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Ásmundursafn – The Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum

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Reykjavík’s Ásmundursafn is dedicated to the work of Iceland’s most accomplished sculpture artist, Ásmundur Sveinsson. The museum is worth visiting as much for the architecture of the building, as for the statues both indoors and out in the garden.

Modern Architecture Iceland

Born in 1893, Ásmundur traveled extensively as a young man, with long stints in both Stockholm and Paris. When he returned to Iceland, he immediately took a place among his country’s most influential artists. His works tend toward the abstract, though they’re not so surreal as to be nonsensical. With themes taken from Icelandic folklore and the Sagas, Ásmundur created sculptures designed to be enjoyed by the public, instead of just private collectors.

The Ásmundursafn is found in a building designed in the 1930s by the artist himself, who used it as a studio. All white domes and ample light, it must have provided as nice an atmosphere to work on sculptures as it presently does to admire them.

Since visiting the Ásmundursafn and acquainting ourselves with his work, we’ve discovered more of his pieces scattered around Iceland. With their strange, cubist shapes and sharp angles, they’re hard to overlook.

Location on our Iceland Map

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Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Reykjavik
Sculpture Park Reykjavik
Ásmundur Sveinsson Garden
Ásmundur Sveinsson Statue
Naked Butt Iceland
Youg Love Iceland
Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum
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Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Cafe
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September 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm Comments (0)

The Icelandic Goat

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Head aloft, it casts a wizened gaze across the smokey valley. Noble creature! With its shaggy coat, crooked horns, tortured cry and filthy rear-end, has creation ever seen an animal as majestic as the goat? Imagine our euphoria on discovering that Iceland has its very own indigenous breed!

One Happy Goatt

Near Reykholt is the Háafell Farm, home to the Geitfjársetur Íslands (the Goat Center of Iceland). This is one of the few places on the island which breeds Icelandic goats, and almost certainly your best chance to get up close and personal with them.

Iceland’s goat is a highly specialized breed which, like the Icelandic horse, has remained pure since the time of the settlement. Unlike the horse, however, the country’s goats have not thrived. Until recently, in fact, they were near extinction. Goats just never caught on as viable domestic animals in Iceland; sheep were favored for wool, and cows for milk. Despite the fine cashmere coat which is a highlight of the Icelandic goat, they’ve never been seriously bred.

At Háafell, we were able to enter the stable where a huge group was feeding. Immediately, one ran over to us, overjoyed to see humans. This was “Little Man”, the runt of the litter, who would follow us around during the rest of our visit. The other goats were almost as friendly, and really seemed to enjoy human contact. Not like stupid, bleating sheep. And goats are clever things. It took me about fifteen minutes to realize that Little Man wasn’t trying to cuddle, so much as looking for an excuse to get his mouth close to my delicious jacket.

The farm produces a wide range of goat-related products, such as cheeses and soaps enhanced with assorted, locally-grown Icelandic herbs. Sadly, like the goat itself, Háafell is struggling to stay afloat. If you’re in the area, make sure to stop by. Talk to the owner, taste some cheese, and meet some of the cutest little creatures on the island.

Location on our Map – Geitfjársetur Íslands
Geitfjársetur Íslands – Website

-Not Far: Fosshotel In Reykholt

Goat Farm
Icelandic Goat
Goat Buddies
Little Struppy Goat
Proud Icelandic Goat
Baby Goat
Goat Petting
Iceland Goat Farm
Iceland Cat
Not a goat.
Iceland Girl
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September 30, 2013 at 10:17 am Comments (4)

Over Vatnajökull and the Westman Islands

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It was a beautiful morning when we arrived at the Reyjavík city airport for our third flight into the skies above Iceland. Our trips over the Golden Circle and the Westfjords had been outstanding, and today we’d be soaring over Iceland’s four biggest glaciers, the Þórsmörk Valley and the Westman Islands.

Strange Landscapes Iceland
Near the Langisjór Lake, Southwest of Vatnajökull

Soon after settling into our four-seat Cessna, we were climbing above a sleepy Reykjavík still shaking off its morning mist. We headed east over the Hengill Mountains and Þingvallavatn Lake on our way to Langjökull, the second-biggest glacier in Iceland. Langjökull is shrinking rapidly and climatologists believe that it may disappear entirely within a couple centuries. Thanks to global warming, all of Iceland’s glaciers are losing mass, with the sole exception of Drangajökull in the Westfjords.

