into a
dynamic, creative city, rivalling capitals in Europe for its community spirit if not its size. Nature Reykjavík is a small city and just a few minutes’ drive will take you out into untouched nature, with plenty of hiking and picnicking opportunities. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the city centre to see some stunning nature, the view of Mt. Esja from the city centre is spectacular.
Standing by the modern Harpa Concert Hall in the city centre and looking out over the sea, with Esja on the other side of the water gives you a feeling of how close the people of Reykjavík are to nature at all times. Even in the centre of the country’s capital, you still have a view of a mountain range that’s just begging to be a part of your Instagram feed. Mt. Esja is also helpful if you need to find your way, the mountain is straight north from the centre.
A Natural Luxury
Bathing in Icelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s geothermal heat
Living on a rocky volcanic island just south of the Arctic Circle might not sound like everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cup of tea but it does have its perks. While we must be prepared for a volcanic eruption or an earthquake every now and then, most of the time the geothermal heat just bubbles quietly underneath the surface and can be quite useful. Icelanders have learnt to harness the geothermal heat and today, we rely on it for many purposes; to keep our homes at the perfect temperature the whole year round, to create electricity, and most importantly - to bathe in. For centuries, Icelanders have been taking advantage of the fact that they live in a country where warm water springs from the ground. For the lucky landowners with access to it, not only was laundry a far easier and cost-effective process but bathing and relaxing in hot water also proved invaluable. There are records of hot spring baths dating back to the Viking age! Snorri Sturluson, a 13th-century politician and scholar who documented the stories of the Norse gods for future generations, had his very own hot tub, Snorralaug, which still exists to this day. Bathing in geothermal water is not just a thing of the past. To this day, every town in Iceland has a public swimming pool with geothermally heated water, where the locals gather to mingle and chat about everything and nothing in the hot tubs. The swimming pools are a great place to witness the
equality of Icelandic society. Everyone goes to the pool, no matter their age or social standing. The atmosphere is welcoming and on any given day you can find the mayor of ReykjavĂk sitting in the hot tub chatting to a blue-collar worker, senior citizens swimming in the same lanes as athletic youths, and teenagers discussing urgent matters of life and love in the wading pool while toddlers run and splash around them. Aside from the public pools, there are a few places in Iceland where you can experience the luxury of the geothermal water in natural surroundings. By visiting the source of the hot water instead of having it pumped to you, you get to witness the energy of the Icelandic landscape in its natural state. The geothermal areas where the hot springs can be found showcase the power of the geothermal heat. Surrounded by
black lava, tiny pools of bubbling water too hot to touch, or other reminders of the immense energy hidden underneath Iceland, the stark landscapes are a contrast to the luxurious pleasures of the spa.
Blue Lagoon 25
The Blue Lagoon Blue Lagoon is the result of a lucky accident, the by-product of using geothermal heat to produce electricity. The characteristic milky blue water is groundwater pumped up from the depths of the earth and mixed with cold seawater to reach the perfect bathing temperature. There are no chemical cleaners in the water, it relies instead on fresh water flowing in constantly. All the water in the lagoon is gradually replaced every 48 hours.
Laugarvatn Fontana The Laugarvatn Fontana Spa is located on the Golden Circle, Iceland’s most popular tourist route. The whole area is rich in geothermal heat, the most spectacular example of which is the Geysir geothermal area, where Strokkur erupts hot water high into the air. The warm water at Laugarvatn has been used for bathing for centuries as well as the natural steam baths heated by steam rising directly from the hot spring.
The Secret Lagoon
The Secret Lagoon The Secret Lagoon is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, recently renovated. The renovations are discreet, with the ruins of the old bathhouse left standing, so visitors can enjoy all modern comforts but still feel like they went back in time for about a century. In between bouts of soaking in the geothermal water, take a walk around the pool, enjoying the view of the surrounding hot springs, some bubbling, some still, and yet others erupting every now and then.
WELLNESS TOURS FROM REYKJAVIK EXCURSIONS Fontana Wellness Geothermal Baths
The Blue Lagoon
Golden Circle & Fontana Wellness
Bathe in the refreshing natural baths of Laugarvatn Fontana while taking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lake Laugarvatn. Enjoy four different hot pools, three steam rooms with varying temperatures, and a traditional sauna. You can cool off in between by running across the black sand beach into Laugarvatn lake.
Make your Iceland adventure even better by bathing in the world famous Blue Lagoon. With Reykjavik Excursions you can travel to the Blue Lagoon when arriving or departing through Keflavík International Airport, from your Reykjavík accommodation, or in combination with selected day tours. Swimsuits and towels can be rented or bought on the spot.
This tour combines the very popular Golden Circle tour with a visit to the geothermal baths at Laugarvatn Fontana. At Laugarvatn Fontana, we will get a first-hand experience of how locals use hot springs for baking bread. We will be offered to take a short walk (2 min.) down to the lake shore and observe a rye bread being taken out of a hot spring.
Relax and enjoy.
Experience the beauty and wellness of Iceland!
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Steikhúsið simply means “The Steak House” and that underlines our goal, to focus solely on steaks. Steikhúsið is in the middle of Reykjavík, opposite the old harbour, which has recently formed into a lively neighbourhood of restaurants, cafés, artisan stores and work shops. When you visit us, remember to try our “28-day” tendered meat. The heart of the place is a coal oven from Mibrasa, Spain. It is only fitting that we use coal for grilling and baking, since the building housed a blacksmith and metal works in years gone by. THE KITCHEN IS OPEN FROM 17:00 ‘TILL LATE — VISIT WWW.STEAK.IS
: Booking +354 561 1111 & firstname.lastname@example.org
Reykjavík is filled with green spaces. In fact, you can follow walking paths all the way from the tip of the Reykjavík peninsula to Heiðmörk, the wooded area on the south side of the city. On the way, you’d find several lovely locations, popular with the locals for outdoor recreation. There’s even Elliðaár, a beautiful, untouched river network flowing through the capital, so clear and pure that you can go fishing, if you get a permit. Music & culture Despite Reykjavík’s small size, the cultural scene is booming. Visual arts and literature thrive despite the small population, but the real star of the show is the Icelandic music scene. Iceland, this nation of just over 350,000 people, has produced stars such as Björk, a former member of The Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men and the list goes on. The local scene is thriving and every music genre you can think of is represented, from introspective indie pop to reggae and hip-hop,
Icelanders are putting their own twist on it. A great way to get to know Icelandic music is at the music festivals that regularly take over Reykjavík. There’s the Secret Solstice festival, and Sónar Reykjavík, specially dedicated to electronic music, but the biggest one is Iceland Airwaves. For five days every autumn, music lovers gather in the centre of Reykjavík and enjoy a non-stop celebration of the best Icelandic musicians have to offer, as well as international acts.
spirit. A new and exciting addition to the Icelandic arts scene is The Marshall House in Reykjavík’s old harbour district. The building is home to several operations dedicated to modern art such as the Living Art Museum, the ambitious Kling & Bang gallery and the working studio of Danish/Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson. Taking your time to get to know Reykjavík is well worth it as the city’s powerful spirit and infinite charm will likely draw you in and never let you go.
Icelandic literature is also blossoming, especially crime novels. Even though Iceland statistically has less than two murders per year, Icelandic masters of the Nordic Noir crime fiction have had their books translated in numerous languages and have enjoyed great success overseas. The visual arts are also well-represented, with the National Gallery of Iceland as well as the Reykjavík Art Museum putting on ambitious exhibitions. The Reykjavík Art Museum operates in three different locations, each with a distinct
REYKJAVÍK EXCURSIONS’ REYKJAVÍK TOURS Reykjavík Grand Excursion On this tour, we will get the highlights of Iceland’s history and culture. Among the stops are Hallgrímskirkja church, Perlan with its 360° viewing deck, Höfði house where Reagan and Gorbachev met in 1986 to begin the process of ending the Cold War, and the latest landmark in Reykjavík, Harpa Concert Hall. The guide will provide you with all the essential information regarding Reykjavík‘s rich culture, history and natural environment. The essential introduction to Iceland‘s capital!
Reykjavik Grand Excursion & Whale Watching Enjoy a trip out to sea to see whales and get to know the capital city of Iceland on land. Start the day with a whale watching tour, operated from the old harbour in Reykjavík. The most commonly seen wildlife on this tour are minke whales, humpback 28
whales, and dolphins. After an invigorating tour out at sea, we go on to explore Reykjavík and learn about its history and culture.
Hop On - Hop Off Take a city sightseeing bus tour and explore Reykjavík at your leisure, with the opportunity to hop on and off at conveniently located bus stops. With the best of both worlds; a modern trendy and forward-looking city whilst at the same time being close to its unspoilt nature, Reykjavík truly is a magical place to behold.
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Travel Iceland On Your Own Iceland On Your Own (IOYO) is a simple, convenient, flexible, and affordable way of getting to and from your favourite nature highlights and hiking spots in Iceland. That means you can hop on and off the bus at your leisure, making for an extremely flexible itinerary. The balance between reliability and flexibility makes IOYO an ideal mode of transportation for more independent and self-reliant people. The buses are modern and comfortable and the fleet includes 4X4 coaches capable of traversing the difficult roads of the highlands, making you free as a (flightless) bird! All of the routes in the south have an audioguide, so in a manner of speaking, you’re getting both transportation and a tour. There and back again One of the most popular destinations for our more adventurous travellers is the ‘Mountain’s back,’ or Fjallabak area north of Mt. Eyjafjallajökull volcano, in the south of Iceland. This includes the Fimmvörðuháls hike, from Skógar to Þórsmörk, and the Laugavegur hike from Þórsmörk to Landmannalaugar. One issue with this hike is the transport – if you drive to Skógar and hike to Landmannalaugar, are you going to hike the whole way back again to get to your car? And are you going to pay for a rental car to be parked somewhere for 3 days? The Highland Hiker’s Passport is an easy solution to these issues. It takes you once from Reykjavík out to either Skógar, Þórsmörk or Landmannalaugar, and once back to the city from any of the three locations. (Just to be clear, it does not mean that you can hop on and off those buses all summer. Once out, once back, that’s what you get.) The specially outfitted 4X4 coaches can handle the rough roads to Landmannalaugar and ford the rivers on the way to Þórsmörk, so you can just sit back and enjoy the wild ride. 30
Hiking options Hiking Laugavegur This trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland and is a favourite among the locals. The hike usually starts in Landmannalaugar and from there it is a 3-4 days hike to Þórsmörk nature reserve. Hiking Fimmvörðuháls This trail is extremely popular and it takes you through a pass between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull and takes about 8-10 hours to complete, depending on the hiker’s pace. Travellers can even do the hike in 2 days, spending a night in the hut in Fimmvörðuháls en route. Hiking Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls By taking Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails as a combo, you get the best of both worlds. At Skógar, you can walk to the picturesque 62m high Skógafoss waterfall and you might even be tempted to take the steps all the way to the top and enjoy the scenery. So whether you’re a young backpacker, out for some fun with your family, a rugged hiker, adventurous retiree, whether you’re here with friends, loved ones or on your own, if you’re looking for the hidden places off the beaten track or just the tried and tested highlights of Iceland, Iceland On Your Own has something to offer you in a convenient, customizable and costeffective way. Check out their offering today and find the package you need!
TRAVEL ICELAND ON YOUR OWN Þórsmörk Adventure Þórsmörk is one of Iceland’s most beautiful spots; green-sloped, covered in low willow, birch, and heather woodland and wildflowers, with icy peaks rising above – a ‘must-see’ during your stay in Icleand. Þórsmörk /(Thor’s Wood) was created by glacial streams running off from underneath the icecaps of Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull and it is a favourite among hikers as it is the base for many interesting hiking trails. A magnet for everyone from hardcore hikers to energetic nature lovers.
