Glacier Ice Cave Tour in Langjökull

We tried one of the newest ways to discover a natural ice cave in Iceland – with Sleipnir Tours’ giant glacier truck! Natural ice caves are a unique phenomenon and usually only accessible in winter when the ice is stable enough. In summer, the ice caves are formed by the meltwater flowing under the glaciers.

 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about this unique tour and why you should try it!

The Location

The ice cave that we visited is located in Langjökull glacier, which is actually Iceland’s second-biggest glacier. It is conveniently located in South West Iceland, and can be easily reached on a day tour from Reykjavík. Langjökull is the source of the river Hvítá and also feeds the massive hot spring Deildartunguhver in West Iceland.

 

The ice cave tour actually starts right from the parking lot of Gullfoss waterfall, which is one of the main sights of the famous Golden Circle route. So, chances are good that you will be in this area!

Langjökull also has a man-made ice tunnel, which is accessible from Húsafell, a summer house area in the West of Iceland. If you want to visit a natural ice cave, however, the Gullfoss waterfall is the place to be.


The meeting point for the tour is at the upper parking lot, where the cafeteria is located, too. You can really not miss the huge truck of Sleipnir Tours, which will greet you at the beginning of the lot.

The glacier truck of Sleipnir tours

The Tour

After boarding the truck, we got cozy in the comfortable seats and enjoyed the big windows, which also extend to the ceiling! Next to the professional driver, there was a tour guide from the company accompanying the ride. She was knowledgeable and made the ride even more fun by sharing interesting facts and stories about Iceland and the surroundings.
 
The ride itself took about 1 hour, but it was pleasant to sit in the warm truck and enjoy the beautiful views that unfolded before our eyes.

Once we drove on the glacier, the real adventure began. The massive Sleipnir glacier truck showed its real power by swooshing over the ice like it was asphalt. We drove along the foot of the glacier to our destination, close to the entrance of the glacier cave.

 

The group was then split up, so there would not be too many people in the ice cave at the same time. Our group started with a visit to the ice cave, whereas the other group began to explore a frozen glacier lagoon close by.

The glacier truck Sleipnir.

After stripping on crampons, to step safely on the icy surface, we approached the entrance of the cave, which was just some steps from our truck.

 

The black ice in the ice cave in Langjökull

 

The ice cave was somewhat sunken into the glacier, so we had to descend a kind of natural staircase. Then a large cave opened up before our eyes, which continued to bore into the glacier in a small tunnel. This part was not accessible because it was very narrow and unstable, but the large cave vestibule was impressive.

 

The ice, seen from above, was dark, beautifully shaped, and shimmered in the light. Then, as we descended, we saw other colors in the meter-thick ice, different shades of blue and even green.

 

Shades of blue in a natural ice cave in Langjökull

 

We had some time in the ice cave and were able to take all the pictures we wanted! I personally enjoy the geometrical shapes of the ice the most – paired with the fascinating translucent colors, this makes for amazing photos.

 

Glacier ice cave in Langjökull, Iceland

After visiting the cave, we made way for the other group. Together with a glacier guide who joined us on site, we then headed to a natural ice lagoon just a few meters away.

 

The afternoon sun provided fantastic light and although it was freezing cold, the sight was beautiful.

At the end of this icy adventure, we got back into the glacier truck to be taken back to Gullfoss waterfall. The ride back was comfortable and a good opportunity to warm up, relax and look at the pictures.

 

Overall, the tour took about 2-3 hours. I would recommend it if you are traveling in this area of Iceland, for example during our popular 7-Day Roadtrip, and want to explore a natural ice cave. It’s also cool to take a ride on this huge monster truck, and you can take great photos with the wheels as a souvenir!

The shadow of the glacier truck Sleipnir.

The name of the vehicle and the company is in fact derived from Odin’s horse: Sleipnir. It was supposed to be eight-legged and able to move on land as well as on water and in the air – we are sure that it could also move on glaciers!

Iceland Airwaves 2022 – The Biggest Party in Reykjavik

For so many years Iceland Airwaves was the biggest and most famous Icelandic music festival. The biggest musicians, DJs and artists attended it. It went through some changes, had its ups and downs, and finally is back after the Covid lockdown. Last year it was held as an online concert, very cozy with great quality live-streaming. So, this year it is back offline with an exciting program, off-venue concerts and even a conference! Read on to know more. 

 

Iceland Airwaves is an immersive, multi-genre music festival held across a multitude of venues in the country’s capital, Reykjavík. This festival showcases hundreds of acts ranging from unheard-of up-and-comers to headline-status artists, ranging from established international talent to the country’s rich melting pot of domestic rising stars.  

Icelandic music

Lineup of the festival is usually filled with various Icelandic bands, as well as Scandinavian representatives (Sigrid, Aurora etc). During the best years, some of the biggest UK & US names were performing. Such as Sinead O’Connor, Kaiser Chiefs, Klaxons, Fleet Foxes, Cold War Kids, Beach House, Benjamin Clementine and Mumford and Sons. And the lineup is so vast that a fan of any music genre will find something for themselves.  

 

Iceland Airwaves brought to the stage many small Icelandic bands and opened the way to worldwide popularity. Along with famous Icelandic bands such as GusGus, OMAM (Of Monsters and Man), Emilliana Torrini, Daði Freyr and Hatari (both were representing Iceland on Eurovision) you might discover other talented musicians. For folk-lovers we recommend checking out the following names: Ólöf Arnalds, múm, Vök, Ástiðir. On the darker side there are bands like Una Misere, Kælan Mikla and Agent Fresco. For hip-hop listeners – Emmsjé Gauti, Jóipe x Króli, Birnir, Friðrik Dór and Aron Can.  

 

During the festival days, the small Reykjavik’s downtown turns into a hybrid of a party, improvisation scene, and a lively path for so many attendees, bright and festive. Main venues that hold the main (and the biggest) concerts are the Harpa Concert Hall and KEX Hostel.  

