Keeping Geese Away from Runway a Challenging Job

The domestic airport in Egilsstaðir, northeast Iceland, receives passengers from all over the country, and the world, but some are more welcome than others. Geese are a seasonal presence at the airport, RÚV reports, and as they pose a risk to planes, people, and themselves, the task of shooing them away is an important one.

Honking back

Geese flock to this area by the thousands each spring, and have likely done so for centuries before this airport was ever here. However, flights need to depart from the airport in the morning, and before they can, employees of the airport move up and down the runway, scaring geese away with the honking of horns.

To the east of the runway is a field, where geese will often assemble to feed. Walking dogs in this area is banned, as they might scare the geese at an inopportune moment, i.e., the take-off or landing of a plane.

Many tools in the toolbox

Honking horns is not the only weapon in the airport’s arsenal against the geese. Laser pointers also keep the geese at bay, effectively enough, as well as high-pitched whistles that geese find unpleasant and keep them at bay.

But there is also the concern about younglings, as geese are prone to build their nests near the runway. For this, fences are used, or sometimes the eggs themselves are moved.

Nonetheless, geese and airplanes alike use very similar flight paths in this part of Iceland, and others. It is likely that keeping geese away from their larger, mechanical cousins will be an ongoing job for as long as airplanes exist in Iceland.

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Driving The Ring Road in Three Days

Iceland’s famous Þjóðvegur 1 highway, or the Ring Road, is a 1322 km long road that circles the country. Technically it can be covered from start to finish in less than 24 hours but rushing the road trip would defeat the purpose of experiencing the beautiful nature and eccentric small towns that Iceland has to offer. The optimal way to travel the Ring Road is in approximately seven days with plenty of pit stops, but it’s also entirely possible to have an enjoyable trip in much less than that. For those who have limited time to travel, here’s a guide to a three day trip around Iceland.

Where to Begin?

At the start of the trip, travellers have two options, driving north or south but for the purpose of this article, the northern route is chosen. Heading north takes travellers through the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel towards Borgarnes which is a popular first quick stop for gathering snacks or having lunch, but for a little less crowded option we recommend Baulan, a small gas station twenty minutes past Borgarnes. Baulan is perfect for a coffee break and a hot dog before getting back on the road. About 40 minutes from Baulan marks the beginning of the drive through Holtavörðuheiði, a long stretch of road that ascends through barren hillsides. During the summer, Holtavörðuheiði poses no difficulty for drivers but during winter the road can get quite icy and it’s worth staying up to date on road conditions when travelling in the winter months. Coming back down from the hills, travellers are greeted by Staðarskáli, a good sized gas station and restaurant that was originally opened in 1960 and then reconstructed in 2008 under the N1 chain of gas stations. Due to its location right between Reykjavík and the North part of Iceland, it has been one of the most popular rest stops on the Ring Road. Although some of the old time charm was replaced by a more modern look by N1, it’s still a classic stop to restock on drinks and road snacks. Before getting to Akureyri, the road crosses Blönduós, a decent sized town named after the Blanda river that rushes through the area. Blönduós has a number of restaurants and gas stations to drop in, but for people who crave an old fashioned burger joint there is the North West restaurant in Víðigerði, some 39 km from Blönduós.

Photo: Golli. A collection of waterfalls in Borgarfjörður

After that the Ring Road heads into Skagafjörður, a large region known for its dramatic history during the Sturlunga Era and for its rich horsebreeding culture. The last proper stop before Akureyri is Varmahlíð in Skagafjörður, a tiny community that still manages a hotel and a swimming pool along with a restaurant and gas station. From Varmahlíð it’s about an hour drive to Akureyri with no other options for pit stops through the sometimes treacherous Öxnadalsheiði. 

