Reykjavík Excursions Magazine - 2019-2020

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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




Reykjavík Vestmannaeyjar

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 | +354 562 4200 | Location: Behind Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Natura at Reykjavík Airport

Glacier Hike & Ice Cave

Glacier Hike

Ice Climbing

Call our sales office to book +354 587 9999 or book online at

Snowmobile Tours

ATV’s on Black Sand Beaches with visit to Plane Wreck

Call our sales office +354 587 9999 or book online at

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 put in the effort to keep Iceland beautiful, securing the Vakinn Gold professional accreditation: the highest seal of quality that a tourism company can obtain in Iceland. Furthermore, we have also adopted 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 designed 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. If you are seeking drama and the raw energy of Iceland, you will love the northern lights, the unique natural phenomeon native to the arctic skies. 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 that can devise a dazzling tour tailored to your interests. 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.

Björn Ragnarsson CEO Kynnisferðir - Reykjavik Excursions

Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy!

Published by MD Reykjavík ehf. Laugavegur 3, 101 Reykjavík | +354 537-3900 | Publisher: Kjartan Þorbjörnsson 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.

Domestic flight One way from €70 A rct i c

GREENL AND Nerlerit Inaat

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GREENL AND Ilulissat Kulusuk Nuuk Narsarsuaq




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From city centre to r u o h n a r e d n u in e id s ry t n u o c 60°

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! 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. Along 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 the Icelanders declared their independence from Denmark 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 that sits on a 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. 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 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 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.

Geysir When you leave Gullfoss, you've seen all you need to see of downward streaming water: 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.

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 that you have to be careful 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.

Strokkur, Geysir’s neighbour, puts on a show every six to eight 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.


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 a short walk (2 min.) down to the lake shore and 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 Gullfoss waterfall, the high-temperature geothermal area Geysir with its numerous hot springs and Þingvellir National Park. Get up close with some of Iceland’s most stunning natural wonders!




Experience Nature

Iceland is a land of contrasts. A land 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 is the many icy glaciers that cover 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 gateway to the centre of the Earth; and there's Langjökull, where a man-made cave allows visitors to step inside the glacier's icy blue heart. Exploring the surface can be just as enjoyable, whether you prefer hiking or snowmobiling. Don't go onto a glacier without a guide, however: They can be dangerous to the inexperienced traveller. Volcanoes and lava fields There's a volcanic eruption in Iceland approximately every four or five 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 that takes year to recover if it's torn. You can still see ash from past eruptions in some areas, whether in black patches on glaciers, or as shadowlike formations on the icebergs floating in the 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. Other highlights include the stunning Sólheimajökull 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 situated. From there, we mount or ATVs, cross a few rivers on our way to the Dyrhólaey promontory, and visit Sólheimasandur beach, the site of a famous airplane wreck. To make this tour even more special, we will stop at the magnificent Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls. Raw Icelandic nature!


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 everyone else. 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 distinguishes 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 which 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.


Wonders of Snæfellsnes National Park 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, 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. Among the stops are the Seljalandsfoss and Skógarfoss waterfalls, but we will also see (ekkert “the” hér) 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, and two James Bond movies. Beautiful scenery all day long!



LIVE MUSIC EVERY NIGHT Ingólfsstræti 3, 101 Reykjavík | Tel: 552-0070 |







08:30-16:00 EVERY DAY




Have an Adventure in Iceland

If watching Iceland's stunning nature from a bus window isn't enough for you, you can always 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. As one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, the Icelanders mostly reside 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: 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 the Deildartunguhver hot spring, 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 from Reykjavík is the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, and just a little farther the tongue of the Sólheimajökull glacier 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!

South Coast & Katla Natural Ice Cave

Inside a glacier

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 a white blanket of snow is an amazing feeling and the view is incomparable. It's the perfect opportunity for a selfie: to make people believe you really went to ICE-land. 14

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.

Think you don’t have time to visit an ice cave during your visit to Iceland? Think again! Our South Coast and Natural Ice Cave Tour is the perfect way to experience an ice cave. We’ll whisk you away to a secret glacier area where you’ll have the chance to explore one of these magnificent natural wonders for yourself. This is a unique experience that you won’t soon forget, and one that any visitor to the South shore should have on their bucket list. An icy adventure!

Lava Tunnel – Caving in Raufarhólshellir 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!


Truly unique taste of Iceland

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 |

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, as waterfalls tumble 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 gateway to the centre of the Earth, and as the titular glacier in Halldór Laxness' Under the Glacier, it's also rumoured to be a favoured landing spot among 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 the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the 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.


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.


Sushi Social Þingholtsstræti 5 • 101 Reykjavík Tel 568 6600 •

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 |


A good guide can make or break a tour - even a whole trip. In-depth knowledge of the surroundings, local stories, some local history tidbits: these are the things that take a tour from good to great! Did you know that beer was banned in Iceland until 1989. Until then, people would drink "imitation beer" - a mixture of non-alcoholic pilsner and whatever liquor the bartender had on hand each time, most likely Brennivín. Rex is just that: a local guide designed to find the best possible tour for you during your stay in Iceland. Head to and let Rex help you plan the perfect trip to Iceland!

Rex fact: The highest officially recorded temperature in Iceland was 30.5° C (86.9° F) in Teigarhorn, East Iceland, on June 22, 1939.

Let Rex be your guide Rex is the type of guide who jumps in with a joke at just the right moment, but also lets you enjoy your surroundings without disturbing you too much. He has the answers to all your Icelandrelated questions and knows just what you need to make your trip perfect! He might even let you know about special offers you can’t get anywhere else. Rex is simple and straight to the point, guiding you towards the best possible experience. Whether it’s the thrill of snowmobiling on a glacier or the serenity of the Reykjavík Christmas walk, he’s got you covered.

Rex fact: Only one death by skyr is recorded in the history annals. In 1913, Júlíana Silfa Jónsdóttir murdered her brother Eyjólfur Jónsson by putting rat poison in his skyr. Bon skyrpetit! 20

Adventure companion Rex is a simple-to-use option, perfect for those of us who hate getting lost in the endless maze of online booking sites. Simply head to and our blond, friendly companion will take care of the rest. Let him know how long you’re staying, what you’re looking for, and you’re off – with the added bonus of a special deal, of course. You don’t even have to tip him (although that's not an insult in Iceland despite what the internet will have you believe). Rex fact: The number of approved names that Icelandic parents could choose from stood at 3565 in 2012. The Icelandic Naming Committee approves new names each year, such as Þangbrandur (Seaweed-Sword) or the never hitherto used Leiðólfur (Sad-Wolf).