In 2022 the festival is hold on a few venues – FRÍKIRKJAN, GAUKURINN, GAMLA BÍÓ, HÚRRA, IÐNÓ, REYKJAVÍK ART MUSEUM and traditionally KEX HOSTEL. And it lasts from November 3rd to November 5th. Discover Icelandic music scene for yourself!

iceland airwaves

Perlan Museum – the Pearl of Reykjavik

One of the most popular museums in Iceland’s capital is the Perlan Museum. Here you will find interactive elements, a planetarium, an ice cave, and much more. Read on to learn more about this place and why it’s worth a visit!

perlan museum

Perlan's History

Perlan has not always been a world-class Exploratorium, it was constructed as a heating tank. This explains the building construction – a huge glass dome that rests on top of six district heating tanks, each of which can hold about 4 million liters of geothermal water.

 

The first idea for the construction of a magnificent building on Öskjuhlíð hill came from Jóhannes Kjarval, a famous Icelandic artist. And his concept was the following: “the temple sides were to be covered with mirror slabs, so that the northern lights could approach the feet of men – the roof was to be decorated with crystals in every color, and a floodlight was to be at the top of the ridge that illuminated all the tanks. The house itself was supposed to correspond to the light of day and the symbols of the night.” And you could see how the idea turned into an amazing building on the top of a hill.

 

And the hill – Öskjuhlíð – is something to mention. Did you know that over 176,000 trees have been planted there? Now it is a popular recreation zone for Icelanders, where you can enjoy picturesque views, and moss in all forms and even walk towards the public beach, Nautholsvík, located nearby.  

Perlan Exhibitions ​

Within Perlan, there are museums with interactive exhibitions, activities, and even a Planetarium. There are so many places to visit that it’s best to plan on staying a few hours to experience everything Perlan has to offer.

 

The first floor 

Start with the beginning – the Iceland Timeline exhibit. The story of Iceland begins 64 million years ago and is one of constant change and rebirth. It is a story written in fossil records, geological formations, ancient myths, and modern stories, as well as in the evolution of Iceland’s ever-changing plant and animal life. 

 

Next is the Forces of Nature exhibit, where you’ll learn which natural forces have shaped the island and which are still active. A little further on you can see Iceland’s animal inhabitants, even extinct ones. A realistic model of the Látrabjarg cliff rises 10 meters into the air. Visitors feel as if they are standing at the base of the cliff, looking straight up – a truly breathtaking view. One can see puffins, gannets, guillemots and many other birds, both sitting on the cliff and digitally animated in the binoculars. In the Cinematic Underwater Journey, visitors can see whales swimming beneath their feet, animated whales rather than real ones, of course. Captivating information and stories make this exhibit both entertaining and educational.

 

After exploring all these exhibits, you’ll probably want to rest a bit, and the planetarium is perfect for that. A huge dome and comfortable seats welcome you there. The show is all about the northern lights, embodied by the goddess of dawn Aurora. It is a story with many tales, combining science and art into a unique experience. You’ll travel from Reykjavik to outer space and immerse yourself in the mysterious auroras that occur throughout the solar system. And if you haven’t been lucky enough to see the aurora dancing in the sky, you can make up for it at the planetarium. The amazing show is also accompanied by great Icelandic musicians – Ragga Gísla and Petur Jonsson – who wrote songs especially for the show. 

 

And if you missed a volcanic eruption in Iceland (and there have been a few lately), you can see the best pictures and videos of them here in Perlan. From fire to ice – the last highlight of the first floor – is the ice cave. It is a man-made cave where snow and ice were brought from the nearby Bláfjall mountain. It is the first of its kind in the world! It is 100 meters long and was built with over 350 tons of snow. You can experience what it is like to be inside the glacier, see breathtaking colors and even sit on the ice throne!

Planetarium Northern Lights

The second floor  

On the second floor you can visit an extensive exhibition of the Icelandic Natural History Museum. Here you can discover the secrets of water in Icelandic nature, learn all the names of waterfalls and marvel at minerals and stones. One of the interactive exhibitions is dedicated to Icelandic glaciers. Here you can learn about the Icelandic glaciers, their grim future and the effects of global warming.  Guests are also introduced to the unusual life forms that live on glaciers, and can leave a message for a melting glacier (or future visitors).

Food and more!

On the fourth floor, you can visit the observation deck, which offers a 360-degree view of Reykjavík. You can see the city center, the sea, and the mountains around the city. There is also a 230-meter-long zipline here. It is open during the warmer months of the year. Visitors can whiz down from the top of Perlan overlooking Reykjavík and Öskjuhlíð.

 

On this floor, you can also buy some souvenirs and eat ice cream. And on the 5th floor is the Perlan restaurant with a breathtaking view.

You can easily book your adventure online at www.perlan.is or buy a ticket on-site.  To reach Perlan from Reykjavík city center, you can either walk and enjoy the view of Öskjuhlið, drive there or take the bus. 

So the Perlan Museum is definitely worth a visit when you are in Reykjavík! Here you will learn everything about Icelandic nature: northern lights, glaciers, volcanoes, marine life, seabirds, minerals, etc. During a visit you will feel like a real adventurer in an ice cave, enjoy a first-class show in the planetarium and admire the 360° view over Reykjavík. What are you waiting for?

New Volcano Eruption in Iceland

You probably heard about the newest volcanic eruption in Iceland that has started in August. The new volcano site is located close to the last year’s eruption at the mountain Fagradasfjall on Reykjanes Peninsula. It is believed that this eruption will be a few times bigger and last longer than last year’s one. Read on more about the Meradalir new volcano in Iceland. 

Volcano eruption in Iceland

What happened?

In July the area close to the Reykjanes Peninsula and even Reykjavik experienced numerous earthquakes. It was similar circumstances to the last year pre-eruption time. So, on August 3rd the volcano finally erupted. Right away live streaming from the eruption site was organized and safety brigades gathered. Along with them bloggers and volcano fans hiked to the site to be the first to share stunning photographs and videos. 

How is it going?

At this moment, the volcano area is closed due to the weather conditions. The lava is spilling into the Meradalir valley, risk to populated areas and critical infrastructure considered low. There is no disruptions to international aviation as the volcano is located close to the International Keflavik airport. Volcanic activity follows considerable seismic activity over the past few days and the fissure is close to the site of an eruption of a similar type last year. 

