Svandís Svavarsdóttir Pushes for Stricter Scooter Regulations

Former Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir

The Minister of Infrastructure has introduced a bill to parliament to regulate small vehicles such as electric scooters. The legislation addresses safety concerns, as drunk driving and accidents have become common with their increasing popularity.

A speed limit of 25 km per hour

Svandís Svavarsdóttir, the newly appointed Minister of Infrastructure, presented a bill in the Parliament yesterday proposing amendments to the traffic laws specifically addressing small vehicles such as electric scooters, RÚV reports.

The proposal suggests the introduction of a new vehicle category for small vehicles within traffic legislation. It stipulates that these vehicles should not be designed to travel faster than 25 kilometres per hour and that any vehicle exceeding these limits would not be permitted in traffic.

Drunk driving, accidents common

As noted by RÚV, with the growing popularity of electric scooters – especially short-term rentals, such as Hopp and Zolo – there has been significant discussion about the challenges associated with these vehicles, such as drunk driving and accidents. The bill proposes that it should be a punishable offence to operate such a vehicle if the alcohol concentration in the blood exceeds 0.5 promille or if the breath alcohol content exceeds 0.25 milligrams per litre.

If the bill is passed, children under the age of thirteen will not be permitted to ride small vehicles and those under sixteen will be required to wear helmets.

Modification of speed settings prohibited

There have been instances of modifications to the built-in speed settings of electric scooters and electric bikes. Such alterations allow riders to exceed the maximum speed indicated by the vehicles. The bill proposes a ban on modifying these settings on motor-powered small vehicles, lightweight motorcycles, and electric bikes.

The bill also proposes that small vehicles be allowed to operate in general traffic on roads where the speed limit does not exceed 30 kilometres per hour.

The proposal does not suggest that operating small vehicles under the influence of alcohol should result in the revocation of a driving licence, RÚV notes.

A Guide to Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park in Iceland

One of the most extraordinary places in Iceland is Þingvellir National Park. Located within the Golden Circle route, Þingvellir park offers a unique geological and historical experience unlike any other. As the site of Europe’s first parliament, established in 930, Þingvellir played an important role in Iceland’s cultural heritage. Additionally its a place of very unique geological features as you can walk through a rift valley between two continents. In this Þingvellir guide, you will find information that will help you make the most of your visit to this historic Icelandic landmark. 

How to get to Þingvellir

The national park is located approximately 40 km [131 mi] northeast of Reykjavík city and is easily accessible by car via Route 36 and is usually either the first or last stop of the Golden Circle tour. Þingvellir is easily accessible by car and the journey will take about 1 hour, depending on traffic conditions.

Exploring Þingvellir area

When you visit Þingvellir National Park the first thing to keep in mind is to take your time. The area has so much to see and given its rich history there is a lot to learn and explore. Here are some of the highlights:

Þingvellir´s Visitor Centre

At the visitor centre you can learn about the history and significance of Þingvellir through exhibits and displays. This way you have introduced yourself to the captivating history of the sights you are about to see. 

Lögberg (Law Rock)

Is one of the ancient assembly sites in the park. This is where the lawspeaker read the law of the land during the annual assembly of Alþingi parliament. The laws were proclaimed and settled and anyone attending could make their argument there. The exact location of Lögberg is unknown due to the changing geography of the area but two possible locations have been identified, one of which is marked with a flag pole.

Almannagjá gorge

This is one of Iceland’s most magnificent geological wonders. The rift valley known as Almannagjá is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are slowly pulling apart. You are able to walk between the two tectonic plates through the gorge and admire the rugged cliffs and landscapes shaped by millennia of tectonic activity. Be sure to look up and try to see the troll-faces engraved in the cliffs.

Silfra fissure

While on the topic of two tectonic plates it is worth mentioning Silfra fissure. This fissure lies at the rim of Þingvallavatn Lake and is very large and deep. Here you can have a very unique experience of diving or snorkeling between two continents in the clear blue, glacial waters of Silfra. 

Öxarárfoss waterfall

This waterfall is just as beautiful in the summer as in the winter. During the cold months the waterfall can freeze which makes for an extremely unique and beautiful sight. The waterfall is located near the parking lot of Þingvellir National Park and falls around 12 metres [39 ft] from a beautiful, square lava cliff. 

Drekkingarhylur pool

This pool of water, originating from Öxará river, is one of the places in Þingvellir with the darkest history. The name of the pool literally translates to The Drowning Pool, and that is exactly what it was. Here women were drowned as punishment for either having a child out of wedlock or when committing the crime of incest. Records show that 18 women were drowned in the pool, with the last one being executed in 1739. 

Þingvallakirkja church

The Þingvallakirkja church within the national park was built in 1859 but according to the Icelandic saga´s a church has been standing there since 1017. The church is closed to the public unless staff is present but it is possible to look through the windows or participate in free guided tours with one of the rangers, usually starting around 10 AM. 

