Iceland Mag

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  • Accidents, Search and Rescue

    Travelers rescued from Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail: Too tired and cold to finish hike

    By Staff

    Heljarkambur Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail is not a walk in the park. You need proper mountaineering equipment and experience. Photo/Lilja Björk Baldursdóttir

    Two foreign travelers who were attempting to hike Fimmvörðuháls trail, a high mountain pass which crosses between Eyjaflallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers, were rescued early morning by members of ICE-SAR. The people called for help at 4 am, requesting assistance as they were too cold and tired to continue on their trek. Conditions on Fimmvörðuháls were everything but ideal: Cold weather, high winds, sleet and snow had worn the hikers down.

    According to the National Broadcasting Service ICE-SAR received a distress call at four in the morning from the group. The people, who are foreign travelers, had managed to pitch their tent but were wet, cold and too tired to continue the hike. They were unable to give their rescuers a precise location. Members of ICE-SAR on ski-doos managed to locate the people. The rescuers had reached the people shortly before eight. The people had reached Morinsheiði heath when they were overcome by the elements.

    A helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard had been dispatched to airlift the people to safety, but was forced to land at Básar highland cabin due to weather. The ski-doo team which had reached the people gave them a fresh set of dry clothes and escorted them to safety.

  • Nature

    Civil Protection Agency warns catastrophic mountain collapse a threat at Svínafellsjökull glacier

    By Staff

    Svínafellsjökull glacier One of the outlet glaciers of Öræfajökull glacier, the southernmost part of Vatnajökull glacier. Photo/IMO

    The Icelandic Civil Protection Agency has issued a warning to travelers and tour operators to show extreme caution when visiting Svínafellsjökull glacier in South East Iceland or to stay away from the glacier completely. People are urged not to go hiking on the glacier and to limit the time they spend at the glacier lagoon. Catastrophic mountain collapse and giant rock-slides pose a serious threat to hundreds of travelers who visit the glacier and the lagoon every day.

    Catastrophic mountain collapse
    Geologists at the Icelandic Meteorological Office recently identified deep and extensive fractures in Svínafell mountain which borders the glacier. The fractures are believed to be part of an extensive fracture system created by the movements of a significant part of the mountain which currently towers over the glacier. The fractures are believed to have been created by the retreating of the glacier due to global climate change. As the glacier shrinks and retreats it no longer provides support to the mountains on either side, exposing steep mountainsides. Without the support of the glacier these sheer cliffs can easily collapse.



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    Measurements by the IMO and the Civil Protection Agency suggest that a significant part of Svínafell mountain has been slowly breaking apart. The surface area of the mountain which is believed to be on the move is 1 km2 (247 acres). The total volume of rock and earth is believed to be up to 60 million m3 (165 million cubic feet). The material could either collapse all at once, or in successive rock falls. 

    Read more: Icelandic glaciers have shrunk by 500 square km since turn of the century

    The Civil Protection Agency has issued a warning to travelers and tour operators to cancel any plans to hike on the glacier or in the hills of Svínafell mountain. People are also asked to limit any time spent at the lagoon or near the glacier. 

    The glacier, which is one of the outlet glaciers of Öræfajökull, the southernmost tip of Vatnajökull glacier, empties into one of the most popular glacial lagoons in Iceland. Hundreds of travelers visit Svínafell glacier every day. At any given time in summer there are up to a dozen groups at the site. Svínafellsjökull glacier appears as alien landscape in the Hollywood movie Interstellar.

    Svínafellsjökull, Svínafell, Catastrophic mountain collapse

    Mt. Svínafell As the glacier retreats the mountain has begun to crack. Geologists fear the mountain could collapse onto the glacier. Photo/IMO


  • Travel

    A simple guide to avoiding the crowds at tourist spots in Iceland

    By Staff

    Meanwhile in the Central Highlands Despite the rapid growth in tourism Iceland still has more than enough spots where you can be the only person for miles in any direction. Photo/Vilhelm

    One of the biggest stories in Iceland in recent years has been the growth of tourism. The number of foreign visitors has gone up from just 485,000 in 2007 to 2,225,000 ten years later, an increase of 360% in just ten years. If you were visiting places like Seljalandsfoss waterfall or Reynisfjara black sand beach in South Iceland in the middle of summer ten years ago you wouldn't have been surprised to discover you had the whole place to yourself. Today you are lucky to find a parking spot during busy hours!