How to get to the volcano safe?

It is always safer to go with a trained guide, so we suggest you check out our Volcano tour first. If you plan to travel yourself, here are some important details and recommendations. 

The exact location of the fissure is in Meradalir about 1.5 km north of Mt. Stóri-Hrútur. The area is in southwest Iceland, about 15 km from Keflavik International Airport and about 25 km from the Reykjavík metropolitan area. The hike is 14km to the volcano and back, it is reasonably difficult as there are steep areas and stones slides. For anyone planning to visit the new volcano we strictly advice to check safetravel.is first, it is important to follow safety advices from authorities. Detailed map on the hiking paths and parking in the area could be found here.

We recommend having hiking poles with you, it is definitely helpful. Don´t forget to take enough water and snacks, as the route can take up to 4 hours (both ways). Please evaluate your physical ability to walk that far and don´t bring pets or small children to the hike – it is not safe.  

We hope that this volcano eruption is here to stay, so everyone will have a chance to visit this one in a lifetime experience! 

Not Boring Guide to Reykjavik

Capital of Iceland is a small but vibrant city with a population of around 131,136 (and 233,034 in the Capital Region). Europe’s most northern capital is the center of Iceland’s culture and nightlife. Reykjavik has become a popular tourist destination these days and it indeed has a lot to offer from visiting world-famous attractions to the places that only locals know. We will share all its secrets with you, what to do in Reykjavik, what to visit and what to experience. Read on!  

reykjavik,iceland,hallgrimskirkja

A bit of history

Let’s start with a few facts that you might be interested in but not bored with as well.  

  1. Reykjavik as a place of settlement was a random choice. Ingólfur Arnarson tossed his high seat pillars overboard and settled where they washed up. So around 874 AD he and his fellows settled on a smokey bay, that literally translates to Reykjavik. As the soil here was poor, most of the farming moved to the South of the island.
  2. It is only after 17th century that Reykjavik became a fish-trading center with Danes. However, Denmark had strengthened its hold over the country’s lands, and the crown had a complete trading monopoly. And only in 1944 Iceland declared its independence from the neighbor. 
  3. World War Two helped Reykjavik to grow as Britain and then the US built armies their military bases on the island. It triggered the development of all types of facilities – accommodations, bars, athlete centers, cinemas, new trading and cultural centers. 
  4. Reykjavik’s Women’s Day Off in 1975 inspired the entire world to fight for equal pay and better working conditions. Icelandic women just refused to go to their jobs, do the housework, or raise the children. 
  5. After the infamous Eyjafjallajökull has stopped the aviation industry, Iceland became the hot destination. And Reykjavik had to offer accommodation to millions of tourists. So, it grew and grew and became a truly modern city with a hint of history. 

Museums worth visiting

Of course, Iceland has a lot of traditional museums that display Icelandic classic and modern art, but we want to recommend you more of a fun experience.  

First, there is the Penis Museum. Yes, you read it correctly. It was previously a personal collection of Sigurður Hjartarsson that expanded to the whole museum. The exhibition contains more than 300 exhibits of varied species. You could see sexual organs of whales, walruses, mice, horses and even a human one. The fun fact is that the human penis belonged to a 95-year-old Icelandic man. It is believed he was a great womanizer. And when he died in 2011 his organ was donated to the museum to immortalize his owner. 

Then there are a couple of interactive museums in the Grandi area (close to the Old Port) that are fun for children and adults. One is the Whales of Iceland Museum, with the collection of 23 life-size models of sea creatures. You also can familiarize yourself with all the species of whale present in Icelandic waters, enjoy interactive exhibits and audio-visual panels.  

Close by is located the Saga Museum. It is an Icelandic (and much smaller) version of the Madame Tussaud’s museum, with Vikings atmosphere. So, you could learn about Icelandic sagas, settlement, and main historical personas through a walk between them. We recommend taking an audio-guide as it will explain a lot and will point out the smells of Medieval Iceland, that were synthetically reproduced inside. 

While walking downtown, there are a few small galleries worth your attention. The newest addition to the art scene is Gallery Port. It exhibits modern Icelandic and international artists, usually having a bi-weekly display update.  

Gallery Null & Punk Museum used to be two public restrooms opposite each other, but now they are small and eccentric galleries. One is dedicated to the history of Punk culture in Iceland, another gives a space for young Icelandic artists to be seen. 

Perlan Museum is a great way to spend your day learning about Iceland with interactive exhibitions, visiting an Ice cave, watching the Northern lights at the Planetarium and enjoying 360-degree view over Reykjavik. Plan beforehand to spend here at least couple of hours!

Parks of Reykjavik

iceland,park,botanical garden,Laugardalur

Öskjuhlíð that lies close to the Perlan museum is a place to get lost (for like 5 minutes) in trees and huge stones covered in moss that remind you of trolls or hidden people. Here you can easily imagine why Icelanders believe in supernatural beings. However, you can also find reminders of modern life and especially World War II here – the forest used to be a military base for the British army, so some objects still remain there. Öskjuhlíð is also a great area for mount biking, cycling and just walking with a dog.  

If you continue your path further from Öskjuhlíð you will find yourself close to the Nautholsvik geothermal beach. This is less a park but more a public beach where you could take a dive into the ocean. It is artificial yellow-sand beach with changing rooms and showers, two hot pots (30–35°C), one of which is built into the sand, and it is free! 

Laugardalur and the Botanical Garden. Yes-yes, Botanical Garden sounds nerdy and boring… But in Iceland, where the flora is not as reach as in other countries, we do appreciate all blooms! And around it the Laugardalur park with recreation area, small zoo, sport facilities and the biggest outdoor swimming pool in Reykjavik, Laugardalslaug. We highly recommend visiting the pool as it has a hot pot with sea water, and in general it is lovely to relax there. In Laugardalur you can also find a vast camping area that is comfortably located within the city. 

