DATELINE ICELAND - January/February 2004

A periodic look at news and events from the home of the Vikings. Brought to you by the Icelandic Tourist Board.

>Ahhhhhhh, Winter
>Icelandair's Third Annual Honeymoon Express
>Join us for the 3rd Annual Food & Fun Festival in Iceland
>Reykjavik Adventure Packages-Create Your Own Adventure!
>Snow Time Is Go Time
>Bolludagur or "Buns Day"
>Sprengidagur or " Bursting Day"
>"Oskudagur" or Ash Wednesday
>Yet Another Reason to Love Iceland
>A Bar Served On the Rocks
>Relax in the Steam of the Laugardalur Valley
>Dinner and a Show
>Get Familiar with a New Tongue
>Paved Roads Are No Fun Anyway
>Quick Tip
>Notable Quotables

Ahhhhhhh, Winter

Anyone can visit Iceland when it's warm and sunny. What fun is that? It takes a true creative, free spirit to travel in winter. Sure there's less light. And o.k., you have to bundle up, but not any more than if you were visiting the Big Apple. Reykjavik, for example, never reaches the low temperatures experienced by Washington and New York. Land at Keflavik and you'll think you're in the middle of an arctic wonderland when you arrive.

The crowds are gone in winter, and the land seems softer, less harsh, under a veil of fresh snow. But don't let the cold fool you, the nightlife in Reykjavik, the world's northernmost capital, is even hotter than ever.

Icelandair's Third Annual Honeymoon Express

What could be more romantic than renewing your vows on Icelandair and spending a honeymoon in Iceland and England? Spend your Valentine's Day in romantic Reykjavik and elegant London, two fantastic places to share with that special someone. Enjoy exotic scenery, horseback riding, delicious meals and theater performances... and a few fun surprises during the trip. The Icelandair Honeymoon Express has received international media coverage two years in a row. Here's your chance to dazzle your flame with. Click here for more information.

Join Us for the 3rd Annual Food & Fun Festival in Iceland.

The Iceland Naturally Food and Fun Festival will take place from February 18 - 23, 2004, right when you are in need of some excitement during the winter. Celebrity chefs from continental Europe, the United States and Iceland compete in a Mystery Basket cook-off, preparing a dish from all Icelandic ingredients - followed by a Gala Event catered by the best in gourmet restaurants from in and around Reykjavik. Travel packages start at $685* per person based on double occupancy, and can last from two to four nights depending on point of departure. The package includes a stay at the Hotel Loftliedir, admission to the cook-off, the Gala Event, one dinner at the festival restaurant and Scandinavian breakfast every day except day of arrival. Click here for more details.

Reykjavik Adventure Packages-Create Your Own Adventure!

The perfect start to creating your own ideal holiday adventure is in Reykjavik, the adventure capital of Europe. By day explore the wilderness and outdoor adventure opportunities within minutes of the city. By night, energize yourself with the city's nonstop nightlife and culture. The Reykjavik Adventure package is the basis for creating your own Icelandic adventure. Add hotel, rental car, day trips and more. Click here for more information.

(* Prices quoted are exclusive of applicable taxes and official charges by destination of approximately $90, including the September 11th Security Fee.)

Still Need a Reason to See Iceland? Here Are Some More…

The long winter in Iceland amounts to just another excuse for the natives to party. Don't blame them, it's in their Viking blood, and they have the historic celebrations to prove it:

Thorrablot (Through February 16, 2004)

When Vikings sat down for their annual midwinter feast, it wasn't exactly tea and crumpets time. Vikings celebrated February - the fourth month of winter - with plenty of dancing and singing and hearty Viking-sized meals. They consumed half-boiled lamb's heads called Svid, seal flippers, rotten shark, and scarfed our personal favorite, pickled ram's testicles. While these delicacies are not part of the normal everyday diet of Icelanders, visitors and locals alike can eat like a Viking during special events in February in restaurants, homes, and community centers throughout Iceland. Guaranteed to be an experience you'll never forget.

Bolludagur or "Buns Day" (February 23, 2004)

Iceland celebrates two holidays in February that seem to revolve simply around the consumption of delicious foods with guiltless abandonment. Two days before Lent is known as Bolludagur or "Buns Day." Homes, restaurants and particular bakeries, overflow with delicately made cream puffs or "buns." These "buns" come in all different shapes and sizes, filled with cream, jam, and sometimes drizzled in chocolate. Children especially love Bun Day because they get to wake up early and try to catch their parents still in bed. If they do, they "beat" them out of bed with their individually made Bolluvondur or "Bun Wands," which are colorfully decorated with strips of paper and gleaming ribbon. The parents are then obligated to give their children one cream puff for every "blow" received.