    This dramatic change has led many, both locals and returning visitors to worry that there are too many tourists in Iceland. We at Iceland Magazine have heard this complaint time and time over, although we have never run into the problem ourselves. Why? We simply avoid the rush hour at the most crowded spots and follow a few simple steps get the most out of the great outdoors.


    gullfoss, tourists

    Gullfoss waterfall One of the stops on the "Golden Circle". Photo/Ernir

    1) Be realistic: Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot expect to be the only person at any popular tourist destination. This is as true at Gullfoss or Geysir in Iceland as at Niagara falls or the Grand Canyon. The top sites where the package tours stop will always have crowds.

    The most important step you can therefore take is just to slow down and give yourself time to take in the view and don‘t let frustration with other travelers get in your way of enjoying the experience!

    2) Put things into perspective: The second most important thing to keep in mind is that the crowds are really restricted to a handful of the most popular spots: You can still hope to be the only person at Brúarfoss waterfall, a once „hidden“ waterfall on the Golden Circle, which has seen an explosion of visitor numbers in recent years. (When visiting Brúarfoss you absolutely MUST walk the extra steps. The parking lot for the waterfall is located on the main road. You are NOT to drive closer to the waterfall by turning onto the holiday home areas: If you do, be aware that you are trespassing on private property.)

    The point is perhaps that you need to put the talk of „crowds“ into perspective. To locals, who grew up having all this natural splendor all to themselves, with not a soul in sight, the addition of a handful of rental cars and a tour bus constitutes a traffic jam and a couple of small groups feels like a "crowd".


    Brúarfoss One of the most beautiful waterfalls in South Iceland. Photo/Kristján Már Unnarsson, Stöð 2

    3) Walk an extra few minutes: Walking a few paces usually allows you to find a spot where you can enjoy the view in peace, listen to the thundering of the waterfall or just the soothing sound of the wind and birds. Just as all roads in Iceland are scenic, so are all walking paths: See where the path takes you and what sights await on the other side of that hill!

    Even at the most popular spots, like Skaftafell visitor center in Vatnajökull National Park, or Þingvellir National Park, you will only meet a handful of people on most of the hiking trails. An early morning or late evening hike at these sites will almost certainly guarantee you will have the whole experience to yourself.

    Remember that Iceland is wet and rainy. You should expect to encounter mud and water on any walking path, so you should always wear good hiking boots. Ugg boots, flip flops, crocs or other such things which are considered footwear in some countries are not appropriate while traveling in Iceland.

    Krossneslaug, Norðurfjörður

    Krossneslaug pool Norðurfjörður in the Strandir region is the destination for travelers who are seeking the feeling of remote isolation you get at the world's end. Photo/Anton Brink

    4) Go off the beaten path: Most visitors take the popular Golden Circle and South Coast tours. This is understandable, as they pack together a number of spectacular spots into an easy daytrip. But there are other options: The Reykjanes peninsula, West Iceland and Snæfellsnes peninsula are all perfect alternatives for day trips out of the capital.

    Consider visiting the Eastfjords or Westfjords, regions which are ignored by the vast majority of travelers. Drive to the Strandir region on the "world's end", take the ferry to Vestmannaeyjar islands or visit the puffins in Borgarfjörður eystri.

    5) Do some independent research: One of the greatest challenges locals are faced with when foreign visitors ask them to name their favorite spot in Iceland is that there are just too many such spots to name one or two. There are countless spectacular waterfalls and breathtaking mountains, cliffs and canyons. Yet, most foreign visitors seem to focus on the list of top sites.

    Do a little research to come up with destinations which are not included on all the "must see" lists.

    Rauðafeldargjá, Snæfellsnes

    Rauðafeldargjá The road along Snæfellsnes peninsula is dotted with one spectacular stop after another. Photo/GVA

    6) Take your time: Another common mistake people make is cramming too many of these must see spots into their schedule, rushing from one spot to the next, ticking one destination after another off their bucket list, while frantically snapping a few photos for instagram. A far better approach is to limit yourself to fewer stops and budgeting more time for actually taking in the experience. Listening to the wind, smelling the flowers and immersing yourself in the view (see point 3 above).

