Category Tours

Krauma: New nature baths opening at Europe’s highest-flowing hot spring, Deildartunguhver.

By | Iceland in the News, Icelandic Nature, Tours | No Comments

Here is a pretty remarkable fact. If you take a shower anywhere within a 65 km (40 mi) radius of Deildartunguhver hot spring in West Iceland, you have already bathed in it’s hot water.

Later this winter you will, however, be able to dip in Deildartunguhver’s geothermal water on location with brand new baths being under construction just 70 meters (230 ft) north of the natural hot spring.

Deildartunguhver is located in Reykholtsdalur valley and is the highest-flowing hot spring in Europe, pumping up 180 liters (47.5 US gallons) per second of 97 degrees C (207 F) hot water.

For scale it would fill an Olympic size swimming pool in less than four hours. Such a pool features 10 lanes, is 50 m (164 ft) long, 25 m (137 ft) wide and 2-3 m (6.5-10 ft) deep.

Some of this enormous amount of close to boiling hot water is used for central heating in nearby towns, by being piped 34 km (21 mi) to Borgarnes (population 1.800) and 64 km (40 mi) to Akranes (population 6.700). When the water reaches its destination in Akranes it is about 78 to 80 degrees C (167-176 F) hot.

The new nature baths are called Krauma and will feature hot tubs (outdoor), saunas and a tranquility room. A heated walkway to Deildartunguhver will provide an easy access during the winter months.

You can keep track of the construction via this webcam.


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10 reasons to visit the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago

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The Herjólfur ferry has resumed sailing between Vestmannaeyjar Islands and Landeyjahöfn harbour, located a short drive from the village of Hvolsvöllur. This means much shorter and more frequent trips between Vestmannaeyjar and the mainland. The archipelago consists of fifteen islands, with Heimaey Island being the largest and the only one that is inhabited, with a population of roughly 4200. Here’s a list of reasons why you should pay the beautiful island a visit this summer.

1.     Eldfell volcano

An eruption began in Heimaey shortly after midnight on January 23, 1973, and lasted nearly six months. There was very little advance warning that such a catastrophe was about to unleash itself. The fissure which had ripped open the earth rapidly grew to 1,600 metres in length, and soon lava began to erupt from it. Gradually, during the next few weeks, the earth rose with the eruptions to produce a small volcanic mountain, Eldfell, meaning Fire Mountain, where once there was a flat meadow.

2.     Goslokahátíð – the celebration of the end of the eruption

Locals celebrate the end of the eruption each year during the first weekend in July. Among the many festivities taking place that weekend are concerts, exhibitions, and games and activities for children. The weekend’s highlight is on Saturday evening when the baiting sheds by the harbour are turned into concert venues with live music.

3.     Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum

The first weekend of August is known as “Verslunarmannahelgi,” the businessman’s holiday, in Iceland. Traditionally, businesses give their personnel the first Monday in August off, a custom that continues to this day.The three-day-long bank holiday is celebrated all over Iceland, but no one celebrates to the extent that the inhabitants of the Westman Islands do, with between 11–16,000 people (nearly 4 times the island’s population) attending the festival annually.
The history of Þjóðhátíð (the national festival) dates back to 1874, when, because of bad weather, the residents of the Westman Islands were unable to travel to the mainland to join in the celebration of the 1,000-year anniversary of the Settlement of Iceland. Instead, they held their own celebration that led to the long-lasting tradition of Þjóðhátíð.
Highlights include a massive bonfire on Friday night, a magnificent fireworks show on Saturday, and, most impressive of all, an eruption of red torches that light up the valley and represent the island’s volcanic flames.

4.     Eldheimar museum

In 2005, the Vestmannaeyjar town council agreed to take part in a project that involved excavating ten houses that had been buried under lava since 1973, and a construction of a visitors’ centre where people could view the houses and learn more about this extraordinary event. The project was named Pompei of the North and an excavated house at Gerðisbraut 10 is the centre’s main attraction. The museum has won numerous awards for its design and is definitely worth a visit.

5.     Puffins

Vestmannaeyjar is home to Iceland‘s largest puffin colony. There is a convenient bird viewing platform located on the north side of cape Stórhöfði but visitors can also purchase a boat trip which will get you closer to the burrows.

6.     The Stave Church

The gorgeous stave church in Heimaey was a presented as a gift to the Icelandic nation by Norway in 2000, to commemorate the 1000-year anniversary of Christianity in Iceland. The building’s architecture is reminiscent of that of the Viking era and inside one will find a lovely replica of a medieval altarpiece.