Practical tips when visiting Þingvellir National Park

  1. How much time do you need at Þingvellir
    Make sure to have enough time as it is quite easy to spend up to two hours exploring the area. The National Park is big and there is a lot to see and read about. Enjoy the walk and learn as much as you can about this remarkable, historical site.
  2. Safety first
    Always respect warning signs and closed off areas while walking through the park. Designated walking paths are always available and restricted area´s are marked off with ropes or signs. Þingvellir is a natural reserve and both flora and fauna get to stay in peace.
  3. Accessibility
    Even though Þingvellir National Park is easily accessible by car, exploring the area has to happen on foot. Therefore it is advisable to wear good and comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately.
  4. Picnic areas
    Pack a picnic, especially during the summer months. There are designated picnic areas and benches available throughout the park and it can be a great opportunity to have a little refreshment amongst the magnificent views of the valley.

A visit to Þingvellir National Park should be on the travel itinerary for every person visiting Iceland. Its rich history and natural beauty are unparalleled and it’s the perfect place to walk through some of Iceland’s most important historic sites with your own two feet. Whether you are tracing the footsteps of the Vikings or awestruck by the geological wonders, experiencing Þingvellir will leave you with a deep appreciation for Iceland’s cultural and natural heritage. 

 

A Guide to Gullfoss: Iceland’s Most Iconic Waterfall

Gullfoss Iceland, Golden Circle

One of the most popular tours in Iceland is the Golden Circle with attractions like Þingvellir National park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. 

Gullfoss is a breathtaking waterfall cascading in two tiers down a big canyon. Its thunderous roar and the picturesque scenery is sure to leave you captivated by the power of nature. In this guide we will provide you with all the essential information so you can make the most of your visit to this iconic landmark. 

How to get to Gullfoss waterfall

Located approximately 120 km [74,5 mi] from Reykjavík city, Gullfoss waterfall is easily accessible by car through the scenic Ring Road (route 1) or via Route 35. It takes around 1,5 to 2 hours to drive from the city centre. If you prefer not to drive there are plenty of guided tours departing from Reykjavík city that offer transportation as well as all the benefits of having an experienced guide. 

The most popular way of visiting Gullfoss is taking the Golden Circle route, combining it with a visit to Geysir geothermal area and Þingvellir National Park

Exploring Gullfoss

When you arrive at Gullfoss waterfall you are greeted by the thundering sound of this powerful natural wonder. The walk from the parking lot to the waterfall lookout point takes about 5 minutes and from there you can walk up to the upper fall.

Gullfoss Visitor Centre
Upon your arrival it might be fun to start at the visitor centre. There you can read about the history of Gullfoss waterfall, learn about the geology and significance of the waterfall as well as getting familiar with the waterfall´s formation and cultural importance.

The upper and lower falls
Gullfoss waterfall is a two tiered waterfall; the upper falls, which drops 11 metres [36 ft], and the lower falls which plunge 21 metres [68 ft] into the impressive canyon below. You can take in the picturesque view from various vantage points along the walking paths, each offering a unique perspective. 

Hiking trails
If you have enough time and are seeking a closer encounter with the waterfall´s power, several hiking trails lead down to viewpoints near the edge of the canyon. If you decide to embark on this little adventure make sure you follow the designated paths and exercise great caution as it can be slippery and unstable. 

Photo by Golli

Practical Tips for visiting Gullfoss waterfalls

  1. Can anyone visit Gullfoss waterfall?
    Gullfoss waterfall is accessible for almost anyone. Even though some might not be able to hike up to the waterfall, the viewpoints close by the parking lot offer a great view of this majestic natural wonder.
  2. Where to park
    When arriving by car to Gullfoss waterfall you have a few different parking options that are free. You can either turn to the lower parking lot or continue on Route 35 to the upper parking lot. At the upper lot you will find some facilities, including bathrooms, a café and a souvenir shop.
  3. How to dress when visiting Gullfoss waterfalls
    Bring your waterproof jacket with you and wear sturdy footwear. The weather can be a bit chilly and the misty spray might get you a little bit wet, depending on how close you get. Keep an eye out for the stunning rainbows that often form over the canyon and be ready to snap an amazing photo as your souvenir!
  4. Best time to visit Gullfoss waterfalls
    If you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting early in the morning. A great travel tip for the summer months is to visit the more popular attractions at night. The endless, bright summer nights make for a beautiful, golden hour experience – with less crowds.
  5. Safety first
    Always respect the environment and adhere to any safety warnings and guidelines. Often the only warning are signs or small ropes indicating where not to go – so be vigilant and stay informed. 

Without a doubt a visit to Gullfoss waterfall is worth your while. Even though it might be one of the most photographed and talked about attractions in Iceland it is with good reason. The experience of the thundering waterfall falling into the canyon below will leave you in awe of nature’s power. 

