Gudni Kristinsson, who has led our Iceland getaways since 2012, is best remembered by guests for his delicious smile and huggable persona.
He’s always the first to snorkel the Silfra fissure. The first suited up and into the Blue Lagoon before you’ve started to strip. And he’ll finish his first pint before you’ve screamed “Skál”.
Since he’s a a massive part of this August’s Iceland Pride Adventure, we had him over (okay, we Skyped) to let him introduce himself.
Thanks for setting aside the time to chat. Perhaps you can start by telling me a bit about yourself.
I come from the south of Iceland. But I live in Reykjavik now. I’ve actually lived in Denmark, in Holland, England, and Cuba.
Geez. What’s the draw to moving around so much?
Well when you’re a little gay boy on an island in the middle of nowhere, you want to see beyond your country.
That makes sense. So how did you end up becoming a tour guide?
Well I did my university degree in Denmark. And during that time I always came home during the summers to work as a guide in the highlands of Iceland. So I’ve been doing it since I was quite young.
Can you talk briefly about the gay scene in Iceland.
In Iceland it’s a non-issue. We don’t have a gay area like Boys Town in the central area [of Reykjavik] there is just one gay or queer bar. It’s called Kiki Bar. It’s really fun to dance. But you can go to another bar with your partner and no one will look twice.
What are the must-attend events during Reykjavik Pride?
Well it starts on Tuesday when the Out Adventures tour is in the countryside. And it goes until Sunday.
What I like the most is the opening ceremony on Thursday night. A big part of the community comes out to celebrate.
Also on Friday night there’s cruising. Like sailing and whale watching.
Cruising means something else down here.
Ha! Ya I know.
Finally, the Parade is the highlight.
What else can Out Adventurers look forward to on the Iceland tour? Highlights of the trip, etc.
Well we do two tours; a summer Reykjavik Pride tour and a winter tour.
The highlight of the summer tour is the parade itself. It’s very different from Toronto Pride or New York Pride. Everyone is there. Grandparents with the kids and all that. The biggest Pride was about 100,000 people attending. That’s out of a population of 335,000.
Wow, so a third of the population attended!
The tour itself is fantastic. It’s small and you really get to meet the people. Icelandic people are very nice.
Activity-wise, my favourites are snorkelling in the Silfra fissure (you’re snorkelling between two tectonic plates; Euroasia and North America), and the super jeep tour (with so much untouched nature you need this vehicle to get there).
For the snorkelling, isn’t it freezing?
Yes. You have to wear a dry-suit. If you’re into latex you’ll love it!
What is the culture like in Iceland? What makes it stand out?
We are a little bit like the dysfunctional uncle. A little bit crazy, like the Italians of the North. We’re not quite as organized as our friends in Scandinavia. We like drinking in the street, getting drunk. No one minds here.
And we are very friendly and helpful. Icelanders take a lot of pride in this.
Are there any Icelandic musicians you’d recommend people look into? Other than Bjork, perhaps…
Sigur Rós are an indie band.
Then there’s also Of Monsters and Men.
What about books?
Icelanders have been writing Nordic Noir for a long time. My favourite crime novelist is Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. She has written a lot of crime novels but my favourite is I Remember You. It has just recently been made into a movie and it’s very scary.
There’s also a very good TV show called Trapped. It was shown on Vice in the U.S. It’s on iTunes as well. It’s about a murder that takes place in this little town in the dead of winter and nobody can get out of the town.
What about the food scene. What are Icelanders known for?
Fish and lamb. We have excellent cod. Also langoustine. It’s not exactly lobster, but it’s like that.
Is there any Icelandic dish you recommend?
In the old days you couldn’t grow much here. So we have weird things.
Like ram’s testicles.
And the hot dog.
Rob mention that in a recent blog post. So it’s a thing?
It is a thing. Particularly at this one spot in Reykjavik. In English it’s called The Best Place in Town (Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur). Its hot dogs are made of lamb and pork together. And then you have crunchy onions and three kinds of sauces: ketchup, a sweet Icelandic mustard and a remoulade. Just ask for one with everything.
As an Icelander, what do you love showing off to visitors?
The swimming pool culture. I’m not just talking about the Blue Lagoon. We have these local swimming pools all over the country with geothermal heated water. And Icelanders go to these pools all the time. It’s more like sitting in the hot tub or sauna.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention about Iceland?
Well, I think when people come here they already know about the nature and all that. But they’re surprised by how warm the people are. And of course the food is really, really good.
Interview edited for clarity.
All photos of Gudni provided by Gudni Kristinsson. All photos of Iceland provided by Pink Iceland.