Out and about in Iceland

When someone tells you to “Get Out” – they don’t necessarily mean out of the closet (even though they might). Some are simply pointing towards new experiences – go out … go somewhere new, if you have the chance. It’s a sure way to lengthen your life. Or they might be asking you to be so kind as to get the newest copy of the OUT Magazine, on your way home…

According to the managing editor, R. Kurt Osenlund, the magazine is constantly on the hunt for chic and exciting things that can amp up their readers’ lives in an unexpected way. At the same time, most of the readers belong to the LGBT community, so when picking a place for their annual travel issue they aim for a LGBT-friendly place.

Oh, yes. Every year OUT Magazine publishes a special Travel Issue, where they hunt out an interesting place and introduce it to their readers.This year the crew set Out for Iceland.

At the Blue Lagoon, from left: OUT editors Matthew Breen, Brandon Presser, Julien Sauvalle, Jerry Portwood, and R. Kurt Osenlund.
At the Blue Lagoon, from left: OUT editors Matthew Breen, Brandon Presser, Julien Sauvalle, Jerry Portwood, and R. Kurt Osenlund.

KURT: “We want a place where we can discover both vast expanses and small pockets of queer-accessible adventures. Moreover, we just want a place that’s going to welcome us, openly, as its curious guests. For us, Iceland definitely fit the bill in every respect, and I think a key thing that made the difference is that it’s an intimate country – rich and distinct, yet manageable from a traveler’s perspective. Of course we can’t do the whole nation justice in one issue of a monthly magazine, but it did feel as though we could get a well-rounded snapshot of a close-knit – and tremendously unique – place.”

Kurt visited Iceland approximately five years ago and did the usual touristic stuff; went to the Blue Lagoon and on the Golden Circle Tour. He says he remembers being especially intrigued by the amount of vibrant color, artwork, and street art in Reykjavik, which struck him as the locals’ response to weather that can be dark and unforgiving.

KURT: “So I knew it was a place that had this very otherworldly topography and climate, and a cool mix of nature and art.”

Other than reminiscing about Kurt’s last trip to Iceland, the team also did a great amount of research in advance of this trip, familiarizing themselves with everything from the Sagas to the cuisine, so they could streamline their coverage.

Clockwise from left: OUT editor in chief Aaron Hicklin, Icelandic swimmer Julio César León Verdugo, OUT guest editor Brandon Presser, OUT deputy editor Matt Breen, OUT managing editor R. Kurt Osenlund, a representative from the tourism board Visit Reykjavík and OUT executive editor Jerry Portwood.
Clockwise from left: OUT editor in chief Aaron Hicklin, Icelandic swimmer Julio César León Verdugo, OUT guest editor Brandon Presser, OUT deputy editor Matt Breen, OUT managing editor R. Kurt Osenlund and OUT executive editor Jerry Portwood. With a representative from the tourism board Visit Reykjavík which helped organise the party.

KURT: “Our guest editor on the issue was Brandon Presser, who wrote the Lonely Planet guide to Iceland, and he helped craft an itinerary that would help us stick to our mission of finding “things we love.” Speaking for myself, he ensured that I came back having found things I truly did.”

Kurt describes Reykjavík as a welcoming city for any tourist, but between the curation of their culture tours and the embrace from citizens and local officials, he says it felt like a carpet had been rolled out for them.

KURT: “We hosted a party at the Reykjavik Art Museum, which wound up running in tandem with a killer GusGus concert, and, for me, there was this palpable, communal vibe that everyone was truly glad we were there, which went beyond my expectations. And of course meeting the mayor and ex-prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir were major highlights. To my understanding, Sigurðardóttir (whom we all hold in very high esteem to start with, given that she’s the first openly gay head of state), doesn’t just come out for any event, so the fact that she came to greet us and chat was a thrill. She has this unmistakable regal presence. And the mayor was great. He may have the best hair of any man in Iceland.”

Different highlights

After a few days in Rekjavik, the editorial team split into two groups, with four of the team heading to the South and three heading the West, each of which offered very different experiences.

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Top: A visit to Reykjavík Letterpress. Left: OUT editor in chief Aaron and Kurt in a remote hot-pot. Right: The fjords seen from the bow of the Zodiac boat.

KURT: “I was on the trip to the West, where we got to check out a black-stone coastline, see fjords on a Zodiac boat, and hunt down a natural hot-pot in the middle of nowhere. If I had to pick a highlight, it would probably be some of the especially jagged lava fields in the West, since I learned that the state the lava rocks are currently in essentially reflect what they looked like when they were spewed from the volcano, freezing upon impact with the ground. I thought that was really fascinating. I imagine my colleagues who toured the nature-rich South could give you many more highlights.”

