Sunday, 30 December 2007

Reykjavik Parking

Rules for parking in Reykjavik:

1. Always drive into parking spaces forwards.
2. Reverse gear should be used in emergencies only.
3. Pavements may be used as part of the parking space if necessary.
4. Parallel parking is over-rated and is fround upon!

Christmas in Reykjavik

The 23rd December is a special day in Iceland. Aside from eating plenty of traditional Skate in the evening, Reykjavik transforms for one night only. For a start there are many more people on the streets, with people buying their last few Christmas presents, and meeting friends in the downtown area. Shops fill with mini recitals, and a candlelit carol procession travels down the hill. Worth being around for next year!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Most watched radio station?

The RÚV testcard must be one of the most watched images in Iceland. Forget about Geysir, Gullfoss, Snæfell, Byörk, Hallgrimskirkja, and the rest of them. Every day thousands of people across Iceland watch this screenshot, whilst listening to RÚV radio.

It's broadcast from the station close to lunchtime so there's plenty of time to catch it :)

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Winding up Dubya

Iceland jumped into the international limelight again this week when an Icelandic teenager managed to get through to President Bush's personal telephone number, and left a message pretending to be the President of Iceland, and asked the president to call back on Monday. However instead of a phone call he received a house call from the local police following a tipoff from the secret service demanding how he got hold of the personal number.

Blog post here article (in Icelandic unfortunately)

Friday, 7 December 2007

Iceland: Banana Republic

Todays interesting fact: Iceland is Europe's biggest banana producer. (Before you start getting pedantic, it's probably not the case now, but was maybe 5 years ago).

Technically doesn't that make the country a Banana Republic?!?

Before you start wondering how on earth this could be the case, here's the reason: The Icelandic government imposed severe trade restrictions on the importation of bananas into the country, therefore making home grown banana production in geothermal greenhouses viable. That's what happens when you start playing with the economy.

Thanks to the Iceland Eyes blog for the heads up.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Ísland best í heimi!!

It's a phrase that gets rolled out almost as regularly as "How do you like iceland?". Sometimes with tongue in cheek, and other times very seriously. "Ísland best í heimi" translates to "Iceland is the best country in the world" or there abouts. Now recently there was a survey that gave some sort of credit to this.

Actually the research covers the Human Development index. This "measures a country's average achievements in three basic aspects of human development: health, knowledge, and a decent standard of living".

What do you think? You can't argue that there is a generally high standard of living here, and there are plenty of people driving nice cars.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Iceland reaches a new low...

Here's the winning song for Iceland's entry into Eurovision. I'm lost for words!

Ok... so they haven't actually got through yet, but the Iceland mafia has decided, so it'll happen. Mark my words! :)

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Icelandair antics

It's about time i published a post about Iceland's national carrier, Icelandair. I've used them several times in the past and are much like other airlines around the world. The one comment i'd like to make is regarding their in flight advertising to upgrade to business class. When you've taken off, the entertainment system does a little announcement telling you the following:

"Our Business class passengers have already enjoyed our hospitality of our business class lounge and a pre-flight drink. In a short while our business class passengers will be served an aperitif, followed later on by a full meal and complementary drinks. In a few minutes we'll be offering bar service in economy class, followed by a light meal. All beverages will be offered at a reasonable price, apart from coffee, tea, and soft drinks which are complementary. "

The message could have continued: "Our business class customers are currently sitting in comfort with much more legroom than you. Hope you're suffering. Good luck for the next three hours!"

Do any other airlines use such tactics of persuasion to get you to upgrade for the next flight?

Sunday, 15 July 2007

hvernig gengur?

Strange text seen in Seyðisfjörður in the base of a fake telephone box. Something for the tourists? A little joke perhaps? Why the morse code? Hmm any ideas?

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Inward speaking

What's the only word you're allowed to say whilst breathing in in Icelandic?

No idea? (ok small hint on the left)

It's a fantastic word, can be used repeatedly, and in so many situations. Oh and it's addictive, but by far it's best feature is it's ability to say já when breathing in. Don't believe me? Listen out and you'll hear it all the time!

Edit: For those not in Iceland Já is pronounced "Yeow", and definitely not as "Yar"

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Lupins and Forests

If you travel around Iceland with one eye slightly open in June you will see thousands and thousands of Lupins covering the country. It's all part of the push to vegetate the country and in due course re-introduce forests back to the landscape.

Apparently Lupins are a great at fertilising the soil by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil allowing for other plants to grow in the future. I've been led to believe that they were introduced into the country only about 10 years ago from Canada, but seem to be thriving over here.

Hopefully this will help prevent future embarrassment such as this incident when the Queen of England opened a forest in Iceland:

The Queen turned to Vigdis Finnbogadottir proclaiming "Yes, but where is the forest?". The former president had to reply, "Well, your Majesty, with care and optimism some day it will be here."

