Beer’s been legal for less than 25 years on this Nordic island
Being so young, Icelandic beer culture is still a (very promising) work in progress.
Surprisingly enough, consuming beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989. Wait, what? Yep, you read that correctly: beer has only been legalized in the Nordic island country since the George H. W. Bush administration.
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The end of beer prohibition (certain spirits have been legally consumed in the country since 1933) was celebrated enough throughout the country that Icelanders created of an entire holiday dedicated to the libation (March 1, for those who are curious).
Given the relatively recent legalization of beer, Icelandic beer culture is still developing. For the most part, it’s traditionally been known for producing simple pale lagers. Things are changing, however, and even some Icelandic brews are gaining attention abroad; Lava (pictured above) is now available in throughout Europe and North America.
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Travel photo of the day: Along Iceland's Ring Road
Carolyn Cioffari took this photo during a 10-day tour of Iceland in September. Cioffari, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., told TODAY.com in an email that the first half of the trip was overcast or rainy, "so it wasn't the best for photography, even though the landscape was incredible."
She had been traveling on Iceland's 830-mile Ring Road, the main route that circles the country, when she saw this abandoned farmhouse on her way to the fishing town of Hofn. She planned to capture the image the following day on her way back.
"The light was a bit flat, but it was just such a beautiful scene . the decaying structures, the mountains, the vivid green grass, the horses," Cioffari said. "There is so much that's indescribable about the country, that it's a must-see, must-experience destination."
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Photo Of The Day: East Fjords, Iceland
For a more dramatic scene, make sure to check out the beautiful East Fjords located in a remote region of Iceland. Ice Age glaciers have scoured the east coast, creating steep, jagged fjords along these natural harbors. It’s a picture-perfect landscape complete with fishing villages and long, winding roads that span the region.
A drive through the East Fjords will bring you all of the Icelandic pleasures you can imagine: inland fertile farmlands, sheep in the road, a herd of reindeer, snow covered mountains, icy waterfalls, and steep drops with no guard rail that allow you to fully experience the truly gorgeous vista around you.
As you travel along these seemingly endless roads, you will find that the fjords themselves are the most grand of all (really, one of the better words to describe them because they’re absolutely massive). The beauty of them — and all of the sweeping views of the East Fjords — is not easily captured with your iPhone. If you’re lucky enough to visit this tranquil region, we recommend putting the phone down and allowing yourself to become fully immersed in the surrounding environment. And then, take pictures later, of course.
Nighttime in the East Fjords is equally as breathtaking. Image the moon shining on the water, a silver reflection against the dark, towering fjords and the sparkling lights of a small town nearby.
The scenic landscape of the undiscovered East Fjords is one-of-a-kind and holds beauty that cannot be matched by anything here in the northeast. A visit to this very secluded part of Iceland is an adventurous path guided by wintry conditions, but is far more rewarding than one can imagine. As a slogan of east Iceland once said, “the journey is the destination.”
How to Have an Iceland Road Trip by Camper Van:
Decide on when to go.
What you want to do in Iceland will give you a good idea of when you should visit. While the summer months of June, July and August are prime tourist season, complete with the higher prices that accompany hordes of travelers, the midnight sun provides more hours for exploration and the perpetual sunrise and sunset are the perfect backdrop for your photographs.
The infamous northern lights are most prominent during the winter, particularly November to February. However the unpredictability of Iceland’s weather doesn’t guarantee you’ll actually glimpse the elusive lights even if you time your visit accordingly. Traveling to Iceland during the winter will provide considerable savings as accommodations and camper vans are less expensive during the low season, although some businesses catering to tourism close up shop during this part of the year.
If you want pleasant weather without being bombarded by tourists, consider going during shoulder season – April and May or September and October, you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights during these months.
Determine how long to go for.
The amount of time to spend in Iceland varies. Some travelers spend upwards of two weeks while others only a few days, the latter often as a stopover with Icelndair or WOW Air. If you have less than four days, basing yourself in Reykjavik and exploring the Golden Circle and the Reykjanes Peninsula is a good way to spend your limited time in Iceland. If you have more days but less than a full week, add in a couple of spots on the island’s south coast like Vik or Hof or explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The minimum amount of time you’ll need to complete the Ring Road properly is seven days but add a few more if you want to include the West Fjords.