    7) Arrive early: If you have a rental car you should take to the road early to avoid the crowds. Gullfoss or Skógafoss are just as spectacular at 7:00 in the morning, when most other travelers are still drinking their morning coffee, as they are in the afternoon when the tour buses arrive.

    Rising early and beating the morning traffic should permit you to avoid crowds at even the most popular spots. Just keep in mind that you might have to pack a snack and plan your bathroom stops strategically as gas stations and visitor centers might not have opened!

    Eyjafjörður, Norðurland, miðnætursól, midnight sun

    Eyjafjörður fjord The midnight sun adds a whole layer of beauty to the landscape Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

    8) The midnight sun is your friend: Alternatively you can do your sightseeing late at night! During summer the midnight sun provides us with 24 hour daylight. If you have a rental car, or if you are exploring Iceland in an RV or a camper van you should consider scheduling some late evening stops.

    A midnight visit gives you a taste of what spots like Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss or the Black Sand Beaches of South Iceland were like before the onset of tourism.

    The midnight sun is also a spectacular sight in its own right: Drawn out sunsets with otherworldly red, pink and purple colors are one of the things which make traveling in Iceland in the summer an unforgettable experience: Nothing beats Þingvellir National Park bathed in the Midnight Sun.


    Landmannalaugar Don't litter and don't leave anything behind, preferably not even footprints! Photo/Vilhelm

    9) Be part of the solution not the problem: It‘s not just the presence of loud tourist crowds which can diminish the quality of your experience. The trash, trampled down vegetation and trails of destruction left by off-road driving are far more frustrating.

    Too many people leave leave a trail of destruction, either due to thoughtlessness and ignorance, or sheer selfishness. But off-road driving, ignoring signs and instructions, littering or vandalism are all problems we can work together to eradicate.

    It is our duty to leave these sites in a better condition than we found them: don't litter and pick up trash others have left behind. By treating nature with respect and staying on marked paths we can ensure others can enjoy everything Iceland has to offer. 

  • Food & Drink

    Make your own delicious plokkfiskur: Tradition Icelandic fish stew

    By Staff

    Plokkfiskur Literally „pulled fish“, plokkfiskur is both healthy and super easy to make. All you need is fish, potatoes, onion, flour, milk, salt and pepper.

    Traditional Icelandic fish stew, plokkfiskur is one of foods Icelanders grow up with. Kids love it. It‘s served in preschools and for lunch at schools, and foreign visitors can order fancy versions at most better Reykjavík fish restaurants.

    It‘s popularity lies in the fact that it‘s a very simple dish: The core ingredients are fish, potatoes and onion. Every family has its own recipe for plokkfiskur, and there is no one correct way to prepare this dish: Icelandic mothers and grandmothers have thrown these ingredients together to feed their families without precisely measuring the different ingredients, adjusting the recipe based on how much fish or potatoes there are in the fridge that day.

    To find the perfect plokkfiskur recipe for your family you simply have to experiment to find your favorite combination and the perfect balance between creaminess and consistency, fish and potatoes, and pepper and onion.

    But you always begin with a simple recipe. To help you along the way we have two different versions of plokkfiskur handed down from your editor‘s mother and grandmother.


    Mother‘s „fancy“ plokkfiskur for a family of 4

    560 grams (1 ¼ lbs.) cod (or haddock or any other codfish), cooked
    450 grams (1 lbs.) potatoes, boiled and peeled
    1 large white onion, finely chopped
    300 milliliters (11 oz.) milk
    55 grams (2 oz.) butter
    3 tablespoons flour
    1 teaspoon mild yellow curry powder
    Grated cheese to taste (ca 1 cup)
    Salt, white pepper and course black pepper to taste
    Icelandic herbs (or wild arctic thyme) for garnish
    Rye Bread

    Bring plenty of water to a boil in pot: Put the fish in, put the lid on and leave the fish in the water for ca 10 minutes.

