A Guide to Reykjavík Airport

Reykjavík Airport.

Although Iceland is not the biggest country in terms of surface area, travelling between the south, west, north, and east can take a deceivingly long time. This is mostly due to the endless fjords and peninsulas you’ll weave through on the way. While these are quite often a sight for sore eyes, sometimes, you just don’t have the time or ability to make the journey. In these cases, domestic flights are a lifesaver, and, as luck would have it, there’s a domestic flight airport smack dab in the middle of Reykjavík: Reykjavík Airport. It’s been a topic of much debate due to its close proximity to residential areas, but for now, it’s here to help you explore Iceland in the quickest way possible. 

Airlines, destinations, and pricing

Three airlines fly from Reykjavík Airport, each to different towns and villages in Iceland. Icelandair flies to Akureyri in the north, Egilsstaðir in the east, Ísafjörður on the Westfjords, and Vestmannaeyjar islands in the south. Eagle Air (look for Flugfélagið Ernir on search engines) flies to Höfn in Hornafjörður in the southeast, and Norlandair flies to Bíldurdalur and Gjögur on the Westfjords, as well as Nerlerit Inaat in Greenland. Additionally, should none of the flight times or destinations meet your needs, Mýflug Air offers charter flights tailored to your plans.

This wide range of destinations allows a full and free exploration of Iceland for those who don’t have the time, desire, or capability to drive between the different parts of the country. Keep in mind that, as with most things in Iceland, airline tickets are probably quite a bit more expensive than what you’re used to. Prices for a one-way ticket range anywhere from ISK 14,000 [$99, €92] to 60,000 [$424, €395], depending on demand and location. To avoid the highest prices, book your tickets well in advance.

A group of people coming off an aeroplane at Akureyri Airport.
Photo: Golli. A group of people coming off an aeroplane at Akureyri Airport.

How to get to Reykjavík Airport

There are several ways to get to the airport. Firstly, with a walking distance of about 30 minutes from the city centre, there’s the option of going on foot. On a nice day, it’s a beautiful walk that will take you past Vatnsmýrin Nature Reserve, a small, protected moorland with 83 different plant species and plenty of birds. It’s equally pretty in winter as it is in summer, with the colder temperatures luring mystical-looking steam from the water.

If you don’t have a lot of luggage, you could also rent an e-scooter from Hopp. This is a great way to travel quickly and easily between locations while also enjoying the city. They have a pay-per-minute system, so depending on how far away you are, it might even be cheaper than taking the bus. Simply download the Hopp app, rent a scooter, and ride to the airport. Once you get there, you can park the scooter on the edge of the sidewalk and leave it for somebody else. 

A third option is to use Strætó, the public transport system which will take you almost to the door of the airport. Bus number 15 stops in a one-minute walking distance from the airport. If you haven’t been using Strætó, the best thing to do is download Klappið app, where you can purchase a single fair. For up-to-date pricing, see Strætó’s official pricing page. It is also possible to pay with cash, but as the drivers don’t have any change, you’ll have to have the exact amount to avoid paying more than you’re supposed to. 

Buses number 6, 4, and 15 at Hlemmur bus stop.
Buses number 6, 4, and 15 at Hlemmur bus stop.

If you have a rental car that you’re not dropping off before your flight, you can park it by the airport for a fee. The parking system uses automatic number plate recognition, which means that the system will calculate how much you owe based on the time you entered and exited the parking lot. To pay, you’ll need to create an account with Autopay. You should do this within 48 hours of exiting, or a late fee of ISK 1.490 [$10, €10] will be added to your charge. 

Lastly, there’s the option of taking a taxi. This is the most hassle-free way, allowing you to enjoy your journey without having to make any additional transportation plans, but note that taking a taxi in Iceland is very expensive. A 5 km trip within the city during the daytime will likely cost at least ISK 2,666 [$19, €18], or about four times the amount you would pay for a bus ticket.

How much luggage can you bring?