 

A Guide to Geysir: Iceland’s Most Famous Natural Phenomenon

The active geothermal area of Haukadalur valley is located in the southwest of Iceland and is one of the stops along the Golden Circle route. In this area you will find Geysir hot spring, a captivating natural wonder that draws visitors from all over the world. Even though Geysir is the name everyone associates with this natural wonder, it is actually Strokkur who does all the hard work and shows off spectacular eruptions of boiling water into the air. 

In this guide we will provide you with all the essential information needed to make the most of your visit to Iceland’s most famous geothermal sites. 


How to get to Geysir geothermal area

As mentioned above, Geysir is situated on the Golden Circle route, around 116 km [72 mi] from Reykjavík city. The journey takes roughly 1,5 hours from the city and is easily accessible with a private car. Alternatively there are enough guided tour options for those who just want to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. 

Exploring the area

Upon arrival you might already get a sneaky preview of the erupting hot spring while parking on the other side of the road. The landscape surrounding the many hot springs in the area is dominated by steam, bubbling mud pots and the iconic geysers.

Strokkur Geyser

The star of the show is Strokkur geyser with its powerful eruptions shooting boiling water up to 30 metres [98 ft] into the air. Strokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes so there are plenty of opportunities to watch, be in awe and get that one perfect picture to show everyone at home.

Geysir

The geothermal area is named after the famous Geysir, an old hot spring that has been dormant for decades. The surrounding area is very beautiful and even though only one of the geysers actively erupts, many bubbling ones are to be seen when strolling around the area. Additionally you can see fumaroles and marvel at the clayish brown surroundings merging with the surrounding greenery. Always stay on the designated paths as the ground can be unstable due to the geothermal activity beneath. 


Geysir Visitor Centre

Either before or after walking around the area and seeing Strokkur erupt once, twice or ten times, it can be a fun experience to visit the local visitor centre to learn more about the geology, history and significance of this natural phenomenon. 

Geysir Golden Circle in Iceland
Geysir area – photo by Golli

 

Practical tips and fun facts about the Geysir area

  1. How to dress when visiting Geysir
    Dress according to the weather and wear good shoes. The paths can get a little muddy.

  2. Safety first
    Always stay on designated paths and adhere to all signs and safety instructions. Even though only one of the hot springs is active the whole area is still an active geothermal area and the non-active geysers are still boiling hot.

  3. Why do geysers erupt?
    The reason why geysers erupt is water being heated by bubbling magma underneath earth’s surface. When the water reaches a certain pressure it is forced towards the surface where it erupts with magnificent results. 

  4. When did Geysir first erupt?
    The first mentioned eruption of Geysir hot spring dates back to 1647. The famous geyser was very active back then, shooting water up to 80 metres [262 ft] into the air. In the early 1900s the activity started to decline and it eventually became dormant. After a row of very big earthquakes in the year 2000, Geysir awoke and became active once more. However its last eruption was in 2016 and it has been dormant ever since.

  5. Where does the word geyser come from?
    The English word
    geyser is adapted from Geysir´s name and is now an internationally known word for spouting hot water springs. This is however not the Icelandic word for the phenomenon. In Iceland Geysir is, and always will be, the name of one of the geysers but the word used for this natural wonder is hver [ˈvɛːˀr].

 

 

Even though the Geysir area is probably one of the most hyped up attractions in Iceland it is a remarkable experience for everyone to witness the power of nature in this  explosive way. The geothermal activity is one of Iceland’s most unique attributes and where better to experience it than in the Geysir area? The trip is an easily accessible day-trip from Reykjavík city and well worth your while to witness Iceland’s most iconic natural phenomenon first hand. 

 

5 x Music Festivals in Reykjavík Worth Attenting

While Iceland´s breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders often are the reason people visit, the capital city of Reykjavík is a dynamic hub with vibrant cultural and artsy energy. Iceland´s music industry is one of the main cultural scenes, with numerous artists having achieved international acclaim, like Björk, Laufey, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós and more.

With the music scene in Iceland undeniably flourishing, Reykjavík city hosts over a dozen music festivals annually with even more festivals taking place around the country. These festivals are a great place for both established and emerging artists, whether local or international, to showcase their art to enthusiastic audiences.

Here are 5 music festivals in Reykjavík city worth attending. 

 

1. Iceland Airwaves

This festival is without a doubt one of the most iconic festivals in Reykjavík. Iceland Airwaves was established in 1999 as a one-time event in an aeroplane hangar. Since then it has evolved into one of Iceland’s biggest and most established festivals. Held in November each year, Iceland Airwaves transforms the whole city into a musical haven with its immersive, multi-genre music festival. The performances spread across various venues, from intimate bars and stores to grand concert halls and showcases a range of unheard-of-up-and-comers to local rising stars and established (international) talent. 

 

2. Innipúkinn

In Iceland, the first Monday of August is celebrated as a national holiday known as the ´tradesman’s holiday´. The weekend before is the Verslunarmannahelgi weekend, which has become the biggest festival and travel weekend in Iceland, marked by numerous festivities across the country and leaving Reykjavík almost empty for an entire weekend. 

