ICELANDIC TOURIST BOARD                                                                              DATELINE JUNE 2008
You know that feeling you get this time of year when you realize you have all this extra energy and you just have to jumpupanddosomethingrightnow? Us too. That’s why Iceland is popping this summer. Spend your extra energy experiencing something new – maybe you want to see an art exhibit in a green power plant, suppose you want to spend some time with the elves, possibly you just want to party the day and the sunlit-night away in Reykjavik – we can make that happen. Read on for air deals and your first word on Europe’s newest and largest national park in this month’s Dateline.

START PLANNING YOUR AUGUST TRIP

August is a huge month for tourism in Iceland. Insomniacs will love the late sunset, the weather is as warm as it gets, and there are plenty of activities and discounts. For instance:

• Reykjavik Tourist Card – This handy discount card provides admission to all the thermal pools in the capital city, public transport, the National Museum, the Family Park and Zoo and many more attractions. Available in increments of 24, 48 or 72 hours, the card is sold at the Reykjavik Tourist Information Center and other selected outlets frequented by tourists. (For more information click here).

• Gay Pride, Aug. 7-10 – This colorful event brings thousands of people to the city center every year to show solidarity and have fun with the gay community in the capital city. (For more information: www.gaypride.is).

Reykjavik Cultural Night, Aug. 23 – The Cultural Night has become an essential part of cultural life in Iceland with more than a third of the nation’s population strolling the streets of Reykjavik. (For more information click here).

• Reykjavik Marathon, Aug. 23 – Coinciding with Cultural Night, this annual event involves thousands of participants from Iceland and abroad. Marathon proper, half marathon and a shorter fun-run are offered for runners. (For more information: www.marathon.is).

SCORE ONE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Iceland Creates Vatnajökull National Park — Europe’s largest national park While other countries may pave paradise to put up parking lots, Iceland wants to remain just as it is, thank you. Now comes word that Europe’s largest national park will be formally established early this summer. Vatnajökull National Park will be some 13,000 km2 in size, or roughly 13% of the area of Iceland. The national park will, at first, include the entire Vatnajökull glacier, as well as the chief areas affected by it. It will contain Iceland’s largest wilderness area, where the forces of volcanic fire, glacial ice, water, and wind create a majestic and fascinating landscape of stunning lava beds, sand flats, mountains, and glaciers. Many international environmental protection organizations have declared their staunch support of the establishment of this park.

The construction of four new visitor centers is planned by 2012, to accommodate an expected 30,000 - 42,000 additional visitors coming to enjoy the best Mother Nature has to offer. The number of intriguing sites within the national park area is practically limitless. Highlights include: Vatnajökull – Vatnajökull is more than 8,000 km² in size and is by far Iceland’s largest glacier. A large part of the glacier lies in an active volcanic zone.

Jökulsá á Fjöllum – This is the second-longest river in Iceland and the one with the largest river basin. It is host to Selfoss, Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss, and Réttarfoss waterfalls. Dettifoss is considered the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Ódáðahraun – In the Ódáðahraun area are barren lava expanses, desert sands, and vast clusters of mountains. Skaftafell – This area boasts the biggest valley glacier, the most extensive sand flats, and more fertile ground and varied vegetation than most other areas in the country. For more info click here. (To view a map of the new park, click here.)

THE POWER OF ART

Iceland has so many waterfalls – 10,000 at last count – that some aren’t even named. And around many of the largest waterfalls are power plants because, well, when you’re swimming in waterfalls, making electricity from water power makes a whole lot of sense and helps get you into National Geographic magazine.

Landsvirkjun (the Iceland Power Authority) uses these hydroelectric plants to put their best foot forward. Many are open to tours by local schoolchildren and visiting tourists, whether located on the outskirts of cities or deep in the interior. They are spotless, high tech and, with huge generating rooms and giant silver pipes carrying water this way and that, look like the set of a James Bond movie.

Each summer, Landsvirkjun opens five power stations to travelers from June until the end of August for art exhibits and concerts.

For instance, in the northcentral part of the country - which even Icelanders consider the middle of nowhere – is one of the country’s most interesting tourist exhibitions. The Lax Station features works by sculptor Hallsteinn Sigurdsson based on the Nordic gods. The sculptures are arranged in the facility’s eerie tunnels and vaults.

Closer to Reykjavik, Ljósafoss Station has two exhibition halls, one for the Landsvirkjun art collection, the other for educational displays that explain how they manage to run the lights and keep the Reykjavik espresso machines steaming thanks to clean hydroelectric energy.

(For more information: Call +354 515 9000, e-mail landsvirkjun@lv.is or log onto www.lv.is).

TAKE A BREAK WITH SOME ELVES

Only 15 minutes south of Reykjavik is the warm-hearted town in the lava fields called Hafnarfjordur, which has been an Icelandic port since the 1300s. It’s the country’s third-largest town, with just over 25,000 residents, give or take a few thousand elves and hidden people said to live in the lava cliffs and rocks. Museums and galleries turn the spotlight on history, music and visual arts. Self-guided or guided Hidden World tours are also available. (For more information and to download the Take a Break brochure with a full page of discount coupons, log onto www.hafnarfjordur.is).