As for many international flights, on domestic flights in Iceland, 20 kg is a common maximum weight for checked-in bags and 6 kg for handbags. This will, of course, depend on the airline you’re flying with, so make sure to familiarize yourself with their rules. Security restrictions on what is allowed in hand luggage are similar to international flights, meaning that firearms, clubs, sharp tools, and anything else that could be considered a weapon are not allowed. However, you are allowed to travel with liquids. For a full list of restricted items, visit Isavia’s baggage information page

How long before departure should you arrive?

Seeing that the airport is a fraction of the size of Keflavík Airport, arriving to check in about 60 minutes before your departure is sufficient. The aeroplanes used to fly domestic flights are smaller than those used for international flights, and the amount of flights taking off and landing is far smaller than at Keflavík. This means that there are fewer people going through, leading to a less busy airport. There are also just two terminals, so you there’s no chance of getting lost and missing your flight. 

Reykjavík Airport from above.
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík Airport from above.

Are there food and beverages at Reykjavík Airport?

At the time of writing, the airport’s cafeteria is temporarily closed. However, there are a few vending machines where you can purchase food and coffee. Domestic flights generally do not offer food and beverages aboard, but if you think you might get hungry on the way, bringing your own refreshments – food and drink – is perfectly fine.  

Special assistance and hidden disabilities

Should you require a wheelchair or special assistance, please contact the airline you’re travelling with beforehand. This will allow them to plan ahead and make any necessary arrangements for your arrival. 

If you have a hidden disability, you can opt to wear the sunflower lanyard to make the journey as comfortable as possible. Airport staff are aware that passengers wearing them might need more time, patience, and understanding, and they will be happy to help you make your journey easier. If you don’t already have one, lanyards are available at the check-in desks in the departure hall and at the information desk in the arrival hall. 

Private flights

In addition to domestic flights flights and flights to Greenland, Reykjavík Airport is a common stopover for private jets. Due to Iceland’s convenient location in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s the ideal place to refuel your plane or divide up the journey between Europe and the United States. With its close proximity to Reykjavík city centre, it’s easy to hop off for a few hours to explore the attractions of the city or grab a bite at one of its exceptional restaurants before heading off again. 

Unearthing Spirit

Antonía Berg, Icelandic ceramicist

“Ceramics and clay are things that have been with humans since the beginning of time,” Antonía Berg casually explains to me as we sit in her studio Flæði, located in Reykjavík’s creative hub hafnar.haus. According to many religions and folk beliefs around the world, clay had another, even more pivotal role: it was the origin of human […]

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Why is Iceland called Iceland?

greenland

A popular story about the settlement of Iceland goes like this: to attract settlers to their new colony in Greenland, crafty Viking marketers named the settlement Greenland to attract more settlers. Iceland, so the story goes, was the more desirable real estate, and its settlers named it Iceland in order to guard their well-kept secret.

It’s a good story, but unfortunately, not entirely true.

There is good reason to believe that at the time of its settlement, Greenland was, in fact, rather green. Ice core analysis from the Greenland ice sheet suggests that from 800-1300 CE, average temperatures were slightly higher in Greenland than they are today. Norse settlements (creatively named the Eastern Settlement and the Western Settlement) were clustered around the southern tip of Greenland, at more southern latitudes than Iceland itself. Over time, the climate deteriorated, disease struck the settlers, and isolation from commerce gradually wore away at these settlements until they had disappeared by the 15th century. At the beginning of its settlement, however, Greenland may well have supported limited farming and may have been much greener than it is now.

Iceland, though warmed by the jet stream, is still rather cold. And although the Norse settlers did come to Iceland for the plentiful farmland, some of the first adventurers to come across Iceland were left with a rather cold impression. According to Landnámabók, the first person to spot Iceland was a Norwegian sailor named Naddodd. He lost his way sailing from Norway to the Faroe Islands when he came in sight of a huge land mass. He went ashore in Eastern Iceland, near where the town of Reyðarfjörður sits today. He allegedly climbed a mountain and looked around for signs of humans, but he did not see anything. He went on his way, sailing to the Faroe Islands where he would settle in 825. And he told everyone that would listen that he discovered – not Iceland – but Snowland! Clearly, the Norse had a tendency to be rather descriptive in their naming. Their name for the New World, Vínland, referred to the wild berries that were found in abundance near their camps at L’Anse aux Meadows.