Book your camper van well in advance.
With Iceland being such a hot destination coupled with an increased interest in traveling by camper van, you should book as far in advance as possible. At the time of writing, many of the camper van companies are increasing the size of their fleet but ultimately it’s unlikely to match the demand. To avoid disappointment, book as soon as you decide to take an Iceland road trip in a camper van.
Decide on 2WD or 4WD.
There are more route options available to you with a 4WD vehicle, such as the interior F roads, but it can be substantially cheaper to go with a 2WD option. When we booked, only 2WD camper vans were available and at first I was a bit bummed that we would inevitably miss some things. But with only seven days on the Ring Road we wouldn’t have had much time to venture off the standard roads even if we were able to. The beauty of traveling in Iceland is that there are just an endless amount of awe-inspiring sights so you won’t be at a loss if you miss a couple. If you’re heading out in the winter, a 4WD is certainly recommended, especially if venturing further than the south shore. If you’re traveling in more moderate weather, take some time to think about whether a 4WD is truly worth it. Even if you have a 4ࡪ SUV, the interior highland roads can still be challenging and cumbersome, and not to mention time consuming, to traverse.
Arrange some extras.
Most camper vans come equipped with mattresses, pillows, cooking equipment and standard utensils. When you book or when you arrive to pick up your camper van, you can chose from a number of add-ons. I strongly recommend booking a few extras like thermal sleeping bags, camping chairs, cooler, and wifi. Other items that you can rent include a power inverter, tent, grill, and child car seat, among others. For those traveling with carry-on only, renting what you need when you touch down is a life-saver. Also, when we picked up our camper van at Go Campers we perused the free items that other renters bought but didn’t use on their travels, which was a great way to stock up before heading off.
Figure out your insurance.
Iceland is an unpredictable country and while car accidents are rare, they can happen. Take the extended CDW or ensure that your travel insurance is sufficient in advance. You will also have the option of additional insurance options for Sand and Ash protection as well as Gravel damage. You should be able to make the decision on additional insurance when picking up your van so you can decide based on the weather at the time. And aside from car insurance, make sure you’re covered with sufficient travel insurance.
Get a good map.
We’ve all become a little too reliant on Google Maps these days, and while it’s a useful tool to have in terms of route planning and distance between towns, it does have its limitations particularly if you don’t have consistent wifi or cell service. Don’t leave Reykjavik without a proper road map (or grab this onebefore you leave) as it will include information on the terrain and type of road, as well as markers for gas stations, campgrounds, swimming pools and sights.
Another handy resource is the Áning guide, which can be found all over Iceland. This handy booklet covers the accommodation and camping options across the country, lists all of the swimming pools on the island, and provides practical information and tips to make the most out of your trip.
Don’t try to cram it all in.
While the entire Ring Road is only 1,300 kilometres, you’ll add in extra milage taking detours to see interesting sights and backtracking when you inevitably take a wrong turn or two. And if you’re like me, you’re going to be stopping several times an hour to take photos. So even if you could drive the whole thing in 17 hours, in reality it’s going to add up to a lot more than that. Although we heard how stunning the West Fjords were, we opted to save them for another trip as we would’ve had to rush to fit them in, which just isn’t worth it.
Pick up groceries ASAP.
Most of the camper van companies, Go Campers included, are located just south of Reykjavik in the town of Hafnarfjörður. Just around the corner from the pick up point are budget grocery stores Krónan and Bónus, which have everything you need for a successful Iceland road trip. As you travel further from Reykjavik, the stores become few and far between. Stock up on non-perishable foods such as pasta and rice as well as go-to snacks like granola bars, crackers and nuts. If you’ve opted for a cooler, you’ll be in a good position to store other essentials like fruit, skyr and cheese.
Based on our experience, and all of the extra food we saw on the Go Campers shelf, it’s easy to get carried away at the grocery store before heading off. Instead of inevitably wasting food, buy only what you’ll need for a few days and plan to stop again at a grocery store in one of the larger towns like Akureyri or Vik.
Stay on campgrounds.