Head to to book with Rex now.





Start taking a detour Start Something Priceless Welcome to Iceland, where cards are a simple and safe way to pay. Read more on about the full terms and the specific benefits and security benefits that comes with your card.

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 In the 9th century, Iceland's first permanent settler, 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. Until the 19th century, Reykjavík wasn't even a town. It was just a single farm, like any other farm 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.

Esjan 23

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’ll find several lovely locations, popular with the locals for outdoor recreation. Within the city limits, there's 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 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 and international musicians have to offer. Icelandic literature, especially crime fiction is also blossoming. Even though Iceland statistically has less than two murders per year, Icelandic masters of the Nordic Noir crime fiction have had their books translated into numerous languages and have enjoyed great success overseas.

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.

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 spirit. A new and exciting addition to the

REYKJAVÍK EXCURSIONS’ REYKJAVÍK TOURS Highlights of Reykjavík 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!

Highlights of Reykjavík & 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 24

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 own leisure, with the option of hopping on and off at conveniently located bus stops. Reykjavík truly is a magical place to behold, which offers the best of both worlds; a modern trendy and forward-looking city whilst at the same time being close to its unspoilt nature.

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The Magic of the

Northern Lights!

Imagine standing outside in a wintry landscape, snow crackling underneath your feet, the stars and the moon illuminating the surrounding mountains – just enough to cast dark shadows onto the cliffs. But the moonlight and the stars aren't the only source of light; high above, rippling green ribbons of light are fluttering: an almost otherwordly twinkle of lights, dancing across the night sky. This is the magnificent natural phenomenon that is the northern lights. Celestial lights Named after the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas, the northern lights have always had a touch of the mystical about them in the minds of humankind. In other cultures living far enough north to see the lights, the northern lights have been thought to be spirits dancing, or signs from a god. In Iceland, the aurorae were thought to predict coming weather patterns. Standing beneath the lights, it’s easy to see why people would be superstitious, but like so many other 26

miracles of nature, the northern lights have been, at least partly, scientifically explained. The allure of science In some cases, a scientific explanation erodes some of nature’s charm. As soon as you realise that birdsong is nothing more than aggressive mating calls, for example, you see things from a different perspective. With the northern lights, however, the scientific explanation really only adds another layer of magnificence to the natural phenomenon.


This tour includes relaxation, a local culinary experience, and a northern lights hunt. We drive via the UNESCO site Þingvellir National Park towards Laugarvatn Fontana, where we nourish body and soul by bathing in the geothermal baths. Before bathing, we energise ourselves by feasting on an Icelandic-style dinner buffet. After our soak, we go on a search for the northern lights en route to Reykjavík. The northern lights are a natural phenomenon and sightings are not guaranteed. Nourish Your Body and Soul!

Northern Lights Small Group Tour

There’s nothing more breathtaking than seeing the northern lights dancing around in fantastic colours across the Icelandic arctic sky. Hunting for this spectacular natural phenomenon in a small group is a great way to spend an Icelandic night, and the guides will take you wherever the lights can be seen. A natural spectacle!

Northern Lights by Boat The impressive display of lights happens when solar storms release particles that burn up when they reach the earth’s atmosphere. The colours of the lights depend on how close to the earth the particles get before they are burnt out and it only happens around the earth’s poles because of the earth’s magnetic fields. If that isn’t some impressive science, I don’t know what is! A natural phenomenon So, the good news is that the northern lights are an impressive sight and if you’re in Iceland during the winter, you have a chance to see them. The bad news is that the aurora isn’t a reliable attraction. The northern lights are a natural wonder, meaning they don’t exactly bend to the rules of man. Their brightness and intensity depend on solar storms and they burn up high in the atmosphere, much higher than the clouds, so cloudy skies mean no visible northern lights. Also, the lights are relatively dim, compared to other lights that appear in the sky. That’s the reason you can’t see them in the daylight (and, of course, Iceland’s midnight sun is the reason you can’t see them in the summer). The

glow from the city lights can also interrupt your perfect northern lights evening, so getting out of the city is vital. How to see the northern lights Okay, so this may be starting to sound a little hopeless but don’t worry: perfect conditions are more common than you think. A great tool in the hunt for the northern lights is the Iceland Met Office's aurora forecast. It's published online at … and it will estimate (roughly, it's not an exact science) how likely you are to see the lights. Take a tour The easiest way to get out of the city to see the northern lights is simply to take a tour. Reykjavík Excursions has extensive experience in northern lights tours, knowing exactly where and when to look for the impressive aurorae. They’re also willing and able to share with you their extensive knowledge of this magnificent phenomenon. These guys will ensure your sighting chances are maximised.

Hunting the northern lights on the ocean is an amazing experience. Sailing away from the coastline of Reykjavík and seeing the aurora borealis out on the North Atlantic Ocean with beautiful mountains and the city lights in the background is something you won’t forget. In only 15-30 minutes, we will be in a prime location for viewing the lights. Sail Away into a Magical World!

Northern Lights Tour

The northern lights, or the aurora borealis, are caused by the interaction between solar particles and the Earth's upper atmosphere (near the north pole). Specific destinations vary from trip to trip, given that our guides select the most favourable location for viewing the northern lights during each trip. On the 9 pm and 10 pm departures, passengers can buy waffles and hot drinks on-site, at an extra cost, to enjoy while gazing at the northern lights.. A sight not to be missed!