Cafes and nightlife in the capital

iceland,cafe,attractions

Reykjavik well deserves to be the nightlife capital of the North. All bars and clubs are conveniently located downtown, so you don´t need to catch a taxi to change the vibes you want to dance for or to do a pub-crawling. There are as well plenty opportunities to listen to live music. Many bars have weekly live music nights (Mál og Menning, Húrra) and there is always someone playing in the English pub. The entertainment program is vast as well: from poetry nights to drag-shows. We would recommend to check Gaukurinn and Sirkus bars, but if you are up for some dance moves you should visit Kaffibarinn, Pablo Discobar or KiKi (LGBTQ+ bar). 

If you are tired of nightlife and just want to chill in a pleasant atmosphere, consider visiting Luna Florence or Lola Florence – these two sister-cafes are well-known for their love of plants, magic, vintage, and healthy food. Locals are fond of the coffee house – Kaffi Brenslan, where you can order hot chocolate with lovely waffles. A recent addition to the café scene is the cat-café Mjá, that hosts few cats and serves nice coffee in a cozy interior. The less popular place is café Iða, it is close to the Old Port and further from touristy streets. It is a combination of a small café with a bookshop, so you can sit down and look through some vintage journals or exciting books, while sipping your tea or coffee.  

iceland,pool,swimming pool,public beach iceland

First off, if you didn´t visit a swimming pool in Iceland, you have not been to Iceland properly! Outdoor pools, the variety of hot-tubs, saunas and massage options elevate Icelandic pools from regular pools greatly. And of course, try out ocean-dive at the public beach, Nautholsvik. So, don´t forget your swimsuit when packing for a trip to Iceland! 

Next on – Zip line! This new attraction only opened last year, so it is new even for the locals. There are two 230-meter lines going down from Perlan’s tank down to Öskjuhlíð forest at a speed of about 50 km/h. The total experience takes about 30 minutes and 3000 Icelandic kronas, and starts on the 4th floor of the Perlan museum.  

Fly Over Iceland is more an experience than a museum, so we include it here. It is an ultimate flying ride as it says in the name, over Iceland. But before the ride you will meet interactive guides that will tell you the story of Iceland. And after, the technology will allow you to experience flying as if you really were! You will be hang suspended, feet dangling, before a 20-metre spherical screen. Special effects, including wind, mist and scents, combined with the ride’s motion will create an unforgettable experience. The attraction is open every day from 10 AM to 7 PM and the ticket fare is 5000 Icelandic kronas. 

And the last drop, the last stop is a beer-tasting experience at the local feminist brewery, Lady Brewery, that is located in the same area as Fly Over Iceland. Tasting includes introducing Lady’s history, its feminine approach in the craft brewing world, and a tasting of signature + seasonal beers. Tasting takes around 40 minutes and the price per person is 3500 kr.  

So now you know what to visit, what to see, what to try and experience in Reykjavik. Don´t hesitate to reach to us out and ask more questions, we are here to help!

Viking-related places in Iceland

Iceland is a well-known and popular travel destination thanks to the otherworldly nature, but for those who love Scandinavian culture and sagas, Vikings and Norse gods, Iceland would also offer a lot too. Vikings are also known as Norsemen and those who settled in Iceland sailed here from Scandinavia, in particular Norway and the British Isles. 

To ruin the romantic appearance of the Vikings, you should remember that they were raiders, who took anything from the villages that they raided. And that included women, it is believed that they kidnapped future wives on their way to Iceland, mostly from the British Isles. However, once settled the Vikings would put down their weapons and indulge farming and fishing, so you could see many traces of their presence in Iceland. 

The first settler in Iceland is supposed to be Ingólfur Arnarsson, who stayed permanently on the island, around the year 874. You could see his statue in Reykjavik´s downtown or visit the Saga Museum to see the wax figures. The capital area and around the country areas are filled with Viking figures, activities and events, museums, etc… Each one of these things serves as a constant reminder of the rich and interesting heritage that Iceland displays.  

Althingi Icelandic Park

Another significant place connected to the Vikings history is Alþingi. In 930 the first parliament in Europe was created in Iceland in the National Park Þingvellir. This place was chosen as a meeting point for clans representatives to judge, announce new laws and exchange news with fellow Vikings who came here (sometimes walked here) from every part of the island. Luckily for tourists, this place is on the route of all Golden Circle tours and is close to the capital. So, no need to travel days and nights to explore the park also known as the place where two tectonic plates tear apart divided by the Mid-Atlantic Rift. 

Another place to visit is located right in the city center of Reykjavik, it is the famous Hallgrimskirkja church and the statue in front of it. You can see the figure of Leifur Eiríksson the Viking age hero, the first European to arrive in America. It is believed that Leifur’s traveled to America in the year 1000 and preceded the Christopher Columbus’ voyage. However, he did not settle there for long and the reason is said to have been that it was hard to keep slaves in America because there was too much good land for them to escape. In Iceland, this wasn’t much of a problem. The statue of Leifur Eiríksson was a gift from the United States to Iceland to commemorate the 1000-year anniversary of Alþingi, the parliament of Iceland. 

You might also be interested in a few places, like museums, hotels and photo studios that are specialized in Viking culture. For example, the Viking Hotel in Hafnafjordur, that decorated the rooms in Viking style and West Nordic theme. When you enter the Hotel, you are greeted with fine art and crafts from three countries: Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. Mink Viking Portrait Studio is a gorgeous photo studio you can visit to get a beautiful portrait of yourself in Viking outfits. Árbær Open Air Museum is another point of interest for Viking fans. This open-air museum displays the life of Vikings and early settlers in Iceland. You can see the historical turf houses, meet costumed guides, and see traditional crafts. 

And any museum in Iceland has link to the history of Viking settlement as any Icelander carries the DNA of those Norsemen who came to the island few centuries ago.  

 

Puffins in Iceland – Essential Guide

Puffin watching along with whale watching has become a popular activity with tourists while travelling in Iceland. So many hearts were conquered by these cute birds, so many adorable photos were taken! So, we decided to share information on when is it better to watch puffins, where are the most popular places to do it, and how responsibly enjoy puffins’ company. 

Puffin in Iceland

When is the best time to see puffins?

