ICELAND

Best travel period

Summer: July & August

Winter: end of December – February

Currency

Icelandic Crown (ISK)

Time

GMT

Capital

Reykjavík

Halló! Welcome to my Iceland page. On this page you will not only find all my Iceland blogs, but also useful information, pictures and a video. Make sure to have a look around and if you’ve got any questions, feel free to get in touch!

Iceland has stolen my heart some 15 years ago, when I was on my way home to Amsterdam from New York and made a stopover in Reykjavík. It was my first trip ever to a nordic destination and I loved it from the start. The nature, the people, the beauty of the landscape. I immediately knew I wanted to travel up north more often. And so happened as I visited Iceland 9 more times ever since. Most of the times during the summer, but also regularly in winter time. Want to travel to Iceland? In my articles below you’ll find plenty of information per category filled with countless tips based on our own experiences. Enjoy reading!

On this page I’ve bundled all blogs in categories. I’ve mostly traveled along the south coast, but have also been in the highlands plenty of times. Sometimes by bus, sometimes by foot, sometimes by rental car. Underneath you’ll find a selection with my favorite Iceland blogs, articles everyone should read before they are heading to Iceland.

My favorite Iceland blogs

Blue Lagoon alternatief Reykjadalur Hot Springs

Free alternatives to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Would you like to visit some hot springs in ICeland and bathe in them without paying a small fortune? In this article I’m sharing my best tips for free hot springs in Iceland that are as good as the Blue Lagoon but then for free. Alternatively I’ll also discuss the other paid options for the Blue Lagoon.

sunny cars

Iceland in winter: know before you go!

Are you planning to travel to Iceland in winter? It’s very special but there’s also some things to consider when planning your winter trip to Iceland. Especially when you decide to drive around with a rental car, there’s a few things to keep in mind. I’m sharing them in this article about Iceland in winter.

Westman Islands

A visit to Vestmannaeyjar – the Westman Islands

Vestmannaeyjar or the Westman Islands are located 11 kilometers off the Icelandic South Coast. It’s a very special place, when touring around but many visitors decide not to go there. In this article I’ll tell you all you need to know about the Westman Islands, a bit off the main road but well worth your time and efforts.

A roadtrip in Iceland in winter

All blogs about Iceland

What to pack for Iceland in the summer

Although Iceland is a destination that can be visited all year round, the majority of tourists visit Iceland in the summer. I have been to Iceland six times in the summer (and four times in the winter) and what I always remember is that it’s actually always relatively cold in Iceland. When I look back at the photos I took during those travels, I never really wear just a t-shirt, but always a warm jacket or sweather and long pants. Don’t be alarmed, but the average temperature in Iceland in summer (July and August) is between 10 and 13°c. This may require some creativity with packing for Iceland because it might not be the regular things that you take with you on a summer vacation. That’s why I have compiled this packing list for Iceland in the summer for you, based on years of travel experience in Iceland. Enjoy reading!   Are you going to Iceland in winter? Then check the Iceland winter packing list here     Table of Contents | Inhoudsopgave About Iceland in the summerPacking list Iceland: a warm jacketSturdy bootsWhat to wear underneath your jacketScarves, hats, mittensWhat else to pack for Iceland in the summerIcelandic clothingConclusion and disclaimer About Iceland in the summer Let me start this article with some more information about Iceland in the summer. As mentioned above, the average temperature on a summer day is not very high. Occasionally the Icelanders have peaks of 20 and 25°C, but this is quite exceptional. I can remember just one day when it was warm enough to go out with a t-shirt.   What makes the wind chill in Iceland somewhere between cool and cold is the strong wind that is often blowing. This usually means that the temperature is very low as it feels. A day without wind is quite rare in Iceland, especially on the coast and in the highlands the wind can blow very hard. Fortunately, there are plenty of hot springs in Iceland to warm you up on cooler summer days.     Packing list Iceland: a warm jacket A warm and especially water and windproof jacket is really indispensable to take to Iceland. I have been wearing Fjällräven’s Eco Shell for years (see photos with red jacket in this article) and it keeps me protected from wind and rain. If you do not have a budget for an expensive jacket, then the coats from Decathlon are recommended. However, the difference in quality with a jacket from, for example, Fjällräven or The North Face is considerable. If you plan to buy a good jacket just for this trip, Decathlon will suffice. If you want to last longer with your jacket, invest in a quality brand.     Sturdy boots Sturdy walking shoes are really a must. They do not necessarily have to be ankle high boots, but should at least have a good profile and be waterproof. You are guaranteed to get wet in Iceland at some point during your trip and nothing is more annoying than wet feet during your walk or excursion. In addition, many trails to sights are uneven and you walk on beaches, lava fields and other uneven landscapes. There may also be ice and snow in the interior until well into the summer. Sturdy shoes are therefore a must. In addition, I usually bring a pair of sneakers for when I’m not on the road and a pair of slippers for during your visit to the hot springs.   What to wear underneath your jacket As mentioned, your footwear and your jacket are the most important, but what you wear underneath also needs some attention. I myself am a fan of wearing multiple layers, so that you can always put on or take off something extra when you get cold and / or warm. For my upper body I have the following with me as standard:   – 1 Icebreaker Thermal Shirt (has been around for 10 years and I use it on literally every trip I take!) – 1 Kari Traa merino base layer shirt – A fleece sweater of your choice   The first two pieces are made of merino wool which keeps warm but also absorbs. Wool dries quickly so if you start to sweat, you will not have a sticky back or something for the rest of the day.   In terms of pants, you can best choose what to wear. I often get the question whether ski pants are sufficient and I think that is certainly an option, but to be honest, my ski pants are quite bulky and that doesn’t make me happy if I have to wear them all day. That’s why I wore my Fjällräven leggings last time. Usually I also have jeans with me for good days. Good rain pants are also really indispensable.   Scarves, hats, mittens Finally, I definitely recommend that you bring a hat, scarf and gloves or mittens. I don’t have any guidelines for this, as long as it’s warm. If, like us, you are going to do the Ice Caves & Lava tour, for example, it is useful to bring waterproof gloves because you regularly crawl over the ground and it is nice if your hands stay warm and dry. Tip: also bring a few sets of hand warmers for cold moments during the day! I never wear a scarf myself, but actually always a merino buff: one of the best investments ever if you ask me and at least as practical as a scarf because you can also use it as a hat, for example.   What else to pack for Iceland in the summer Furthermore, I always take the following with me, but that of course depends on your own preference: – Bikini and lightweight travel towel for the hot baths – Underwear (just normal because I’ve already adjusted the rest of my clothes) – Toiletries – First aid kit – Travel guide to Iceland – Electronics + chargers – A book (tip: read Arnaldur Indridason’s thrillers during your Iceland trip!) – A daypack -> think for example of the waterproof Fjällräven Ulvö Rolltop     Icelandic clothing Would you like to buy something Icelandic? Iceland has some very nice outdoor brands, but you should start saving because it’s not very cheap. The most famous brand is 66 North, I personally think this is a beautiful brand with fine clothing that generally lasts a long time, including a fleece sweater and gloves. The sweater I’m wearing on the cover picture is from 66 North and I’ve been wearing it for more than 10 yers now. A lesser known brand is Cintamani, their clothing is recognizable by the orange logo. Then there are Zo-On Iceland (I have a lovely warm down jacket), Ice Wear and a few smaller brands. You can buy these clothes everywhere in Iceland, but the best prices can be found at the outlets just outside Reykjavík. The 66 North outlet can be found at Faxefen near Reykjavik, the Cintamani outlet can be found in Garðabær just outside Reykjavík.   Conclusion and disclaimer This was my article on what to pack for Iceland in the summer. Hopefully it will help you prepare for your Iceland trip. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them via the comments section below. This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a modest commission, of course at no extra cost to you!  

