How long does it take to walk around Iceland?

Ring Road South Iceland

The first thing we have to say: don’t plan on doing this! Iceland has plenty of beautiful hiking areas, and you should stick to those for your adventure. Many do choose to bike-pack around Iceland, but walking the ring road would be dangerous, with cars blasting past you on narrow mountain passes – not so much fun!

Route 1, the road that runs along Iceland’s coast and connects most major towns, is approximately 1,300 km, or about 800 miles long. Of course, many visitors to Iceland choose to do the ring road in a car. If you’re in a real rush, you could do it in two days (but that wouldn’t be much fun). Realistically, most people doing the ring road will want to spend anywhere from three days up to a week on the trip.

For walkers, assuming an optimistic pace of 20 miles per day (2 miles per hour, over the course of 10 hours. Not easy, but doable on a paved road), you could potentially complete this journey in a bit more than a month.

An interesting side note is the story of one Reynir Pétur Ingvarsson, sometimes referred to as Iceland’s Forrest Gump. In 1985, he walked around the entire island to raise money for Sólheimar eco village. For the record, he completed his walk in 32 days. So, it is possible, but we would not recommend it for your next vacation!

Temporary Licence for Hvalur Whaling Company Extended

whale Iceland hvalur

On Wednesday, the West Iceland Healthcare Committee (i.e. Heilbrigðisnefnd Vesturlands) agreed to renew the temporary operating licence of the whaling company Hvalur until July 12 at the latest. The extension was granted on the basis of the principle of proportionality.

Temporary licence initially granted until May 1, 2023

On June 3 2022, the whaling company Hvalur hf. – the only whaling company still operating in Iceland – applied for a new operating licence from the West Iceland Healthcare Committee (i.e. Heilbrigðisnefnd Vesturlands). At the same time, Hvalur also applied for a temporary extension, which the committee granted until May 1, 2023, while the permanent licence was being processed.

A proposal for Hvalur’s renewed operational licence was advertised on the Healthcare Committee’s website on May 12, 2023, with the deadline for comments expiring on June 9 (those comments are still being reviewed.)

As the permanent licence had not been approved, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Hvalur, asked the West Iceland Healthcare Committee to extend the company’s temporary operating licence, and the application was discussed at meetings on Monday and Wednesday this week.

The meeting minutes note that, according to the law, the committee is permitted to extend the validity period of an operating licence while a new one is being processed for up to one year. Last year, the committee extended Hvalur’s temporary licence until May 1, 2023, or for nine months, as the committee assumed that Hvalur’s application for a new licence had been processed by that time.

“During the processing period, the Health Inspectorate made demands on various improvements relating to the current operating licence, especially as regards pollution prevention. According to the information that the committee has received, Hvalur has worked to remedy these deficiencies, with improvements being either completed or at an advanced stage.”

According to the information the committee had received, Hvalur aimed to conclude these improvements on June 19. The committee has thus decided to extend Hvalur’s temporary operating licence:

“With reference to the proportionality principle of the administrative law, the committee believes that the conditions exist to extend Hvalur’s operating licence temporarily, until the time a new licence has been issued, although never longer than until July 12, 2023, when the statutory maximum extension is reached.”

As reported earlier this week, the Ministry of the Environment plans to dismiss Hvalur’s request for an exemption from an operating licence, as the West Iceland Healthcare Committee already had the licence under consideration. As noted by Vísir, it is clear that if permission is not obtained, the whaling season would be delayed; it usually starts in mid-June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board of Appeal Revokes Permit for Hvammsvirkjun Hydropower Plant

The Environmental and Natural Resources Board of Appeal has revoked the permit of the Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant, RÚV reports. Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s National Power Company, has called the ruling “a surprise.” The Board of Appeal finds that the National Energy Authority (Orkustofnun) has failed to fully comply with the law.

Permit revoked

On Wednesday, the local council of the Rangarþing ytra municipality in South Iceland delayed the issuance of a construction permit for the Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant on the Þjórsá river. The decision was made in order to buy time for the council to consider new information concerning the project’s potential environmental impacts.

The proposed Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant would have an estimated capacity of around 95 MW and would create a lagoon with a surface area of 4 square kilometres [1.5 square miles].