Christmas Traditions For locals, Christmas in Iceland is a most welcome reprieve from the perennial dark. Visitors will find that many of the Icelandic Christmas traditions are amusing and often quite unusual. Where to start? There’s the Christmas cat, a lot of great food, a little bit of truly bad food, way too many fireworks, bonfires, a “book flood,” and an endless amount of Santa Clauses (we call them Yule Lads). The city comes alive at Christmastime and walking around downtown you are bound to run into some Christmas music, quirky Christmas characters, and a healthy dose of holiday cheer. Welcome to Christmastime in Iceland! 28

Christmas with the lads The Yule Lads are Iceland’s version of Santa Claus and we have 13 of them! More santas equals more gifts, right? Icelandic kids get a little treat from each of them when they come into town from the mountains, from December 12 until Christmas Eve. In older folklore they used to be mischievous tricksters, but nowadays, they leave gifts in children’s shoes (if they behave well… if they act out they’ve got a potato coming their way). The main feast takes place on Christmas Eve at precisely six o’clock. Parents beware though, as the Christmas Cat will eat your children if they receive no new clothing before Christmas. It’s one of the weirder Christmas lore out there

but most people just make sure to be wearing at least a fresh pair of socks to stay out of the Christmas kitty’s maw. Food, glorious food The Christmas meal is the most special meal of the year, and it has historical connotations. Not many decades have passed since Iceland was a poor country where feasts were few and far between. Hangikjöt (smoked lamb) was the traditional Christmas meal while rjúpa (ptarmigan) was a treat for the poorer folk. Today, it’s considered a delicacy, as you have to catch your own or make a deal with a hunter if you want some. In addition, some holiday tables feature staples such as reindeer, turkey, and hamborgarhryggur (glazed rack of ham).

REYKJAVÍK EXCURSIONS’ CHRISTMAS TOURS Reykjavík Christmas Walk This cultural and gastronomic walking tour of Reykjavík is a wonderful alternative to your traditional city-sightseeing tour and will get you into a true Christmas mood. During our Reykjavík Christmas Walk, we offer unique insight into Iceland's Christmas traditions – old and new – while telling you all about the history, art, architecture, culture, and cuisine of the city. During our Reykjavík Christmas Walk, we offer you a unique insight into our Christmas traditions old and new while telling you about the history, art and architecture, culture, and cuisine of the city. Discover downtown Reykjavík during Christmastime

Golden Circle & Reykjavík Christmas Walk Join us for a wonderful alternative Reykjavík Christmas tour followed by the amazing Golden Circle. On this tour, you will get a unique insight into Iceland’s Christmas traditions, both old and new. At the end of the walk, you will be picked up for the Golden Circle part of the tour, where you will visit Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir geothermal area Get in a Christmas mood inside and outside the city landmarks! Accompanying this is jólaöl (Christmas ale) – a glorious drink made by mixing together orangeflavoured Appelsín and malt-flavoured Malt, a couple of sodas produced in Iceland. Let’s get cultural December in Iceland is best experienced by going all-in, so we encourage you to get a taste of the culture. The annual book market, the Christmas Book Flood, will hit Reykjavík this December as it does every year, as books are one of the most popular Christmas presents in the country. Authors and publishers race to publish the most exciting books of the year during the December season, so get a book to enjoy if you really want to experience an Icelandic Christmas (best enjoyed snuggling with a cup of hot cocoa, of course). Also, take time to drop in on Christmas concerts, which Icelanders flock to each year. For many, they are just as essential to Christmas as Christmas ale. New year, old us Gamlárskvöld (Literal translation: old year evening) in Iceland is a spectacle to behold. We Icelanders go crazy as we blow up over 600 tonnes of fireworks each year, which look spectacular coupled with the blacked-out sky and snowy ground. Before that, the whole

nation sits in front of a TV screen. Everyone tunes in to Áramótaskaupið, a “roast-style” comedy show where the events of the past year are remembered in a humorous light. It is watched by more than 70% of the nation every year, so try and get yourself in front of a TV before midnight. You (probably) won’t understand anything but at least you can say you partook in this cultural curiosity. Make sure to head out for the New Year’s bonfires all over town (be sure to dress according to the weather…). New Year’s Eve is, of course, the party night of the year, so grab some Icelandic beer or a bottle of Brennivín (also known as black death) and head into town!

Bonfire Tour New Year’s Eve in Reykjavík is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires. The locals gather around the bonfires that are dispersed all over the city, celebrating and singing. Reykjavík Excursions offer a great tour that allows you to experience this celebration: a spectacular sight not to be missed when in Iceland! Reykjavík Excursions wish you all a happy New Year!

Magic & Mystery at New Year Join us on a tour with a local guide to explore the special traditions and strange Icelandic folklore connected to the magical New Year’s Eve. On this tour, you will check out the fireworks sales organised by the Icelandic Rescue Teams. Every year, Icelanders blow up 600 tonnes of fireworks. You will also visit the old cemetary of Reykjavík and visit a place the Icelandic elves are rumoured to inhabit. At the end of the tour, a small bonfire will be lit and you will say farewell to the passing year in a traditional Icelandic way, with a bang! Say farewell to the year with a bang!


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 early Icelanders' almost obsessive fixation with genealogy, most modern Icelanders can still trace their lineage 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 usually don't shy away from doing 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 Alþingi (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.


Downtown Reykjavík

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 that 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 the building of wool workshops, 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 embroiled in a state of constant civil war, waged by seven powerful clans. 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


Ingólfur Aarnarson

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. The years between 1900-1910 saw such novelties as electricity, the first car, and the first trawler, which marked the beginning of the modernisation of the fishing industry. In the World Wars, selling products to the Allies and servicing the American occupying force brought about an economic boom (as well as cultural influence, such as TV and jazz). This catapulted Iceland into the 20th century. To this day, Icelandic culture remains fascinated with 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 incredible growth in all things 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 recovered.

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

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Northern Lights


The northern lights season is upon us and that means that we want to capture those awesome, spectacular lights on film – or the modern digital equivalent. Now, you might wonder, how do I take the best photos of the northern lights? Despite what you may think, it’s not all Photoshop; the perfect photo of the northern lights is within your reach if you just get acquainted with a few of the lesser used buttons on your camera.

Dos and Don’ts

Camera Settings

Do set your camera to a longer exposure time The northern lights are dim: That’s why you can’t see them in the daylight. Setting a longer exposure time gives the camera time to take in more light than usual, resulting in brighter lights in your photos.

Aperture Aperture (the A setting on your camera) controls the depth of field, that is, how much of your photo subject is in focus. It dictates how much light enters into the lens (because you are dictating how “open” the lens is). A low number means that the lens is more open, and thus, more light gets in.

Don’t stay in the city You can take a photo of the northern lights within the city, it’s just that it’s going to be more difficult. Also, getting out of the city means that the backdrop of your photos won’t be city streets but snow-covered mountains. Do bring a tripod Longer exposure time means a greater opportunity to move the camera, which often results in a blurry photo: steady hands aren’t enough, a stable surface or a tripod are essential!

ISO ISO is how sensitive you want your camera to be to light. Be careful when increasing ISO in daily use, since the photos will become grainier as the value becomes higher. That doesn’t mean you should just set it to 100 and forget about it; the ISO can be a powerful tool, you just need to find out what works for each setting.

