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  • Writer's pictureDeb Lace-Kelly

Understand Iceland

The Lost Compass is excited to introduce you to a tour operator in Iceland whose mission and focus is just like ours!! Education and Exploration … and a whole lot of exciting adventure!

Herdís Fridriksdottir is founder of Understand Iceland and she took the time to share with us a little bit about this magical country and the unique ways we can experience it with them.

Read Herdís personal story at the end.

Understand Iceland

What does Understand Iceland offer its travellers?

Education! Awesome, fun, wonderful, adventure-laced learning & understanding. Iceland offers spectacular landscapes, beautiful destinations, waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, tranquility, local food, friendly people, puffins, and an endless possibility of incredible Insta worthy selfie-stops.

Understand Iceland gives you the ability to explore this Northern world in unusual ways! You will learn about the medicine plants that grow at our feet, hear local elves stories, why all our last names end with -son or -dóttir, and why we let our babies sleep outside in their prams. Learn how to say Herdís favourite word: Jæja, and understand the many meanings behind it.

It is Understand Iceland's desire that you leave Iceland with a camera full of gorgeous photos, a heart full of fond memories, and a mind full of understanding of the people who choose to live in a country where you wear a wool sweater in July!

Exciting Study Abroad opportunities (Understand Iceland provides educational support, curriculum, and services to University students & Professors), and amazing Educational Tours for any curious wanderer, are available and can be arranged.

In the Study Abroad programs students will explore unique eco-systems, as well as areas relating to their curriculum and studies. We offer support, both academic and logistical, and link students and faculty to experts in diverse fields. Our programs include a range of themes from geology, geography, biology, sustainability, tourism management and nature conservation to history, archaeology, culture and heritage. In short, we use Iceland as our classroom!

The Educational Tours are for every traveller who wants that little extra. Along the way we provide special insight and offer various outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, glacier hiking, cave exploring, horseback riding and also history, culture, food or drink, photography, knitting Icelandic style, hot-tubbing, horticulture and gardening. We customize the tour to you!

Visitors become fascinated by Iceland, and it is a wonderful experience to be the one to introduce the country to them. Understand Iceland treats people like guests, not like tourists, giving extra special attention to detail that will make their experience unique. We are passionate about every tour we create and proud of our personalized service.

Here are some examples of what Understand Iceland has to offer in 2021and 2022, once we can all travel again:

Wanderlust in the Westfjords

The Westfjords of Iceland are an absolute gem! You travel from Reykjavík, around the Snæfellsnes peninsula and sail over the Breiðafjörður Bay towards the Westfjords. There you will see puffins up close, you will drive around the edges of the mountains on a dirt road, overlooking the ocean far below. We will stop at waterfalls that look like a white veil on the black cliffs. There will be kayaking, hiking, biking, fishing and perhaps whale watching as well as swimming in pools with gorgeous ocean views. You will eat at local restaurants, newly caught fish and fresh mountain lamb being the primary meals, with homegrown vegetables. We will visit local people who will tell you stories from the past and even sing you Icelandic folk songs.

Become a Dóttir in Iceland - empowering women tour

This all-women tour is perfect for female friends, sisters, mother and daughter, or for the solo traveller who would like to travel in a fun group. This tour takes you to North Iceland where the group will engage with empowerment by participating in fun activities and through stories of strong Icelandic women. Get ready to become a –dóttir of Iceland!

Iceland is known for its strong women and we would like you to become one of them! Travel in the footsteps of powerful Icelandic women throughout the country’s history, getting to know figures from the time of settlement in the 9th century until modern times. Over the course of the trip you will travel through magnificent landscapes, participate in fun activities such as short hikes, horseback riding, whale watching, visiting historical sights and museums. What’s more, you’ll eat delicious local food, enjoy Icelandic beer and chocolate, have fun, laugh, bond and make new friends.

Knitting under the Northern Lights – a tour for the gentler adventurer!

