Katlatrack Blog

Keeping Traditions Alive in Vik Iceland

Keeping Traditions Alive in Vik Iceland

Spring has come again to Vik Iceland which in turn means the days begin getting brighter and for longer, the swells of the sea get a tiny bit smaller, and the glacier begins to melt and open more for us to continue to hunt ice caves even more for you to come and explore.  Our team very much looks forward to bringing you to and guiding you through incredible ice caves this next season in our 4×4 super jeeps in Vik Iceland.

That said, I’d like to step away a bit from the glacier and adventure posts you typically come for and give you a little fun education on some of our traditions here in Vik Iceland.  There are two seasons the 300 people in this village of Vik look forward to… Spring is the time when new lambs are born and fall is a time the sheep come back down from grazing in the mountains and highlands.

Did you know, there are more sheep here in Iceland than double the population (which is roughly ~330,000 people as of when this Iceland adventure blog post was written).  Also, sheep have been the lifeline (like kept us alive and warm) of our tiny island in the North Atlantic for over 1,000 years.  Sooo… if you are an animal rights advocate, vegan, etc please do not read on if you are offended by that statement.

Allow me to explain the cycle of our sheep here in Vik Iceland…

  • Around December / Christmas time the ram’s are invited in to impregnate (by always the natural way here in Iceland, lol) the lady sheep’s (aka “Ewe’s”).
  • April begins our “Lambing” season which is a super exciting time here in Vik as it is a 24/7 operation of taking shifts as the Ewe’s give birth for the next several weeks.
  • The lambs come out ideally with their front legs and head first. It can be a shocking birthing process if you have not seen animal births before… Example, the lambs do not come out cute and cuddly, rather they are bloody, slimy, and often lay motionless (almost dead-looking) for a few minutes.  The worst case (which again why the Vik Iceland farmers are there 24/7 during this process) is when the farmer has to pick up the lamb by its legs and swing it around by it’s hind legs to jump start a breath.  The Ewe cleans the lambs by licking them and also to “bond.”
  • Typically the Ewe’s have 2 lambs but sometimes they have more (the country record is 7 per one Ewe). The Ewe only has 2 teats so if she has more than two it may be given away to another Ewe who had only 1 or the farmer may milk her and bottle feed the 3-4th lambs if needed.
  • The lambs can be born in all sorts of colors and combinations (mainly ivory, black or brown). They also have a short little tail that is way cuter than any other sheep you’ll see anywhere else in the world (I promise)!  The special name for the tail in Icelandic is called, “Dindill.”
  • Sheep are typically sheered twice a year for their wool. Their wool them gets spun into yarn which folks like the Iceland Hand Knitting Association then make into items to keep us all warm (like hats, gloves, sweaters, etc).
  • The sheep stay inside typically until the weather breaks in mid to late May. The farmers in Vik (Katlatrack, often helps them by towing up the trailers with our 4×4’s) then bring the sheep and lambs up and into the mountains to graze for the summer.  It’s believed that the lambs / sheep will taste better if they eat this better grass that is up in the mountains / highlands.
  • Note: Some farmers outside of Vik, keep their sheep down by the roads so as we said in our “Driving in Iceland” blog post, please be careful and beware of these guys running around if they get outside of the fence.
  • The sheep and their lambs stay there until around the weekend of September 14th

When the weekend of September 14th comes around each year, it as a special Icelandic name: Réttir.  This is our annual sheep round-up weekend.  This is one of our oldest traditions (and in my opinion one of the most fun) in Iceland.  Farmers invite their family, friends, and anyone else who wants to join them in rounding up the sheep from the mountains, highlands, canyons, and valleys where they have spent time enjoying and eating through the summer.  Folks head up to these areas for the weekend with the intention of getting all of the sheep back to the farm base by the weekends end.  It usually involves 4×4’s in Vik (we send our guys in who are not doing ice cave tours that weekend), lots of walking, sometimes sheep herding dogs, horses, ATV’s, etc.  Each evening the celebration continued further with Icelandic beers, Brennivin (aka Black Death), singing, dancing and story-telling.  It’s a really good weekend 😉

Following this epic weekend, the lambs then get sorted for slaughter.  So if visiting Iceland during this fall into winter time you will see lots of lamb on the menus, overflowing at super markets, “Blóðmör” (black pudding) and “Lifrapylsa” (liver sausage) around.  I encourage you to try it, to experience our culture at a very local level.

We hope today you have enjoyed the change of pace on our blog feature and learned a bit more about this tiny island in the North Atlantic.  Next time, we will be back with more Vik adventures and exploration for you to feast your eyes on!