Shutter speed Shutter speed measures how long the lens stays open when taking a photograph. The longer the lens stays open, the more light gets in, and, therefore, the better the exposure. RAW format If your camera allows, shoot in RAW format, not JPEG. When shooting in JPEG, the camera automatically edits your photo, so you can use it right away, but discards “information” it doesn’t use. This discarded information is pixels that the camera sensor caught, and which you might want to use later. The downside is that you will need to edit your files manually in Photoshop, Lightroom, or other software.

Don’t go by boat If your goal is to take photos, don’t go by boat. Remember how we talked about tripods earlier and how essential they are? Well, they’re useless if the surface they are standing on keeps moving all the time. 35

RAW file; Aperture: 3,5; ISO: 1600; Shutter speed: 19 sec

The same photo, edited in Adobe Lightroom.

Extra tips! Get a remote for your camera Remotes, both wired and wireless, are available, and some cameras can even be hooked up to your phone. Using a remote control decreases the likelihood of your camera shaking when you press the shutter-release button.

Focus! When shooting the northern lights, focus is important, since you will have to set the focus to manual (an option most lenses offer). Given that the autofocus setting in most cameras won’t work, you won’t be able to take a photo. Set the lens to MF and crank up the dial: snap a photo, check if things are in focus, and, if not, turn the dial the other way.

Don’t rule out using your phone Nowadays, many smartphones are perfectly capable of taking lovely photos of the northern lights. Most Android phones have a default photo app where you can go to “expert” or “manual” mode, and there are a lot of camera apps, both for Android and iPhone, that allow you to get more of a DSLR camera feel on your phone.

YOUR FIRST NORTHERN LIGHTS PHOTO! » Let’s start by putting the file settings to RAW if that is a possibility on your camera. » Set the aperture setting to low, so you get as much light in your lens as possible. » Set the ISO to a manual setting. Start with 800 ISO and see if you like the outcome. If you don’t, try adjusting it till you get what you’re looking for. » Try setting the shutter speed to 10 seconds. If you like the outcome, go with it, but people often take photos of the northern lights with shutter speed at around 30 seconds. » If the northern lights don’t pop at 30 seconds, try increasing the ISO to 1600 – even up to 3200, if you’re feeling lucky. » Try different setting combinations and see what you like best. 36

Aperture: 3,2; ISO: 1000; Shutter speed 3,2 sec


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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 within the Icelandic farming society, especially before the advent of the car, can hardly be overstated. While executing fewer farming duties with the change of times, and with the invention of the motorcar, there are still plenty of horses in Iceland. Riding for pleasure is a very popular hobby, especially because the Icelandic horse has so many qualities suited for riding. It's got the look Icelandic horses tend to be around 140 cm tall and weigh between 330 and 380 kg. Internationally, a horse breed shorter than 1,.47 m is dubbed a pony, so the Icelandic horse is on the cusp. Owing to their sturdy build and strong personalities, however, Icelanders never refer to their horses as ponies. Icelandic horses exhibit a variety of coat colours, including chestnut, bay, black, gray, white, palomino, pinto, and roan, making them very photogenic! A viking horse When the Vikings settled Iceland more than a thousand years ago, they brought horses with them. When enough horses had arrived to the

country, it made more sense for the Icelanders to breed their own horses rather than to 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. The result of centuries of breeding is the Icelandic horse, which has retained some qualities other breeds have lost, and gained some new ones in the unique Icelandic conditions. 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 legally return. This means that Icelanders attending riding competitions abroad can’t bring their horses back. Because of this, and because of international interest, there are more Icelandic horses outside 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 meant that natural selection promoted intellect over flight instincts; Icelandic horses aren’t as skittish as other breeds. They are attentive and carefully consider every step they take. This makes them more of a riding companion, iand less of 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. 39

Iceland's Culture from Another Point of View In 1906, on the 600th anniversary of the birth of Snorri Sturluson, a cornerstone was laid for 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 house 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 Iceland’s independence. It was a bloodless battle not fought with arms, 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 within 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 as each museum and depository outgrew their allotted rooms within the Culture House, one by one they moved out of the white castle by Arnarhóll. For decades, the building was home to the National Library, 40

which had spread into every corner of the Culture House. It was the last collection to leave, in 1994, when the National Library’s new building in West Reykjavík was completed. The Culture House wasn’t empty for long. Despite years of use, renovations proved that the building was in surprisingly good condition; Icelandic craftsmanship had stood the test of time. For years, the house was used for official functions and exhibitions. A few years ago, however, 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 museum’s extensive vaults, instead, it incorporates elements from each of the museums that the house was originally built to house: 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. Instead of offering 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 provide an alternate point of view on Icelandic culture. Culture House Hverfisgata 15, 101 Reykjavík +354 530 2210













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The Icelandic Yule Lads The Icelandic Yule Lads are a group of 13 mischievous trolls who start arriving in town, one per night, from December 12 until Christmas Eve. In the Iceland of yore, they were a nuisance and brought grief to the general populace. Today, they’ve morphed into kinder, gentler Yule Lads who bring gifts to children who have been nice. The naughty ones get a potato!



Sheep-Cote Clod / Dec 12

jastau r

Gully Gawk / Dec 13 Another fan of dairy products, Giljagaur doesn’t try to go straight to the cow’s udders, but waits until the farm workers are distracted before he swoops in and slurps the froth off the fresh milk.

St e k k

Most of Stekkjastaur’s time among humans is spent breaking into sheep pens. He keeps trying to suckle the ewes, despite his disability: his two peg legs that make him completely stiff.

Stúfur Stubby / Dec 14 Stúfur is named for his height, or lack thereof. He considers burnt bits of food that get stuck to the pan a particular delicacy, and goes as far as raiding kitchens for dirty pans to get his hands on the good stuff.

Þvörusleikir Spoon Licker / 15 Þvörusleikir is tall and skinny and loves wooden spoons. He waits patiently for the work to be finished in the kitchen before grabbing the dirty spoons and licking them.

Pottaskefill Pot Licker / Dec 16

St ú fur

Like Stúfur, this Yule Lad also likes to lick the remains from the inside of pots, though he has no interest in burnt remains. His tricks are simple: He knocks on the door, and when the inhabitants rush to see who it is, he sneaks into the kitchen and cleans out the pots.

