Iceland Violated Right to Free Elections, ECHR Finds

Alþingishúsið

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found this morning that Iceland violated the right to free elections and the right to an effective remedy in a case that concerned the 2021 elections to Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament. Iceland will have to pay the two applicants in the case €13,000 each in respect of non-pecuniary damages.

Recount irregularities

The case concerned irregularities in the recount of votes in the Northwest constituency that changed the allocation of seats in Alþingi after the 2021 elections. The applicants in the case, Guðmundur Gunnarsson of the Reform Party and Magnús Davíð Norðdahl of the Pirate Party, were both unsuccessful candidates in the constituency, the smallest of Iceland’s six constituencies.

“When the results came in, there was only a thin margin of votes in the Northwest and South constituencies, which could have affected the allocation of levelling seats,”  the ECHR’s press release reads. Levelling seats are distributed nationally between parties that receive at least 5% of the total vote. “A recount was ordered and it changed the standings in the Northwest constituency, leading to Mr Gunnarsson losing his levelling seat.”

Lacked impartiality safeguards

Certain irregularities were found to have taken place during the recount, including the unsecured and unsupervised storage of ballots between the first count and the recount.

The ECHR found that Alþingi’s handling of the applicants’ complaints “had lacked necessary impartiality safeguards and had been characterised by virtually unrestrained discretion”. The procedure meant that the applicants did not have an effective domestic remedy, which violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Multiple Smaller Quakes Recorded Near Mt. Þorbjörn

Svartsengi

Numerous smaller quakes have been recorded under and around Mt Þorbjörn on the Reykjanes peninsula this afternoon.

A great many of these quakes have been recorded aligning with the ongoing eruption fissure. While none of these quakes have been recorded as having a magnitude greater than 2, there have not been this many smaller quakes over such a short period of time since the eruption on March 16th.

This follows a 3.3 quake yesterday, although today’s cluster reportedly stopped around 3:00 PM Icelandic time.

Meanwhile, ground surface rising has been continuing at the same rate as was recorded in the beginning of April. While probably an indicator of magma movement beneath the surface, this does not necessarily mean the arrival of another eruption.

The current eruption, comprising a single crater issuing lava and gasses, does not appear to be increasing in activity.

The Oystercatcher Returns

icelandic oystercatcher

Just as the plover heralds spring for Iceland as a whole, the humble and distinct oystercatcher does so for South Iceland; at least according to South Iceland news service Sunnlenska, who report that the oystercatcher has been spotted.

The bird in question was seen in Sandvík, located on the western edge of the Reykjanes peninsula. Birdwatchers reportedly await the oystercatcher’s arrival at this area with great anticipation, and the first spotting of the bird to the location has been recorded since 2007.

The oystercatcher usually returns to this area on or around April 8th, so it is a bit late this year. This may be to make up for arriving considerably earlier last year, on April 3rd.

The specific species found in Iceland, the Eurasian oystercatcher, spends its winters along the coasts of Africa and southern Asia. Come spring, these birds will fly north, breeding and nesting in Iceland. Unlike the arctic tern, they are not aggressive towards people during this time, and can be safely observed up close, but one should avoid approaching their nesting areas and stressing them out.

Akureyri Library Nominated for Green Library Award

The Akureyri Municipal Library (Amtsbókasafnið á Akureyri) is amongst the libraries that have been nominated for this year’s IFLA Green Library Award.

The library is on the long list for Best Green Library Project for an intriguing project that is actually not related to books at all.

The “Freedge”

The project in question, “Frískápur” (a portmanteau of “frí”, as in “free, and “ískápur”, as in “refrigerator”), which is called “Freedge” in English, is an ongoing project just outside the library building with the aim of reducing food waste.

Individuals, businesses and organisations with extra food that they might otherwise throw away are encouraged to bring it to and put it in these fridges instead. Anyone is then welcome to pick up this food for themselves.

More than books to lend

Incidentally, books are not the only things you can check out from this library, either.

