Fire under the Snow

Article of the week from the icelandic times

Under the mountains behind Reykjavik lies a hidden power
The columns of steam, rising high into the sky, are clearly visible from the capital. Deep below the mountains, the earth is still burning hot and today, that heat provides a source of warmth and electricity for all the capital area.

The Geothermal Energy Exhibition on the Mountain

Just about a 20 minute drive by car, Sterna line or Iceland Excursions-Grayline Iceland coach, the Geothermal Energy Exhibition on Hellisheiði makes a fascinating and educational visit at any time of the year. In many ways, it is even more spectacular in the snowy winter months, providing such a contrast between the conditions on the surface compared to those below ground.
This is the newest and largest geothermal plant in Iceland and Orkusýn provides a rare look into the one of the world‘s most powerful clean energy resources. Multimedia displays and experienced guides explain how Iceland has become a leader in this form of clean energy and you can get a close look at its production.
Refreshments are available in the café while books and DVD‘s about geothermal energy are to be found at the souvenir area. If you would like to get a better understanding of clean energy, this is the best place to visit.

Top 10 things you must experience in and around Reykjavik

1. Discover the golden circle

    • Gullfoss

Gullfoss, or “Gold-waterfall”, is a magnificent and enormous natural waterfall with a rich history. It’s not made of gold as far as we know.

    • Geysir

Geysir National Park is a geothermally active area with many natural hot springs, some of them erupting. The largest two largest erupting geysers are Strokkur, which erupts to a height of 20 meters roughly every 15 minutes, and Geysir, from whom all geysers take their name, which erupts to a height of 70 meters, but only sporadically. Although the park is no doubt full of vacationing geezers, the name Geysir actually refers to the erupting nature of the hot spring, and can most appropriately be translated “Gushie”.

    • Þingvellir

Tempting as it may be to think of them as the “thing-wells” – Thingvellir which is a National park actually means “parliament fields” – referring to the fact that this was the site of the ancient viking parliament from about 930 AD until 1798. One of the oldest democracies in the world, viking chiefs from across the country would congregate here and hear the law spoken from the “law-rock”. (Yeah, that’s a thing). It also happens to be located along the rift of the European and American tectonic plates. Among other things, you can learn about the incredibly rich history and geology of the place, and dive in one of the natural underwater fissures.

2. Swim in the Blue Lagoon

This iconic spa resort the Blue Lagoon started in 1976 as a place to pour off excess water from a geothermal construction project. Gradually, the construction workers and passers-by started bathing there (despite the fact that raw geothermal water can vary dangerously in temperature). Since then it’s been renovated and turned into a luxurious spa resort, and the water temperature is moderated so it is perfectly safe. It is conveniently only 40 minutes from Reykjavík, and only 20 minutes from Keflavík airport.

3. See the Northern lights

Among the amazing things you can experience in Iceland is the Northern lights, the famous green celestial laser show that can be seen on clear winter nights. There are several tour operators that specialize in finding the right spot, either by bus or by boat.

4. Explore a Glacier

It is a common joke that Iceland should be called Greenland and vice versa. While it is true that Iceland is greener than Greenland, that’s not really saying much. Iceland is home to the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, and a host of others, all in all covering about 11% of the country’s surface. There are a number of ways to explore them, including hiking or riding a snowmobile on them, if so inclined.

5. Ride the unique Icelandic horse

Iceland is home to a unique breed, the Icelandic horse. It is unusual in size, the size of a pony, and yet amazingly strong and sure-footed. It has two gaits in addition to the most usual walk, trot and gallop, known as tölt and skeið. Icelanders are protective of this breed, so it is illegal to import foreign breeds to Iceland, and once and Icelandic horse leaves the country, it can never return. Riding is a usual pastime for Icelanders, whether they own their own horses, as is common, or they simply rent a horse for a day now and again in the summertime. You can find a horse riding tour in any part of the country.

6. Whale watching

There are 23 different breeds of whale that populate the ocean around Iceland. You can go on a boat tour from a number of ports, or even see them from land in some places. There are a number of operators offering rides and the best time to see whales is between May and September. Remember to wear a hat though, since sailing the ocean can be quite cold, even in summer!

7. Visit Perlan, the Pearl

The Pearl is a landmark building in Reykjavík, with its glass dome, observation deck and revolving restaurant. It sits atop tanks of geothermally heated water and is situated in Öskjuhlíð, a forested outdoor area with many walking paths and remnants of the US occupation of Iceland in the second world war.