Bjúg na

In the old days, Icelanders ate their food from a lidded wooden bowl called askur. This old fellow would creep and snatch the askar whenever they were put aside, licking their insides clean. Since most people have upgraded to plates, he probably has, too, but still keeps his name, for old times’ sake. 42


Bowl Licker / Dec 17

k ræk




Door Slammer / Dec 18

Skyr Gobbler / Dec 19

Waking up is never pleasant, and being roused by a loud noise, such as a door slamming, even less so. Hurðaskellir thinks this is hilarious and goes through town slamming doors for his own amusement.

If you haven’t heard of it, skyr (pronounced skeer) is a delicious and healthy dairy product, full of protein. Skyrgámur is the size of a bull and has a habit of eating other people’s skyr.



Window Peeper / Dec 21

Sausage Swiper / Dec 20

tt Gá

The name really says it all. However, it’s important to note that his intentions, although not honourable, are mostly food-related. He only peeps in windows to spot food he could possibly steal.

Bjúga is a salty, smoked Icelandic sausage, a favourite of Bjúgnakrækir. He loves them so much, he doesn’t mind crawling through soot and smoke to get them.

e aþ fur

Gáttaþefur Door Sniffer / Dec 22 Gáttaþefur was from birth blessed with a huge nose and heightened olfactory senses, as well as being immune to catching colds. He is partial to a kind of bread called laufabrauð, and uses his abnormally large nose to sniff out its hiding places.

Ketkrókur Meat Hook / Dec 23 Some of the Yule Lads are cleverer than others. Ketkrókur, for example, travels with a long stick with a hook at the end, perfect for sticking down chimneys and stealing meat, preferably hangikjöt (smoked lamb).

Kertasníkir Candle Beggar / Dec 24



Illustrations by Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir

One of the few Yule Lads not constantly occupied with food, Kertasníkir enjoys stealing candles instead, preferably from children. This seems especially mean considering that in the old days every kid usually got a nice candle for Christmas and not much else.


Snapshots from Reykjavik Excursions

On a glacier More on p. 13-14

Northern Lights More on p. 26-27

Perlan More on p. 23-24

Skรณgafoss More on p. 9-10

Geysir More on p. 5-6

Jรถkulsรกrlรณn More on p. 9-10

Snรฆfellsnes national park p. 9-10



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A Winter Wonderland

Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular spot to visit in winter. We owe a lot of that popularity to the inimitable northern lights, but an icy adventure in Iceland is not complete without experiencing the grandeur and majesty of the country’s snowcovered nature. Seeing it from afar is wonderful, but getting up close and personal is even better. If you want to gain a deeper connection to the environment, trying some winter sports while you’re here is a must. Lucky for you, the country’s biggest ski resort is just around the corner.

Let’s say you’re standing in the city centre on a beautiful winter’s day when you get the sudden urge to feel the wind rush around you as you glide down over the fresh snow of a mountain slope. In most other European capitals, that would be a far-off dream; in Reykjavík, however, you can hop in a car and 25 minutes later, you’re strapping on your skis or snowboard! You don’t even have to have your own equipment, as everything can be rented on the spot. Iceland is not the only country you can go skiing. There are other countries with higher mountains and bigger ski resorts. But skiing in Iceland is a unique experience, one that you’re not likely to experience anywhere else. Even though they’re only a few minutes away from Reykjavík, the Bláfjöll Mountains are a magnificent example of Iceland’s wild and beautiful nature. On the way there, you’ll see the vast forestless landscapes of Iceland stretch before you. If you go cross-country skiing, there’s a good chance your trail

will lead you past volcanic craters and other rock formations characteristic of the young volcanic island. Standing atop the mountain, you’ll have an incomparable view of the city of Reykjavík, on one side, and of the volcanoes Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla, on the other. Iceland’s majestic landscape is truly stunning, but I’ve saved the best for last. If you’re there at night (which, at winter, stretches long into the day, as well), you might even be lucky enough to see the famous northern lights. The slopes are open long into the evening, so you’ll have plenty of time for nighttime skiing down the floodlit slopes. Skiing under the famous aurora borealis will surely rank among the best memories of your trip to Iceland.

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Þingvellir It boasts an impressive history, but the cliffs flanking the rift between the tectonic plates are even more impressive, where the land is, ever so slowly, being pulled 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 glacial lagoon make Jökulsárlón pure Instagram gold! 51


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.

Harpa The Harpa Concert Hall is a relatively new addition to the Reykjavík cityscape. It makes up for its lack of history by consistently looking impressive and pretty.


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Q&A Q&A Talking Iceland, travel tips, and Gandalf 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 on 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: the 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 for holiday in 2001. Once 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 booking 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.

Ewan Callan

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. 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 to the Volcano House on 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 What’s On Laugavegur 5, 101 Reykjavík +354 551-3600 |



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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. The lopapeysa is 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 lopapeysa, with its distinctive style and fabric, has only been produced in its current form 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. 60

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 a warm, lightweight material, which 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. Every authentic lopapeysa is, therefore, handknitted. The airiness of the unspun wool is part of what makes the sweater 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 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 originators 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 knitting styles of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Hebrides. There are several classic patterns that are popular, but knitters also have creative license: the only requirement being that the sweater have 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 ( 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 need – needles, patterns, and most importantly, lopi.

The Handknitting Association Skólavörðustígur 19, 101 Reykjavík Borgartún 31, 105 Reykjavík +354 552 1890 |



It's a hot dog life Discovering the local cuisine is many a traveller’s favourite part of the journey. So what does Iceland taste like? You’re probably expecting an answer like seafood, lamb, rye, or deep-fried and cardamom-scented kleinur. You should definitely try all those things, but to the everyday Icelander, fuel on the go is more likely to be the (not so) humble hot dog. The hot dog may be an import, but there’s evidence to suggest that Icelanders have taken a well-loved product from overseas and perfected it to create the ideal portable fast food. Allow me to make my case. Flavour First things first, let’s talk about how the sausage gets made. The sausage makers of SS have perfected their unique mixture of pork, beef, and lamb providing a flavour and texture you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. A snappy casing made of natural proteins delivers a satisfying pop when you first bite into it, and the juicy sausage is perfectly enveloped by a softly steamed (or lightly toasted, if you’re into that sort of thing) bun that’s the same length as the sausage, ensuring the perfect ratio of bread to sausage in every bite. Toppings Even the best sausage in the fluffiest bun is nothing without its supporting cast – the toppings. The array of available toppings is mostly standardised, although you can also find some local variations. But the classics are classic for a reason, and if you’re ordering your very first Icelandic hot dog, you can’t


