ICELANDIC TOURIST BOARD                                                                         DATELINE JANUARY 2009

It’s January, it’s dark out. Believe us, we know. We’re up here by the Arctic Circle, sometimes wishing it was the Tropic of Capricorn instead (Google it). So what are you going to do? Here’s an idea: go snowmobiling, visit three of Europe’s largest glaciers, party all night long, swim outdoors in naturally heated pools, go horseback riding, eat the freshest seafood caught in the world’s cleanest water, downhill or cross-country ski just an hour from Reykjavik, and don’t forget the northern lights. Be ready to be wowed. Under a night sky illuminated bright enough to read a newspaper, become spellbound as spiking, sheeting and curtaining displays of the aurora borealis dance overhead.

Now’s the time, Iceland is the place less than five hours from New York or Boston. This winter we’ve got lower “prices for the crisis” – a silver lining for visitors. Last year for one dollar we gave you 65 kronur. Now you get about 122 kronur per dollar to spend on one of the most memorable three or four day (or more) get-aways you’ll ever take. But don’t take our word for it, read what our friend Peter has to say …

PETER GREENBERG PICKS ICELAND

Emmy award-winning writer and producer, Peter Greenberg, travel editor for NBC’s Today Show, CNBC and MSNBC, a best-selling author and host of the nationally syndicated Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio Show, knows a thing or two about where to spend your travel dollar. On New Year’s Day, during a Today Show segment about New Year’s Travel Resolutions with Al Roker, Iceland was Greenberg’s number two choice for travel in 2009, next to Mexico. Believing there’s a much better welcome mat out for Americans overseas with the coming new U.S. administration, he considers Iceland a great travel bargain (and, we might add, less chance of suffering from Montezuma’s Revenge). See the segment at: http://www.petergreenberg.com/2009/01/01/todays-travel-resolutions-for-2009/

WINTER HIBERNATION IS OVER: TIME TO WAKE UP AND PARTY

The Winter Lights Festival, Feb. 13-14 in Reykjavik, attempts each year to revive the city at the end of the long, dark winter months. Mixing an exciting program of art, sport, culture, history and work, the festival is a popular event with both locals and visitors. Many of Reykjavik's art establishments, clubs, galleries and associations join in the fun with events, performances, exhibitions and parties taking place in various venues. (For more information: www.visitreykjavik.is).

IT’S ICE BAR, NOT ICE HOTEL

We’d love to have a krona, even a devalued one, for every time someone asks us about the Ice Hotel in Iceland. Sheesh. Well, to set the record straight, we’ve got “ice” in our name, but no Ice Hotel. Who’d want to sleep on an ice cube mattress anyway? We’ll leave that to much hardier folks in Sweden and Quebec. For purely drinking purposes, we much prefer an Ice Bar. In fact, the coolest bar in Reykjavik is a converted food freezer at the Restaurant Kaffi Reykjavik which is kept at a nippy 14 to 21 degrees F. You buy a drink, they give you an insulated throw and fuzzy blanket, and you chill out. It’s a particularly memorable experience after eating at the restaurant’s famed Fish Buffet, served everyday from 6 p.m. (For more information: www.kaffireykjavik.is).

THE FIRST BLOGGERS

Think blogging is anything new? We’ve been blogging for over 1,000 years, except we call them sagas and used quills and calfskin. One place to learn about these traditional stories passed down from generation to generation is at the aptly named Saga Center in Hvolsvollur, Southern Iceland. This educational exhibit is like walking through the pages of a well-written textbook, according to the Frommers’ Iceland guidebook. Information panels, illustrations and mannequins like this cool dude with the bad haircut explain the historical context and literary significance of Iceland’s ancient stories. It’s open from May 15 through August, and Saturdays and Sundays in winter. For a private tour during the off season, call in advance. (For more information: www.njala.is).

VISIT AN ICELANDIC GLACIER

Despite the shorter days, we like to get out sometime. No visit to the country would be complete without experiencing a glacier, Icelandic-style. Eleven percent of the country is covered by glaciers and since 62 percent of Iceland is uninhabited, you’ll be in awe of how vast these permanent ice fields can be. The most accessible glacier in the country is Myrdalsjokull, just two hours by car from Reykjavik. Arcanum Adventure Tours will take you to the snow in these giant bright red 22-passenger motor transports where you can experience cross-country skiing or snowmobiling.

The guides even provide all the clothing and equipment you’ll need – protective overalls, boots, gloves and helmets, so no lugging these from home. Tours are available from February through November, weather permitting, from Andrina Erlingsdottir, who calls herself “Tour Guide Extraordinaire.” If you ask us, anyone who can drive a monster vehicle like that gets the “extraordinaire” title from us as well. (For more information log onto the most creative Web site address in Iceland: www.snow.is)

THEY SAID IT

“One result of Iceland's crisis: the krona's incredible devaluation, from 65 to the dollar a year ago to about 135. A wiener from the famed Baejarins Beztu hot dog stand used to cost $4.50; it's now $2.”

“Still, the night life in Reykjavik is legendary, and for a reason: The dancing, drinking, laughing and flirting last all night, with the dance floors getting so crowded that the only way to move is to shove. (Don't worry about being rude; everyone does it.) Add Iceland's inventive DJs, candy-flavored vodkas and friendly locals, and it's no wonder winter visitors welcome a midday sunrise on Saturday and Sunday.

Christina Talcott, Washington Post, Jan. 4, 2009

“The capital's reputation for a marathon nightlife is no myth, as we found out with a fourth-floor window overlooking pubs and clubs. Fun 'til 4 or 5 a.m. is routine on the weekends. Loud fun.”

“Even though the name Iceland sends shivers, we were told Reykjavik in December felt much like it did in New York at the same time, and that proved to be true. It has an intoxicating beauty – just like its intoxicating nightlife – and for a U.S. resident is as easy as the trip from one coast to the next.”

David Bauder, The Associated Press, Jan. 5, 2009


TRAVEL DEALS OF THE MONTH

Winter Budget Getaway

That's right, the Iceland Budget Getaway is now on sale for travel through April 2009. This great package includes roundtrip airfare from either Boston or New York-JFK, two nights hotel at either the FossHotel Lind or FossHotel Baron, both three-star hotels, and Scandinavian breakfast each morning after arrival day. Don’t forget to try the trendy new Shabu (Mongolian hot pot) cuisine at the new Grytan Restaurant if you stay at the Baron.

From $479* per person based on double occupancy. Must book by Feb. 13. For more information, click here.

Winter Wellness Getaway

It's time to slow down and get back into balance. Revive yourself with a visit to Reykjavik, with its clean and crisp air, geothermal pools and dynamic people. Relax and recharge your body and soul and at the same time allow yourself to enjoy the spectacular nature Iceland has to offer. Stay at the Hotel Loftleidir, which offers access to an indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. The Loftleidir is also the only hotel in Iceland offering traditional Chinese foot massages. Guests of the hotel receive 10% discount off of treatments.

From $699* per person based on double occupancy. Departures: Now through Mar. 31, 2009. For more information, click here.

Hilton Reykjavik Nordica Spring Getaway

Book by Jan. 31, 2009 and save over $500 per person off regular package rates with this special three-night package to Iceland. Enjoy the increasing daylight and the beginning of spring activities like whale watching, bird watching, and amazing outdoor adventures. Accommodations are at the ultra modern Hilton Reykjavik Nordica Hotel, an 8 minute drive or 20-minute walk from the center of the city. What’s more, just across the street is one of the city’s largest parks, perfect for a morning jog.

From $845* per person based on double occupancy.
Departures: Apr. 1 – Jun. 13, 2009
For more information, 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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