8. View the historic site of Höfði

Höfði is a house with an interesting history. It is best known as the place where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the heads of the US and USSR respectively, had their famous negotiations in 1986. Built in 1909 as a french consulate and long time residence of famous Icelandic entrepreneur and poetEinar Benediktsson, it is now owned by the authorities and used to host parties and receptions.

9. Go Diving or Snorkeling

Iceland is probably not the first place you think of when you think of snorkeling. But between the sub-oceanic hot water outlets and the various geological fissures, there is a lot to see.

10. See the view from Hallgrímskirkja belltower

Hallgrímskirkja church is one of the tallest buildings in Iceland. Its beautiful architecture is inspired by the basalt lava columns found in Icelandic nature and on the square outside its main entrance you can see a statue of Leifur Eiríksson, who sailed to America long before it was discovered by Christopher Columbus. It is located near the center of Reykjavík and you can ride the elevator right to the top to see the view.

The 5 best and 5 worst types of Icelandic food


Hangikjöt  (Smoked Lamb)

Hangikjöt is smoked Icelandic lambs. It is reputed to be especially good because of how the sheep are farmed, which is quite old fashioned: they are free to roam around the wilderness of the unspoiled and rather barren highlands all summer long without any supervision at all. The sheep graze not only on grass, but also on plants and herbs which contributes to their rich and complex flavour. In this way, the meat has been marinated the entire life of the animal.

After the slaughter, the farmer smokes the lamb traditionally fueling the fire with birch or dried sheep dung – each of which adds its own distinctive flavour. Smoked lamb is usually served up with potatoes, béchamel sauce, red beets and green peas.


The famous not-actually-a-yoghurt-but-nobody-cares product, skyr, is technically a type of soft cheese, made from gelatinous milk curds. As appetizing as that sounds, mixed with milk and served with sugar or Icelandic blueberries, it’s actually quite wonderful, with a rich, yoghurt-like texture and slightly sour taste.

The real magic, however, is in its nutritional value. This superfood is incredibly high in protein and unbelievably low in everything else, a typical batch sporting something like 12% protein, 3% carbohydrate and 0,5% fat, and also rich in calcium and various vitamins.

Icelandic fish  (All the fish)

In addition to the wide variety unbelievably fresh fish available, there are two types of interesting traditional Icelandic fish worth noting:

  • Saltfiskur (Bacalao): Saltfiskur, literally salt-fish, has been dried and salted. It has a history in scandinavia of more than 500 years, and used to be a major export before refrigeration was a thing. Recently however, it has experienced a revival in some Icelandic restaurants.
  • Harðfiskur (Stockfish): The simplest way to explain harðfiskur is that it is like beef jerky. Only fish. So fish jerky. It is dried out in the cold air, where the cold air bacteria ferment it in a process similar to the fermenting of cheese. So fish-cheese jerky. And it’s awesome. You eat it with butter.

Kjötsúpa  (Meat soup)

Another traditional lamb dish, it was originally a way of preparing tougher pieces of meat but these days is cooked with as high quality meat as any other dish. The meat is cut into small pieces and boiled with bones and all, with rice, potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions and   herbs. It is boiled for several hours before serving, though most Icelanders agree that it gets even better if you let it sit for a day and then re-heat it.

“Ein með öllu” – the iconic Icelandic hot dog

One of the most typically Icelandic foods is the pylsa hot dog. They contain lamb which gives them an unusual flavour, but the magic is in the sauces. A real Icelandic hot dog is served með öllu, with everything on it, which means ketchup, a sweet brown mustard, raw onions, fried onions, and remoulade (a sauce made with mayonnaise and relish).

Svið  (Singed and boiled Sheep Head) 

Svið literally means “singed”, from how the sheep head is singed to remove the hair. It is then brained, boiled and served with mashed turnips, potatoes and rhubarb jelly. Then you eat its face. And eyeballs. Gross as it sounds (and looks), svið is not actually bad food, and you absolutely must try it when you’re here, if only to say that you did it.

Hrútspungar  (Rams testicles)

Because of the historical poverty of the Icelanders, it was essential that nothing, absolutely nothing, went to waste. Hrútspungur is ram’s testicles. In order to preserve this delicacy, it is pressed into blocks and pickled to perfection. Mmmmmm.


Different from the other entries on the list, horse is on the “worst” side more for the moral reprehension most people have towards it. It is actually quite delicious when you try it. Which, considering the news recently, you probably already have, to be fair.