Yesterday, RÚV reported that the Environmental and Natural Resources Board of Appeal had decided to revoke the permit that the National Energy Authority (Orkustofnun) had issued for the Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant. The revocation came a day after the local council of the Skeiða-og Gnúpverjahreppur municipality agreed to issue a construction permit for the hydropower plant.

Landsvirkjun’s application is still valid, although the power company must now decide whether the application will be renewed in light of the ruling. It took the National Energy Authority 19 months to process the application for the hydropower plant permit, which has now been revoked.

Failed to follow the Water Council’s guidelines

As noted by RÚV, the Board of Appeal received a total of nine appeals regarding the issuance of the power plant permit. Landsvirkjun demanded that the legal effects of the contested decision be postponed – but that appeal was rejected. Landsvirkjun had previously announced that preparations for the project would begin in July of this year and that it expected the construction of the power plant itself would start in April next year.

The ruling was published on the website of the Board of Appeal yesterday afternoon. According to RÚV, the Board of Appeal emphasises that the National Energy Authority (Orkustofnun) had not followed the guidelines of the Water Council when preparing to issue a permit to the hydropower plant. The Board of Appeal further noted that the National Energy Authority was tasked with ensuring that issuing of the licence was in accordance with the policy on water protection that was set out in the Icelandic River Basin Management Plan.

The Board of Appeal believes that there was a reason for a much closer examination in light of the scale of the project and the environmental effects it entails. A lack of data or strategic planning cannot absolve the government of its legal obligations in such a decisive way.

Finally, the Board of Appeal finds that it would have been normal for the National Energy Authority to seek formal instructions from the Environmental Agency, which is in charge of administration in the field of water protection.

“Bad news for Icelandic society”

In an announcement from Landsvirkjun, the ruling is described as “a surprise,” as Landsvirkjun maintains that it had followed the National Energy Authority’s guidelines in its application for the permit. Landsvirkjun is now considering what the ruling entails and is awaiting instructions from the National Energy Authority, RÚV reports. This will possibly delay the project, but – as previously noted – preparations for the construction were planned to start in July this year with construction for the power station itself assumed to begin in April of next year.

“This decision may delay construction. This would be bad news for Icelandic society, which is aiming for an energy transition; a lack of renewable energy is likely over the coming years,” the announcement reads.

Energy-intensive industries are largest consumers

As noted by IR yesterday, the Hvammsvirkjun plant would have an estimated capacity of 95 MW. For comparison, Iceland’s largest hydropower plants are the Kárahnjúkar and Búrfell plants, with respective capacities of 690 KW and 270 KW. Both were built to provide power to aluminium smelters. Hellisheiði Power Station is Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant, with a capacity of 303 MW.

Snæbjörn Guðmundsson of the nature conservation organisation Náttúrugrið has expressed concern that the proposed Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant would be used towards Bitcoin mining, a growing industry in Iceland that is energy-intensive but contributes relatively little to the country’s GDP. The National Power Company has stated that it would not build power plants for the express purpose of providing energy to Bitcoin mining companies.

Íslandsbanki: Inflation to Dip Below 8% By Year’s End

íslandsbanki sale iceland reykjavík

Iceland’s three big commercial banks predict inflation to subside over the coming months, RÚV reports. Íslandsbanki predicts that the annual inflation rate will fall below 8% by the end of the year.

Purchasing power decreased

As noted in an article published on the website of Statistics Iceland this week, despite disposable income per capita increasing by 4.7% compared to the first quarter of 2022 – the purchasing power of household disposable income per capita during the first quarter of 2023 decreased by 4.8% compared with last year’s corresponding quarter. This decrease is to be explained by an increased rate of inflation (the consumer price index increased by 10% year-on-year), which affects product prices, lending rates, and loan repayments, among other things.

In response to increased inflation, Iceland’s Central Bank has consistently raised key interest rates. In late May, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Iceland raised the policy rate by 1.25%. This was the thirteenth rate hike in a row, with the bank’s main interest rate currently sitting at 8.75%. These actions have inspired criticism from union leaders, for inflation has outpaced the benefits negotiated during the most recent round of collective agreements.

Inflation to subside

As noted by RÚV, the commercial banks are now predicting that inflation will begin to subside in the coming months. Íslandsbanki predicts that it will be below 8% by the end of the year, RÚV reports.

