Do you want to see the northern lights while staying in Iceland? For that you will need a bunch of luck and also a good forecast. The northern lights can vary a great deal. Sometimes they are barely noticeable, looking like a faint green veil on the sky. Other times they shine breathtakingly bright and dance across the sky in various shades of green, yellow and pink.
“We tell the stories of all types of exploration – from inner caves to outer space and many places in between”
By Mike Klein @mklein818
Thirty miles from the Arctic Circle, in Husavik, a town with 2200 souls, a small but ambitious museum invites visitors to experience stories of exploration – including the most complete explanation of Iceland’s own “lunar mission” as a training location for the Apollo astronauts.
“The Exploration Museum tells stories of all types of exploration – from the Vikings to caves outer space. The common themes – human curiosity and the desire to uncover something new,” said Örlygur Hnefill Örlygsson (Orly), the museum’s founder and leader.
The story of “Iceland’s Lunar Mission”
Orly’s own interest in exploration dates back to his early childhood, to the time of NASA’s Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster. In spite of the tragedy, Orly began to develop an interest in space and in the reasons why people were interested in heading there. “My mother bought me a book, I was so interested – in space, planets, space suits, and even though I focused on other things when I was 10-25, my interest was re-sparked when I found out that the Apollo astronauts had trained here.”
“I was reading a book of old newspaper articles and saw an article, but also noticed there was not an effort to put the whole story together, which dated from two training missions in 1965 and 1967. So I started to gather the oral history of the event – locating the people involved, the drivers, journalists, and caterers, and they had a lot of stories to tell.”
“I managed to get some good stories and some amazing photos, which form the heart of the exhibit,” Orly added.
In collecting the stories, Orly noted a number of themes:
- The astronauts themselves: “It was very powerful to get to know the astronauts. The stories about them were still vivid fifty years later. The astronauts were expected to be role models, and they had to be very discreet about their partying activities. And they partied a bit in Iceland too. In order to purchase liquor, they created a coded language with a local journalist to radio in orders. ‘Blue shirts’ was code for Vodka, ‘white shirts’ was code for whiskey. They also went fishing and did the touristy things one did here in those days.
- Why they selected Iceland: “It wasn’t just that Iceland bore a resemblance to the moon, but that the types of geology were relatively similar compared to other locations around the world. As most of the Astronauts were trained as test pilots, they needed to learn geology and learn to pick the best rocks to return with. It’s a common misconception that they came here to practice moonwalking.”
- Connecting with local history: the mission was not secret, and the Astronauts even had a press conference when they arrived. One of the first things they mentioned is that the Icelandic Loftleidir airliner they had flown from the US was named for Leif Eriksson, the Viking explorer said to have been the first European to land on North American soil.
The Exploration Museum’s exhibit is built around these stories and photos, but also includes personal items from the astronauts, an Icelandic coin from the astronauts’ first trip, rock samples used during the geology part of the training and even a small moon rock.
Exploring beyond the museum
As part of the Exploration Museum’s mission, Orly and his team also offer interested travelers opportunities to visit some of the locations where the astronauts trained. “We can take people to all of the places, and we have actually had eight of the thirty two astronauts come here with their families.”
The mission of the museum also focuses on stimulating the spirit of exploration more broadly. Every year, the museum hosts the Explorers’ Festival, where up to eight explorers from around the world come to exchange their stories, be they astronauts, cave specialists, or even scuba divers. Aside from sharing their stories, they share their art, sketches, poetry and music, and the Leif Eriksson Awards are given for life exploration achievements and for young explorers.
Here is a video focusing on how Iceland and the area near Husavik can be used for training purposes for future astronauts.
For those who make the six-hour trip from Reykjavik to Husavik (or the faster but pricey AIr Iceland Connect flight), there is much to explore in the nearby area, including glaciers, fjords, bays and opportunities to get out onto the sea. In the summer, it is also possible to drive across Iceland to Husavik through the stunning and largely untouched Icelandic Highlands.