Love knitting? Love hanging out in a cozy atmosphere with fun women, love wine and chocolates? Want to travel in a small group through beautiful landscapes, visit key historic and cultural sights, and get that perfect selfie? Want to meet locals, hear elf stories and eat wonderful local food? Want to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights? Then this tour is for you!

The group will stay in a cozy guesthouse on the Golden Circle, there will be home cooked meals along with visits to nearby local restaurants. The group will visit local knitting experts, learn new techniques, gain hands-on experience, learn old techniques on preparing and dying the wool.

On this 5 day journey you will experience first-hand the Icelandic knitting tradition, the uniqueness of the Icelandic wool, the way the wool is prepared, spun and hand dyed with natural Icelandic herbs. First and foremost you will experience the joy of knitting in a magnificent landscape, with unique experiences at every step.

These tours are in September and March each year, which is the time of year when the Northern Lights are the most visible. There is of course, no guarantee that the Lights will be seen, but we will do our best and monitor the forecast closely to maximize the chance.

Viking Visions tour - Follow in the footsteps of the Viking Settlers of Iceland

Travel through West Iceland and learn about the culture, heritage and history of Iceland. The journey will take you through many of the most important sites of the history of Icelandic settlement.

Learn about the Viking settlement of Iceland, the strong women and brave men who settled Iceland, Greenland and later found and lost, America. Visit the sites where the many stories of the Icelandic sagas took place, learn about the fights, the love affairs, the betrayal and brutal killings. Learn about the establishment of the first parliament at Þingvellir, the heart of the nation where all major decisions regarding early Icelandic history took place.

The group will travel through beautiful landscapes where events took place over 1000 years ago, meet experts, visit museums and exhibitions that will deepen their understanding. A tour no history buff should miss.

Golden Circle with a local

The Golden Circle is the area where most tourists visit when they come to Iceland. Herdís has lived on the Golden Circle for 13 years and offers a private day tour for those who want to visit with someone who knows the secrets, the inside and outs of the magical, stunning sites and natural wonders of the area.

In one day you can visit Geysir hot spring, Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO site. Apart from these 3 spots there are many secret places and stories that Herdís as a local will add to the tour. You will eat your lunch inside a greenhouse, learn stories of elves, ghosts, trolls and outlaws, visit a lovely natural hot pool, eat a home-made ice-cream and if you have time, we can bake black bread in the local hot spring!

Herdís Journey to creating Understand Iceland:

I earned a degree in Forestry from Denmark, a study that took me to Norway, Borneo and eventually Nepal where I wrote a Masters thesis on: “Women‘s participation in community forestry”. Talk about a feminist approach to forestry!

After working some years within the forestry sector in Iceland and raising two young daughters in Reykjavík city, with a very busy husband, involved with a busy extended family, I was at the verge of burnout. We were both “climbing the ladder” professionally and trying to do everything people are supposed to do, but trying to juggle all the balls in the air was wearing me out. I guess many have been there and know exactly what I’m talking about. So when my husband got the opportunity to travel to New Zealand for 2 months on business, I said “Let’s all go!” Our daughters were 2 and 4 at the time, and I did not hesitate, I just wanted to do something entirely different. So off we went. This trip made me so much closer to my children and I realized I had been missing out on so many golden moments. When we returned home, after this wonderful trip, we were ready for some big changes. We sold our apartment in the city and bought a house in a small community of 250 people in South Iceland.

I started working in an eco-village where I had the opportunity to teach Icelandic language, culture and history to American university students staying there for 3 months at a time. I loved it, so I went on to establish my own tour operation: Understand Iceland.

I had made so many wonderful connections to my students and hanging out with them gave me a unique insight into what foreigners really wonder about when they come to Iceland and what surprises them the most. Each semester I added new things into my lectures giving my students a deeper understanding of Iceland and its culture.

Thus, Understand Iceland was born.

- Thank you to Herdís for her time with this introduction to her company, Understand Iceland. Edited by Deb Lace-Kelly

Photo credit - Veronica Spann & Herdís Fridriksdottir

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