Friday, 22 June 2007

Icelandic Swimming

Swimming in Iceland is not like any other country. Yes it's often cold outside, but that doesn't stop the majority of the swimming pools being outdoor! Almost every town and village across the country has one, and as a general rule they all have the following:

- Geothermally heated pool.
- Slides (Up to 3 - see the photo from Eskifjordur)
- 'Hot Pots' often with varying temperatures (38°-40°, and 40°-42°). If you're lucky they also have the option of turning it into a jacuzzi.

It really makes the experience much more interesting and enjoyable than an indoor swimming pool that's full of chlorine (oh did I mention that they're filled with natural mineral water with no chemicals insight!).

To get a better idea of the swimming pool culture, put it this way. Every town has a swimming pool, but not necessarily a bar...

A word of warning... Don't forget to leave your towel in the rack by the communal showers as drying off in the changing area may result in a fellow swimmer getting a bit irate!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

The Greatest Vending Machine in the World!

Possibly the greatest (and most remote) vending machine in Iceland, and maybe even the world. It's on route 94 north of Eiðar and Egilsstaðir, and is sitting on it's own. Look out for a small white sign saying "Candy Gos Coke Sælgæti". Inside the hut is a vending machine and a guestbook to leave comments about this hidden tourist attraction. Don't forget to stop if you're passing through. Yes i know everything is expensive there, but that's not the point. Anyway enjoy!

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Icelandic misconceptions from abroad.

The classic line goes along the lines of this:

"Did you know? Iceland is actually green, and Greenland is actually covered in snow! Funny eh?!"

Although this does have a certain amount of merit, I can assure you that Iceland does have it's fair share of snow and ice. One things for certain. There is a great deal of misconception surrounding Iceland from people living outside the country. Don't get me wrong. People don't leave the country disappointed when they visit, but they often don't see what they are expecting to see.

1. Snow and Ice. As you probably know, the area around Reykjavik is almost always free from snow. This leads to the situation where there is tangible disappointment from tourists on the flybus from Keflavik. "Where's the snow?!", "I thought it was called 'Iceland'" etc. etc..
2. The Ice Bar/Hotel. Sorry folks, wrong country! Too warm i'm afraid. You'll need to visit Sweden for that one. Ok, before someone picks me up on this one. There is an 'Ice Bar' in town, but it's not the icy palace you're looking for - sorry.
3. Huskies and sledges. Again wrong country. Ok, minor correction, you can get a sledge ride here, but it seems to be more of a supply and demand thing from tourists. Try Icelandic Horse tours (or preferably 4x4 tours - far more sensible!)
4. Volcanoes. Sorry to disappoint you, but volcanoes don't go off as regularly as Strokkur in the Golden Circle. The last major event took place in November 2004 (Ok, I may be wrong here, but my point stands) There is plenty of evidence of really interesting volcanic activity around the country, but seeing a mountain belching out lava is a long shot (and probably pretty dangerous to watch anyway!).
5. Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Iceland is a great place to see the northern lights due to it's latitude, and fantastic clear skies. Unfortunately, many tourists know this, and come to the country in the summer looking forward to seeing them.... and leave disappointed. It just doesn't get dark enough in the summer months.
6. The Arctic. Contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not in the Arctic circle (apart from half an island off the north coast, the size of a postage stamp).
7. Midnight sun. Now it is close, but for those who studied geography you know that to have a true midnight sun in the middle of the summer, you need to be inside the Arctic circle. Iceland and Reykjavik sells this to tourists though, by using GMT so midnight arrives a little sooner, and hence midnight arrives in daylight. Slight cheat, but there you go.
8. Reykjavik. This is an interesting one. Generally when foreigners arrive in Reykjavik, they are shocked that it's not the futuristic party city the rumours would lead you to believe, rather a medium sized town that admittedly punches above it's weight on the party scene.
9. Others. No, Santa doesn't live here, everyone isn't like Björk, there aren't any "Iceland" stores here, no penguins, no Inuits, and no igloos i'm afraid!

I should make it clear that the rumour about Iceland having a high proportion of attractive girls is true. Although some may say I've just said that to escape an attack from the Icelandic Mafia ;)

Monday, 28 May 2007

Torfæra Rocks!

Another reason why Iceland is great... Torfæra (or Formula Offroad outside Iceland). The rules are simple. Get a car, fit a big engine and special tyres, add a lunatic driver, then sent him up the steep part of a hill. Great fun to watch, and it's no co-incidence that the biggest cheers happen when a car fails to climb to the top and rolls to the bottom...

Thursday, 24 May 2007

On the Rúntur!