ROAD TRIIIIIIIP

The Great Canadian Travel Company is offering an eight-day car rental with unlimited mileage, one-way airport transfer, one night in Reykjavik, seven nights’ lodging along the Ring Road around the island, and breakfasts. The rate from June 16-Aug. 19 is $1,439 pp double occupancy for private rooms with shared bathrooms. The airfare is not included. You must mention Budget Travel magazine when booking. (For more information: 866 949 0131, www.greatcanadiantravel.com).

They Said It

Taking the Rough Out of Roughing It – “Until recently, there were no tempting hotel options outside Reykjavik, so outdoorsmen either had to backtrack to the capital or rough it in the countryside. Now the Hotel Ranga, in southern Hella, is changing all that. A log cabin made entirely of imported pine, the Ranga (www.hotelranga.is) has 39 cozy rooms, all with out-of-this-world views.

“The new wing of the building can be taken over, as it was by members of the Rockefeller clan on a recent visit. Seven additional master suites and a spa are in the works, as is a helipad so that clients can easily chopper into the country's rugged interior. Avid fishermen should book now for salmon season, as the Ranga is right by the East-Ranga salmon river, one of the world's best (its bounty draws the likes of Eric Clapton every year).”

– Indagare.com, the luxury travel Web site

Mineral Springs Rise to the Top – That’s our very own Blue Lagoon on the cover of a special section in the June issue of Conde Nast Traveler. Writer Paul French tests the waters, “I’m easing into Iceland’s Blue Lagoon: Bathtub-warm and odor-free geothermal seawater fills a large pool lined with black lava. Last year, 400,000 bathers took similar restorative dips in these mineral-rich waters – an all-time record. Mineral-spring spas are getting hot again.”

Silver Lining – “The krona has fallen by 27 percent against the dollar since November, no small feat given the dollar’s own nose dive. The krona’s downfall has a silver lining for American tourists contemplating summer jaunts to Iceland. At least there’s somewhere in Europe where dollars buy more than they did last year.”

– Marcus Walker, Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2008

Cheaper Than Ever – “Yes, the Euro is so expensive at the moment that many travelers opt to stay in their home country. But don't forget about that one place that is now cheaper than ever: Iceland with its beautiful capital Reykjavik. “Last fall, travelers were able to get just around ISK 60 for 1 US Dollar - now they get around ISK 80, almost 50% more money. … “Now that Iceland is cheaper than ever, skip the trip to the European continent and instead check out Iceland, the current travel secret for anyone wanting a cheaper trip!”

– Terry Mapes, About.com, May 27, 2008

Free as a Bird – Frankly speaking, “bargain” isn’t a word associated with Iceland. In a May 3-4 Wall Street Journal story on travel costs around the world, Olof Yrr Atladottir, general director of the Icelandic Tourist Board (and our boss), concedes that there’s nothing cheap for international tourists visiting the country. Except, she quickly adds, Iceland’s spectacular landscape of volcanoes, geysers, glaciers and raging rivers. “Everything in nature is free.” (Hey Olof: now that we mentioned you in Dateline, can we have a day off?)

Now that's the way (Uh-Huh, uh-huh), We like It (Uh-Huh, uh-huh) – Anthony Zimmern, the former chef who is star of his own cable TV show called Bizarre Foods, now makes a living dining on unimaginable food. Think cow vein stew, donkey skin and freeze-dried rotten potatoes (which actually don’t sound too bad in a pinch). According to the May 9 issue of USA Today, Iceland’s hakarl – rotten shark – is a delicacy he puts into the “putrefied” food group. Still, we’d eat that before we’d touch some of the other belly bombs that pass his lips, like Vietnamese fried sparrows, or Samoan roasted bat. Weird is obviously quite relative.


Travel Deals of the Month

Visit the “Jules” of Iceland

Drawing attention to the exotic Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Jules Verne's science fiction novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, takes place in beautiful Western Iceland. The area contains Snaefellsjokull, the volcano glacier, which Verne speculated was the trailhead leading straight to the Earth's core. This summer, the tale comes to life on the big screen with Journey To The Center Of The Earth - in theatres July 11, 2008.

Icelandair is proud to offer two new tours centrally focused on the real-life places depicted in this classic story:

Exclusive West Iceland Bus Adventure - A two-night tour around the peninsula national park and a guided walk in the vicinity of Snaefellsjokull. Visitors will see the area's amazing volcanic geology and history, including the stone structure honoring Bardar Snaefellsas, the Viking shaman who sensed the innate energy and power said to radiate from the glacier.

Departures through Sep. 12, 2008. Two nights in Iceland from $955* pp dbl. For more information, please click here.

Exclusive West Iceland Jeep Adventure – Travelers with a more adventurous spirit may take a three-night "Super Jeep" tour of Western Iceland, starting with a relaxing dip in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon and some time to enjoy the unusual setting of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Other stops include Skalholt, an ancient bishopric site where many of Iceland's Viking Sagas were transcribed; Gullfoss, a double ledge waterfall that many believe is the nation's most beautiful; Geysir, the namesake of all geysers; and Thingvellir, the site of the original Icelandic parliament from more than 1,000 years ago.

Wake up to tour the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, a landscape that displays so many of the geological features that make Iceland famous. You can also explore Arnarstapi at the foot of Snaefellsjokull Glacier, the fabled entrance to the "center" of the Earth.

With Friday departures, Jun 6 - Sept 12, 2008 from $2,755* pp dbl. For more information, please click here.

*Prices quoted are exclusive of applicable taxes and official charges by destination of approximately $100-$270, per person including the Sept. 11th Security Fee.


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