Hello darkness my old friend…
Although the end of December starts to usher in more daylight for Icelanders, January remains treacherously dark. Many visitors to the country often wonder how locals cope with the seemingly endless darkness that encompasses the island each winter.
That is why we’ve compiled a short list of how best deal with this seasonal absence of light. See our suggestions below:
1. Take Lýsi, the Cure All Fish Oil
The prevailing thought in Iceland is that if you experience any pain or darkness-induced lethargy, you simply have not taken enough cod liver oil or Lýsi.
In the dark of winter, the wondrous effects of Lýsi range from combating the depression that comes from going to work and coming home in darkness to overall general health. A single dose of these near flavourless gel capsules meets the World Health Organisation’s recommended daily intake for Omega 3 fatty acids, and they are also packed with Vitamin A and D.
But how much to take? “Simply take more,” urges Sveinn, my Icelandic friend and a firm believer in the health benefits of fish oil. When questioned as to my own intake, I had answered that, yes, I am taking five capsules, but my shoulder still aches. My ability to combat the winter blues, however, has come on tenfold.
2. Light Everything
Banish the gathering darkness with fairy lights, fireworks, candles and lamps! Yes, the Last Day of Christmas (Þrettándinn) has come and gone, but it seems the local council are still reluctant to put Reykjavik’s inner-city decorations away. And who can blame them when the glitter and brilliance add so much happiness to an otherwise dreary day?
Þrettándinn is also the reason why fireworks punctuate the skies days after New Year. Let’s face it, there is nothing like basking in that warm glow of potassium nitrate to get you through the night.
Now that the fireworks are over though, candles and sun lamps will have to suffice until the end of the year when celebrations begin again. That is, of course, until the Northern Lights grace us with an appearance.
Eat, drink and be merry! The mid-winter festival Þorrablót is a tradition from a pagan past, and is now a celebration of unusual delicacies like boiled sheep’s head, fermented shark and cured ram’s testicles.
A great many festival feasts involve curing with lactic acid or fermenting and drying, to harken back to a time without glorious refrigeration.
Still hungry? Quench that hunger with our article Food in Iceland | An Introduction to Icelandic Cuisine
Rye bread and smoked meats are nice entry points for trying this sort of food. Wash it all down with Black Death (Brennvín), an Icelandic schnapps made from potato and caraway. After a few shots of this, do not be surprised if locals burst into loud song at the dinner table.
You do not need to have Icelandic connections to partake. Join a food walk today to discover Iceland’s unique culinary scene for yourself.
4. Soak off the Sadness
It is known that Icelanders love their hot tubs. Sinking into a lovely warm tub, your beverage freezing at the pool’s edge, is a special kind of luxury. So rest and relax: let all the bad emotions, be they anxiety or seasonal depression, fall off you like dead winter leaves.
Wondering about swimming on your holiday? See Swimming Pool Etiquette in Iceland.
Of course, the most famous spot for a tranquil dip is the Blue Lagoon Spa, one of the top attractions in Iceland. The spa is found on the volcanic Reykjanes Peninsula, only fifteen minutes from the airport, and provides an ethereal ambience of billowing steam, azure waters and gorgeous surrounding scenery.
If, however, you are looking for an alternative to the Blue Lagoon, then pack a swimsuit and head on over to the nation’s newest geothermal bath resort, Krauma, where you can bathe in steam, scented oils, or water from a glacier. Ah, bliss!