Landmannalaugar Adventure The journey to Landmannalaugar takes you through the fertile and ample farmlands of the South, around the foot of the famous Mt. Hekla and into the uninhabited highlands. Landmannalaugar with colourful landscapes, hot pools and great hiking trails make this spot a great place to visit and is indeed a favourite among travellers. Its magnificent rhyolite peaks, rambling lava flows, blue mountain lakes, and soothing hot springs will hold you captive at least for a day! Soft and rugged at the same time and leaving everlasting memories.
Skógar Adventure The route takes you through the Southern Icelandic countryside with green fields, farms, small villages, and waterfalls until you reach the tiny settlement at Skógar. Above the village are the white heights of Eyjafjallajökull glacier and its precipitous green foothills. Visit the south and enjoy the sights.
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ALL THE ICELANDIC BEERS IN ONE AWESOME PLACE
THE LOCAL BEER 32
The Icelandic Horse A Faithful Servant and a Loyal Companion
One of Iceland’s biggest claims to fame (aside from Björk, of course) is the Icelandic horse. Short, stout and shaggy, its nickname through the ages has been þarfasti þjónninn (the most needed servant) and its importance in the farming society, especially in the ages before the arrival of the car, can hardly be overestimated. While its farming duties have lessened with the change of times and invention of the motorcar, there are still plenty of horses in Iceland and riding for pleasure is a very popular hobby, especially since the Icelandic horse has so many qualities that make it an exceptionally good riding breed. It's got the look Icelandic horses tend to be around 140cm tall and weigh between 330 and 380kg. Internationally, a horse breed shorter than 1,.47m is dubbed a pony, so the Icelandic horse is on the limit. Based on their sturdy build and strong personalities, Icelanders never call their horses ponies, though. They come in many coat colours, including chestnut, bay, black, gray, white, palomino, pinto and roan, making them very photogenic! A viking horse When the Vikings were settling Iceland more than a thousand years ago, they brought horses
with them, but when they had enough horses, it made much more sense to breed their own rather than keep importing. The settlers’ horses weren’t of one specific breed to begin with, but since the 11th century, no horses have been imported to Iceland and the result of centuries of breeding, is known as the Icelandic horse. The Icelandic breed has retained some qualities other breeds have lost, and gained some new ones in the unique conditions of Iceland. No way back Importing horses has been banned for a long time, because the Icelandic breed is susceptible to foreign diseases. Once an Icelandic horse leaves the country, it can never return. This means that Icelanders going to riding competitions abroad can’t bring their horses back. The result of this, as well as international interest in the Icelandic horse, is that there are more Icelandic horses outside of Iceland than in the country.
Smart and tough Icelandic horses had to survive all kinds of weather and terrain with their riders, but since Iceland doesn’t have a particularly rich native fauna, they didn’t have to fear predators. This made for natural selection that promotes intellect over flight instincts. Icelandic horses aren’t as skittish as other horse breeds, they are attentive and think about every step they take. This makes them a companion on a ride, instead of just a mode of transportation to be controlled. But wait, there's more! Icelandic horses are genetically suited to perform more gaits than other horses. They have up to five gaits, including a flying pace where all legs are in the air at once and the tölt or ambling gait, during which the horse has at least one foot on the ground at any time. Tölt is valued for its smoothness and is ideal for traversing Iceland’s rocky terrain.
Iceland's Culture from Another Point of View In 1906, on the 600th anniversary of the birth of Snorri Sturluson, a cornerstone was laid of a building that was to house the most precious gems of Iceland’s cultural heritage. The house became known as Safnahúsið (literary The House of Museums, but it’s known as the Culture House) and is still one of the stateliest buildings in the city. It’s all the more impressive for the fact that at the time it was built, Reykjavík was a “city” of only 9,797 inhabitants. The house was built to be home to Iceland’s main museums and depositories, the National Museum, the National Archives, the Museum of Natural History and the National Library. At the time, the most important political matter in Iceland was the country’s independence. It was a battle that was not fought with arms and bloodshed, but with ideas and myth building. A building project such as this one was important to the fledgling nation, to prove that it was ready to take its place in international society. It was not only the scale of the project that was important but also its purpose. The fight for independence was based on history and the national identity was mined from cultural heritage. The Culture House was built by Icelandic craftsmen and the furniture was made by Icelandic hands as well, a source of pride for Icelanders at the time. As the years passed and each museum and depository outgrew their allotted room in the Culture House, one by one, they moved out from the white castle by Arnarhóll. For decades, it was home to the National Library, which had spread 34
into every corner of the Culture House. It was the last collection to leave, and in 1994, the new building of the National Library in west Reykjavík was ready to accept readers. The Culture House wasn’t empty for long. It was renovated but despite years of use, the house was in a surprisingly good condition. The Icelandic craftsmanship had stood the test of time. For years, the house was used for official functions and exhibitions but a few years ago, a decision was made to turn the house over to the museums once again. In 2013, the building merged with the National Museum. The permanent exhibition on display doesn’t only mine from the extensive vaults of the museum, however. Instead, it incorporates elements form each of the museums the house was built for, the National Archives, the National
University Library, the National Museum and the Museum of Natural History, as well as the National Gallery and the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies. The exhibition is called Points of View and instead of a chronological overview of Iceland’s history, it takes a deeper look at the nation’s culture from different points of view. Walking around the Culture House, exploring artefacts, documents, photos, art, and literature from Iceland’s history is the perfect way for the whole family to spend an afternoon. Guided tours of the exhibition in English take place two times a week during winter and, hopefully, the exhibition will give you another point of view on Icelandic culture. Culture House Hverfisgata 15, 101 Reykjavík +354 530 2210 www.culturehouse.is
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IN BREIDAFJORDUR, TRY OUR VIKING SUSHI ADVENTURE OR SAIL BETWEEN STYKKISHÓLMUR AND BRJÁNSLÆKUR WITH A STOPOVER IN FLATEY. IN BEAUTIFUL BREIDAFJORDUR, TRY OUR VIKING SUSHI ADVENTURE OR SAIL BETWEEN STYKKISHÓLMUR AND BRJÁNSLÆKUR WITH A STOPOVER IN BEAUTIFUL FLATEY.
The History of Iceland in 10 Short Steps
16-18 million years ago: The formation of Iceland Iceland lies on the intersection of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. When they started drifting apart, around 16 million years ago, it caused a major volcanic eruption, resulting in the creation of Iceland! Even today, the island still sits on a volcanic hot spot, creatively named "The Iceland Plume" – resulting in a multitude of earthquakes every year and volcanic eruptions every few years as well. 871 AD: The settlement of Iceland A Norwegian named Ingólfur Arnarson killed a man and was exiled from his home country. He sailed to a legendary land in the west with two ships. People from the Nordics engaged in a massive land grab in this uninhabited country, taking with them Irish slaves, resulting in a Norse-Celtic mix of genes in Iceland. Thanks to the almost obsessive fixation of early Icelanders with genealogy, most modern Icelanders can still trace their family lines back to this time. As a matter of fact, Icelanders can look up their entire family history on a single website, and they even have an app called Íslendingabók that makes sure they don’t date their (close) relatives.
Iceland is a proud nation with a rich history. From the world’s oldest democratic parliament, to an economic crash of unprecedented size, Icelanders have a lot to boast about, and they're usually not shy to do so. Here we present, for the first time ever, the complete, not-reallyunabridged History of Iceland, in just 10 short items. This is your unique chance to read up on major events in the history of Iceland, without having to sift through thousands of pages. Now, let's start at the very beginning.
930 AD: Parliament established Being a land of renegades and runaways with no king, some system of government had to be instituted. The people of Iceland went ahead and created Alþing (allthing-ee), the oldest democratic parliament that still exists today. In each area there was a chieftain (goði), a political and religious leader. Every summer, all the chieftains would meet at Þingvellir (Parliament Fields) to discuss laws and settle disputes. Every year, the lawspeaker, standing on top of the Law Rock, would say a third of the law, completely from memory. This way, the whole law was heard every three years. The law was later written down in the book Grágás, which still exists today. Contained therein are practical laws, such as the penalty for your pet polar bear killing someone. The parliament functions to this day, uninterrupted aside from a period of 45 years from 1800-1845. 37
1000 AD: Conversion to Christianity, discovery of America Until the 10th century, the predominant religion in Iceland was Ásatrú, the worship of the Norse gods, Óðinn, Þór, and the like. In the 980s, Christian missionaries started spreading the faith, leading to violent confrontations. The two factions asked Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði Þorkelsson to mediate. He lay under a bear hide for a day and a night, eventually coming to the conclusion that Iceland should be a Christian country. However, worshipping the old gods was allowed as long as you didn’t do it in public! Iceland remained Roman Catholic until 1540, when it converted to Lutheran Protestantism. The Catholic Bishops Jón Arason and Ögmundur Pálsson violently opposed the reformation. That opposition came to an abrupt end with the beheading of Jón Arason in 1550. The year 1000 is also when Leif 'The Lucky' Eiríksson discovered America, or 'Wine Land' as he called it. He was planning on sailing to Greenland, but was blown off course to the west, where he saw land. Leifur settled for a winter in Leifsbúðir, in Newfoundland in modern-day Canada, along with his crew.
Later, in the 14th century, the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden became one kingdom, and when they split up again, Iceland somehow wound up under Danish rule. Even today, Icelanders are confused and even a little sore about the whole situation. 1602: Monopoly (not the fun kind) In the 1500s, English and German fishermen and traders set up posts in Iceland and traded with the Icelanders. Seeing a mutually beneficial situation which brought prosperity to his subjects, Christian IV, King of Denmark naturally decided he wasn’t having it. He granted exclusive rights to trade in Iceland to certain merchants. It is hard to overstate how devastating this decision was. The prices were fixed and the system led to economic stagnation in Iceland until the monopoly was abolished in 1786.
These and other stories are written down in the Sagas of the Icelanders, an extensive body of 13th century writings.
The 1750s: The Enlightenment and the birth of Reykjavík Until the middle of the 1750s, Reykjavík was just a single farm, and Iceland had no towns or villages of any kind. Sheriff Skúli Magnússon was a man of the Enlightenment. He picked Reykjavík to become the centre of modernisation, and pioneered in building wool workshop buildings, one of which still stands, at Aðalstræti 10. This marked the beginning of Iceland’s rise out of the Dark Ages.
1262 AD: Iceland submits to Norway In the years leading up to 1262, the Icelandic chieftains gradually became more and more powerful, until the whole country was in a state of constant civil war between seven powerful clans. In order to end the war, the leaders submitted peacefully to Haakon IV, King of Norway. The story is preserved in the Sturlunga Saga, written down as the events were taking place or shortly after.
1845 AD: The reestablishment of the parliament and the independence movement The Enlightenment came to Iceland, and with it, nationalism. Chief among the Icelandic independence campaigners was Jón Sigurðsson, whose birthday, June 17, was later chosen as Iceland's Independence Day. The movement led to the re-establishment of the Icelandic Parliament as an advisory body
to the King in 1845. This was followed by home rule in 1905, sovereignty in 1918, and independence in 1944, when Denmark was too busy being invaded by Germany to do much about it. 20th century: The world wars and modernisation Industry and urbanisation were growing, but Iceland had quite a lot of catching up to do. 1900-1910 saw such novelties as electricity, the first car, and the first trawler, which marked the beginning of the modernization of the fishing industry. In the World Wars, selling products to the Allies and servicing the American occupying force brought an economic boom and cultural influence, such as TV and jazz. This catapulted Iceland into the 20th century and still today the Icelandic culture has an incredible fascination for new and foreign things, technology, and culture. 21st century: Crash and miraculous recovery Since the 1950s, Iceland’s economy was characterised by rather high inflation. In the late 1990s, the commercial banking system was privatised and the law was changed to ease restrictions on trade. Following an incredible growth in everything financial, the bubble finally burst in a spectacular manner, in October 2008. The currency of Iceland, the króna, fell by 50% overnight. People lost their jobs, their houses, and their livelihood and finally to top it all off, McDonald's left the country. Since then, Iceland has caught the attention of the international community because of how quickly the economy has recovered. Industry is booming (especially the tourism industry), unemployment is low, and wages and prices are rising again.
