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Like Sheep and Tradition? Join Iceland’s Annual Réttir

Every September, Icelandic farmers embark on the annual tradition of scaling mountains to collect their sheep before Iceland‘s long and dark winter sets in. The sheep roundup, called réttir, is one of the most important events in Iceland’s countryside, and one that welcomes tourists.

sheep roundup in Iceland, called réttir

The coming of autumn marks one of Iceland’s most important countryside traditions, the “réttir”, or round-up.

Iceland’s sheep freely roam the mountains and fjords during the summer, basking in the long sun-filled days, while seasoning and fattening themselves with lush lichen, moss and grass. In the autumn, entire rural communities gather for one weekend to stake their claim on their sheep, and celebrate with friends, family neighbors and visitors.

The sheep are rounded up in a wooden sheepfold, consisting of an inner and outer circle with several compartments between the two. Each compartment is assigned to a particular farm for their sheep. Each farm has its own earmark symbol and the farmers and friends herd the sheep into separate pens.

Icelandic sheep with horns

Sheep, while left to roam at large in summertime, are often spotted grazing along roadsides or crossing the highway. Watch out for them while driving in Iceland! (Photo: Tom Tauber)

During this time, sheep are trotting about, baaing and bucking, while carefully being sorted. Visitors will see farmers and children mounting the backs of ewes and rams to guide them to the relevant pen. After all the sheep are sorted, the farmers and guests share a cup of coffee and maybe a slice of cake while others walk along the sheep, take pictures and pet them. Farms are welcoming more tourists and are happy to share this annual tradition.

Icelandic sheep by a fjord

Sheep are a staple of the Icelandic diet, including some rather unusual delicacies eaten during the traditional Þorrablót celebrations in January.

Food is also big part of réttir with special dishes making their way around the farm as well as sending the unfortunate lambs off to the slaughterhouse. Réttir is a reminder that fresh lamb meat will be on the way. The meat is used for everything from traditional meat soup, lamb chops and hot dogs to Icelandic specialties including slátur (liver sausage) and svið (singed lamb heads).

Sheep are the lifeblood of the tiny North Atlantic island of 330,000 people, not just for nourishment and a source of income, but for their thick and warm wool. Icelandic sheep are a unique breed as the purity of the strain has been protected and preserved by centuries of isolation. Indeed, the breed has evolved over 1,100 years of surviving in a sub-Arctic climate producing long and tough outer fibers and soft and fine inner fibers. Colors of the breed vary. There are over 30 natural sheep colors, including yellow, black, and brown, but most Icelandic sheep are white. The bright white coats can be seen dotting the countryside in the autumn.

Ewe with her lambs

You have these woolly fellows to thank for those “lopapeysa” sweaters you love so much. (Photo: Alice Friedenson)

The natural benefits of the wool are unique to the breed as well. Icelandic sheep are known for having warm, lightweight, breathable and water repellant wool. Iceland’s wildly popular woolen sweaters, called lopapeysur, can be seen on tourists and locals strutting the streets of downtown Reykjavik as well as the countryside.

So, you want to meet these fluffy Icelandic sheep and maybe see some gorgeous scenery on the side? We don’t blame you. Check out one of Nordic Visitor‘s popular self-drive tours to experience all that rural Iceland has to offer:

Have something else in mind? We’re Iceland travel experts. Let us know what interests you and we’ll put together a custom itinerary to your liking. We’ll even advise you where to buy the best handknit woollen sweaters in Iceland!


Photo of the Month: Icelandic Honeymoon

When Ekaterina Kozhevnikova and her husband visited Iceland this summer, they were treating themselves to a very belated honeymoon and captured a photo that melted the Nordic Visitor team‘s hearts.

The Russian couple, who live and work in the UK, travelled on a customised version of Nordic Visitor’s Iceland Full Circle tour, which includes stops at popular areas like the Golden Circle, Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Mývatn. Ekaterina combined her love of travel and exploration with her anniversary celebration for some beautiful snapshots on her Instagram account. And for that, she is our Nordic Photo of the Month winner for September 2016.

To get the story behind the photo, join us for a Q&A session with Ekaterina below…

NV: Why did you choose Iceland as your holiday destination?

Ekaterina: I chose Iceland for our anniversary, because I always dreamed of coming to such a diverse country. Iceland is the country of fire and ice, where icebergs are very close to hot volcanic earth. We love hiking and nature, and we love place where there are few people. So Iceland was the only choice.

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NV: Were you planning to visit the Secret Lagoon or was it recommended to you?

