iceland for austinites

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O, we get so many requests about Iceland since we’ve been four times reaching back more than 15 years now. We freakin’ love the country after a magical first trip to see our favorite band, gusgus, perform at Iceland Airwaves. Below are our tips and tricks on Iceland.

Here’s a few blog posts about our trips:

  1. Some random Icelandic tidbits:
    • Speaking of Icelandic, it’s essentially the original language of the Vikings. It would be as if we still spoke in Old English.
    • In a traditional Icelandic family with a boy and a girl, each family member most likely has a different surname. That’s because sons and daughters assume a surname after their father’s name. If dad is named Erik, the son would be Erikson (Erik’s son) and the daughter would be Erikdottir (Erik’s daughter). Wives keep the names of their fathers after marriage.
    • Almost everyone speaks English. During our trips, we’ve only met one Icelander that couldn’t speak Icelandic, and she was out in the middle of nowhere.
  2.  Reykjavik:
    • There used to be hot springs here in the bay. Reykja mean smokey and vik means bay in Icelandic, hence Reykjavik!
    • Go to the top of the main church. The church is gorgeous, and the view is spectacular.
    • Check out the statue of Leif Erikson in front of the church: It was a gift from the US to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament, the Althingi. That’s right: the 1,000th anniversary.
    • I hope you have at least a Friday or Saturday in Reyk so you can experience the nightlife. Lots of fun!
    • Just stroll about this beautiful town.
    • Hard to go wrong on food. SNAPS is our favorite foodie restaurant.
    • Eat an Icelandic hotdog (no, really!)
    • Two words: Penis Museum (used to be in Husavik, but is now here).
  3. Blue Lagoon
    • A must-visit. Expensive, a little touristy because of all the tourists, but stunningly gorgeous. Flights to Iceland from the US generally land first thing in the morning (like 6am first thing). Spend the morning here until you can check into your hotel.
    • Get tickets in advance (like now!): We were shut out on our last trip!
    • If you can swing it, get the special access tickets to avoid the long lines.
    • If you despise crowds, consider driving out to a more remote hotpot.
  4. The Golden Circle
    • Many of Iceland’s primary sites are within a circular day trip out of Reykjavik. There are a variety of tours; we recommend the smaller ones just because they are more intimate.
    • No joke, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” was written after touring the golden circle: “We come from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow.”
    • Thingvellir (where the Althingi met). It’s also located right on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where one side is the North American Plate and the other is the Eurasian Plate.
    • Geysir (the first one seen by westerners and was named Geysir; thereafter, all geysers are named after this beauty. Sadly, tourists (probably Oklahomans…) choked up Geysir’s throat with rocks, but there’s another one right there that spouts off more than your little sister.
    • Gullfoss (Iceland is a land of waterfalls; Echo and the Bunnymen shot the cover for their album ‘Porcupine’ here.)
    • There’s a place to soak in geothermal waters in a lake near Thingvellir [one of the Golden Circle tours will drop you off here and then pick you up later!]
  5. Heading south around the island, there’s a glacier park as well as a glacial lagoon.
    • You can also get into a day trip here (or perhaps an overnight).
    • One of the glaciers here sits on top of an active volcano, which makes for an interesting landscape.
  6. Eastern:
    • Myvatn, a large lake. The gnats are off the hook!
    • There’s a mini-Blue Lagoon here now that looks interesting.
    • Be sure to partake of poo-smoked lamb. Because the Viking harvested all the island’s wood to make salt, there’s nothing to smoke meat with except dried sheep shit. So the farmers smoke their lamb with it. No shit! It tastes pretty good, albeit interesting…
    • The ground round these parts is so toasty that the locals stir up some dough and simply bury it in the ground to bake it.
    • You can get poo-smoked lamb and geothermal bread at Vogafjos Cowshed, a quaint little farmhouse cafe.
    • Selfoss  and Dettifoss (and other water falls).
  7. Northern
    • Akureyri: nice little town, nice church, gorgeous botanical gardens.
    • Glaumbaer: A collection of old turf buildings
And just driving is delightful: lots of scenic spots, cute little churches and lighthouses, black beaches, hotpots. Let your vision guide you (but stay on the road!).
  • When:
    • Summer is best: you can rent a car and do things at your leisure; the sun is up most of the day; stay away from August as that’s when Europe is on vacation (we went in July). You don’t need a car (there are tour buses), but we recommend one.
    • We’ve been twice for Christmas/New Years, and it was magical. Good sleeping weather; the sun is only up for 4 hours; Iceland’s Christmas traditions are kooky (get there several days before the 25th or it will be too late), and their New Year’s is off the hook. We don’t recommend renting a car in the winter unless you know what you are doing.
  • Read:
    • Read a copy of Halldor Laxness’s book “Independent People” during your trip! Gives you insight into the Icelandic psyche.
    • The Grapevine: http://grapevine.is is a great weekly/monthly English-language paper about what’s going on.
  • A disorganized, but perhaps useful, collection of links I used for our last trip:
  • And here’s our Iceland playlist:
    • most songs are on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/bubbaofthebubbles/playlist/3tEVUZxfkjBxcGNdfbTtL5?si=QXM63TT8R-e-Pl21L8qZvQ 
    • Gun by gusgus
    • Midnight In Reykjavik by gusgus
    • The Moss by Daniel Agust (gusgus)
    • Northern Lights by gusgus