Wonders of Iceland
Real Ice Cave in Reykjavík At Perlan – Wonders of Iceland, the latest science, and the best museum artists and technologists have joined forces to create a truly amazing exhibition. Visitors can see, feel, and live Iceland’s many natural wonders all in one place.
Perlan – Wonders of Iceland is an enchanting interactive journey through Iceland’s nature, on five floors.
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Snapshots from Reykjavik Excursions
On a glacier More on p. 13-14
Blue Lagoon More on p. 36-37
Perlan More on p. 23-24
Gunnuhver More on 7-8
Geysir More on p. 5-6
Jรถkulsรกrlรณn More on p. 8-9
Travel Iceland on Your Own More on p. 30
Experience the amazing LangjĂśkull glacier from the inside A rare, once in a lifetime opportunity
k Ă v a j k y e R d n a r e t n e c l l e f a s Ăş H m o r Daily departures f
7 Things You Didn't Know About the Puffin The puffin, with his colourful beak and comical strut has proven popular with visitors to Iceland. Iceland has some of the largest colonies of Atlantic puffin in the world so if you’re a bird enthusiast in Iceland for the summer, consider taking a tour to sail out and see these curious creatures with your own eyes. They mate for life Puffins uphold the bird version of conservative family values; they mate for life, raise their single puffling over the course of the summer and return every year to their same nesthole. They’re easy prey for predators on land, which is why they usually nest on islands Predators like foxes, weasels, cats, and dogs can’t reach them on the islands around Iceland, or out at sea during the wintertime. Actually, the puffins’ most threatening natural predator is homo sapiens. Puffin is still hunted for food and eaten, fresh or smoked. If you're curious to try it, many restaurants in Reykjavík serve puffin. They’re great swimmers, but clumsy flyers Puffins are graceful on the water, swimming and diving for fish in smooth, natural motions. In the air, however, they look like they’re ready to fall out of the sky at any moment, flying with jerking motions and crash-landing.
They spend most of their life at sea The puffins are pelagic birds which means that they spend more than half the year far out at sea. They are well suited to life on the sea and mostly eat fish. They only return to their holes to breed from April to August.
They’re not our national bird That honour belongs to the infinitely more graceful, if less likable, gyrfalcon. For a while the falcon was even represented in the national crest. The national order of Iceland, awarded by the president is the Order of the Falcon.
They dig holes instead of making nests, which sometimes can be up to a metre deep! Puffins are seabirds and tend to live where trees don’t. They dig holes instead of making nests, up to a metre deep. They sometimes even use old rabbit holes if there are any rabbits in the area. Their beaks are impressive The multic-coloured beaks that the puffins sport for the mating seasons have, in some parts of the world, earned them the nickname of sea parrot, or even sea clown. In Iceland they have a more dignified moniker, they're called provosts because their pompous manner and walk reminds people of senior church officials. 43
Into the Belly of the Fiery Beast (on a Tuesday Afternoon) I unexpectedly got a chance to go on the Inside the Volcano tour. I figured the chance to go INSIDE a volcano is worth reorganizing your day, so I made a few quick calls, borrowed an anorak, a warm hat and mittens, and I was on my way! It was a rainy and breezy day downtown as I walked down the hill from the booking agency to the Bus station. I arrived about 10 minutes early and the full bus pulled away a few minutes before the scheduled 14:00 departure. The ride out to Þríhnúkagígur took about 30 minutes, past green mossy fields and snowcovered mountains. Þríhnúkagígur is the only volcano in the world where you can go inside an empty magma chamber. Our guide explained that once a volcano stops erupting, the walls often cave in - transforming the volcano into a crater. We arrived at a kind of visitor’s centre, where we received a brief overview of the journey to the volcano. We would take a 3km walk to basecamp, which I would rather call a hike; though there was little change in elevation, on this particular (May) day, the snow was deep enough that my hiking boots were completely
covered! I was well dressed so I was alright, but I bet the guy with the shorts and flip-flops had some second thoughts on the way! We had the wind at our back on the way to the base camp at Þríhnúkagígur. Along the way, our guide Birgitta pointed out some pseudocraters, which are only found in Iceland and on planet Mars. The journey to the base of the volcano took about 45 minutes.
Once at basecamp, we had an opportunity to rest a bit and get a hot drink. They split us into groups of 3 or 4, and gave us helmets and harnesses for the short walk along the ridge, and subsequent descent into the volcano. We met up with more guides who I later discovered were seasoned mountain men, experts in determining if it’s safe to make the walk up to the volcano. We were told it was
some of the most extreme weather they’d ever done it in, but we never felt unsafe – clearly we were in good hands. The walk along the ridge was in nearly hurricane force winds that day. It was quite exhilarating as, instructed by our guides, we held hands and- with our back to the wind- slowly made our way up to the mouth of the volcano. They hooked our harnesses to lines on the metal bridge as we walked to the lift, then secured us to the lift itself. The lift slowly made it way down, squeezing through spaces so tight that you could touch the inside of the volcano. And then suddenly, we were hanging in the gaping void. It’s incredibly huge – taller than the Statue of Liberty – and the colours are amazing. Once we landed, we could freely wander inside the volcano for about 30 minutes. There were bright orange lines marking out where it was safe to walk but I didn’t feel restricted at all. Even within those boundaries, it was wise to use a
headlamp and step carefully as the ground is pretty uneven in a lot of places. I marveled at all the colors of the rocks. I expected browns and reds but not bright yellows, blues, and greens! It’s surprisingly silent inside the volcano. Aside from the slight hum of the elevator running and the hushed whispers of my fellow travelers, the mountain really blocks out all outside sounds. The melted snow and rain fell gently down into the volcano. The drops caught bits of light as they fell in what seemed like slow-motion - it was so beautiful. The photos really don’t do it justice, it’s hard to capture the sense of serenity and peace as I sat silently and let the fact that I was laying down inside this powerful (now dormant) beast of nature wash over me. It wasn’t bad for a Tuesday afternoon. Not bad at all.
That being said, though it is efficient, it doesn’t at all feel inauthentic or particularly “touristy” - our guides were real mountaineers and everything there felt very close to nature – the trek over the mountains, the walk along the ridge, even being exposed to the elements, gave the whole thing a very outdoorsy, adventurous feel. All in all, it’s a great way to experience the unique mountainous and rocky nature of Iceland. Get out of the city and try out this truly magnificent way to spend a day.
I really recommend this experience for anyone interested in nature, geology, adventuring,
»» Take the weather into consideration. It can change quickly in Iceland and can be different on the mountains than it is in the city.
mountaineering, or anyone who just wants to do something unusual. As I mentioned previously, it’s the only place in the world where you can do this sort of thing – usually volcanos will collapse once they run out of magma, and if this kind of magma chamber exists anywhere else, there definitely isn’t a handy day tour to lower you into it by elevator.
»» Bring sunglasses. Whether it’s a surprise or not, Iceland is bright! »» Dress well and wear comfortable shoes. »» Bring an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet.
»» When inside the volcano, put away your camera or phone for a while and just enjoy it!
You can book your Inside the Volcano Tour at www.insidethevolcano.is, the nearest Tourist Information or your hotel lobby!
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Þingvellir This place has an impressive history but what’s even more impressive are the cliffs flanking the rift between the tectonic plates, where the land is ever so slowly pulling apart.
Geysir (or more accurately, Strokkur) It’s an erupting geyser, of course it’s going to look amazing in photographs. It erupts every 6-8 minutes so be ready with your finger on that camera button!
Skógafoss This beautiful waterfall on the south coast of Iceland, tumbling over a cliff onto the gravelly plains below, looks like what all the little waterfalls want to be when they grow up.
Jökulsárlón The still water, the blue and black icebergs, and the gravelly sand banks surrounding the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon make sure that this place is Instagram gold! 49
Hallgrímskirkja Hallgrímskirkja is the most recognisable landmark in Reykjavík. Not only does it look good from the street; the view from the top is incomparable.
The Pond The pond is a tiny lake in the centre of the city. It’s almost impossible to take a bad photo of the pond, it looks good from every angle and in any weather.
The Sun Voyager The metal sculpture inspired by a Viking longboat, with a backdrop of the ocean and Mount Esja, is one of the most photogenic spots in Reykjavík.ík.
Harpa Harpa Concert Hall is a relatively new addition to the Reykjavík cityscape but makes up for lack of history by consistently looking impressive and pretty.
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What to Expect in an Icelandic Swimming Pool
Every country has traditions when it comes to leisure. In our part of the world said traditions tend to evolve around keeping warm. Finland has saunas, Russia has vodka, Iceland has swimming pools. Almost all towns in Iceland, as well as several countryside municipalities, have a swimming pool. These are communal places, where people from all walks of life get together to spend time at the pool, whether they prefer to get their pulse up by swimming, relax in the soothing water, or socialise in the hot tubs. There are 17 swimming pools in the capital area and if you have the time, you should try them all! The hot tubs It all started with the hot tubs. They have literally been part of Iceland since the settlement. The most famous one is Snorri Sturluson’s pool, Snorralaug in Reykholt. Snorri is presumed to have lived from 1178-1241 and his pool is one of four ancient pools in Iceland still in use. Today, there are around 12,000 summerhouses in Iceland – I will tread carefully and say that at least 11,000 of them have a hot tub. There is a hot tub outside half the houses in my neighbourhood and most of the hotels in Reykjavík have a spa with a hot tub, so you really have to make an effort if you plan to avoid them. Almost every swimming pool in Iceland makes good use of the plentiful geothermal water and has a hot tub or five to keep the patrons warm and cosy, even on the darkest of winter nights. The chatter It goes without saying that swimming and unwinding in warm geothermal water on a regular basis is good for both body and soul. What is even more wonderful regarding these blessed pools of ours is their role as social centres. All over the country, people gather regularly in the hot tubs to catch up on the latest gossip, political scandals, and weather forecasts. There are even people who show up every day at the same time, hang their clothes 54
on the same hook to have their daily hot tub chat with the same co-swimmers they meet there every day. The earliest of the bunch are sometimes called “the doorknobs”, because they tend to be already clasping the knob when the swimming pool staff shows up for work, still yawning and stretching. In the afternoon and evening, the chatter begins again, but the crowd is different. Parents having quality time with their kids, people relaxing after work or workout, and youngsters dating. Yes, dating. Going for a nice soak in a hot tub in the evening is a well-known second date in Iceland. The swimming pools of Iceland are universal and people of all ages, from the newborn (baby swimming is very popular here) to centenarians who like to keep active in warm waters. The facilities You will find more outdoor than indoor pools in Iceland. The reason is simple; the outdoor ones are less expensive. Which is fine, the fresh air is good for you. And there is nothing like having a swim and a hot tub during a blizzard. Please do if you possibly can. Many pools have, to add to the goose bumps, outdoor dressing rooms. Drying up after a swim and a hot tub on a winter evening in -5°C is one of the most refreshing experiences you will encounter. And don’t be scared of the cold, outdoor dressing rooms in
Icelandic swimming pools are (usually) equipped with heat lamps to keep you warm. The exposure Before people take a dip in our luxurious swimming pools, they need to wash, thoroughly. It makes all the sense in the world, bathing in other people’s filth hardly seems like a pleasant experience. This brings us to the communal showers. Every single person in Iceland has been doing this since before they can remember, so showering with other people of their gender is about as uneventful as eating lunch, but we’ve recently figured out that in some countries it’s not such a regular occurrence. Trust me when I tell you that it should be no big deal; after all, everyone is in the same boat and there are going to be bodies of all shapes and sizes there, but if you do feel uncomfortable about it, some pools have privacy cubicles. Just enquire about them before you get in. You can find the opening hours of most swimming pools in Iceland on www.sundlaugar. is. The norm on workdays is that they open 07:00ish in the morning and close some time after dinner, but as with any norm, there are exceptions. If you don’t have a swimsuit you can usually rent one so what are you waiting for? Get swimming!