Puffins season in Iceland lasts from May to August. However, to be on the safe side early May is not 100% the perfect choice as birds are wild creatures and do not have a strict schedule.  

Also consider coming for a visit in the second half of the day, as birds are most active at this time. And of course, you could see puffins any time in souvenir stores. 

Where to watch them?

Puffins nestle all around Iceland, so any direction you choose to travel, you have a chance to see them. And here is a list of some spots popular for birdwatching.

Puffin locations in Iceland

LÁTRABJARG CLIFFS

The most popular cliffs to watch puffins are in the Westfjords. Millions of birds nestle here, so you will be able to see not only cute puffins, but also gannets, guillemots, razorbills, white-tailed eagles, red-throated loons, arctic terns and more. These cliffs are vital for the survival of some bird species. 

REYKJAVIK

Another place in the Westfjords where puffins nest. This beautiful spot is known for being one of the most unique nature reserves on the planet. There are no roads leading there, it is inaccessible and closed to any kind of motor vehicle. It can only be accessed by boat and then explored on foot. This is an ideal place to combine hiking and bird watching. 

VESTMANNAEYJAR – WESTMANN ISLANDS

This is the home of the biggest puffin’s colony. One-fifth of the world’s total puffin population nests here every year. However, you have to take a ferry to travel to the island.  

DYRHÓLAEY STONE ARCH

Since the South Cost is one of the most popular tourist routes in Iceland, even if you have a few days to see the essentials, you might see puffins there. The nesting area is fenced off for birds’ peace and for the visitors’ safety. Even so, the birds are easy to observe from a distance of a few meters. 

BORGARFJÖRÐUR EYSTRI

It takes a long drive to get here, but it is the easiest and safest place to enjoy puffins company. You can get really close to the birds in this location as there are wooden platforms designated for birdwatching. So there is no or minimum risk of falling into a burrow or down a cliff.  

GRÍMSEY ISLAND

Grímsey is the northernmost inhabited Icelandic territory. There are one hundred people living on the island and one million birds every summer. Interesting contrast. You could either take a ferry or a plane to get here. 

HORNSTRANDIR NATURE RESERVE

Another place in the Westfjords where puffins nest. This beautiful spot is known for being one of the most unique nature reserves on the planet. There are no roads leading there, it is inaccessible and closed to any kind of motor vehicle. It can only be accessed by boat and then explored on foot. This is an ideal place to combine hiking and bird watching. 

Puffins in Iceland

How to behave while puffing watching?

Since there are few predators in Iceland, puffins are not as fearful towards humans. However, it is particularly important to watch these birds responsibly and not harm them or yourself. So, remember these rules to be a responsible tourist and bird-lover.  

1) No touching! Puffins feathers have special properties that deflect water, thus, touching them could destroy it.  

2) No feeding! Well, we have swans and ducks for this. But puffins enjoy hunting fish and they do have a strict diet 😊 

3) Do not come too close. This can be dangerous for you. When coming close to the cliff’s edge you might not see hollow tunnels underneath the grass. Puffins dig their burrows for the eggs and holes can collapse leading to a fall.  

P.S. Fun facts about puffins you probably didn't know:

  1. One for life! Puffins usually mate for life and a couple can stay together for over 20 years.
  2. While others call these cuties “Sea Parrots” or “Clowns of the Sea”, Icelanders gave them a nickname “prófastur” which means preacher. Why do you think?
  3. Puffins are very social birds. To encourage them to come back to the Mane island, there were fake puffins installed on the shore cliffs. And it worked!
  4. Equality to all birds! The male and female puffin share parental responsibilities, they take it in turns to incubate the egg.
  5. About 60% of the world’s puffin population live on or near Iceland. But scientists are not yet sure how birds navigate back to their home burrows every year after long months at sea.

Top-10 Iceland’s Hidden Gems – Off the Beaten Path

Iceland is a small island, however, there are so many hidden gems off the beaten track, not known to the visitors of the Golden Circle and the South Coast. If you are planning a trip to Iceland but looking for an authentic experience, read on we will share top-10 of the hidden gems in Iceland.

Sky Lagoon - A New Thermal Spa in Town

If standing in long queues and bathing in a crowded spa, that is the Blue Lagoon, is not how you prefer to spend your time, then we recommend checking out a new spot.

Sky Lagoon Iceland

Sky Lagoon is located in Reykjavik and is a brand new, very well-designed spa with an ocean-view pool and sauna. It is popular with locals as anything new, however it is less crowded and spacious while offering the Ritual, a unique seven-step experience and of course the bar. Check out the Sky Lagoon website.

Reykjadalur - Hot River Valley

It´s been a long tradition to bathe (sometimes naked) in Icelandic hot springs, and believe me this is a true Icelandic experience you should try! And the Reykjadalur Valley is a perfect spot to do so – it is full of steaming hot springs, and has a hot river landscaped for bathing.

The river is long providing enough space for large groups. A small tip – the higher up the river you go, the hotter water is. And don’t forget to bring some snack and beverages to enjoy it to the fullest.

Hengifoss – The Second Highest Waterfall in Iceland

Hengifoss falls from 128.5 meters high, it drops into the Fljótsdalur valley in East Iceland. To see it up close you need to hike to the waterfall uphill for about 1 hour. But the view worth it!

Hengifoss Waterfall in Iceland

What makes this waterfall unique is layers of red clay between the basaltic layers that are 5-6 million-year-old from volcanic eruptions in the Tertiary Period. The multiple red stripes are sediments and old soil from the oxidation of the iron. Close to the Hengifoss waterfall is another one – the Litlanesfoss, famous for the basalt columns surrounding it.

Stuðlagil Canyon – Best Instagram Spot

This canyon is a truly hidden gem, as up until 2019 Stuðlagil remained unknown to locals and tourists. It was submerged under the Jöklá river and not visible until the hydroelectric power plant was build nearby. The canyon opened a picturesque view to 20-30-meter-high basalt columns and turquoise-blue water.