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Vestmannaeyjar Westman Islands Westman Eilanden

Vestmannaeyjar – a day on the Westman Islands in Iceland

One of the most memorable things I ever did in Iceland was to visit Vestmannaeyjar also known as the Westman Islands. This archipelago is located 11 kilometers off the Icelandic south coast and is well worth a visit. I was lucky that it was, by Icelandic standards, a beautiful day and so I last minute decided to go for it and make the ferry crossing from the campsite at the Seljalandsfoss to the Westman Islands by boat. I traveled up and down for one day and that’s enough to see the small island of Heimaey. This is also the only inhabited island of Vestmannaeyjar. In this article I will tell you all you need to know about your visit to Vestmannaeyjar.     Table of Contents | Inhoudsopgave About VestmannaeyjarThe history of VestmannaeyjarThe ferry crossing to the Westman IslandsVisiting EldfellWandering through HeimaeyHiking on the rough WestcoastStaying op HeimaeyTours to and on HeimaeyConclusion and disclaimer About Vestmannaeyjar The Westman Islands are, as mentioned, off the coast of Iceland and are skipped by many visitors, partly because the weather is often bad and they are therefore not always easily accessible. You can go to the Westman Islands by ferry or by plane from Reykjavík Airport. Since the flights are not daily, the most logical option is to take the ferry. It departs from Landeyjahöfn on the south coast and sails to Heimaey in about 30/40 minutes. Depending on the season, there are 7 sailings per day. The ferry schedule can be found here and booking in advance is highly recommended.     The history of Vestmannaeyjar Vestmannaeyjar was best known for the eruption of the Eldfell, the volcano on Heimaey that erupted completely unexpectedly on January 23 1973, destroying a large part of the island. More than 400 houses were lost, but luckily just one person was killed. The lava flow even blocked the island’s harbor, isolating them completely. A large-scale rescue operation was launched to evacuate the islanders. The lava was cooled with seawater, the eruption lasted no less than 5 months. In some places in the landscape you can still feel the heat at this point. This eruption created a completely newly formed island, clearly visible during your visit. Interesting documentaries have been made about this eruption, which you can watch at the visitor center at Eldfell. The Volcano House in Reykjavík also showed this, but it is closed for the time being.   Want to know more about lava and volcanoes? Make sure to go on the Lava Caves & Volcano tour from Reykjavík.     The ferry crossing to the Westman Islands I start my day at Vestmannaeyjar with the ferry crossing to Heimaey. I booked this by phone last night to be sure of a spot. As mentioned, the weather is beautiful, so Heimaey is a popular destination today. I leave my rental car at the port of Landeyjahöfn because you don’t need it on the small island. Everything on Heimaey is within walking distance of each other. Although the weather is beautiful, it’s also very windy. To be on the safe side, I take a pill against seasickness and off we go!   Because it is quite clear, the Westman Islands are immediately in sight. The crossing takes only 30 minutes due to the favorable wind. The ferry floats into the harbor and I am immediately amazed at the beautiful rock formations. I scan the rocky coasts for puffins with my binoculars, but don’t spot them. Hopefully later today! The ferry moors and not much later I am at Heimaey.     Visiting Eldfell I start the day with a visit to Eldfell, the volcano on the east side of Heimaey that erupted in 1973. You can walk there from the harbor. First through the Elfellshraun, the lava field that is the “new island” formed by the eruption. I visit the Eldheimar Museum to get an impression of what happened here and then continue my way up to the 221 meter high summit of Eldfell. The climb is not really difficult, but you do need sturdy footwear. On the way I pass places where the heat still comes from the earth, which is quite bizarre!   Once on top I’m amazed by the landscape. One side is covered with a layer of bright green grass, the other side is made up of all kinds of red and orange you can imagine. And next to it is an immense black-colored lava field, a ‘hraun’ as it is called in Icelandic. Opposite me, the 5 meter higher volcano Helgafell peaks in the landscape.   After sitting on the top for a while, I descend back to the village for lunch. I settle down at Fiskibarrinn for a hot lunch that I enjoy quite a lot. Although it’s sunny, there’s a strong wind which makes it quite cold. Even in summer it is never really nice and warm in Iceland …     Wandering through Heimaey I’m strolling the streets of Heimaey. It is, to be fair, a little pretty village. About 4.000 people live there and although the island is beautiful, I can easily imagine that you can feel very isolated here, especially in winter and on rainy days. There is industry around the port and there seems to be little entertainment. Fortunately, I’m here for a walk and as soon as I reach the other side of the city, the steep coastal cliffs loom before me.     Hiking on the rough Westcoast From the campsite on the other side of Heimaey, a few hiking trails leave to the rocky coast. The trail that I follow is very steep and takes me up almost vertically. Stepping off the trail and falling is not an option. I hike up foot by foot up and finally arrive at the top of the ridge. From here I have a truly spectacular view of the sea and the coastline. The cliffs protrude almost vertically into the sea here and when I look down I feel dizzy. So I decide not to look down too much, but to focus on the horizon. I scour the rocks for puffins, but it’s actually not the right season. I spot a single one, but far away and not as close as pictures have led me to believe.   I follow a narrow path over the ridge with again steep cliffs and drop offs. The trail is clear but not suitable for people with a fear of heights. A mile further on I start my descent, which is much more gradual than the upward journey. I’m back in the village about thirty minutes before the ferry leaves. I enjoy one last look at Eldfell and Helgafell here and then board the ship. I would have liked to have stayed longer to explore the other hiking trails, but unfortunately that is not possible today. Who knows next time!     Staying op Heimaey Even though you can easily see most sights in one day, especially when you are not a hiker, there are a few overnight options on Heimaey. Most guesthouses are small, check prices and availability here. On the northern side of the island there’s a camp site, next to the golf course.   Tours to and on Heimaey There are some tours to and on Vestmannaeyjar, mostly in search of puffins and along the coastline. Make sure to visit the information center for the best possibilities on the day of your trip.   Conclusion and disclaimer Hopefully you found this article helpful and gave you an idea of what to do at Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know. This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase via such a link, I may receive a modest commission for you at no extra cost.  

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Scandinavia trip planning

Scandinavia trip planning: which country should you go to?