Utilizing Iceland’s extensive camping network is an enjoyable and affordable way to road trip the Ring Road. Most campsites are officially closed during winter, with many winding down at the end of August or mid-September. Although they might not be staffed during the off-season, many campsites will leave their gates open allowing visitors to use them. Sometimes there is a lock box where visitors are asked to pay despite there being no one to monitor – respect the honour system!
There’s a lot of conflicting information on free camping, or rather camping in nature rather than at a proper campsite. In the years past there was greater tolerance towards this in Iceland, however given the huge influx of tourists, many of whom are camping, it’s no longer as accepted. Although technically it is legal to camp in a tent (not a camper van) on uncultivated land if there is no sign to the contrary, locals discourage it as it can damage the fragile terrain, increase waste, and likely infringe on someone’s property. All in all, if you’re traveling Iceland by camper van, always stay at an official campsite.
Eat the local favourites.
The food in Iceland is delicious. Hearty meals of fresh fish, meats, and vegetables can be found at eateries along the Ring Road, although they are expensive relative to what you may be used to. While you have the option of making every meal in your camper van, it’s nice to experience some local cooking as well. A memorable meal during our travels was a decadent bowl of fish soup at the quaint family owned Geitafell Restaurant on the Vatnsnes Peninsula.
Stock up on some skyr, Iceland’s traditional yoghurt like snack, which comes in a multitude of flavours and is available in grocery stores and gas stations. A popular fast food item you’ll certainly encounter on your Iceland road trip is the hotdog, served up Icelandic style with one squirt each of ketchup, remoulade, and sweet mustard and topped with both raw and fried onions. And these aren’t your mystery meat varieties – these hotdogs are made of high quality and organic ingredients. If you need a snack, stop at the nearest gas station for a hotdog fix.
Develop an organizational system for the van.
This is critical especially at the onset of your road trip. With all of your luggage, sleeping and cooking gear, and the knick-knacks you acquire along the way, the camper van can soon become a mess. Having everything strewn about makes it not only difficult to find something when you really need it, but also a nightmare to transition from driving to sleeping, and vice versa. Having a place for everything from flashlights and chargers to photography gear and pyjamas makes the things you might need in a pinch, or in pitch black, easily accessible. And ensure that everything is more or less secure as things can fly around on the bumpy roads.
Follow the weather.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of an Iceland road trip in a camper van is that you don’t have to choose your route before you go. You can check the weather when you arrive and choose to go either north or south from Reykjavik based on which has the better forecast. Vedur is a terrific resource showing the seven-day weather forecast across Iceland all in one map, making it easy to see which direction is best. While most travelers embark on the Ring Road counter-clockwise starting with the south, we saw that the north was going to be full sun at the beginning of our trip so chose to go that way instead.
If you’re traveling in the winter and have your heart set on seeing the northern lights, Vedur also has an Aurora forecast, providing information on where to go for your best chances are of seeing the phenomenon.
Bring the essentials.
First things first, you’re going to need a jacket no matter when you visit. Other less obvious essentials include a travel towel that is quick drying (we picked up two of these super compact microfiber towels), a bathing suit for the pools and hot springs (even in the dead of winter), a sleeping mask if you’re traveling during the midnight sun, sunglasses for the strong sun year-round, a head lamp or flashlight (we used this headlamp every night), and gloves. Take a look at my Ultimate Iceland Packing List for more packing inspiration.
Dress in layers & don’t skimp on warm clothing.
This is pretty self-explanatory. The weather in Iceland is notorious for changing dramatically with little to no notice. The temperature fluctuated between 0 and 16 degrees in early September, but direct sunlight or heavy winds can push the outer limits of that range and make it feel much hotter or much colder. Some waterfalls require quite the uphill hike to view, so being able to remove layers as you climb will also make your journey more comfortable. I bought this down jacket before my trip and loved how lightweight and compact it is. It’s my go-to jacket in the winter!
Have the right footwear.
Iceland is rugged. A lot of the walking and hiking you will be doing will be across uneven, rocky, and slippery terrain. Even the grassy campgrounds can have their fair share of holes and divots from a never ending barrage of campers. Waterproof footwear is also critical as there are a number of sights where you may be wading through water like the black beach in Vik or Raudfeldar Canyon in Snaelfellsness. Odds are too that it’ll either rain or snow at some point during your trip. I splurged on these ones (I swear I have a cabin in the woods where I get good use out of them!) but I looked at so many other good ones on Amazon.