go wrong with getting one with the works. As the queue edges closer to the counter, start practising your pronounciation of eina með öllu (one with everything). About a half a minute later, you should find yourself with a hot dog in hand with a perfect quintet of toppings. One with everything is a classic for a reason: The mix of toppings just works. HOWEVER, mixing and matching is perfectly acceptable in order to create your perfect fast-food snack. Raw onion a little too aggressive for you? Skip it. Not a mayo fan? Leave the remoulade to the locals. Want to eat one every day during your stay? That’s kind of weird, but, hey, James Hetfield from Metallica did it during his 2004 stay. Convenience Flavour is the most important part but there are a few other things that take the hot dog from good to great. . First of all, this really is fast food; if someone takes more than a minute to make your hot dog, they’re doing it wrong. They’re also handily portable, perfect for grabbing on the go. They also come in perfectly sized portions, so grab one for a quick snack to keep you going, or do a double barrel for a full meal. It’s also probably the most affordable food in Iceland and available almost everywhere. In conclusion Hot dogs are tasty, cheap, quick, and readily available all over Iceland, whether you're in the city centre or in a small town east of nowhere. What’s not to love?

— TOPPINGS— Raw onions – minced raw onion provides juicy bursts of flavour that are less harsh than you might expect. Fried onions – crispy and browned, the fried onions provide a pleasant, crunchy texture and sweetly savoury background notes of browned onion. Ketchup – Sharp and sweet, it’s perfect for cutting through the creaminess of the remoulade. Remoulade – According to the Larousse Gastronomique, sauce rémoulade is made of mayonnaise, mixed herbs, capers, cornichons, and anchovy essence. The refined French sauce bears only a passing resemblance to its unpolished Icelandic cousin, remúlaði. Still, remúlaði is creamy, tasty, and delicious: the perfect foil for the sharpness of the ketchup and mustard. Mustard – It’s not just any mustard – it’s Hot Dog Mustard. It ties all the flavours together, but perhaps, most importantly, it’s viscous enough to create that perfect squiggle on top of the ”dog.” Local variations and alternative hot dogs – Bacon-wrapped dogs, chili ketchup, “hot dog sauce,” potato salad, pickled red cabbage, coleslaw, deep fried dogs with cheese and fries, the list goes on.

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Supertrucks and Snowmobiles

Sightseeing on the Golden Circle, followed by snowmobiling on a glacier, is not an everyday experience, even if you live in Iceland. So when I was offered the chance to try out the Pearl tour by the Mountaineers of Iceland, I jumped on it. One sleepless night later, I was jumping aboard a large, shiny jeep, barely squeezing through the city centre´s narrow streets. Driving in the Icelandic countryside in winter requires some serious wheels, and if you’re going up a glacier, only the biggest car will do! The first part of the tour is a visit to the stops on the famous Golden Circle. If you’re interested in pure natural spectacle, there’s nothing like seeing boiling water erupt from the icy ground at the Geysir geothermal area, or seeing the thundering force of the Gullfoss waterfall booming down 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. 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 not entirely covered by soft pillows of snow, the nature around you becomes sparser and rockier the farther up you go. It may look like a winter wonderland down on the ground, but 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. If you’ve never been on a glacier before, you might think it’s one uninterrupted, flat 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 that following in your guide’s sleigh prints is the only way to go. We

followed him onto the glacier, slowly at first, while we were getting used to driving our snowmobiles through the thick piles of powdery snow. As soon as we found our bearings, however, we were off. With the wind whooshing over our screens, and with icy landscapes rolling by at a close-to-alarming speed, I felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins. The speed feels much more intense when you’re riding this close to the snowy ground in an open vehicle. 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. 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


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Rediscovering 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. 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 enjoy 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 their 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. In order to get in touch with your inner Viking, find a quill and some calfskin and get scribbling.

Feed a raven Ravens occupy a special place 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 this 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 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 |


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 the same access to quality design items as the Danes. 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, along with 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 promote 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, consider 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. The flagship store is located in Skeifan; and there are beautiful stores in the Kringlan shopping mall; in the Harpa concert hall; and on Laugavegur: Reykjavík’s main shopping street. Their newest boutique is located at the 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 classic items that never go out of style.

Epal Harpa Epal Skeifan 6 Epal Kringlan Epal Laugavegur 70 +354 5687733 Epal Skeifan 6, 108 Reykjavík +354 568 7740 | 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


——— 2017 ———

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 Iceland’s unique geology. An Icelandic volcano is the reason for democracy as we know it The 1783-4 the Laki eruption was one 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 six 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. But even they must get special permission. This means that we have been able to monitor the evolution of life on brand-new land from the beginning. One-third of all the earth’s fresh lava originated in Iceland When you’re discussing volcanoes, all timerelated concepts tend to get a bit skewed. For instance, “fresh lava” denotes 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 to evacuate 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 | 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 have to have been doing it 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. They were 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 in 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 in 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



Our Master Watchmaker never loses his concentration

With his legendary concentration and 50 years of experience our Master Watchmaker and renowned craftsman, Gilbert O. Gudjonsson, inspects every single timepiece before it leaves our workshop.

All the watches are designed and assembled by hand in Iceland. Only highest quality movements and materials are used to produce the watches and every single detail has been given the time needed for perfection. At JS Watch co. Reykjavik we’re committed to provide a personal quality service and we pride ourselves on the close relationships we have with our customers.

Scan it and learn more!


