Lights fantastic: Iceland’s magical welcome

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Lights fantastic: Iceland’s magical welcome



Iceland imageGETTY


Northern Lights display

It’s a mysterious place where monsters lurk beneath the deep blue waters, time stops, mountains move and Mother Nature rules. It’s been home to Stefan Bogi Sveinsonn’s family for generations.

This, he says, is the real Iceland, how the rest of the country used to be. He greets us with a broad smile and Viking beard at Egilsstaðir airport on the east side of the Arctic island, an hour’s flight from Reykjavik.

Stefan doubles as a guide for the local tour company, Tanni Travel, when he’s not chairing the area’s curious “truth committee”. The myth-busting group was formed after one of the region’s ancient tales was feared to have come to life.


ReykjavikGETTY


Colourful Reykjavik

A monster, believed to be living in the depths of icy Lake Lagarfl jót, our first stop on the tour, had always been talked about, but never seen. That was until 2012, when farmer Hjörtur Kjerulf not only spotted it, but managed to film the large snake-like beast.

He promptly tried to scoop the town’s cash reward, which had gone untouched for years, for a sighting of the beast, sparking the formation of the truth committee to validate his claims. Two years later the farmer was awarded his prize and the area hit international headlines.

It sounds like a strange story from British hit TV series Fortitude. Not surprising as this is the area where the brilliantly spooky show is filmed.


FirtitudePH


Dennis Quaid in Fortitude

Hollywood stars Stanley Tucci and Dennis Quaid joined regular cast members including Richard Dormer and Sophie Grabol for the second series of the show. The B&B in Reydarfjoerdur was at the centre of Fortitude, along with their pub next door.

The family-run business not only provided the perfect backdrop but became the cast’s after-work hangout, with parties where Quaid played impromptu concerts. Reydarfjoerdur’s primary school will also seem familiar to visitors, with the classrooms providing the set for the show’s sinister research centre.

The nearby supermarket was turned into a crime scene for the series, an old fi sh factory became a hair and make-up studio and locals were roped in to play extras.

But deadly goings-on aside, there’s no question this is a part of the world that should be better known. The starkly-beautiful snow covered hills, the Northern Lights which dance above the coastal villages, the frozen rivers that snake through the valleys and the amazing glaciers are weird and incredibly wonderful.

Glistening While there were no marriages between villagers and the Fortitude cast that wasn’t the case with the area’s first invasion of Brits. In World War Two the tiny village of Reydarfjoerdur was home to 3,000 British troops who set up a hospital as an evacuation point for injured allied forces from Norway. Friendships were sparked between the two nations, and weddings between several soldiers and local women quickly followed.

Last year 1.8 million visitors landed in Iceland to lap up the Scandi culture, the gourmet food and extraordinary sights. Icelandic people are as warm as the country is cold, which is one of the reasons why Reykjavik is so popular with tourists Its multi-coloured houses and stunning architecture are as eyecatching as its glistening seafront. Its famous Blue Lagoon, a refuge from the country’s cold which can plunge as low as -25C, is one of Iceland’s biggest attractions.

A dip in the warm sulphur waters with a glass of bubbly in hand is an Instagramer’s paradise. The city is dotted by top-class eateries serving unusual delicacies.

We stopped at Grillmarkaðurinn for dinner, where the mousse-like butter and bread is served on a slab of Icelandic stone. Twist With offerings of grilled puffi n, mink whale steak and even horse tenderloin, the restaurant provides the perfect smorgasbord of Icelandic classics with a modern twist.

But the country’s delicious offerings do not come cheap, with most meals costing around £40 per person.

Iceland’s high prices do not stop many from soaking up the capital’s nightlife, with craft beer on tap and flowing locally distilled vodka. With the summer sun not fully setting in some parts of the country, tales from locals can be told over a pint long into the night.

Fortitude: The Complete Season 2 and Fortitude: The Complete Seasons 1 and 2, are available on Blu-ray and DVD on May 1. See here.

FACT FILE

GETTING THERE: Fly from Gatwick, Bristol or Edinburgh, to Reykjavik with Wow Air for £29.49. See wowair.co.uk. Air Iceland offers up to five flights daily from Reykjavík to Egilsstaðir in east Iceland. See airiceland.is

WHERE TO STAY: Rooms at Reykjavik’s Icelandair Hotel Marina start at £160. Book at icelandairhotels.com. Guesthouse Tærgesen in east Iceland offers twin rooms for £71 per a night. See taergesen.com For east Iceland tours with Tanni Travel see tannitravel.is

BLUE LAGOON: For tickets please bluelagoon.com

HARPA: For tour visit: en.harpa.is

LAKE HOTEL: For details on rooms visit lakehotel.is

For more information on holidays to Iceland the Promote Iceland website on inspiredbyiceland.com



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