Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Declared Nature Reserve

Fjaðrárgljúfur

The popular canyon Fjaðrárglúfur was declared a nature reserve by Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

The popular canyon, located in Southeast Iceland near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, was already listed on the Nature Conservation Register, a list of protected areas in Iceland and other important natural monuments deemed worthy of protection or conservation.

The designation as a nature reserve will place the canyon among some 130 other sites in Iceland and impose stricter regulations for its conservation.

A popular site protected

The boundaries of the nature reserve now extend over the eastern part of the canyon and mark the area above the eastern cliffs. This area is owned by Hverabergs ehf., and will be operated in cooperation with the municipality of Skaftárhrepp.

Work on the designation began following a memorandum signed by Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and Hveraberg ehf. in January 2024. The memorandum outlined cooperation on protecting Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and developing infrastructure in the area.

Increasing tourist interest in Fjaðrágljúfur canyon

The canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur (so named after the Fjaðrá river which runs through it) is some 100 m [328 ft] deep and 2 km [1.2 mi] long. Formed by glacial activity nearly 10,000 years ago, the canyon came to international popularity after the 2015 Justin Bieber music video “I’ll Show You.”

Since then, the canyon has seen ever-increasing numbers of tourists, causing the site to be closed to travellers several times. 

The land through which the canyon runs was bought by Hveraberg ehf. in 2022 for 280 million ISK [$2,000,000; €1,860,000].

Immensely popular destination

The increased popularity has also driven a need for a higher level of infrastructure in the area, both to conserve the site and ensure the safety of visitors.

At the ceremony, Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson stated: “Fjaðrárgljúfur is an immensely popular tourist destination, and everything indicates that the influx of tourists to the area will increase in the coming years. I’m satisfied to be able to cooperate with landowners and the Skaftárhrepp municipality to preserve the area and create the necessary environment for the protection of nature in the area and for the reception of tourists.”

Read more about privately owned tourist sites in Iceland.

Four Arrested in South Iceland Abuse Case

Four Icelandic nationals are in custody on suspicion of locking up a man for several days and assaulting him in a South Iceland home. The man, who holds Maltese citizenship, was forced to leave the country in April but has returned, according to RÚV’s sources. Icelandic Police are declining to release further information on the case.

Custody extended until May 24

Three Icelandic men and one Icelandic woman are in custody in connection with the case, suspected of deprivation of liberty, assault, and financial extortion. The four are related, according to RÚV’s sources. The alleged crime took place in a residential home in Reykholt in the Biskupstungur area of South Iceland. The four suspects were arrested in late April when police got wind of the case. Last Friday, their custody order was extended until May 24.

Victim living in Iceland for nearly two decades

The victim in the case had been living in Iceland for nearly two decades. He was been deprived of his liberty for several days and assaulted, as well as having money taken from him. He was then taken to Keflavík and sent out of the country. RÚV’s sources maintain that he has returned to Iceland, but Chief of South Iceland Police Jón Gunnar Þórhallsson did not want to confirm that was the case.

Bláskógabyggð’s local council director Ásta Stefánsdóttir stated that the case has shaken the community and expressed her hopes that the police would resolve the matter as soon as possible.

Presidential Reception for New Icelanders

Forsetaembættið. New Icelanders welcomed at presidential residence Bessastaðir

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and First Lady Eliza Reid hosted a reception yesterday for all those who had received Icelandic citizenship this year. The couple were both present at the event to welcome the group of new Icelanders and congratulate them on their newly-acquired rights and responsibilities as Icelandic citizens. It was the first time such a reception has been held by Iceland’s president.

In his speech to the group, Guðni emphasised the importance of healthy patriotism and defining Icelandic nationality with broad-mindedness, tolerance, diversity, freedom, solidarity, compassion, and empathy. The First Lady echoed his sentiments, while also addressing the challenges of learning the Icelandic language, which takes time.

The idea for the reception came from Eliza, who is an immigrant to Iceland herself. “When I became an Icelandic citizen in 2008 I was notified by a form letter in the mail,” the First Lady wrote on social media. “I thought it was a big deal, a moment to celebrate! But the letter didn’t necessarily indicate that Iceland thought it was a big deal that I was now among their ranks. So it has long been a dream of mine that we would be able to recognize and formally welcome new citizens in some way. It underscores to new Icelanders the importance and responsibility of citizenship, while reminding those of us ‘older’ Icelanders that we too have obligations to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute fully to society and help to make it a richer nation for all of us.”

Guðni is not running for re-election in Iceland’s ongoing presidential race. Eliza stated that while she will not have influence in the matter in future years, she hopes the welcoming tradition continues.

