Myths Debunked

When we book a trip to a new country, most often we’ll spend some time searching up facts for that particular place. I know I do! When it comes to Iceland, you definitely should not believe everything you read/hear/are told. It didn’t take me long, after spending time here and working with the locals to find out much of what the rest of the world thinks of Iceland is not true. Now I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing… Because I think we would all like to believe that elves exist somewhere. But I am here to debunk a few myths and facts that the rest of the world spreads about this country.

  1. Myth: 55% of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls. The Facts: Like I said, the majority of Icelanders do not believe in elves and trolls. Don’t get me wrong – there are tons of magnificent folklore tales and stories to go with every waterfall and valley but they remain fictitious here in Iceland. (as far we can tell at least)
  2. Myth: Most Icelanders do not lock up their bikes and leave their doors unlocked. The Facts: After some investigation and asking around, I found out that the locals here DO in fact lock their bikes up, and do not leave their doors unlocked at night. Iceland is definitely the most peaceful country I have ever been to but it does not dismiss the fact that there are some bad people out there!
  3. Myth: Iceland is made up of only ice. The Facts: While the name might have you fooled… Iceland is not only made up of ice! Sure, during the winter months it is bright white with snow and the sidewalks are slippery from ice. But it doesn’t take long for the snow and ice to melt and reveal the most lush green valleys you could ever imagine.
  4. Myth: All Icelanders eat whales. The Facts: While whale meat is definitely on some restaurant menus, and it was once a traditional dish… most locals do not eat whale meat regularly and it is left as an old tradition (or a tourists’ delicacy)
  5. Myth: There are penguins in Iceland. The Facts: Nope. Despite the Arctic feel, there are no penguins in Iceland but there are puffins!

So here are a few of the misconceptions I learnt of, that the rest of the world has towards Iceland.

Comment if you can think of any more I missed!

Mount Hekla

Iceland is known for its volcanic activity and many travellers make their way here in the hopes of seeing red lava flowing brightly down from mountains. While it is not always the case, there is a volcano here that is on the verge of bursting…

Hekla is the most renowned and powerful volcano in Iceland, and arguably the world. It is the volcano that produces the most volcanic material on the island. Hekla is a stratovolcano, which means it is a tall, conical volcano composed of one layer of hardened lava, tephra, and volcanic ash.  The explosive eruptions result in lava that flows viciously, and cools and hardens before spreading very far. This particular volcano has produced one of the largest volumes of lava of any in the world in the last millennium, which was around 8 km3

Currently, Hekla’s magma chamber is almost full which means it is due to erupt! Hekla has erupted over 20 times in the last 2000 years, with its most recent eruption in the year 2000. It is being monitored closely right now, and there are even warning signs to not hike it at the moment in case of possible activity. When it erupted in 2000 it started only 79 minutes after the first warning quake. At Norðurflug we make special trips when this natural occurrence happens! As long as it is safe, we will take you straight to the action.





Taking A Helicopter Ride

Helicopter rides might not be the most common thing to do but, in my opinion, they are the most exciting thing to do. During a flight over Iceland you are able to see the landscape in a way you’ve never seen before. There is a certain uniqueness you feel while being in a helicopter, that begins from the moment you take off to the moment you land, and of course every incredible second in between!

We get asked the question, “is it scary?”, a lot from first time helicopter riders. I believe that it is not frightening at all, because of two main reasons:

First, our pilots are experienced and professional. After years of flying in Iceland they have basically seen and experienced it all. They will always make you feel safe and secure, and always have a joke or two to lighten to mood.

Second, because the scenery is so breathtaking you will have a hard time thinking about anything other than that!

When you take off in a helicopter, it is much quicker than in an air plane. The “take-off” is not typical, or along a runway as it is with a plane. With a helicopter, you simply lift off the ground. This means it feels less like you’re being pushed back in your seat, and more like you’re going up in an elevator. I think the best way to describe a helicopter ride is, smooth. To pair with the beautiful scenery here in Iceland, the amazing view you get in a helicopter also takes away from any nerves. Almost all of our helicopters are open cabin, with a 180 degree view so you are always guaranteed excellent sight seeing to distract your mind.

Basically what I am trying to say, DO NOT hesitate to book your first ever helicopter flight. I can speak from experience, that with Norðurflug, you will not regret your decision.