Stuðlagill Canyon Iceland

And now it is one of the most photographic scenes in Iceland. However, to get to the bottom of the canyon one should be prepared for a hike. For those who would like to enjoy the view from atop, there was build a view point. Here is a tip how to get to the most picturesque part of the canyon: take the Ring Road, by Skjödólfsstaðir turn south to road nr. 923 and drive to the farm Klaustursel (around 14 kilometers). You will see a bridge and a parking lot near it, leave the car and walk over the bridge to the east riverbank. Then take a hike about 4 kilometers to the canyon. We recommend to stop in the middle of your hike to enjoy the basalt column waterfall called Stuðlafoss. Ream more about this place in our blog.

Dynjandi – The Glittering Jewel of the Westfjords

Another hidden gem awaits you in the Westfjords. It is the biggest waterfall in the area, stunning and dramatic when it cascades down around 100 meters and spreads at 60 meters wide at the bottom.

Dynjandi Waterfall

The name to this waterfall was given after Icelandic word ‘thunderous’, well, it deserves every bit of it. During the scenic hike up to see the Dynjandi water veil you will pass 6 other waterfalls. The waterfall area is preserved as a natural protected monument and all visitors are asked to stay on the marked paths to preserve this beautiful place. Dynjandi waterfall is located by Dynjandisvogur bay and Arnarfjörður fjord, which is the second biggest fjord in the Westfjords.

Galdrasafnid: The Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft

If you like Icelandic folklore, Old Norse mythology and even fairy tales this place is for you – it is a museum of witchcraft! Galdrasafnið is without a doubt one of the most unique museums you can find in Iceland. It is located in Hólmavík Village, on the east side of Westfjords.

All types of demons, trolls and magical creatures are exhibit here to see in their literary and visual disguise. Of course, you could try to summon one of them using old Icelandic traditions, however, be afraid of being ill-treated by hidden people (Icelandic elves) for joking around. The museum gives you a glimpse into some intriguing ceremonies you will ever hear of, and the magical runes give great inspiration for many artists.

Hvítserkur Rock – An Elephant or a Rhino?

This standing-alone rock in the North-West of Iceland is called Hvítserkur translating as a ‘white shirt’ and is a 15-meter-tall sea stack that looks like an animal for some people. Some see a rhino and others see an elephant…

Hvítserkur is relatively easy to get to, from the Ring Road drive road 711 and you´ll get there. Best if you take a professional camera to get the best shots, especially in winter with gloomy days.

Látrabjarg – Seabird Paradise

Látrabjarg is a huge cliff in the Westfjords that is considered to be the largest seabird cliff in Iceland and also one of the westernmost parts of Europe.

Puffins in Iceland

Látrabjarg is over 440 meters high and 14 km long – you can only imagine how many birds nestle here!  But of course, most of the visitors come here to enjoy watching little cute puffins. Just keep in mind, that the Atlantic puffins stay in Iceland from mid-May until late in August each year to raise their chicks. And you can take close-up photos of these fearless birds, however, don´t try touching them it will only harm the birds. Remember, that the puffins dig 70-100 cm long burrows where they lay their one eggs, thus, being close to the cliff´s edge is not safe. Consider not crossing a white line that is there for your safety.

Árbaersafn – Hidden Gem in the Heart of Reykjavik

Árbæjarsafn or Árbær Open Air Museum is an open-air museum in the capital area. You could experience first-hand how Icelanders lived before. Iceland’s early history is restored in a series of turf houses. The turf houses at Árbæjarsafn Museum were built around 1890-1918 and have been reconstructed through the years, now you’ll meet costumed guides, grazing animals, and traditional crafts in there. You will be able to see how from a few farms Reykjavik has become a modern city

Arbaer Museum in Reykjavik

Daily guided tours in English are available all year round, at 1 PM – no booking necessary. Museum open hours: JUNE – AUGUST Open daily 10 AM – 5 PM, SEPTEMBER – MAY Open daily 1 PM – 5 PM. It is better to acquire the Reykjavík City Card – it gives you access to Árbæjarsafn museum plus many more museums and galleries in Reykjavík, the swimming pools and buses.

More info at the museum website.

Elliðaárdalur – A Rabbit Park

Elliðaárdalur is another hidden gem in the heart of the capital. This valley is a peaceful recreation area that is mostly known to locals. This oasis has some easy hiking routes, a river that runs through the valley with a few waterfalls, and the main attraction – a farm with rabbits.

 It is a perfect place to come with kids or by yourself to feed cute rabbits carrots. And you could even combine it with a trip to the Árbæjarsafn museum located not far away.  It’s the perfect place if you have some extra time in the capital but aren´t ready to leave the nature for a megapolis yet.

Iceland has so much to offer if you travel with the group or if you are exploring it off-the-beaten-path by yourself. Hopefully, our Top-10 list will be a great addition to your bucket-list on what to see in Iceland.

5 Facts About The Icelandic Horse

Icelandic horse is a unique breed, brought to the island by Norse settlers and haven’t changed much since. What is so fascinating about the Icelandic horse? Is it its gait, its history and place in Icelandic culture? Read on to learn 5 facts about this creature. 

Icelandic horses

When were they brought to Iceland?

First brought animals to Iceland

It is believed that the Icelandic horse was brought to the island by Vikings around 860 and 935 AD. However, only the best horses were chosen for further breeding; they had been picked according to specific characteristics, such as color and equine conformation. And thus, the modern Icelandic horse was created as the result of many centuries of selective breeding. Interesting research was done, it revealed that there is a link between the Icelandic horse and the Mongolian horse.  

Almost a century ago, Icelanders tried to introduce some eastern blood to the breed. It caused degeneration of the stock, and in 982 AD the law with Alþingi (Icelandic Parliament) was passed to prohibit horses import to Iceland to avoid crossbreeding. This isolation benefited the Icelandic horse, as it is one of the purest horse breeds in the world now. However, the sad side of this law is that any individual animal that is exported, is never allowed to return to Iceland. 

Viking horses

Where to see the Icelandic Horse?

All-year around outside animals

While travelling in Iceland you might see a lot of farms and stables with horses roaming free. Animals are kept mostly outside, even when the weather is nasty. The horse is undaunted by high winds and snowstorms and capable of crossing rough glacier rivers.  