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Q&A Q&A Talking Iceland, travel tips and information with What's On's Ewan Callan It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to find the best lobster in town or where the party’s at – the What’s On tourist information centre has the answer. Even though many travellers spend weeks on end searching our future destinations at Google, reality often hits people in the face once they touchdown in another country. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are - whether you’re completely lost in Iceland or think you’ve practically become a native – What’s On has got you covered. Situated smack dab in the middle of Reykjavík’s main street, Laugavegur, What’s On will tell you all about the where, when, how and why of Iceland. An unexpected figure runs a tight ship at the information centre, an Edinburgh native Ewan Callan. Ewan knows every nook and cranny of Iceland and is not short of answers when it comes to advice for visitors.
Why did you first come to Iceland? I had an Icelandic flatmate at university in Glasgow, I then moved to Edinburgh and met other Icelandic people and promised to come over to holiday in 2001. There I met my future wife and moved to Iceland a month after my trip. Do you feel a strong connection to Iceland? There’s a certain connection between Iceland and Scotland as a lot of the countryside looks alike. The west coast of Scotland reminds me of parts of Iceland. There is a certain spot in Faxaflói bay, looking over Hvalfjörður, which looks exactly like the seaside of West Scotland. Other than that, Iceland is a great society for a family. It’s a great setting for raising children.
You’re an expert on Iceland, what are your tips for travellers? A little local knowledge goes a long way in Iceland. I recommend booking accommodation in advance but not to book too many tours or trips in advance. Everything looks great when booking tours online, but some inside knowledge can make a trip more memorable. If you’re staying in Reykjavík you want to stay within 10 minutes walking distance from the centre, and the old harbour area. When it comes to tours, the simplest things are often the best. What’s one thing you have to do while in Reykjavík? Reykjavík is a city on the edge of wilderness – so you have a great opportunity to experience nature. I think it’s a shame if
people would only stay in Reykjavík, and not travel to a place like Þingvellir to experience some nature and history. There’s a lot to do in Reykjavík’s surrounding area and travellers should definitely try to do the Golden Circle and the south coast. Having said that, there are less travellers in the Snæfellsnes peninsula – and there definitely shouldn’t be. It’s no less magical than the south coast. What’s one thing you definitely shouldn’t do in Iceland? Do not disrespect nature in any way, whether camping or driving. People throw rubbish all the time and leave items behind in nature. Iceland is beautiful and clean, let’s keep it that way. What do most travellers ask about? During winter, between September and March, most people would like to know about the northern lights. People are also interested in ice caves. In the summer, the questions are a lot more focused on how to best approach driving in Iceland. But I get so many different questions about Iceland and activities, there’s almost too much to mention.
Do you have some fun stories from the What’s On centre? The most famous person to walk in from the street to What’s On is Ian McKellen. Gandalf himself came in here and chatted for about half an hour, mainly asking questions about the Reykjavík nightlife. Then the most famous fake person to visit was a Bono impersonator, which was quite funny as well. What’s your favourite part of the job? Meeting different people every day who come to Iceland. It’s changing, there are more people coming from South America nowdays. The nationalities of the people coming here are constantly changing. What’s your take on people claiming that Iceland is becoming overcrowded with travellers? This question was never raised in the past as we used to have close to zero at one point, but I believe it’s not a problem. It’s all relative – if you go to Þingvellir and there’s 200 people there, you can’t really compare it to the Grand
The friendly staff at What's On
Canyon where there’ll be thousands of people. Tourism has definitely increased but we do not have too many tourists – it’s not a complaint for many travellers. We see a lot of people through the What’s On windows on Laugavegur, but the reality is often different in the countryside.
If you have any questions about Iceland and what to do while you’re here, contact What’s On for assistance, or just stroll down to their offices on Laugavegur 5, Laugavegur 54, Bankastræti 2 or at Volcano House, Tryggvagata 11. 58
Finally, what is the best way to enjoy the Reykjavík nightlife? Find the first bar you like early in the night and talk to the staff to get some advice. If you’re looking for something fun to do, check out the What’s On event calendar at www.whatson.is/ec. What’s On Laugavegur 5, 101 Reykjavík +354 551-3600 | firstname.lastname@example.org www.whatson.is
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What does it take to make an Icelandic Lopapeysa? Puf f ins, volcanoes, nor thern lights, and people with blond hair in a lopapeysa (woollen sweater). That’s a stereot ypical image of Iceland, but for the most par t , it’s ac tually pret t y accurate (even if the blond par t tends to be from a bot tle). Almost ever yone has a lopapeysa, a woollen sweater with a circular pat tern around the shoulders. It’s really no wonder. They’re warm, pret t y, and as quintessentially Icelandic as it gets. Lopapeysas are important to Icelanders, but they haven’t really been around for as long as you would think. In fact, there are probably plenty of Icelanders who think it’s an older tradition than it really is. The truth is that, even though people have been making woollen sweaters in Iceland since the age of settlement, the lopapeysas, with their distinctive style and fabric, have only been produced in this way since around the middle of the 20th century! For a sweater to qualify as an Icelandic lopapeysa, it must be made from Icelandic wool, specifically lopi, be knitted in a certain style and have a specific type of pattern.
The wool Icelandic wool comes from sheep, just like any other wool. So, what makes it so special? The answer is: the Icelandic sheep. Ever since the first sheep were brought over by the settlers, Icelandic sheep have been bred in isolation, retaining qualities that have been lost elsewhere. For instance, their fleece consists of two different layers, made up of different fibres. The outer layer is made of coarse long hairs that are hardy and almost waterproof, while the inner layer consists of soft warm fibres that keep the sheep warm. When these two types of fibres intertwine, the result is warm, lightweight material, that also happens to be water repellent.
It’s not just the fleece that makes the wool for a lopapeysa different, it’s also the production method. Lopi is unspun wool and for a long time it was only considered a stage in yarn production, an incomplete raw material, especially since knitting machines can’t use lopi. All authentic lopapeysas are therefore handknitted. The airiness of the unspun wool is part of what makes the sweaters so warm, so make sure the sweater you’re getting is 100% lopi. The knitting style One of the reasons that the sweaters became so popular, is that they’re easy to knit and can be knitted relatively fast. The sweaters are knitted on circular knitting needles, from the
bottom up, and the sleeves are knitted onto the sweater with the pattern. When the sweater has been knitted, the only thing left to do is to hide two ends and sew the armpits shut, making the whole process pleasantly simple. If you feel like trying your hand at knitting a lopapeysa, you can get a prepared kit with everything you might need at the Handknitting Association’s stores. The patterns The circular border of pattern around the shoulders is the most striking thing about the Icelandic lopapeysa. Although the sweaters were pioneered only a few decades ago, no one really knows who came up with the design. Some knitting pioneers have been named as the pioneers of the lopapeysa but as with most things, the truth is probably a little more complicated. The most prevalent explanation is that the design was an organic process with roots in the trends and evolving styles of the Icelandic knitting community in the 20th century, borrowing from knitting styles of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Hebrides. There are several classic patterns that are popular, but knitters also have a creative license, the only requirement is that the sweater has a circular pattern around the shoulders. Some sweaters have a simple pattern around the waist and
wrists as well, but that’s optional. In many cases, the patterns are inspired by traditional Icelandic patterns, Icelandic nature, or even folklore, but some of the first patterns were also inspired by Greenlandic and even South American patterns, seen in books. Icelandic artisans The thing about lopapeysas is that because the wool is unspun, it’s very difficult to knit it in machines. That’s why the lopapeysa is traditionally knitted by hand. Many Icelandic knitters knit lopapeysas for sale and export and in 1977, the Handknitting Association of Iceland was founded. By marketing and selling the lopapeysas themselves, the knitters could have more control over the sales of their products and ensure that only the highest quality garments were being sold as Icelandic lopapeysa. To this day, the knitters of the Handknitting Association sell their beautiful wares out of their stores at Skólavörðustígur 19 and Borgartún 31, as well as online (www.handknitted.is). They have a pretty impressive selection of woollen goods in stock, but you can also have things custom made in a short period of time. If you’re interested in knitting a lopapeysa yourself, they have everything you might need – needles, patterns, and most importantly, lopi.
The Handknitting Association Skólavörðustígur 19, 101 Reykjavík Borgartún 31, 105 Reykjavík +354 552 1890 | firstname.lastname@example.org www.handknitted.is
Ísey Skyr - Our Dearest Dairy Product Traditional Icelandic cuisine doesn’t have the best reputation (fermented shark, anyone?) but we’ve still got a few aces up our sleeves, products that are delicious even to the most discerning palates. Skyr (pronounced skeer) is a unique Icelandic dairy product that’s been a staple food in our country for over a thousand years. It is still enjoyed daily by Icelanders, in various shapes and form, renowned for its high protein content and smooth texture.
Provisions of history This deliciously healthy snack has been a large part of the Icelandic diet since the first settlers brought it with them around the year 1000. It’s even mentioned in the Sagas of the Icelanders. The skyr-making process is similar to cheese-making, but the end result is a smooth dairy product with a tangy, slightly sweet taste, reminiscent of a thick Greek yoghurt. Its versatility and nutritional qualities have made this creamy delicacy popular with Icelanders throughout history. It’s available in the classic, unflavoured variety, but the flavoured and sweetened versions are also very popular, especially as a convenient snack. Skyr’s flavour and texture have always had their fans but, in recent years, skyr has gotten some new followers, thanks to the growing
popularity of fitness, body-building and overall healthy lifestyles. Skyr is not only delicious, it’s high-protein/low-fat combination has made it an indispensable part of any health-oriented Icelander. A low calorie breakfast, lunch, dinner and desert For people who want to restrict their calorie intake but still eat well and maintain a balanced diet, skyr is a natural choice. Unflavoured, unsweetened skyr is a great substitute for mayonnaise, crème fraiche or yoghurt in cold dips and oven dishes. Although, mind you, serving it with cream and lots of sugar, like my grandparents prefer it, might put a damper on the dieting aspect of things. Children love it and for most of us, skyr was probably one of the first solid foods we ever tasted. Speaking of children,
I came home from work the other day, famished as usual, and immediately started rummaging through the refrigerator for something to ease my suffering. A can of Ísey skyr was what I found, perfect, round, cold, ready to help me survive until dinner time. I opened the can, took one, oh so gratifying, spoonful before leaving the can on the kitchen table to go answer the phone. When I came back (no more than two minutes later) I found my three-year-old son with my spoon in his hand, smiling ear to ear, telling me proudly that he had finished all of “his” food. Bless him. Fresh from the arctic This beloved product of ours is made from the best ingredients: milk farmed in the fresh green pastures near the Arctic Circle where the water is pure and nature is unspoilt. The modern-day processing technique is 100% natural, based on the original principles, using a thousand-yearold recipe and milk from the same cow breed, the colourful settlement cow. Until a few years ago, Ísey skyr was only available in Iceland. This has changed in recent years since skyr is now produced in Denmark, Sweden and Norway under licence agreements from Iceland and exported to Finland. It’s proven popular in our neighbouring countries and sales are steadily growing. This is really a lovely example of how life runs in circles. The original Icelandic settlers indeed came from Norway, and along with them, in all likelihood, the recipe for what has been a cornerstone of Icelandic diet for centuries.