Bring the right gear.
The amount of tech and electronics we travel with seems to be increasing every trip, and it’s always a struggle to ensure all are charged up and ready to go. While you should add a USB charger and/or a power inverter to your rental, it’s not nearly enough to keep everything charged. We brought along two external batteries (these are the ones we have that hold up to seven charges), which were exceptionally handy. Bringing extra battery packs for your camera is recommended as there’s nothing worse then your camera dying right when you’re taking an epic one-chance shot.
To capture the best photos, don’t forget a sturdy tripod (my favorite) for those waterfall and nighttime sky photos, a polarizing or ND filter, and a wide angle lens to capture the vastness of it all. There are an abundance of resources online for photographing Iceland, but this comprehensive guide is the best, in my opinion. GoPros are also a popular accessory and while we didn’t use one, we encountered many other travelers who did. Our Lifeproof iPhone case (which is fully waterproof!) proved invaluable not only for taking photos in the Blue Lagoon and hot springs around Iceland, but also using our phone outside during periods of unrelenting rain.
Pull over safely to take photos.
Iceland is like one giant photo op. Amazing scenes and views await you at every turn and while it can be tempting to either pull over to the side of the road or slow down and pop your camera out the window, it’s dangerous. We encountered a lot of drivers pulling some precarious moves to ‘get the perfect shot’ but often there was a dedicated pull off space close by that would’ve been safer and more appropriate.
All you need is a credit card.
This was something I had heard before venturing to Iceland but I couldn’t believe it was as true as it was. Not once during our ten-day trip were we in possession of any Icelandic currency. Everyone took credit card.
Recycle and dispose of your trash properly.
Environmental sustainability is important everywhere, and Icelanders take their role in preservation seriously. In addition to protecting the land and delicate habitats, properly disposing of trash and an extensive recycling regime are rigidly followed here, and visitors are expected to follow suit. Littering or leaving garbage along your travels are not tolerated whatsoever so ensure that you leave no trace as you drive around the country. Read more about it here and here.
Ask a local.
Icelanders are extremely friendly and are easily approachable if you need help, so don’t hesitate to ask. Everyone we came across during our travels was ready and willing to help, and nearly all spoke English exceptionally well. Icelanders are also a great source of insight into what to see and do in their country, often offering suggestions that are off the typical tourist track. Before you go, tap into the recent tourism campaign Iceland Academy for some witty ‘how-to’s’ when visiting Iceland.
Take a dip at the local swimming pools.
Hitting up the public swimming pools is a local ritual in Iceland. Even small towns have swimming facilities, and for a small fee of $5 to $10 you can have access to the pools, hot tubs, steam room, and shower facilities. Some pools have indoor and outdoor options, waterslides for kids, and epic views. It’s a great way to relax after a long day of driving. But respect the rules, which you can read up on here.
Public swimming pools can also serve an important second purpose for campers: bathing. It’s almost guaranteed that the showers at the swimming pools will be better than what you’ll find at campgrounds where it’s a crapshoot whether you’ll have clean facilities or hot water. Additionally, some campgrounds charge around $3 for a shower anyway, so hitting up the nearby swimming pool isn’t too much of a premium.
Stock up on booze at the airport.
Iceland is one of the only countries where you can buy duty free after you’ve arrived in the country. There’s a duty free shop in Keflavik that seems to be open whenever an international flight rolls in. The prices for wine, liquor and beer are substantially lower than what you will find elsewhere in the country. We were originally modest in what we bought, but the woman at the cash register strongly recommended we buy more given the time we were spending in Iceland. She is so wise.
Sample the local beers.
While drinking in Iceland can break the bank depending on how hard you go, make sure you try some of the local craft beers. Borg makes a wide array of beers from Snorri, an Icelandic ale, to Leifur, a nordic saison, which are sold across the country. In Reykjavik don’t miss Skulí, which is owned by Borg, and Kaldi Bar, a lively spot that serves their own namesake beers in a cool setting. Check out my craft beer guide to Reykjavik on the beer & travel site Prostly for more cool spots.
Decide on adventure experiences in advance.
