Iceland

Recently my friend Skye Mayring (aka Joan Jetsetter, her nom de nomade) took a trip to Iceland, successfully sparking my nostalgia for the time I hiked the steep cinder cone volcano of Eldfell there. Skye came home with a mini-series worth of videos, some interesting insights into Icelandic culture, and a perfect guide to having a great adventure in Bjork’s homeland. I’ve curated some of her best videos along with her travel report, so you’ll know how to do Iceland right:

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WHAT TO DO


1. Take a Trip to the Blue Lagoon.

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is the most popular attraction in the country, attracting an average of 2,000 guests a day and up to 5,000 guests in peak summer months. The Blue Lagoon is such an essential part of a visit to Iceland that there’s even a Blue Lagoon shuttle bus that will take guests from their hotels in Reykjavik to the airport—with a two-hour geothermal spa stop in between. It’s an ideal way to prepare for the long flight home.

In 2016, visitors will actually be able to overnight at the Blue Lagoon itself. A five-star resort, with a private geothermal spa, is currently in the works.

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Skye Mayring, AKA Joan Jetsetter, chilling in the Blue Lagoon.

As you might have learned from Skye’s webisode about Icelandic elves, many Icelanders have a certain respect for fairies, elves, trolls and other “nature spirits.” To that end, when planning the construction of the hotel, the Blue Lagoon consulted an elf medium who communicated with the supernatural creatures and ensured that it was safe to build the Blue Lagoon hotel on their turf. Thankfully, for all of us, the elves gave their stamp of approval.

2. Believe in Elves.

As Skye and many travelers have observed, Iceland has an affinity and reverence for magical creatures like elves, fairies, trolls and “hidden folk.” Many residents believe in the possible existence of elves and, for the fun of it, you should too!

To investigate Iceland’s connection with elves and hidden folk, Skye visited Reykjavik’s Elf School, which offers half-day courses on elf folklore and the supernatural. Classes are offered weekly and by appointment for approximately $50 per adult and $25 for children 10 and under.

Magnus Skarphedinsson, the Elf School’s headmaster, has spoken with more than 1,200 “witnesses” and believes, without a shadow of a doubt, that elves exist. Witnesses from Iceland and other countries around the world have told Skarphedinsson about their personal encounters with fairies, hidden folk, trolls, elves or other beings. Skarphedinsson has collected their stories and bound them into a workbook, which accounts for a large part of the Elf School’s curriculum.

About a 15-minute drive from Reykjavik, in Hafnarfjörður, is the Elf Garden. This popular elf attraction is helmed by Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, a seer and artist who has a special relationship with the Elf Garden’s residents since she was a child.

{Read More} Icelandic Elves: Fact or Fiction?

3. Ride and Icelandic horse and become a Viking for a day.

Did you know that the Icelandic horse can achieve five gaits while most horses only have three or four? Thanks to Iceland’s stringent import/export policies, the Icelandic horse can walk, tölt, trot, pace and canter/gallop. In this websiode, Skye gets the thrill of riding an Icelandic horse on a black-sand beach, learning how to tölt for the first time and watching an expert rider attempt the flying pace on a championship Icelandic horse.

Skye learned to ride an Icelandic horse with Viking Horses, a company which offers everything from small group tours in lava fields to lavish private tours that can include a helicopter ride over Bardarbunga Volcano.

The Icelandic horse can achieve the famous fifth gait, the flying pace, at high speeds while still offering a very smooth ride. In this clip, watch expert horseman Viggo Siggurdsson ride his championship Icelandic horse on a volcanic, black-sand beach.

4. Tour Iceland by SuperJeep.

Forget the bus tours, and explore Iceland’s Golden Circle by SuperJeep instead! Golden Circle Iceland tours are among the most popular ways to experience the wonders of Iceland. Skye went off-roading with Discover Iceland, an adventure tour company offering small group excursions on 4×4 “SuperJeeps.”

5. Catch a Local Concert.

Indie electro trio Vök perform their hit single ‘Before’ off their debut EP ‘Tension’ during a secret show in their hometown, Hafnarfjörður. Vök have seen tremendous success in the short time they have been together and are the current darlings of Iceland’s indie music scene. This private show took place in the oldest movie theater in Iceland.

Joan Jetsetter caught up with this dreamy pop group to see how they are influencing the Icelandic music scene and what they have planned next.


Read my commentary and Joan Jetsetter’s dispatch on all things Iceland on Huffington Post.

Catch up with Joan Jetsetter for more great travel tips:
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