To inject some energy into the city during this bustling travel period, Innipúkinn festival was established in 2001. Translating to ´someone who prefers being inside´, Innipúkinn is an alternative celebration for those who opt to stay within the city confines rather than venture to outdoor concerts and camping sites.

This three-day music festival features performances by various musicians at venues scattered throughout the city. Single-night tickets are available, and attendees may even have the chance to snag a ticket at the door.

 

3. Secret Solstice festival

Embracing the spirit of the iconic lyrics of Led Zeppelin, “From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow….,” the Secret Solstice festival is perfect for those seeking a more distinctive experience. Held during the summer solstice, the Secret Solstice festival makes use of Iceland’s long and bright summer nights with performances under the beautiful glow of the midnight sun. 

The festival was established to create unique music experiences and to push boundaries. Whether they ́re hosting a rave in a glacier or orchestrating performances in 5000 year old lava tunnels, the organisers are dedicated to offer memorable and unconventional experiences to their attendees. Their main goal is to combine music with outdoor adventure as well as having stage events in the city. 

It’s truly an immersive experience that celebrates both the music and natural wonders of Iceland.

 

4. Reykjavík Jazz festival

Established in 1990, the Reykjavík Jazz Festival stands as one of Iceland’s oldest and most enduring music festivals. Held annually at the end of August, this event has garnered increasing prestige within the international jazz community.

For jazz-fans, the festival presents an unmissable opportunity to dive into a world of musical diversity, featuring performances from both Icelandic and international artists. From contemporary and avant-garde expressions to the rhythm of Latin jazz and the grandeur of big bands, the Reykjavík Jazz Festival offers a rich tapestry of genres to explore.

5. Músíktilraunir – The Icelandic Music Experiments

Músíktilraunir or The Icelandic Music Experiments, is an established musical event that was first held in 1982. It stands out as a unique event within Iceland´s music industry as it provides an invaluable opportunity for young, aspiring musicians. While its not a traditional music festival, music-lovers are sure to discover upcoming talents and enjoy great music. 

The festival takes place in Reykjavík city, usually at the beginning of the year. Over the course of five days, close to 50 musical acts compete to take one of the ten available places in the finals. Músíktilraunir serves as a crucial stepping stone, offering a platform for 13-25 year old musicians to showcase their skills and gain both national and international recognition. 

Notable past winners include Of Monsters and Men, Samaris, Mínus and Mammút, all of whom have since cemented their place within the music industry, both in Iceland and abroad. 

So if you are a music lover seeking fresh sounds and travelling to Iceland, Músíktilraunir might just be the festival for you. 

 

Where to Stay in North Iceland

With dramatic landscapes, lush farmlands, and charming villages, North Iceland has much to offer travellers. It’s fantastic for outdoor activities, culinary experiences, and cultural exploration and in terms of lodgings, it’s most definitely not lacking. But with a myriad of enticing options, finding a place to stay in North Iceland can be a challenging quest. But don’t worry – whether you’re after the cottagecore vibe or a city stay, family-friendly, luxury or budget, we’ve got you covered. 

In Akureyri

Staying in Akureyri is a great option for those who want a city break or are going skiing in Hlíðarfjall mountain. Due to how easy it is to get there without a car, it’s also excellent for those who want to explore the North without having to drive. You can simply take the bus or go by plane, and book North Iceland day-trips that leave from Akureyri. Northern lights, geothermal baths, whale watching and major attractions are all on the table. You can even book a tour tailor-made for you!

For a classic city stay, Hótel Akureyri ($$ – $$$) has three fabulous central locations in town. First, there’s Dynheimar, housed in what used to be Iceland’s firts movie theatre. It’s a quaint hotel on Akureyri’s main street, perfect for those who want something modern and eclectic. For a more classic and sophisticated design, go for Skjaldborg (use Hótel Akureyri when searching). The house was built in 1924 by the sobrietry social group Good Templars and later transformed into a printing factory. Lastly, there’s Akurinn Residence, a stately villa with the same classic design as Skjaldborg that can house up to 17 people. 

Ideal for skiers, Hótel Hálönd ($$) is situated at the base of Hlíðarfjall mountain, only a five-minute drive – or a 40-minute walk if you want a warm-up – from Akureyri’s skiing area. You’ll have access to a hot tub after your adventures on the slopes and a chic, modern room to rest up in. There’s no restaurant at the hotel, but the city centre is only an eight-minute drive away.

People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.
Photo: Golli. People skiing on a sunny day in Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.

On a budget

It must be said that finding cheap accommodation in Iceland is not an easy task. With a high cost of living, hotels and guesthouses tend to be on the more expensive side. On the bright side, the standard of accommodations in Iceland is relatively high, so in most cases, you’ll be getting your money’s worth. Even so, some lodgings have a below-average price tag whilst also keeping up the good ratings. 

