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  • Economy

    Reykjavík City places curbs on new hotel construction: No more hotels downtown

    By Staff

    No new hotels Work on several new hotels in downtown Reykjavík has already started, but no more new projects will be approved. Photo/GVA

    Reykjavík City has announced it has revised the city plan for the downtown area, placing curbs on further hotel construction in the city center. New hotel construction will have to take place outside the city center.

    Read more: Construction of new hotels in Reykjavík continues apace: 50% more hotel rooms by 2020

    The mayor of Reykjavík made the announcement on Facebook, explaining the city would prioritize new housing, while new hotels would have to be constructed further from the city center. "Both changes are part of our attempts to deal with rapid changes in a city which is developing very rapidly."

    With regards to new hotels in the city center and along Laugavegurinn street, the main shopping street in downtown Reykjavík, the mayor said that "we believe we have reached a point of saturation." By distributing hotels and foreign travellers more evenly throughout the city and by providing new housing in older neighborhoods, the city will become more diverse, the mayor argued. 

  • General

    Reykjavík 37th most livable city in world, climbs 13 spots

    By Staff

    Reykjavík Not just a great place to visit, a wonderful place to live. Photo/Vísir

    According to the Global Liveability Report, prepared by the Economist, which ranks 140 cities worldwide, Reykjavík is the 37th best city in the world to live in. Reykjavík has climbed 13 spots on the list since last year.

    What makes a city livable?
    Most of the best cities to live in in the world are in Canada and Australia, according to the list, as seven out of the top ten spots are taken by cities in these two countries and Melbourne, Australia taking the top spot. 

    The list is based on a scoring of five different factors. The first is stability, which measures things like crime and safety, including the threat of terrorism. Second factor is health, which measures access to healthcare and the health of the population. The third factor covers culture and environment, which includes measures of various things from the freedom of speech to culinary culture and the climate. The fourth factor covers education and the fifth infrastructure, including transportation, communications and housing.

    Reykjavík's combined score is 89.9, out of 100, landing it in the top quartile of the 140 major cities in the world. Last year Reykjavík was ranked 50th out of the 140. The climb is explained by investment in infrastructure and the positive impact tourism has had on the city. 

    Read more: Overwhelming majority of Reykjavík locals continues to be positive toward growing tourism

  • Nature

    Stunning video takes you on a dreamlike trip around Iceland

    By Staff

    Dreamlike beauty The amazing video captures the beauty of Iceland in the spring. Photo/Screenshot from video, see below

    "What surprised us the most was the beauty of Iceland, we knew we were in for a treat, but we didn't realize how amazing the land was until we arrived."

    In May Erin Crockett and Connor Jones visited Iceland for nine days. The couple rented a Land Rover to take the Ring Road, budgeting time for some slightly more off-the-beaten-path stops, stopping at many of the different tourist attractions as well as some hidden gems which the couple stumbled upon - mostly by sheer accident. The outcome was this amazing travel video (be sure to hit HD for best quality):

     

    (A list of the locations can be seen below)

    Erin told Iceland Magazine that their favorite spots were were the many hot springs and geothermal areas they visited: 

    "Some of our favorite memories from traveling around Iceland are simple things like driving at 2am and it still being light out, to stopping every 10 minutes to take a look at the mountains and waterfalls we passed on our way while driving. We really enjoyed camping out of our vehicle and being surrounded by nature the whole time."

    The glaciers and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon was the top experience of the trip, she added:

    "We were amazed by all the moss rocks, mountains, green grass everywhere and then the glaciers of course. They were the most beautiful site to see in Iceland, I've never seen a glacier before and I didn't want to leave the Glacier Lagoon once we got there. They are so amazing white and blue and beautiful pieces of nature. There is nothing quite like it, that was the biggest surprise for me during our trip.

    But it wasn't just the landscapes, Erin and Connor also enjoyed the company of the inhabitants: 

    "Another thing I enjoyed about Iceland was the animals, so many sheep and horses everywhere in Iceland and it is so nice to see so the sheep and horses running free because back in Canada we are pretty limited to seeing wildlife. ... 

    We cannot say anything bad about Iceland because we loved it! We enjoyed it so much and would be so happy to come back again and continue exploring the land."

