Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fair or unfair...?

I travel rather often between Iceland and the rest of Europe due to educational activities I carry out and have recently noticed an interesting change I would like to share with you here.

Once you arrive in Iceland by plane to Keflavik, there are a few options how to get to Reykjavík and then carry on exploring the rest of Iceland:
1, You can rent a car and have it ready waiting for you at the parking lot of the airport.
2, You can have somebody, who you know, pick you up and drive you.
3, You can take a taxi.
4, You can take a bus called Fly bus, which is one and only official bus connection between the airport and the capital.

I often take the bus and the change I´ve recently noticed is the following:
When I got on the bus and we set off, a nice voice in speakers welcomed us and gave us instructions on safety on board.
Some minutes later, some other nice voice was telling me that Reykjavík Excursions are offering many interesting tours, including a tour to Blue Lagoon and that I could find more detailed information in the booklet of my seat.

This made me think. I was sitting on the bus that is supposed to serve wide public and that operates on a very lucrative route between one of the most used entry points to Iceland and Reykjavík.

The company is private and honestly speaking I´m not really sure how long they´ve been operating this route and how they managed to get the monopoly for it. However, I know for sure that a few years ago, there would be brochures of Icelandic Excursions waiting for me in the seat pocket and now it´s also an announcement through speakers reminding me what is it that they have on offer.

Being in shoes of a private company I totally understand that Reykjavík Excursions are using all possible marketing tools to advertise their services.
Being in shoes of a person living in Iceland, however, I doubt the fairness here. If you think of number of tourists that possibly take the FlyBus to get from Keflavík to Reykjavík, how come that they only get to hear very limited offer connected to one and only company operating this unique bus route?
Most of those taking this bus are tourists who have come to explore Iceland and we all know that Iceland is much much more than a number of tours that Iceland Excursions have had on offer.

Are we ever going to hear something different in speakers in the future?

Is there a possibility that marketing offices of other parts of Iceland would pay a small amount to Reykjavík Excursions so that other parts of Iceland could be advertised too?

Can we imagine that advertising other parts of Iceland would happen on the FlyBus without any extra fee being paid to Reykjavík Excursions? It´s still a dream for now, but if this became a reality then I guess we´d be seeing that tourism in Iceland is maturing and doesn´t wear its infancy nappies as it is unfortunately still the case.

Reykjavík Excursions claim on their webpage:
We´ll take you there. All the most exciting places in Iceland.

Well, it´s really possible to see many exciting places via Reykjavík Excursions, but I also know they are not necessarily the most exciting places of Iceland. There´s just as much excitement off the beaten track, where Iceland Excursions don´t offer tours, and I encourage you all to explore them too.

P.S.: It will be interesting to find out how did Reykjavík Excursions manage to obtain such a unique permission for operating this lucrative route between Keflavík and Reykjavík.

By then, let´s keep on exploring Iceland and all its beauty, having the eyes open for all kinds of tours, not only thouse shouting at us from good-looking brochures and leaflets.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gossips in HoT PoTs

Recently, I‘ve been asked to cooperate on very interesting tourism projects and I would like to share some thoughts here.

Eventhough tourism is rather young industry in Iceland, it‘s been developing really dynamically for the past few years. I‘ve been privileged to watch its development in the Northern part of it and was even contracted to co-organize one very big conference, at the end of February.

One of the crucial parts of the conference was a workshop, where using a special research methodology of focus groups, future image of North Iceland was being explored. Around 100 people took part at the workshop and thus we could gather very precious opinions and thoughts and visions of those representing various tourism fields and institutions.

The outcomes are still being worked on, as I write, but already now, it‘s rather obvious that majority of the participants is calling for strengthening mutual cooperation so that they are stronger once promoting the desired image agreed upon. This is a great sign of moving forward, as recognizing the need for cooperation and also being able to act in a way which makes providers stronger together, is an important first step.

I‘ll keep you posted here and let you know once the workshop conclusions will be made public, in the meantime you might find interesting to read impressions of North Iceland of one of the main speakers at the conference Simon Calder.

On top of this, I‘ve also checked out an ongoing exhibition in Reykjavík. It‘s called Travel without destination and is throwing fresh and somewhat different perspective of looking at tourism industry and understanding of travellers and destinations.

If you have been asking yourself: Why do people travel? What do they bring with them (in their minds) and what do they leave at the place of visit? How do promoted images of destinations influence us as travellers? And so on and so forth, you might definitely find the exhibition inispiring and horizons widening. And eventhough you haven‘t pondered over the questions above, you still might find the exhibtion worthwhile. Click here for details.

And now, to our March theme which has been „activities one can enjoy in Iceland out of the peak season.“

Last time we covered horseback-riding and today I‘ll shed a bit more light swimming pools in Iceland. It‘s a really special phenomenon and is deeply rooted in the culture of Icelanders. Thus if you‘re up for getting to know that part Icelandic culture, it‘s a must to try out at least one local swimming pool or a natural hot pot, once visiting Iceland.

WHY a special phenomenon?
1, Iceland is full of contrasts and eventhough the weather can be really harsh and long winters sometimes seem endless, we have natural sources of geothermal energy on the island, which have enabled Icelanders build many outdoor swimming pools and hot pots. Not to mention that natural hot pots scattered all over the country are another attractive magnet to indulge.

