More Icelanders Seek Help of Financial Advisers Than Before

Finances in Iceland

More people in Iceland seek the help of financial advisors than before, RÚV reports today. The number of couples experiencing financial difficulties is especially increasing. Ásta Sigrún Helgadóttir from the organisation Debtors’ Ombudsman (Umboðsmaður skuldara) blames high-interest rates and inflation for the current difficult financial situations of many residents. 

Inflation fuels difficult financial situations

The Debtors’ Ombudsman is a governmental institution founded in 2010 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It operates under the guidance of the Minister of Social Affairs and focuses on improving and protecting the position of individuals in debt.

Currently, the head of the institution, Ásta Sigrún Helgadóttir, is witnessing an increase in applications for financial advice. In the December report of the Central Bank’s Financial Stability Committee, it was stated that arrears (part of a debt that is overdue) have not increased significantly despite increased inflation, higher interest rates and a heavier debt burden. Currently, inflation in Iceland stands at 6.6%, the lowest rate since February 2022.

More relief for debtors coming in April

Ásta emphasises that a lot of additional financial issues can be hidden from those reports, such as overdrafts and consumer loans. According to the institution, the socio-demographic group of the applicants is also changing. Until last year, the majority of applicants seeking help were individuals, while currently, an increased amount of couples also seek financial advise. This year, the majority of applicants are employed and on the rental market, though the amount of homeowners seeking aid also increased over the years. 

Changes in the Payment Adjustment Act will take effect on April 1. These modifications, which have just been approved by the Icelandic Parliament, will make payment relief for debtors clearer and more efficient. 

The changes include that more people will be able to apply for payment relief through the Debtor’s Ombudsman. Additionally, new rules regarding payment deadlines will be installed, and temporarily lower monthly mortgage payments will be made possible. People with student loans who were initially exempt from the Act are now also covered.

Interesting Museums Around Iceland

Boats in a museum

Iceland is full of interesting museums and galleries that illustrate a fascinating history of how the nation coped with living in such a remote and harsh location. Every small town or village has something to showcase, and taking the time to stroll through a museum gives a vital context to Icelandic culture and society. The largest collection of museums will be found in Reykjavík, but for the really quirky and interesting ones, it’s best to venture out to the countryside. Here are seven museums that will make a road trip around Iceland that much more memorable: 

War and Peace Museum – Hvalfjörður

The occupation of Iceland by British and American militia during World War II shaped Icelandic infrastructure and society in tangible ways that are still apparent to this day. The sudden influx of foreign powers thrust a small, quasi developed fishing nation into the modern era faster than anyone was prepared for. The War and Peace Museum gives a detailed look at the tumultuous years between 1940 and 1945 and also boasts a great little café where visitors can enjoy a light meal. As a bonus it’s located right outside Reykjavík, in Hvalfjörður valley, which is the perfect road trip to take on a time crunch.

Photo: Golli. Hvalfjörður valley where The War and Peace Museum is found

Þuríðarbúð – Stokkseyri

Stokkseyri, a small town on the south coast of Iceland, has a lot to offer, including some of the best kayaking waters and a famous lobster restaurant. But hidden within the town is a true little gem of a museum, a refashioned sailor’s cottage in 18th century style, with stone walls and a grass roof. The cottage is named after Þuríður Einarsdóttir, a rare female sailor who rose up to the position of foreman on her brother’s fishing ship. The cottage gives a great glimpse into the past when similar living quarters lined the shores of Iceland and served as resting places for sailor’s in between their tours at sea.

Eiríksstaðir Living History Museum – Haukadalur Valley

Another replica of fascinating history is the Viking Longhouse of Erik the Red, a fully rebuilt longhouse in the beautiful Haukadalur Valley where Erik the Red lived with his family before heading out to sea toward Greenland to discover new worlds. The longhouse museum is an authentic Icelandic experience seeing as Erik the Red is a figure in at least two of the Icelandic Sagas. The museum takes visitors back to the 10th century where they will get a comprehensive overview of Erik and his family’s remarkable history, but his son, Leifur heppni, or Leif the Lucky, is reported to have been one of the first Western men to discover North America.