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Supertrucks and Snowmobiles
Looking over the fresh plain of snow before me, the midnight sun glistening, surrounded by cliffs rising darkly from the otherwise endless white, engines revving around me, I feel a sense of exhilarating excitement. Moments later, when we set off, speeding over the crisp snow, only one question comes to mind. Why have I never gone snowmobiling before? Going on the Pearl Tour with Mountaineers of Iceland isn’t something you do every day. A visit to the Golden Circle, followed by snowmobiling on a glacier is one of those amazing opportunities Iceland has to offer, if you know where to look. Although often viewed as a wintertime activity, snowmobiling in the glistening summertime sun is a spectacle in itself. I had to wake up earlyish for the trip that day, so even once I was fully dressed, standing downtown, waiting for my ride, I felt like I just woke up. What finally jolted me awake was the 64
arrival of a large, shiny jeep, barely fitting into the narrow streets in the city centre. The driver who jumped out to greet us seemed perfectly awake despite the early hours and, even better, would prove to have answers to every question we had. The first part of the tour was a visit to the stops on the famous Golden Circle. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland – and for good reason. These places are not only near Reykjavík, they’re also completely
visually stunning as well as interesting from a historical and geological standpoint. If you’re interested in pure natural spectacle, there’s nothing like seeing boiling water erupt from the ground at Geysir geothermal area, or the thundering force of Gullfoss waterfall booming down in the canyon a bit farther down the road. Þingvellir is a beautiful national park and gives you a sense of the immense force of the earth below you. The earth has literally ripped apart and you can see the jagged edges and tears. On top of
being visually arresting, the area is soaked in history, as this is the exact spot where the Vikings created their parliament in the year 930 AD. Century after century, the laws of the land were read out loud over these very rocks and some of the most major decisions in Iceland’s political history were made here. I don’t want to downplay the importance and wonder of the Golden Circle, but now it was time for what I was most excited for – snowmobiling. The drive up to Langjökull glacier is an event in and of itself. Driving away from the ruffled lava fields covered in soft grey-green moss, the nature around you becomes sparser and rockier the farther up you go. Langjökull is the second largest glacier in Iceland and as soon as you’re up there, you feel like you’re in a different world, surrounded by snow even in the middle of the summer.
The icy surroundings are no less stunning than the landscapes we had seen this morning, however, and as we got out of the jeep and started preparing for our snowmobile ride, I was once again struck by the majesty of Iceland’s landscapes. There’s nothing dainty or pretty about the rugged crags rising from the snow or the ice below our feet, instead, it’s a grand beauty that feels sturdy, somehow. Up on top the glacier is a whole differerent world. The contrast with our surroundings just half an hour earlier are amazing. Down below, summer is in full flow. But up here, there are prime conditions for snowmobiling in the 24 hour sunlight. If you’ve never been on a glacier before, you might be thinking that it’s one uninterrupted field of snow but that’s far from true. A glacier is a landscape all on its own,
with hills and valleys aplenty. You quickly find out that following in your guide’s sleigh prints is the only way to go. We followed him onto the glacier, slowly at first, where the snow was spotty and rocky areas could poke through. As soon as we were on solid ice, however, we were off. With the wind whooshing over our screens and icy landscapes rolling by at a close to alarming speed, I felt an adrenaline rush. The speed feels much more intense when you’re riding this close to the ice in an open vehicle and riding down steep slopes felt very much like an adult version of the most thrilling sleigh rides you ever had as a kid. The ride was thrilling but despite the speed, we felt like we were in good hands. At one point, one of our group stopped on a particularly steep slope but no sooner than she had slowed down, she immediately had a Mountaineer with her, guiding her along the way. By the time we were back in Reykjavík, I felt like I had seen a different side of Iceland and sincerely conveyed my satisfaction with my day and my gratitude to our Mountaineer. I know that they have some other trips into Iceland’s interior, but I can tell you that after the experience, the Pearl Tour gets full marks in my book. Mountaineers of Iceland Köllunarklettsvegur 2, 104 Reykjavík +354 580 9900 www.mountaineers.is 65
How to Connect to Iceland’s Viking Past What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Iceland? Björk, volcanic eruptions, and heaps of snow? Well, you wouldn’t be too far off, but what about the Vikings? Iceland’s settlers were mostly Vikings and even though that was a long time ago, elements from their culture still linger in Icelandic heritage. C
Worship the Norse gods These days, people are more likely to recognise Þór, Óðinn, and Loki as characters from a Marvel movie, but we had them first. The Norse gods who inspired the comics were the gods of the first settlers in Iceland, and although Icelanders as a nation converted to Christianity in the year 1000 AD, the Norse gods still have a thriving group of believers keeping the old customs alive. Also, even if you don’t believe in the Norse gods, the stories of their escapades are pretty entertaining.
Write a poem Icelandic Vikings weren’t just known for violence, but also for their poetry. In fact, their lyrical skills were no less revered than their skills on the battlefield. Writing a poem for a king could save you from execution, or get you banished from his territory, depending on the poem’s quality. In modern times, fighting, raping, and pillaging is heavily discouraged, but writing poetry is very much encouraged, so to get in touch with your inner Viking, find a quill and some calfskin and get scribbling.
Feed a raven Ravens have a special spot in Iceland’s mythology and folklore. Likely stemming from Óðinn’s special connection to his ravens, Huginn and Muninn, Icelanders have always had respect for the raven. Icelandic superstitions claim that feeding scraps to ravens during winter can be a good insurance scheme. In folktales, ravens often repay the kindness by warning their benefactors of impending avalanches or other natural disasters.
Visit Viking remains It’s been a long time since the Vikings lived in Iceland but there are still some remnants of that time. Museums in Iceland contain relics from the age of settlement such as swords and bones, and you can even take a look at the ruins of a Viking longhouse in the oldest part of Reykjavík. However, the most important treasures from the age of settlement are not jewels or buildings, but the manuscripts, revealing the history of the Viking settlers here in Iceland.
The Fisherman’s Village 66
Head over to the Viking Village What better way is there to get in touch with your inner Viking than to eat like a Viking, drink like a Viking, and sleep like a Viking? The Viking Village in Hafnarfjörður has been keeping the Viking spirit alive for the past couple of decades and shows no signs of stopping. They have the only Viking-themed restaurant in the Reykjavík area. Their Viking feasts are not to be missed and in January, they even serve a classic Icelandic Þorrablót (a feast of traditional Icelandic food). To cap it all off, the restaurant has live entertainment almost every night. The accommodation is lovely as well and a great way to immerse yourself in Viking culture. Both the hotel rooms and the Viking cottages are designed to evoke the spirit of the Vikings without sacrificing any modern conveniences. You’ll sleep like a baby and hopefully dream of an age gone by, when the Vikings roamed the land. The Viking Village Strandgata 55, 220 Hafnarfjörður +354 565 1213 | www.vikingvillage.is
Celebrating Design Bringing style to Iceland since 1975 Epal is lovingly familiar to Icelanders. It was founded more than 44 years ago when young Eyjólfur Pálsson returned from studying Furniture Design in Copenhagen. He soon realised that Icelanders didn’t have access to quality design items like he was used to. It was this shortage that led to the founding of Epal.
Once upon a time ... Because the industrial revolution started late in Scandinavia, Swedish, Finnish, and Danish designers created modern design using traditional materials and handcrafts back in the early 20th century. The use of easily available materials like wood and traditional craftsmanship is a continuing trend in Scandinavian design. Scandinavian furniture is of a unique and stimulating class and this widely known common term applies to furniture from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. This type of furniture has evolved over the years to conform to modern standards. Epal has always strived to offer the best of Scandinavian design at any given time. Famous items such as The Egg
and Series 7 by Arne Jacobsen, PH 5 by Poul Henningsen and timeless giftware by Iittala and Georg Jensen have been available in Epal for decades. This is the sort of store you walk out of feeling like you have invested in beauty and style. The visionary Eyjólfur’s objective through the years has been to increase understanding and respect for good design and quality products by introducing first class design and offering noted design labels from Scandinavia and other countries. But his main passion has always revolved around supporting Icelandic designers and he has strived to assist in promoting their work. In his
own words: “I realised a long time ago that good things happen at a slow pace. When you feel like things aren’t happening fast enough, it is best to take a deep breath, look at things in perspective and realise that Iceland has an abundance of welleducated, hardworking people doing great things and working together to achieve their mutual goals. At Epal, we want to support this in any way we can by helping Icelandic designers put their ideas into action.” Eyjólfur addresses this point even further: “Up until now, Iceland has been far behind the other Nordic countries in supporting design and designers. With a strong, joint effort we could come a long way in improving the conditions of Icelandic designers who are advancing rapidly both at home and abroad.” Eyjólfur stepped down from running Epal in 2010 and handed the torch over to his son, Kjartan Páll Eyjólfsson. Eyjólfur admits that he still has strong opinions regarding everything remotely related to the running of Epal but now that the store is in his son’s capable hands, he has more time to work on his passion: to help young Icelandic designers make their way in the jungle out there.
The stores With this beautiful vision as a guiding light, Epal has flourished in the past four decades and there are now five Epal stores in Iceland, with the flagship store located in Skeifan, and beautiful stores in the Kringlan shopping mall, in Harpa concert hall, and on Laugavegur, Reykjavík’s main shopping street. Their newest boutique is located at Keflavík International Airport, so you can stop by on your way home for a beautifully designed souvenir. When asked what era of furniture fashion most impresses him, Eyjólfur replies: “It is hopeless to speak of fashion when it comes to furniture and house accessories, so I would rather not do that. We offer classic items that never go out of style. I think it is very important for people to invest in items that can withstand the test of time.”
We offer classical items that never go out of style.
Epal Harpa Epal Skeifan 6 Epal Kringlan Epal Laugavegur 70 +354 5687733 www.epal.is Epal Skeifan 6, 108 Reykjavík +354 568 7740 | www.epal.is 69
Ta sty l o c a l c u i s i n e by the old harbour Nýlendugata 14, 101 Reykjavik.
el M arin
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ICELANDIC RESTAURANT & BAR Ta b l e r e s e r v a t i o n s : + 3 5 4 5 1 7 1 8 0 0 - w w w. f o r r e t t a b a r i n n . i s
Wonders of the Volcano Iceland’s volatile geography means that every now and then, Icelanders must be prepared for an earthquake, or even a volcanic eruption. At the Volcano House by the old harbour, very close to Reykjavík’s city centre, you can learn more about the unique geology of Iceland. An Icelandic volcano is the reason for democracy as we know it The 1783-4 eruption of Laki was on of the biggest eruptions in recorded history. When it erupted, the ash travelled all over Europe, causing widespread crop failures. The resulting famine is believed to be one of the causes of the French Revolution of 1789. When people ran out of bread and were told to “eat cake” instead, they revolted, resulting in the first modern democracy as we know it. Two of the biggest eruptions in the recorded history of the world, occurred in Iceland! Laki was the biggest eruption in recorded history, measured by volume of lava. But Iceland was also the site of the second biggest emission in recorded history, during the 2014 eruption of Bárðarbunga. In just 6 months, Bárðarbunga produced enough lava to cover the island of Manhattan – 85km2. And Laki? That produced 370km2 of lava in only 50 days!
Surtsey, a volcanic island formed in 1963, has only ever been visited by scientists Surtsey was formed by a volcanic eruption at the bottom of the ocean and emerged from the water on November 14, 1963. It was immediately granted protection by law and to this day, only scientists can go there. Even they must get special permission. This means that we have been able to monitor how life settles on brandnew land from the beginning. One-thirds of all the earth’s fresh lava originated in Iceland When you’re discussing volcanoes, all concepts that have something to do with time get a bit skewed. For instance, fresh lava means lava emissions on earth since the year 1500 AD. So, why is all this liquid rock spewing to this particular spot on the surface? Because Iceland sits right on top of a crack between two tectonic plates as well as a geological hot spot. Iceland has a volcanic eruption every 4-5 years This isn’t surprising considering the island has more than 100 volcanoes, split into different volcanic systems. About 30 different systems are still considered “active” in Iceland, and 13 of them have erupted since the settlement in 874.