When asked for a story of a fun event, Kurt mentions the full day in which the team got to know Hildur Sigurðardottir and Ólöf Birna Garðarsdóttir, the women who run Reykjavík Letterpress.

KURT: “I didn’t have any specific expectations when we visited their headquarters, but I think we were all struck by the romanticism of their printing practices. We work in an industry that’s so fast-paced and technology dependent, I think it’s easy for us to forget that we’re also hard-wired to be drawn to the nuts and bolts of the printing industry. Hildur and Ólöf reminded us of that, and then they joined us at our party later and danced and laughed the night away. I would have taken them home if I could have.”

Icelandic introverts are an exception

Kurt does not agree with the common idea that Icelanders are emotionally closed introverts. He speculates whether the region’s specific type of dark humor makes people think of them as emotionally closed.

KURT: “In Reykjavik, at least, I found the people to be very open and expressive. That said, when we traveled to the West, we did meet one artist, Páll Guðmundsson, who’s quite the introvert, but one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever encountered. He revealed to us one curiosity after another, including his famed stone harp. But he did seem like an exception.”

Artist and stone harpist Páll Guðmundsson.
Artist and stone harpist Páll Guðmundsson.

Curious about the personal experience of the residents, the team handpicked some interesting LGBT people in Iceland for interviews. They mainly talked about their experience in the country and not so much about the fight for justice, per se, although the subject came up.

KURT:Daníel Örn, a gay handball player, said his team was very receptive to his coming out, and of course, Jónsi, the lead singer of Sigur Rós, is revered as a local legend. The ex-prime minister’s wife, Jónína Leósdóttir, discussed refraining from publishing a book about her and Sigurðardóttir until the time felt right, but that seemed like more of a personal struggle than a sociopolitical one. The person we interviewed who was most involved with a fight for justice, in fact, was Sigursteinn Másson, who, though he is a gay man, is fighting for animal rights, not gay rights. A representative for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, he’s a key figure striving to curtail Iceland’s whaling industry.”

A refreshingly homogenized country

Regarding the LGBT fight for equal rights, the team found Iceland to be rather progressive in that matter and even mentioned that they were not just allowed, but encouraged, to advance.

KURT: “I would say Iceland is well ahead of the U.S. in this regard. We have come quite a long way in just the past few years in terms of marriage equality and other queer rights, but LGBT issues remain unnecessarily divisive in the U.S. in a way that they don’t in Iceland. I think it’s easy to say that we’re living in a post-gay world, but there’s still a staggering amount of hate crimes, discrimination, and inequality suffered by America’s LGBT community. I’m sure that’s not entirely unheard of in Iceland, but I didn’t detect a trace of it.”

Happy couple: Ex-prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and writer Jónína Leósdóttir at the Out party.
Happy couple: Writer Jónína Leósdóttir and former prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir at the OUT party.

Kurt says he found Iceland to be uncommonly open-minded and celebratory when it comes to the embrace and integration of LGBT people in the culture.

KURT: “I don’t want to use words like “tolerant” or “accepting”, because those would imply that Icelanders – or anyone, for that matter – were making some kind of personal compromise when folding LGBT people into the fabric of society. Quite the contrary, Iceland, to me, stands out as a humanist nation largely blind to things like orientation and gender identity. It’s refreshingly homogenized. For example, while we all had an absolute blast at Kiki Queer Bar, there doesn’t need to be a great deal of places like that, because every bar and club seems open to LGBT people, straight people, cis-gender people, etc.”

Some of you might be thinking of visiting Iceland. When asked for travel tips Kurt emphasizes the needlessness of over-planning and worrying about having to see something specific. In fact, he doesn’t recommend it.

KURT: “Iceland, as we were thrilled to find out, is a place loaded with little pockets of discovery, and if you take the time to sort of witness that, breathe all of that in. You’ll come home fulfilled. So I’d say be open, like the country itself. And if you must have a guide, hold our November issue in your hands and keep Brandon’s Lonely Planet guide in your back pocket.”

Well, what are we sitting around for? Let’s go get Out.

editors, silhouetted, at Harpa, which we all loved:  From left: Julien Sauvalle, Jerry Portwood, R. Kurt Osenlund, Brandon Presser, Aaron Hicklin, Matt Breen.
Out editors, silhouetted, at music hall Harpa. From left: Julien Sauvalle, Jerry Portwood, R. Kurt Osenlund, Brandon Presser, Aaron Hicklin and Matt Breen. Photo on the right: Sheep and mountains along the road in West Iceland.

All photos: Courtesy of OUT Magazine.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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