Category Archives: Iceland

Winter – As Seen in the Glow of Nordic Candlelight

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In the northern hemisphere, we are in the middle of the coldest and darkest days of the yeafrostr and you might be dreaming of (or even packing for) your next adventure to a tropical destination. Here at GreenSpot, we are completely in favor of that strategy. However, something remarkable happened to me during the years I lived in Scandinavia.

I began to appreciate winter.

Not because I am a skier or because I enjoy the childish construction of a man made of snow (although both are true), but I learned to recognize winter as a season with its own worth. This appreciation is part of Scandinavian culture and as a native weather-complainer, I found it fascinating.


A mother once explained to me that Scandinavian children are taught the value of all the seasons. I soon realized that rainy-day recess at school did not exist. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” is a popular saying in Nordic lands. Not only have I found this to be true (and have stocked up on wool and waterproofs accordingly), but it began to resonate with me as a beautiful way to encourage outdoor exploration during any time of year.

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Apart from a wooly Icelandic sweater, another Nordic winter secret can be found indoors, complete with dim lighting, fleecy sheepskin, and more candlelight than any other region of the world. In Denmark, they have a word for this – hygge – described as a mental state, rather than physical. Whether it be tea, wine, soft blankets, a roaring fire or family and friends…cold is combated by warmth, in every sense of the word.


We can’t forget the spectacular northern lights! Best seen in the winter months when darkness reigns. The aurora borealus might be enough to get you packing your wooliest sweater and heading north into the cold, dark (and ever-so-cozy) Nordic regions. If not, perhaps this post will help you get through the rest of winter, or until your next trip to sunnier skies.

Ask us when to see the northern lights in Iceland!

Mountain Muesli and Other Icelandic Specialties

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I don’t think I’ll go on another camping trip or overnight trek without three essentials: muesli, cocoa powder and hot water. Mixed together, these three ingredients make an easy, on-the-go breakfast of chocolaty, hot cereal, which our trekking guide referred to as “mountain muesli”. Okay, it may not be an Icelandic specialty, but after 2 days of trekking amidst mossy mountainsides and volcanic craters, this simple recipe became the breakfast of champions. We also had the best pan-fried trout I have ever eaten; but everything tastes better after a day of trekking, doesn’t it?










With the appreciation for healthier, less processed and more sustainable foods on the rise, it is no wonder that Nordic cuisine has received so much praise recently. For example, Copenhagen’s Noma has secured the title of ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ for a few years running. While some may find Noma a little too daring (smoked moss and beef tartare with ants, anyone?) Nordic countries deserve praise for their fresh and innovative fare. Iceland’s cooler climate means there is less need for pesticides, so most farms in Iceland don’t use them. With clean mountain air and unpolluted soil and water, Iceland produces some of the purest food on the planet. Staples in Icelandic cuisine include lamb, seafood and dairy. To truly experience this, don’t forget to ask us about farm-to-table dining opportunities.

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On a food tour in Reykjavik, I had the pleasure of sampling lots of traditional foods. This is a great introduction to the cuisine and the history of the city at the same time. My favorite Icelandic food discovery? Skyr: similar to Greek yogurt in that it is thick and creamy, yet with four times the protein, calcium and vitamins of milk. It is low in sugar and has no fat. It is delicious topped with muesli, seeds, nuts, berries and a little maple syrup. Need I say more?


If I had to choose one, my least favorite Icelandic food experience would have to be the fermented shark. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I had been warned. The smell was worse than the taste. A swig of Brennivín (Icelandic schnapps) will wash it right down. The dried shark, on the other hand, I rather liked. It’s a bit like fish-jerky, if you can imagine – dry and salty – and the custom of smearing it with butter, is right up my alley.


Also, my mouth waters thinking about the lobster at Fjöruborðið. Between visiting a beautiful, secluded black beach at sunset and waiting for darkness to fall, we had a fabulous meal here. Icelandic lobster may be small in size, but it is big on flavor. Ask us about our ‘Lobster and Northern Lights’ tours.


The freshly made fish soup at Hotel Búðir (arguably one of the best places to eat on the Snæfellsnes peninsula) was also exceptional.













Although seafood was definitely a theme as I tasted my way through Iceland, the quality and freshness of everything I ate was what impressed me the most. From hotel breakfasts (like the one at Hotel Egilsen) and lunch buffets (like at the Settlement Center in Borganes), to fancy evening meals (lobster and wine), Icelanders are proud of everything they bring to the table.

Fire, Ice and Green – An Icelandic Fairy Tale

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Heading into Reykjavik from the airport, I smiled as I spotted a vibrant rainbow in the sky. Little did I know it would be one of a dozen I would see during my week in Iceland. To say that Iceland’s landscape is unique, is an understatement. It’s sort of other-worldly. So-much-so, that Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings was reportedly inspired by Iceland’s terrain and NASA used it as a training location for Neil Armstrong’s first moon walk.

Or at least I think those stories are true…early-on in my trip, one of my local guides told me that Icelanders “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. Although I love that quote, I admit to being a little dubious to everything I was told thereafter.

Perhaps moonscapes don’t do proper justice to the exceptional raw beauty and natural wonders that are found in this fascinating country. The diversity is stunning. Black, jagged lava fields are contrasted with opulent, mossy hillsides and deep plunging gorges. Snow capped mountains loom in the horizon and runoff forms icy glaciers. Geothermal geysers blast into the sky and milky blue mineral spas await eager bathers. After a few days in Iceland, I was smitten. My expectations were blown. I expected striking landscapes, wildlife viewing opportunities, volcanoes and geothermal activity. Less expected, but very much appreciated, were the cultural and historical insights I gained throughout my journey and the hospitality of the Icelandic people.

That’s right – don’t let their seemingly reserved demeanor fool you! There is passion to be found within the 300,000 inhabitants of this Nordic island country. Fact or fiction, I soon learned that Icelanders have a gift for storytelling. I heard fractions of different Icelandic sagas (stories that depict struggles and conflicts that arose within families and societies of the first Icelandic settlers). I’m a sucker for a good story and each saga had me captivated. Combine that with tales of elves and trolls and you have a destination that is nothing short of enchanting.

One rainy afternoon on the Snaefellsness peninsula, I sat in the living room of Ensku Husin guesthouse, drinking coffee and knitting a community scarf that is left out for guests to work on. My host graciously told me the history of the house, which has been in his family for decades. Meanwhile, the smell of homemade seafood soup filled the room and just outside the window, his beautiful Icelandic horse grazed. I felt at home – well, if I lived in a fairytale, perhaps.

Balancing out the more relaxed and cozy encounters in Iceland, was an active and adventurous spirit that is contagious. The high season for hiking and trekking is July through mid-August, but the shoulder seasons can be perfect for less crowds. The choice to get active is entirely up to the individual. A vast amount of beauty can be seen from driving tours, but if you want to view more secluded waterfalls and witness the solitude of small mountain huts and hidden hot springs, strapping on some hiking boots is highly recommended. Summer time offers midnight sun, puffin encounters and the chance of drier hiking. Winter offers the best chance of viewing Northern Lights, orca whales and proper Scandinavian in-town coziness. Iceland really is a year-round destination, it just depends what type of experience you’re going for.

So don’t let the tongue-twisting names, like Eyjafjallajökull (I can’t say it either) discourage you. Be sure to check out GreenSpot’s Iceland itineraries. As always, each trip can be customized to suit your preferences and the season you are traveling in. Customizing your trip is what we do best.




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