    Skin, bone and break up the fish into flakes.
    Slowly heat milk in a saucepan almost to a boiling point.
    Meanwhile melt the butter and sauté onion over medium heat until soft. Do not allow it to brown.
    Sprinkle flour over the butter and onion, stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add warmed milk, stir and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
    Add fish and stir to break up the flakes. Season with salt, pepper and curry powder.
    Cut boiled potatoes to small bite sizes and fold into the stew.

    Stir in the cheese and let the stew stand in the pot at low heat for 3-5 min before serving.


    Put the stew in an glass or ceramic baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and bake at 200°C (390°F) for 3-5 min, or until cheese is golden.

    Served with dark sweet Icelandic rye bread and butter.


    Grandmother‘s everyday plokkfiskur for a family of 4

    1-2 onions, depending on how much onion you want. Don't overdo it!
    Equal amount of potatoes and fish, cod or haddock (for example 1 pound each).
    Basic white sauce:
      50 g/ 1.8 oz butter for every 0.5 kg of fish
      ca 0.5 l / 17 oz milk
      1/2-1 dl (0.2-0.4 cups) flour
    Grated cheese (optional)
    Salt, white and/or regular black pepper for seasoning.
    Rye bread and butter


    Boil the fish and potatoes. Set some of the water the fish was boiled in for later use. Peel the potatoes and cut into small pieces. Remove the skin and any bones from the fish. Break the fish up into small pieces. Set aside a small piece for the cat.

    Make traditional white sauce (mix butter, milk and flour over medium heat).
    Chop up the onion sauté onion slightly in butter.
    Mix the fish and potatoes in the white sauce at low heat. Add water if the sauce is too thick.
    Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
    Mix in grated cheese.
    Let the stew stand for 10-15 minutes. 

    Add black pepper to taste. Serve with dark sweet Icelandic rye bread (or any thick rye bread you have handy).

  • Travel

    Video: Travelblogger creates brilliant video of "Planet Iceland"

    By Staff

    Planet Iceland Nas Daily was blown away by the beauty of Iceland. Photo/Screenshot from video, see below.

    Nuseir Yassin, better known as Nas Daily is one of the most popular videobloggers on the internet. Nuseir is an Israeli Arab, Harvard graduate, who quit a well paying tech job to dedicate his life to travel and blogging, creating 1 minute videos, little glimpses of people and places around the world.

    In his latest installments have focused on Iceland, covering things like prices in Iceland, Icelandic gun ownership and Icelandic society. And because Iceland is a bit out of the ordinary, Nas has broken from his one-minute rule. His "This is Planet Iceland" video, which has been shared more than 53,000 times on Facebook, and viewed by nearly 8 million people, clocks at four full minutes.

    It's easy to see why!

  • Economy

    Icelanders fifth most prosperous European nation, GDP is 30% above Eurpean average

    By Staff

    The Aurora One of the natural wonders which have powered the growth of tourism in recent years. Photo/Ernir

    Iceland has the fifth highest GDP per capita in Europe, according to preliminary estimates from Statistics Iceland and Eurostat. GDP volume per capita (based on PPP's) in Iceland was 30% above the European average in 2017. The European average includes 37 European countries. The 28 members of the EU as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.

    Read more: Tourism generated 8.1% of GDP in 2016, up from 3.4% in 2010

    GDP volume per capita was highest in Luxembourg, 153% above the EU28 average, followed by Ireland where GDP was 84% above the EU28 average, Switzerland which was 58% above the average and Norway, which was 50% above the average. Four of the ten richest countries in Europe are in the Nordics, in addition to Norway and Iceland, Denmark is in 8th place and Sweden in 10th.

    It should be kept in mind that a large number of foreign residents are employed in Luxembourg and thus contribute to its GDP, while at the same time they are not included in the resident population. The GDP per capita of Ireland is similarly artificially high due to foreign multinationals which are registered in Ireland to take advantage of corporate tax rates. Corporate profits are thus registered in Ireland which have nothing to do with the actual economy, and thus contribute little if anything to the economic prosperity of the residents.

    GDP per capita

    GDP per capita Measured on a PPP basis Photo/Statistics Iceland

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