Guesthouse Svínavatn ($) by Svínavatn lake is a small and friendly shoreside accommodation offering rooms with shared or private bathrooms. The lake is popular for fishing, an activity guests can enjoy free of charge. The guesthouse is also conveniently located within an hour’s drive from popular attractions such as Kolufossar waterfalls in Kolugljúfur, Kattarauga pond, and the historic Glaumbær turf house.

A 15-minute ferry ride or a short flight away from the mainland, you’ll find Syðstibær Guesthouse ($) on Hrísey Island, also known as the Pearl of Eyjafjörður. It has a retro vibe and a fantastic location, which allows you to experience the island life. You can take a stroll around the island on four different trails or book a sightseeing tour by tractor. Hrísey also has a bring-you-own-discs disc golf course, a sport that has taken Iceland by storm in the past few years, a small swimming pool and a museum (open by appointment; email [email protected] for inquiries).

The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.
Photo: Páll Stefánsson. The Hrísey lighthouse during summer.

Salt Guesthouse ($) in Siglufjörður is simple, comfy, central, and has historical roots. The house was built as a hotel during the boom of the herring era, and the name ‘Salt’ pays tribute to that history. It’s within five minutes’ walk from the bakery, grocery shop, pharmacy, information centre, and several bars and restaurants. Guests on Booking have noted that the guesthouse is not clearly marked on the outside. Look for a flag hanging above the entrance and the marking ‘Hvanneyri 1935’. This is the name of the house and the year it was built.

Right in the centre of Akureyri, there’s Hafnarstræti Hostel ($-$$), which offers a unique, spaceship-like capsule experience, and Akureyri Backpackers ($), a more typical hostel with a slightly cheaper nightly rate and a sauna. These are great if you want a budget accomodation in the town centre, or if you just really enjoy the more social hostel life. 

For families and groups

With tons of family-friendly adventures, North Iceland is a fantastic place to bring your family! From horseback riding and nature exploring to interesting museums and swimming pools, there’s a lot to discover. Finding suitable lodgings for the whole family might be the hardest part, but following are some that accommodate up to seven people and have nearby activities for kids. These are also ideal for groups that don’t want to split themselves up in hotel rooms. 

Brimnes Bungalows ($-$$$), located by Lake Ólafsfjörður, are classic family cottages that sleep up to seven people. They are fully equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, as well as a hot tub on the veranda. Guests also have access to boats to row on the lake, a great activity for the whole family. Ólafsfjörður Swimming Pool, which has a waterslide, is only a six-minute walk away. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Stóra-Ásgeirsá Horse Farm Stay ($-$$$) offers guests a true Icelandic farm experience. As Brimnes, it accommodates up to seven people, making it perfect for family vacations. The kids can run around the fields, interact with the friendly farm animals, and even take part in farm chores. It’s also possible to book horseback riding, an activity that most children love. At Mjólkurhúsið pub, you can buy drinks and traditional Icelandic meat soup, a hearty dish that will fuel you up after a long day. The price per person for this accommodation depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the rooms.

Hotel Kjarnalundur ($) in Kjarnaskógur forest, one of the relatively few in Iceland, offers accommodation for up to six and is located in an area that is immensely popular with families. It stretches across 800 hectares of land and is filled with fun trails, playgrounds, volleyball courts, covered grill areas, sledge slopes (during winter), and more. You might even spot some rabbits hopping around. It’s a superb area for family adventures and picnics.

Cottagecore

If hotel rooms and apartments are not your vibe, and you want something a bit more country, perhaps the numerous cottages available in North Iceland sound more attractive.

For nature lovers, Hestasport Cottages ($-$$$) in Varmahlíð, surrounded by fields of grass and mountainscapes, perfectly capture the countryside feeling. They offer a serene atmosphere and an excellent opportunity to experience both the magnificent winter sky and bright summer nights. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

There is also Vegamót Cottages ($-$$) in Dalvík, which has an old-fashioned village feel to it. You can choose between a small cottage with a private toilet (no shower) and kitchenette or a slightly bigger cottage with a private bathroom, full kitchen and living room. It does have a three-night minimum stay, but if you’re not in a hurry, it’s a good base location for day trips to Siglufjörður, Akureyri, Grímsey, Húsavík, and more. The price per person depends on the number of guests, as there is a flat rate for the cottages.

Romantic and luxurious

There’s also plenty to pick from on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re on the hunt for romance or luxury, North Iceland will certainly not disappoint you. Whether it’s to get the ultimate relaxation, celebrate an anniversary, pop the question, or just to treat yourself, you won’t have any trouble finding the right accommodation. 

Brimslóð Atelier ($$) is situated in the oldest part of Blönduós village. A small, farmhouse-style hotel right by the sea, it’s well suited for a couple’s getaway. Breakfast is included, and those interested in a Nordic culinary experience can dine at the in-house restaurant, which serves “Icelandic heritage food with a modern twist” from locally sourced and natural ingredients. They also offer a cooking workshop where participants learn about Nordic nature and cuisine.