Iceland offers a tremendous amount of activities for the intrepid traveler: glacier hiking, ice climbing, helicopter rides, scuba diving and snorkeling, ice caves, snowmobiling, ATV drives, whale watching, fishing, skiing and snowboarding, and sledding. Many of these experiences are seasonal so if you’re dead-set on doing something specific, you may need to arrange the timing of your trip to coincide. Also, to ensure availability, it’s a good idea to book these types of experiences in advance. If you don’t think about it until you’re on the road, you’ll be bombarded with options and it may make it difficult to choose. Before we left, we spent hours on Viator looking through all of the activities and tours offered until we found one the perfect one.
The roads are quite narrow, twisting and bending with the terrain. Local drivers are, as expected, much more confident driving the roads than newbies so will often come up quickly behind you and pass. There are many raised one-way bridges so pay extra attention and ensure nobody is coming towards you before driving on. And watch out for the sheep, who are prone to jumping out in front of your car without warning.
Some detours even on marked roads that veer off of the Ring Road are more challenging than others and you will soon feel out what you’re comfortable with. Trust your gut at the end of the day – if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Avoid off-roading as it’s not only illegal, you could end up in a precarious situation like the RV we encountered that was stuck on a sandy beach.
Keep an eye on the weather and road conditions as you go.
Like a true maritime climate, the weather in Iceland can change at the drop of a hat, which can impact the road conditions. It’s a good idea to check Road.is, the official site of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, which outlines the current road and weather conditions as well as features over a hundred live webcams from across the country so you can actually see what the roads look like.
And get used to not being able to pronounce anything.
A final, light-hearted tip to leave you with. Icelandic is a difficult language, full of strange and unusual letters like these oddballs: Þ, æ, and ð. We definitely butchered the pronunciation of most towns, sights, and names but had some fun trying, without success, to say them properly. And don’t feel too bad about it during your Iceland road trip Icelanders are keenly aware of how challenging, and at times peculiar, a language it is.
Have any of your own tips for an Iceland road trip by camper van?
Iceland Road Trip by Camper Van photos by JP Bervoets
We received a discount from Go Campers for our Iceland road trip, although all of the opinions are completely our own.
Some of the links in this article are for affiliates, though we only advocate for businesses and brands that we know and trust. Affiliate income helps us limit the number of ads on the site while allowing us to continue bringing our readers high quality travel content.
Slow Roasted Lamb
Icelandic sheep are one of the purest breeds in the world. They have grazed on the hills of Iceland ever since the first settlers brought them to this country in the 9th century.
Lambs in Iceland are not fed on grain or given growth hormones. They roam freely outdoors from Spring to Autumn, therefore, their diet is wholly natural, consisting of grass, sedge, moss campion and berries. The meat of the Icelandic sheep is widely considered to be a gourmet meat, it is one of Iceland's finest and most often used culinary ingredients. Lamb very often features on celebration dinner menus or on Christmas Day.
The traditional way to cook a leg of lamb in Iceland is to cook it in the oven on a low heat for many hours, placing fresh herbs, particularly blóðberg (Arctic thyme) on the meat. The truly Icelandic way was to cook it for many hours in a geothermally heated pit in the ground!
Nowadays, cooking a perfect leg of lamb could not be simpler, place your chosen fresh herbs and seasoning (marjoram, oregano, basil, sage, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper) on a 2.2 - 2.5 kg) leg of lamb and place it into an oven that has been heated to 200° C. After 30 to 40 minutes lower the temperature to 180° C and cook it for a further 60 to 75 minutes, depending how well done you want it.
The higher temperature sears the skin after you turn down the heat, you should check on the meat from time to time and cover it with foil or a lid if the skin is becoming too crisp, or the herbs are singeing. Individual ovens vary so keep an eye on things!
If you want to cook lamb quickly just buy lamb fillet, which you can cook in 30 to 40 minutes at 200° C - you can even buy lamb fillet which is already marinated if you want.
Month: (Sorted Alphabetically)
- National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Month - (PLEASE stick to Non-Alcoholic Drinks when you are trying to get pregnant, or are pregnant, for the safety of your baby! See Kerry's info. on Pregnancy and Alcohol on her Healthy Diet Habit's website!)