So while it’s true that Iceland is relatively more habitable and verdant than places at similar latitudes, it’s not entirely a hidden paradise either. Indeed, as we write this (nearly June), sharp, cold winds and hail continue to buffet visitors!

Can you see Greenland from Iceland?

can you see greenland from iceland

A common myth you hear sometimes is that on a clear day, from some places in West Iceland, you can see parts of Greenland. This is often attributed to the “lensing” effect of cold air in the polar regions, in which cold air masses can act as a lens and carry light further than usual, over the curvature of the earth.

As great a story as this is, it’s unfortunately not true.

The narrative may have very old origins, going back to the Saga of the Greenlanders. In this story, the settler and outcast Erik the Red is said to set out in search of the land seen by one Gunnbjörn when he went west and discovered “Gunnbjarnarsker.” This skerry, an islet or fleck of rock in the ocean, was presumably much closer to Greenland than the west coast of Iceland, so it may well have been possible to see Greenland’s mountains from there.

But not so on Iceland’s mainland. The matter has also been laid to rest authoritatively by Icelandic physicist Þorvaldur Búason. According to Þorvaldur, a 500m tall hill at 500km appears to us as about the size of a ballpoint pen held at arm’s length. Using some geometry, we can tell that Gunnbjarnarfjall, the tallest mountain in East Greenland, would be invisible to the naked eye from the closest point in Iceland’s Westfjords.

It’s also worth noting that given Iceland’s position relative to Greenland, Greenland stretches further North, South, East, and West than Iceland!

First State Visit to Greenland in 24 years

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir embarked this week on the first official visit of an Icelandic leader to Greenland since 1998. She was in Nuuk at the invitation of Greenlandic Prime Minister Múte B. Egede.

The two leaders discussed opportunities for increased cooperation between Iceland and Greenland. Specific points of focus were a free trade agreement, fisheries and tourism, education and research, equality and energy and the climate crisis. Another meeting is already in the works for later this year to continue to build on the ideas presented this week.

During her visit, Katrín also met with Greenland’s Minister of Finance Naaju Nathanielsen to discuss the state of the countries respective economies. She also paid a visit to the Greenlandic Parliament, the National Museum of Greenland, the University of Nuuk, and met with Greenlandic women from the from politics, business, culture and the university to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face and parallels between Iceland and Greenland.

‘Blue Blob’ Is Slowing Icelandic Glacier Melt — For Now

Snæfellsjökull National Park

Icelandic glaciers have been losing mass since the Little Ice Age, but that process has slowed over the last decade thanks to the influence of what scientists have dubbed the Blue Blob, “an area of regional cooling in the North Atlantic Ocean to the south of Greenland,” Euronews reports. This was among the findings in a new study authored by Icelandic and Dutch scientists, who also project that the slowdown is only temporary.

When less snow accumulates on glaciers in the winter than melts in the summer, this is called Negative Surface Mass Balance, or SMB, which in turn, causes sea levels to rise. In Iceland, this process accelerated at the start of the 21st century but has slowed down considerably since 2011. This is particularly surprising because loss of mass has not slowed down for glaciers in nearby Arctic areas—most notably the Greenland Ice Sheet, which has been identified as the single greatest contributor to rising sea levels. In the span of 12 months alone, from August 2020 to August 2021, the Greenland Ice Sheet lost close to 166 billion tonnes of ice.

In the course of their research, the Icelandic-Dutch team noted that the slower rate at which Icelandic glaciers have been losing mass coincided with the emergence of the Blue Blob. As Iceland is “more exposed to the ocean and maritime influences than Greenland,” the scientists say that it now “appears that a cooler convection of air from the blue blob has kept [Icelandic] glaciers more intact.