If you have been to We12travel before, you may know that nordic destinations are my favorite places to travel. The definition of nordic destinations is of course quite broad, but with ‘nordic’ I mean the outer ends of this planet. In other words, Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska, but also Patagonia and New Zealand, which are not located in the north, but resemble northern destinations in nature. I’m not necessarily interested in the mountains (because you also have those in the Alps and Nepal, for example), but it’s more about the feeling that you get while there. The relaxed atmosphere, the wooden houses, the roughness of the landscape and the mostly cool temperatures. People who recognize it probably know what I mean.   Although the northern countries in Scandinavia may not be at the top of your bucket list, they are all definitely worth a visit. Each destination has its own charm and landscapes. In this article I list the countries of Scandinavia for you. If you are interested in going north, this article will certainly help you make your Scandinavia trip planning much easier.   Table of Contents | Inhoudsopgave What are the Scandinavian countries?Your first time in Scandinavia: what to expectTravel in NorwayNorway highlights:Why Norway?My Norwegian favorites:Book your Norway tripTravel in swedenSweden highlightsWhy Sweden?My Swedish favoritesBook your Sweden tripTravel in FinlandFinland highlightsWhy Finland?My Finnish favoritesBook your Finland tripTravel in IcelandIceland highlightsWhy Iceland?My favoritesBook your Iceland tripTravel in DenmarkDenmark highlightsWhy Denmark?My favoritesBook your Denmark tripConclusion and disclaimer of Scandinavia trip planning What are the Scandinavian countries? A frequently heard term is Scandinavia, but what exactly is Scandinavia? According to Wikipedia, there is no exact definition of Scandinavia, but rather an area in the northern part of Europe. In addition, Wikipedia indicates three different ways in which Scandinavia can be interpreted. For this blog, I defined Scandinavia as Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark.     I will tell you more about what you can expect from each country, what the highlights are and what the best travel period is. I have been to Scandinavia more than 30 times over the past decade and can tell you a lot about it. Enjoy reading!     Your first time in Scandinavia: what to expect First of all I will give you some general travel tips for Scandinavia that actually apply to all countries. Of course there are exceptions per country, but in general the following applies to all destinations.   – Take into account the midsummer night sun when traveling in the summer. The further north you go, the more daylight you will experience in the summer. From roughly the south of Norway to everything above, you’ll be in the light almost 24 hours a day in the summer. It’s definitely something to keep in mind if you have trouble sleeping.   – The Scandinvavians are incredibly friendly and helpful. Even the older generation speaks English quite well and often restaurants have menus available in English. You won’t have to worry about a language barrier in Scandinavia!   – Driving is slow when you are on a road trip in Scandinavia. Around the big cities you will find four-lane highways, but most main roads in Scandinavia are two-lane roads with a speed limit of 80 to a maximum of 100 kilometers per hour. If you are unlucky you will be stuck behind a motorhome that refuses to divert and that may cause a lot of delay. So plan your driving times well, in Scandinavia you always take more time than planned for driving. The traffic fines are also extremely high compared to other countries in Europe, so make sure that you do not commit a violation.   – Pack warm clotes, even in the summer. For all countries goes it can be relatively cool, even in the middle of summer. Last summer I went to Sweden and Norway, and unfortunately I just regularly wore a fleece sweater and jeans, rather than shorts and t-shirts.   – With the exception of Finland, you pay everywhere with the crown (Kronur). Each country has its own Crown, which in terms of value are not really related to each other. Incidentally, it is completely normal that you pay with a credit card, so you’ll need cash in very few places.   – The Every Man’s Right (freedom camping) applies to campers in Norway, Sweden and Finland. In Finland and Sweden I have never really had trouble finding a suitable camping spot, in Norway I have had more difficulty with it, especially due to the increasing number of campervans. Many places that used to be available for camping are now marked with a ‘no camping’ sign. I have even heard that it is being considered to substantially decrease or even abandon the Every Man’s Right in in Norway, whether or not just for campervans.   – The price level in all countries is relatively high, especially in terms of food and overnight stays. For example, gasoline is everywhere (just a little) cheaper than in the rest of Europe, but eating out and doing healthy shopping is often more expensive than we are used to. The Scandinavian countries are certainly not a budget destination!     Travel in Norway Norway, together with Iceland, is probably the country that appeals most to those who wish to travel to Scandinavia. Fjords, waterfalls, trolls and vikings are typical Norwegian things you will encounter on your trip. From a landscape point of view, Norway is one of the most diverse countries I have ever been to. Although the fjords are best known, in the interior you will find beautiful high plains such as the Hardangervidda, glaciers, high mountains and deep valleys. Above the Arctic Circle you can spot whales as well as the Northern Lights and admire the very crowded Lofoten Islands.     I have been to Norway several times in the summer in the past years and it is very busy there. The best travel season in Norway is relatively short (June to August), which means that it can be quite busy at tourist spots in the summer. There are also many cruise ships along the fjord coast, which can turn a small fjord village into a tourist crowd in an instant.   This does not mean that you can’t easily avoid the crowds in Norway, provided that you look for unknown places such as Senja, the Åkrafjord and the vast hills towards the Swedish border east of Hamar for example.     Norway highlights: Below you’ll find some of the highlights of Norway. Very personal and certainly not complete, but useful if you are interested in a Norway trip:   – Fjord Norway (in particular the Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord when there are no cruise ships) – The Hardangervidda plateau – City trip in Bergen (possibly with a visit to the fjords) – The northern islands of Lofoten, Vesterålen and possibly Senja Island – The glaciers of Jostedalsbreen National Park and Folgefonna National Park   Why Norway? Stunning nature, delicious food, freedom camping (to a certain extent), whales and Northern Lights. Disappointments in Norway are the North Cape (very busy, I have heard of it because never bothered to go there) and the often rainy weather. I also found the Hardangerfjord less beautiful than expected. In addition, Norway really is the worst when it comes to high prices and is therefore not exactly a destination for budget travelers.   My Norwegian favorites: – Salmon. Salmon. Salmon. And again salmon. – The thrillers by author Jo Nesbø – Het Every Man’s Right (with restrictions) – The fjords – The most beautiful glaciers in Europe accessible over land   Want to read more? These are my favorite Norway blogs: – A summer vacation in Åkrafjorden, Norway – Biking in Norway: an amazing ride from fjord to fjell – The most amazing viewpoints in Fjord Norway   Or read all my Norway blogs and articles here.   Book your Norway trip Depending on when you are visiting, you should definitely book your trip well in advance in the high season. Accommodation is easily booked on Booking.com and go here to check the best rental car options.         Travel in sweden Although Sweden is not the most stunning Scandinavian country in terms of landscapes, it has captured a special place in my heart. So special that my partner (who has been to Sweden 25+ times ever since he was a little boy) and I have decided to buy a cottage here within a few years. It’s generally a lot more quiet with tourists in Sweden than in neighboring Norway, which makes it the ideal destination for a relaxed road trip in Scandinavia. In addition, as far as I’m concerned, Sweden is definitely a favorite when it comes to hiking. You can make beautiful multi-day hikes without running into many people.   My love for Sweden started with a city trip to Stockholm and gradually spread further and further across the country. I have now been to Sweden 10 times and I still can’t get enough of it. I literally traversed the country from south (Malmö) to north (Kiruna) by car, visited almost all provinces and learned some Swedish along the way.   In the south you will find mainly forests and lakes and a relatively flat landscape, from mid-Sweden the landscape becomes more hilly and eventually even mountainous in the far north and on the border with Norway. The coastline is also beautiful and I have been a huge Gothenburg fan for several years now, a worthy alternative to busy Stockholm.     Sweden highlights – Stockholm and Gothenburg – The Sånfjället and Fulufjället National Parks – Reindeer, moose and possibly bears – Arctic Sweden around Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk – The islands off the coast near Stockholm and Gothenburg   Why Sweden? Sweden is super relaxed. It certainly does not have as many tourists as Norway and Iceland. It’s less busy, there’s fewer rules and less densely populated areas. Whereas in Norway you’ll always see a (holiday) cottage on almost every square kilometer, you can really drive for miles in Sweden without encountering anything. In addition, Sweden is easily accessible by car, via the bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö. The places that disappointed me in Sweden were Skåne (too many meadows), Kiruna and the busy spots in Stockholm in recent years.   My Swedish favorites – Swedish tv crime series (especially The Killing, Midnight Sun and Arne Dahl) – Swedish thrillers (especially Camilla Läckberg, Lars Kepler, Henning Mankell) – Daim chocolate – Cinnamon buns and fika (coffee with something tasty) – The Every Man’s Right – Drive on the E45 – the road to the north – A winter holiday in Sweden – Hiking the Kungsleden (King’s Trail)   Want to read more? These are my favorite Sweden blogs: – Hiking the Kungsleden Trail: a true Nordic adventure – Hiking and camping in the Swedish wilderness – 5 Really cool outdoor things to do in Småland   Or read all my Sweden articles here.   Book your Sweden trip Depending on when you are visiting, you should definitely book your trip well in advance in the high season. Accommodation is easily booked on Booking.com and go here to check the best rental car options.         Travel in Finland Finland is a destination that I prefer to visit in the winter. It is the best destination within Europe to go on dog sledding adventure in the winter, view the Northern Lights and immerse yourself in a total ‘winter wonderland’. I have now visited Finland four times (summer, autumn, winter) and although I like forests, I did not find the Finnish landscape very varied for a summer trip. After a few days of driving through forests and past lakes I’d seen enough.   I truly think Helsinki, the capital of Finland, is a wonderful city. There is plenty to see and do, but it is still relatively quiet compared to…

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travel tips for iceland blue lagoon iceland