2021 Weeks: (Sorted Alphabetically)
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over - Labor Day: August 19 - September 7, 2020 (2021 TBD)
- International Albarino Days - August 1-5, 2020 (2021 TBA)
- Kool-Aid Day - August 13-15, 2021 (Second Weekend in August)
- World Water Week - August 23-27, 2021
2021 Days: (Sorted by Date)
- National White Wine Day - August 4
- India Pale Ale (IPA) Beer Day -ਊugust 5, 2021 (First Thursday in August)
- International Albarino Day - August 5
- International Beer Day -ਊugust 6, 2021 (Celebrated annually on the First Friday in August)
- National Root Beer Float Day - August 6
- Mead Day - August 7, 2021 (First Saturday in August)
- National Kool-Aid Day - August 13, 2021 (Second Friday in August)
- National Prosecco Day - August 13
- International Rose' Day - August 14 (Wine!)
- National Rum Day - August 16
- Pinot Noir Day - August 18
- National Root Beer Float Day - August 19 (also August 6)
- Lemonade Day - August 20
- World Plant Milk Day - August 22
- National Whiskey Sour Day -ਊugust 25ਊndਊugust 29
- Red Wine Day - August 28
- Lemon Juice Day - August 29
- National Swiss Winegrowers Day - August 29
- International Cabernet Sauvignon Day - August 30
- International Whisk(e)y Day - August 31
Photo of the Day: In Iceland the wind blows from all directions, simultaneously!
It is a well known fact that the weather in Iceland is unpredictable: You can expect to sample all types of weather, and even all the seasons before noon. It might be sunny and nice one moment, but sleet and snow the next, shifting to storm and rain, only to revert back to a sunny summer day.
At the root of this phenomena is the wind, and the Icelandic wind is famous for its insistance on upending the laws of nature, for example by helping waterfalls to run upside-down. It can even blow from two opposite directions - at the same time!
The following photograph was captured by a local man in Bolungarvík, a small fishing village in the Westfjords, showing how the wind blows the flags of his neighbors in all different directions simultaneously.
We at Iceland Magazine would like to use this opportunity to remind our readers to bring windproof clothing to Iceland!
32 Best Cocktail Recipes Inspired by Travels around the world (DIY)
There’s nothing like an excellent cocktail to raise the spirit and bring back memories from past adventures. Which is why we’ve assembled the best travel cocktail recipes inspired by destinations from around the world!
If you are running out of ideas of fun things to do while at home, and you are a fan of traveling + cocktails, why not practice making your own version of them? You can become a mixologist and experiment by doing different versions in preparation for when you can celebrate the end of social distancing. Who knows, maybe you have stumbled upon a new talent!
NOTE: Before getting started, keep in mind that, due to our current situation, you might not be able to obtain every ingredient or label of alcohol listed below, but just let your creative self shine! You can always alter these travel cocktail recipes to your liking + ingredients based on availability.
12 local delicacies to try in Iceland
There is a bounty of exciting, delicious local food to try in Iceland. Forget about the fermented shark used to shock tourists – there are plenty more interesting things to be had. Here is a list of the top delicacies that are favourites among locals:
This cute little bird, often used to represent Iceland, is very delicious. The meat is very dark but is different from many other game birds as it lives by the ocean and eats fish. Today it is often consumed smoked and raw or the breast is given a quick sear in the pan and not cooked through, though the old-fashion way is to boil it whole for a long time.
Icelandic people love their sheep so much that their population surpasses the human population on the island by far. The flavour of the meat is distinctly different from lamb in many other countries, the cause is probably that Icelandic sheep are herded up to hills and highlands in spring and there it roams free until autumn. This gives the meat a deeper flavour. Lamb from Iceland is not a far cry from being organic, as most farmers only raise their sheep on hay harvested in summer, the use of hormones is prohibited and antibiotics are strictly regulated.
Icelandic lamb is a favourite of many locals. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Eggert Jóhannesson
Icelandic craft beer
There are many small craft breweries in Iceland and a new one seems to pop up every year. There are tours available in many of those, but if you want to compare and taste many types there are four bars in Reykjavik that specialise in craft beers and have local beers on tap: Microbar , Skúli Craft Bar , Bjórgarðurinn and last but not least Bryggjan Brugghús . Bryggjan has it's very own brewery in the back room and on tap you can find both their own brew and beer from other Icelandic breweries, they also offer tours and short seminars on Icelandic brews.