For something striking a balance between nature and city, try Sigló Hótel ($$$), an outstanding hotel located by Siglufjörður’s harbour. Its classy, romantic design, paired with the marina hot tub and sauna, is perfect for a romantic stay or relaxing after a tiring day. A continental breakfast is included in the price. The hotel also runs three restaurants, offering guests dinner and lunch options ranging from fine dining to burgers and pizza. 

Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.
Photo: Golli. Three people enjoying the view of a snow-covered Siglufjörður from the marina hot tub at Sigló Hotel.

For those wanting the best of the best, Deplar Farm ($$$$$) is a remote hideout that offers a highly luxurious experience of the Icelandic wilderness. Surrounded by mountains, fields, and rivers, with nothing else in sight for miles, it’s ideal for recharging. It has a Nordic and minimalist style and offers a range of activities, both in summer and winter. With nightly rates starting at around ISK 600.000 [$ 4.500, €4.100] and a minimum stay of three nights, it is one of the most – if not the most – expensive hotels you can book in Iceland. However, it’s also one of the most exquisite, making the 2023 Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List as one of the “Best Hotels in the World”. 

One with nature

If you’re going to North Iceland to breathe in the exquisite nature, you can enhance your experience by choosing the right place to stay. Although a great deal of the available accommodations in North Iceland are, in fact, surrounded by nature , there are several that really stand out from the crowd in regards to location or design.

Fosshótel at Lake Mývatn ($$$), designed with nature in mind and in perfect harmony with its surroundings, is an excellent choice for those wanting to immerse themselves in Iceland’s beautiful landscapes. Sitting in the magnificent lava fields of Mývatn and facing the lake, the enormous dining hall windows offer an unobstructed view of nature. The hotel has a first-class continental breakfast and an in-house restaurant perfect for those wanting to try the famous Icelandic lamb or fish

Sky sighting Iglúhús ($$) takes the closeness to nature one step further. With cosy and rustic, dome-style cabins that have windows across the roof, you’ll have an unrestricted view of the night sky while you lie in bed. This is a unique way to experience the midnight sun of summer and the northern lights of winter. Located in Árskógarsandur, it’s in the same area as The Beer Spa, quite literally offering their guests to bathe in beer whilst also drinking beer. A cheaper alternative is Hauganes beach baths, where you can refresh yourself with some sea swimming and relax in the ocean-view tubs. If you’re easily disturbed by light while you sleep, this is a place you should visit in fall, winter, or early spring while the sun isn’t up half the night. Note that there are no showers at the accommodation.

Iceland Yurt ($$ – $$$) takes camping to the next level, offering guests a traditional Mongolian wool-insulated and wood-fired yurt. Wake up to the birds singing or the sound of raindrops on the tent and connect with nature in a new way. Five minutes from camp is the Gaia god/dess temple, where you can book conscious movement and dance sessions, as well as deep relaxation. The tents accommodate up to five people, and included in the price is a yummy breakfast stored in cute little cooler boxes.

Camping and campervans

Should you be travelling in a camper van or with a tent, you need to find an established campsite ($) or get a landowner’s written permission to camp on their property. You should be able to locate a campsite easily, as plenty of them are around, but here are some of our favourites. 

People setting up camp.
Photo: Golli/Morgunblaðið. People setting up camp.

Hamrar in Kjarnaskógur, the same one mentioned above, is one of the most family-friendly campsites in Iceland. The campsite, situated in a woodland area just outside the city, is large and offers amenities such as picnic tables, playgrounds, volleyball courts, a bring-you-own-discs disc golf court, mountain bike trails, and covered barbecue facilities. There are also 12 km [7.5 miles] of gravel tracks to walk on, as well as ungravelled trails and tracks.

Ásbyrgi, located in one of Iceland’s national parks, is a curiously shaped glacier valley and a popular attraction. It has strong ties to Old Norse Mythology, which states that the horseshoe-shaped canyon was formed by Sleipnir, Óðin‘s eight-legged horse. The campsite is an ideal base for nature exploring, as there are several trails of various lengths in the area, which will lead you to a handful of natural attractions. If you have the time, you can even plan a multi-day hiking adventure. On the campsite, you’ll have access to electricity, a washing machine and dryer, toilets, showers, and a playground.

Situated in a small forest, Hólar in Hjaltadal has plenty of quiet and secluded corners and beautiful meadows, described by a Google reviewer as “one of the best campsites”. If you want a true old-school camping experience, this might be the place for you. At the Hólar campsite, there is no electricity, bad internet connection, and limited amenities, all of which are part of the attraction for those wanting a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are bathrooms and sinks with (mostly) cold water but no showers. 

Mánárbakki is the ideal place for a romantic camping experience. Situated on the Tjörnes peninsula, right by the sea, you’ll have an amazing view of the sunset right from your tent. The campsite, which offers washing and cooking facilities, toilets, showers, and electricity, has an exceptionally good rating of 4.8, based on 791 reviews.