     

    Locations shown in the video:
    - Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
    - Kálfafell mountain, in Vestur-Skaftafellssysla region
    - Seljavallalaug pool
    - Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
    - Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
    - Skaftafellsjökull glacier
    - Skeiðarársandur glacial outwash plain
    - Papeyjarferdir, Djupivogur
    - Borgarfjarðarhöfn Eystri
    - Vatnsnes Fjall Lighthouse
    - Vatnsnes Peninsula
    - Kirkjufell mountain
    - Námafjall geothermal area
    - Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck

    You can see more of Erin and Connor's work here:

    https://www.instagram.com/xplore.media/

    Facebook -@Xploremediagroup
    https://www.facebook.com/Xploremediagroup/

    Website- https://xploremediagroup.wixsite.com/blog

  • General

    Fact Check: No, Iceland is NOT systematically eradicating Down syndrome

    By Staff

    Mother and Child The gyneocoly and obstetrics department of the National University Hospital in Reykjavík. The sculpture, "Mother and Child" is by Danish sculptor Tove Ólafsson, who was married to one of Iceland's best known 20th century sculptors Sigurjón Ólafsson. Photo/Vilhelm.

    Recently the US news network CBS News ran a story which took viewers "Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing". This story prompted a swift backlash in the US, with political and religious leaders denouncing Iceland for practicing eugenics. Some commentators went so far as to suggest Iceland was pursuing Nazi policies.

    CBS News claimed in its story that the government pushes pre-natal screening on women, and that "close to 100 percent" of women who received a positive test for Down syndrome opted for abortion:

    "Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women -- close to 100 percent -- who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy."

    "Nazi policies"
    One of those who reacted to this story was the conservative firebrand Sarah Palin, who has a child with Down syndrome. On Fox News Palin blasted what she saw as as wrong and evil practice , arguing.

    "To try to snuff out a life, in the name of building a perfect race or a perfect country back to Nazi Germany"

    Others, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who reacted to the story on Twitter, described the alleged policy as "sad".

    The story, and the intense criticism it sparked in the US, has generated a debate in Iceland about the screening for Down syndrome and the termination of pregnancies following positive results. Not least because the story, and the follow-up in the US seems to have gotten a number of things about this wrong. 

    Read more: Watch: American preacher denounces Iceland as a “feminist hell”, “a nation of bastards”

    So, what are the facts?

    Abortion in Iceland
    The first point, we must keep in mind, is that Icelanders have a different view of abortions than many on the political right in the US. 

    In Iceland women's right over their own bodies is generally recognized by politicians, health care workers and the public alike. While Iceland does not have "abortion on demand", women who wish to terminate their pregnancy must have a conversation with a social worker at the hospital before having an abortion within the first trimester, there is no effort to pressure women to change their minds.

    The decision to carry a pregnancy to completion is viewed by the overwhelming majority of Icelanders as a decision that women must make on their own, or with their partners. In Iceland strangers, whether they are religious, political or community leaders, are not viewed as having any say in people's intensely personal and moral decisions like family planning. 

    This also applies to questions of Down syndrome.

    Nowhere near 100% choose abortion
    Sometime between the 11th and 14th week of the pregnancy women are offered a pre-natal screening where the fetus is checked for abnormalities, and the findings are shared with the woman. This screening can, among other things, detect whether there is an increased likelihood of the fetus having Down syndrome. Women are not pressured to have this screening, but strongly urged to do so.

    Read more: Icelandic men's national football team in mismatched socks to honor of Down Syndrome Day

    Hulda Hjartardóttir, chief physician at the maternity ward of the National University Hospital told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið that it is plain wrong to claim, as CBS News does, that "close to 100%" of women who are told that the fetus has an increased likelihood of having Down syndrome. 

    Women receive information and advice, are nut subjected to pressure
    Hulda explained to the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that roughly 85% of women choose to have the optional pre-natal screening, while 15-20% choose not to have the screening. The screening reveals whether there is an increased likelihood of the fetus having Down syndrome. If the screening finds that there is an increased likelihood of the fetus having Down syndrome 15-20% of women or prospective parents choose not to undergo any further tests, and simply choose to carry the pregnancy to term. 