If you are interested in being a part of an extraordinary trip visiting the highlands of Iceland and specially chosen locations, a cooperation of The Exploration Museum and Iceland Unwrapped, please have a look at www.moontrip19.com
Travel time can be in August and September 2019
This trip combines the wonders of Iceland with an adventure of a lifetime in the highlands and with a tailor made exploration trip in the Husavik area. This trip is for groups of families, friends, workplaces or anyone that would like to explore extraordinary nature, get to know the history of the exploration to the moon with experts in the field, don´t hesitate to contact us. All you need is a group of minimum four and a dream to do a trip like no other.
More information on the Exploration Museum can be found on their website www.explorationmuseum.com
More information on Personalized travel planning in Iceland with Iceland Unwrapped can be found here
Photos by Helga Stina – Frida Hjaltested and courtesy of The Exploration Museum in Husavik.
Iceland has four seasons. Even though , they tend to come and go rather randomly. That means you can have snow in June in some places. You can have a “red Christmas“, as we call it, without any snow (almost destroying the holiday spirit, as it is not very Christmas-like in Iceland when there is no snow). You can even also have four seasons in one day, as I‘ve experienced on surprisingly high number of occasions.
In the Winter, Icelanders read books voraciously, and we are obsessed with coziness: candles, good food, music, knitting or singing, and swimming of course in the warm geothermal pools. There is nothing like sitting in a hot tub in the middle of freezing cold weather with a blizzard going on…one is safe and warm in a geothermal pool, and you don´t even feel the cold when you have to walk back through the same blizzard to your locker rooms to shower and get dressed. I dare you to try it. It makes a Viking out of you.
I remember a Danish friend of mine who was traumatized by the cold in December when he had to run 50 meters (or walk-run in agony) to the hot tubs at the swimming pool in Reykjavik. He jumped into the warmest one he could find, but that was shock number two! When he got to the good one, I couldn´t get him out as he didn‘t want to ever leave. Whenever he goes to Iceland he needs to go every single day to the pool and it doesn´t matter if there‘s a blizzard or not. Add a dash of Northern Lights…need I say more ??
I could go on about the winter season in Iceland, but even though it is the darkest time of the year and the weather can often be blustery and rough; we can always look forward to the national book flood happening in December when the Icelanders read like there is no tomorrow and life is not fulfilled until you have received at least one if not two books for Christmas.
Winter is a wonderful time to visit Iceland. It‘s even better when you can connect with the locals over a home-cooked meal or through a tour to come of Iceland‘s hidden winter gems.
More on personalized travel planning, connecting to the Icelanders and enjoying all seasons on www.icelandunwrapped.com
Photos by Helga Stina
Last September I went to Iceland for a week to work and to enjoy the nearness of my family and friends.
Someone once said that the Icelanders are the most homesick people in the world and I believe that is true. The power of the nature plays a big part in me having to go home as often as possible, to recharge and connect.
The aim of the trip this September was to collect material, contacts and information about the upcoming Moon Trip 2019 in September of next year.
I decided to take a trip to the highlands of Iceland, to cross an old road called Kjolur, crossing from the south of the country to the north.
As I am a believer in seizing the day and enjoying the moment as much as possible, I decided to enjoy the company off four of my best friends, including my sister, on the trip.
We rented a Land Rover, found an experienced driver and off we went in our hiking shoes and with a trunk full of material for an outdoor picnic in the wilderness of Iceland.
The weather was like a dream. We had a little stop at a road gas station, had a hot dog with everything and some coffee, surrounded by tourists in the Golden Circle.
But we were not staying there, in the massive crowds, as our adventure began for real when entering the challenging mountain road of Kjolur.
The road is an old pathway between the south and north of Iceland and it closes during winter because of weather conditions in the Highlands of Iceland. In the old days, people would walk over this road or go over it on horses. There are stories of people not completing the journey, as the weather can change very suddenly and there is no one living permanently in the Highlands.
