The climate is mild in Iceland. Average temperature is 0°C in Reykjavik during winter, +13°C in summer but if it is windy then it feels colder. This morning there was -7°C / 19°F and very cold, at the moment -6°C. I definitely recommend bringing warm clothes, parkas, sweaters, winter boots, hats, gloves, scarves if you are coming to Iceland for the holidays.
Daylight is minimum during the darkest time of the year in this country. Since the sun barely makes up above the horizon there is only daylight for close to 5 hours a day. Today sunrise was at 11.12am, the sun goes down at 3.32pm but please don’t worry, the tours are planned with daylight in mind.
I always try to maximize the use of the dayligt. Of course we might be driving into the countryside in darkness in the morning and in darkness back to Reykjavik in the afternoon but we will have daylight when it matters most, when we visit all the stunning places in the nature.
Icelanders are evangelic-lutheran which means that they are quite liberal about their religion, have a lot of churches in towns, cities and the countryside but don’t go to mass unless special occasions. Christmas is a special occasion in Iceland.
Christmas is taken seriously in Iceland. The families get time off, all the companies close for Christmas and the families concentrate on celebrating. They go to church on Christmas Eve at 6pm, midnight and or the day after. This is how it has been until very recently. Nowadays it is possible to find a few grocery stores and restaurants in the centre of Reykjavik that are open. Nothing is open in the suburbs.
Christmas is family celebrations in Iceland. For most families the main celebrations take place on Christmas Eve. They go to church at 6pm on Christmas Eve, 11pm or midnight and or (possibly again) the day after, have dinner at 7pm, open presents and stay at home or visit relatives. On December 25th the families meet again, have coffee and cakes or eat dinner together. On December 26th some of the families might get together again.
Iceland is quiet during Christmas. No shops are open, no restaurants or cafés to speak of but some tour guides take their guests on tours, e.g. me. Christmas is mainly a time for resting.
If you are going to Christmas mass here in Iceland then I recommend checking when the English-speaking mass takes place unless you want to attend an Icelandic-speaking one. Please notice that there might be a reason to go early to church to get a seat.
I have strong feelings to Finland. I was living in Finland for seven yearsduring the 1980s and early 1990s and those seven years were some of the best years in my life. I thoroughly enjoyed living in Finland. I was only 20 years old when I moved there to study journalism in Swedish at the University of Helsinki’s soc&kom and I adjusted fast. It was a wonderful time and great experience. Helsinki is nowadays the city I know best outside of Iceland. Finland feels like home to me.
It wasn’t easy though at the beginning with everyone around me speaking Finnish and me not understanding anything. It was dark, cold and snowy that first autumn and my room was far away from the school. But in the spring I got a new room and had learned some Finnish Swedish. The year after I started learning Finnish at the University of Helsinki. I finished my university education, worked as a correspondent for the Icelandic national broadcasting radio RUV during the late 1980s and moved back to Iceland in 1991 when the trade with the Soviets had collapsed and the economy had a severe downswing.
In 1991 I was with my husband on my way to celebrate the Independence Day of Finland in the Nordic House in Reykjavik when my son decided to come into this world. That was a wonderful coincidence and the main reason why I am always so busy on December 6th. Anyway, Finland is special to me. I love the Finnish culture and language, the Finnish history and Finland’s people. I learned so much in Finland and I’ve always enjoyed visiting Finland ever since. My Finnish grammar is a bit “rusty” as we say here in Iceland but that’s not strange, it’s 26 years since I moved back with my family.
One of the most interesting volcanoes in Iceland is Mt Öræfajökull – the second most dangerous volcano in Europe. Only Mt Etna is considered to be more dangerous. Now, Mt Öræfajökull has been showing some signs that it’s getting ready for an eruption since Mt Öræfajökull now has new cracks in glacier inside the crater and geothermal water is flowing down in the glacial river from the crater. But – good to know – it could take years or even decades (or perhaps longer) for Mt Öræfajökull to start erupting.
Mt Öræfajökull’s last eruption was in 1726 and before that the volcano erupted in 1362. Both eruptions were dangerous but during the eruption in 1362 the acidic volcanic flood from the volcano killed everyone and everything in the area. The name of the area has been called Öræfi which means desert or wasteland ever since. Nobody dared to live there for decades after the eruption. Now of course the civil protection authorities in Iceland will make sure that the history doesn’t repeat itself so they will be alarming everyone by texting if they think there is any reason to evacuate.
Mt Öræfajökull has the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur – 2110m high. It is magnificent to see on the way to Vatnajökull national park and ideal to take a break at the roots of the volcano and take a photo when the weather is nice. This area is a part of the tour to the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón which is a very long day tour or a part of a 2-3 days tour to the southeast coast of Iceland. During a multiple day tour you can do some extras, e.g. join an ice cave tour, glacier walk, see the beach sometimes called the diamond beach by visitors in Iceland etc.
This is a difficult question because there are several volcanoes that are well known but I would say that Mt Eyjafjallajökull (Eyjafjallajokull in English spelling) is the most famous volcano nowadays. I will use the English spelling below since the Icelandic letters get scrambled in some browsers.
Mt Eyjafjallajokull became famous in 2010 when it erupted stopping all the air traffic between North-America and Europe. The eruption took place in two episodes, the first episode started in March 2010, the second episode started in April 2010. It’s the second episode that took place beneath the glacier on top of the volcano resulting in an ash cloud that the winds blew to Europe. That’s why the volcano made the international headlines for five days or so.
Is it possible to see Mt Eyjafjallajokull? Yes, it is. We are passing the volcano when we drive to the south coast seeing and visiting all those beautiful places along the south coast. If clouds permit we can see and take photos of the volcano.