Microbar is one of the bars that offer a great variety of local craft beers. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Björn Jóhann
Local game birds
Duck and goose are both common prey for hunters in Iceland. The meat is dark and has a very distinct game flavour you can taste the flavour of the Icelandic mountains in the meat. If you happen to be visiting around Christmas, you might get a taste of ptarmigan, a local favourite for Christmas dinner with a strong game flavour.
Wild duck and goose both have a distinct game flavour. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Ómar Óskarsson
Dried fish, usually eaten by itself or with butter. It is slightly salty and very chewy, which makes it a great snack. It is popular in Iceland, both in rural societies and amongst hip people on a diet, as it is very lean, nutritious and contains mostly protein.
Children snacking on dried fish as they watch a movie. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Ásdís Ásgeirsdóttir
Horses are another cute animal often used to represent Iceland. They are very popular to ride, but also tasty. The meat is lean, a bit lighter than beef and much tenderer. The flavour is distinct but not very strong. Like the sheep, most of the horses in Iceland roam free in the mountain areas of Iceland over the summer (save those used for riding). They are too close to organic breeding as horses in Iceland are mostly fed hay harvested in summer, and again the use of hormones is prohibited and antibiotics are strictly regulated.
Horse meat is in many ways similar to beef, but is tenderer and has a milder flavour. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Skapti Hallgrímsson
Salmon cured with dill is also known as graflax , a common starter in parties and on buffets, served with a type of honey-mustard dressing flavoured with dill. The same recipe is often used for local trout, which is similar in taste and no less of a crowd pleaser. Both versions are very popular, the fish and the dressing can be bought in just about every supermarket in the country.
Graflax is a popular dish for buffets. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Kristinn Ingvarsson
The people of Iceland love their lamb, especially hangikjöt , smoked lamb. It is a common meal on Christmas day with cold peas, béchamel, potatoes and pickled red cabbage. Hangikjöt is also a popular topping for local bread and on sandwiches with pea and carrot salad. In recent years, twice-smoked hangikjöt has been gaining popularity, it has a stronger smoke flavour and is often enjoyed raw as a starter.
There is a great variety of smoked lamb for sale around Christmas. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Kristinn Ingvarsson
There are three types of traditional bread that are you can buy in every supermarket: flatbrauð , rúgbrúð and soðbrauð (also known as partar or steikt brauð ). Flatbrauð is a type of flatbread that is very dense and often contains Iceland moss. It doesn’t dry out easily so it’s great to pack as a snack while travelling.
Rúgbrauð is made out of rye, but unlike rye bread in other Nordic countries, the Icelandic one is rather sweeter, which makes it great with fatty or smoked toppings.
Soðbrauð is a puffy fried bread, in many ways similar to kleina (a sweet Icelandic pastry) with a hint of sweetness to it which goes well with smoked fish.
Rúgbrauð, rye bread, is many peoples favourite. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Kristinn Ingvarsson
Setting aside the argument, to whale or not to whale, minke whale meat is available in Iceland so it would be strange not to mention it at all. The meat is very dark, tender and tastes in many ways like a good steak. Whale is at its best when cooked rare, medium-rare at the most. If it is cooked right through you can taste the sea, and not in a good way.
Mink whale is sometimes enjoyed raw with a dipping sauce. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Golli / Kjartan Þorbjörnsson
This high-protein, low-fat dairy product has been gaining in popularity in Europe and North America. Technically it’s cheese, but the flavour and texture are similar to thick yoghurt. The traditional way to enjoy this is with cream, sugar, and bilberries (Icelandic: bláber , similar to blueberries), today though there is a great variety of flavourings available in every supermarket.
There is a great variety of skyr available in every supermarket. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Golli / Kjartan Þorbjörnsson
Last but not least, fish. Icelanders do a lot of fishing. In fact, it is the second-largest industry in the country, right after tourism (which only surpassed it a few years ago). This means that the fish you get in Iceland is most likely fresh and of a high standard.
As good fish is easy to get in Iceland, many locals have high standards. Photo: Iceland Monitor/Árni Sæberg