Your Adventure Awaits,

Guðjon + Katlatrack Team

 

Visiting Vik Iceland Advice: Weather and Tours

Visiting Vik Iceland Advice: Weather and Tours

Icelandic people are hearty.  For years, they have been bred and born on this tiny island in the North Atlantic, hundreds and even thousands of miles away from other countries.  They have learned to self-sustain, use everything (no waste) and adapted tricks to ensure survival against the extreme weather conditions each season brings.  They have grown up in and are used to bad and stormy weather conditions.  They are not only raised in it, not only know how to handle themselves in it, but also how to encourage and prepare others to get through any sort of scary snow storms and windy storm weather conditions.

The weather in Iceland is the most unpredictable (some may even say volatile) you will ever encounter while traveling, anywhere.  Specifically in Vik Iceland, the landscape is so diverse, which is what creates those amazing natural wonders in the first place, is actually that extreme weather.  Iceland is the land of fire and ice for a reason after all!  We often have wind storms, sandstorms, snow storms, hail/sleet even in summer and Vik is on average one of the more rainy parts of Iceland.

That said, our 4×4 Super Jeep adventure tours in Vik Iceland operate rain or shine.  Because honestly, if we only did tours in perfect weather (IE, sunshine and light winds) we would not be able to share these amazing, unique local areas with anyone!  And that would be such a shame because our adventurous locations outside of Vik allow you to experience the untouched pure (non-touristy) side of Iceland which very few actually get to experience.  So don’t worry if the weather is bad on your scheduled adventure tour with us, because our team is more than capable on how to handle it and keep you safe all the way through it.  Today we would like to walk you through what that means when you book an experience with Katlatrack Adventure Tours in Vik Iceland, no matter the weather.

When bad weather comes during a scheduled 4×4 super jeep tour in Vik Iceland, we embrace it!  Why?  Because our guests will get a very real Icelandic experience.  Our team is also very skilfull in handling themselves through it to ensure your safety at hand is #1.  We prepare in advance and have an advantage over other adventure tour companies.  You might be curious to how?  Allow me to elaborate below:

Experienced Super Jeep Drivers:

All of our Katlatrack super jeep guides are thoroughly experienced drivers in all vehicle types and in all conditions.  They all must have a specific commercial driving license and be trained up to our standards in maneuverability.  Driving through snow and heavy rains becomes an art-form.  And by training… I don’t just mean being able to drive the super jeep itself, I rather mean we go out and drive in blizzards, wind storms, etc to ensure they are able to handle it all.  So from crossing mountain passes or driving through rivers or storms, our team is fully trained and experienced.

Navigation:

During storms and heavy fog in Vik Iceland, one can often become disorientated if tracks are not tried and true beforehand.  Our top of the line geographical highland navigation system helps our guides adventure through all conditions clearly and accurately.  This not only ensures your safety in the 4×4 super jeep but also the safety of the landscape (IE, remember from our Driving in Iceland post, off road driving is illegal).

Local Knowledge of Vik Iceland:

Being based in Vik Iceland, our guides have a local knowledge of the area that is superior.  We have been doing tours specifically in Vik Iceland professionally since 2009.  This gives us an overall advantage to know and understand how the rivers behave, what it means when winds are coming from a specific direction or when they are at their strongest and when tide levels are high or change.  Also, we visit the glacier everyday and see and feel the changes that happen, which allow for us to make judgement calls on what is safe and not for our group (or what gear is needed to safely venture in) to explore during an ice cave tour for example.

First Aid Trained:

If worst case, something were to happen during one of our Vik Iceland Adventure Tours or during an Ice Cave Tour, please remain worry free, as each Katlatrack team member is trained in first aid and can carefully work through any type of situation that may arise.  We are also skilled in keeping situations calm.

Although, some people may get scared/worried/stressed when the weather turns bad on an adventure tour at the glacier, rest assured our team is experienced and ready for you!

Until next time,

Guðjon + Katlatrack Team

© 2017, Katlatrack, All Rights Reserved.

Best Winter Tours in Vik Iceland

Best Winter Tours in Vik Iceland

Winter has officially come to Iceland!  Although the daylight hours are limited, the adventure level still runs high during those hours.  And believe us, we utilize every single second for your adventure when you come to Vik Iceland for our 4×4 tour!  As you have likely already figured out, the South of Iceland is the richest of landscape diversity.  Every 5 minutes, your eyes will be overwhelmed by a stunning waterfall, beautifully shaped mountain, unique rock formation, or glaciers in the distance.

So when you start thinking about winter in Vik Iceland… What kind of tours get you the most excited?  Today we would love to introduce you to the incredible things to do during winter time here in Iceland (and also bust any myths that you might think are available or easy accessed)!