A Paradise off the Beaten Track Just off the beach, in an unassuming building blending in with the surrounding nature, 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 of surrounding nature through the large windows, providing beautiful natural light. The large windows are perfect for admiring a starry winter sky, and if you’re lucky, you can pop out to the veranda to see some northern lights. Just like the building itself, the interior décor, the tableware, and even the food assumes a beautifully simple style. The clean, clear lines of the restaurant harmonise beautifully with the ingredient-forward cuisine, coming 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, for an afternoon coffee, or for dinner. Although I must admit that sometimes the food isn’t even necessary: a hot beverage on a cold afternoon can be just as enjoyable. The hardest thing about visiting 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

No need to be hungry around Iceland Find your nearest supermarket



Travellers in Iceland can witness some of the most astounding sights in the world: protruding glacier tongues, massive volcanoes, steep-ridged canyons complete with freefalling waterfalls. Seeing these natural wonders has never been easier – for now they can be witnessed from a bird’s eye view with FlyOver Iceland. You know that feeling when you’re soaring over a new country, peeking out of your small airplane window? The landscapes are magnificent from this point of view. The team from FlyOver Iceland has taken that experience and magnified it a thousandfold, allowing visitors to soar through the sky, witnessing Iceland’s beautiful nature from above. The project is the first of its kind outside of North America (its sister attraction FlyOver Canada has been making waves since 2013). For the Icelandic edition, the team pulled out all the stops. Much of Iceland is still inaccessible to the average person, so the flight from FlyOver is a most welcome addition to the city. Places rarely seen with the naked eye can now be witnessed in downtown Reykjavík.

Calling a spade a spade The footage captured by daredevil helicopter pilot Jón “Spaði” Björnsson beggars belief. Spaði means spade, and his name is far from a misnomer; the chopper is in his blood. A special 8K high resolution camera was placed on the nose of his helicopter, which he flies in incredibly close proximity to peaks and glaciers. Visitors will dive into ridges, in between rock formations, glide over mountains, and everything in between, thanks to Jón Spaði’s work. He’s worked on most of the Hollywood productions filmed in Iceland, such as Oblivion, Game of Thrones, Day After Tomorrow, and Noah, to name a few. Jón logged over 100 hours in his chopper to get the perfect angles, which are guaranteed to tickle your senses when you’re in front of the 300 square metre screen.

Troll from England The flight itself is not the only experience in Flyover. Master illustrator Brian Pilkington designed the 800-year-old troll SúVitra (The WiseOne), who takes visitors through the history of Iceland’s creation in the Well of Time, a multimedia presentation created by Moment Factory. English-born Brian moved to Iceland in 1976 and is credited with single-handedly creating the modern-day look of the Icelandic trolls. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher; how did a Liverpudlian put a face on something that has followed Icelanders throughout centuries past, through tales and storytelling? “It’s an open invitation to do what you want, basically,” he says, referring to the task at hand of illustrating trolls. “Because nobody really knows what a troll looks like. And nobody has really tried to illustrate one over 12 centuries

Just a few of the places you will experience • Hofsá river • Eyvindarárdalur valley • Vestrahorn mountain 76

• Breiðamerkurjökull glacier • Hvannadalshnhjúkur mountain • Hvannadalshryggur ridge

• Skaftafell mountain • Kverkfjöll mountains • Svínaskorur

• Aldeyjarfoss waterfall • Veiðivötn lakes • Tungnaá river

of history. They say my trolls are Icelandic trolls. This is the way they look. They’ve become people’s visions of trolls.” In the case of SúVitra, she very much looks like a troll come to life in the captivating pre-show. Nit to grit The flight itself is an in-your-face experience, featuring scents, mist, wind, speed increases,

• Mælifell mountain • Goðaland valleys • Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon

as well as twists and turns - ensuring all senses get their fair share. Most of all, it is a feast for the eyes. The whole experience is designed in collaboration with creative director Rick Rothschild, whose work includes some of Disney World’s most famous rides, including Soarin’ over California. The music during the flight was composed just a few steps away from FlyOver in the hip Grandi area by Icelandic brothers Kjartan

• Landmannalaugar hot springs • Dyrhólaey, southernmost point of the mainland • Gjáin valley

and Georg Holm, along with Paul Corley and Daníel Bjarnason. It’s no small task to create a ‘sound’ for Iceland, but it’s very much a case of mission completed for the quartet. The flight features a double-decker seating area, carrying 40 people each showing. Tuck down in front of the enormous oval screen, feet dangling in the air. Buckle up, we’re taking off!

FlyOver Iceland Fiskislóð 43, Reykjavík +354 527 6700 77


ON: Meet Mother Nature at her Fiercest

The first thing you notice when you drive up to Hellisheiði, a hilly area just beyond the city limits, is the ever-present smell of sulphur, reminiscent of rotten eggs. The smell is a mild but 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. » 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

Reusable shopping bag with a stunning photograph from Iceland


The bag comes in a zipped pocket making it the perfect gift to bring home!

More selection for all ages in stores all over Iceland and on




“ZOMG REYKJAVIK HAS A BIG LEBOWSKITHEMED BAR!” Tweeted by @caitlinmoran Journalist for The Times, author, and broadcaster. Followers: 817K 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 features 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 film. 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. Lebowski Bar has a host of events and activities, such as DJ’s, live performances, and 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 expanding their bottled artisan beer menu, as well as their selection of whiskeys.

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, locals and visitors alike. Lebowski Bar has, owing to its location, been frequented equally by regulars and foreign passersby. 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). This time, I decided to behave like an adult, to see the band that was playing that evening, and to have a beer. Having arrived 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 Fanfest 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 Fanfest 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 care for your 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 | 81


Just Relax! A Visit to Krauma Geothermal Baths

Driving in the Borgarfjörður area on a sunny day is a great feeling. On one side, 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 among 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. Before we entered the spa facility, we paid the hot spring a visit. 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 the staff, looked stylish but laid-back. There’s no extravagance in the decor nor in 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 has been considered. They even offer shampoo and shower gel from Sóley Organics, made from wild Icelandic herbs. 82

The geothermal bath area consists of six baths of varying temperatures, ranging from a bracing cold bath of 5°C (41°F): so hot you can’t stay in there for more than a few minutes. There is also a shallow pool, 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 for creating 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 companion for the day 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 surrounding nature. 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 |

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

Austurstræti 16

101 Reykjavík

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.


Open 11:30–23:30

Drop by for lunch, late lunch, dinner or drinks in a casual and fun atmosphere.