Sprengidagur or " Bursting Day" (February 24, 2004)

During the second day of this tradition on Shrove Tuesday (the day before Lent) every Icelandic home and most restaurants flood with the aroma of Saltkjot og baunir or salted-meat and peas. The name of the Sprengidagur refers to the idea that people feast on this hearty dish to the point of bursting.

"Oskudagur" or Ash Wednesday (February 25, 2004)

Ash Wednesday is celebrated in Iceland with a unique custom that is very entertaining for children. Ashes are collected into small bags known as "Oskupokar" or Ash Bags. As a prank, these bags are secretly pinned onto people's clothing. The day is also marked with children singing and parading around the streets and shops, begging for treats. Click here for more information about any of these winter celebrations.

Yet Another Reason to Love Iceland

March first is Beer Day every year in Iceland. That's right, a whole day dedicated to the world's favorite beverage. This celebrated event began on March 1st, 1989, when a 75-year-long prohibition of beer was lifted. Pubs, restaurants, and clubs all around Reykjavik are especially wild this night. No word yet on plans to make March 2nd National Aspirin Day. Click here for more details.

A Bar Served On the Rocks

Where else but in Iceland can you find a permanent ice bar? Right in the heart of Reykjavik is Kaffi Reykjavik Ice Bar. The interior is kept at 23 degrees F all year-round. All of the interior fittings, including the glasses, are made of pure, clear ice from the glaciers of Iceland. The Ice bar has capacity of 50 people and is open to all. Group bookings can be made by calling 354 552 3030 or click here.

Relax in the Steam of the Laugardalur Valley

In Reykjavik lies the Laugardalur Valley, named after its hot springs. For centuries, Icelanders have been walking, riding and driving there rejuvenate body and soul. The valley is now home to the newest spa in Iceland, which includes football fields, athletic stadiums, a skating rink and a tennis and badminton hall. There is also a Petting Zoo where all of Iceland's indigenous animals can be seen, a long with botanical as well as other gardens.

The health spa features a 5400 square feet area with saunas and steam rooms of varying temperatures, seawater hot pools, whirlpools, foot pools and even a cold waterfall for bathing. Various types of massage are offered as well as mud treatments. Professionals on staff include a doctor, physiotherapists, masseuses, masseurs, beauticians, hairdressers, nutritionists and pedicurists, along with numerous other staff. Health foods and drinks are available in the restaurant.
Please click here for more details.

Dinner and a Show

They say the neon lights are low on Armula Street. Le Sing, the show where actors, artists and dancers are both the entertainers and waiters, is the hottest new attraction in Iceland. Broadway in Iceland, located in the Hotel Island SAS Radisson, hosts this dinner theater presentation with the stars of the future as young actors, singers and dancers lead the good times. Come join these "guys and dolls" soon, there's only one place to see it.
For more information click here.

Get Familiar with a New Tongue

For those of you with a flair for language or an interest in reading the works of Nobel Laureate Halldor Laxness in original Icelandic, you can learn Icelandic without even leaving home. Just check out the list of institutions in the United States that teach Icelandic Or if you prefer to go to the source, and learn the mother tongue of the Vikings where it's been spoken for centuries, you can attend a course offered by the University of Iceland from July 5-30, 2004. Click here for more details.

Paved Roads Are No Fun Anyway

Car and Driver magazine recently sent one of its writers to Iceland to watch modern day Vikings channel their ancestors' love for adventure and danger in an off-road hill climb at Stapafell (Mount Stapa). One by one, the Icelanders sought to climb the volcanic cone in outrageously hot-rodded off-road vehicles in this yearly gathering of enthusiasts. While Icelanders had the most fun when they were upside down with all four wheels clawing the air, the writer preferred to keep his feet on the ground. It's a great read for any car buff. Click here for more details.

Quick Tip

Iceland's home in America,, has a new look and a new brochure to show you everything the country has to offer. Be sure to log on and explore the hundreds of reasons to come to Iceland.

Notable Quotables

"Iceland is a natural laboratory for studying the interaction of ice and volcanoes, the same forces that have shaped much of the Martian surface."

National Geographic Magazine
January 2004

"Locals love their Viking heritage, historic resilience, and modern outlook. Reykjavik is full of life stories, but you might have to stay up late to get them. 'Icelanders don't talk to strangers until 2 a.m., and by then they have no idea what they're saying,' says Valur Gunnarsson, editor of the Reykjavik Grapevine, a plucky paper in English."

National Geographic Traveler
November-December 2003

"It's hard to think of Iceland as a vacation spot. Way up there, in the middle of nowhere, a tiny island in the vast Atlantic Ocean. And then there is the name. Iceland. Brrrr. There's no doubt Iceland's tourist board faces a serious marketing challenge. But those who dare to venture this far north will be richly rewarded."

San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News
Dec. 14, 2003


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