Is it a bad idea to visit Iceland in the winter?

It’s officially winter now on this side of the globe. In Europe we have moved the clock. In Iceland, the clock has stayed out, but the weather is starting to get tricky in some areas of the country.

Time to relax and stay inside

To survive the winter where you are… Or…?

Have you ever thought about Iceland as a winter destination? Read More

Berry picking, amazing sunsets and the calmness in the air – Have you ever dreamed of autumn in Iceland ?

I must admit that Autumn is my favorite season in Iceland.

I like it because of the beautiful sunsets, the blue berry picking, and the calmness of it.

I like it because it makes life calmer when everyone is getting ready to face the winter months ahead and this is the last chance to enjoy sunshine, green nature and fresh air for some time.

The season for making jams and wonderful meals straight from nature – Photo by Eygló

In my childhood, this time of year was connected to me and my friends collecting our vegetables that we had grown during the summer in special vegetable gardens for school kids. These gardens were a genius idea where kids could sign up for a little part of the space to grow cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, rhubarb, potatoes and other vegetables capable of surviving the Icelandic summer and autumn.

Coming home with this contribution every autumn is a very warm and dear memory.

For other people, this time of year is connected to memories of collecting the sheep that have been walking free in the mountains of Iceland throughout the summer. Being on horseback, reaching the sheep, and getting them back on the farm so their wool can be collected is something unforgettable.

Horses – Photo by Frida

Iceland Unwrapped focuses on getting people connected, not only to the nature of Iceland but to the people, traditions and culture of this 330.000-person nation in the north Atlantic.

So why not go berry picking, sheep collecting, and to finish the day, bathe in a beautiful geothermal pool and watch the magical colors of the autumn sunset.

Autumn in Iceland is filled with beautiful colors – Photo by Frida Hjaltested

Who knows – you might even catch a glimpse of some Northern Lights as well if you are not sound asleep after your day’s adventure.

Sheep are roaming free in Iceland during summer – Photo by Frida

…Dream well….

Iceland Unwrapped is personalized travel planning company focusing on connecting you to Iceland and the Icelanders.

Please contact us for information on how to make your trip to Iceland an authentic and special one.

 

When is the boat picking us up? – By Brynja Bjarnadóttir

Have you ever dreamed of visiting a remote place , only reachable by sea in Iceland?

Can you think of a remote little town in Iceland?

Now think of an even smaller one and way more remote. That is Hesteyri. There are only few houses there, a run down whaling station and a cemetery. No one lives there any more except for a few people in the summer. To get there from Reykjavík you first have to drive to Ísafjörður, threading all the fjords on the way and once you’re there, you have to take a small boat to get to the final destination, a one hour boat trip organized specially on request.

The harbor in Hesteyri – Photo courtesy of Brynja

 

I went there for the first time with a group in 2016 to work on building a small hydro power plant to provide the summer habitants with renewable energy. Almost all house in Iceland rely on renewable energy but there are a few exceptions, some places are so far away from the grid that they have to rely on oil or gas. Hesteyri used to be one of them until 2017 when the power plant was ready.

Picture courtesy of Brynja

 

I had never heard of the place before I went there. Because I was going there to work I didn’t have a very glamorous image of the place in my head. But I couldn’t have been more wrong! As soon as I stepped off the boat I fell in love with the place. I remember seeing tall angelica’s and a field of purple and yellow flowers, I had never seen anything like it before. In Iceland it is quite uncommon to see a field filled with flowers and I didn’t realize right away why in Hesteyri flowers grow so wild. The answer lies in the remoteness; not even the sheep can get there. They are known to waltz freely around the entire country in summertime, eating all the grass they stumble upon and making no exceptions for beautiful flowers.

Flowers in Hesteyri – Photo courtesy of Brynja

 

While staying there I picked up a book from the shelf called Ég man þig (I remember you). It’s a ghost/horror story that takes place in Hesteyri. A group of people go there for a week and strange things start to happen. The scenery is perfect, abandoned houses with no electricity or phone connections. I recommend the book but I’m not sure I can recommend reading it there. I definitely had some nightmares.

Hesteyri – Photo courtesy of Brynja

 

For more information on extraordinary places to experience hidden gems contact Iceland Unwrapped 

Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina is a travel planning company focusing in connecting to the Icelanders, culture and nature in Iceland. Please contact us for more information
Brynja Bjarnadottir – Musician – Dancer- Filmmaker – Freelance writer for Iceland Unwrapped 

 

Have you ever dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights dance?

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.

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Have you ever dreamed of knowing more about the trolls and the elves and the hidden people of Iceland?

The Icelanders were a nation of fishermen and farmers until the Second World War, when people moved to the capital Reykjavik and other towns in Iceland. This was mainly because of work provided by the American military that stayed in Iceland during the war. Here is a bit of information on the Occupation of Iceland during that time. 