Ice Cave Tour in Vik Iceland

This might be our favorite type of tour during this time of year because every year new ice caves are formed (because our glaciers are receding each year, not growing in length).  The really amazing thing about our secret glacier area, is that there are multiple layers to the glacier so you see years of history coming out of the glacier.  How exciting is that?  You’ll feel like you’re part of Icelandic history!

You will witness black ice (from years of the black desert sand hitting it and freezing), you see pure white/clear ice (once the sand washes off) and the glimmer of blue ice (which is light reflecting).  Our ice caves in Vik Iceland are many times not the glorious “blue ice” caves you see in the typical photos, but they offer more charm, history, and seclusion.

The ice caves our Vik Iceland based Katlatrack team will take you to offer a more private feel.  We commit to not taking in large groups in to journey to the ice caves (whereas our competition in other ice cave areas will take in 30-50+ people at time) so you have a more intimate moment with the subglacial volcano.  It’s our mission to provide the most memorable and intimate experience you have when you come to visit Iceland.  So during our Ice Cave Tour in Vik Iceland, you will interact with a local guide educating you the home-grown geology, folklore stories, safety brief, and an unbelievable adventure into a natural ice cave!

Plus, our team is continuously scouting for new ice caves around our glacier so often times during our tours, we may see more than one!  The ice caves may vary in size, texture and tone, but they will leave you impressed and totally connected with Vik Iceland for the rest of your lives!  Feel free to grab a seat on one of our Ice Cave tours in Vik Iceland, HERE.

Super Jeep 4×4 Tour in Vik Iceland

There is something really unforgettable about buzzing through snow in a 4×4 super jeep!  You feel like a total badass, free, and a little high on adrenaline!  So if you take our advice from our previous post of splurging on an extraordinary Offbeat Tour in Vik Iceland, you’ll never regret it!  You’ll be able to go home and know you saw areas of Iceland the majority of the locales haven’t even seen! Think: Hidden caves, a subglacial volcano (say what?!), tops of incredible mountains, and landscapes you’ve only seen in movies!  Our “Under the Volcano” 4×4 super jeep tour from Vik Iceland would be a fantastic fit for you if you find yourself looking for just that!  Feel free to grab a seat on the tour, HERE.

Frozen Waterfall Hunting in Iceland

Waterfalls are one of the most amazing natural wonder features we have in Iceland.  And I’m proud to say that Southern Iceland is gushing with them!  In winter, they sometimes freeze partially or fully making it a really unique photo opportunity!  Fun Fact: Iceland is an island that boasts over 6,000 waterfalls and only 3,000 of them have names!  Can you imagine find a secret frozen waterfall with us and giving it a name you create!?  We would love to take you on a custom private waterfall hunting adventure.  Feel free to contact us HERE to find out more information on a custom winter 4×4 tour in Vik Iceland.

Caving in Vik Iceland

There are countless unique natural caves in Iceland that have been created by lava flow, glaciers receding, or the ocean retreating.  During winter, they may need to be dug out a tiny bit, but that only adds to the adventure level, right?!  We would love to put together a custom tour for you to experience some of Iceland’s natural caves.  Contact us HERE for more information.

Game of Thrones Tours in Vik Iceland

Countless films and television shows have been filmed in Iceland and specifically the Southern part.  In our local area of Vik Iceland there are many locations where Game of Thrones and several of the Star Wars movies were filmed.  If you’re a fan, seeing the area in wintertime is quite the treat!  Feel free to book one of our Custom Tours to delight in that once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Snowmobiling in Iceland

During wintertime in Iceland, there is an endless list of company’s doing snowmobiling tours.  It can be a fun way to ride around on the landscape!  Although we prefer to stay warm and cozy in our super jeeps, we understand some of you may love the wind blowing on your face!

Dog Sledding

This is one of the biggest myths about Icelandic wintertime I would like to “bust.”  We are not a culture that ever required sleigh dogs.  We only use our dogs for herding sheep.  Many people assume since we are a Nordic country, dog sledding is part of our culture, but it’s not.  There is only one company in the entire island doing dog sledding tours in Iceland.  More often than not also if there is not a enough snow, they have the dogs run you on a wheeled sleigh, so it is NOT the traditional dog sledding experience I am sure you were hoping for.  That said, we encourage you to do dog sledding tours in Greenland or Lapland =)

 

Northern Lights Hunting in Vik Iceland

Hunting for Northern Lights can sometimes be a daunting task… Why? Because it’s unpredictable.  So booking a ticket to Iceland during our “Northern Lights” season (which is typically between October-March) does not guarantee you will see them, sorry!  There are several variables in play here like the weather (it needs to be cold and a clear night), the sun (it needs to have emitted solar flares a day or two before) and the amount of nearby light (you want it to be DARK, no light pollution).  But if you have several days to commit to the challenge your chances of seeing increase!

