March 14 2014
A Cinematic Walk through Iceland
Iceland is the new darling of Hollywood. Major U.S. studios flock there to film their blockbusters in the breathtaking natural scenery of the island.
The mega-production “Noah” with Russell Crowe that was filmed here will be in theaters on April 9. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” starring Ben Stiller, was shot on the glaciers, in the mountains, on the plains and volcanic beaches of Iceland. Today, one can wander through these wild landscapes in the footsteps of Tom Cruise (“Oblivion”), Clint Eastwood (“The Flags of our Fathers”), Angelina Jolie (“Tomb Raider”), and the heroes of “Thor” or “Game of Thrones”. Also drawing attention are the many music festivals that illustrate the fierce energy that animates the Icelandic music scene. And not to mention, the array of innovative and daring restaurants that make Reykjavik a totally “hot” city in the land of cold…
Grandiose and larger than life, the landscapes of Iceland have taken over the studios of Hollywood cinema. More and more films are shot in the natural scenery of the island and it is very easy for anyone to visit these outdoor film sets in order to step into the world of Batman, Lara Croft and James Bond! It was the famous British spy who started the trend in the early 2000s to film a car chase scene from “Die Another Day” on the frozen lagoon of Jökulsarlon, at the foot of the largest icecap of Europe, Vatnajökull. Since then, many directors have been inspired by the highly photogenic landscapes of Iceland. The opening scene of the sci-fi film “Prometheus”, by Ridley Scott, which sees an alien spaceship flying over rugged landscapes, was filmed over in Iceland. Ditto for “Oblivion”, the film in which Tom Cruise walks into a post-apocalyptic future in Jarlhettur and Hrossaborg. As for the scenes in the “Game of Thrones” series that take place beyond the “North Wall”, these are regularly immortalized in Godafoss, Dimmuborgir or Hverfjall, in the north of the island. Recently, Ben Stiller spent five weeks filming the majority of his film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” on the slopes of Sultartungnagil, a glacier near the city of Hofn, which was supposed to represent the Himalayas in the movie! Ditto for the blockbuster by Darren Aronofsky, “Noah” with Russell Crowe, which was filmed in various parts of the country (the beach of Reynisfjara , the most southerly of the island and even the Raufarholshellir Lava Cave). But wherever you look on this island depending on the winds, it’s easy to imagine it as a cinematic setting…
Link to video of movies shot in Iceland:
Reykjavik may well be the capital of a volcanic island placed in the middle of the Atlantic, but it is only a little over 3 hours flight from Europe and five hours from the East Coast of the United States. This midway position between the two continents makes Iceland a place of choice for those looking for a really exotic cultural breath of fresh air. Music, all music, is particularly well represented on this territory that is responsible for the birth of Bjork and many other groups recognized across the globe (Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men…). The Reykjavik Blues Festival is one of the biggest “jam sessions” of the northern hemisphere every year in March. The Reykjavik Folk Festival enlivens the streets of the city in its wake. Jazz also has its own festival in August when the nights have almost totally disappeared. And more underground musical currents are also represented with the Dark Music Festival (contemporary Icelandic music) in January and The Icelandic Music Experiments (revealing young talents) in March. Not to mention Iceland Airwaves, from October to December, which has become one of the most international music festivals and attracts enthusiasts worldwide. In short, they really like music in Reykjavik!
A stop at the Blue Lagoon is a must when visiting Iceland. The area certainly has become very touristy over the years but no other source of hot water on the island can be compared to this one. The waters which are a mystical milky blue, saturated with silica, are incomparably photogenic. They come from a geothermal station nearby that comes from over 2,000m deep heated to 240° by the volcanic activity of the island water. Cooled to a temperature not exceeding 39°, this mineral-rich water is discharged into a lava field to form this amazing lake, in which it is indescribably pleasant to submerge oneself and relax. The Blue Lagoon offers all the facilities to take advantage of its outdoor bath, as pleasant in the summer midnight sun in the mist as it is in the dark night of winter. In any circumstance, floating in the blue water is an amazing experience. And if you can manage to move away slightly from the very busy areas, you will find yourself alone in a warm and inviting lake, lost in the midst of the unspoiled nature…
Icelandic cuisine revolves around an obsession with lamb (available in astronomically vast quantities on the island!) And salmon. Therefore, it can get boring…fast. However, looking around, there is a young guard of inventive and bold chefs who are shaking up the restaurant scene in Reykjavik. The youngest chef of this generation of cooking enthusiasts goes by the name of Ylfla Helgadottir. At only 26 years old, she has been making her mark since the spring of 2013 with her restaurant Kopar, setting a benchmark for others to follow. The Kopar Adventure menu offers exciting discoveries such as breaded cod tongues and revisited dishes such as beef cheek cooked in the style of Boeuf Bourgignon, all served in a chic canteen atmosphere on the banks of the Capital. Another address with a refined vintage lounge atmosphere is the Fish Company. It serves fish, of course. Whale, cod, salmon, prawns and many other offerings from the waters of the Atlantic. The Around Island menu combines cod and prawns with a “brown cream cheese”, celery and roasted apple sorbet. Amazing! As for the rack of lamb, it is accompanied with shredded pork and tasty sauce made with red berries and beets…all in a candlelight atmosphere that will make you wish for long polar nights. Finally, more simple, but simply divine, we have the Fjorubordid, 45 minutes drive south of Reykjavik. Here, there is only one specialty: lobster! The unique menu offers a bisque to start and a very large bowl of fresh lobster, cooked simply with butter, garlic and some spices. A pure delight!
The hotel everyone is talking about in Reykjavik is the new Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina. Located on the waterfront of the capital, in a former factory, a few minutes walk from the city center, this hotel of the moment is where you must come for a drink around the huge bar to meet all the movers and shakers of the Icelandic capital. Opened in spring 2013, it offers very small but very comfortable rooms. Some have a terrace and others overlook the port. The colorful and fun design of the hotel makes it a perfect stage for a few sleepless nights in this vibrant city…But if you want to sleep in the same beds as the Hollywood stars who have been arriving en masse to film their blockbusters in Iceland, Hotel Ranga, in the south of the island, is the place to head to. The 51 upscale rooms, in the heart of nature, provide an ideal view of the Northern Lights. The hotel has its own helicopter which, when it is not depositing Tom Cruise on top of a mountain, will accompany you wherever you want! This is the perfect place for a luxurious stay in close communication with the surrounding, breathtaking nature.