Ekaterina: I planned our holidays along with Silja, our Nordic Visitor travel consultant, and explained that I hoped we could visit a geothermal spring or pool every day and the Secret Lagoon was on the list she provided.

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NV: What was the day like?

Ekaterina: That day was rainy and getting cold, so after visiting the Geysir area, we were cold and wet and not really looking forward to soak even more under the rainy sky… But, after our early dinner (yes, because of awful weather), the sky has cleared a bit, our mood improved after a yummy meal and we decided that we will regret it all our life, if we miss this experience.

I always plan my trips, trying to get the most from them, so I brought with me my “wedding dress” (short white beach dress), tiara and a bow-tie for my husband. After already soaking in the lagoon for 10 minutes, I realised that were not many people around and it was the perfect time for taking photos. So, I told my husband that I’m going to take my camera (by the way, it’s a huge Nikon DSLR in a usual PET bag to avoid extra moisture, looking very silly among the people with tiny GO-PRO, but I didn’t care, the result was worth it!).

When I came back in my ‘wedding’ outfit, I surprised not only my husband but the few people around and even caught some applause And it helped a lot to relax the atmosphere in the pool and even start some conversations with absolute strangers (everybody was surprised to learn that it’s our 20th anniversary, that we weren’t “just married”. I did very little editing, because the old house, grey sky and the steam made this picture very special already.

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NV: Would you say Iceland is a good honeymoon destination?

Ekaterina: I would definitely recommend Iceland for other honeymooners (for my daughter in the future, definitely!!). There are so many things that can be done only in very rare places on Earth (whale watching, visiting volcanoes, hot geothermal pool swimming, tasting shark meat, glacier walking, etc.) and Iceland can give you all of them in one unforgettable trip!

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NV: Any tips for photographers visiting Iceland?

Ekaterina: I love photography and always take my camera (even 2) with me. I would advise everybody to take a spare battery and spare memory card, because there is so much beauty in Iceland, you can shoot non-stop and exhaust you equipment very fast. For the whole trip I shot 52 Gb of photos!

Thanks and congrats, Ekaterina!

Pro tip: …. like the 66 North Vatnajökull primaloft jacket and Surtsey cap that our Photo of the Month winners receive as prizes.

Good to know: A self-drive tour in Iceland gives you the freedom to choose your own photo stops and spend as much time at each place as you want…or as long as your other half can patiently wait for you to set up the perfect shot. Nordic Visitor can even custom-make your own road trip if you have specific areas or attractions in mind.

Have you travelled with Nordic Visitor and want to be in the running for our Nordic Photo of the Month contest? Tag your travel photos with #NordicVisitor to share them with us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!

Read all about this contest here

Reykjavik Pride Weekend

Friday Photo Roundup: Festive Times in the Nordics

We here at Nordic Visitor don’t let our travellers have all the fun — after all, just look at where we live and work!

In this week’s edition of Friday Photo Roundup, we’re following the fun-loving staff of Nordic Visitor on their adventures in Scotland, Sweden and Iceland. Come along for the ride! Continue reading…


Friday Photo Roundup: Summertime Magic in the Nordics

Welcome to Friday Photo Roundup!

Summertime is a short but magical time of year here in the Nordic countries, a season when sunsets linger, nature blooms and old traditions and folklore come to life. And judging by all the wonderful travel photos we’re seeing on Instagram lately, it seems a lot of magic has been happening on #NordicVisitor  tours this summer.

Let’s take a look at this week’s featured snaps…

Continue reading…

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Nordic Photo of the Month: Iceland Rocks!

When Mike Murat and his family visited Iceland in June, they left no stone unturned on their 8-day journey.

Travelling on Nordic Visitor’s South and West in Detail self-drive tour, they packed their week full of outdoor adventures that saw them experiencing Iceland’s extreme contrasts in landscapes, from the aftermath of ancient volcanic eruptions to the icy expanses that give the country its name.

A geophysicist by trade, Mike combined his deeply-rooted interest in geology with his love of Leica photography for some truly stunning results on his Instagram account. And for that, he is our Nordic Photo of the Month winner for August 2016.

When they weren’t trekking over volcanic black sands, like at the eerie-looking Sólheimasandur (this month’s featured photo on our Facebook page, pictured at top), they met friendly horses, hiked on glaciers, felt the mist of waterfalls, saw marine life on a boat tour and more.

To get the stories behind the photos, join us for a Q&A session with Mike below… Continue reading…