Akureyri, Capital of North Iceland

Akureyri, the second biggest town in Iceland, is nestled at the roots of Hlíðarfjall mountain, a popular skiing area during winter time. It has a more “city feel” than the other smaller towns that are scattered around the country, and is an ideal place to stop for the first night of the trip. Akureyri offers numerous hotels, guesthouses and camping areas along with a diverse restaurant scene and a huge swimming pool with a funky waterslide. The climate in Akureyri is often a lot calmer than in Reykjavík and during summer it’s more likely than not to catch beautiful, sunny days there while Reykjavík has more unpredictable weather. There is no shortage of activities available in Akureyri and it is sure to leave an impression on any traveller passing through. In 2022, a new geothermal bath spot opened right outside Akureyri called Skógarböðin, or Forest Lagoon, a beautifully designed, modern take on the natural bath. It’s a great spot to unwind after the long drive and enjoy the surrounding nature. For breakfast in Akureyri there are a few options, but a great little café called Kaffi Ilmur is a great choice. Kaffi Ilmur serves breakfast all day long and has amazing Dutch specialty pancakes that should not be missed.

Photo: Golli. Akureyri is the second largest town in Iceland

Experiencing East-Iceland

Heading out east from Akureyri, the next stop should be Egilsstaðir, a small town with a big personality and a great natural bath called Vök, which is located on top of Urriðavatn lake. Visitors can soak in the hot pools and then take a dip in the lake to cool off. East-Iceland has a lot to offer and it’s the only part of the country where wild reindeer roam free. Because of the short trip and long drives between destinations, it might not be possible to go on many excursions, but travellers should try to squeeze in a reindeer safari to see these adorable animals in their natural habitat. On the South-Eastern edge of Iceland, close to Vatnajökull glacer is Jökulsárlón, a glacier lake that is a must see on the Ring Road trip. The lake runs directly from Vatnajökull and out to the ocean and carries with it beautiful icebergs from the glacier in all different colors of blue. Close by is the Diamond Beach where pieces of the icebergs have broken off and collected on the shore. It’s a stunning display of the ever changing elements of Icelandic nature.

Photo: Berglind. The Glacier Lagoon in East-Iceland

 For the second night on the trip, Höfn í Hornafirði is a great spot, a small coastal town on the  South-East tip, or travellers can duck into Hotel Jökulsárlón, a cozy hotel close to the glacier lake. About 20 minutes before entering Höfn there are the Vestrahorn mountains, a picturesque range of ragged mountains that seem to rise up from the black, sandy beach. 

The Scenic South Coast

On the third day, driving from Höfn, begins the home stretch, a beautiful, scenic drive along the southern part of Iceland. This part of the country doesn’t have the many hills and valleys of the western and northern parts and so the drive is smooth and peaceful. The southern route also has some of the most popular nature highlights of Iceland, and as travellers get closer to Reykjavík, there are numerous spots to stop and enjoy the views. Three hours from Höfn is Vík í Mýrdal, another small seaside town that is surrounded by dramatic mountain formations. There are a number of food options in Vík, including a craft brewery pub called Smiðjan Brewery that offers a good selection of local specialty beers. Thirty minutes from Vík is the famed Skógafoss, an iconic waterfall that can be seen right from the highway. Continuing west is another, smaller waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, where visitors have a chance to walk up close and get behind the gushing water. Close by Seljalandsfoss is Seljavallalaug, a beautiful natural bath, hidden from the views of the Ring Road. It’s a bit of a hike to get to the pool but the soak is worth every minute.

Photo: Golli. Seljalandsfoss on the South Coast

Getting back on the road from Seljavallalaug, travellers have the option of taking a small detour to see Gullfoss waterfall and Strokkur geysir. As part of the Golden Cirlce, these spots are a popular attraction for tour groups, but it’s easy and fun to get around there on your own. From the Golden Circle it’s a short one hour drive back to Reykjavík where it all started. A short trip like this around Iceland is only able to give a small preview of all the possible things to see and do around the country, but it is a great way to get familiar with driving on the roads and to hopefully get hyped for a longer return trip in the future.

Three Dead in East Iceland Plane Crash

fatal accident Iceland

Three died last night, July 9, in a plane crash southwest of Egilsstaðir.

First responders in East Iceland were called out last night after following reports of a missing plane, reported to be a Cessna 172. The 4-seater aircraft sent out a distress call around 5:01pm. In addition to ICESAR and a coastguard helicopter, Vísir reports that a helicopter from a tourist travel service also joined the search. Nearly all East Iceland first responders were called out.