Glacier Walking / Ice Climbing

Hearing the crampons click onto the ice is one of my favorite sounds.  It’s empowering and you’re one with the glacier all at the time same time.  By coming onto the glacier (either by walking or ice climbing) you’re able to experience a viewpoint that is not only unique, but gives you perspective.  More often than not you’ll leave the glacier feeling accomplished and inspired.  We offer these tours by custom booking only, based on skill level and availability.  Feel free to contact us HERE for more information on glacier walking / climbing in Vik Iceland.

So what Winter Tour will you choose in Vik Iceland?  So many exciting options!  Or if you choose to journey on your own to the tourist locations in Vik, please make sure you go back and read our wonderful blog post, “Driving in Iceland” for tips to keep you safe.  We look forward to seeing you on one of our Adventure Tours in Vik Iceland!

Until next time,

Guðjon + Katlatrack Team

© 2017, Katlatrack, All Rights Reserved.

Fact versus Fiction: Iceland Offbeat Tours

Fact versus Fiction: Iceland Offbeat Tours

Since 2009 our team at Katlatrack has been handcrafting offbeat tours in Southern Iceland.  It is extremely important to us for you (and your group) to appreciate the non-touristy side of Iceland and go home with an unforgettable EXPERIENCE.  So today we would like to educate you on some Facts versus Fiction in regard to Iceland Tours and Locations.

< FACT >

There is a HUGE difference between booking a tour (or self-driving) to the mainstream locations which will be flooded with 100’s of tourists VERSUS exploring one of our unique locations.

< FACT >

We want you to walk away from our 4×4 super jeep tours in Vik Iceland with an overwhelming feeling of “I just discovered this place” for the very first time and that this place only exists for you right now.  It’s a feeling of almost as if time stops.

< FICTION >

You are going to be alone at the typical tourist locations like: Reynsfjara Black Sand Beach, Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Thingvellir, Gullfoss, Kerid, etc.

With tourism now being at an all-time high and the majority of visitors using Photoshop and editing programs to “edit people out” of photos they post of their travels, it’s heartbreaking when you show up and you’re not alone.  But really, when you show up at your favorite Blogger or Instagramers spot, often you will be greeted with a scene like this at Iceland’s many tourist locations (many 50-person buses and hundreds of people):

< FACT >

Whereas, with our offbeat Iceland tours you may not even see the random hiker, horseback rider, or local small group or explorers!

 

 

 

 

 < FICTION >

You need a super jeep to drive the famed “Golden Circle” route.

Noway – No need!  Self-drive that route (see HERE) and save your dollars for an exclusive tour with a local guide Katlatrack in Vik Iceland!

 

 

 

 

 

< FICTION >

There are always volcanos erupting in Iceland.

Sorry guys, at the time of writing this blog post, it has been over 2 years since our last eruption (and before then over 4 years).  Although we are a volcanic island, we do not have volcanos erupting constantly like Hawaii, etc.

But what we do have are overdue ones, some amazing subglacial volcanos with epic amounts of ICE and a good folklore story to match… And natural caves that were formed from glaciers receding or old lava flow.  Come along with us for one of our Vik Iceland super jeep tours to discover this!

< FACT >

The key differences between our Super Jeep Tours and others in Iceland are things such as the following:

  • The Experience: We are truly local to Vik Iceland.
  • Level of Attention to Detail… We care about you!
  • The amount of people you will see on our tours. Often, you will not run into many people during our tour stops / locations.
  • Our super jeep team asks for special permission to take you to these offbeat locations.
  • We offer background / history on the locations (and sometimes a neat folklore story too!)
  • Whatever the weather we can devise our best options for “plan a” or “plan b” options if booking a private custom tour.
  • The Katlatrack team have your safety in mind always.
  • Every single guide working with Katlatrack are respectful and considerate to the Icelandic nature.  We are firm believers in leaving the area better than when we arrived and only taking memories.

 

Your Adventure Awaits You,

Guðjon + Katlatrack Team

 

Vik Iceland Adventure Tours: Lunch Options

Vik Iceland Adventure Tours: Lunch Options

When you’re out adventuring in Iceland, it’s nice to have options for lunch than just delighting in random bad-for-you snacks from a gas station…  Imagine pulling up to a natural cave and exploring around while lunch is being prepared for you!  During our private tours from Vik Iceland, we are happy to add on a custom lunch option for you and your group.