5 Reasons why not to visit the Blue Lagoon

When suggesting to visit Iceland to my friend Sandra, she said she would tag along under one condition: we had to visit the Blue Lagoon. Immediately my eyes started rolling and I thought: “why?” I’d been there before already and ever since had heard many stories about the increasing crowds. Her answer was “because whenever you see/hear something about Iceland, The Blue Lagoon is mentioned.” And so we went to Iceland and The Blue Lagoon…   This post about why not to visit The Blue Lagoon isn’t written with the purpose of keeping you away from it. However, I’m a little tired of reading just how great The Blue Lagoon is, while many people fail to mention any of my five reasons. I want to give you, my readers, an honest and realistic blogpost about my experience at The Blue Lagoon and more important: what to expect of it. After reading all of it (yes, please continue all the way down to the bottom) I’m sure you will be able to decide for yourself if you should or should not visit The Blue Lagoon…     Table of Contents | Inhoudsopgave The priceThere are many other thermal poolsThe crowdThe fact that you have to book itThe queueThe water is blue!Staff is friendlyYou can take your camera (and selfie stick!)It’s warmYou just cannot go to Iceland without entering The Blue LagoonWhere to stay near the Blue LagoonPlan your trip to IcelandConclusion and disclaimer The price The moment I purchased a ticket for the Blue Lagoon, was a moment with a lot of pain in my heart. Did I really just spend € 45 on a ticket to get into some hot water pool? Yes, I did … Although everyone has to decide for themselves whether you want to spend this amount of money on bathing in thermal water, I think the entrance fee for The Blue Lagoon is outrageous. To give you an idea: just outside of downtown Reykjavik, next to the city campsite,  there’s a swimmingpool where they have various open air hot baths. The entrance fee is about 5 euros and you get to stay as long as you want…   Note that the entrance rate for 2020 starts at € 66 per person, but these are the end of the day rates so you won’t be able to stay long. Generally, admission throughout the day will be around € 85 so that means it has almost doubled over the past four years since I first wrote this article.   There are many other thermal pools Iceland is filled with thermal pools. Apart from the swimmingpool in Reykjavík, I’ve been to various other ones, such as the hot stream at the Reykjadalur area and the hot pools in Landmannalaugar. Just outside of Reykjavík, near the lighthouse at Grótta, is a small thermal bath as well. It can only fit 3-4 people but you have the most amazing view of the bay and the city. And you know what … all of those are entirely free!   Alternatively, if you just want to bathe in hot water that is not as blue, you can visit the Secret Lagoon instead but it must be booked in advance as well.   Also read: the best free alternatives to the Blue Lagoon     The crowd Unless you are either super early or extremely lucky, you can forget about having the pool for yourself and being able to take a romantic picture with your lover in the bright blue water. While we were in Iceland sometime mid-June (not even extremely high season) The Blue Lagoon was full. And I mean FULL with tons of people. Tourists from all over the globe such as large groups of Asians sticking together, families with crying children, backpackers drinking too much beer… you get my point, right? Even though it wasn’t as busy as I expected, it still was way too crowded for my taste.   The fact that you have to book it My first time at Blue Lagoon was back in early 2006 on our way back home from New York. We made a short stopover on Iceland and thought it would be fun to visit The Blue Lagoon, which turned out to be no trouble at all to arrange the same day on the spot. Nowadays it’s essential that you book your visit selecting a date and time you are expecting to arrive. Bye bye flexibility.   You can book your visit ahead here.   The queue Although we booked tickets for a certain time slot, we still had to queue. And I’m not talking five minutes here, I’m talking about at least 45 minutes. We had just arrived by plane and should have known it would be a busy hour, however as we pre-booked it, we expected that there wouldn’t be a line. Staff were explaining that people were staying inside longer than usual and there for they could not allow more people inside. Needless to say, it really pissed us off because we booked ahead of time with a reason: we still needed to drive to Hella for the night and had arranged an hour of arrival with the owner of the property we were staying at. So we had to shorten our planned time at Blue Lagoon and could eventually only stay 1.5 hours. Needless to say I wasn’t happy about it.   Below you will find a short 15 second video that gives you an impression of my time at The Blue Lagoon. As our time was a bit shorter than planned, I decided to not spend too much of my time on taking pictures but instead just enjoy being there…     Ofcourse, it’s not all negative.  As I was bathing in the blue water and trying to relax while sipping from a drink, the sun shortly peeked through the clouds and I loved being there. So in addition to the things I mentioned above, here are my five reasons why you definitely have to go to The Blue Lagoon, if only once in your life:   The water is blue! Did I mention that the water is blue? I meant that the water is extremely blue. Not the kind of blue you will see in the Caribbean or Thailand, but some kind of light turquoise blue, like ink from a pen mixed with milk. You won’t experience this somewhere else in the world, at least not to my knowlegde, which makes it a pretty unique experience.   Staff is friendly Whatever I said about the queueing, The Blue Lagoon staff remained super helpful and friendly. They offered the guests waiting in the queue icecreams and water and they were always available to answer questions and explain the situation. When we had additional questions, they were very helpful and they spoke in perfect English. Thumbs up for the staff!   You can take your camera (and selfie stick!) As opposed to some other tourist attractions in the world, you are allowed to bring your own camera including a selfie stick into The Blue Lagoon. You can take it with you into the water (be careful though) and take as many pictures as you want. There was free wifi in many parts of the swimming area so I got to upload them to Facebook and Instagram straight away, making my friends back home jealous that they were still working while I was bathing …   It’s warm Weather is generally cool (or rather: cold) in Iceland. Believe me, unless you are some kind of lucky bastard, you will be experience being very cold in Iceland. Warming up in the hot waters of The Blue Lagoon and the ongoing memory of that will definitely help you to keep warm during your time in Iceland. So if you plan to go: do it before you are visiting the rest of Iceland and you won’t be sorry!   You just cannot go to Iceland without entering The Blue Lagoon Did I just say that? Yes, I did! Going to Iceland without going to The Blue Lagoon would be the same as going to New York City without going to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s just not done. You will forever regret if you travel all the way to Iceland without experiencing the Blue Lagoon, including the crowds. So just go … for the sake of it!     Are you still going to visit The Blue Lagoon after reading this post? I sure hope you will! If you have been, do you agree with my opinion? I’m curious! Be sure to also read my post with the best free nature baths in Iceland! They will make sure you’ll save a lot of money! Also make sure to check out this article with more pro’s and cons for visiting the Blue Lagoon.   Where to stay near the Blue Lagoon Most visitors to the Blue Lagoon will choose to stay in Reykjavík which is an excellent choice as the Blue Lagoon is right on the way from the international airport to the city. I can truly recommend staying The Marina Hotel which is right across the harbourside and offers amazing views over the water and the mountains in the distance. Alternatively, check all possible accommodation for Reykjavík here. In case your flight is out early the next day, you may want to overnight near Keflavík airport, check all possibilities here! Iceland is popular and after my 11th visit to this amazing country in July 2019 I can’t stress enough that booking ahead is smart since everyone wants to visit this amazing country. Feel free to reach out in case you may have any questions!   Plan your trip to Iceland Going to Iceland? Awesome, you will not be disappointed, I promise. These will help you to plan your trip to Iceland: – Order your copy of the Lonely Planet Iceland guidebook here. – Check flight prices and schedules from anywhere in the world on Skyscanner – Go here for the best hotel options near The Blue Lagoon. – Check and compare rental car rates for Iceland here   Conclusion and disclaimer Whether you should go or not is completely up to you. I wanted to go again in 2019 but when I saw the giant increase in price I figured it wouldn’t be worth it and so I went to other hot springs instead.   This blog contains affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission if you decide to book and/or purchase anything through this website, ofcourse without any extra cost to you. Thank you for considering!  