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By: Kelsey Heide

Black Sand Beaches

Black sand beaches are made up of volcanic materials and lava fragments. When lava contacts water, it cools rapidly and shatters into sand and fragments into pieces of all sizes.  My first experience with the black sand beaches were by Superjeep. Our guide sped up to the edge of the sheer piece of ice we had been driving on that was clearly farmland in the summer, and drifted onto the infamous black sand beaches of Iceland. We hugged the shore as he rode up and down the sand drifts while kicking up pieces of ancient volcanic eruptions. The black sand beaches are so unique, and totally worth making the trek to go see. Being on the ground was really great, but I feel like I need to see it from the air to truly appreciate it’s mystique!

In Iceland, you will find these beaches on the south coast, near Vik. There is an area of vast expanse where the beach seems to go on forever. And further up is where you find the free standing basalt rock formations the line the coast as cliffs or standing alone, slowly being worn out by the tireless sea. This place is called Dyrhólaey. As a Canadian, the black sand beaches are a beautiful reminder that there are places that can feel so familiar yet strange. I’ve spent summers growing up on a lake front beach in Canada so it felt slightly comforting, but never have I experienced black sand near the ocean. There’s a first time for everything, and this is a phrase I seem to be using often in Iceland as there is no place like it.


Black sand beaches- Kelsey


By: Kelsey Heide

Finding Peace in Iceland

Iceland has been judged the most peaceful country in the world by the Institute for Economics and Peace – for the fifth year in a row.

Not only has Iceland’s landscape convinced me it might be the most beautiful place on earth, but it is also the most peaceful country I think I’ve ever been to.  I don’t have a car living here, so I walk everywhere. Not once have I felt threatened or scared walking down the road at night in downtown Reykjavík. The first time I ever saw a baby in a carriage sitting alone on the side walk while Mom had run into the store, I was totally shocked. There are so many other parts of the world where this would be ultimately dangerous but there’s something different about Iceland.

In comparison to the rest of the world, Iceland has a very low level of violence. Some people believe it is due to the high social equality, you will not see the juxtaposition of the rich and the poor as clearly as you can in other countries.  The absence of violence results in the police not having to carry guns. Yes, you heard me correct… the police do not have to carry guns here! That fact alone speaks for the whole country’s peacefulness.

It is no secret that the rest of the world is fighting over oil and other energy sources, but Iceland is far removed from that. The energy sources here in Iceland are mostly taken from  natural renewable resources. The geysers and geothermal energy make up most of the country’s power source, this is now Iceland is able to be almost entirely energy independent from the rest of the world. The earth is literally fueling their country. When you turn on the tap for hot water, there is no tank in the basement electrically heating your water, it is being pumped from through a network of pipes from the ground to your tap. The volcanic activity on the island does all the work! No one can own the volcanoes or control them, so no one is fighting.

With the absence of real fighting, Iceland has no military presence. And it’s not that they can’t afford it! They would just rather put their money towards the Iceland Crisis Response Unit (ICRU), which contributes to peacekeeping missions. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the most peaceful country on earth has not need for an army. Most of us have this idea that military presence “keeps the peace” but I see it as the opposite. One of the main reasons Iceland has peaceful law is the amount of people living in the country. With a small population the need for heavy enforcement is minimal.

Almost all education in Iceland is paid for and provided by the country. With a higher level of overall education comes respect for one another. **

And lastly, Yoko Ono built her Imagine Peace Tower on an island called Viðey just off the coast of Reykjavík. She chose Reykjavik because there is no war and no pollution. Her tower symbolizes a continual campaign for world peace and she thought fit perfectly with Icelandic lives.


By: Kelsey Heide


Gullfoss waterfall is part of the Golden Circle sights. A must do if you are visiting Iceland! It is located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. The water rushes down in two stages, one drop is 11 meters, the other 22, falling down into a rugged canyon. I visited in the winter so many parts of the waterfall were frozen. It felt like an added bonus to watch the water cascading around it’s own “blockages” so to speak. You can view the waterfall from directly above, or walk further down to see it at eye level. In the summer you can walk closer but in the winter it is too icy and therefore unsafe without crampons. But to really get a grasp at this waterfalls enormity and strength, you have to see if from above. Our helicopters can fly along the Golden Circle and you can witness this natural wonder from the air.