Although it is possible to book some campsites in advance, you generally don’t need to. Most campsites are open from sometime in May into September, but this is different for each place, so be sure to look into that beforehand. If you need help finding a campsite or general information about them, Tjalda.is has a list and map of all campsites in Iceland. 

 

Online Petition Against New PM Sparks Public Debate

bjarni benediktsson finance minister

Approximately 37,000 people have signed a petition indicating their lack of support for Iceland’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Bjarni Benediktsson. This petition, which ranks as the eighteenth most signed in the nation’s history according to RÚV, appears to have sparked significant public debate.

Eighteenth most signed petition in Iceland’s history

Over 37,000 people have signed a petition to the effect that Bjarni Benediktsson does not enjoy their support as Prime Minister, a position he recently assumed. As noted in the latest episode of the Iceland New Review podcast, published today, the petition is not a legally binding referendum but an exercise in democratic participation. The growth of signatures has slowed but saw a significant increase yesterday following media coverage.

In a response to the petition on Wednesday, Bjarni Benediktsson observed that Icelanders were free to protest and sign petitions: “It must be considered a part of the normal functioning of democracy in Iceland that not everyone holds the same opinion. Even if a few thousand people sign a petition, or even ten times more vote for another party, that’s just how it is,” Bjarni remarked. He also pointed out that the Independence Party had received the most votes in the last election and that he had entered parliament with the highest number of votes of any MP.

RÚV maintains that this petition ranks eighteenth in terms of the most signed in Iceland’s history. The record is held by a 2016 petition demanding 11% of GDP for healthcare, signed by 87,000 Icelanders. Subsequent notable petitions include a 2008 protest against the UK’s use of anti-terrorism laws against Iceland and a 2013 campaign against relocating Reykjavik Airport, garnering 83,353 and 69,637 signatures respectively.

The petition against the Prime Minister will remain active until April 23.

Critical of the petition

Former Minister Björn Bjarnason – a relation to Bjarni Benediktsson – recently criticised the fact that the website Island.is had been transformed into an official messaging channel for anonymous individuals who “seek to undermine constitutional elections and democratic rules.”

“Media outlets blindly compete to report how diligent people are in signing the petition. If one visits the website, a large number of those signing the petition, which is reported on by the media, appear to be anonymous, as if it were a secret ballot,” Björn recently wrote on his blog.

Brynjar Níelsson, deputy MP from the Independence Party, agreed with Björn, characterising the petition as digital harassment. “There’s a government. There are elections. What’s wrong with people? Why are they doing this? This is as sensible as a petition to make me a spokesperson or host at Eurovision,” Brynjar stated during an interview with the radio programme Bítið yesterday morning.

The rapper Emmsjé Gauti, who was also a guest on Bítið, reacted to Brynjar’s comments by stating that it was only natural for people to express their dissatisfaction in this manner, observing that the petition did not demand Bjarni’s resignation. Gauti caveated his statement by noting that people should, nonetheless, communicate respectfully.

A secure online platform for petitions

As noted on Island.is, individuals can create petitions on the website to which the public can add their names using digital authentication.

“The purpose of these petitions is to provide a secure online platform where people can support causes. Creating a petition involves collecting names and signatures to demonstrate support for specific goals or issues. These petitions must adhere to national laws and the Icelandic constitution, and the content must be presented respectfully and decently, avoiding any defamatory statements,” the website notes.

First cabinet meeting this morning

Bjarni Benediktsson’s new government convened for its first cabinet meeting this morning. The government was introduced on Tuesday, and the official handover of keys took place on Wednesday morning.

Vogar’s Population Boom Puts Pressure on Local Infrastructure

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vogar_2023_(181204).jpg

Vogar, a municipality on the Reykjanes Peninsula, has experienced a 33% population increase in just over a year, Mbl.is reports. The majority of the new residents are from nearby Grindavík, which was evacuated last year due to geological unrest.

Population growth of 33% in just over a year

The Association of Local Authorities on the Reykjanes Peninsula (Samtök sveitarfélaga á Reykjanes) will hold a meeting today to discuss the status of municipalities along the southern coast, particularly in terms of the effects of volcanic eruptions on residents and communities.

Gunnar Axel Axelsson, the mayor of Vogar, will speak at the meeting, detailing an unprecedented increase in the population of the municipality and the financial and social challenges that accompany it.

“Over the past few weeks, nearly three hundred people have moved here,” Gunnar Axel stated in a recent interview with Mbl.is. “The population has grown by 33% in just over a year, from the beginning of 2023 to March this year, and it looks set to increase further as housing is still being allocated by the rental companies Bríet and Bjarg.”

Last year, there were approximately 1,400 residents in Vogar.

Majority of new residents from Grindavík

According to Gunnar Axel, the majority of the new residents are from Grindavík. They have both purchased properties and obtained apartments through the aforementioned rental companies. It is, however, difficult to determine the exact number of new residents as Grindavík residents have been given the option to register their address temporarily due to circumstances. Gunnar Axel notes that the number is likely underestimated since it depends on whether people register such an address or not.