On a day like we had, it is hard to imagine the weather changing fast. The Sun was shining, and the clouds looked like something out of a cartoon. There was no wind and no sound in some of the places we stopped at.
Total space, total silence, total peace.
It is an adventure I would wish everyone could experience. The landscape changing with each kilometer. From green and grown to total lunar like desert and again to beautiful colors of the Icelandic fauna and moss, that has been growing in these hard conditions for millions of years.
We forgot the champagne but we didn´t need it. The experience of this wilderness, connecting with nature, and being with people you love was enough to make this experience one of the most memorable in my life. Something I will share with my friends forever.
Iceland Unwrapped is offering The Moon Trip 2019 in Iceland next autumn. Following the footsteps of the the astronauts that went to the moon in 1969, fifty year ago next year. It´s appropriate to celebrate that amazing achievement by visiting Iceland, where those brave men practiced for their landing on the moon.
More information and registration here
Experience the feeling of Iceland with Iceland Unwrapped when you get the chance.
Going to the moon is still impossible for all of us.
But a trip to the lunar landscapes of Iceland’s highlands can bring you as close as possible.
50 years ago, Neil and his mates in the Apollo missions had an unprecedented experience when they were exposed only to the solitude of the emptiness of outer space and the odd landscape of the lunar surface.
It was something they had never seen, but it was something they prepared for. They prepared in Iceland.
Now you can walk in their footsteps as well.
For five days next September, Iceland Unwrapped can take you as close to the lunar surface as you can get on Earth. An exclusive tour of the very places in the Highlands where the Apollo Astronauts trained. Combined with many of the unique sights, sounds and tastes that only Iceland offers.
Come join us in September 2019.
More information www.moontrip19.com
(Contribution by Neil Jaschinski partnering on this trip)
I guess some of you have seen videos and pictures online of visitors to Iceland tasting something terrifying as rotten shark, or fish that smells like ammonia.
It might seem that Icelanders walk around in wool sweaters all day, while eating challenging parts of animals and slaying each other with axes.
But don´t worry. In fact, Iceland is a very developed place to visit if you like to explore great trends in food.
Of course, you can choose to swallow a bit of rotten shark along with a good cold schnapps, followed by a bit of dried fish covered in wonderful Icelandic butter, or even a tongue from a sheep that once jumped around the beautiful nature of Iceland. This is possible in many restaurants around the country. In February the Icelanders celebrate “Þorri (pronounced thori)”, an old Viking traditional feast where the main theme is to eat whatever possible from any given local beast.
But despite being a nation of only 333,000 people with a fairly primitive and limited culinary history, Iceland has managed to develop a very appealing restaurant scene that proudly can be presented to those visiting our little rock in the North Atlantic.
The reason for this is that the Icelanders are not afraid of seeking knowledge elsewhere, whether in gastronomy or in other fields. Many Icelanders have gone abroad for inspiration and then returned with knowledge and appetites that have fused with local traditions and unleashed the potential of local ingredients. The possibilities are endless both with fresh ingredients and often with using nature to make a terrific meal.
That leaves the Icelandic restaurants scene very diverse, noted by fresh ingredients, humor and professionalism all over Iceland, sometimes with unbelievable views included in the experience.
Even visiting a gas/petrol station in Iceland for picking up ingredients for a picnic or to taste the “pylsa med ollu” (Icelandic Hot dog with everything), is an experience that I recommend at least once or even twice on your trip.
If you would like to connect to the locals in terms of tasting their own food inspirations, you have the amazing possibility of visiting the locals and have a wonderful home cooked meal. Sometimes included with musical experiences and of course beautiful views and nature. My aim with offering Dining with the Icelanders is to present to the visitor to how Icelanders choose to have their dinner at home with fresh ingredients and in wonderful and inspiring company.
Furthermore, being adventurous in trying out what Iceland has to offer around the country in all kinds of locations, is something I would recommend. The food scene is very interesting no matter if you are a vegetarian, meat fan, vegan or have any intolerance’s, Icelandic restaurants are known for accommodating you and your wishes, and as the ingredients are fresh and simple I know you will find what you need and maybe have a little adventure while you are at it.