Speaking to RÚV, library project manager Hrönn Soffíu Björgvinsdóttir pointed out that one can also borrow cake forms, dishware, tools and board games. They even have a sewing machine, which guests are free to use on the premises.

Weather in South and East Iceland May Make Driving Difficult

The weather forecast for today presents what may be challenging conditions for those hoping to drive through southern and eastern Iceland today.

During the afternoon, a combination of winds in the double-digit metres per second, along with rain and relatively low temperatures, implores drivers take extra caution when driving through South Iceland.

This is especially the case as much of Route 1 through South Iceland winds through relatively flat terrain, which can push against vehicles and make driving a little extra challenging in dry conditions, let alone when it is raining.

Come the late afternoon and early evening, East Iceland–in particular, the northeast–will see high winds, freezing temperatures and snow. This may decrease visibility. In addition, high winds near steep mountains such as those found in East Iceland can create wind sheers that descend these slopes at great speed.

Generally speaking, when traveling by road vehicle in Iceland, it is highly advisable to check the weather, road conditions, and SafeTravel in order to ensure your road trips are both safe and enjoyable.

Iceland for Photographers: 10 Hidden Locations

Hörður Kristleifsson @h0rdur

Iceland is arguably one of the most photographed countries in the world and rightly so. With its picturesque landscapes, untamed nature and everything from ice to fire it is no surprise that photographers worldwide flock to Iceland. 

Whether you are a landscape photographer, wildlife photographer, wedding photographer or a hobby photographer, these are some of Iceland’s best hidden locations for avid photographers. 

 

10 x hidden locations for photographers:

 

The West

1. Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge

Tucked away on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in western Iceland, this narrow canyon will have you in awe of its dramatic rock formations and even a hidden waterfall. This makes for a unique backdrop for editorial photoshoots or even a few one-of-a-kind wedding shots. In the summer, the canyon is quite easily accessible, but bear in mind that you need to be well-equipped and willing to get wet if you plan on getting closer to the waterfall. Rauðfeldsgjá Canyon is not accessible in the winter when the ground is icy.

2. Brynjudalur valley

In the Hvalfjörður fjord, you will find Brynjudalur valley. This paradise offers many opportunities for photographers. It has everything your landscape-photography heart desires, including various waterfalls, wide mountain scenery, rivers, and greenery. Take in the stunning landscape and create away.

 

Icy river in Iceland with a bridge crossing.
Photo: Signe. Barnafoss waterfall in the wintertime.

 

3. Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls 

In West Iceland, nestled in the Borgarfjörður region, you will find these bright blue waterfalls cascading through lava fields, creating a very unique and photogenic landscape. These waterfalls are very close together, and the drive from Reykjavík city takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes and is on route of the Silver Circle tour. The hike up to the waterfalls is very easy and only takes a few minutes from the parking space.

4. Hornstrandir nature reserve

For photographers, a trip to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the West is definitely worth it. The total area covers 580 square kilometres (220 square miles) of tundra, cliffs, flowering fields, and ice and is especially interesting for wildlife photographers seeing this is the home to Iceland’s only native mammal: the arctic fox. With more than 260 different species of flora, the hike through the wilderness can be challenging but absolutely worth it when capturing a cheeky portrait of a little fox or while letting the greatness of the fjords inspire your creativity.

 

Borgarfjörður eystri – photo by Golli

The North

5. Hvítserkur rock formation

In North Iceland, on the Vatnsnes Peninsula, the Hvítserkur rock formation rises from the sea, looking like a dragon. This distinctive basalt sea stack offers a surreal background for landscape photography.

 

The East

6. Hengifoss Waterfall

Hengifoss waterfall is the third-highest waterfall in Iceland. It is located in the East of Iceland and takes about two hours to hike up to it. Therefore, this location requires some commitment and good preparation. The waterfall is framed by vibrant red and black basalt layers, making for a stunning backdrop whether the waterfall is your main subject or you are photographing models.