The wreckage was seen around 8:00pm last night. Initially spotted by an Icelandair flight en route to Egilsstaðir, the crash site was confirmed by the tourism helicopter.

The three, including the pilot and two passengers, were pronounced dead at the scene.

East Iceland police have stated that the case is still in its early stages and they will investigate the matter further with the proper authorities.

German Airline Condor Cancels Egilsstaðir and Akureyri Connections

condor airline iceland

German airliner, Condor, has cancelled its intended connections to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir, which were announced last summer. Vísir reports.

When the connections were announced, it was originally scheduled for weekly service between Frankfurt and the regional airports.

Read more: German Airline, Condor, to Begin Service to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir

According to Isavia, more time should have been given to allow travel agencies to prepare bookings in advance. Plans to begin the service in 2024 are reportedly underway.

According to Sigrún Björk Jakobsdóttir, managing director of Isavia’s domestic airports, “there are many factors that led to this result. The marketing abroad did not start early enough to take off for this year, and shifting market conditions also played a part in this happening. The interest of airlines in international flights to the North and East is constantly growing, we have seen this at many industry conventions abroad.”

Never More International Flights Direct to Icelandic Countryside

Akureyri and Egilsstaðir are smaller, regional airports. Akureyri is currently serviced by a handful of international connections, while Egilsstaðir is still only serviced by domestic flights. Many in the tourism industry hope to better connect Iceland’s regional airports, to open up North and East Iceland for more tourism.

Sigrún Björk also stated: “It is extremely important to continue offering access to the country through new portals in line with the government’s policy to promote tourism in all parts of the country. It will continue to be our main goal and the interest is clearly there. The availability of international flights through Akureyri has never been greater, and travel agencies that offer trips there have been increasing the number of trips.”

Market research indicates that many tourists who visit Iceland once express interest in exploring other, less accessible, parts of the country. Germany is a main driver in the growth of the Icelandic tourism industry, and Sigrún Björk expressed her full confidence in Condor’s future commitment to Icelandic connections.

Municipal Authorities Suggest Egilsstaðir for Development as Alternate Airport

Municipal authorities in the eastern district of Fljótsdalshérað want to strengthen the infrastructure of the Egilsstaðir airport due to the ongoing seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula, RÚV reports.

It’s possible that the current eruption in Meradalir and last year’s eruption in Geldingadalur herald the arrival of a long period of volcanic unrest on the Reykjanes peninsula, something that would put the Keflavík airport—and the single roadway leading to it—at significant risk. As such, many political leaders, including Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, agree about the importance of establishing an alternate airport somewhere else in the country.

Egilsstaðir is not the only town angling for airport development, however. Just last week, Halla Signý Kristjánsdóttir, an MP for the Progressive Party and a member of the transportation committee, suggested that an airport could be built in Mýrar in Borgarfjörður, West Iceland. Akureyri in North Iceland has also been put forth as an option.

Vilhjálmur Jónsson, one of the local government chairmen in Fljótsdalshérað, says Egillstaðir is well-suited for the project. “The conditions at Egilsstaðir are in some ways more suitable and I also think that if there are going to be these weekly disruptions that [it would be good to be able to] spread flights to other airports if there was a major incident.”

“The situation is not a new one,” Vilhjálmur concluded, “but these earthquakes on Reykjanes now will maybe finally push it.”

German Airline, Condor, to Begin Service to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir

Akureyri in winter

The German airline, Condor, is set to begin servicing Akureyri and Egilsstaðir starting in the summer of 2023, according to a recent press release.

Ralf Teckentrup, CEO of Condor, stated: “Iceland is one of the most popular destinations in the north. We are looking forward to offering our guests the opportunity to discover this diverse destination with its beautiful nature. With the connections to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir, we are also responding to the great demand from numerous tour operators offering round trips in the north and east of Iceland.”

Icelandic authorities have been trying for some time to open up more ways to fly to Iceland. The current arrangement came about through the cooperation of Austurbrú, Isavia Domestic Airports, Íslandsstofa and Markaðsstofa Norðurlands.

Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, Head of Visit Iceland, said in the statement: “These new flights give our visitors the possibility to explore Iceland further by landing directly in the north or the east of Iceland. Both regions offer breathtaking landscapes and have a great tourism infrastructure in place, with a wide choice of hotels and outdoor activities and facilities.”

Currently, Egilsstaðir is only serviced by domestic flights, while Akureyri has several international connections to London, Copenhagen, and Tenerife. As both towns have developed airports and other tourist facilities, the hope is that this new service will further open up these regions to travel.

Condor is based out of Germany and services locations throughout Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Wounded Egilsstaðir Gunman Out of ICU, In Custody

The man wounded by police in Egilsstaðir in East Iceland last week has been sentenced to two weeks of custody, RÚV reports. The investigation covers attempted manslaughter, resisting arrest, assault, threats, and offences against public safety, as well as weapon law violations and child protective violations.

Last Thursday night, Egilsstaðir inhabitants heard gunshots and notified the police. A man in his forties had gone to another man’s house, who wasn’t at home and shot a gun repeatedly in every direction. He seems to have been armed with a shotgun and possibly another weapon. The man did not obey orders to stop shooting after the police arrived on the scene, and was shot by a policeman. He survived but was transported to Reykjavík where he underwent surgery. This is the first time a general policeman shoots a firearm in the line of duty and the second time a member of the Icelandic police uses their gun.

Gunman in two-week custody

The district public prosecutor demanded protective custody on Saturday for two weeks, rÚV reports, to which the District Court agreed on the grounds of public safety.

The man is still in hospital but is out of the ICU and is now on a general ward. The investigation is going well but the office of the district public prosecutor is also investigating that part of the case concerning the police’s use of a firearm against the defendant.

Internal investigation completed

The East Iceland Police has completed their internal investigation of the incident. The Police states that nothing has been reported to suggest that the correct procedure wasn’t followed. The office of the district public prosecutor is investigating the case, both the alleged crimes of the man with the gun as well as the police shooting. They investigated the scene of the crime and examined witnesses.

The East Iceland police are grateful to everyone who assisted with the operation on Thursday night and its consequences, including crisis counselling and emotional support. The police also state that their thankful that the wounded man is healing. The police encourage everyone who believes they need assistance to contact professionals, such as the Egilsstaðir social services and the East Iceland healthcare centres.

mass crisis counselling centre was opened in the Egilsstaðir elementary school last Friday where Egilsstaðir inhabitants could receive crisis counselling and mental support. This morning teenagers in elementary school and secondary schools heard talks on how to react to events like this one and the importance of talking to the people around them if they felt bad.

Second time Icelandic Police shoot their guns

This is the first time that an ordinary policeman uses a firearm on duty in Iceland and the second time the police in Iceland have used a firearm. The first was in 2013 when a man died after being shot by a special forces policeman after shooting at the police from a window in his apartment in Reykjavík. For a few years, all police vehicles have been armed with a weapon box that can be opened with special permission from their supervisors, in this case, the East Iceland Police commissioner.

The National Police Commissioner’s Special Forces have carried weapons since 1992. They did not participate in the Thursday night operations as there was no time to get members of the team to east Iceland as the special forces team is situated in Reykjavík, leading to a general policeman shooting a man in Iceland for the first time. In order to use a firearm, policemen must have undergone special training in firearm use and have to pass a test every year. The Police Commissioner then decides which policemen they authorise to use firearms.

Police regulations on the use of force state that in a dire emergency, policemen should aim for the largest body part that is visible and try to minimise the damage they inflict, such as by shooting at a person’s legs.

Armed Man Wounded by East Iceland Police Last Night

The police in East Iceland shot and wounded an armed man in Egilsstaðir last night, Mbl.is reports. No police officers were injured. The man has been transferred to the University Hospital in Reykjavík for treatment.

“Gunshots heard”

Shortly after 10 pm yesterday, the police in East Iceland was notified of an individual firing shots in Dalsel, a residential area in Egilsstaðir. In an interview with Mbl.is, Þröstur Jónsson, a resident of Dalsel, stated that he had heard “popping noises, as if from a skateboard,” from inside his garage. Stepping outside, Þröstur observed as police officers ordered the man to lay down his weapon. It is not clear at this point what kind of weapon the man was brandishing.