The power of the Gullfoss waterfall was desired by foreign investors in the early 20th century to produce electricity. When an englishmen wanted to buy the waterfall from Tómas Tómasson, a farmer who owned the land, the farmer’s daughter, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, became outraged. Tómas ended up leasing the waterfall to the englishmen so Sigriður used her own savings to hire a lawyer to defend her case in voiding this contract. She walked barefoot to Reykjavík from the waterfall, and she even went as far as threatening to throw herself in the river if construction on the power plant began. Finally the company backed away, but her determination and passion for the waterfall had sparked people’s attention to the need for preservation of the natural environment. It is for this reason that Sigriður Tómasdóttir is often referred to as the first environmentalist of Iceland.

So when you visit this waterfall, you are not only witnessing a natural wonder, but you are also at a site with historical significance.












By: Kelsey Heide

Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrabúi

Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. It is along Route 1 in between Skógafoss and Selfoss. It towers with a 60 metre drop over ancient sea cliffs and is fed by the Seljalandsá River. In the summer you can walk behind it, but I wouldn’t recommend it in the winter as it is dangerously covered in ice and frosted snow. The upside to this, is that in the right light it sparkles magically. 

Further down the path you can find another smaller waterfall called Gljúfrabúi. You might not see it right away as it is covered by its own canyon – the name actually translates to “Canyon Dweller”. Gljúfrabúi sits down the cliff from Seljalandsfoss and is slightly smaller at 40 metres drop. So far, this one is my personal favorite waterfall I’ve visited for its seclusion.





Gljúfrabúi Waterfall


By: Kelsey Heide


I visited this waterfall in the winter, which meant the trek across flat land to get up close was a sheer piece of ice. The result of this is tourists slipping around and falling, all the while laughing uncontrollably. Before you reach the majesty that is Skogafoss, your belly hurts from giggling so much! To get to the top requires walking up a very long, steep staircase but totally worth it. Not only do you have a great view of the cascading waterfall, and of the people sliding on the ice below you, but you are also able to see far into the distance to make out the black sand beaches along the coast. If you walk further up, and climb over the fence, you will a smaller version of the fall below you, and get a better view of the mountains that surround.

Skogafoss is known for making loud, unexplainable “bangs”, which have been rumored to be a captured half troll- half human in the wall trying to get out! The reason he got caught between the human life and the troll life, was that he was trying to bring gold into the troll life which is just not allowed. Every once in awhile people claim to have found pieces of this gold in the base of the falls.

And if you look at the waterfall with the right light you can almost always see a perfect rainbow.

Kelsey Skogafoss

By: Kelsey Heide

The Glacier Lagoon

One of my favourite places that we can take you to by Helicopter is the Glacier Lagoon, or Jökulsárlón. It is a large glacial lake in Southeast Iceland that lays directly on the edge of the biggest glacier in Iceland, Vatnajökull. The Glacier Lagoon is known as one of the natural wonders of Iceland, often filled with bright blue icebergs and seals happily lazing on the shore. This lake developed 60 years ago and is now the deepest lake in Iceland at 248 metres.

The most impressive part of this natural phenomenon in my opinion is that it is right off of Route 1 if you are travelling by car, and, if you are travelling by helicopter you can overfly the beautiful shore line and view aerially how this lagoon joins land and sea together.

My personal visit to the Glacier Lagoon included both a beautiful sunset over clear, calm waters. And a stormy morning where I was greeted with playful seal pups and fast moving icebergs.

This is a place you can return to a thousand times and it will never look the same as the last.


Kelsey's sunrise Glacier lagoon Kelsey Glacier Lagoon


By: Kelsey  Heide



Bolla or “bollur” meaning buns, and “dagur” meaning day, traditionally on this day children would eat buns, until the Bolludagsbollur was introduced and things got a lot tastier. The Bolludagsbollur consists of pastry filled with whipped cream and jam, and topped with a chocolate glaze, so basically cream puffs.  Yes, you heard me right… there is a holiday in Iceland called Cream Puff Day! Just another reason why Iceland is my favorite place in the world.

It happens the Monday before lent, 6 weeks before Easter. The good/bad news, is that they are only available at this time of year, good for the diet but bad because they are so delicious. I feel very lucky to have been here to experience this tradition. At the beginning of this tradition, if the children woke up before their parents they would spank gthem with special bolludagur paddles and for each spank they would be given an extra bun. Of course this does not happen anymore, although it is one of the more whimsical Icelandic traditions I’ve learnt about so far!

You’re probably wondering what could make this tradition even more memorable… I say next Bolludagur, book yourself on a helicopter tour and eat this delicacy in the sky or up on a mountain summit.


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By: Kelsey Heide

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