7. Borgarfjörður Eystri fjord

This remote fjord in the East of Iceland provides endless possibilities for photography. It is known for its stunning landscapes, including rugged mountains, colourful cliffs, picturesque fishing villages, and a beautiful beach. This would be the perfect place for an elopement photographer to take their wedding couple or for some versatile landscape photography.

 

Hornstrandir – photo by Golli

 

The South

8. Þjófafoss waterfall

This waterfall is one of three major waterfalls on Þjórsá river, the longest river in Iceland. This milky waterfall is located in the South of Iceland, east of Merkurhraun lava field. The wide, bright blue waterfall with a giant mountain in the background makes for a stunning subject for every type of photography.

9. Brúarfoss waterfall

This hidden gem is perfect for photographers seeking lesser-known landscapes in Iceland. With its turquoise waters and picturesque surroundings, every type of photographer will be in awe of both the colours and the landscape. Brúarfoss waterfall is located near the Golden Circle route, making it easily accessible from Reykjavík city.

10. Nauthúsagil ravine

This stunning ravine is located on the South coast of Iceland and is definitely a hidden gem for photographers. This mystical ravine can be found behind Stóra-Mörk farm, and within it, you will find an amazing hidden waterfall. The hike through the ravine to get to the waterfall is not too advanced, but it is advisable to have good shoes on and expect to get a little wet along the way. When you’ve reached the waterfall – it will all be worth it.

 

These 10 hidden locations offer photographers the chance to capture the raw beauty and unique landscapes of Iceland away from the crowds, providing unforgettable experiences and stunning images.

 

Iceland News Review: The Puffins Return, Trip Into a Volcano, and More

In this episode of Iceland News Review, we delve into Iceland’s new government; the return of Iceland’s iconic puffins; a new attraction that could show you the inside of an active volcano, and much more.

Iceland News Review brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

Where to See the Northern Lights in Reykjavík

Northern Lights in Iceland

Seeing northern lights is a dream for many. In Iceland, the lights are usually green but sometimes purple, red and white. They can be seen on dark nights if their activity is high and the skies are clear. The northern lights have a schedule of their own and can be quite unpredictable. But if you’re in Iceland between September and April, remember to look up when the skies are clear. Like stars, you can best see these wonders away from the pollution and city lights; the darker the surroundings, the better. If you’re staying in Reykjavík, you don’t need to go far. Here are some of the best places to see the northern lights more clearly.

Northern lights in Iceland
Photo: Golli.

Grótta in west Reykjavík

Grótta is an area in the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, about six kilometres [3.7 mi] west of Hallgrímskirkja. As it’s the tip of a small peninsula, there are minimal city lights and pollution, giving you a higher chance of seeing the northern lights. Grótta’s lighthouse adds to its picturesque coast, creating a tranquil experience as you gaze at the lights.

You can take bus route 11 from Reykjavík city centre and get off at Hofgarðar. It is a 1.3 km [0.8 mi] walk from the bus stop to the vantage point.  You can also travel by car, bicycle, ride-share, scooter, or on foot.

Grandi harbour district

This area of Reykjavík is about two kilometres [1.24 mi] from the city centre. This neighbourhood has been growing in recent years, and you will now find various boutiques, restaurants and museums in the Grandi area. Due to its location on the waterfront, it is an excellent viewing point away from the city lights. You can get there by foot, car, bicycle or scooter, or take bus route 14 to Grandi bus stop. The best vantage point is on the northern tip, so walk up Eyjaslóð street along the water.

Perlan Sightseeing Platform in Iceland
Photo: Perlan’s 360° sightseeing platform offers great vantage points.

Perlan sightseeing platform

Perlan museum is in Reykjavík, just two kilometres [1.24 mi] south of the city centre. A large sightseeing platform wraps around the glass dome, where you have a 360° panoramic view of Reykjavík and beyond, which offers a great, unobstructed vantage point to see the Aurora.