Want to get up close and personal with the volcanoes of Iceland? In the Volcano House, down by the old harbour, you can study the wonderful geology of Iceland. The exhibition gives guests an insight into powerful Icelandic volcanoes, and the rocks and minerals they spew to the surface. There’s also a volcano movie screening every hour on the hour, where you can learn about past eruptions. First, you learn about the eruption in the Westman Islands in 1973. The small fishing community was faced with a sudden volcanic eruption in the middle of the night, forcing nearly 5,000 locals away from their homes. The second film documents the infamous eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. This massive eruption caused thousands of flight cancellations, derailing the travel plans of people all over the world. The mineral exhibition gives an overview of Iceland’s geological history and volcanic systems. A large collection of semi-precious rocks and minerals, as well as ash and lava, is on display.
Volcano House Tryggvagata 11, 101 Reykjavík +354 555 1900 | volcanohouse.is 71
A Wrist-Work of Art Clockmaking is one of those professions that carry an air of mystique and an aura of respect. You immediately think of skilled craftsmen from somewhere in the middle of Europe – Switzerland or Vienna – who learned the skill on their father’s knee, who learned it from his father before him and so on and so forth. But what if I told you that a watchmaker doesn’t have to be old or be doing it since forever, or even be Swiss to produce quality timepieces with a unique design? A rocky start This is exactly what Sigurður Gilbertsson, along with his friends, Grímkell Sigurþórsson and Júlíus Heiðarsson, told his father, Gilbert Ó. Guðjónsson. He was trying to persuade him to join their venture of designing and producing their own collection of high-quality watches. Gilbert, a clocksmith with more than 40 years of work and experience of the difficult Icelandic economy under his belt, laughed in his face. Such an ambitious production for such a small market seemed a farfetched idea, no matter the accumulated expertise of the people involved. When Gilbert stopped laughing and realised that his son was serious, things started happening. They made 100 watches of their own design to begin with and the rest is history. Today, JS 72
Watch co. is a thriving business with several different collections of high-quality design watches, each of them bearing witness to the craftsmanship that goes into making them. They’re also selling like hotcakes, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don’t have to be Swiss to make a quality watch. The devil’s in the details What is it about the JS watches, though? The team credits their success to their attention to detail. “We not only take pride in our watches, but also our customer care. It’s very important for us that the people who buy our timepieces know the level of perfection we try to achieve. Although we aim to get that message across in our international sales, nothing beats talking to someone face to face and inviting them into our workshop.”
A satisfied customer is the best reward JS Watch co.’s clientele includes some famous faces (or should I say famous wrists), including Tom Cruise and Yoko Ono. Perhaps even more interesting, other clients of note include the entire Icelandic Coastguard. JS Watch co. is the Coastguard’s official supplier of watches and the offshore emergency service exclusively uses the Sif North Atlantic Rescue Timer, which should give you an idea of the brand’s reputation for durability and accuracy.
JS Watch co. Laugavegur 62, 101 Reykjavík +354 551 4100 www.jswatch.com
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A Paradise off the Beaten Track Just off the beach, in an unassuming building blending in with the nature around it, lies Nauthóll bistro. The restaurants in the city centre are mostly superb, but when it comes to atmosphere, this hidden gem, outside the bustle of Laugavegur is a refreshing change of pace. As much as I love the many lovely restaurants downtown, coming to Nauthóll always feels like a special treat. As you enter the modern, Scandinavian-looking building, you’re greeted with a gorgeous view of the beach and surrounding nature through the large windows, as well as a beautiful natural light. The large windows are perfect for admiring the glistening 24 hour sunlight, and the welcoming veranda gives a great view of the surrounding nature. Just like the building itself, the interior décor, the tableware, and even the food are all served in a beautifully simple style. The clean, clear lines of the restaurant harmonise beautifully with the ingredient-forward cuisine and come together to create an experience that is the height of Scandinavian style, with a nod to the uniquely Icelandic aesthetic (look for the lopapeysapatterned staff uniforms, for example). It’s easy to feel a strong connection to nature while spending time at Nauthóll, which is why, for me at least, the cherry on top of the eating experience is 74
the fact that the restaurant is dedicated to being as nature-friendly and green as possible in all stages of their operation. They’ve even qualified for the Nordic eco label, the Swan. The label is awarded to companies that have proved that they do everything in their power to minimise their effect on the environment. Now, all the style and environmental heroism in the world wouldn’t be enough for me to like a restaurant, if the food wasn’t up to par. Luckily, the chefs of Nauthóll know their stuff. The food matches the surroundings perfectly, making Nauthóll a great place for lunch, an afternoon coffee, or a dinner. Although I must admit, sometimes the food isn’t even necessary, a hot beverage on a cold afternoon can be just as enjoyable. The hardest thing about a visit to Nauthóll is leaving the tranquil environment and heading back to the city. I manage, barely, but will look forward to many visits like this to Nauthóll and Nauthólsvík this winter.
Nauthóll Bistro Nauthólsvegi 106, 101 Reykjavík +354 599 6660 www.nautholl.is
No need to be hungry around Iceland Find your nearest supermarket
Golfing in the midnight sun Grass is pretty much the only thing in Iceland which grows in abundance and we do get our fair share of rain. Iceland is therefore the perfect breeding ground for golf courses, much like golfing countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom. However, there are not many places in this world that offer the spectacle of midnight golf, a joy any golf enthusiast has to try at least once in his life. The near 24 hours of sunlight in the summer months of June and July allows golfers from around the world to experience this phenomenon. One thing’s for sure – there’s an astounding number of golfers in Iceland as 4.9% of the nation are registered golfers. You will find courses situated in the most picturesque parts of the country, and more often than not they are surrounded by untouched wildlife. Iceland is becoming a more visited golfing situation as its courses offer a chance to experience astounding nature while teeing off on pristine courses.
Oddur Far from the noise of the city, Oddur Golf Club is one of the gems in the flora of Icelandic golf courses, surrounded by the beautiful valley area of Urriðavatnsdalir. Playing the course is a unique experience, as its surrounded by beautiful nature on all sides. A heathland course brimming with birdlife, its flanked by a lava field from the now dormant volcano Búrfell. Urriðavöllur, the main course, is one of the few 18-hole golf courses in Iceland, somewhat of a rarity for this young golfing nation. A challenging par 71, Urriðavöllur amounts to 5,900 metres in total. Opened in 1997, it is recognized as one of the finest courses in the country, having been honoured with hosting multiple Icelandic championships as well as the European Ladies Team Championship in 2016. Oddur Golf Club also sports a easier going 9-hole practice course named Ljúflingur (the Beloved course), for those looking for a nice day out. The Oddur clubhouse, overlooking the 18th hole, is where you’ll find your fill of snacks and full meals – as well as local Icelandic brews after the round. Oddur Golf Club is inclusive and welcomes golfers of all ages and genders, even boasting the highest ratio of female club members in Iceland – 40%. Only a short 20-minute drive away from the city centre, Oddur is the perfect getaway from the city for some golf in the midnight sun. Garðabær. Contact Oddur, email@example.com, www.oddur.is, +354 565 9092
Hlíðavöllur The Hlíðavöllur course is truly a feast for the eyes. The very first impression is the stunning views and great food in the modern clubhouse. The golfclub also has a quaint 9-hole course in the hills of the valley Mosfellsdalur called Bakkakot. The 18-hole Hlíðavöllur championship course offers a spectacular view of the cold beauty of the North Atlantic, overlooking Mt. Esjan as well as the pristine Snæfellsjökull glacier. It will challenge any golf course in the world in terms of dramatic landscape. Situated in nearby Mosfellsbær, Hlíðavöllur is an ambitious course with lush fairways and clean greens which golfers of all skill levels can enjoy. Like many courses in Iceland, Hlíðavöllur is close to breeding grounds of local birds. The birds haven’t been taught golfing etiquette yet though, so they’ll be the only thing to distract you while trying to sink that putt for a birdie. The spectacular views are the perfect backdrop to enjoy midnight golf on this course, which was designed to flow perfectly with the natural surroundings. A rough ocean and coarse lava fields surround the course as the integrity of the site was placed above any preconceived notions of hole sequences, yardage, or par. Mosfellsbær is only a short 10-minute drive away from Reykjavík’s city centre. After the round, the modern clubhouse, featuring local favourite BLIK Bistro & Grill, offers a respite. Mosfellsbær. Contact Hlíðavöllur, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.english.golfmos.is, +354 566 6999
Keilir Keilir Golf Course is one of the top ranked golf courses in Iceland, increasingly drawing attention from international guests. It’s a links golf course in Hafnarfjörður, a small town that’s just a 15-minute drive from downtown Reykjavík. The design of the course takes into consideration the unique Icelandic landscape, following the curves and contours of the land. There is a vast difference between the front nine and the back nine. The front nine is surrounded by ruffled lavafields, while the back nine is on a small peninsula by Hafnarfjörður harbour, with spectacular views of Snæfellsjökull glacier and the Álftanes peninsula. When playing the Keilir Golf Course, you need to adjust your game to the challenges of the course. Focusing on skill and accuracy will take you farther than power and distance, particularly when dealing with the lava field in the front nine! Take your time to consider your game, it pays off! The toughest hole on the card is the 14th hole played over a small bay. Your drive must be accurate and have some distance to make it to the fairway. The course accommodates both beginners and advanced golfers. Last year the club opened three new holes on the back nine wich puts more coastline into play. Keilir is a golf course not to be missed!
Hafnarfjörður. Contact Keilir, email@example.com, www.keilir.is, +354 565 3360 77
ON: Meet Mother Nature at her Fiercest
The first thing you notice when you drive up to Hellisheiði, a hilly area just outside of the city limits, is the ever-present smell of sulphur, reminiscent of rotten eggs. The smell is a mild but a constant reminder that just below your feet is an inferno of geothermal heat, which ON Power utilises to pump out cheap and environmentally-friendly heat and electricity for more than half of the nation. Their largest geothermal plant at Hellisheiði, situated in the geothermally active Hengill area, is state of the art and open every day to visitors who want to learn more about Iceland’s geothermal energy. Making use of the Mid-Atlantic ridge Iceland’s geology is unique and powerful, and despite the occasional volcanic eruption stopping air traffic (we’re sorry about Eyjafjallajökull), Icelanders have managed to harness its energy for the benefit of the entire nation, thanks to companies such as ON Power. ON Power produces electricity, originating in geothermal energy, for more than half of the Icelandic population. Drilling into the ground to access the 300°C (572°F) hot water, the enormous machines at Hellisheiði are ingeniously crafted to utilise as much of the energy that water provides as possible. Every step of the process, from when the water is pumped up for the first time, to the point when it arrives to the citizens of Reykjavík in the form of heat and energy, is meticulously thought out. Did you know, for example, that
Icelandic geology in 30 seconds or less
Iceland is situated on the boundaries between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which move away from one another at roughly 2cm (nearly an inch) per year. It’s also sitting on a mantle plume, or a geological hot spot, similar to the one that created the Hawaiian Islands. This results in an excess of volcanic activity and earthquakes as well as an abundance of geothermal power.
excess hot water in Reykjavík is used to heat up streets and paths around the city, making them safer to walk on during icy winters? Get energised! The Geothermal Exhibition is only a 20-minute drive from Reykjavík and open every day. It’s the only geothermal power plant in the world where you can come so close to the action and see the machines in operation, constantly working to harness the immense power of mother earth to make life easier for the people of Reykjavík. In addition to seeing the powerful machines, the exhibition shows you how Iceland’s geology and geothermal power work. You can even hear the rumblings of some of the biggest earthquakes Iceland’s had in the past years! Take a hike… around hot springs, rivers and beautiful lakes A visit to the exhibition gives you a sense of the power contained by Iceland’s nature. If you want to get a better look at it, the surrounding Hengill area is incredibly beautiful, with hot springs, craters, rivers, and lakes. No wonder it’s so popular among locals. The Geothermal Exhibition is located at Hellisheiði, about 20 minutes outside of Reykjavík. You can book a tour with Reykjavík Excursions.