Hákarl  (Shark)

Hákarl is cured shark. Have you ever heard of the delicious shark-fin soup? Yeah this is   nothing like that. Hákarl has a strong taste of ammonia (you know, thecleaning product), and is reminiscent of a very, very ripe cheese.
Because there is so much urea (you know, like the stuff in urine) in the meat, fresh shark would be highly poisonous, but after curing it is only slightly poisonous. Curing is done by burying it under the ground for 6-12 weeks, then hanging it to dry and ferment for four to five months. You absolutely must try it though, because all your friends will ask about it when you get back home, and because it’s an excellent excuse to drink Brennivín, the icelandic schnapps lovingly (and fittingly) nicknamed Black Death.

Skata  (skate)

Skate is flat fish that has a long tail. The terrible thing about skata is the smell. It is in some ways similar to shark, only skata is boiled, and traditionally served at a party on the day before christmas eve. The smell is overpowering and causes neighborly disputes, it gets in your fancy clothes you were planning to wear over christmas and it never comes out. However, if you brave the smell, Skata has an acquired taste, and if you get used to it, you will really love it.

5 best coffeehouse experiences of Reykjavik

Icelanders, like most of the worlds population drink coffee, in fact we drink a lot of it!

The appeal of coffeehouses is twofold for most Icelanders, we want good coffee but more importantly, we want a nice place to drink our coffee. Below is a list, in no particular order, of the five best coffeehouses to visit while you are in town, enjoy!


Mokka is historically the most significant coffeehouse in the country. In 1958 Guðmundur Baldvinsson and Guðný Guðjónsdóttir opened their doors, serving the first espressos to a population who until then had only tasted brewed coffee. At the time Icelanders didn’t really understand the concept of a coffeehouse and found it ridiculous and strange to pay so much for one cup of coffee. Soon, however, it became the place to be for artists, writers and philosophers looking for a good cup and a place to ponder and discuss ideas. Going to Mokka is like stepping back in time; today the place looks almost identical to the way it did when it opnened with its simple art deco style. The smell of coffee, chocolate and waffles that greet you when walking in are enough to make your mouth water, sometimes you can even smell it half way up Skólavörðustígur.

Skólavörðustígur 3a

Kaffitár Bankastræti

Another important stepping stone in the evolution of coffee culture in Iceland, Kaffitár, introduced high quality coffee which was ethically sourced and roasted in Iceland. The owner, Aðalheiður Héðinsdóttir was intrumental in kick starting the specialty coffee culture both through her own efforts and thanks to several baristas who were trained in Kaffitár and later on have become influential in the coffee world and opened their own coffeehouses in Reykjavík. The coffee is well made, by Baristas who are friendly and well trained. There are also plenty of sandwhiches, breads, cakes and sweats to eat with your cup. This particular outpost of the Kaffitár chain is colorful and vibrant. This is a particularly popular place with many regulars and can sometimes be difficult to find a table, especially in the morning rush hour. Still though, there is plenty of seating in a comfortable open space that has large windows facing Bankastræti, a great place to people watch and plan your day.

Bankastræti 8

Reykjavík Roasters / Kaffismiðja Íslands

Formerly known as Kaffismiðja Íslands, Reykjavík Roasters offers the highest quality specialty coffee in town. Since it opened in 2008 it has attracted legions of regulars who swear by the superiority of their coffee over others. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, a combination of raw and cozy permeates this small space filled with old chairs and tables, and the sounds of a record playing and coffee roasting.

The coffee is roasted on location and the coffee itself is bought directly from the farmers, predominantly from Colombia, however recently they have introduced coffee from Nicaragua as well. Don’t be afraid to try any of the alternatives to an espresso-based cup. The hand brewed coffee available is expertly made and you can choose between three different brewing methods, all of which bring out something unique from the coffee.
Kárastígur 1

Litli Bóndabærinn

This adorable take-away-hole-in-the-wall was a welcome change to the coffeehouse flora of the city. The principle of its foundation was based on providing a product that is locally sourced and preferably organic as well. The friendly owner, David is often there baking his own creations from scratch, which include favorites like pasties filled with lamb and sweet potatoe or veggie sausage rolls which are heavenly. The coffee is always organic and always tasty.

Laugavegur 41


The name Stofan literally means the living room. When walking into its warm atmosphere you will in fact find what looks like several living room spaces with plush couches and sitting chairs inviting you to stay and read a book, knit or have a good conversation with your friends and aquaintances. Like many coffeehouses in Iceland they offer Chaqwa which doesn’t qualify as specialty coffee but tastes good none the less. There is a great assortment of teas to choose from, as well as home made cakes and other snacks. One thing that separates Stofan from the others on this list is the possibility of having a beer or any other alcoholic beverage. At night this cozy coffeehouse turns into a cozy bar with killer Irish coffee and a very good selection of local beers.

Aðalstræti 7by Marissa Sigrún Pinal


Bakeries are extremely popular in Iceland and can be found all over the country.