For more info on all kinds of food experiences in Iceland contact Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina
Photos by Frida Hjaltested and Helga Stina
Traveling to Iceland has never been easier. You can fly from all over the world to this isolated rock in the North Atlantic ocean.
There are many ways to visit Iceland. You can book a package and travel around with a group of tourists to the most popular places, the places you see pictures of in every tourist magazine, on Instagram and on famous travel sites. You can rent a car and travel around to the most popular places and get a trip of a lifetime.
I would love to present you to another possibility.
If you are up for something different like connecting to the Icelanders through food and music, getting the feeling of being Icelandic, discovering hidden gems and amazing peace, you should read further about personalized travel planning. That might be something for you and your fellow travelers.
The aim is always to make every trip unique for each group or individual and it is done in cooperation with the client.
Personalized travel planning includes bookings of activities and accommodation, car rental and assistance with booking good flights.
Furthermore insiders information on what to see, eat, drink and experience. Who to meet and how to get the feeling of the Icelandic culture and nature with the locals.
You will get information on how long your adventures will take and how to breathe in the amazing Iceland.
When you are there you have access to your travel planner in case of change of plans or if you want more insights about something on your path. Or if you simply want to share the excitement and feeling of being there.
Iceland is not an average place. Iceland Unwrapped is not a normal travel agent but a planner that takes into account your uniqueness, wishes and needs on this trip of a lifetime. The goal is always to make every trip a personal and unique one and to take you off the beaten path for authentic experiences and hidden gems.
Get in touch with Helga Stina for more information.
Photo by Frida Hjaltested
You can enjoy unbelievable sunsets in amazing locations
Some of my most wonderful memories include beautiful sunsets all around the world. The one I saw on the Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro will never be forgotten. The one I saw in Lissabon some years ago on the last day of the year was also unforgettable. In Iceland I have seen some magical ones and last year I remember the one I saw at a beautiful place near to the airport where the open ocean was in front of me on one side and my favorite glacier Snæfellsjokull on the other. Truly a magical moment. Sunsets in Iceland are as different as the areas you visit, depends on location, light and I guess your state of mind.
Come to Iceland in September to experience sunrises, sunsets, northern lights, people and wonderful food and drink. I guarantee you will keep Iceland in your heart forever.
I have been living abroad for many years now and it is amazing how I miss my country at times.
I try to go to Iceland at least twice a year to meet family and friends and to get the kick of being there in the landscape and energy. I don’t worry so much about the weather when I am over there. I put on an extra jacket, cover my head and face, and I am basically fine.
When arriving at the International airport in Keflavik, an hour outside of Reykjavik, the first impression normally involves wind in one’s face. Massive bursts of fresh air, often in the company of a little rain who never goes straight down but seems to find its own path each and every time.
It is amazing how a shock of fresh air awakes you and gives you energy on the spot, and you are ready for anything.
The drive through the lava rocks on the way to Reykjavik is a trip in itself.
It is kind of like looking at the ocean or the clouds. Nothing really happens . You could look at the landscape for hours and imagine a lot of things…it has its shape and I start to think about the stories I heard when I was a kid about trolls and elves and the hidden people and spirits who are hiding in the stones.
The weather in Iceland is not the reason for traveling over there, unless you find sudden climatic changes remarkable. It is better to pack your whole wardrobe when you go for a walk because the weather changes every five minutes, and it can occasionally cover the full range of seasons in an hour.
When I took my husband to Iceland for the second time we went for a short trip. Originally we were planning to go to Snæfellsnes peninsula, which is one of the most fantastic and energetic places on earth. It’s where my father’s side of the family comes from; my mother’s side from the Western fjords (West Fjords). These two parts of Iceland are known for being very stark and imposing and powerful and I am raised with stories of witches and spiritual people from there. Apparently one of my great great grandfathers was burnt at the stake for witchcraft in the days when alternative medicine was not considered socially acceptable. A least that is what I heard.