Leaving Langjökull behind, we soared over the highlands, passing the Klöjur Road which we would soon be driving across, and skirting the southern end of Hofsjökull. Soon enough, we were approaching the big boy: Vatnajökull. With an area of 8300 km², this enormous chunk of ice is about the size of Puerto Rico. We only saw the southwestern corner of it, but even this was enough to boggle the mind.

Now we turned around, following the Mid-Atlantic Ridge southwest. This was an area we had hiked across on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, but from above it took on whole new dimensions. In a single, spectacular panorama, we could see craters, the valley, rivers, lava fields and volcanoes. I couldn’t help but be amazed that we choose voluntarily to walk across this murderous landscape.

From here, it was a short hop across the water to the Westman Islands, which we had recently spent a couple days visiting. From the air, the damage wrought by the Eldfell explosion was much more apparent than it had been on the ground. It was shocking to see the size of the area which had so swiftly been covered by lava in 1976. We moved on to some of the other islands in the archipelago, including Surtsey, which was formed in 1963 during a four-year-long eruption. The island was immediately declared off-limits to humans and is now being used to monitor how life develops on a brand new patch of land.

An amazing flight, and one we were very lucky to experience. If you’d like to hire a pilot for a similar flight, get in touch and we can put you in touch with our contact. You truly haven’t seen Iceland, until you’ve seen it from the air.

Cheap Flights To Iceland

Lava Landscape IN Iceland
Crack Lava Iceland
Road Trip Iceland Stock Photo
The Ring Road, through Mosfellsheiði
Geothermal Iceland
Iceland Scenic Flight
Lava Spine
Amazing Iceland Landscapes
Bubble Iceland Lava
Little Lava Worm
Silver River Iceland
Moss River Iceland
Glacier Iceland
The Foot of Langjökull
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Good Morning Iceland
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Iceland in The Morning
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Heimaey Scenic Flight
Heimaey
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Westman Islands Iceland
Heimaey Island
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Crescent Island
Surtsey Island
Surtsey
Surtsey Stock Photo
Surtsey Iceland
Surtsey Volcano
Red Rivers Iceland
Amazing Road Trip Iceland
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September 30, 2013 at 9:20 am Comments (4)

The Snorri Sturluson Museum in Reykholt

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One of Iceland’s most famous historic figures is Snorri Sturluson: a 13th-century author and politician who lived on a farm in Reykholt. Today, the town is home to a museum commemorating his tumultuous life and considerable achievements.

Snorri Statue

Snorri was born in 1179. He was a clever youth, always on the lookout for ways to better his situation. After establishing a relationship with the royal family of Norway, he married a very wealthy woman, whom he would regularly betray, and snatched up property all along the western coast of the island. Soon, he had established himself as one of Iceland’s leading men, and settled down in Reykholt to concentrate on writing. Snorri is best known as the author of some of the most important works in medieval Scandinavian literature, including Egil’s Saga and the Heimkringla, the story of Norway’s kings.

Little could Snorri know that a Norwegian king would also bring about his doom. King Haakon IV had designs on Iceland, and had tasked Snorri with convincing the island’s top chieftains to accept Norwegian rule. It was a job Snorri wasn’t enthusiastic about, and continuously put off. Snubbing medieval Viking kings is rarely a good move and, in 1241, a death squad sent by Haakon paid a visit to Reykholt.

The Snorri Museum, found underneath the town church, does a great job of illuminating the man’s life and accomplishments. The museum is small but thorough, with staff on-hand to answer questions. Next door is an organization called the Snorrastufa, a cultural and medieval research center which publishes books and hosts scholars. And the church which sits atop the museum is also worth a look, absurdly grand for tiny Reykholt. Turns out that Norway values Snorri as an integral part of their own history, and put up millions of krona to help build the church.

Outside the museum complex, we found the Snorralaug, Snorri’s personal hot tub. It was connected to his home by a tunnel, and hooked up to nearby hot springs by a perfectly-crafted stone aqueduct which has survived the centuries intact.

On pulling into Reykholt some hours earlier, Jürgen and I both had the same “uh-oh” reaction. The town looked too small to justify even a single day. But there’s a surprising amount to see here. Fascinating history and the gorgeous landscape of the Hvitá Valley make a winning combination.