Shark Museum – Bjarnarhöfn

For people visiting Iceland, tasting a bite of ammonium fermented shark with a sip of Brennivín is a fun gimmick, but for decades, shark fishing was an important profession for Icelanders. The Shark Museum in Bjarnarhöfn in Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, showcases just that, with the option of a taste to go with the show. The museum not only has an intricate display of the history of the Greenland shark as it relates to Iceland, but it also educates visitors on the biology of this fascinating animal that very little is known about still to this day.

Stykkishólmur - Stykkishólmshöfn - Breiðafjörður - Snæfellsnes
Photo Golli. Stykkishólmur is well worth a visit for a bite of Icelandic shark history

Wilderness Center – Fljótsdalur Valley

In East-Iceland, nestled in the wilderness of Fljótsdalur, close to the town of Egilsstaðir, is a fairly recent addition to Icelandic museums. The Wilderness Center is an interactive experience, meant to showcase life as it was for Icelanders who lived in the wilderness in forgotten times. Visitors are immersed in a past world where everything is made to resemble life on the edge of the world and for those who want to go all in it’s even possible to stay overnight in the Center’s refurbished hotel.

Caves of Hella

In the 18th century, twelve man made caves were discovered close to a farm called Ægissíða, close to Hella, a town on the South Coast of Iceland. The caves remain the oldest archaeological site in Iceland and it is believed that they were made long before Vikings ever set foot on the land. At the Caves of Hella museum, visitors take a tour through four of the caves that have been opened to the public, and get a detailed history of them from one of the descendants of the family who originally lived in Ægissíða farm nearly 200 years ago.

Maritime Exhibit – Neskaupstaður

Neskaupstaður is a small town on the very Eastern tip of Iceland that houses a three in one museum that should not be missed on a visit to the east. The museum is set in a three story house with an art gallery and a natural history museum and on the second floor is a maritime exhibit created by engineer Jósafat Hinriksson. The exhibit showcases artefacts and machinery that were used through the years both in fishing and carpentry in Iceland. It’s an interesting look into the development of tools in these professions and the resourcefulness of Icelandic workers that had limited equipment.

Neskaupstaður
Photo: Golli. Neskaupstaður in East-Iceland

New Eruption Lengthier Than Previous Ones

The latest Reykjanes peninsula eruption has already gone on for longer than the previous three eruptions in this recent spell of volcanic activity in the area. The eruption, which began Saturday, is still being fed by magma pooling under nearby Svartsengi, which is causing crustal uplift in the area, RÚV reports.

Lava may spare road

The fissure between Hagafell and Stóra Skógfell sent lava flowing both west and south and while the flow to the west has stopped, lava still flows to the south, bypassing the town of Grindavík, but heading in the direction of Suðurstrandarvegur.

This raised cause for concern, for several reasons. If it reached Suðurstrandarvegur that would naturally further impede traffic to and from central Reykjanes; the road Grindavíkurvegur, which connects Grindavík to the Reykjanesbraut highway, has already been overrun with lava. However, the lava has not crawled closer to Suðurstrandarvegur road since yesterday, according to local police.

Air pollution decreasing

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution from the eruption has decreased since the beginning of the eruption. Projections show the remaining air pollution spreading to the northeast from the eruption site.

The Suðurnes police commissioner has allowed Grindavík residents and those employed in town to stay there and work, arguing that Grindavík is not under threat from the current lava flow. However, it is recommended that people don’t stay in Grindavík overnight.

The Best Restaurants in Iceland by Region

In recent years, the restaurant scene in Iceland has been booming, and Reykjavík is no longer the only place to find high quality restaurants. With increased interest in Iceland as a travel destination, small towns around the country have seen great opportunities in offering visitors local, delicious food in beautiful settings surrounded by nature.

There’s a great variety in themes and menus in different regions, and exploring Iceland through its food culture is a great way to get to the heart of the island. Something to keep in mind before exploring restaurant options are opening hours since it’s common for places in the countryside to limit their hours to the summer season. 

Reykjavík – Restaurant City

Despite the small size of downtown Reykjavík, the area is absolutely packed with world-renowned restaurants. While eating out in Iceland is definitely not cheap, splurging on a good dining experience is a highlight on a visit in the city. One of the most consistently rated restaurants in Reykjavík is Austur-Indíafjelagið, an atmospheric, Indian restaurant that combines local, quality ingredients with a rich cultural connection to some of the best dishes Indian cuisine has to offer.