Up until just a few decades ago, flour, sugar, and other such commodities were a rarity, and therefore there isn’t a long tradition of cake and bread-making. However, today bakeries offer a wide range of breads and pastries, including classic local favourites. These include, pönnukökur (pancakes), kleinur (deep fried dough-twists), flatkökur (flat-bread), Jólakaka (Christmas cake), and vínarbrauð (danish pastry).

Wherever you are, there will probably be a bakery nearby. You’ll find a list of bakeries in Iceland below.


One of the most pleasant experiences of any holiday abroad is trying out the local cuisine and traditional delicacies. This is no exception for visitors to Iceland.

Icelandic fine dining restaurants have changed dramatically in the past few years, with many chefs incorporating fresh new ingredients into popular traditional Icelandic dishes. The result has been an explosion of culinary inventiveness and worldwide recognition for several Icelandic restaurants.

If you’re looking for a more traditional Icelandic meal, then don’t worry. While menus have grown to reflect the influence of ingredients from around the world, much pride is taken in offering travellers a taste of a real Viking feast. Seafood dishes are fresh and hearty, and Iceland’s free-range lamb is some of the finest you will ever have the pleasure of tasting.

You’ll find a list of restaurants all over Iceland below. Contact restaurants directly for prices and reservations.

Conferences In Iceland

Increasingly, international companies are choosing to hold meetings and conferences in Iceland. The facilities are top class, and the venues are equipped with the newest technology and staffed by professionals who are skilled in making your event a success. As such, Iceland enjoys an excellent reputation with the global business community.

The Icelandic people are sophisticated and well-travelled, and English is spoken by nearly everyone. Many also speak French, German, Spanish, and one or more of the Scandinavian languages. Iceland’s location means that it is influenced by both North America and Europe, giving it a cosmopolitan edge, despite a population of just over 300,000. This makes holding an event in Iceland a pleasure.

Icelandic business

It is also extremely easy for international firms to access Icelandic companies and institutions that are in similar fields, and many Icelandic businesses welcome the opportunity to exchange ideas and share knowledge.

Icelandic experts provide consultancy services to governments and organisations throughout the world in industries such as fisheries and geothermal energy. Iceland has also been party to an international project to test the use of hydrogen as new source of energy. Other key industries in Iceland include genetic research, pharmaceuticals, and tourism.

Golden circle and snowmobiling

The pearl tour with Mountaineers of Iceland: Golden Circle in a Super Jeep and Snowmobiling.

It was such a blast! The golden circle includes Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.
Article by Jenny Gerleman – an intern at

Þingvellir – the national park

I was picked up at the Hilton Hotel at 08.30 in the morning with a Super Jeep! The first stop was Þingvellir where the oldest still existing parliament in the world was founded in the year 930. The dramatic landscape of Þingvellir is a result of the border between the European and North American tectonic plates. There’s only two places in the world were you could see two of the earth’s tectonic plates meeting above the earth’s surface. And that’s not all! Þingvellir is also designated UNESCO World Heritage. But enough of facts, you could read all about it when you are visiting it!

It takes some time to walk around everything and to see all the historical places, but it worth it. It’s so beautiful around Þingvellir with the rift valley and the volcanos fissure zone running through it.

Geysir – the geothermal hot spring area

After that we went to Geysir, our guide and driver Kiddi talked in a microphone about the landscape, the Icelandic people and fun facts about Iceland. Did you know that Iceland is one of the largest banana producers in Europe? Kiddi was experienced and humorous. You didn’t have to hesitate to ask something.

When we got to Geysir, Kiddi told us what to see and what we could do. The main thing to see there is Strokkur that erupts about every 4-8 minutes, the famous Geysir had the last majestic eruption in 2000 so you would be blessed to see it erupt. Strokkur is really amazing to see, so majestic. The climate here is so breathtaking with the geothermal field. Just take a look at my pictures!At Geysir I walked around and enjoyed the nature. Earth is amazing! I grabbed some food and then we drove to Langjökull for some snowmobiling!

Snowmobiling – Langjökull is the second largest glacier in Europe.

On the way there Kiddi showed us what the super jeep could do through driving up on high bumps and so on.

It was my first time to drive snowmobiling, so I was quite nervous and excited. Kiddi instructed us how to use the snowmobiling and what not to do. Afterwards it was my turn to try to drive the snowmobiling. It’s easy to drive but it’s quite tricky when you are trying to turn it because it could tumble. It was so fun to drive the snowmobile.