Location on our Google Map

Great Place To Stay In Reykholt

Viking Dragons
Chop Viking
Snorri Museum Iceland
Viking Glass
Reykholt Old Church
Little Church Iceland
Organ Reykholt
Reykholt Church
Stained Glass Reykholt
Baptism Iceland
Snorry Statue Iceland
Hot Spring Cabin
Snorri Hot Bath
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September 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm Comments (6)

The Víkin Maritime Museum

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Located appropriately enough on Reykjavík’s harbor, the Víkin Maritime Museum provides a comprehensive overview of the history of Iceland’s fishing industry. It’s a massive place which is more interesting than a fishing museum really has any right to be, and could easily eat up hours of your time.

Maratim Maritime Museum Iceland

Fishing has always played an integral role in the economy of Iceland. It powered the country’s growth throughout the 20th century, still accounts for 40% of exports, and employs a huge chunk of the workforce. Fishing is, at least partly, the reason Iceland is dragging its feet to join the EU, and it very nearly caused the little country to provoke Britain into a naval war. Fishing has created and destroyed entire Icelandic communities, sometimes within a single decade.

Considering the industry’s importance to Iceland, we weren’t shocked to discover that Reykjavík went all out for its maritime museum. With models, photos, dioramas, videos, and loads of information, the exhibits in the Víkin paint a comprehensive picture of fishing in Iceland. Visitors are taken through the early days, when fishermen were truly chancing death every time they set out into the choppy waters of the North Atlantic, up into the relative comfort of the present day.

Fascinating stuff, and then you turn a corner in the museum, and find yourself in an exhibition dedicated to Iceland’s first nursing home for fishermen. Complete with model beds and rooms which recreate the actual living conditions of retired fishermen. There was even a model bedpan.

Bizarre, but this provides a sense of how thorough the Víkin Museum is. Something we didn’t have a chance to see was the Óðinn, a coast guard vessel which sits just outside the museum and can be visited for an extra charge. Looks like the kind of thing kids would love.

Location on our Iceland Map
Reykjavik Maritime Museum – Website

Great Hostels In Iceland

Iceland Fisherman Statue
Steam Room
Boat Leaving Iceland
These well-wishers are not seeing off a Nazi boat… this swastika was the logo of the fishing company Eimskip well before Hitler appropriated it.
Old Seaman Playing Cards Iceland
Tauziehen
Boat Museum Iceland
Fishermen Glass Balls
Fisherman Pants
Fish Drying Iceland
Drying Fish
Iceland Sea Navigation
Inside An Olde Boat
Miniature Boats
Fish Factory Iceland
Senior Home Iceland
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September 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm Comments (0)

Deildartunguhver and Hraunfoss

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On either side of Reykholt are two remarkable water-related sights. Measured by the volume of water produced, Deildartunguhver is the largest hot spring in Europe. And Hraunfoss, or the “Lava Field Waterfall”, is precisely as strange as its name implies.

Deildartunguhver

At Deildartunguhver, a massive amount of water super-heated at 97°C (207°F) is continuously pumped out of a terrifying crack that has opened in the earth. The spring is powerful enough to supply the hot water needs of both Borgarnes (34 kilometers away) and Akranes (64 km).

We were visiting on an extremely windy morning, when the billows of steam produced by the springs were being blown straight across the ground. Half-expecting to have my face melted off, I stood briefly inside one of the steam clouds. Stinky and hot, but survivable. Deildartunguhver is not an especially beautiful sight, but witnessing the sheer, seething power of the earth is undeniably impressive. And a little scary.

Hraunfoss Wasserfall

We were touring the region without our own transport, which proved tricky since there’s only a single bus serving the area daily, but the friendly folks at the Fosshotel Reykholt helped us arrange a trip out to the Hraunfoss Waterfall. Here, the Hvitá River which comes thundering down from the glaciers is joined by countless tributaries hidden underneath the lava fields to the north.

The water streaming out of the porous walls of lava and crashing into the river makes for an oddly beautiful sight. Hraunfoss isn’t the most powerful waterfall we’d seen in Iceland, but is among the most unique.

Locations on our Map: Deildartunguhver | Hraunfoss

Great Hotel near both sights!