Iceland’s Most Popular Musical Ends its Run

Musical Níu líf at Borgarleikhúsið

The 250th show of Níu líf, a musical based on the life of singer Bubbi Morthens, will be its last. The musical has been running at Reykjavík City Theatre since early 2020 when its run was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic after only three shows.

The show follows the many public personas of Bubbi during his colourful musical career, hence the title which in English translates to Nine Lives. Director and playwright Ólafur Egill Egilsson and actor Esther Talía Casey, a married couple and collaborators in the show, were interviewed by Vísir on the occasion of the show ending.

Unexpected success

“It will be an emotional moment, that’s for sure,” Esther said. “We’ll likely cry our eyes out and shake. We’re a closely knit theatre family and we’ve faced many challenges during this time, so it will have been a rollercoaster ride.”

They say they never expected the show to be as successful as it’s been and for it to break attendance records and still be running four years after its premiere – albeit with a pandemic delaying part of its run. “We always knew that Bubbi had a special place in the nation’s heart, so we knew that his fans would show up,” Ólafur said. But we couldn’t foresee the show getting such a warm reception.”

Perfect attendance

Esther said that she’s the only cast member, including the live band, who has been at every show. She plays a number of roles, including Bubbi’s mother and Hrafnhildur, his wife. “I was lucky that every time I was sick, it was in between shows,” she said. “This show will alway have a special place in my heart.”

“It’s a story of time periods and social upheaval, of a person’s freedom to be whoever they want, finding the courage to face their destiny and stand tall in the face of challenging life experiences,” Ólafur said. “We’re very happy to have been able to cover Bubbi’s career, life, and values, while telling a story that most people can identify with.”

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

Wheelchair Ramp Number 1,100 Installed

As part of the project Ramp Up Iceland, a wheelchair ramp was installed at the Vogar community and sports centre on Friday. This was ramp number 1,100 provided in Iceland as part of the project, with the goal set for 1,500 ramps ahead of 11 March next year, Mbl.is reports.

Four year effort

The project was started by entrepreneur Haraldur Þorleifsson with the goal of increasing accessibility for people with disabilities. The first ramp was installed in May 2021 with the original target of providing 1,000 ramps, but the number was amended to 1,500 ramps. The project is financed by private donations.

Hopes for the future

The ramp in Vogar, a municipality on the Reykjanes peninsula, was presented at a ceremony on Friday where local Eggert N. Bjarnason cut the ribbon. Gunnar Axel Axelsson, mayor of Vogar, said that he welcomed this initiative.

“In Vogar, we of course want to ensure equal access to our institutions and the services that the residence have on offer, so we welcome the encouragement and support of the Ramp Up Iceland project,” Gunnar Axel said. “Hopefully we’ll see the day where access for people with disabilities will be such a standard and ubiquitous feature that we’ll no longer need such efforts and I think Ramp Up Iceland has quickly gotten us closer to that goal.”

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

Iceland Places Last in Eurovision Song Contest

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

The final result of the Eurovision Song Contest revealed that Iceland’s entry received the fewest points of all participating songs. Singer Hera Björk performed the song Scared of Heights at the first semi-final on 7 May and did not advance, as she received only three points, RÚV reports.

This was Hera Björk’s second time competing for Iceland. In 2010, she finished 19th with her song Je ne sais quoi.

Controversy in Iceland and abroad

Switzerland won the contest last night with Nemo’s entry The Code. Croatia placed second and Ukraine third. The event took place in Sweden this year.

The contest was mired in controversy, both within Iceland and abroad. In the Iceland preliminary competition, Söngvakeppnin, glitches in the voting app triggered an inquiry into the results.

Hera Björk’s songwriter, Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, withdrew from the competition, citing uncertainty about the results and Israel’s ongoing military action in Gaza. The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists asked its members not to participate in the show unless Israel was banned.

Protests at the contest

Israel’s participation was criticised by multiple performers in the finals and by protestors outside the Malmö venue. Many have cited the precedent when Russia was excluded from the competition two years ago following their invasion of Ukraine.

The Dutch competitor, Joost Klein, was disqualified for alleged inappropriate behaviour towards a Eurovision staffer.

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

Iceland Men’s National Handball Team Qualifies for World Championship

Iceland crowd

Iceland Men’s National Handball Team beat Estonia today to qualify for the 2025 IHF Men’s World Championship. The tournament will take place in Croatia, Denmark, and Norway in January and February next year.

Overwhelming victory over two matches

The match against Estonia took place in Tallinn earlier today and Iceland defeated their opponent handily, Mbl.is reports. The final score was 37-24, but the match was closely fought early on. Iceland started to pull away at the end of the first half. By the second half, Iceland secured a stronger lead and were ahead by 12 goals when 10 minutes were left in the game.