Fish Company is another top rated restaurant in Reykjavík with a diverse menu of Icelandic seafood. A third contender that has been rising up the polls in the city is Himalayan Spice, a Nepalese restaurant located in the beautiful harbour area.

Book a table:

Photo: Golli. Reykjavík is a hub of high quality restaurants

West-Iceland

Iceland’s western region is a wondrous area with some of Iceland’s most iconic landscapes, like Kirkjufell mountain that rose to world fame in the Game of Thrones series. Many people make a point to go out west to enjoy the spectacular nature but another draw of the area is the blossoming hotel and restaurant scene. Aside from excellent food experiences, there are many reasons why you should visit the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

For a world-class dining experience there’s Pacific Tavern, the restaurant at Hotel Búðir, a remote lodging set in awe inspiring natural surroundings. Not only is the menu put together with gourmet ingredients, but dinner is served with some of the best views Iceland has to offer. 

Another great food destination on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is Stykkishólmur. This idyllic fishing village has a selection of restaurants that is in no proportion with the population of this small town. Sjávarpakkhúsið is a great destination for high quality neo-nordic seafood dishes. Narfeyjarstofa and Skipper Restaurant are alternative options for a pleasant eating experience.

For popular destinations that are more inland, you have the restaurant at the Krauma hot springs and in Húsafell the restaurant at Hotel Húsafell comes highly recommended.

Reserve a table:

The Westfjords

The Westfjords has a collection of some of the most charming towns Iceland has to offer whose economy largely depends on tourism. As a result, the area has seen an increase in high-quality restaurants that cater to the diverse groups of people traveling through every year. Two prime examples are Stúkuhúsið in Patreksfjörður, a cozy little restaurant with a traditional Icelandic menu and Tjöruhúsið in Ísafjörður, a seafood restaurant that only serves the catch of the day so it guarantees the freshest produce available. In Hólmavík, Café Riis is a great place to stop for classic Icelandic dishes and experience the historic setting. 

 

ísafjörður harbour
Photo: Golli. The charming towns of the Westfjords come with plenty of good restaurant options

North-Iceland

In North-Iceland is the country’s second biggest town, Akureyri, where there’s no shortage of good restaurants. However, for a really special dining experience it’s best to head out to the smaller towns around the area. For example, there’s the Baccalá Bar in Hauganes, only about 25 minutes outside Akureyri. Baccalá Bar serves delicious salted cod in a relaxed environment, which is ideal after a soak in the nearby hot tubs.

For dining experiences in Akureyri, a number come recommended. Rub 23 is the destination for seafood and sushi. For dining with a rooftop view over the seaside, Strikið is the place to go to. Múlaberg bistro & bar offers a fusion of the very best that Scandinavian and French culinary arts have to offer. For the cozy ambient of a family-owned establishment, Eyja restaurant is the locals’ favorite.

For travellers heading to the whalewatching capital of Iceland, Húsavík offers some great food & drink experiences. For the ultimate Old Iceland setting, Gamli Baukur comes highly recommended.

In Hvammstangi, a town known for its closeness to the largest seal colony in Iceland, is a fine dining restaurant called Sjávarborg. It’s located on the second floor of the Seal Center house, right on the oceanfront, and it’s not uncommon to see whales pop up in the water below. Not only are the ingredients on Sjávarborg’s menu locally sourced, but most of the interior of the restaurant was made from materials found right there in town. 

Reserve a table:

East-Iceland

East-Iceland, more than any other area in Iceland, has built up a vibrant food culture due to its abundance of game meats and unique flora. Many restaurants regularly change up their menus depending on the proteins and produce available which makes a trip to the Eastern part that much more fun.

In Eskifjörður, travelers will find Randulf’s Sea House, a refurbished herring fishery house on the harbour that’s been transformed into a beautiful restaurant. The menu changes with the seasons, but the restaurant’s goal is to highlight locally sourced ingredients like reindeer, trout and wild mushrooms. Another great option in the Eastern region is Klausturkaffi in Fljótsdalur valley. Klausturkaffi is part of the Skriðuklaustur monestary museum and offers a lunch and dessert buffet filled with Icelandic delicacies.  