7.     The local food

Slippurinn restaurant, located on the harbour, offers stunning seasonal dishes that are a delicious treat for all food lovers.
Run by a family of four, chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson, his parents, Katrín Gísladóttir and Auðunn Stefnisson, and his sister, the artist Indíana Auðunsdóttir, the dining spot embraces traditional, Icelandic cuisine and focuses on using locally sourced produce such as freshly caught fish, home-grown vegetables and wild herbs to create an unforgettable culinary experience.


8.     Surtsey island

Surtsey island was formed in a volcanic eruption which began 130 metres below sea level and reached the surface on November 14th 1963. The eruption continued until June 5th 1967 and brought four islands, Surtsey, Surtla, Syrtingur and Jólnir into existence. The three smaller islands quickly eroded away once the eruption ended, leaving only Surtsey standing. Ever since the island emerged from the sea in 1963, only a small number of scientists have been permitted to set foot on it. This has allowed the island’s natural ecological succession to proceed without outside interference. Curious guests, however, can pay the Surtsey Visitor Centre a visit and learn more about the island and its geology. The interactive centre is part of the Eldheimar museum.

9.     The Golf course

The seaside golf course in Herjólfsdalur has been named one of the world’s top 100 courses. The 18-hole course is set in Herjólfsdalur valley, surrounded by nature and the ocean. The layout is short but spectacular and measures 5,820 yards. Golfers can hire clubs at the course.


10. Heimaklettur cliff

Heimaklettur cliff is a palagonite cliff that shelters the town of Vestmannaeyjar from the strong northern winds. It stands 279 meters high and has become an emblem of sorts for the island.
One can hike up the cliff all year around, something locals do regularly. The view from the top is unprecedented, hitting you from all angles.


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Growing numbers visit beautiful Reykjanes peninsula: Record increase in number of overnight stays

By | Icelandic Nature, Local News From Iceland, Tours | No Comments

Reykjanes peninsula has seen a larger increase in the number of overnight stays than any other part of Iceland. The increase between 2010 and 2015 was a whopping 245%, compared to a national average of 161%. The growth is explained by the proximity to the Keflavík International Airport, and the rugged natural beauty, geothermal areas and lava fields of the Reykjanes Geopark.

According to the regional news site the growth in the number of overnight stays has been strongest in West Iceland and the South West, especially Reykjanes. Proximity to the Keflavík International Airport and Reykjavík and the capital region seem to be particularly important, as the smallest increase has been in East Iceland, where the number of overnight stays has grown by 138%.

At the same time as the number of foreign visitors and overnight stays has grown, the supply of hotel rooms has increased. However, the growth in the number of hotel rooms has been far slower than the growth in the number of visitors. In 2014 and 2015 the number of foreign visitors to Iceland grew by 175%, when the number of hotel rooms in the Reykjanes peninsula grew by 95%, leading to a better occupancy ratio of hotel rooms.

Unaralleled natural beauty
Reykjanes peninsula is not only home to the Keflavík Airport and one of Iceland‘s best known and most popular tourist attractions, the Blue Lagoon, but also countless other beautiful sights worth visiting.

The rugged lava fields of Reykjanes are among the most beautiful in Iceland. The last major period of volcanic activity in the region began shortly before Iceland was settled, in the 8th and 9th centuries, and came to an end in the mid-13th century. These lava fields formed in these eruptions are still relatively barren, since very little vegetation other than moss has managed to colonize the hostile lava fields.

The four major volcanic systems on the Reykjanes peninsula include hundreds of open fissures and major high temperature geothermal systems, characterized by intense surface activity that has created a diversity of colours contrasting with the black lava and the lush green moss. The best two of the best known, and most easily accessible, are on the Krýsuvík system south-west coast of Kleifarvatn and Eldvörp, west of the Blue lagoon.


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Kerlingarfjöll mountain range: red rhyolite mountains, ice and hot springs

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The contrasts in colour and form of the Kerlingarfjöll mountain range can take your breath away. The dominant colour of the rhyolite mountains is red, but minerals that have emerged from the many hot springs in the area paint the ground in various other hues.

The neighbouring glacier not only adds white and blue to the colour palette, but its cold massive solidity also contrasts with the hot water that bubbles up through the earth’s crust.

Rising to 1,477 meters (4,846 ft), the mountain range is located close to the centre of Iceland’s highlands. To visit, we take the highland road Kjalvegur (Route 35, also known as Kjölur). The route begins in south Iceland, north of Gullfoss waterfall, and traverses the central highlands, west of Langjökull glacier, ending south of the town of Blönduós in Northern Iceland. The road lies 600 to 672 meters (1,968 to 2,205 ft) above sea level.