2, Swimming pools are cheap, concerning the service one gets in return and represent a socializing place for Icelanders.

This means that both, in Reykjavík and also in every small settlement you‘re able to find a swimming pool. Most of them are outdoors with pleasantly warm water in pools and with hot water in hot pots. So, not only can you enjoy swimming all year round (reardless of weather outside), but also simply dip yourself in a hot pot and chat with locals, getting to know local gossips.
In the next article, I‘ll post the list of pools available in Ejafjordur and article after that will be about natural hot pots.
Me off for a swim now and I look fwd to hearing your stories and latest gossips.

Friday, March 4, 2011

AURORA and more horse-back in the fjord

Eventhough, I´ve been living in Iceland for almost 4 years now, I still get impressed and awed at speed, at which days start to get longer in January. Or, in other words, it´s truly incredible to feel the energy coming back and realizing that each and every day, it´s gets brighter earlier in the morning and gets darker later in the day. That´s a sign that winter will be coming to an end.

However, before that happens fully and we´ll welcome spring, there is still chance for all of you enjoying Iceland out of the high season to watch a spectacle called

There´s a great webpage published by a research institute in Alaska that gives an excellent forecast on visibility levels in a chosen location. I attach the link for all of you, who will be up for watching Aurora in Iceland, so don´t hesitate and check it out here.

The scale is from 0 to 9 and if a predicted number is 3, you already have a good chance to see some Aurora dancing up in the sky. However, for the best results, make sure that you get further away from public lights. No clouds in the sky help too, but this is something tha you cannot influence, really.

Well and since it´s March and we´re introducing all kinds of activities that one can enjoy in Iceland also out of the peak summer, I´m adding some more info on horse-back riding so that we have our horse-back riding list complete.

There´s one more company, on top of the other two introduced in my last article that is just 5 minutes drive from Akureyri. It is called Kátur and is actually the closest one to Akureyri out of all the three companies described.

Now, details about the service:
Company name: KÁTUR
1-hour tour: 5.000 ISK per person
2-hour tour: 7.000 ISK per person
3-hour tour: 9.500 ISK per person
Midnight tour (specialty of Kátur): 7.000 ISK per person

The daily schedule is as follows:
09.00 13.00 17.00
Midnight tours take place only in June and July departing on Fridays 23.30 and returning 00.30.

00354 - 695-7218
00354 - 847-2208
How to get there: I will add advice on how to get there, as soon as I have it confirmed from locals. A farm, where the rental is, is called Kaupangsbakkar, Eyjafjarðarsveit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Horse back in magic valleys

It´s March and we´re going to zoom in on activities that one can enjoy in the area of Eyjafjordur (close to Akureyri) all year round.

We´re starting with horse-back riding possibilities.
I personally know stables, a few minutes drive from Dalvík - which is around 30 mins drive from Akureyri, so I´ll start with the western side of the fjord, where those stables are. Eventhough the stables are rather big, concerning the sizes of nearby towns, there´s only one company that has been running horseback riding business there. Simbi is the owner and has been working with horses for many many years and if I remember well, he´s to be found in stables almost every day, including the weekends. He knows his job really well and you can bet that the experience you will get, if you decide to ride with him, will be truly local. On top of this, the area for riding is a beatiful valley with many interesting sagas, including a lovely wooden church.

Now, details about the service:
Please note, that they still don´t have their own web-page yet.
Company name: TVISTUR Horse rental
1-hour tour: 4.000 ISK per person
1,5-hour tour: 5.000 ISK per person
2-hour tour: 7.000 ISK per person
3-hour tour: 8.500 ISK per person
00354 - 861-9631 SIMBI
00354 - 616-9629 ELLA
How to get there: From Dalvík, after you have left the town, take the first turn to the right (sign: Svarfaðardalur). Follow the road for a few minutes, until you see big stables on your left called HRINGSHOLT.

On the eastern side of the fjord, around 30 mins drive from Akureyri, there is a bigger company, with 25 years of experience called POLAR HESTAR. They´re situated at a farm where they have around 100 horses and more than double as many sheep. Beautiful and friendly couple Stefan and Juliane are the ones running the company and here is their offer with really well prepared longer tours (lasting a few days):
Company name: POLAR HESTAR
1-hour tour: 3.500 ISK per person
2-hour tour: 5.500 ISK per person
When it comes to longer tours that Pólarhestar are experts in, 'Farm holidays tour', lasting 8 days and 7 nights costs 800 EUR and is available out of the high season (from April to middle of May and middle of September to middle of October).
There are actually 3 other kinds of longer tours to choose from and they are to be found here
00354 - 463 3179 Stefan and Juliane
How to get there: From Akureyri you drive direction east (Myvatn/ Egilsstaðir) on road no 1. After about 15 minutes you turn to the left into road no 83 ( Laufás/ Grenivík). You follow this road for again about 15 minutes, passing the famous turf houses of Laufás and the church. Cross the river Fnjóská and turn once again to the left direction Grenivík. After a few minutes you will find the farm on your right. It is marked with big letters PÓLAR HESTAR.

That´s it for today from both sides of the fjord. Do let us know and leave a comment here, once your riding tour is over. Should you be having troubles getting in touch with the companies, do write to me:

And last but not least, an interesting link full of impressions from travels in the North written by artists who spent some time exploring North Iceland.