Ever wonder why you keep seeing the same car drive past your window slowly 10, 20, maybe 50 times in one evening? Well maybe you've discovered a Rúntur!

For those not in the know (So that's everyone outside Iceland, along with the inhabitants of Reykjavik then), the Rúntur is a pasttime found in pretty much every town around Iceland. It literally translates as "Round Tour" and is just that. It's a chance to go out for a drive with (or without) your mates, around town. BUT there are many rules that need to be followed. (And as a foreigner I know I have no chance picking them all up so please correct me if i'm wrong). By the way in my opinion the best Rúntur is in Stykkishólmur, but i'm only a beginner so am willing to accept if there is a better one.

The Rúntur Rules:

1. You must drive the correct Rúntur route (although you will never find these in the Lonely Planet)
2. You must drive the Rúntur route in the correct direction (obviously! duh!)
3. Any car is acceptable on the Rúntur, although non 4x4 and older "used" cars are more appropriate.
4. You must drive around town at just a few km/hr below the speed limit. Afterall where are you actually going? And have you seen the price of fuel here??!
5. Speeding/skidding/handbrake turns have no place on the Rúntur. You're confusing the pastime with "Cruising" which is very different.
6. The Rúntur route will pass through (not past) a nominated petrol station, and you are expected to drop in regularly to buy diet coke (and petrol as you'll need plenty of that for a long "Rúnt")
7. It is customary to have a good look at all other Rúnter's as they drive past, particularly non-regulars. This is actually a sign of acceptance on the Rúntur and should be followed up by a stare back. Note: driver and all passengers must join in with this.
8. If you want to stop for a chat with fellow Rúnters, there will be a nominated carpark on route in addition to the petrol station, although some towns merge the two together. Here you can park up, BUT it is important to park ACROSS the parking spaces diagonally. There will be lots and lots of spaces available so it's not a problem, and then everyone knows you're up for a chat.
9. Loud music is frowned upon. So long as it stays within the car it's ok, but any bass pollution around the town will get the crime starved police on your back, so it's not recommended.
10. Rúntur driving may take place at any time, but is generally frequented from mid to late evening as a way to kill time before the bars get active. It's also a useful tactic to stay away from the bar as long as possible to avoid the Kr600+ drinks. Some prefer not to enter the bars at all to get the full Rúntur experience.

Note: DON'T try to start up a Rúntur in Reykjavik. They'll just think you're from the countryside.

Iceland's secret?

Good old OPAL! Iceland's secret. The photo on the left is the green "lightweight" version so you should try the red label version :) They're made of gum Arabic, menthol, liquorice and eucalyptus oil, and as far as i can tell are designed to get children drunk!*

Maybe I should explain?

Ok! As a local sweet, children are encouraged to eat them over imported sweets from the likes of Cadbury's and Nestle. They're a bit of an acquired taste, but soon you'll like them. Now here's the best part. There's an alcoholic drink called......OPAL! (With the same branding) And lucky for the company that makes them, all the children grow up and have already acquired the taste for the drink. Clever eh?!

*Ok children when they grow up, but that's not so interesting to say :)

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Time to Invade?

I've been wondering about this for a while. Iceland now has next to no defence force. Now on the positive side there isn't any oil or diamonds to be found here, so most regimes wouldn't bother. (And if you do find any make sure you don't tell anyone!) I love the reasons to invade on the website though:

- No armed forces
- There’s no malaria
- They kill whales
- It's Convenient
- They deny they have WMDs (Always a good excuse!)

More links to the story here and here.

Sign up now :-)

Monday, 19 February 2007


Today is "Bolludagur" or Bun day in Iceland.

I have been led to believe that traditionally children must get up before their parents, and then attack them with sticks, whilst shouting "Bolla, Bolla". For every hit, the child gets one cream bun. Sounds like a great plan :)

Thursday, 15 February 2007


Rainbow Waterfall

If you are a fan of waterfalls, Iceland is an ideal place to go travelling. Unfortunately with such a large number of waterfalls over the country, how do you know which one to go to? Already on the case, pretty much every waterfall has been given a tag to make sure you should visit. See below:

Dettifoss: The most powerful waterfall in Iceland.
Goðafoss: The most spectacular waterfall in Iceland.
Gullfoss: The largest volume waterfall in Iceland.
Háifoss: The second highest waterfall of the island. (This needs work!)
Skógafoss: The most beautiful waterfall in Iceland.
Seljalandsfoss: The most famous waterfall in Iceland. (Try again guys!)
Glymur: The highest waterfall in Iceland.

Still, can't fault the tourist board, and local residents from wanting to get the tourists to visit "their" waterfall. I would say that they're all worth a visit, just loved the classifications given above.