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paklijst ijsland winter

What to pack for Iceland in winter: a packing list

What to pack for Iceland in winter: a winter packing list If I’d get one euro for each time I’m being asked what the best Iceland winter clothes are, I’d be rich right now. Or at least I’d be able to book another trip to Iceland for it. So I figured that after my third journey to Iceland in winter I’d share my Iceland in winter packing list with you. In case you’re heading to Iceland in another season: stay tuned as I’ll publish a packing list for winter soon as well. If you want, please subscribe to my newsletter –> so you’ll receive an update once it’s live! For now, enjoy this article with what to wear in Iceland in winter!     Know before you go about Iceland winter weather Let me start this article with some more information about Iceland in the winter. Many people have the idea that during a winter trip to Iceland they are only going to see big piles of snow, but nothing could be further from the truth. As previously mentioned, I have been to Iceland three times in the winter and only once I had a lot of snow. The other times it was a thin layer of snow as we sometimes have in the Netherlands or sometimes just nothing at all. In other words: it can freeze yet there can be little snow. Or you can have plenty of snow. Nobody knows what it’s going to be (btw, I traveled in November, January and February, so right in the heart of winter).     However … keep in mind that the Icelandic wind is very unrelenting. Even though the weather looks pretty good and not too cold on your weather app, it can still be ice cold due to the wind. During my most recent trip (February 2019) I went to Iceland with David and we saw really bizarre things from people who had not been well prepared for what they were doing. People who went into the mountains on sneakers or without a raincoat. Curious? In this article I tell more about the bizarre things that we have experienced on our recent winter trip.     The best winter jacket for Iceland There’s two main items you should invest in while traveling to Iceland in winter: a decent jacket and warm boots. The winter jacket for Iceland must be wind and waterproof, preferably with a hood to protect you against the wind. I myself was wearing the Fjällräven Singi winter jacket, which protected me well against the wind and cold. David was wearing the North Face Mens Evolution TriClimate outdoor jacket that also worked well.     Now I hear you thinking: is a waterproof jacket really necessary? Ehm well … that is not necessary of course, but there is a good chance that you will experience snow and / or rain in Iceland and then it is so nice that you can just go out without getting wet and cold. Just good weather for days in Iceland is virtually impossible and being outside is a lot more fun when you are protected from the weather. Don’t underestimate the Icelandic weather and invest in a decent jacket for Iceland in winter.     If you do not want to invest in an expensive jacket, you can also choose to combine a normal winter jacket (for example a small down jacket) with a wind and waterproof rain jacket that you then wear over each other. For example you could wear the Apex Flex Gore-tex jacket by The North Face on top of your down jacket which should keep you warm and protected as well. I did this combo in Nepal and worked well for me and you then can use this jacket again the next summer for your mountain hikes.     Best boots for Iceland in winter Then the shoes. Here you really have countless options and I leave up to yourself to decide what is the most convenient. You may opt to bring snow boots but since it’s not guaranteed there will be snow, you may end up not using them which would be a bit of a waste I guess.   I myself am a fan of just taking my high hiking shoes (the Lowa Lady Light GTX) with me, partly because I often go winter hiking in Iceland for a few hours, where comfort a must. Last winter, for example, I made the hike to Reykjadalur – the hot springs in the Hengill mountains just outside Reykjavík. Since there was still some snow (especially at the top of the mountains), I was happy with the choice of my hiking boots, although you can also do this short walk on sturdy snow boots as well. So if you are planning to do some kind of walking or hiking, the best shoes for Iceland in winter are you (ankle high) hiking boots.   You can also choose to take mini crampons with you. You tie these under your shoes or snow boots and protect you from slipping. Especially at tourist attractions, many visitors quickly see ice forming on the ground (instead of a pack of snow), and although scattering is common in most places, it can be insidiously slippery. Here are a few options, but I would really only make such an investment if you go hiking and for the rest just walk carefully. Also don’t forget to bring warm socks!     Iceland packing list winter: what else to wear As mentioned, your footwear and jacket are the most important, but what you wear underneath also needs some attention. I myself am a fan of wearing multiple layers, so that you can always put something extra on or off when you get cold and / or hot. For my upper body I have the following with me as standard:     – 1 Icebreaker merino tank (has been around for 10 years and I literally use every trip I make!) – 1 merino long sleeved shirt by Kari Traa – A fleece sweater of your choice     Both thermal pieces are made of merino wool which keeps warm but also absorbs. Wool dries quickly, so if you start sweating, you don’t have a sticky back for the rest of the day, which may end up giving you a cold back once you cool down again.   In terms of pants for Iceland in winter, you can choose the best that you wear. I often get the question if ski pants are sufficient and I think that is certainly an option, but my ski pants are frankly quite bulky and that doesn’t make me as happy as I have to wear it all day. So last time I wore my winter leggings from Fjällräven and below that a simple thermal legging from Icebreaker. I have hardly had any cold weather and in this case you can put on or take off a layer. In addition, I had my rain pants with me as extra protection against the rain, but I didn’t need them. The Fjällräven leggings mentioned are definitely the best leggings for winter hiking there are and very much worth the investment in my case!     Hats, scarves, gloves Finally, I definitely recommend that you bring a hat, scarf and gloves. I do not have specific guidelines for this, as long as it is warm, right? If, like us, you are going to do the Ice Caves & Lava tour, for example, it is handy to take waterproof gloves with you because you regularly crawl on the floor and it is nice if your hands stay warm and dry. Tip: also bring a few sets of hand warmers for cold moments during the day! By the way, I never wear a scarf myself but actually always a merino woolen Buff: a great investment if you ask me and at least as practical as a scarf as I use it as a bandana in the summer as well.   Iceland winter packing list: what else to bring Furthermore I always take the following with me, but that of course depends on your own preferences as well: – Bikini and lightweight towel for the hot springs – Underwear (just normal because I have already adjusted the rest of my clothing) – Slippers for the warm baths – Toiletries – First aid kit – Iceland travel guide – Electronics + chargers – A book (tip: read the books by Arnaldus Indridason during your Iceland trip!) – A daypack -> think for example the waterproof Fjällräven Ulvö Rolltop     Buying you Iceland winter outfit in Iceland itself Would you like to buy something on the spot? You sure can! Iceland has some very nice outdoor brands, but start saving because it’s not cheap. The most famous brand is 66 North, I personally find this a beautiful brand with fine clothing that generally lasts a long time, I have a fleece sweater and gloves, among other things. A lesser-known brand is Cintamani, their clothing is recognizable by the orange logo. Then there are Zo-On Iceland (I have a lovely warm down jacket from them), Ice Wear and some smaller brands.     You can buy these clothes everywhere in Iceland, but the best way to do this is in the outlets just outside Reykjavík. The 66 North outlet can be found on Faxafen at Reykjavík, the Cintamani outlet can be found in Garðabær just outside Reykjavík. You need a car for both places because they are not in the center. Check rates here for your rental car in Iceland and please don’t forget to note your deductible and other additional costs!   Conclusion and disclaimer This was my article about what to pack for Iceland in the winter. Hopefully it will help you prepare for your Iceland trip and give you an idea about the best clothes for Iceland in winter. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them via the comments below.     This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a modest commission, of course without extra costs for you!  

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travel tips for iceland blue lagoon iceland