When we drove we were driving in a line after Kiddi and another guide in the back. Even though it was snowing it wasn’t cold at all because we were provided with all the necessary gear which included overalls, helmets, boots and gloves. We were driving snowmobiles for about 1 hour, and this was the highlight of the tour for me because I’ve seen the golden circle many times before. Did you also know that more than 13% of Iceland is covered by glaciers and snowfield?

Gullfoss – the golden waterfall

When we were finished with the snowmobiling we went for Gullfoss. Gullfoss is also known as the golden waterfall, it’s so breathtaking! I was able to walk pretty near the Gullfoss so that was an experience.

After Gullfoss we were supposed to drive back to Reykjavik but we got an extra treat. Kiddis motto is “that is better to outperform then underperform” and I could tell you that he lived up to that! It was a really nice surprise and stop. And I’m not going to tell you where we went but it was quite amazing! You just have to go there yourself!

About Iceland

Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is famous for its magnificent nature, geothermal energy and the idiosyncratic nature of its inhabitants.

Its landscape is marked by glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, and absolutely no trees. It has become a popular destination for adventurers and seekers of the unusual, offering white water rafting, glacial snowmobiling and hot-spring bathing, as well as phenomena such as the midnight sun and The Northern Lights.

Icelanders have never been known to go the beaten path. Descendants of the ancient vikings (but these days relatively civilized), the nation of Iceland has elected the first woman president, the first openly lesbian prime minister, and was the first country in the world to acknowledge the sovereign state of Estonia. Jón Gnarr, the mayor of Reykjavík, the capital city, was a comedian who ran for office as a joke.

Despite its meager population, it has birthed such famous musicians as Björk, SigurRós, and Of Monsters And Men. Other accomplished Icelanders include 3 different winners of the Miss World competition and two strongmen who each won the World’s Strongest Man competition four times over.

Icelandic, the language of Iceland, is considered the closes living relative of ancient Norse, and is as such related to most of the Scandinavian languages. Here are some fun words to try to learn in Icelandic:

Eyjafjallajökull (AY-yah-fyad-layer-kuh-tel) – The name of the volcano that erupted in 2010. A great word to say to impress your friends, and better yet, almost nobody will be able to correct you if you’re saying it wrong.
“Einn bjór takk” (aydn byor tack) – “One beer please”. The double “n” is pronounced as a sneeze.
“Jæja” (yaya) – an all-round conversation filler. Use it to fill an uncomfortable silence, to signal that you have to go, or just to entertain yourself when you’re bored.
“Gerðu það” (gerthu thath) – the closest icelandic equivalent of “please”. Literally means “do it”
“Ógeðslega gott!” (Oh!-gethslega got) – normal way to say “very good”. Literally means “disgustingly good!”

[b]Where is Iceland and how do I travel there?[/b]

Travel time by plane is about 3 hours from London, 2.5 from Stockholm and 6 hours from New York, it is easily reached and the perfect place to stop “on the way” between the US and Europe. There are currently a number of airlines that provide flights to Iceland, including Icelandair, Wow Air, SAS, Norwegian and EasyJet. Within Iceland, there are local airlines, bus services and tour companies that can take you pretty much anywhere on the island. Tourism is a big industry, and accommodation is relatively abundant in all parts of the country.

[b]What is it like and what is there to do there?[/b]

It is roughly the size of Kentucky and only slightly smaller than England (103,000 km2/ 40,000 sq m). The population of 320,000 makes it the least populated country in Europe. Its position on the 66th parallel, with one peninsula reaching into the Arctic circle, means northern lights in the very dark winters and very bright summer nights.

The landscape is magnificently beautiful and hauntingly terrible, ranging from volcanoes to glaciers, from the bubbly geysers to the cold dead desert of the central highlands.

In Iceland you can ride the unique Icelandic Pony around a moss-covered lava field in the morning, have world class free range lamb for lunch (it’s all free range), and ride a snowmobile on a glacier in the afternoon. Afterwards you can have a reindeer burger for dinner before heading off to bathe in a geothermal pool while looking up at the Northern Lights, and then rounding off the evening with some fermented shark and “Black Death” schnapps. All within day trip distance from your hotel. You can go whale watching and see the seat of the ancient viking parliament. Or in June you can play golf by the light of the never-setting midnight sun.
Icelandic Glacier and Northern lights
The all-important question: What is the weather like?
Not as cold as you might think. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a surprisingly temperate climate for its latitude. Comparable to New England, winter temperatures average at a mild 0 to -10 degrees Celsius (32 to 14 F). In summer, temperatures range between 10 and 25°C (50-77 F). However, due to the notoriously fickle weather and strong winds, you may want to bring a hat just in case, or buy a traditional hand-knitted wool sweater.