    The other two thirds undergo further tests and follow up discussions with doctors and nurses where the findings of the tests are explained. If the tests conclude that the child will be born with down syndrome women are told they have two options: to end the pregnancy or carry it to term. 

    Misleading presentation
    Hulda told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that the presentation of CBS News was "misleading":

    "Yes they are a bit misleading. It is possible to use statistics to say different things, and I think this news program did that. It distorted the reality."

    Hulda told Morgunblaðið that women and parents are then offered the opportunity to meet with doctors and nurses who work with people with Down syndrome. They are also offered the opportunity to meet parents who have children with Down syndrome. No effort is made to pressure the women to make a certain decision, she explains.

    Woman make the decision themselves
    In fact, Hulda stresses that every effort is made to ensure that the decision comes from the woman herself. She told Morgunblaðið that her experience is that no woman takes this decision lightly:

    "It is very difficult to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, whether or not it is for social or some other reasons. If we really support women's right to choose it is extremely difficult to say that one thing is ok, but not another. But this is an extremely difficult decision which no woman makes lightly."

  • Travel

    Travel website advices tourists who want to avoid "angry locals" shouldn't visit Reykjavík

    By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

    Tourists No: There is no reason to fear that you will be accosted by angry locals if you dare visit Iceland or Reykjavík. Of course Icelanders, like any other people, don't approve of disrespectful or destructive behaviour, but Icelanders understand that the actions of a few rotten apples shouldn't condemn all foreign travellers. Photo/Raffaele Piano.

    The travel website The Culture Trip has included Reykjavík on a list of "11 Angry Tourist Hotspots That Are Best Avoided This Summer". The site argues that recent weeks a "ave of anti-tourist protests" have erupted across Europe, sparked by outrage from local residents who are voicing their anger at "rising housing costs, overcrowded streets and a sense that the tourist boom benefits some more than others".

    Angry locals?
    The list includes cities like Venice and Barcelona, which have indeed seen angry protests from the local population, as well as cities like Milan, which the site admits has not seen any official protests against tourism "so far", but where the authorities are taking steps to meet growing concerns from the local population by placing some common sense limits on tourism.

    The last city on the list is Reykjavík:

    Defecating in the open air, stealing road signs and even stealing a young lamb to be cooked on a barbecue are just some of the actions of tourists that have angered locals in Iceland. Tourism here has boomed since the 2008 financial crisis practically destroyed the local economy, yet recently, local residents in cities such as Reykjavik have struggled to cope with the social and environmental impact of the industry.

    The inclusion of Iceland and Reykjavík on this list has raised some eyebrows in Iceland, sparking a renewed conversation about the social and economic impact of tourism. 

    Has tourism caused problems? Sure, of course 

    Views of foreign travellers
    Views of foreign travellers Despite 40% increase in numbers of foreign travellers between 2016 and 2017 overwhelming majority of Icelanders is still positive toward tourism. Photo/MMR/Iceland Magazine

    While it is correct that anti-social, stupid or disrespectful behavior by foreign visitors has caught the attention of locals, causing anger and frustration (who would not be frustrated at discovering a random idiot going to the toilet on his front lawn? Or in the bushes in a public park?) it is also a fact that these stories have not caused a backlash against tourism or tourists.

    The most recent poll revealed that 64% of Icelanders have a positive view of foreign travellers who visit Iceland, and just 10.4% view them negatively - a drop from 11.5% in 2016, despite the fact that the number of foreign travellers visiting Iceland this year is up as much as 40%, compared to the year before.

    Read more: 64% of Icelanders positive toward foreign travellers, just 10.4% hold negative views

    Polls show that despite the explosive growth in tourism in Iceland in the past years Icelanders continue to be overwhelmingly positive toward tourism. And what´s more, Reykjavík residents are particularly positive toward tourism. 67.5% of the residents of the Metropolitan area said they held positive views of foreign travellers. 

    There is therefore no factual basis to include Iceland on a list of places foreign visitors should avoid to stay clear of "angry locals". 