Photo: Golli. Reindeer are an important part of Eastern-Icelandic food culture

South-Iceland

South-Iceland has some of the most scenic places in the country, including Reynisfjara beach, Skógafoss waterfall and the Westman Islands, so it’s no surprise that the area is stacked with high quality restaurants. One of the most popular eateries in recent years is Slippurinn, a restaurant set in an old factory in the Westman Islands, overlooking the magnificent cliffs of the islands. Like many restaurants around the countryside, Slippurinn’s menu changes depending on available produce and they aim to be as sustainable as possible.

Another honorable mention in South-Iceland is Black Crust Pizzeria, a newly opened pizza parlour in Vík í Mýrdal, a small town right on the southern edge. Although pizza isn’t traditional Icelandic food, Black Crust Pizzeria puts an Icelandic twist on their dough with volcanic powder, making the pies resemble the black beaches that line the southern coast. The black crust isn’t just a gimmick but results in a unique and delicious piece of pie.

Vík í Mýrdal
Photo: Golli. Vík í Mýrdal has stunning views that compliment the great dining options in town

          

Deep North Episode 66: Skeletons in the Closet

björn sveinsson

Saturday, May 18, 1946 was a pleasant spring morning in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. The war, with all its horror, had ended a year previously and western Europe was gradually moving toward a civil society based on human rights, justice, and democracy while simultaneously rebuilding and ridding itself of the last vestiges of Nazi occupation. At Vestre Fængsel prison, a 36-year-old Icelandic detainee sat alone in his cell, reading an English novel his younger brother had brought for him. When he had been taken into custody, he had been certain that the arrest order was built on an unfortunate misunderstanding and that he would surely be released once the post-war situation had calmed. A long, boring, and lonely year later he was still awaiting trial, having been indicted on a number of onerous charges. His hope was flagging and none of this boded well for his future.

Many might know the story of how Iceland was affected by the Second World War, but the story of many Icelandic ex-Nazis remains untold. We take a look at the life of Björn Sv. Björnsson – an Icelander and member of the Waffen SS.

Correction: In the discussion after the article, Björn Sv. Björnsson is mistakenly referred to as Sveinn Björn Sveinsson.

Read the story here.

Is it safe to travel to Iceland in March 2024?

Volcanic Eruption in Reykjanes Iceland, 2023

Volcanic eruptions are notoriously hard to predict. Nevertheless, during the seven eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula within the last three years, travel to and from Iceland was never seriously impacted. Based on past evidence, there is little chance that an eruption on Reykjanes will significantly affect travel.

Previous eruptions

Many people remember the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010, which severely disrupted air travel across Europe for several days and are consequently worried that such a disruption could happen again. One important factor for determining whether air travel will be impacted is the production of ash. The Eyjafjalljökull eruption of 2010 was what is known as an explosive eruption. Due to the volcano’s location underneath a glacier, the erupting lava comes into contact with water and produces ash plumes, which disturbed flights for six days. In contrast, the Reykjanes eruptions have all been effusive fissure eruptions, resulting in relatively calm lava flows with minimal ash and gas.

Blue lagoon may be affected

Previous eruptions have likewise not threatened Keflavík International Airport nor Reykjanesbraut, the main highway between the airport and the greater Reykjavík area. Some local tourist activities such as the Blue Lagoon may remain closed for some time, so travellers are advised to stay updated. While the first three eruptions on Reykjanes were described as “tourist-friendly,” the four eruptions since have threatened the community of Grindavík. As such, the authorities have advised the general public to stay away from these eruptions. The town of Grindavík remains evacuated and unnecessary travel near the eruption sites should be avoided.

Useful resources

At the time of writing, the most recent eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula occurred on March 16. It is currently still active, but will not affect the greater capital area.

In addition to staying up to date with our news coverage, travellers may find the following links useful:

The Icelandic Met Office, which provides updates on earthquake and volcano activity.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which provides detailed updates on road conditions all over the country.

Safe Travel, which provides continuously updated information relevant to traveling to and within Iceland.

Isavia, which operates Keflavík International Airport.