To get to Perlan by bus, you can take bus routes 13 or 18. You can also travel by foot, ride-share, bicycle, or scooter. You can buy tickets to the sightseeing platform at Perlan’s reception for ISK 2,990 [$22, €20]. The observation deck is open until 10 PM, giving you ample time to observe the lights.

Northern lights and the peace tower in Iceland
Photo: Golli. The Northern Lights Yacht Cruise invites for beautiful views of the bay.

See the Aurora from a yacht

The Northern Lights Yacht Cruise will give you incredible views and the ability to see the Aurora more clearly. The two-hour cruise leaves from the old harbour in Reykjavík at 10 PM and is for those aged seven and older. As of 2024, the price is ISK 14,700 [$107, €99] per person, including blankets, Wi-Fi and a guide.

For an even better vantage point, there are more northern lights excursions, many of which depart Reykjavík city centre. You can also rent a car and chase the Aurora on your own.

No luck?

If you are not fortunate enough to catch the northern lights while in Iceland, you have other options. You can opt for a virtual experience by going to Perlan and experiencing them in the planetarium or to the Aurora Northern Lights Center in the Grandi harbour area, where you can admire the lights through VR goggles.

Northern lights exhibition in Perlan
Photo: The northern lights show in Perlan’s planetarium.

To keep track of the best times to see the northern lights in Iceland, using apps such as My Aurora Forecast & Alerts can better your plans. You can also visit the Icelandic Met Office’s website, where you can see the Aurora forecast. Note that on their map, the white areas indicate clear skies and a higher chance of seeing them. You will find their activity level in the upper right corner.



Eruption Crater Wall Collapses

Grindavík volcanic eruption January 2024

The last remaining lava crater from the eruption that began on March 16th has collapsed, following it overflowing with lava yesterday evening. The lava is flowing in a northerly direction.

Overflowed last night

As reported, the eruption in in Reykjanes has calmed considerably over the past few weeks, but has managed to stay active. For a while, it had plateaued to two craters, which then later reduced to one.

These craters are formed at fissure sites. As lava surrounding the fissure begins to cool, walls begin to form, which grow higher as the eruption continues. As recently as last Saturday, this particular crater was filled with bubbling lava that was occasionally spraying eastward. All that changed last night, Vísir reports, as the lava began to overflow the crater itself.

No immediate danger

As this lava continued flowing, soon the crater wall itself collapsed, issuing forth considerably more lava, albeit for a short span of time. Böðvar Sveinsson, a natural hazards expert at the Icelandic Met Office, told Vísir that it is very unlikely that the lava will affect any nearby infrastructure, but that they are monitoring the situation closely.

Partial Eclipse Will be Visible in Iceland on Monday

If you are in Iceland and unable to travel to North America to witness the total solar eclipse that is due to be visible there tomorrow, April 8th, fear not; you will be able to get the next best thing. A partial solar eclipse will be (cloud cover willing) visible from many parts of the country on Monday evening.

Four-tenths eclipse

The path of the total solar eclipse will extend roughly from northern Mexico, through Texas and across the contiguous United States from southwest to northeast, and then over the maritimes of eastern Canada.

Stjörnufræðivefurinn, Iceland’s premiere astronomy site, reports that here in Iceland, we may be able to catch a partial solar eclipse on Monday evening, wherein 41% to 47% of the sun will be blotted out by the moon.

Next total solar eclipse in 2026

The best place to see it will be in Reykjavík, where it is set to commence at 6:49 PM and reach its peak at 7:39 PM, where a 47% partial solar eclipse may be witnessed. It will also be visible from Ísafjörður, starting at 6:48 PM and peaking at 7:37 PM, as a 41% partial solar eclipse. Other parts of western Iceland may also have some luck, but from Akureyri eastward, not so much; the sun will have set in that part of Iceland before the conclusion of the eclipse.

The weather forecast for Monday evening is showing partly cloudy skies for Reykjavík and Ísafjörður, so there is a chance those in these areas will be able to witness the eclipse. If you miss it, don’t worry–come August 2026, a total solar eclipse will be visible from Iceland.