Because the weather didn´t allow us to go to Snæfellsnes, we decided to go to Thingvellir and then further. The weather was supposed to be better in that direction. After a snow storm came in from Thingvellir, we experienced all weather possible…rain, sun, wind, snow, hail. Amazing and scary at the same time. Puts you in your place. You cannot control nature and you cannot control Iceland or Icelanders for that matter. We go our own way for good or for bad. We are an independent people, as the title of our one Nobel Prize-winning novel would call us.
My American husband is not very fund of cold beaches so I took him to a beach. It was raining. It was crazy windy and I just shouted into the wind because that is the main thing one can do under such circumstances. I think it must be like months of therapy to get all of that energy out of your system and get a new one from the black volcano stones and wind and the amazing powerful ocean with all of its secrets and tragedies. I love it. He was shocked but understood the extent of my craziness a bit better I think.
If you would like to experience the wind, energy, snow, sun, rain and people who go down their own path, or to see the scenery that lines such a path, please contact me. I am Helga Stina, and I would like to unwrap Iceland for you.
Unwrapping Iceland’s gifts
If you think visiting Iceland is only glaciers, mountains and Northern Lights then think again! There is so much more to this unique and magical country than meets the eye. That is why I love showing visitors just how much they can get out of their stay in Iceland. The reason why I called my company ‘Iceland Unwrapped’ is because that is exactly what I do. Visiting Iceland is a gift no one will forget, but most people only see a small part of it… Through my exclusive excursions I reveal the best this wonderful country has to offer bit by bit.
And the best part? Every trip is tailor-made to your specifications.
What exciting and authentic treats do I have in store for my clients?
Connecting to a network of professionals in Iceland. Are you a company or an institution and would you like to get insights from the Icelanders and from Icelandic society? Please contact us for more information on what is possible.
Professional and educational trips
Tours for professionals in various fields. Iceland Unwrapped has planned trips for professionals in various fields. Iceland has a lot to offer for professionals that would like to be inspired by other professionals, and by the nature and culture of Iceland. Have a look at these options for the possibilities of connecting and being inspired in Iceland. And because Iceland is located almost half way between Europe and North America, you can have your team meet in the middle.
Unique experiences and adventures
Moon Trip – A possibility of stepping in the footsteps of the Astronauts that went to the moon 50 years ago.
Wool in Iceland – Knitting in Iceland and getting into the world of wool in Iceland.
Dining with the Icelanders – The very best food, hosts and produce the country has to offer.
Geothermal Health clinic – Read all about how our healing spas and lagoons can revitalize you and heal.
Female-empowerment trips – We connect successful women with the locals and teach you about Iceland’s fascinating history and how women have emerged as a driving force behind the country that you see today. This is a trip that both women and men should do, as gender equality can never be reached without the participation of all humans.
Nature and wildlife
Nature photography – Join our local experts and learn how to capture the magic of the country.
Fishing, sailing and diving – You can’t escape the sea when you come to Iceland, and the surrounding oceans produce some of the freshest fish you will taste.
Animal and whale watching – Year round Iceland has some spectacular whale sightings!
Hiking, biking and extreme sports – From horse riding and biking to adventures in the wild windswept wilderness.
Family travel and culture
Iceland for families – Did you know we offer walks in nature where your little ones can discover elves in Hafnarfjordur? Not to mention some amazing days out, museums and family friendly outdoor pursuits.
Iceland and the arts – Meet local authors and artists and learn about how the amazing history and culture of the country has influenced their work. You might even be invited for a private concert in a musicians house.
Glamping and eco-travel – Immerse yourself in the beautiful countryside the responsible way.
And this is just the tip of the Icelandic iceberg!
If you have a specific themed trip you would like to make alone, as a family, or with a group of people, please get in touch and my team and I will help you plan your dream Icelandic escape or work related dream trip. We also cater for special needs and very specific requests… No request is too big or unique.
Your travel planner, Helgastina.