Orri Freyr Þorkelsson scored 9 goals for Iceland, Ómar Ingi Magnússon scored 7 and Óðinn Þór Ríkharðsson six.

Iceland had already beat Estonia 50-25 at home in their first match, giving them a healthy cushion for this second match. The aggregate score was 87-49.

2031 tournament in Iceland

Handball is a popular sport in Iceland and the men’s national team has historically been competitive, winning the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in China. The women’s national team competed in the World Championship last year and have qualified for this year’s European Championship.

Qualifying for next year’s tournament comes in the wake of the announcement that Iceland will host the 2031 World Championship along with Denmark and Norway. A new National Arena is planned to open in Reykjavík to host the tournament games.

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

Halla Tómasdóttir Gains Steam

Halla Tómasdóttir, candidate for president of Iceland

Halla Hrund Logadóttir and Katrín Jakobsdóttir are neck and neck in the race for president of Iceland, according to the latest poll by Gallup. Halla Tómasdóttir, who had been polling below 5% jumps to 11%, RÚV reports.

Baldur in third place

The polling followed a televised debate on 3 May. Halla Hrund, the Director General of Iceland’s National Energy Authority drops in the poll from 36% down to 25% as Katrín, the former prime minister and chairperson of the Left-Green Movement, rises from 23% to 25%.

Baldur Þórhallsson, a professor of political science at the University of Iceland, is firmly in third place with 18%, while Halla Tómasdóttir, a businessperson and former candidate, eclipses Jón Gnarr, a comedian and former mayor of Reykjavík, who is polling at 10%. Other candidates are polling at lower numbers, but Arnar Þór Jónsson, a lawyer and former judge, has reached 6%.

Difference by age and gender

When the polling is broken down by age, gender, education and political views, it becomes clear that Halla Hrund is popular among men, while Baldur is popular among women. Older people are more likely to support Katrín or Halla Hrund, while younger people favour Baldur and Jón.

The election will take place in one round on 1 June.

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

Next Eruption Weeks From Now, Experts Suspect

Art Bicnick. The 2024 Sundhnúksgígaröð eruption

Magma keeps building up under the Svartsengi area in the Reykjanes peninsula. The Icelandic Meteorological Office expects that the next volcanic eruption in Reykjanes could take place some weeks from now, Vísir reports.

The latest eruption in Sundhnúkagígar ended Thursday morning after 54 days. Magma is still building up in the area, however, and a new magma intrusion and a volcanic eruption are still likely. An eruption could begin at a moment’s notice.

Evacuations possible

The nearby Svartsengi area contains a geothermal plant, the spa destination Blue Lagoon, and numerous hotels. The area has been evacuated regularly due to the Sundhnúkagígar eruptions,.

“There is a lot of magma there right now,” said Kristín Jónsdóttir with the Met Office. She added that an evacuation of the nearby town of Grindavík could come to pass, an opinion which has been shared by Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson.

More pressure needed

“We’re faced with the same situation as we’ve seen before between eruptions,” Kristín added. “We have a considerable amount of magma under Svartsengi, which keeps accumulating. We also know that more and more pressure is needed to kickstart the next magma intrusion.”

Seismic activity has also increased since the latest eruption ended. Kristín’s conclusion is that it could take some weeks until the next eruption.

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!

Farmer Grows 95 Types of Tulips In Mosfellsdalur

Tulips in Iceland, Wikimedia Commons

Horticultural farmer Gísli Jóhannsson grows 95 different types of tulips in his nursery in Dalsgarður in Mosfellsdalur, Vísir reports.

Tulips in Iceland have become a popular choice for people to decorate their homes in the last few years, despite the fact that local tulips can be quite pricy. A bundle of tulips at a local supermarket can cost as much as ISK 2,500 (€17 / $18).

Iceland’s Biggest Tulip Nursery

In his nursery in Mosfellsdalur, near Mosfellsbær, Gísli and his staff grow a wide variety of flowers throughout the entire year. The team cultivates tulips, roses, summer flowers, and strawberries. Dalsgarður’s tulips are favoured among many people due to their wide range of types and colours.

Recently, for the first day of summer, Gísli displayed his famous tulips at the Horticultural School in Ölfus. He also makes sure to plan ahead for special occasions. For the upcoming Mother’s Day on May 12, the team is currently quite busy harvesting and bundling tulips.

Millions of flowers

“I want red tulips for Christmas, yellow ones for Easter and something pink for Women’s Day in February,” Gísli explains his choice of tulip colour scheme.

Dalsgarður is one of three to four tulip producers in Iceland. According to Gísli, Dalsgarður is the biggest tulip nursery in the country, and he expects up to 3 million flowers to come from his gardens in the near future.

Like reading about Iceland? How about winning a free trip to Iceland? Find out more here!