The ultimate guide to the best hot springs in Iceland

Table of Contents | Inhoudsopgave The ultimate guide to the best hot springs in IcelandThe Blue Lagoon Hot Springs IcelandThe Secret Lagoon Iceland – the best alternative!Other paid alternatives to the Blue Lagoon: Fontana Spa LaugarvatnMyvatn Natura Baths Hot SpringsHot springs in the swimmings pools in ReykjavíkFree hot pools in nature: SeljavallalaugGrottá Island near ReykjavíkHot rivers in Iceland to bathe in: LandmannalaugarReykjadalur Hot Springs in IcelandThe hot pot of your hotelWhat to bring when going to hot springs in IcelandConclusion and disclaimer The ultimate guide to the best hot springs in Iceland Iceland is hot. Hot as a travel destination and hot in the ground. As it’s located right on the ridge of two tectonic plates there is a lot of movement and geothermal activity. When going to Iceland, you can’t miss a visit to a hot spring. Or a hot pool. Or a hotpot, as the Icelanders call it. I’ve written a couple of posts about the best hot springs in Iceland and they are among the most popular posts on my entire blog. So I figured I’d combine them into one post, making this ultimate guide to the best hot springs in Iceland. Having been to Iceland no less than ten times over the past decade, I think I can say I’ve become quite an expert to all there is to know about hot springs in Iceland. Enjoy!     The Blue Lagoon Hot Springs Iceland The number one hot spring to visit in Iceland is of course the Blue Lagoon. However, you should really consider whether this is what you’re expecting of it. Over the past years, the Blue Lagoon has become a major tourist attraction and during my last visit, there were even more visitors than they could handle, despite the fact we had booked our entrance well in advance. If you are looking for an authentic, quiet soak into a natural hot spring, then the Blue Lagoon is definitely not for you.   In my opinion, it’s overpriced, way too crowded and it doesn’t really look like a natural spring anymore, with construction going on most of the time. However, if you really don’t want to visit Iceland without bathing in the milky blue water and/or if you just have too little time to visit one of my other suggestions, then you should definitely visit. The 2019 entrance fee to The Blue Lagoon is € 85 and please note you need to book your slot in advance. If you don’t mind going late at night, rates drop to about € 51 for the last hour. My full blog with reasons why you should not go to the Blue Lagoon can be found here!     The Secret Lagoon Iceland – the best alternative! If you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money but still want to bathe in a geothermal spa in Iceland, then the Secret Lagoon is your best alternative. This one is located near the village of Flúðir, about an hour and a half east of Reykjavík. On their website it states ‘we’ve kept it unique for you’ however I still found it to be quite busy. I visited in March 2019 and even though we arrived quite early in the morning, we still had to share the pool with another 60-70 people. It’s best if you book your ticket ahead, which can be done here. If you are not driving, then you can easily book a tour from Reykjavík.     Other paid alternatives to the Blue Lagoon: Fontana Spa Laugarvatn There are various hot springs in Iceland that offer pretty much the same facilities as the Blue Lagoon. My choice would be to go to Fontana Spa in Laugarvatn. This place is just about an hour drive from Reykjavík and located on the shores of Laugarvatn Lake (vatn means water). This does not just mean that you can actually overlook a lake rather than buildings and many of other people, but also that you can take a totally natural dip into cold water between saunas, which is said to have beneficial health effects. Entrance to the Laugarvatn Fontana Spa is ISK 3.800 which also gives you entrance to various saunas, rather than just a nature bath.   Myvatn Natura Baths Hot Springs Another great option is to go to Myvatn Nature Baths up north in Iceland. If you are heading this far, that is. I’ve not been there myself but Martijn (my former partner) has been many times as a tour guide and according to him, it’s even better than The Blue Lagoon because it’s more quiet. Especially in off peak season it will be since not too many people bother to go all the way up north, in summer it can still get quite crowded here. In low season the entrance fee to Myvatn Nature Baths is ISK 3.800, in high season (mid May – September) it’s ISK 4.300.   Hot springs in the swimmings pools in Reykjavík If you fancy a quick plunge into a hot bath but can’t be too bothered about fancy changing rooms and spa-facilities, then just head to the Laugardalslaug swimming pool in Reykjavík. It’s located next to the City Hostel and Campsite and has a large swimming pool and various hot tubs. The entrance fee is currently not published online but I remember paying a small amount of money not even coming close to the entrance fees of the facilities I previously mentioned.   Free hot pools in nature: Seljavallalaug Icelanders love bathing in hot water and have there for made many pools and hotpots that are easily accessible. You will notice that many accommodations have their own manmade hotpots or small swimming pool. However if your hotel doesn’t have one, you can always head to one that’s right outside in nature. A great one to visit is Seljavallalaug on Iceland’s South Coast. When driving on the Ring Road from Reykjavík take the 242 left, just a little before Skogár. It’s an unpaved road in poor condition so take it easy while driving, as your rental car insurance probably does not cover unpaved roads. From the parking lot you will have to walk for some fifteen minutes until you reach the pool. The facilities look a bit dodgy but the water is nice and warm. Plus the area is stunning, you are right in the middle of nature.     Grottá Island near Reykjavík Another option is, in case you are not going much further than Reykjavík, is to head out to Grottá Island which is a peninsula west of the city. There you will find a tiny hotpot that can fit no more than two or three people. There are no changing facilities here and since space is super limited, you will have to be lucky to be able to get yourself a spot. The views over the bay and the lighthouse in the distance are stunning though.     Hot rivers in Iceland to bathe in: Landmannalaugar If you fancy going for the real deal, then continue reading. Because coming up are my two suggestions for hot streams that you can visit for free. They are both located right in the middle of nature and will give you an authentic Icelandic experience. My favorite place to bathe is the hot stream near Landmannalaugar, Iceland’s most amazing place for hiking if you ask me. The drive here is tricky and should only be done in summer and with a 4×4 because you will have to cross various streams. Your best option is to take a bus from Reykjavík and then stay for a night or two. You can only camp here or stay in the simple mountain hut. The good thing about this place is that many people visit during the day, but during the night, many people are gone. As it’s light for 24 hours in summer, you can bathe here all by yourself at night or in early morning, like I did last summer.     Reykjadalur Hot Springs in Iceland If you prefer to stay closer to Reykjavík then make a trip to Reykjadalur Valley. You can park your car in Hveragerdi, which is about a 45 minute drive from Reykjavík. From here, you will still have to walk for about an hour until you reach the point where the stream actually gets warm. You will not be the only one here, the number of people will indicate where you can head into the water comfortably. They have recently built some boardwalks here to protect the nature but other than that, it’s pretty untouched. In case you are not driving, you can still visit this valley with a guided tour!     The hot pot of your hotel Apart from the free hot springs in Iceland, your best option is the hot pot of your accommodation. Many hotels in Iceland offer a hot pot as they call it and it will be a nice way to relax after your day of exploring. My favorite place to stay while in Iceland is Hjardarból Guesthouse in Hveragerdi, about one hour from Reykjavík. If you are looking for a hotel in Reykjavík, check out my favorites in this blogpost!     What to bring when going to hot springs in Iceland When going to some hot springs in Iceland, you don’t need a whole lot. First of all, bring your swimming gear. Naked is not done, not even in the saunas they have in the spas. Also bring a towel because renting one can become pretty expensive. If you are going to a paid facility, make sure to also bring shampoo so you can wash your hair afterwards. Never do this in the natural streams though because it can really mess up nature. Flip flops may come in handy too because the terrain can sometimes be rocky and painful to walk on barefoot. Don’t forget to bring a big bottle of water as well, hydrating is super important when you’re going to a hot pool or sauna. Other than that, you don’t really need anything else!   Conclusion and disclaimer That’s it, my ultimate guide to the hot springs in Iceland. I’m sure there are a few more but I think I’ve got the most ones covered. I hope you found this guide useful. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions and/or if you’d like to know more about a specific facility. If I can’t answer your question, I know quite a bunch of people in Iceland who can!   Note that this article has affiliate links. If you make a reservation or purchase through any of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!

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Fjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón

Fjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón: which glacier lagoon should you visit?

Table of Contents | Inhoudsopgave Fjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón: which glacier lagoon should you visit?A little bit about Iceland’s glaciers and its lagoonsWhere to find Fjallsárlón and JökulsárlónJökulsárlón – an ever impressive ice lagoonJökulsárlón – all you need to knowJökulsárlón practical informationAs a bonus: Diamond Beach!Fjallsárlón Lagoon – all you need to knowPractical information about FjallsárlónFjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón: which is the best for you?Conclusion and disclaimer Fjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón: which glacier lagoon should you visit? Have I ever mentioned before that I’m a true glacier addict? And that I can just sit and stare at a glacier forever? In case I haven’t mentioned it before, the word is out now. I’m probably one of the world’s biggest glacier geeks and I love it! Over the past decades I’ve seen a large amount of glaciers all over the world and found that Iceland has some easy accessible glaciers. Having been to Iceland no less than 10 times, I figured I’d seen it all, but during my most recent trip I finally went to see Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon, the little sister of famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. In fact, I saw them both on the same day and decided to make a comparison for you guys to decide which you should definitely visit as they are in fact quite different. Of course it’s the best idea to visit both, yet if you have little time, this article is perfect for you as it will tell you all about Fjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón – which glacier lagoon should you visit?     A little bit about Iceland’s glaciers and its lagoons Both Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón glacier lakes stream down from the massive Vatnajökull ice cap, the second largest mass of ice in Europe. Vatnajökull National Park, which covers no less than 14% of Iceland, was recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List and it’s the largest of its kind in Europe. Beneath the ice lay ten volcanoes and rifs and is one of the most spectacular natural areas in Iceland.     Where to find Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón Both lakes are located on Iceland’s South Coast and make for a popular tourist destination. They are located about 5 hrs driving from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík along the Ring Road #1 – the main road around Iceland. When driving from the west, the first one up is Fjallsárlón and some 11 kilometers further onwards you’ll find Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Fjallsárlón is a bit further away from the main road, whereas Jökulsárlón and its icebergs can be seen directly from the road.     Jökulsárlón – an ever impressive ice lagoon Out of the ten times I visited Iceland, I went to Jökulsárlón three times. The first time I went by bus from Skaftafell National Park, the second time I drove down from Hella on the South Coast. This last time, it wasn’t part of the plan but the weather looked gorgeous from where me and David were staying (in a farm nearby Selfoss) and we decided to go for it.   Each time I arrive at the Lagoon I’m swept away by it amazing beauty. The bright blue icebergs leave me breathless and wanting to stay there forever, observing, listening to the melting and breaking off the ice. If there’s one place I’d have to stay in Iceland for the rest of my life, it would be at Jökulsárlón.     Jökulsárlón – all you need to know Jökulsárlón is definitely the most famous of the two glacier lakes. It has been featured in movies such as Die Another Day, Tomb Raider and Batman Begins which has also caused the popularity for this place to increase. The icebergs in the lake are often used for promotional purposes as it’s one of Iceland’s major tourist attractions and generally easily accessible.   It will however be busy. Very busy! I visited last winter and figured that, since it was winter time, it wouldn’t be too busy as it’s quite a drive from Reykjavík. Well, I was quite wrong: the parking lot was full with cars and buses and we had to use the overflow area on the other side of the road.   Yet it you can manage to see through the crowds, you will love Jökulsárlón. The ice in the lake, that streams down from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, varies throughout the year. Each time I visited I saw a lot of ice but a friend of mine who used to guide tours in Iceland, told me that it can in fact also look rather empty and/or icebergs may be far away. These things can of course never be sure beforehand but trust me when I say Jökulsárlón is pretty even without massive icebergs. Plus you’ll have a big chance to see seals around here, so make sure to keep your eyes open. In the video in this article you can see one swim upstream in the river.     Jökulsárlón practical information Jökulsárlón has quite a lot of tourist facilities. There’s a cafe as well as toilet facilities, a huge parking lot and boat tours. Those boat tours on the lake are only going in the months May through October and not during winter time.   From Jökulsárlón you can also do a 6 Hour Ice Cave Tour during which you’ll visit remote ice caves of Vatnajökull. Another great option to see more of the area is by going on a Crystal Blue Ice Cave Super Jeep Tour     As a bonus: Diamond Beach! Just at the other side of the road you will find Diamond Beach, a large black sand beach where the icebergs from Jökulsárlón end up after they are swept away by the river. It’s a short walk from the glacier lagoon only and a nice add-on to your visit. Please be careful though as the waves are gigantic here and you wouldn’t be the first one being swept away by them …   Jökulsárlón can be visited from Skaftafell National Park or on an organized day trip from Reykjavík. It’s discouraged to visit by own vehicle from Reykjavík in one day because of the distance. It’s better to visit from Selfoss or even better Hella, which is a shorter drive away.     Fjallsárlón Lagoon – all you need to know Fjallsárlón Glacier lagoon is also called the little sister of Jökulsárlón as it’s smaller and lesser known. I actually never got around to visiting until my recent visit, when we actually saw the sign indicating the direction to the lagoon. You cannot see Fjallsárlón from the road and need to drive up to the restaurant building. Here you can park your car and it’s about a five minute walk to get to Fjallsárlón.   After crossing a little hill you will get the first views of Fjallsjökull, the glacier that Fjallsárlón is streaming down from and soon after you’ll see the icebergs. You’ll immediately notice that it’s quite different from Jökulsárlón: it’s much smaller, the glacier is actually closer and the icebergs are not as massive.   However, the lack of other people made this truly special. There were no screaming folks here, no selfie sticks, no large groups … just a handful of other people who had taken the time to pay a visit to Fjallsárlón.     Practical information about Fjallsárlón As mentioned this is definitely the smaller one of the two and therefor you’ll need less time as well. At the parking lot there is a small bistro which also functions as a visitor information center. As well as at Jökulsárlón you can make a boat tour daily in the summer months and on Mondays only in wintermonths. More information can be found here.     Fjallsárlón or Jökulsárlón: which is the best for you? Well I guess it really depends on what you are looking for. If you want to visit the one icon, then it’s best to visit Jökulsárlón and enjoy it as much as you can. If you enjoy less people and don’t mind smaller icebergs, then visit Fjallsárlón. If you have enough time: visit both!     Conclusion and disclaimer I personally really enjoy both glacial lagoons and can recommend visiting both. Even though it’s busy at Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón will most likely get busier over time, I would still love to go back over and over again. Note that this blog contains affililate links. If you book or purchase something through any of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.   To which of these have you been? Which one was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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Lava Caves and Volcanoes tour