Before that people stayed in fisherman villages and on farms and made life work for themselves, using folktales among other things to entertain themselves during rest hours and evenings.

Imagine being on a farm in Iceland, surrounded by lava fields, extraordinary nature and the colors and power of the mountains everywhere you look. As you can imagine the possibilities of story telling about natural phenomena such as lava formations surrounded by geothermal smoke, fog and lack of sunlight during the winter months could encourage creative minds to form stories and tales through the centuries.

Photo by Frida

The book nation Iceland is known for having shelves filled with books by Icelandic authors and sometimes specially chosen foreign ones. In recent years this has changes a lot and the selection of books in the Icelanders shelves has changed from being Icelandic to being more international.

When I was growing up there were at least two Icelandic authors that were in every shelf in every home in Iceland I dare to say. One was our Nobel Price literature author Halldor Laxness. The other selection of books I was especially scared of and excited about at the same time as a child, were the folk tales collected by  Jon Arnason

These books were so exotic, scary and exciting at the same time, about trolls, elves, hidden people, ghosts and other unexplained creatures. Enough to scare the hell out of everyone or at least get you wondering what was real and what was not.

Dimmuborgir – North of Iceland – Photo by Helga Stina

And where did these stories come from? Yes they came from people living in extraordinary landscapes where the formation of the lava when the sun was setting or rising could be anything from a troll to an elf or a Christmas cat (yes there is such a thing in Iceland).

These stories have integrated into the soul and being of the Icelanders through the centuries and influence a lot of everyday life and way of being. Perhaps you have heard stories of elves disturbing and changing plans of constructions in recent times in Iceland

Not it´s not a joke.

When asked if I believe in elves, trolls and hidden people, I always say that I don´t know if they don´t exist so why not believe and make your reality a bit more colorful and exciting. You can even get a guided tour and hear tales in areas where elves and hidden people have been living. That is a very exciting experience to try.

Here is an example of one of those stories with a bit of background

In modern times the Icelanders have integrated the believes in hidden people, trolls and elves into daily life such as during Christmas, New Years and midsummer celebrations when these creatures appear for some people to see..and some not.

You don´t need a huge imagination to understand where these tales come from if you have experiences being outside in the fog on a mountain surrounded by lava fields and no sound..

…until you hear something…..

Grýla – Mum of the Jule Lads

(Helga Stina – Founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped)

If you want to know more about unwrapping Iceland and get a personalized travel plan for you and those who travel with you contact Helga Stina

“We tell the stories of all types of exploration – from inner caves to outer space and many places in between”

“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.

Orly explaining the geology of the Askja region to the family of Neil Armstrong during a visit in 2015.

 

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.

The family of Neil Armstrong unveiling a monument in Húsavík, Iceland honoring Iceland’s part in the Apollo program.

 

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.

Moon walker Charlie Duke visiting Ásbyrgi last year with Orly and his daughter Aníta.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Icelandic people – Entrepreneurship and travel in Iceland

 

Are you kidding me? That‘s what came to mind when I visited a travel presentation market in Iceland this week.

Entrepreneurship in Iceland is extraordinary, in my opinion, for three main reasons:

First of all, as there are only 330.000 people living in Iceland, the need for people who can wear multiple hats is immense. When I used to work with young people in the municipality of Reykjavik many years ago, we used to hire really multi skilled people. The engineer and mountain bike geek, the actor and social worker, the musician and journalist  and I could talk forever about the diversity of these combinations.

In Iceland you need to wear many hats to make things work. You need to be able to take a chance on trying new things, be brave and believe in yourself. That is why, in almost every tiny town in Iceland, (sometimes with less than 500 inhabitants) we have a swimming pool, restaurants, choirs, acting groups, reading groups, schools, shops and so much more.

Always good to have dried fish with you in Iceland as you cannot just grab something to eat whenever you need to.

This facts makes it common that the Icelanders use the term „Þetta reddast“ (which means ‘all will work out’) often when things look impossible. You can always find someone, somewhere who can help.

This is what makes entrepreneurship accepted and treasured atop this rock in the Atlantic. People need to help each other, finding solutions and putting on different hats.

Secondly, entrepreneurship is important and common in Iceland due to resources.

Every season has it´s resource needs and you need to work fast in making the most of each season. If it is blueberry picking in fall, mussel picking in all months that have the letter R in them (September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April), trout fishing in the summer, getting wool from sheep in the fall. The summer months are crucial, and the winter months as well, where you can use the time to smoke products, preserve them in sour, and so on.

In Iceland we can promise you weather. All kinds of it. Even in one day.

This means again that people have to work fast together to make the most of things, to be innovative from how to preserve food so you can enjoy it all year round, to how you can create different uses for products (like opening a beer spa at a brewery).