Have i missed any other major waterfalls with a "most..." comment?

Monday, 12 February 2007

Icelandic Horses.

Just to clear this up. Icelandic horses are horses. They may look like ponies, may be the same size as ponies, and be called ponies by everyone outside Iceland, but they are horses! :-)

Hope that clears things up!

*runs away in a hurry*

UPDATE: Thanks for all the comments below.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Iceland and Ice

Word of warning. When walking on ice, don't forget to wear your mannbroddar or "anti a**e over tit devices". I realise they fit into "dork fashion", but during winter it's too dark to notice :) Just don't wear them inside, or out in town as you'll quickly get kicked out of whichever bar you're visiting!

Thursday, 1 February 2007


Sorry couldn't resist ;-P

For those not in the know, this was the score of the (very close) handball match between old rivals Denmark and Iceland on Tuesday. Iceland equalised with 2 seconds to spare in normal time, and almost held on during extra time, but let the motherland pull ahead in the final seconds. Cracking game!

But handball! you all cry out. Well it's the national sport here, and it's taken very seriously despite the World Cup being covered by Eurosport!

Monday, 29 January 2007


Here's a great one! The Þorri midwinter feast occurs from late January till late February, and for all intents and purposes is a way to trick foreigners into eating a variety of crazy foods. In the same vein as the Skate on 23rd December foods such as (and i'm not joking!!) these are served:

Rotten Shark
Sheep Testicles
Whale Blubber (no, not the meat!)
Sheeps head Jam (My personal favourite)

In fairness, in times past when food was more scarce it made sense to eat everything going. Still in today's affluent climate I think it's only right to push the boundaries with Þorrablót pizza and maybe Þorrablót icecream :)

More details can be found here (worth a read)

Friday, 19 January 2007

Northern lights

It's taken a while to actually catch them on camera, but here you go.

Before you say anything, no they don't appear every night, and you can't see them at all in the summer due to the light pollution of the sun. However when they do appear they are fantastic to watch. On a good night they stretch from one horizon to the other in a long streak. They're actually less blurry than the photos make out, but that's just a result of the long exposures required to capture them (this photo was 30sec).

If you want to catch them, head up to the arctic circle on a clear night, with a northerly wind, brace yourself for the cold, and be prepared for them to not come at all!

Thursday, 11 January 2007

White vehicles

Go on then.... whose idea was it to import so many white cars into Iceland? No, you're right i can't see a flaw with this either. Although the word "Snow" springs to mind :)

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

National news / Local news?!

Icelandic news is fantastic! With only 300,000 people to play with, national news has a very local feel about it, either that or the news is stolen from other countries (especially the UK and USA). So if for instance there is a small incident such as someone (hypothetically obviously ;) ) driving into a reindeer, you can be sure that'll be on the news. I'm sure the classic "Cat stuck up a tree" would make headlines here.... Although thinking about it "Cat stuck on a small shrub" hasn't got the same ring to it ;)

Until recently there was also a 24hr news station in Iceland which must have been very good at creating news stories. Actually they probably weren't as it doesn't exist any more!

Update: Just found out that the reindeer story made the main TV news. I rest my case your honour!

Monday, 8 January 2007

Sad day for Iceland

He started so he's finished. Iceland's second most famous person has passed away. RIP Magnús Magnússon. BBC obituary here.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Winter Darkness

Having just been blinded by the sun rising above the horizon at 11.50am, I thought it's probably a good time to write about the winter darkness up here.

Unsurprisingly, back in the UK many people ask about the "24 hours of darkness", but surprisingly most people there have no idea which time of year this darkness occurs. I blame the education system personally :) Unfortunately with Iceland being just the wrong side of the Arctic circle, the sun does rise on every day of the year, although the shortest day on December 21st only has an hour or so of true daylight. This is surrounded by a very long period of twilight so dont expect to be struggling to see things mid morning.

For the record the photo above was taken when the sun was at its highest in the sky on the 22nd Dec!!

Christmas Skate

December 23rd in Iceland sees many people indulging in a traditional fish meal to see in the start of the Christmas celebrations. The meal consists of boiled skate, boiled potatoes and lambs fat. I have to say it's a bit of an acquired taste as you can smell a hint of ammonia when its served (Ok maybe a bit more than a hint!). I have been reliably informed that the fish is too toxic to eat when fresh and so has to be "buried for 3 months" before cooking! Probably one for the more adventurous amongst you, but it's definitely worth a try, although having a ready supply of alcohol nearby is recommended!

It'll probably come as no surprise to hear that many people here now substitute this meal for pizza :)

Thanks to Binna for inviting me to try the skate.

Update: Hmm just seen this. Maybe it's not such a good idea to get more people eating skate: Fish to avoid.