So what could that be?

Option 1:

Packed lunches (sandwich, skyr, fruit, chocolate, and water).

Option 2:

There are not many things more traditional to Icelanders then a Pylsur (hot dog) and a Coke.  Think: A tasty lamb hot hog, on a warm grilled bun topped with crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard (called Pylsusinnep), and Remúlaði (kinda tastes like American potato salad).  Tell me your mouth isn’t watering just thinking about it!  Comes with Chocolate, Coke, Water, and Coffee.

Option 3: 

If you want to go full on luxury during your Iceland private super jeep tour, we can offer you an amazing display of grilled marinated lamb, potato salad, and chips.  Followed by wonderful Icelandic chocolates. Your choice of Icelandic beers, sodas, or coffee.

If interested in adding on this awesome option to your private 4×4 adventure tour in Vik Iceland, please contact us for a custom quote.

Your Adventure Awaits You,

Guðjon + Katlatrack Team  

Driving in Iceland

Driving in Iceland

Visiting Vik Iceland: Driving Advice

Visiting Iceland is an exhilarating opportunity, but one must remember that you are also coming to a tiny island in the North Atlantic that encounters some very unpredictable weather conditions.  So in order to keep yourself safe and others around you, today we would like to share some driving in Iceland tips.

General Advice About Driving in Iceland:

  1. Drive on the right side of the road (and the left side of the car).
  2. Your seatbelts and headlights must be on always, daylight or not.
  3. Icelandic roads can be coarse, unpredictable, and can feel VERY at narrow at times.
  4. Follow the speed limit! It’s a heavy if you don’t and many times you’re caught on camera.
  5. DO NOT DRIVE OFF ROAD. I repeat, DO NOT DRIVE OFF ROAD.  The landscape is delicate and it takes 100’s of years for your damage to be recovered if you were to.  You will also be heavily fined, so just don’t do it.
  6. DO NOT drive on any road that does not have a number (IE, Route 1, Route 36, etc) because you could get into a really bad situation (IE, like crossing a river in your economy car) or be invading someone’s private property.
  7. To Buy Fuel: Know your debit or credit card “pin” beforehand (MasterCard or VISA) OR buy prepaid cards to use at the fuel pumps once you arrive in Iceland for various amounts in ISK (Most common fuel stations in Iceland are: N1, Olis, and Orkan).
  8. Iceland’s Emergency Number (Search and Rescue Team) is: 112. Special Note: The group who responds are volunteers so please do not use this number if you need tow or are not endangered in some way.
  9. Dangerous gale force winds, rain, hail, snow, or blizzard conditions can come out of nowhere, fast. Be prepared and before traveling each day check: http://safetravel.is/http://www.road.is/ and http://en.vedur.is.
  10. Have an emergency kit on hand (this can be as simple as a first aid kit, food, water, extra fuel etc).
  11. Do not drink and drive!
  12. Pay attention to signs (ie, blind hills) and one-lane bridges.
  13. Lookout for sheep!

Things NOT to do while driving in Iceland:

  • Do not stop on the road to take that “perfect social media photo.” You endanger your own life and others by doing so.  Please park in designated areas and walk back to where you want to take the photo.
  • Do not take photos while driving.
  • Do not have your phone to your ear while driving (it’s illegal).
  • Do not drive fast on gravel roads, you can lose grip and end up on the side of it stranded.
  • Do not drive during storms. The wind is not joke here folks and many of our “storms” are gale force wind level (IE, 60+ mph). –See point 9 above.
  • Do not take turns from inside roundabouts from the inside lane without signaling and being aware of where other cars or trucks are.
  • Do not stop on the side of the road to feed the animals (IE, Icelandic horses or sheep).
  • Do not drive into anyone’s drive way or land without permission.

Specifically driving in Vik:

  • If there is a wind / sand storm, do not drive east from the village, wait it out. One of the most open/vulnerable drives in Iceland is the drive from Vik to Kirkjubæjarklaustur because you are crossing a black desert which during a storm is BRUTAL.  The photo below shows what a 10-minute sand storm did to someone’s rental car.  –Blew out the windows, took off the paint, saturated every cavass with sand.
  • Take care opening car doors, the wind can often blow the door from your hand.
  • Park into the wind if possible so you can open your doors easier.
  • Do not drive on any of the beaches or glacier areas. The waves are violent and there can be quicksand.
  • Do not drive into anyone’s drive way or land without permission from the owner. Respect the local people.
  • See previous points above and lastly, DO NOT OFF ROAD.

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