Lava Caves & Volcanoes Tour with Basecamp Iceland

Review: The Lava Caves & Volcanoes tour with Basecamp Iceland The Reykjanes Peninsula: everyone has been there but nobody really knows it well. Keflavík International Airport is located here and everyone who arrives in Iceland by plane will be introduced to the Reykjanes Peninsula upon arrival. Yet most tourists jump on board a bus as fast as they can to go to Reykjavík or the Blue Lagoon. Some rent a car and leave from here for their adventure.     I also used to be such a person, who has now been on the Reykjanes Peninsula more than 20 times, without really paying attention to it. When I was invited to join a Lava Caves & Volcanoes excursion with Basecamp Iceland, I didn’t hesitate for a moment and confirmed my participation.   Always take the weather with you … We have planned our tour on our last full day in Iceland. The day before we came back from the iceberg lakes on the Icelandic South Coast in order to avoid a raging storm. It now also hits the area where we are staying and in the morning the road between Hveragerði and Reykjavík appears to be closed. Luckily we don’t have to be in town before noon for our tour, so in the morning we sleep in, take a plunge in the hotpot of our hotel and pack our things.     The Lava Caves & Volcanoes excursion starts in the Volcano House in the heart of Reykjavík. You will receive an open voucher for this, but I definitely recommend that you visit the film before you go on this tour. In this way you get a good picture of the fierce forces of nature that Iceland has suffered from, among othem the volcanic eruptions on the Westman Islands and of course the more recent one at Eyjafjallajökull. As it was my tenth time in Iceland, I knew about it already, but for David it was his first time and he was deeply impressed by all the natural disasters to which Iceland has been exposed in recent decades.     From the Volcano House we are picked up with a minivan. Together with a group of Americans we set off on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Our guide Eric tells us that the morning tour has been canceled due to bad weather, but he sees no reason not to continue the afternoon tour. It is only an understatement that it’s still pouring rain like cats and dogs, but as the Icelanders themselves say: “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”     Eric is an American who has lived in Iceland for years and has seen tourism change in recent years. He has been working for Basecamp Iceland for a few years now and does the excursion we make every day. You would expect it to be boring, but nothing could be further from the truth. He tells enthusiastically about the UNESCO Geo-park that we are going to visit.       The Reykjanes Unesco Global Geopark The submerged Mid-Atlantic Rug mountain range that separates the Eurasian continent from the North American continent comes ashore at the Reykjanes peninsula. This fault line rises above the ground at the famous Þingvellir, just northeast of Reykjavík. There are various forms of volcanic activity on the peninsula and four locations are visited during this tour.     We make the first stop of the afternoon at Lake Kleifarvatn, the largest lake in the Reykjanes Peninsula. According to the Icelanders there is a monster in this lake, but this has (of course) never been seen by anyone. In the year 2000 an earthquake took place in this area that caused an underground river to arise, causing the water level of the lake to drop.    The stop at the lake is very windy. One of the first things I learned during my Iceland trip is to always hold your door well when you get out of the car, because you would not be the first one where the door is blown out of the car by gusts of wind. Today is such a day when that could just happen. Fortunately I remember the warning and although it is raining like crazy, we take a look at the waterfront. Because of the cold there is a huge load of ice on the edge of the lake: a very special sight.     Seltún and Krýsuvík Our next stop is at the geothermal field of Seltún near Krýsuvík. This area contains brown mountains, warm currents, simmering pots and more special natural phenomena. We take a short walk on a boardwalk along the geothermal activity and have plenty of time to take pictures. I was here a few years ago too, but I can never get enough of the plumes of smoke, the colored mountains and hot springs. I just ignore the smell of rotten eggs that come with it, it’s all part of the game, right?     Opposite Seltún, on the other side of the road, lies the green lake Grænavatn. This lake is 44 meters deep and an explosion crater. The church of Krýsuvík is also nice to visit here, but because we had very bad weather, we decided to skip this.     Into the lava caves! Then it’s time for the highlight of the excursion: the lava caves. We still have about 45 minutes to reach the entrance to the cave, which is hidden deep in the lava fields. The Geopark is supposed to be filled with underground lava caves, but nobody knows exactly how much and where. The cave that we are going to visit, Leiðarendi, consists of two different “tubes” as they call it: one that originated around 2000 years and one that originated 1000 years ago. Both arose during a volcanic eruption where the lava formed these caves. Leiðarendi is one of the best accessible lava caves in Iceland and may only be visited with a guide.   From the parking lot we walk to the cave entrance in about five minutes. This is covered with a load of snow and so it takes a while before we actually stand in the cave. From here it is already dark immediately. Our helmets and headlights are on and we are told that there is some ice on the bottom of the cave and that we have to walk carefully. And … always pay attention because otherwise you will hit your head.   The entrance to the cave is quite large, but soon we arrive at narrower sections where we sometimes have to crawl through narrow passages. The ground is cold and moist and soon we are also cold and wet ourselves because the water trickles down from the ceiling. Along the way Eric explains everything about the origin of the cave, the various shapes that can be seen and the ice formation.     Then he asks if we feel ready for the adventurous part, where we have to crawl through a narrow space in a kind of “plank position” (the one that you do at the gym!). We’d love that and one by one we crawl to the next part of the cave. Here we are all asked to sit on a small ledge and one by one he turns off our headlights. It is deafeningly silent and you literally don’t see anything anymore. The only thing you hear is the breathing of the others and the occasional drops of water. For the rest, it is terribly quiet.     We sit like that for a minute and then the lights go on again. Eric asks if we have any idea where the exit is. David indicates that he felt a slight stream of air and that it must be that way. We walk a short distance and then arrive … on the other side of the cave. It turns out to be a round cave and without us noticing it ourselves, we walked a loop.     We climb out of the cave again and run back through the still-flowing rain to the bus, where we are treated to hot chocolate before we return to Reykjavík.     Practical information about the Lava Caves & Volcanoes excursion The Lava Caves & Volcanoes excursion can be made without problems for anyone who has no difficulty walking. The distance you travel in the cave depends on the strength of the group. We completed the full lap, but when people in the group are less agile, it is possible that you make a shorter round. In terms of clothing you should wear warm, waterproof clothing, shoes with a good profile and warm gloves, preferably waterproof. In the cave it is about two degrees Celsius, also in the summer! Also check this article on how to stay warm in Iceland in the winter! A headlamp and helmet are mandatory and are provided. The tour leaves daily, there is a morning and an afternoon tour. If desired, a pick-up and drop-off is possible at your hotel in Reykjavík.     The lava caves mentioned cannot be visited independently and this is also strongly discouraged. During our excursion we met a group of Asian men who had entered the cave independently, our guide irrevocably sent them out again. You wouldn’t be the first to get lost here.     Conclusie en disclaimer This tour is a great add-on to your visit to Iceland, also because the Geopark is often overlooked, yet it is a great introduction to the activity of mother nature in Iceland.     We made this tour at the invitation of Basecamp Iceland. All opinions given are of course only ours.