Jón Bjarki Bentsson, Íslandsbanki’s chief economist, told RÚV yesterday that he was optimistic: “Our forecasts indicate that inflation will drop below 9% in June. And by the end of the year, it will be below 8%. It will probably be somewhere between 7.5-8%. If this turns out to be true, we assume that the actions of the Central Bank will have reached its final phases.”

Lower inflation vital to collective bargaining

Inflation within the economies of Iceland’s main trading partners has also decreased, and Jón Bjarki told RÚV that so-called imported inflation was subsiding: “We see the prices of various commodities, wheat, timber – various things like that – energy: which have fallen again after last year’s price spike.”

Another round of collective bargaining will begin this winter. The president of ASÍ has stated that it was necessary to increase purchasing power against the effects of inflation. Jón Bjarki told RÚV that lower inflation would help when it came to collective agreements and that it was important for the parties in the labour market to look to the future.

Deep North Episode 30: Sparsity Blues

einherjar football iceland

It’s Saturday night – and it’s feckin’ freezing.

Seven below.

Even inside the Egilshöll stadium, my fingers feel like popsicles. Taking notes means pitting the will against whatever half-responsive nerve cells are relaying messages from my benumbed digits.

Inside the locker room, Sigurður Jefferson is screaming his testicles off.

But not because of the cold.

“We’re the only fucking football team in Iceland!” he yells. “We’re fucking Vikings!”

It’s not the most original of sentiments – but it gets his teammates going.

And they really need to get going.

It’s halftime, and the Einherjar – literally army of one, referring to the warriors in Norse mythology who met their death on the battlefield and then caught a Valkyrie-driven Uber to Valhalla – are 20 points down.

34-14.

They’re losing to a ragtag bunch of Romanians called the Bucharest Rebels.

Everything’s going goddamn terrible.

Read the full story here.

Helicopter, Drones Searched for 9-Year-Old Boy – Later Found Sound Asleep in Friend’s Bed

TF-GRÓ Icelandic Coast Guard Helicopter

An extensive search was carried out on the night before Thursday for a nine-year-old boy who was believed to have gone missing from a summer camp in Vatnaskógur, West Iceland. A search-and-rescue team was dispatched alongside the Coast Guard’s helicopter. The boy was later discovered to be asleep in a friend’s bed, RÚV reports.

“An unbelievable series of events”

“I can’t describe how relieved I was. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy,” Þráinn Haraldsson, Director of the YMCA/YWCA summer camps in Vatnaskógur, West Iceland, told RÚV yesterday.

Prior to the interview, Þráinn had sent an email, in which he described something of an unbelievable series of events, to the parents of the campers. The letter recounted how the boys at the camp had retired to bed at about 11 PM on Wednesday night. When the camp counsellors made their rounds at 1 AM, however – they noticed that one of the beds was empty.

The counsellors immediately began searching for the missing boy: all rooms were entered, heads were counted, and the surrounding area was combed. To no avail.

Þráinn told RÚV that there was nothing else to do in the situation but to notify the parents and phone the police. The police then requested the aid of ICE-SAR (The Icelandic Association for Search, Rescue, Injury Prevention), which arrived with sniffer dogs and a thermal drone. The Coast Guard’s helicopter was also dispatched.

May have sleepwalked

As noted by Þráinn, the helicopter had been hovering over the area for all of about ten minutes – when the boy was found, sleeping soundly in his friend’s bed. “All things suggest that he had walked in his sleep. We monitor the cabins at night, but we don’t see everything that happens. It seems that he went into another room and wound up in another boy’s bed. He was hidden under the covers, so we couldn’t see him,” Þráinn told RÚV.

Þráinn maintains that the summer camp’s staff, the police, and rescue workers had searched the cabin four times without finding the boy. He was found on the fifth attempt. “He was really sorry about the whole situation, but he is here with us now and plans to finish the summer camp,” Þráinn observed. He expects to one day appreciate the humour of the situation, although not until he has fully recovered from the shock.

The email to the campers’ parents states that most of the boys had slept through the hullabaloo. A team of experienced workers arrived in Vatnaskógur yesterday morning to give those who were on duty last night a little rest. “The YWCA and the YWCA and the Vatnaskógar staff would like to express their sincere thanks to the police, the rescue team, the boy’s parents, and all those who helped us out on Thursday morning,” the email concludes by saying.