To this day, Icelandic farmers use horses for sheep herding, riding, participating in the gait performances and race competitions. You can read more about sheep herding yearly celebration here. 

Please consider the following recommendations approaching these cute animals 

  • Do not stop in the middle of the road at the first sight of horses. Please, park where it will be visible and safe. 
  • Pet horses when and where it is suitable – on a horse-riding tour, or on a farm asking the owner beforehand. 
  • Do not feed horses – they are well fed, and any wrong food might affect their health. 
  • Never trespass onto private property. Remember most of the Icelandic horses are kept on private land. 

Because these creatures have never had any predators in their natural environment, they are not easily spooked, making them very approachable and friendly. However, keep in mind that they are wild animals capable of biting and kicking.  

Icelandic horse

How long do they live?​

Fluffy and long-living

Icelandic horse is well-known by its friendly behavior, gentle temper, and stoic spirit. In Medieval times horses were considered the most valuable possession, war horses were even buried alongside their fallen riders, and they were celebrated in songs and sagas.  

The Icelandic horse is a free spirited, strong animal that provides challenging opportunities for competitive riders, while remaining docile and patient enough for beginner riders too. The Icelandic horse is one of many long-living animals, their average lifetime span is for up to 40 years, with the oldest age of 59. 

Another fascinating fact about the breed is that during winter its coat becomes thicker and sheds when spring comes.  

Icelandic horse winter

God's horses

Old tales about the Icelandic horse

When Norse people came to inhabit Iceland along with horses, they brought their culture and beliefs. In Norse mythology horses are magical, strong, and sometimes evil creatures. First, you might remember the eight-footed pacer Sleipnir, owned by Odin. And in fact, it is a creature born by Loki, being a mare. Twisted and exciting Norse mythology! It is also believed that the infamous horseshoe-shaped canyon Ásbyrgi was created by Sleipnir, who placed one of his feet on the ground and left a deep imprint on the earth. And if you have never seen this magical place, here is another tale to make it even more fascinating. Ásbyrgi is believed to be the capital city of Icelandic hidden people or elves, or Huldufólk as Icelanders call them.  

The first documented horse is Skalm, it is a mare who appeared in the Book of Settlement in the 12th century. You could also meet horses playing significant roles in Hrafnkel’s Saga, Njal’s Saga and Grettir’s Saga. And nowadays many modern riding clubs and horse herds are keeping those mythological names. 

Icelandic horse

Two more gaits

Most of horses perform three general gaits (walk, trot, and canter/gallop), while the Icelandic horse possesses the two additional, called tölt and skeið, or flying pace. The tölt gate is a four-beat lateral ambling gait, known for its speed and riding comfort. As Icelanders joke, this gate was created to drink beer while riding and not spilling it. While skeið is a very rhythmic gallop, a two-beat lateral gait where each side of the horse’s feet moves simultaneously. It is used in pacing races, is fast, and smooth. Some horses can reach up to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). 

Not all Icelandic horses can perform this gait; those who perform both in addition to the traditional gaits are considered the best of the breed and have a remarkably high market price.  

Icelandic horse gait

There is so much more to learn about the Icelandic horse, like what are the colors, how to name them and when is it best to book a horse- riding tour. If you want to learn more about it, visit the website.

The Mystical Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a glacier lake, and one of Iceland’s most popular natural landmarks winter and summer alike. Floating icebergs of different shapes and sizes break off the glacier and quietly make their way into the lagoon forming an otherworldly landscape. Those that end up drifting off into the Atlantic Ocean can be seen on the shoreline of the Diamond Beach. 

Interested in knowing more about Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon? ?How was the lagoon formed and what activities can you do? Perhaps you want to join a boat tour but don’t know where to start? If so, this blog is just for you!  

people admiring jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

What is Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?

The spellbinding Jökulsárlón is a glacier lagoon found in the southeastern part of Iceland, and more precisely in Vatnajökull National Park. The park itself, deemed to be Europe’s largest glacier with a surface of just over 8000km2, covers near 10% of the entire country and is home to some of the island’s most active volcanoes and tallest peak – Hvannadalshnjúkur.  

 Jökulsárlón is positioned at the head of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and is comprised of a lagoon filled with meltwater from the glacier. Global warming is beginning to have a direct impact on Jökulsárlón and many other Icelandic glaciers, which, are starting to shrink with record speeds. The more the glaciers shrink, the more meltwater they produce, which, in turn, expands the size of the lagoon.  

 

jokulsarlon glacier lagoon with floating ice

The massive particles of ice that have been broken off from the glacier can be found peacefully floating in the lagoon. These spectacular chunks of ice all differ in shape, size and hue: Some are blue and white, whilst others even appear to be crystal clear. There are some that are up to 30 meters in height and others that are no bigger than a meter or two. Jökulsárlón provides an everchanging scenery that changes by the day. You’ll never be able to see the same landscape twice which only adds to the already ethereal natural backdrop.   

 Depending on the wind, temperature and ocean currents, these chunks of ice slowly but surely make their way to the Atlantic Ocean and float into the horizon. Those that are not immediately swept away deep into the ocean’s waters, can be found reflecting the sunrays on the black sand ‘Diamond Beach’ just opposite Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.  

It comes as no surprise that both the Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon are one of the most prominent and photographed places in Iceland.     

How was Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon formed?

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon hasn’t been around for centuries, in fact quite the opposite. In the twentieth century Iceland experienced a steady rise in temperature, which amplified the meltwater produced from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, slowly expanding Jökulsárlón glacier. It is deemed that in 1956, the size of the lagoon was 4km2 and twenty years later it had already doubled. Nowadays the lagoon is 30km2 and is yet to increase in size. 

Wildlife in Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Seals on Wildlife in Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is no short on wildlife. The high quantity of fish, particularly that of capelin and herring, provide for an abundance of seals that often can be seen swimming in the lagoon all year round.  

The glacier lagoon is also a famous nesting area for arctic turns, which, from May onwards lay their eggs in the region. It’s worth mentioning that arctic turns are famous for their fierceness and will do anything to protect their little ones. If you happen to visit the lagoon during this period, always make sure to diligently monitor them and never get too close to their eggs.  