Did you know?
»» Renewable power sources account for more than 70% of the total primary energy consumption in Iceland, far higher than anywhere else in the world. »» The Hengill area is among the most extensive geothermal areas in Iceland, with at least three volcanic eruptions having occurred in the area in the last 11,000 years, of which the most recent one was 2,000 years ago. »» Hellisheiði Power Plant’s production capacity is 303MW of electricity and 133MW of thermal energy. »» In fact, the energy production is so great that the thermal energy capacity could easily be increased by 300MW. That’s enough to power 135,000 blow-dryers running at once or 6 million 50-inch LED TVs.
ON Power - Geothermal Exhibition Hellisheiðarvirkjun +354 591 2880 www.geothermalexhibition.com
Welcome to Jómfrúin, the home of Danish smørrebrød in Reykjavik. It all began in 1888 with Oscars Davidsen’s highly praised smørrebrød restaurant in Copenhagen. An unbroken tradition of quality and Danish culinary culture for the past 100 years. Enjoy! Open every day 11:00 - 22:00 | Lækjargata 4 | 101 Reykjavík | jomfruin.is
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“ZOMG REYKJAVIK HAS A BIG LEBOWSKITHEMED BAR!” Tweeted by @caitlinmoran Journalist for The Times, author, and broadcaster. Followers: 804K Ever seen the 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski by the Coen brothers? Of course, you have! Everybody has. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, first of all, go watch it, right now. When you’ve done that, you’ll know that it involves Jeff Bridges as the “Dude” Lebowski, who, because of a case of mistaken identity, is on a mission to seek reimbursement for a ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help him. In Reykjavík, we have a bar based on the concept. Yeah, well. The Dude abides. Lebowski Bar, on Laugavegur, opened in 2012 and was immediately a huge hit. The general idea was to combine a bar with a diner-styled grill, furnished in the style of The Big Lebowski.
That rug really tied the room together The location of Lebowski Bar, along with its brilliant concept design, is a big contributor to its success. Laugavegur is the main shopping and barhopping street in Reykjavík. Virtually everybody goes there at one time or another, both locals and visitors. Lebowski Bar has through its location been both frequented by regulars and attended by passersby and foreign visitors equally.
Lebowski Bar has a host of events and activities, such as DJ’s and live performances, quiz nights, and they show every major game and sporting event on their big screens. The bar can serve up to 300 people with food and drink in four dining areas, so every individual or group can be seated comfortably. Their diner-inspired menu offers a variety of Lebowski burgers and milkshakes, such as the classic “The Other Lebowski” (steak burger), the more health-conscious “Bunny Lebowski” (chicken burger with blue cheese sauce) or “The Nihilist” (BBQ chicken wings). The crown jewel of the whole establishment, however, is definitely the White Russian Menu, made up purely of vodka- and Kahlua-based cocktails. If a cream-based cocktail isn’t your thing, they’ve been adding to their bottled artisan beer menu, as well as their selection of whiskeys.
I checked out Lebowski Bar on a Thursday night. I had been there several times before on a weekend, but as these former visits mostly consisted of arriving tipsy and leaving drunk, I never wrote any reviews (although I should highly commend the bar staff for great cocktails), so I decided to behave like an adult, see the band that was playing that evening and have a beer. Having shown up early I got a seat between the bar and the band. Starting with a Tuborg Classic draft, I waited for the band to play their tunes and boy, was I in for a treat. The young keyboard player (a 19-year-old prodigy) started the night off with Booker T. & M.G.’s Green Onions, followed by the guitar player serving ZZ Top’s La Grange with a twist. Needless to say, people could barely sit still in their seats. By the time I saw the bottom of that Tuborg draft glass, people were dancing
to The Doors and my instinct told me to pick up a White Russian for me and my date, who had been talking to some EVE Online game conference guests as I made notes in my head about the brilliant atmosphere. Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here! Among the previously named EVE Online conference guests, I spotted a pair of Icelandic actresses, having what I can only imagine being a glass of milk (as opposed to heavy cream and vodka) considering their itsy-bitsy waistlines. Also present was an Icelandic MMA fighter (the only one we have, come to think about it) and a group of college students who looked like they were really enjoying the music. The atmosphere in Lebowski Bar does not ask for age, gender, if you are wearing a watch, or if you like bowling at all. It only asks that you loosen up, have a beverage or two and maybe a burger. Most important is that you have fun. Walking out of the front door I wondered how on earth such a wide group of people could find themselves sitting down and having such fun in the same place. But if the Dude abides, so should we. Lebowski Bar Laugavegur 20a, 101 Reykjavík +354 552 2300 | www.lebowski.is 81
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A Visit to Krauma Geothermal Baths
Driving in the Borgarfjörður area on a sunny day is a great feeling. On one hand is the milky blue water of the Hvítá river and on the other, the majestic blue mountains. It’s only a little over an hour’s drive away from the city, but it already feels like you’re in another dimension. On this particularly sunny day, I’m feeling exceptionally great, since my task for the day is to inspect the brand-spankingnew Krauma geothermal spa. I’ve had worse jobs... Geothermal power Krauma opened late 2017, a stone’s throw away from Deildartunguhver hot spring. The hot spring in question is one of Europe’s most powerful, spewing boiling hot water at a rate of around 180L/sec! You can spot Deildartunguhver from the wisps of steam rising from the hot spring. My sister accompanied me for the day and we parked our car by the path leading up to Krauma. Before we entered the spa facility, we paid the hot spring a visit. It won’t look like much on your Instagram photos but the experience of standing by the hot spring is one to remember. You feel the hot steam on your face, smell the sulphurous air, and see the boiling water force its way out of the rock, bubbling furiously. Natural luxury After admiring the spectacle of Deildartunguhver, it was time for the main event, Krauma spa. Walking in, we were greeted by a sort of understated Nordic elegance. Everything, including staff, looks stylish but laid-back. There’s no extravagance in the decor and the changing rooms, but as Scandinavian style so often showcases, you don’t need extravagance to convey luxury. The changing rooms have everything you need, and every little detail 82
is thought of. They even offer shampoo and shower gel from Sóley Organics, made from wild Icelandic herbs. The geothermal bath area consists of six baths of varying temperatures, ranging from a bracing cold of 5°C (41°F), to so hot you can’t stay in there for more than a few minutes. In between are both a shallow and a deeper pool of luxurious temperatures, perfect for a blissful soak, while breathing in fresh air and admiring the gorgeous mountain view. You can even order a drink, delivered right to the edge of the bath. In the land of fire and ice… The water from Deildartunguhver is very hot, close to boiling. In order for it to reach the perfect temperature, they blend it with spring water from a source in Ok mountain. Despite the name, the mountain is a lot more than just OK, in fact, the name is Icelandic for yoke or pressure and is pronounced like it rhymes with talk. Ok used to be one of Iceland’s smallest glaciers but has been downgraded to a snowy mountain recently. It’s still plenty cold up there and the icy clear water is perfect to mix the ideal temperature of bathwater.
After soaking in the baths for a while, we tried out the steam rooms. The steam is created by spraying water from the hot springs under timber benches located in the steam baths. There are two separate rooms with varying temperatures, but both were hot enough to get my blood running a lot faster. In between visits to the steam baths, my sister liked to take a dip in the cold bath, as apparently, the temperature extremes are great for your health. I preferred the relaxation room myself, where soothing music and a crackling fireplace quickly lowered my stress levels. As we emerged from the luxurious waters of Krauma, my mind and body felt completely relaxed and at ease with the nature around us. My only regret was that we didn’t have time to sample the food at the adjoining restaurant, mostly made from ingredients farmed in the surrounding area. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to go back soon.
Krauma Deildartunguhver, 320 Reykholt +354 555 6066 | www.krauma.is
THE HOME OF ICELANDIC SEAFOOD AND LAMB APOTEK Kitchen+Bar is a casual-smart restaurant located in one of Reykjavíks most historical buildings. We specialize in fresh seafood, lamb and local ingredients prepared with a modern twist. OPEN 11:30–23:30 Mondays – Thursdays 11:30–00:00 Fridays and Saturdays 12:00–23:00 Sundays APOTEK KITCHEN+BAR
LOCAL FOOD AND BEER Tasty and fun food made with fresh and local Icelandic ingredients. We offer a unique selection of Icelandic beer– 20 bottled, 10 on draft, and artisan cocktails to enjoy alongside the food.
Drop by for lunch, late lunch, dinner or drinks in a casual and fun atmosphere.
Hafnarstræti 1–3 / Tel. 555 2900 / saetasvinid.is
A Dining Experience Under a Bridge You might have heard tales of trolls living under bridges, but the Icelandic story of a luxurious gourmet meal under a bridge is less well known. One of the best seafood restaurants in town, Fiskfélagið or the Fish Company, was described as such by one of their first customers as he contentedly pushed his last plate away. Fish Company is located in one of the oldest houses in Reykjavik, commonly known as the Zimsen building. It dates back to 1884 and was originally situated in Hafnarstræti, a few hundred metres east of its current location. After being completely renovated and moved to its current location in Grófartorg, Fiskfélagið took up residence in the cellar, underneath the bridge by the side of the building. During the groundwork stages of the Grófartorg reconstruction area, excavation revealed the remains of an old harbour. That has now been
incorporated into The Tides, a work of art by Hjörleifur Stefánsson developed in collaboration with Minjavernd Heritage Trust. This gives the area a unique atmosphere that gets accentuated even further as the tide rolls in and out of the artwork simultaneously to the tide in the current harbour. The menu features delicious Icelandic seafood but there’s a twist. It's designed to take you on a journey. Fish Company’s menu takes you on a trip around the world, with top-class marine cuisine melding together themes from Japan, France, Sweden, Fiji, Ireland, Tahiti, and the USA to name
a few. Dining at this restaurant is dining at its finest in Reykjavik. This is a restaurant that you can always count on to make your evening something to remember. The food’s great, the atmosphere is unique, and the wonderful surroundings of this beautifully renovated old house ensure that whether you’re having lunch or dinner, it’s always going to be a treat!
The Fish Company Vesturgata 2a, 101 Reykjavík +354 552 5300 | www.fiskfelagid.is
we bleed craft beer WE ARE ON A MISSION TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE AS PASSIONATE ABOUT GREAT CRAFT bEER AS WE ARE FRAKKASTÍGUR 8A. 101 REYKJAVÍK
Safe Travels Driving Watch out for sheep! In rural areas, there aren‘t necessarily fences blocking sheep from the road. They‘ll probably run off the road as you approch but be careful, especially if a mother and her lambs are on separate sides of the road. Get some rest! In summer, the midnight sun will make the days seem longer, almost eliminating the need for sleep. Be sure to get your rest, though, as a tired driver can be more dangerous than a drunk one. You gotta wear shades Speaking of the midnight sun, in the evening it sits low in the sky, shining straight into your eyes when driving in some directions. Now‘s your chance to wear sunglasses at night. Don‘t stop! in the middle of the road that is. We know that the landscapes are gorgeous and that it seems like
you‘re the only person on the road, but you‘re not. Stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures is extremely dangerous, so make sure to find a parking spot along the road before you start snapping photos. Most of the best viewpoints have a parking spot for that specific purpose! Be prepared for gravel roads! As you get farther away from Reykjavík, the more likely it is that you‘ll have to drive on some gravel roads. The speed limit for these roads is lower and you need to take more care while driving. Consult your car rental company if your car is insured for driving gravel roads.
always keep your gas tank at least half-full, since gas stations might be few and far between. Stick to the road! Off-road driving is completely forbidden. Not only does it damage Iceland‘s fragile nature, it‘s also subject to heavy fines. Also, a rental car is probably not insured for the damage you‘ll cause to the other car. Respect road closures! If the road is closed, there‘s a good reason for it, there‘s danger ahead. Do not, under any circumstances, ignore road closures.