    • Hayling by FC Kahuna
    • Selfoss by gusgus
    • Góða Tungl by Samaris
    • Wanted 2 Say by Samaris
    • Ain’t got nobody (Gluteus Maximus remix) by Sísý Ey
    • All Is Full of Love by Bjork
    • Undercover by Worm is Green
    • Glósóli by Sigur Rós
    • Hit by The Sugarcubes
    • Regina by The Sugarcubes
    • Birthday by The Sugarcubes
    • Nótt by Samaris
    • Tomoko by Hafdis Huld
    • Made for Market by Ampop
    • Sacred Things by Bang Gang
    • We Have a Map of the Piano by Múm
    • Dive In (GusGus Remix) by Quarashi
    • Remember Me by Steed Lord
    • Waterfall by Vök
    • Cold Breath ’79 by gusgus
    • Glacier by John Grant
    • Iceland by Marc Romboy
    • Pedro by Lily the Kid
    • Iceland by gusgus
    • In Heaven (live in Iceland with Kim Deal) by The Pixies
    • Immigrant Song by Karen O, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    • Snow by gusgus
    • Svefninn la ar by gusgus
    • If You Leave Me Now by Daníel Ágúst
    • No Mercy (feat. Daniel Agust) by Bix
    • Heyr Himna Smiður by Anneke van Giersbergen & Árstíðir
    • You’re Too Late Satan by Worm Is Green
    • Tropical by FM Belfast
    • Looped by Kiasmos
    • Reykjavik by Sykur
    • Loving None by Sykur
  • gusgus is our favorite band (we’ve seen them three times in Iceland!), hence the heavy inclusion of tracks by them!
Our favorite photos:
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lunch at the Blue Lagoon
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Harpa, the Icelandic performing arts center
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gusgus one night at Harpa
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Icelanders love coffee
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SNAPS is our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik.
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The gorgeous church in Reykjavik showing geomimicry (basaltic columnar jointing) in its design.
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View from the bell tower of the church, accessible with a small fee.
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So fortunate to have been in Iceland one Christmas to catch this photo. Jawdropping.
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Icelandic horses:smaller, fluffier, cuter than normal horses.
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Geysir
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Tour guide for the Golden Circle with beer soda. Beer wasn’t legal until relatively recently, so the locals would take beer soda and hit with a shot of Brennevin.
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A hard place to get into, but we had a ball (or two) checking it all out. And the price is right, so you don’t feel like you got shafted. Wished it had a bar because we needed a stiff drink afterwards…
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day-amm!!!!!
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poo-smoked ham (delicious!)
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A traditional Christmas buffet
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In Reykjavik. Yoko Ono’s light on an island in the background.
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At Thingvellir
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Gullfoss (where Echo and the Bunnymen shot the cover for Porcupine)
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Geysir!
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GRU.
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view from the church
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Icelanders love cats.
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At one of the traditional New Year’s Eve bonfires
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Geothermal energy plant.
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On the way to Seydisfjordur
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Akureyri
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A kleina, the traditional Icelandic pastry.
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Akureyri
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A geothermal area
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Boat tour to see whales and puffins out of Husavik. There are tours out of Reyjavik.
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The Black Church
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Too afraid to go in there…
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Whale and puffin tour out of Husavik. There are also whale tours out of Reykjavik.
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Icelandic lobsters in Vik!
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A traditional Icelandic breakfast.
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You can get this beer soda sweetened and unsweetened. Go sweetened.
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Flying over Greenland on the way home…
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Icelandic horses are the cutest!
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Selfoss. Don’t do what that young lady is doing. Also the scene in the Alien-series movie ‘Prometheus’
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Greenland
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On the way to Akureyri
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puffins!
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Poo-smoked lamb with geothermal bread.
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Seydisfjordur
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The Blue Lagoon!
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Seydisfjordur
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lots of strange candy that the bride refused to eat…
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That glacier sits on top of an active volcano…
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