The mystery of the Blue Blob

GISS Surface Temperature Analysis Map, via NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

The Blue Blob is a mystery in and of itself, and one which scientists have sought to explain for years. Over the last 100 years, global temperatures have risen by an average of 1°C, but at the same time, the temperature of the Blue Blob has dropped, in almost direct proportion, by .9°C. One hypothesis for this is that the North Atlantic current has gotten weaker, which means that Nordic waters are getting less of an infusion of warm water from the tropics. Back in 2016, Norwegian climate researcher Peter Langen offered quite a simple explanation: the blob came into being during a very cold winter, he said, “and the cold actually resulted in an increased mixing of surface water with the deeper levels.” Most recently, in 2020, it was postulated that human-created factors caused the cold spot, namely low-level clouds that deflect sunlight.

Whatever its origin, the Blue Blob’s effect on Icelandic glaciers is clear. But while it has slowed SMB in Iceland’s glaciers for now, scientists say this won’t last forever. The research team conducted climate modeling that took into account both satellite images and fieldwork findings. Their model showed that there will be a short window in the 2040s when Icelandic glaciers “actually go back to an SMB of zero,” but by the 2050s, “global warming will flip the narrative.”

Icelandic glaciers could lose up to a third of their volume by end of 21st century

The Blue Blob will eventually stop cooling, the scientists say, and at that point, Icelandic glacier ice will begin to melt even faster. If there is no intervention to curb climate change, by the end of the 21st century, Icelandic glaciers will have lost a third of their total volume. And this could easily have “disastrous consequences around the world.” The projections are not entirely without hope, however.

“The Arctic is warming fast, and it can be difficult to live with” lead author Brice Noël, a post-doc researcher at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research in Utrecht, told Euronews. “But climate projections give us trajectories that enable us to see what needs to be done to try and mitigate glacier melt.”

See the full study (in English) here.

 

 

 

 

 

Freyja Dispatched to First Rescue Operation

An Icelandic Coast Guard vessel

The Icelandic Coast Guard’s newest patrol ship, Freyja took part in its first rescue operation Thursday, RÚV reports. Freyja towed the Greenlandic fishing vessel Masilik, which had run aground on the Reykjanes peninsula, into the Hafnarfjörður harbour.

A “technological wonder”

On Thursday evening, the Icelandic Coast Guard received word that the Greenlandic fishing vessel Masilik had run aground 500 meters off the shore of Gerðistangi point on the Reykjanes peninsula in Southwest Iceland. Fortunately, the Coast Guard’s newest patrol ship, which arrived in the country in November, was moored in the Hafnarfjörður harbour, having just towed a boat into the port from the north.

At around 7 pm Thursday, Freyja set off toward Gerðistangi, assisted by the towboat Hamar, a helicopter, and a search-and-rescue team.

Speaking to RÚV yesterday morning, Friðrik Höskuldsson, Freyja’s captain, remarked that the ship had performed exceedingly well. “The rescue operation went well. The weather conditions were difficult at first – with winds up to 24 metres per second. It was an offshore breeze, however, so it met us fairly well. It took some time to manage conditions and check for an oil leak.”

Freyja succeeded in extracting Masalik from the cliff upon which it had settled. “Freyja did fantastic. She’s a technological wonder, raising the standard of the Icelandic Coast Guard by a great deal. She’s an excellent ship.”

Better safe than sorry

Masilik arrived in the Hafnarfjörður harbour yesterday morning.

According to Friðrik, the crew of the fishing vessel was never in any real danger, although one can never make such estimations with full confidence. “You never know when something like this happens whether the ship stays on keel or capsizes. In this instance, it worked out okay. But for safety’s sake, we sent the Greenlanders to land … they wanted to get to land, and a vessel from Landsbjörg transported fourteen of the crew to Vogar í Vatnsleysuströnd.

Giant Ice Floe Sighted Off North Coast

An enormous ice floe has been sighted off the coast of Melrakkaslétta, a peninsula in northeast Iceland, Vísir reports. It is likely that the floe, said to resemble an ‘island of ice,’ broke off the Greenland ice sheet and was carried toward Iceland with the ocean current.