Thirdly, Icelanders are a bit crazy. We believe in ourselves. We rely on our abilities to make things work and we have Viking blood inside so we are eager to explore both new worlds and new possibilities around us.

I invite you to come see for yourself and to experience the entrepreneurship of Iceland in its many forms.

More information about personalized travel planning on Iceland Unwrapped

Unforgettable experiences – Spectacular views and adventures

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.

Geothermal highlight of Iceland in the middle of the highlands

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.

Our Land Rover and a dry fish on a rock

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.

The lunar landscape in the highlands of Iceland

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.

Precious memories with my childhood friends and my sister

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.

Iceland Unwrapped

Hiking, collecting the sheep, berry picking and the wonderful Kjotsupa.

A few reasons why September is a good month to travel to Iceland.

So let´s imagine a day.

You are hiking in the mountains with the farmers in a little fjord helping with collecting the sheep.

On your path you taste fresh blue berries straight from the bush.

You get a drink of water from a creek after a long day of hiking in your Icelandic wool sweater.

At the end of the work day you have a wonderful “Kjotsupa” – meat soup, with the locals followed by the dairy product Skyr and blueberries for dessert.

After dinner you lay down in a beautiful warm geothermal pool, with a view of a lifetime hoping to see the Northern lights dancing in the sky.

Sounds like a dream to me.

The fact of the matter is, that this is possible. All of it or parts of it.

This is possible in Iceland at the end of august and in the beginning of September.

Autumn in Iceland is beautiful in so many ways and it´s very precious to be a part of nature when summer is almost over.

The sunsets are unbelievable and one of the biggest events of the year takes place, when the sheep get collected from the mountains before winter starts.

In the old days and to a certain extend in modern times, the autumn is the time of collecting as much food as possible for the hard winter months in Iceland.

Berries are used for all kinds of delicacies, mushrooms are collected and dried, fish is caught from the rivers, potatoes, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, that manage to grow in Iceland, are picked from the ground and we make something called Kjotsupa.

It´s a celebration of food.

Kjötsúpa is a wonderful dish. Lamb soup with vegetables of the autumn, warm and delicious on wet autumn nights. Some people even have Kjotsupa for every meal in the autumn they say.

Fresh – authentic and delicious Iceland.

Interested in getting an authentic experience?

Contact Helga Stina for more information

The distance makes the mountains blue

Today is the longest day of the year in Iceland.

What I have heard from my clients is that having so much light can both be positive and negative. Negative because it is hard to sleep. Positive because you need less sleep and you can enjoy more, even during the night.

But why is this time of year so precious to the Icelanders?

Imagine 3 hours of daylight in winter. You still have to  go to work and school at 8 in the morning anyway. No mercy when you need to have a functioning society even though you are a rock in the middle of the north Atlantic.

When I was a kid in the memory, it was never that dark. We had loads of snow in the winter so we would be stuck inside, the electricity went out and my mum wanted to iron, because there suddenly was time. But no electricity so no ironing.

When we could go out we used to go skiing in any nearby hill and build snow houses and drink warm chocolate until our toes were frozen and we went home.

There was no TV on Thursdays when I was a kid in Iceland and no TV for 6 weeks in the summer. No video games. The book nation read a lot .

In the past my grand parents and great grand parents lived in very hard conditions in horrible weathers as fishermen and farmers on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and in the Westfjords. Then life was about surviving or not and many had to give in to harshness of nature.

Because of the hard conditions of winters of Iceland, long summer nights and midnight sun add this romantic atmosphere, where everyone is just enjoying, hiking at midnight and even playing golf in the middle of the night.

In the poetry I read in school as a child, our most loved authors, who often spent majority of their lives abroad, mainly in Copenhagen, would write about the summer of Iceland. Their writing was filled with longing for the colors of nature and the freshness of the landscape. The distance makes the mountains blue, is a saying we use i Icelandic.

In summer time children forget time and their parents do too, and there is nothing like receiving a very tired and dirty child after a whole day and evening of adventures outside with friends.

Collecting energy, vitamins and memories is imporant to the Icelanders during the summer months in our beautilful country, to get through the winter ahead.

The shortest day of the year in Iceland in December is important for the Icelanders because then the days start to get longer again.

The longest day in the summer is important because you have constant daylight and the hidden people and the elves come out during that time of  year. That is not a common event as it happens only also duing New Years and on the 13th day of Christmas. After the longest day the days start to slowly get shorter again so there is no time to waste in enjoying the daylight.

Jónsmessa is the time of year when the day is longest.

It is said that people get magical powers if they dance and roll naked in the dew of the longest night of the year. I won´t say they don´t, but I guess you have to try it out when you are in Iceland in June next time.

Happy Summer – Happy light – Happy playing outside all night..before it starts to get dark again.

More information on personalized travel planning and connecting with the Icelanders and their culture on www.icelandunwrapped.com