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Place of the Week - Dimmuborgir home of the Icelandic Yule Lads

The Icelandic Yule Lads are the 13 sons of Grýla and Leppalúði, vicious trolls that live in in the Mývatn area in north Iceland.

Grýla is ancient - her name is even mentioned in Snorri Sturluson´s thirteenth century Edda.Grýla and Leppalúði brought up their thirteen sons, the Yule Lads by Lake Myvatn. As the lads grew up they wanted a place of their own and Dimmuborgir was the perfect place for them to settle down.

An old legend in Iceland is, that 13 days prior to Christmas the Yule Lads start coming down from the mountain, one each night.

Children in Iceland place their best shoe on their windowsill before going to bed and each night a little gift is left in it from the Yule Lad that came down from the mountain that night. If the child has been misbehaving, there might be a raw potato left instead.

In December the Icelandic Yule Lads welcome guests to visit them in Dimmuborgir in Mývatn everyday between 1 pm and 3 pm. Every year the Yule Lads go in their annual bath in the Mývatn Naturebath where guests can join them and have some fun. Some of the Yule Lads are not happy with this tradition, because they don´t like the water. The bath takes place two weeks before Christmas.

More information about the Yule Lads can be found on the webpage visitmyvatn.is

Place of the week – Friðheimar in South Iceland

Friðheimar is very much a family affair, run by Knútur Rafn Ármann and his wife Helena Hermundardóttir and five children.

At Friðheimar, they grow tomatoes all year round, despite Iceland’s long, dark winters, under artificial lighting in greenhouses. They welcome visitors to see their greenhouses, and then enjoy a taste of the crop. You can take delicious food souvenirs away with you, made of tomatoes and cucumbers.

There is a lovely restaurant in the greenhouse open all year serving food made from tomatoes.

At Friðheimarthey they also breed horses, and put on a horse show – in fourteen different languages.

Friðheimar is in Reykholt, South Iceland by road 35 on the Golden Circle route, only 95 km from Reykjavík. See the webpage fridheimar.is

Place of the week - The Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes

The Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, West Iceland, is the place of the week. The centre reveals Egils Saga and the Settlement Saga in an entertaining and simple way by leading the visitor into the adventure world of the sagas by audio guides in 14 different languages.

The Egils Saga exhibition describes one of the most colourful of all the saga characters, Egill the son of Skalla-Grimur. Egill was a great poet but also a viking and ribald abroad. The story intertwines battles and love affairs, sorcery and pagan lore.

The Settlement exhibition portrays the first men who set foot in Iceland and how the country was settled up until the Althingi parliament was founded in the year 930. By using the modern technology of multi-media and theatre an attempt is made to give the visitor a sense of how it must have been to set foot in unsettled territory.

The Icelandic Settlement Centre is open all year, for further information see settlementcentre.is

Place of the week - Sunset in Reykjavík

Place of the week this time is sunset in Reykjavík.

The sky over Reykjavík has been unusually beautiful for the past few days.

Daylight in Iceland is only about 7 hours theese days, and will be down to 4 hours in December.

Photo: Óttar Sveinsson.

Place of the week - Northern Lights all over Iceland

The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) are visible in Iceland from September until April. The best time in the day to see them is around 9 pm till 2 am. There is a strong connection between the solar winds and the Northern Lights. The lights are caused by the speed of the solar winds, and the direction and magnitude of their magnetic fields.

Many tour operators in Iceland offer mystery evening tours "to hunt for the Northern Lights". The Northern Lights can only be seen on a clear night.

Photo; South Iceland Marketing Office, Pétursey in South Icaland

Place of the Week - Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavík

The music festival Iceland Airwaves will take place in Reykjavík November 5 - 9. It was first held in 1999 and has become one of the premier annual showcases for new music – Icelandic and otherwise – in the world. Some of the world’s most exciting artists have performed there, too. The Shins, The Rapture, TV On The Radio, Florence and the Machine and Fatboy Slim. Including Icelandic bands such as Björk, Sigur Rós, FM Belfast, GusGus, múm, Of Monsters and Men.

Iceland Airwaves is more than just music. Reykjavík is quite possibly the perfect festival city – small enough to be welcoming, sophisticated enough to offer cultural, historical and nightlife diversions to rival cities ten times its size. Maybe twenty.

For further information see their web, icelandairwaves.is. Photo by Alexander Mitkhno of FM Belfast last year.

Place of the week - Mountains in West Iceland

This photo is taken from the ringroad no 1 up in Borgarfjörður, West Iceland.

The mountain to the right is Hraunsnefsöxl, below is the Hraunsnef travel service.

Baula is a 934 m rhyolite mountain in the middle. On the top there is a small rock shelter and the view from there is excellent in all directions. In a rock shelter is a guest book.

The crater, Grábrók, is to the right. There is a path leading to the top and the view is excellent.

Place of the week - Hvítserkur in North Iceland

Hvítserkur is a 15 m high basalt stack along the eastern shore of the Vatnsnes peninsula, in northwest Iceland, by road no 711.

The rock has two holes at the base, which give it the appearance of a dragon who is drinking. The base of the stack has been reinforced with concrete to protect its foundations from the sea.

Several species of birds, such as gulls and fulmars, live on at Hvítserkur and its name ("white shirt" in Icelandic) comes from the color of the guano deposited on its rocks.

Photo Bjarki Björgúlfsson

Place of the week - Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey Island

The Imagine Peace Tower is a memorial to John Lennon from his widow, Yoko Ono, located on Viðey Island near Reykjavík.

It consists of a tall tower of light, projected from a white stone monument that has the words "Imagine Peace" carved into it in 24 languages. These words, and the name of the tower, are a reference to Lennon's peace anthem "Imagine".

Buried underneath the light tower are upward of 500,000 written wishes that Ono gathered over the years in another project, called "Wish Trees". The tower lit every year from October 9th, Lennon's birthday, through December 8th, the date he died.

Yoko Ono said on the day of the inauguration (October 9th 2007) that the tower was the best thing that she and John had ever done. Photo Ragnar Th Sigurðsson

Place of the week - Látrabjarg - West Fjords

Látrabjarg is the westernmost point of Iceland (and Europe if Greenland and the Azores are not counted). It's the cliffs of all cliffs, a line of several cliffs, 14 kilometres long and up to 441 m high. And it’s as steep as it gets, dizzyingly so.

Safe from foxes, the birds are fearless, and provide stunning photographic opportunities from close range. The puffins are particularly tame and are the ones frequenting the grassy, higher part of the cliffs. But look out, the edges are fragile and loose and the fall is high.

Látrabjarg is the most visited tourist attraction in the Westfjords. The cliffs are easily accessible by car (road no 612) and when you’re there, a walk along the cliffs awaits.

The whirling sensation will not fade, and neither will the memories.

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