Hafnarstræti 1–3 / Tel. 555 2900 /


A Dining Experience Under a Bridge You may 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 in this manner by one of their first customers, as he contentedly pushed his last plate away. The 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, The Fish Company took up residence in the cellar, underneath the bridge by the side of the building. During the groundwork stages of the Grófartorg reconstruction area, an excavation revealed the remains of an old harbour, which 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 that melds 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 |



Travel Safe! Be prepared for icy roads In winter, be prepared for ice on the roads. Most of the times, ice and snow will be clearly visible, but roads might not always look icy. In Iceland, there is something called launhált – secret slipperiness. Test out your brakes from time to time. If you’re not comfortable driving on ice, you probably shouldn’t rent a car in winter. There are many bus tours and superjeep tours you can take instead. Slow down An important rule in wintertime is, slow down when necessary. The maximum speed of 50km/h (30mi/h) in urban areas, 90km/h (55mi/h) on paved roads, and 80km/h (50mi/h) on gravel roads assumes perfect conditions. If it’s snowy, windy, rainy, foggy, icy etc., you should slow down, sometimes a lot. Check the weather forecast If you’re in Iceland between October and April, don’t set off in the morning without checking the weather forecast first. Weather in Iceland is famously fickle, so even if the

weather looks good in the morning, there can be a snowstorm in the afternoon. Never underestimate weather conditions. Check the road conditions On you can see what roads are closed all around Iceland. Always check this website before you head out. If roads are closed, change your route. If there is a storm warning, change your plans. If you’re not sure what the conditions on your intended route are like, you can call the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration at (+354) 1777. If you feel insecure about driving yourself but don’t want to spend your holiday in the city, go on a day tour instead. Tour operators are professionals with a lot of experience driving in winter.

Do not make sudden changes When driving, make no sudden changes: braking, turning, and accelerating should be smooth. Slamming the brakes is probably your reflex when you feel the car starting to slide, but that only makes things worse, unless you have an anti-lock braking system in your car. Brake gently and steer into the slide. Increase your braking distance You will need to increase your braking distance on icy roads. It will take you much longer to brake: up to ten times longer than in non-icy conditions.

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.


Dos and Don’ts Do stick to paths where possible. It's safer for you and for nature, as well. Don't camp outside of designated campsites. Wild camping 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 visit the same as it was when you arrived. Don’t forget to choose the right vehicle. Especially in winter, a 4x4 car is recommended if you’re planning to drive long distances. For more information, check

Don't stop in the middle of the road 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. Fill up your car If you're going far from the city, make sure to 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. 88

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Distilled Chill The unique Foss Distillery in Kópavogur uses fresh ingredients found in Icelandic nature to create quality spirits from the Icelandic flora. Whether its birch or a geothermally heated vodka made with fresh Icelandic spring water, Foss Distillery has got you covered. Iceland is famous for its lack of forests but still, there's nothing more Icelandic than a birch tree. When Iceland was settled, a quarter of the land was covered with a birch forest. The forest was slowly but surely whittled down as new arrivals settled in, using birch for firewood. Now, birch is trending, bottled by Foss Distillery.

Creating a new spirit in the Foss Distellery R&D 90

Birching up the right tree Birch was the only tree species able to form forests in Iceland since the end of the last ice age; its delicate leaves and silverhued papery bark managing to survive in difficult conditions. Icelanders have used it throughout the ages as a home remedy, as the plant is a bit of a jack of all trades. Birch syrup is believed to increase libido while also being of benefit to skin and hair. Research shows that Icelanders also used the plant as an herbal treatment for sores, to improve appetite, and even for tanning hides. Until Foss Distillery entered the scene, no one in Iceland had thought of utilizing birch to flavour alcohol. The birch can only be collected for a few weeks in spring and early summertime. Each night and morning, a team heads out to Hallormsstaðaskógur forest in East Iceland and selects the branches by hand. They’re cut sustainably, thinning the forest to facilitate

its continued natural growth. “We only take the front end of the branches, as they are the newest and freshest. They’re frozen immediately in East Iceland to keep all the good stuff inside, and to keep it fresh. It’s a living product, and we want to keep it as fresh as we can. There’s a difference with each batch we get, as a tree is not the same as a tree,” says head distiller Freyr Sigurðarson. The fresh birch branches are frozen whole, leaves and all. Next, they’re mixed with a spirit, infusing it with colour and taste over two months. After that birch infusion, it's used to make four different birch-flavoured spirits. In the case of Björk, a fresh birch syrup is added to the concoction to give it a hint of sweetness. The end product is rich in smell, taste, and kick. The icing on the cake is the birch branch cut into every bottle, the exact branch that gave the drink its flavour.

Birkir 75 (Cocktail) • 3 cl Birkir snaps • Lemon juice • Simple syrup • Champagne to fill up the glass

Shake all ingredients, except champagne, together and fine strain into a coupe glass. Top up with champagne and garnish with a lemon peel. Creator: Geoffrey Canilao

Hell and high water In addition to the birch spirits, Foss is branching out! “Helvíti” vodka is the newest addition to their arsenal of drinks. In ages past, the volcano Hekla in South Iceland was believed to be the gateway to Hell, spewing glowing lava and releasing poisonous gases. Paradoxically, the vodka itself is incredibly smooth. It is distilled in a vacuum, allowing the head distiller to lower the boiling point of the vodka to only 45° C with geothermal water. This leads to a less burnt, smoother liquid, which is then purified with Icelandic spring water. “The Icelandic water is so clean

that we don’t have to treat it, other than a coarse filter. No chemical compounds are needed,” says Freyr. That may sound like heaven to most people but the packaging is a devilish nod to the extreme geothermal heat continuously burning below our feet, featuring an 11th century painting by a German nun, showcasing the levels of Dante's Inferno. Glass half full The team at Foss Distillery isn't resting on their laurels. Even though the Foss selection is already impressive, their experts are continually developing new products. Their

secret R&D laboratory would bring a tear to the eye of any alcohol nerd out there. Here, experiments have taken place with everything you can imagine. All forms of Icelandic nature: wild thyme, chervil, angelica, lovage, juniper berries - and those are only the ones we’re allowed to mention. Right now, work is underway for a line of Icelandic whey liquors – much needed in Iceland as whey is a little utilized run-off product from the extensive dairy production in the country. Keep an eye out for Foss Distillery in the near future, you might even find their newest concoction on a shelf near you.

Björk Tonic (Cocktail) • 5 cl Björk liqueur • Tonic water to fill up the glass Build up in a double rocks glass filled with ice. Top up with good quality tonic water and garnish with citrus peel. Creator: Ólafur Örn Ólafsson.



The Light of Our Lives Iceland, silly as the name can seem during the summer months, was named 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 the 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: having 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.

Learn Icelandic

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)


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 …)

Goodbye Bless

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 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 |

e c i u j , e f e f o c & much m or e













Skólavörðustígur 7 & 16 and Kringlan, Reykjavík. HOME: Skólavörðustígur 12, Reykjavík. Hafnarstræti, Akureyri and Haukadalur.

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