    Read more: Overwhelming majority of Reykjavík locals continues to be positive toward growing tourism

    Social and environmental impact of tourism  

    Brúarfoss walking path
    Walking path at Brúarfoss waterfall Walking paths near popular destinations have not been able to handle the increased traffic. Icelanders don't blame the tourists - they realize the problem is inadequate infrastructure. Photo/Þorgerður Sigurðardóttir

    The Culture Trip is correct, however, to point out that Icelanders are struggling to cope with the impact a booming tourism industry has had on the economy, society and nature. But most Icelanders understand that the problems, like rising housing prices and lack of infrastructure at the popular tourist destinations, can be solved by public action. People blame the authorities, not the tourists, for lack of affordable housing or inadequate walking paths at waterfalls or the lack of public lavatories along Iceland's roads.

    People also understand that while some foreign travellers have engaged in outrageous behavior, this behavior does not reflect foreign travellers as a group - or the nations of the travellers in question. When a French traveller is caught poaching in a salmon river, for example, people do not assume all foreign travellers are lawless vagabonds, or that all Frenchmen engage in poaching.

    Stories defecating travellers 

    Pooping tourist, lawn as public lavatory
    Not properly toilet trained This idiot stopped to poop on the front lawn of a farmer in S. Iceland, then strapped on his skis and proceeded to ski across the farmers lawn. When he was confronted he acted as if he had done nothing wrong. The lesson? In a group of 1.8 million foreign travellers there will be some morons who have never learned to behave as adults. Photo/Þorkell Daníel Eiríksson

    We at Iceland Magazine have covered these stories - not because we want to enrage the local population or "call out" travellers as a group or the nations of those travellers who engage in illegal, immoral or reckless behavior. We are certainly not covering them because we feel they are representative of the tourism industry as a whole. We have covered these stories because we feel it is our responsibility to draw attention to problems when they come up. These kinds of stories should serve as cautionary tales. 

    Read more: Farmer in S. Iceland fed up with disrespectful travellers treating his lawn as a public lavatory

    It should also be noted that Iceland is a small country, and these kinds of stories are extremely rare: Which is why they find their way into the news. 

    Mutual respect
    Iceland has perhaps been lucky. Iceland has not been hit with the waves of drunk revelers who have caused mayhem at many Mediterranean destinations, and with a few isolated exceptions the people who have visited Iceland have treated the country and the local population with respect. In return Icelanders have treated these visitors with the respect that one treats a guest.

    Read more: Tourism’s social influence: Are we Icelanders likely to pick up any new bad habits?

    This is at it should be, and we at Iceland Magazine certainly hope this mutual respect will continue to characterize the interaction of the local population and our guests.

  • Economy

    Population of northern Westfjords rebounds, grows for first time in decades

    By Staff

    Abandoned fjords An abandoned herring factory in Ingólfsfjörður fjord in the Strandir region on the northern coast of the Westfjords. Photo/Sara

    The population of the northern Westfjords increased by 1.16% over the past 12 months. This is the first time in decades that the population of the northern part of the Westfjords does not register a drop. The population decreased by 0.32% over the previous 12 month period. 

    An uninterrupted decline since the early 80s
    According to population data from Statistics Iceland the population of the northern part of the Westfjords increased by 80 during the period May 31 2016 to May 31 2017. Last year's population statistics showed the population dropped by 30 individuals between 2015 and 2016. The population of the Westfjords has been dropping continuously since the 1980s. 

    Read more: The population of the Westfjords continues to shrink, down by 34% in the past 34 years

    Historically at least 15% of the Icelandic population has lived in the Westfjords. In the mid-20th century the share of the population living in the Westfjords began to fall. Today less than 2% of the population lives in the region. 

    Southern Westfjords regiesterd a turnaround in 2011
    The population decline has continued until 2011 when the population of the southern part of the Westfjords grew for the first time in decades, thus arresting a trend which had seemed all but irreversible. However, the population of the northern part of the Westfjords continued to shrink. Until last year. The Population of the town of Ísafjörður, the largest urban center of the Westfjords, grew by 60 last year, and the population of the village of Bolungarvík grew by 30. 

    However, this positive trend has not extended to all of the Westfjords. The Strandir region, the northern coast of the Westfjords peninsula and the most remote region in Iceland, as well as several other primarily rural parts of the Westfjords, registered a drop of 20 inhabitants last year, the same as the year before.

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