What happens when the power is out? By Helga Stina

Iceland is a land of extremes. The elements of nature impact everything in life there.

Being raised in a place that sometimes makes it difficult to plan ahead, is a privilege. You might ask why that is the case, and it is because it teaches one to respect nature and its ways, to constantly find solutions and to think out of the box.

I remember clearly when I was younger and we had a lot of storms in the winter in Iceland, and the power went out a lot, as is to be expected when living on a rock in the middle of North Atlantic. Somehow in the memory, my mum always wanted to use the time to iron things. It was like, Yes now there is no electricity, now I finally have time to iron in peace, until she realized of course that, that wasn´t even possible 😊

Reykjavik in winter, after a storm – Photo by Helga Stina

I personally think we should have the power out more often in our modern lives to forcefully make us do other things, such as read,  talk to each other, read to each other, sit by a candle light, take a long warm bath (possible because water in Iceland is geothermal) or just to listen to the weather outside, and being thankful for having a warm house. I don´t think this will ever be possible again because of phones and computers that are pre-charged. But one can always hope 🙂

A beautiful winter sunset at around 15.00- Photo by Helga Stina

But how is it to live in a place with such darkness? 

When you live in a place where you have about 3 to 4 hours of daylight during the darkest months and almost 24 hours of daylight during the brightest months, you learn how to cherish what is possible at these times. Culture blooms in winter in Iceland and when you think about that it is a society of 330.000 people it is stunning that there is so much going on. And don´t get me started on quality of life included in the geothermal pools.

I, for example get frequently asked by non-Icelanders, why there are so many good musicians in Iceland. The joke is normally, that it must be so boring over there that people need to do something to survive the boredom.

That is far from the truth. Calmness and quietness to be able to create might be a big factor, great possibilities of music teaching for children from early age, access to possibilities of having concerts for young artist and, perhaps, the need to create something real when you can´t control everything…like the weather, the darkness, the storm or whatever it may be. Nearness to the elements of nature plays a role for sure.

Here are two examples of my favorite Icelandic artists singing in English. Júníus Meyvant and Hjaltalín. You probably already know Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men, Björk and Kaleo.

 

What would you do if the power went off?

If you would like to get connected to Iceland, nature and the elements, contact Iceland Unwrapped

Every travel plan is a personalized one.

Make an appointment for an informal talk with Helga Stina to start the adventure.

Advent in Iceland – It´s about warmth, traditions and surviving the darkness – By Helga Stina

One of my favorite times of the year has arrived. Advent is something that warms my heart and gets me excited every year, wherever I am.

When I was a kid, it always seemed to be snowing during this time of year. Everyone was busy getting ready for Christmas, baking, buying presents, cleaning their houses. Some even used the opportunity to paint the house. New curtains, Christmas dances, shoes in the window placed by children hoping them to be filled with a treat from the Yule Lads.

Iceland is sometimes Iceland – Photo unknown

Most importantly, everyone was making sure to get new clothes for Christmas, to avoid an encounter with the horrific, murderous Icelandic Christmas Cat. Writing the Christmas cards for loved ones was a wonderful tradition in my home, and one of my warmest memories was when I helped my grandma writing hers, because she said her handwriting wasn´t good enough. My mum´s Christmas cookies are a precious part of the memories. Wonderful to come inside with red cheeks after playing in the snow, a cookie and cold milk was exactly what was needed.

The most precious feeling of advent to me is the kindness of people and the importance of gathering, giving each other small presents and listening to beautiful music on a cold December evening. Even though the Icelanders have a tendency of overdoing it a bit during Christmas, that is just a part of the experience, and when people sit down together at 18.00 on Christmas eve, all stress is gone and nothing left to do but to enjoy to the fullest with your loved ones.

With age, I have come to miss Iceland a lot during this time of year as I live in The Netherlands, where there is not a lot of fuss about Christmas. They have other traditions that are highlighted here.

In the memory, the Advent was always filled with snow and beauty and yes cold – An overview of the pond in Reykjavik. It´s possible to skate here when the ice is thick enough – Photo by Helga Stina

Advent is also a mystical time of year. When you live in a land of fire and ice it is not surprising that stories of trolls, elves, hidden people and all kinds of creatures are created, especially during the darkest months of the year. A lot of mystical-looking areas encourage a vivid imagination. The stories told this time of year are some extraordinary and exciting.

There are many traditions in Iceland that are not, to my knowledge, practiced elsewhere. Many of them are only practiced in some parts of Iceland and some are well known to everyone.