Jökulsárlón on the Big Screen ​

As many other Icelandic natural attractions, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon not only appeals to holidaymakers, but its jaw-dropping beauty is also much appreciated by Hollywood as well. Numerous blockbusters use this natural setting as a movie backdrop, and for good reasons. Some of these Hollywood films include James Bond 007, Lara Croft: Tomb raider, and Game of Thrones.  

Activities near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and its nearby region is filled with exciting activities that will make your South Coast trip even more extraordinary than it already is.  

Take a walk on the Diamond Beach

The Diamond Beach

 Just across the road from Jökulsárlón lies one of Iceland’s most prominent natural attractions: the Diamond Beach. Chunks of ice that have broken off from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and are floating in Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon make their way into the Atlantic Ocean by a small passage.

Wind, air temperature and other factors determine how many ice particles are swept into the ocean. The majority blend with the ocean’s waters and melt quickly whilst others can be found on the black sand Diamond beach. Stretches of coastline are covered with these glittering ice sculptures of different shapes and sizes, greatly contrasting with the black sand 

Join a Boat Ride Tour on Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Several companies offer boat rides on the glacier lagoon, letting visitors get up close with the floating icebergs. Boat rides offer a different perspective of the surrounding landscape as they venture much deeper into the lagoon and allow visitors a chance to see much more than what can be seen from ashore.    

Zodiac boat tours cover large areas and can venture out all the way up to the glacier. They run every hour or so, therefore even if you haven’t pre-booked, you still might find an empty slot!  

Amphibian boats, are much larger, heavier and cannot reach places where zodiacs can. Nevertheless, they provide a more comfortable experience and are perfect for those hesitant to go on smaller, faster boats. The Amphibian boat tours run only a couple times per day, and must be pre-booked during high-season in order to secure a slot.  

Explore Vatnajökull’s Ice Caves

Explore Vatnajökull’s Ice-Caves

Vatnajökull offers some of the best ice-cave tours of the country! Winter is the ideal time to explore the frozen underworld and marvel at exceptional ice formations with the help of a qualified guide that will be with you every step of the way. 

Every year, new ice caves are formed and discovered. Some changes in appearance and structure whilst others completely disappear. Therefore, an ice-cave tour should be on your list of things to do in Iceland! Crampons and all necessary safety equipment will be given before the start of the tour. Hiking boots may be rented for an additional fee.  

Go on a Glacier Walk

Glacier walks are the perfect activity for those wanting to try something different and exciting. Experience the sheer magnitude of Vatnajökull glacier whilst you walk in between crevasses and spectacular ice formations all whilst being guided by a professional. This activity is suited for most as it doesn’t require any prior knowledge or equipment.  

How far is Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon from Reykjavík?

Jökulsárlón is accessible all year round however, adverse weather, especially during the winter months might make driving along the ring road unsafe. When heading towards the lagoon, it is also advisable to check on the current road conditions on Iceland’s Safe Travel website to make sure there are no surprising road closure on your way there.  

You can either drive to Jökulsárlón, or, if you want to leave the planning to someone else, you can always join a tour that stops there. Tours also include fundamental stops on the South Coast, allowing you to marvel at Skogafoss waterfall, walk behind Seljalandfoss and experience the wonders of Reynisfjara black sand beach all in one go.  

Ring Road Iceland

The 400 kilometres drive takes a little under 6 hours to complete. Although the distance can be driven in a day, it is absolutely not recommended to do so regardless of the season or month. The South Coast boasts some of the country’s finest natural wonders, from raging waterfalls to towering cliffs filled with birdlife, and magnificent views from sea to summit that should definitely not be missed. When driving from Reykjavík, it is recommended to spend at least two days on the South Coast and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This timeframe will only cover the bare minimum of natural attractions as there are simply so many of them dotted all over Iceland’s Southern coastline, and 48 hours is not enough to see them all. Should you wish to explore the neighbouring towns and off-the-beaten track locations, it is best to add a day or two to your itinerary.  

Iceland’s Ring Road, the country’s main road that circles the island, goes directly to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon leaving you close to zero possibilities of getting lost or missing a turn. The road continues east bound, until it makes a full circle and comes back down to Reykjavík. It is a fully paved road, that is marked and regularly maintained so you shouldn’t have any issues with driving on it.  

When is it best to visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon?

Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon

Jökulsárlón is worth visiting at any time of the year. Even in the worst of weather, Jökulsárlón’s undoubful beauty and eye-catching landscape still shines through. Of course, as with any other natural landmark, different seasons bring along their specifies.  

Summer offers visitors a chance to greet the sunrise whilst overlooking the glacier lagoon, allowing for a truly one-of-a-kind unforgettable experience. The sun beams idyllically refract on the crystal clear floating icebergs as the sun rises from the horizon. In addition, during summer, visitors get the chance to experience Jökulsárlón from up close by joining a boat tour of the glacier lagoon.  

 Winter brings shorter and colder days, light is quite limited and you only have a few hours before the sun sets once again, making for a very small window of opportunity. Having said that, the cold season brings along a fairytale like winter wonderland scenery. The whole country is covered with a blanket of snow, all of the landscape is frozen, and you get to experience Iceland’s true and turbulent weather! The drop in temperature makes ice-caves safe to explore allowing for plenty of outdoor adventures. 

jokulsarlon glacier lagoon under the northern lights

 Last but not least, can we really mention Icelandic winter without mentioning the Northern Lights? Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon provides excellent opportunities for Northern Light hunting. Its secluded location and absence of city light pollution substantially increases your chances of spotting these mystical lights dance above your very own eyes. As with all Northern Light hunts, the key to a successful hunt is not to give up. If you don’t manage seeing them from the first go, try to change location or wait a bit longer. They will eventually make their appearance.  

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, part of Vatnajökull National Park is a glacier lake that captivates with its ethereal beauty and natural views. Boat and Ice-Cave tours offer visitors a possibility to get up close with this mesmerising region. The prominent Diamond Beach, can also be found a short walk away from the lagoon.  

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