Rainbow In Iceland
Deildartunguhver Hot Spring
Bubble Water
Hot Spring Deildartunguhver
Deildartunguhver Travel Guide
Deildartunguhver Spring
Deildartunguhver Green Houses
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September 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm Comment (1)

The Reykjavík City Zoo

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Not all that many animals are native to Iceland, and those that do exist can be notoriously difficult to spot in the wild. So if you want to see creatures like reindeer, seals and foxes, and don’t have time to scour the coasts and countrysides, head to the tiny Reykjavík City Zoo.

Goats Iceland

The zoo is part of the immense Laugardalur park just outside the city center. We needed a really long time to locate it, and were exhausted by the time we entered. So I was happy to discover that the zoo isn’t all that big. At just 750 krona, it’s among the cheaper things you can do in Reykjavík and won’t take more than an hour of your time. Unless you have a kid who just loves pigs or chickens. In that case, good luck, because there are a ton of them. Your little chicken-lover will never want to leave.

We found the seals right away, swimming endless loops around their small pool. They made me a little sad. Even the pups had clearly gone insane from the boredom… all there is to do is swim the same loop over and over, all day today, tomorrow and every day thereafter for the rest of your life. From the seal pool, we wandered through stables where some truly massive pigs were feeding and a cow was hooked up to a milking machine. We saw a few rabbits and Icelandic goats, but paid them short shrift. Apologies all around, but we only really cared about the foxes.

The zoo has well over a dozen arctic foxes kept in a huge pen, and they were great fun to watch. Very playful, they were wrestling around with each other, hopping in and out of their burrows and keeping a watchful eye on our movements outside the cage. Unlike the seals, they had plenty of room and seemed to be truly happy.

The foxes aren’t the only ones having fun, because toward the back of the zoo is a theme park with carnival rides for children. We possess neither kids nor any kind of tolerance for their maddening darling squeals of delight, so we skipped out on this. But it’s another reason the zoo is such a popular activity for Icelandic families.

Location of the Reykjavík Zoo on Our Map

Great Hotels In Reykjavik

Seals Zoo Reykjavik
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September 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm Comments (2)

The Westman Islands: Practicalities

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You’re never going to catch us praising Iceland for its cheap and efficient public transportation. Without your own car, getting around the island is prohibitively costly and inconvenient. But as far as day trips from Reykjavík go, an excursion to the Westman Islands is about as simple as it gets.

Ferry Westman Islands

How We Got There
The public Stræto bus #52 leaves from Mjódd and runs directly to the mainland ferry terminal at Landeyjarhöfn twice a day. In the summer, ferries run five times daily (but only four on Tuesdays for some reason). The two and a half hour bus ride costs 3500 krona, while the forty-minute ferry is 1000kr. So you’re looking at 4500 total ($37) per person, from Reykjavík.

You can find up-to-date and detailed information about the bus schedule on Straeto.is, and about the ferries on Eimskip.is. There’s no need to pre-book for either.

Herjólfsdalur crater Camping

Where We Slept
The Westman Islands are a popular destination for vacationing Icelanders, and so even though it was a Monday, all the hotels were fully booked when we showed up. But that was fine, since the camping ground in the Herjólfsdalur crater is one of the coolest we’ve seen. We set our tent up alongside a large number of other campers, almost all of whom were from Iceland. The facilities are good and the bowl did a fine job of protecting us from the famous wind of the Westmans. [Location]

Plokkfískur

Where We Ate
The best meal we had in Heimaey, and one of the best we’ve enjoyed in Iceland, was at the Slippurinn. Housed in an old metal-working factory on the port, this place specializes in local Icelandic fare. I tried Plokkfískur for the first time: fishy mashed potatoes. Sounds good, doesn’t it? I’ve long complained that my mashed potatoes simply weren’t fishy enough. [Location]

Icelandic Kleina

Another good spot, particularly during one of Iceland’s rare sunny spells, is at the Vinaminni Kaffihús on Barustigur. There’s a large terrace where you can relax and enjoy affordable and surprisingly good meals like burgers and pizzas. Next door is a bakery, which sells some traditional Icelandic treats. [Location]

Free Books About Iceland

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September 23, 2013 at 7:57 pm Comments (4)

A Boat Trip Around Heimaey

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We had already walked around Heimaey, but we also wanted to check out the island from the water, and so we bought tickets for a 90-minute boat ride offered by Viking Tours. Caves, cliffs, seals, puffins and some of the other uninhabited islands which make up the Westman archipelago were all part of the program.