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A trip to Iceland in winter – know before you go!

A trip to Iceland in winter – things you should know before you go! While in the past Iceland seemed to be some sort of mission impossible during the winter, it nowadays is quite common to travel to Iceland in winter time. In fact, it has become much easier. Hotels often open their rooms for tourists 365 days a year, tourist attractions are open and / or more accessible and the main road network is well maintained. The Icelanders already knew that tourism is a gold mine, but it seems that they have turned it into a sport to make Iceland attractive to tourists in the winter. Think of the many Northern Lights tours that are available, but also excursions such as Into the Glacier and the glacier walk on Solheimajökull can now be done in the winter. Iceland is beautiful and you will certainly love it!     Even though I have been to Iceland three times before in the winter, it was now the first time I rented a car rental car myself and was able to discover Iceland on my own and in complete freedom. My previous winter visits to Iceland were due to the fact that I worked for a company specialized in trips to Iceland for 10 years. So this time it was a vacation and I found the winter road trip in Iceland that we made a special experience.     Yet Iceland is a destination where you have to be genuinely alert and use your common sense at all times. It is certainly not a destination for travelers who think they are above nature. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out this blog with my special experiences with other tourists in Iceland.     That said, I think that Iceland in winter is truly a very special destination and for many probably a once in a lifetime experience. There are just a few things that you should take into consideration when you head to Iceland in the winter. I list them below for you!   For more Iceland inspiration, check these Icelandic sayings     Mother Nature rules. Always! If there is one place on earth where Mother Nature makes her own rules, it is in Iceland. The Icelandic landscape is always in motion and the Icelanders are always alert for the next volcanic eruption, a hurricane or other forms of natural disasters. In Iceland you can literally experience four seasons in one day, even in the summer. Nowhere in the world I have seen the weather change so incredibly quickly as in Iceland. In addition, when Mother Nature makes herself heard, this is often with immense power. Roads are closed every once in a while, the rain and snow are notorious because they often approach you horizontally and the waves at the beaches on the Icelandic south coast are often so gigantic that tourists are at times swept away by them.     Be flexible The Icelandic weather cannot be predicted, but if the forecast is bad, you’d better prepare yourself and act accordingly. On the day that David and I went to Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón it was sunny in the morning, but it turned out that a storm was heading for the South Coast in the evening. Because of this we had to drive back on time to our overnight address in Hveragerði. Due to this, we were unfortunately unable to make stops at some tourist highlights, but the other option was to get stuck as the road would be closed for a while.   Always keep an eye on the news, especially in the winter. At many gas stations and often at the reception of your accommodation, they have the most up-to-date information regarding the weather and the road. Also bookmark the website with weather forecasts – on this site you will find everything that has to do with Icelandic weather and it’s in English!     If you think you can play with Mother Nature and her powers, visit the films that are being shown in the Volcano House in Reykjavík, about a number of recent volcanic eruptions. After seeing these films you have changed your mind. I promise!     The Icelandic cold is different Before we left for Iceland, it seemed as if we were not going to be experience a significant cold. The predictions indicated about 5-10 degrees Celcius, which is quite warm by Icelandic standards for winter. Once I arrived in Iceland I was very happy with my fat Fjällräven Singi Parka that I had received for this trip to test. I had almost forgotten how cold and strong the Icelandic wind can be. Although it has been above freezing all week, there have been times when I was terribly cold because the wind … More tips on how to stay warm in Iceland in winter can be read here and you’ll find an Iceland in winter packing list here.     Not all roads are open When you are planning an Iceland road trip in the winter, keep in mind that many roads are closed. This applies to all unpaved highland routes, but also paved roads can be closed off just like that. The Icelandic interior is only accessible with a super jeep and under supervision and therefore not with your rental car. You will find clear deposits everywhere with reports that the road is closed and that you continue to drive at your own risk. So don’t!     The Icelandic ring road (1) is normally accessible all year round, as well as the roads to popular sights such as the Golden Circle but also those to the Blue Lagoon, Jökulsárlón and the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Nevertheless, it makes sense to plan your route a bit more flexible and to leave spare for the possibility to chage your plans at the very last minute.     Tip: if you only do the south coast, then I advise you to do this from Hveragerði or Hella. You can see all the sights in one go, unless you want to do things that take a little more time, such as the DC3 plane wreck or a glacier walk on Sólheimajökull. Yet it happens occasionally that people get stuck along the south coast for example because of the weather and if you have to be back in time in Reykjavík to catch your flight, this is not exactly ideal. Preferably book overnight stays that you can cancel without penalties so that you can make changes to your itinerary where necessary.     itinerary for 6 days South coast Iceland in winter Our program consisted of 5 nights in Hveragerði and 1 night in Keflavík near the airport. From Hveragerði we did the following things:     Day 1. Arrival and drive via Seltún to Hveragerði Day 2. Visit Golden Circle (Geysir, Gullfoss, Þingvellir) Day 3. Visit Secret Lagoon and Rekjavík Day 4. Hiking in Reykjadalur Day 5. South coast incl. Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón Day 6. Reykjavík and Lava Tour aanes Peninsula Day 7. Flight home     You can read more about my Iceland in winter itinerary in the next blog!     Rent your car with care! For this trip I was doubting whether I would really need a 4WD car, also because it is no less than twice as expensive as regular 2WD rental cars in Iceland. Eventually I got the opportunity to rent a car through Sunny Cars and we opted for the normal car, the second smallest. In the winter on Iceland, rental cars are fitted with winter tires with spikes, which means that a 4WD is not really necessary, unless you have meters of snow, but you can of course never predict this in advance. My Icelandic friend Birna indicated that it is seldom necessary to have a 4WD in the winter and that people with experience in winter conditions can normally just go on a regular rental car.    In addition, we had the idea that, when snow packs were expected, we could always ask for an upgrade on the spot. There are really huge loads of rental cars in Iceland due to the summer season being insanely busy, so there’s a good chance they still have a 4WD available.       If you don’t want to drive your own vehicle, then check out these Iceland tours which can basically take you anywhere in Iceland   Ice Ice Baby! As mentioned, we did not have snow during our trip, but there was still snow left in some places. Black sand is scattered at most tourist attractions to take away the ice, but not everywhere. This made it treacherously slippery to walk in some places and sometimes we had to shuffle little by little. Also during our hike in Reykjadalur we regularly had to cross an ice field. Tip: take rubber crampons with you!   Also read: the best things to buy in Iceland!     There is no such thing as a Northern Lights guarantee This may sound a bit odd, but my friend Birna works at Safe Travel Iceland and is asked daily “when the Northern Lights will show …”. Somewhat people still expect that there’s some kind of guarantee that you’ll see the Northern Lights when you’re in Iceland in winter. I didn’t see any Northern Lights this time and only very vague during my previous travels, but that was partly because I was in the city at the time and so there was too much light pollution. Although we slept in Hveragerði this time and almost in the middle of nowhere, we have not seen Northern Lights. It was bad luck as it was cloudy all the time and my advice would be to consider the Northern Lights as a nice bonus during your winter trip in Iceland – certainly not as a standard or you’ll end up disappointed. In case you want to go on a hunt, make sure to sign up for a Northern Lights Tour!     Finally: be safe! I can’t say it often enough, but be careful in Iceland. Do not throw plastic cups into the geysers, stay on the marked trails, act like a responsible person who respects nature and use common sense at all times should the weather or other circumstances change rapidly. Iceland is a very unique travel destination and it would be nice if the next generation after us could also enjoy this beauty the way we do.     Conclusion and disclaimer Hopefully you found this article about Iceland in the winter useful and helped you plan your journey to Iceland. We were offered our rental car in exchange for our honest review. In addition, you will find some affiliate links in this article. If you place an order via one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost for your. Thank you for reading and enjoy your winter trip to Iceland!  

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