“The official number is 1,599 who have registered a legal residence and 1,788 including those who have registered an address here. The likely number is close to 1,900,” he says. “This is, of course, a tremendous increase that we naturally did not expect. We did not anticipate such a rapid increase that everything would be filled at the beginning of the year. Our most extreme forecasts have come true in the first days of the year.”

Gunnar says that these numbers only tell half the story because this rapid increase has a significant impact on all infrastructure. “We are at our limits, especially in the schools. The number of children of primary school age has increased by over 40%. We are doing everything we can to provide these people with appropriate services, but we can do no more than our infrastructure and the financial situation of the municipality allows.”

When do puffins arrive in Iceland?

Puffin Iceland

The Atlantic puffin (in Icelandic, lundi), is something of a national symbol, with many tourists and Icelanders alike flocking to bird cliffs to catch a glimpse of these brightly-coloured seabirds.

Of course, if you’re planning your trip to Iceland around seeing these birds, then it helps to know when, exactly, they’re here!

When does the puffin arrive in Iceland?

Puffins spend much of their life at sea and are actually only in Iceland for a relatively short time to breed and nest. They tend to arrive in Iceland beginning in April (usually later in the month, just before May) and generally begin to leave in August. The puffins are usually gone by September. The height of breeding- and nesting-season is from June through August.

In 2024, some of the first puffins of the year were recorded on April 11, when small groups of the black and white seabird arrived on the island of Grímsey and in Borgarfjörður eystri, in East Iceland.

Although the puffin typically begins arriving in April, most puffin tours only begin in May, to guarantee better conditions for sighting the seabird.

More about the Atlantic puffin

Unlike many other cliff-dwelling seabirds, Atlantic puffins will actually dig little holes to build their nests in. Puffins monogamously mate for life, and generally just produce one egg each breeding season. Male puffins tend to spend more time at home with the chick and organising the nest, while female puffins tend to be more involved with feeding the young. Raising their young takes around 40 days.

Until recently, it was actually unknown where, exactly, Atlantic puffins spent the rest of the year. But with modern tracking technologies, these little birds have been found to range as far south as the Mediterranean during the winter season. When puffins leave the nest, they will head off on their own without their parents, finding their own feeding and winter grounds. Over their lives, they will remember and repeat their lonely journey. They don’t always head to warmer climates in the winter, however. Icelandic puffins have been found to winter in Newfoundland and in the open sea south of Greenland.

Puffins are relatively small seabirds, averaging about 47 to 63cm [18 to 25in] in wingspan and weighing generally between 300 and 500g [10 to 17oz].

There are an estimated 8 million adult Atlantic puffins, with a majority of the world’s puffing population, around 60%, nesting in Iceland. Besides Iceland, puffins can also be found nesting in Ireland, the UK, Norway, Russia, the Faroe islands, and Greenland.

The Westman islands, an archipelago off the South Coast of Iceland, has by far the largest puffin colony in Iceland, with around 800,000 breeding pairs. Second place goes to Breiðafjörður, with around 400,000 breeding pairs. A less populated, but stunningly beautiful, bird cliff is Látrabjarg, the western-most point of Iceland.

Read more about bird watching in Iceland.

MAST Files Complaints Against Tourists’ Dog Imports to Iceland

traditional farm iceland

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has reported three cases of illegal dog importation by tourists in aeroplane passenger cabins to the police. A previously undetected parasite was found in one of the dogs during a health inspection.

A previously undetected parasite

As noted on its website, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has filed three complaints with the police regarding the illegal importation of dogs.

These incidents involve three separate cases where tourists contravened animal importation laws by bringing their dogs into the country in the passenger cabins of aeroplanes. The transportation of the dogs into the country was not discovered until MAST received a notification from authorities at the Keflavík International Airport as the travellers checked in for their flights out of the country after a few days’ stay with their dogs.

MAST did not permit departure until the dogs had undergone a health inspection and sampling at the owners’ expense. In one of the cases, a parasite not previously detected in the country was identified. According to MAST, the dog had no contact with other animals during its stay in the country, and due to the cold weather conditions, MAST believes it is unlikely that any worms/eggs would have survived if the owner had not cleaned up after the dog.

“Under the laws governing the importation of animals, it is forbidden to bring any kind of animals and their genetic material into the country. The reason for this ban is to protect the existing animals in the country as well as people from infectious diseases and parasites that may be introduced with the importation of animals. Exemptions from this ban are only permitted under strict conditions and with a special permit from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority. The laws state that a monetary fine will be imposed for violations of these provisions.”

Violations taken seriously

As noted on its website, MAST takes the illegal importation of animals very seriously, given the strict regulations in place due to the risk of introducing animal diseases, and has referred these cases to the police.

The aim of a recent amendment to the regulation on the importation of dogs and cats – which now prohibits the transportation of those animals in the passenger cabin of aeroplanes – is to prevent such illegal imports of animals where passengers could previously transport their pets undetected on flights to Iceland and through Keflavík International Airport.