The average opening date for general traffic on Kjalvegur is during the first two weeks of June.



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Want to buy Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon? You could have your chance, as it’s to be put up for auction on April 14

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The District Commissioner of South Iceland has accepted a request that the farm of Fell in South East Iceland should go up for auction, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV reports. The farm, which is owned by a large number of parties, covers the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland.

The landowners and the owner of Jökulsárlón ferðaþjónusta, which runs tours on the lagoon, as well as operating facilities on its shore, have been unable to come to an agreement on the future of the lagoon, including the construction and operation of new facilities to handle the rapidly growing tourism at the lagoon. The owner of the travel company at the lagoon and some of the landowners have offered to buy out other owners, but the two groups have not been able to come to an agreement.

The local business weekly Viðskiptablaðið reported last year the group represented by the travel company had offered to pay 240 million ISK (1.9 million USD/1.7 million EUR) for the share of the land owned by the other group.

The municipal government of Hornafjörður, which is responsible for zoning and local administration at the lagoon, has demanded the landowners come to an agreement on the construction of new facilities by the lagoon. Current development plans, which have been approved, include two large structures to house restaurants, toilet facilities and a visitor centre, as well as boat hangars.

RÚV reports that one of the two groups fighting over the future of the lagoon is unhappy with the decision to put the land up for auction, saying the decision will be appealed to the courts. According to the decision by the District Commissioner the auction will take place on April 14.



Keflavik Airport

Keflavík International Airport ranked one of world’s best airports in 2015

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According to the Airport Council International, a trade group representing airports, Keflavík International Airport is among the best airports in Europe. The ACI asked visitors to rate airports according to a number of criteria, including security gates, check-in, passport control, restaurants, shops and other facilities and services. Despite problems, including long lines and delays, caused by the strain caused by a record number of travellers last year, Keflavík Airport came out among the best airports in Europe.

The local news site reports that ACI has previously ranked Keflavík among the best airports of Europe. In 2009, 2011 and 2014 the Airport came out in first place. This year however, Keflavík landed in third place. This is a very good result, considering the problems the airport faced last year, Björn Óli Hauksson, the CEO of Isavia, which operates the airport, argues.

Keflavík shares the third place with four other airports, Copenhagen, Porto, London Heathrow and Vienna. Four airports share second place, Zurich, Malta, Prague and Dublin. Three Russian airports share first place, Pulkovo in St Petersburg, Sochi and Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.

Isavia has announced plans to expand the airport six-fold by 2040 to deal with growing traffic. Work on the project, which will allow the airport to handle as many as 25 million passengers annually, will start next year.

Foreign travellers seem determined to get into danger by Gullfoss waterfall

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Many tour guides and members of the Icelandic tourism industry fear that Gullfoss waterfall could become the next scene for a serious accident to take place at popular tourist destinations in Iceland. Visitors keep ignoring warning signs posted by the waterfall, venturing down a dangerous walking path which has been closed due to ice for the winter.

Photographs and videos of foreign travellers ignoring warning signs which close a walking path leading to Gullfoss waterfall have caused quite a stir in Iceland over the weekend. Photographs of travellers crossing a chain link fence and Police tape telling people not to cross onto the path, have been shared on social media, as well as being published by all major news outlets. Many fear it is only a question of time before a serious accident takes place. A local guide warns that the tourism industry will suffer if the authorities don’t step in immediately to ensure the safety of travellers.

A video shot on Saturday March 5 shows where travellers either climb over or push under the chain link fence closing the path leading up to the cliff by Gullfoss waterfall. The travellers, some with small children in their arms, then walked right up to the edge of the canyon. As can be seen in the video the conditions by the waterfall were not ideal, with people clearly having a hard time finding their footing due to snow and ice.

A local guide, Hermann Valsson, who took the video and photographs in this story, told the local news site that the authorities must step in to ensure the safety of foreign visitors: “There has been a conversation among us in the tour guide profession about the situation which has developed, and we all agree it is necessary to increase safety and security at popular sites. We need more guards to ensure things go well.”


Wonderful video of a marriage proposal shows Iceland can be romantic, even during the bleakest months

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The delicate flora of Iceland and the dramatic landscapes can make Icelandic nature very romantic, a fact which the growing Icelandic wedding-planning industry has taken full advantage of. But now a romantic video of a 2015 winter road trip by an Irish couple to Iceland shows that Iceland can be quite pretty and sweet, even during the bleakest and coldest months of winter.