My father puts up his old, handmade Icelandic farm with the Yule Lads every Christmas. It´s always exciting – Photo by Helga Stina

The 13 Yule Lads (instead of a single Santa Clause), Laufabraud (a beautifully decorated fried flat bread), skata (fermented fish), the Christmas Book Flood, shoes in the window and Christmas dances for the children. These are some of the traditions that make Advent and Christmas exciting and different in Iceland.

The Icelandic Parliament and the one of Iceland´s most iconic churches -Domkirkjan – Photo by Helga Stina

Many people go to Church only on Christmas Eve to welcome the peace, the light and the warmth for themselves, their family and others. Iceland is not now a very religious country; we were in the past and the traditions come from people putting their effort and pride in celebrating the good in the world, and during these hard months of winter in Iceland, that was a true gift of light into people´s life.

A beautiful Christmas eve with good food and presents or treats – Photo by Helga Stina

The traditions are mixed as Iceland became Christian in the year 1000 without blood being shed, under the condition of being able  to practice secretly their heathen traditions, believing in the Viking gods and goddesses, such as Thor, Odin and Freyja. That influences Iceland’s history from early times and explain the diversity of these traditions compared to those of some other countries. This influences the Advent, Christmas and New years traditions a lot in Iceland.

Advent is the time of warmth and trying to survive the darkness in Iceland. Being in love helps 🙂 – Photo by Helga Stina

 

In the month of December Iceland Unwrapped will be presenting you with many of these traditions.  Make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

A lucky follower on Facebook and Instagram will receive a gift from Iceland Unwrapped in the post.

See more info coming up.

Just a hint. It is connected to the Christmas Book Flood.

Greetings – Helga Stina founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped 

Contact me for more information on how to combine Icelandic traditions in your vacation.

The Christmas book flood in December aims to get everybody reading during the holidays – Photo unknown

 

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

Iceland by the seasons: and why you need a travel planner for each

A season-by-season guide to planning an Iceland trip

Iceland may be a small country with only 330,000 residents. But the combination of high tourist numbers and a difficult-to-navigate language makes local knowledge a valuable resource for a visitor who wants to get maximum value from their Iceland experience. In a country with turbulent, ever-changing weather, and extreme seasonality of sunlight, Iceland becomes several ‘different’ destinations as the year unfolds. Each of which requires very different travel planning strategies. Read More

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.

Read More

Winter – Iceland Style

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.

A pool at the end of the road

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

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Why September is a good month to visit Iceland – Sunsets

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.

More on personalized travel planning 

WHEN TO GO

The beautiful thing about Iceland is that no two days are the same. And that’s because the weather can be so changeable. Iceland isn’t a country where people should wander about on their own, unless they are prepared for the weather. Some parts are so uninhabitable that I always recommend that my clients are accompanied by an experienced guide. After all, the wildest places are always the most spectacular, but also the most unpredictable.

So when is the perfect time to go?

Winter can be a very pretty time to visit, but it does get colder then. Avoid December to February if you don’t like ice and cold winds. Although it never goes below minus 15°C. For those who love photography and breathtaking views, just pack your thermals and get ready for sights that you’ll never forget!

Iceland seasons

Amazing sights and sites

When people think of Iceland, they often think of the Northern Lights, which appear from September until the end of March.

If you love taking photos and long days outside, then avoid November through to January. These are seriously dark days with just a few hours of sunlight a day. Because of Iceland is the land of ice and fire – on the flip side, the ‘bright nights’ are from April to September. with June and July giving you the chance to see the midnight sun. Yes, this sounds ideal but it also means that it’s difficult to sleep, so bear that in mind. By August, the nights begin to darken.

Whale watching and nature tours

For those interested in whale watching, contrary to popular belief this can be done all year round. From Spring to Autumn is best! I work with the country’s best boat guides and nature experts, ensuring that you will see some truly unforgettable animals.

Iceland travel planner

The best thing about having your own Iceland travel planner is that I advise on all the things that are vital for making your trip not only exciting but safe and comfortable. Driving conditions, security and clothing – you’d be surprised how many women I’ve known to climb a volcano in high heels!

Northern lights Reykjavík

Beyond the tourist places

I also ensure that my clients keep away from the touristy places, while still being aware of the most popular places. So you are free to pick and choose as you wish. Most importantly: I am in constant personal contact with all my colleagues and partners in Iceland. This ensures you get the very best in quality and personal service.

Every season has its charm

All in all, there’s no bad time to go to Iceland. Simply make sure you consider the time of year when we talk about the activities you’d like to do there, and the things you would like to experience.

You can read more in my blog about the seasons in Iceland and why you could use a travel planner for each.

If you have any further questions, just fill in the contact form and I’ll be in touch.