Amazing Iceland

The tour looped around Heimaey in a clockwise direction, with our captain pointing out the various natural features in both Icelandic and English. We saw plenty of sea birds, including puffins and kittiwakes, and even spotted a seal wallowing about the mouth of one of the island’s caves. The seal moved aside as our boat entered, giving us the chance to admire the cave’s strange colors.

Although the weather was bad and the sea was choppy, the boat ride was a lot of fun. We circled around a couple of the smaller islands just off Heimaey’s coast, and entered another cave near the harbor where our captain, a hulking man with shoulder-length blonde hair, pulled out a saxophone to show off the cave’s acoustics. As a kid growing up in Ohio, I couldn’t have guessed that one day I’d be soaking wet in a cave, in Iceland, on a boat, listening to a direct descendant of the Vikings play Amazing Grace on a sax. One of those surreal moments you’d have never been able to anticipate.

Viking Tours – Website

Westman Islands Hotels

Viking Tours Westman Islands
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Puffin Overdose
Iceland Travel Blog
Puffins Swimming
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Boots Ausflug Westman Islands
Basalt Cave
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Small Tiny Island Iceland
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Iceland Travel Blog
Cave Concert
Touring Iceland
Sightseeing Iceland

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September 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm Comments (0)

An Unexpected Encounter at Heimaey’s Aquarium

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Whereas we had enjoyed wonderful weather on our first day in Heimaey, our second day was marked by unrelenting rain. We tried to grit our teeth and ignore it, but eventually had to seek shelter. Soaking wet and in toxic moods, we burst into the Aquarium and Natural History Museum, never expecting to encounter a little fellow who would brighten our spirits immensely.

Puffin Kiss

Before escaping into the refuge of the museum, we toured around Heimaey Town. During the 1973 eruption of Eldfell, the eastern section of the town had been buried, and some of the buildings are still half-poking out the pitch black wall of rock. Today, you can walk atop the cooled lava field; memorial plaques indicate which building is buried under your feet.

Stafkirkjan

Walking across the lava was neat, but by the time we reached the Stafkirkjan (Stave Church) bordering the harbor, the rain had dampened whatever enthusiasm I’d started the day with. Despite my rancid mood, even I could recognize the simple beauty of this black-timbered church. A gift from Norway, it was built in 2000 and modeled on the famous Urnes Stave Church in Bergen.

We stayed inside for awhile, drying off, and then darted across town into the Sæheimar, Heimaey’s aquarium. We weren’t expecting much, and were only visiting because it was so miserable outside. But the place quickly won us over. There’s a room with stuffed models of the birds of Iceland, another with the island’s various minerals, and a third with aquariums that house all manner of indigenous fish and crustaceans.

It was enjoyable enough and worth the 1000kr ($8.30) ticket price. But then, as we were about to leave, the staff introduced us to a young puffin who was found orphaned as an infant, and now lives in the building. He’s known humans his whole life, and is completely comfortable with our species. “Cute” doesn’t even begin to describe him. He was so soft and quiet, so colorful and personable, I thought of putting him in my pocket and sneaking out.

By the time we left the Sæheimar, we were feeling great and had completely forgotten about the awful weather. Of course, minutes later we were soaking wet again, and the smiles had disappeared our faces. But for a short period at least, the Sæheimar and its resident puffin had cheered us up.

Locations on our Map: Stafkirkjan | Sæheimar
Sæheimar – Website

Rent Your Car For Iceland Here

Stafkirkjan Pier
Eldfell Lava Field
Old Swimming Pool Westman Islands
Eldfell Eruption
Lava Field Eldfell
Stafkirkjan Roof
Stafkirkjan Cross
Stafkirkjan Door
Stafkirkjan Entrance
Wet Iceland
Stafkirkjan Ceiling
Hidden Stafkirkjan
Iceland Secrets
Holding Puffin
Petting Puffin
Bird Berry
Bat Iceland
Silly Bird
Iceland Seals
Shark
Owl Iceland
Icelandic Eggs
Westman Islands Aquarium
Fishy
LOL Fish
Ugly Fish
Evil Fish
Icelandic Crab
Hunting Puffin
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September 21, 2013 at 11:03 am Comments (5)

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smundursafn - The smundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum Reykjavík's Ásmundursafn is dedicated to the work of Iceland's most accomplished sculpture artist, Ásmundur Sveinsson. The museum is worth visiting as much for the architecture of the building, as for the statues both indoors and out in the garden.
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