On Christmas Day 2014 Neill Morris’ (25) fiancée Orla O’Neill (23) gave him a surprise Christmas present: A 7 day trip to Iceland. Neill tells us he has always felt he had some kind of connection to Iceland, all his favourite bands are Icelandic and that he has always wanted to come here. “I was already planning on proposing to Orla, but when she got us the flights to Iceland I knew that’s where I had to do it.”:

I knew exactly where I wanted to propose. It had to be Skógafoss waterfall. I kept the entire proposal hidden from everyone including both our families.  I didn’t want word getting out to Orla, I wanted it to be a complete surprise.

Neill is a filmmaker and Orla is a photographer who run a wedding photography and & film company called Paper Sails, so it made perfect sense to create a short movie about the trip, giving Neill the perfect cover to film the surprise proposal.

The two made their trip in early May, when the days are already very long, but the weather can still be pretty cold and nature has yet to really wake up after the winter.

We saw some amazing things such as the Golden Circle, The Great Geysir, all the many different waterfalls. Our favourite being Skógafoss for obvious reasons. We also visited some amazing little towns on our travels, our favourite was Vik. It was so picturesque and had a very homey feel to the town. It also had one of the most beautiful black sand beaches we had seen.

It was on our third day in Iceland, the day that I had been waiting for. Today was the day I was going to ask Orla to marry me. When we got to Skógafoss my heart was pounding out of my chest, I was incredibly nervous, but I knew I had to pretend that today was just any other day. I told Orla that I wanted to get some shots of her walking towards the waterfall and then I wanted one of us standing in front of it. So I set the camera up and we got ready and I told her we will throw our hands into the air. After we did one take I told her I wanted to do it again. So we got ourselves ready and I counted down from 5 and when I got to 1 Orla threw her arms into the sky and I went down on one knee. She didn’t know what was happening at first, then as you can see in the video her knees start to give. She said yes!!! There was one other tourist who had seen the proposal who was standing clapping and cheering us.


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Iceland’s two blue water pools: The Blue Lagoon vs. Mývatn Nature Baths

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The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions. In the Northeast region of the country lies another man made nature bath, Mývatn Nature Baths, also with blue water. Frequent swimmer Dr. Gunni measures the lagoons against each other in Iceland Mag’s weekly Versus column.

What is it?
Blue Lagoon Man made lagoon with 6 million liters of 37-39°C hot geothermal seawater. The bottom is made of white silica mud. The lagoon has some underwater benches and caves to sit in. Also pails of the white mud on the bank to rub on your skin. It is good for you!
Mývatn Nature Baths Man made lagoon with 3.5 million liters of 36-40°C hot water. The bottom is made of sand and gravel. Some underwater benches.

CC MindsEye_PJ

Mývatn Nature Baths are in north Iceland. Photo/MindsEye_PJ

What is there besides hot water?
Blue Lagoon Skin care shop, clinic for psoriasistreatment, Lava restaurant and bar.
Mývatn Nature Baths Kvika restaurant.

Blue Lagoon The lagoon was formed in 1976 following the operation of the regional heating corporation in Svartsengi geothermal area. Soon people started to sneak into the lagoon and in 1987 the first first modest public bathing facilities opened. The current spa facilities opened in 1999.
Mývatn Nature Baths The baths opened in 2004, but people had been taking baths and steam baths in the area for centuries.

Distance from Reyjavík
Blue Lagoon 45 km
Mývatn Nature Baths  487 km

Admission fee (Okt 2015)
Blue Lagoon Adults: 35 EUR / Teenagers 14-15 years old: 15 EUR
Mývatn Nature Baths  Adults: 19 EUR / Teenagers 12-15 years old: 1.000 7 EUR

Opening hours
Blue Lagoon June – Aug 09:00-21:00 / Sept-May 10:00-20:00
Mývatn Nature Baths June-Aug 09:00-24:00 / Sept-May 12:00-22:00

Annual number of guests
Blue Lagoon More than 400,000
Mývatn Nature Baths Less than 100,000

Blue Lagoon
Mývatn Nature Baths

Blue Lagoon After clever marketing for a long period the Blue Lagoon has become one of Iceland’s most famous landmarks. It is close to the Keflavík airport and Reykjavík so it may become very crowded during peak season. Due to it’s pricy admission fee The Blue Lagoon is not much visited by regular Icelanders. But still: it is an unusal and otherworldly place, that lives up to it’s legend. Plus, soothing in hot water is always good!
Mývatn Nature Baths The Mývatn baths is more intimate than the Blue lagoon and not as touristic. On the other hand, it is smaller and less picturesque, even though the landscape view is very nice. It is of course further away from Reykjavík and the airport and it is yet to earn its’“must do” status. Still, soothing in hot water is always good!

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