The gunman, approximately 30 years of age, was reportedly standing in the street, in front of a police vehicle, when the officers shot him in the stomach. The man was treated by emergency respondents and transferred to the University Hospital in Reykjavík in an ambulance flight. The man’ condition remains unknown, although multiple sources report that he is alive. No police officers were wounded.

No further information will be provided by the East Iceland police at this time.

Cannot comment at this stage of the investigation

In an interview with RÚV, Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir, Deputy District Attorney, revealed that the DA’s office had dispatched personnel to investigate the shooting. “The investigation is in its initial stages, so we can’t comment.”

When asked about the next steps of the investigation, Kolbrún remarked that the DA’s office would be conducting interviews over the coming days.

(This article was updated on 3 pm.)

East Iceland to Open First Local University

east Iceland university Reyðarfjörður Egilsstaðir

Residents of East Iceland will be able to pursue university studies locally for the first time next year thanks to a program being jointly developed by Reykjavík University and the University of Akureyri. Instruction will take place in the town of Reyðarfjörður and will emphasise on-site teaching of technical subjects rather than distance learning. Local industry representatives say there is a need for university-educated staff in technical disciplines. RÚV reported first.

Reykjavík University will already begin offering preparatory studies for higher education in East Iceland this autumn, with university-level studies set to be offered starting in 2022. The program is being set up in collaboration with the University of Akureyri (located in North Iceland), continuing education centre Austurbrú, and representatives from the local business community, including the seafood and aluminium industries, two of the region’s main employers. While West and North Iceland have offered local university studies for some time, such higher education has not been available in the eastern region.

“The supply of distance learning has increased greatly in recent years and that is very positive. But Reykjavík University has always had the unique position of prioritising on-site learning, focusing on group projects, focusing on very direct connections with instructors and teachers, with the business community, and thus building their knowledge and knowledge within the community without having to leave the area,” Ari Kristinn Jónsson, Rector of Reykjavík University, stated. “This is something we have done elsewhere in the country and it has succeeded brilliantly and we look forward to seeing it thrive, grow, and prosper here in East Iceland.”

The seafood industry and Alcoa’s Fjarðaál aluminium factory are two of the region’s main employers, and both industries require staff with technical training at the university level. Several local businesses have founded a joint scholarship to support students in the program. “It’s very important for us who are running large companies here in the east to get this education in the area.” Dagmar Ýr Stefánsdóttir, Communications and Social Affairs Director at Alcoa-Fjarðarál, stated.

East Iceland Votes in New “Home Councils” Next Week

East Iceland residents go to the polls next week to vote in the first government of a newly-merged municipality. Residents of Borgarfjarðarhreppur, Fljótsdalshérað, Seyðisfjörður, and Djúpavogshreppur voted last October to merge their municipalities under a single government. Each of the four localities will also elect a so-called “home council,” representing a brand-new form of local government in Iceland.

The new municipality, which is yet to be named, will be the largest in Iceland, at over 11,000 square kilometres (4,250 square miles) and will contain around 5,000 residents. Five parties are running for election to the new government: Austurlistinn, the Progressive Party, the Centre Party, the Independence Party, and the Left-Green Movement. In addition to the municipal council, each of the four localities will also have a three-person home council, which will serve as a link between the municipal government and the locality’s residents. The concept is built on experimental provisions on governance in 2011 legislation concerning local government. This will be the first time the provision is applied.

Read More: Municipal Mergers in Iceland

When they show up to the polls, East Iceland residents will not only be voting on council members but also nominating residents to their own home council. Everyone who holds the right to vote is eligible to sit on a home council, and to nominate someone, voters simply write down their name and address on the ballot. This means that interested parties do not necessarily need to campaign publicly to win a seat on their home council. Those who would like to do so, however, are able to register online.

Two out of three members of each home council will be drawn from the locality, while the third member will be a sitting municipal councillor. Home councils will hold a significant amount of authority within each locality. They will oversee detailed land-use plans, the granting of licenses, nature conservation, and cultural events in their area.