A diagram from the Icelandic Met Office shows the projected location of two ice floes off the coast of Northeast Iceland

The Icelandic Met Office received reports of two ice floes in the area on Thursday, one of which appears to be moored to the seafloor and the other of which appears to be free-floating, although it’s not currently moving very much.

In a conversation with Vísir, Pedro Rodrigues, the Station Manager at the Rif Field Station in Melrakkaslétta, said that he believes the ice floe is roughly 500 meters long [1,640 ft; .3 mi; .4 km], although it’s difficult to say for certain since it’s currently so far from land.

Cloud cover in the area is currently too dense for the Met to obtain good satellite photographs, so currently, the only available image of the floe is one that was taken from land, using a 65x zoom. This clearly exaggerates its size, but also seems to indicate that it is genuinely quite big.

Greenland Authorities Warn Arctic Prime Fisheries Against Fishing License Violations

Greenlandic authorities have warned the Greenlandic fishing company Arctic Prime Fisheries of possible repercussions if Arctic Prime violates the terms of its fishing license, Sermitsiaq reports. The violation in question is landing its catch in Iceland before having landed half of its permissible catch in Greenland. 29.53% of Arctic Prime Fisheries is owned by interconnected Icelandic seafood companies Brim and Útgerðarfélag Reykjavíkur.

December 17, Greenland’s government warned the company in January that they needed to land at least half of their permissible catch in Greenland before they landing their catch in other countries. According to Sermitsiaq, Arctic Prime protested the mandate but Greenland’s government upheld their decision, as late as January 28. Since then, Greenland’s Ministry of Fisheries has had wind of Arctic Prime’s ship on its way or even already landing fish in Iceland. As of last Friday, they hadn’t yet notified the police but did notify the company of the consequences it might bring to violate the terms of their Greenlandic fishing license, Jørgen Isak Olsen told Sermitsiaq.

Icelandic seafood companies Brim and Útgerðarfélag Reykjavíkur own 29.53% of Arctic Prime Fisheries, after extensive investments last summer. Arctic Prime is one of South Greenland’s largest private workplaces and was hard hit by the effects of the pandemic. The company has catch quotas of cod, mackerel, herring, as well as redfish and halibut. The company mostly fishes south of Greenland and in the Greenland Strait.

Hopes Report on Iceland-Greenland Relation Marks Turning Point

Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson officially handed in a new report on “Iceland and Greenland’s cooperation in the new Arctic” yesterday, requested by the current Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson. The report includes several propositions to strengthen the two countries’ cooperation, and Guðlaugur Þór stated that he considered the report to mark a turning point in cooperation between the two nations.

Guðlaugur Þór stated that it had been his opinion for a long time that the cooperation between the two countries was something to strengthen and that both the people of Greenland and Iceland agreed. A lot had been done but he had thought that a roadmap on how to effectively strengthen communication was lacking. “It’s always been important but now it’s vital. There’s no doubt and anyone who reads the report will see that it’s a complete work including 99 proposals.” Guðlaugur stated that the report covered the history of communication and the status of certain cooperative issues. The minister of foreign affairs appointed the committee in 2019 and got Össur Skarphéðinsson, former minister of foreign affairs to chair it. Other representative included Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir and Óttarr Guðlaugsson. The report was written in cooperation with people from Greenland and the plan is for Guðlaugur Þór and Steen Lynge, who’s in charge of foreign affairs in the Greenland national government, to present the report at the Arctic roundtable next autumn.

Guðlaugur Þór stated that he and Lynge will work an a framework agreement between the countries with stated goals in certain cooperative fields. “I have also started work on a parliamentary resolution declaring Iceland’s will and goal of increasing cooperation between the two countries.”

Össur Skarphéinsson stated that Greenland was currently in an advancing spirit, with growing community strength and blossoming industry. Developments were ongoing for the nations’ cooperation in projects connected to businesses, flight-related services and fishing industries. The report mapped the cooperation and included suggestions that would bring mutual political and economical gain. Changes to the Arctic meant that the position of Iceland and Greenland was altered and that it was normal to work together.