Drive like Goldilocks Not too fast, not too slow – Just right. Driving too fast is dangerous for obvious reasons but driving too slow can be dangerous too. Try to match your speed with the traffic, if you want to admire the view, just stop at the frequent view stops. Be prepared! If you‘re going far from the city, make sure to 87
Do’s and Don’ts Do stick to paths where possible. It‘s safer for you as well as nature. Don‘t camp outside of designated campsites. Camping in the wild is strictly forbidden. Do respect signs and closures. Mostly, authorities expect visitors to keep their wits about them when travelling. If they‘ve made the effort to put up a sign, there‘s a reason. Don‘t build cairns. Cairns used to be signposts, marking routes across mountains. Although mostly obsolete, false cairns are never a good idea. Do be respectful. Try to leave every place you visited the same as it was when you arrived. For more information, check www.safetravel.is
Hiking Check the forecast! The most important thing to remember if you‘re going hiking is to check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. Even during summer, the Icelandic highlands can experience some extreme weather. Dress for the occasion! Good shoes are important, especially if you‘re going for longer hikes. You also need plenty of warm clothes, even during the height of summer. Think layers! Make plans! Map out your route, and if you‘re taking longer hikes, your accommodation and food. Iceland‘s interior is almost entirely uninhabited so you‘ll have to bring everything you‘ll need. Plan reasonable distances for your fitness level. Let someone know! Leave your travel plans with someone who can react if something happens. You can also leave your travel plans with www.safetravel.is or rent an emergency PLB (personal location beacon). Know where you‘re going! Bring a map, a compass, and/or a GPS to help you navigate. A phone with a good battery works, but it's always better to err on the safe side of caution when it comes to getting lost. can't save you from getting lost. 88
A Day in Hafnarfjörður Situated in the middle of a lava field, the small town of Hafnarfjörður is the perfect getaway from Reykjavík. It’s a lovely place to spend the day, with its vibrant town centre and beautiful culture. Hafnarfjörður is a hidden gem, containing some of the best experiences that Iceland has to offer – fresh local cuisine, great geothermal pools, lava and stunning natural phenomena, a boatload of activities as well as hosting a yearly Viking festival and a Christmas village! It is the third largest town in Iceland with 30,000 people, and it’s only twenty minutes away from the Reykjavík city centre. Bus no 1 will also take you straight to Hafnarfjörður. First and foremost, Hafnarfjörður offers a chance to experience the local lifestyle of Icelanders. Do as the locals do!
A lively town centre A great way to start the day is a stroll along the Hafnarfjörður river, simply known as Lækurinn (the Stream). The path along the Stream is especially popular with families as the kids get to experience the lively birdlife. Head towards the beautiful harbour area, teeming with life in the summertime. It makes sense that Hafnarfjörður is known as the Harbour Village as Hafnarfjörður translates to Harbour Fjord. The harbour is home to the lively local arts culture, with studios and galleries right next to industrial fishing areas. The main shopping area is Strandgata, often called the heart of Hafnarfjörður. It’s a charming street with colourful old buildings filled with small boutiques and galleries – perfect for finding
a local souvenir from a friendly shopowner. Hafnarfjörður is also home to Fjörður mall, offering a variety of shops and services. Necessary nourishment Hafnarfjörður has a lively culinary scene that’s growing every day. If you feel like breakfast, why not stop by one of the superb bakeries or cafés in town. For lunch, Hafnarfjörður has a plethora of great restaurants serving delicious food and if you want to go for a nice dinner, the town centre or the harbour area has some great options. If you just need a quick bite before heading off for your next adventure, Hafnarfjörður also has plenty of fast food restaurants where you can get some indulgent treats.
Exercise with the elves Hafnarfjörður is surrounded by natural beauty on all sides, hugged by mountains, lava fields and the seemingly endless North Atlantic ocean. Close by the town centre is the beautiful Hellisgerði park which, according to local folklore, is populated by elves. It’s a charming park full of small caves where you can get to know the Icelandic flora. In the park you’ll find the Little Elf store, which sells Icelandic design focused on local folklore. Hellisgerði is perfect for family picnics, and the Little Elf store will even lend you a blanket and basket for a picnic! Idyllic lake Hvaleyrarvatn, surrounded by lush nature and grey lava fields, is worth a visit as well, with its numerous
trails as well as on-site public barbecue facilities. Closer to home is the dominating Hamarinn cliff, a protected natural site overlooking the harbour area. You’ll see plenty of Hafnfirðingar, as the residents of Hafnarfjörður are called, out and about on these walking routes. If you’re interested in another type of outdoor activity, horseback riding comes highly recommended. The Icelandic horse is small and friendly, perfect for beginners as well as experienced riders. Taking a ride through the lava fields of Hafnarfjörður lets you experience Iceland much like the first settlers of Iceland did.
Get a taste of the local culture The best way to discover the history and culture of Hafnarfjörður is to visit the museums in town. To learn about the history of the region, stop by the Hafnarfjörður Museum. Spread across six buildings, the exhibitions will take you on a journey through the town’s rich heritage. Art lovers should also check out the Hafnarborg - Center of Culture and Fine Art Museum, which hosts a variety of exhibitions and events. Both of the museums are free of charge! If you want to get in touch with the Hafnarfjörður lifestyle, why not stop by a concert at Bæjarbíó or visit one of the local swimming pools, where locals get together to relax and have a chat. Hafnarfjörður is home to three excellent pools, so be sure to take a dip!
The Light of Our Lives Iceland, silly as the name can seem during the summer months, was named so for a reason. In the old days, before electricity and heating, when the cold and dark could be fatal, self-preservation and innovation were the keys to surviving. It is a wonderful thing that one of the best-known brands in Icelandic export is a product that has helped the Icelandic nation survive since the settlement. It’s a fish oil product called Lýsi and we are so proud of it. A necessity through the ages The Norwegian settlers of Iceland brought with them the knowledge of how to make Lýsi. They extracted it from whales, sharks, fish, seals, and even birds and used it as fuel for light, to soften and protect clothing of seafarers, and as a nutritional supplement for both humans and animals. For a time, it was even used as currency, as sources from as far back as 1096 state that church taxes in Iceland were paid in the form of this lifesaving, smelly liquid. The name Lýsi comes from the product having been used as lamp oil. In Icelandic, the verb “lýsa” means “to illuminate.” Living this close to the Arctic Circle means that winter nights are long and dark, so one can only imagine how precious it must have been to be able to have light in the house. Add to that Lýsi’s nutritional value – it’s a valuable source of vitamins A and D (in a country where the sun is absent most of the time in winter and low in the sky when it does show its face) – and it becomes an understatement to say that Lýsi has had a real impact on survival in this country.
The method of processing Lýsi from the liver in the old days was, in the simplest terms I can think of, something like this: they dug a hole, put the liver in the hole and waited for the oil to squirt out. Hardly a developed technology, but nevertheless, Lýsi was the biggest export product of Iceland as early as the 14th century, along with dried fish and woollen cloth. The beginning In 1938, a man named Tryggvi Ólafsson founded a production and export company, simply named LYSI. By that time, he was an expert, having spent the decade before trading and experimenting with Lýsi, starting in a small lab he prepared in his home. When he founded LYSI, the company was considered a pioneer in the production of marine lipids and later it became a global leader in the field. The company’s research has been ongoing for decades and today, LYSI is at the world forefront of research and product development. Tryggvi had a seat on the board until he was 96 years old and it wasn’t until 1981 that the first non-family member became president of the
company. In 1999, the company was reclaimed by the family and has been run by Katrín Pétursdóttir, the granddaughter of Tryggvi Ólafsson, and her family ever since. In April 2007, LYSI was awarded the President of Iceland’s Award for Export Achievement for its “unique achievement in the sales and marketing of marine lipid products and for the vision the company demonstrates in product development as well as the buildup of knowledge and expertise in its field.” …the rest is history Every child in Iceland knows that there is no way of growing up to be big and strong without having a spoonful of Lýsi with breakfast every day. They have no idea what omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D do for them, but it’s a tradition. This is what mummy and daddy raise them to do because their parents told them to and that has been the way of things in this country for hundreds of years. But LYSI’s product line has more to offer than just classic cod liver oil in a glass bottle. The company now has various production lines, including shark liver oil, omega-3 fish oil, and various blister pack products where in addition to Lýsi, you'll find vitamins and minerals as well. Still, the majority of the company’s turnover comes from a tradition of 700 years, exporting cod liver oil in bulk. And in a country consumed with nostalgia, you can just begin to imagine how loving LYSI is branded into our dark-enduring, hardworking Icelandic soul.
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A few helpful words and phrases IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES
NUMBERS 1 Einn (Itn)
5 Fimm (feem)
9 Níu (nee-uh)
2 Tveir (tway-r)
6 Sex (sek-hs)
10 Tíu (tee-uh)
3 Þrír (threer)
7 Sjö (syuh)
100 Hundrað (hunt-wrath)
4 Fjórir (fyoh-rear)
8 Átta (out-tah)
1000 Þúsund (thoo-sunt)
Help hjálp (hyowlp) Stop it hættu (height-uh)
ADRENALINE-FUELED 4X4 BUGGY TOURS JUSTWWW.BUGGYADVENTURES.IS OUTSIDE REYKJAVÍK KISTUMELUR 9 - 116 REYKJAVÍK TEL: +354 533 6003
SOME USEFUL (AND SOME NOT SO USEFUL) PHRASES I would like to order the dried fish, the horse and for dessert, some skyr. Ég ætla að fá harðfiskinn, hrossið og skyr í eftirrétt. (yegh ight-lah ath fow hearth-fisc-een, hraws-eeth och skeer ee eff-teerryet) Where can I get some Brennivín? Hvar fæ ég Brennivín? (kvar fy yegh Brenn-ee-veen?) When does the next bus leave? Hvenær fer næsti strætó? (kvenar fer nice-tee stry-tow?)
Where is the nearest ice cream shop/swimming pool/café? Hvar er næsta ísbúð/sundlaug/kaffihús? (quar err nice-tah ease-booth /soond-loch/caff-ee-hoos?) Excuse me, sir, but I just wanted to compliment you on your magnificent beard! Afsakið, herra minn, mig langaði bara að hrósa þér fyrir þetta stórkostlega skegg! (aff – sag- eeth, herr-ah meen, meeg lan-gah-thee bar-ah ath hrose-ah thyer feer-eer that-ah store-cost-leg-ah scag)
POLITE PLEASANTRIES Good morning Góðan daginn (go-than die-inn)
Please No word for that in Icelandic
How are you Hvað segirðu gott? (kvath say-ear-thuh got?)
Excuse me Afsakið (aff – sag- eeth)
Fine, and you? Allt gott, en þú? (alt got, ann thoo?)
My name is... Ég heiti … (yegh hey-tee …)
I would like Ég ætla að fá (yegh ight-lah ath fow)
Where Hvar (kvar) When Hvenær (kvenar) What Hvað (kvath)
How Hvernig (kverrneag) Why Hvers vegna (kvars veg-nah)
LAUGAVEGUR 62, 101 RVK www.reykjavikraincoats.com email@example.com Tel: +354-5711177
Wonders of the Volcano Volcano Documentary and Geological Exhibition in Reykjavík, next to the Old Harbour.
Tryggvagata 11, Reykjavík | +354 555 1900 | volcanohouse.is
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Skólavörðustígur 7 & 16 and Kringlan, Reykjavík. HOME: Skólavörðustígur 12, Reykjavík. Hafnarstræti, Akureyri and Haukadalur. Geysir.com