Iceland is best known for its Northern Lights and beautiful landscapes. The country is covered in snow, AND has numerous active volcanoes. Strange, isn’t it? The contrast basically means that you will find natural spas such as warm water pools and glittering glaciers, along with underground caves and wonderful national parks teeming with wandering reindeer.
Iceland is also the land of legends and myths. Enjoy a trip around the country learning about elves, trolls, mythical creatures, and giants who add to the allure of this mysterious country. So what can you do in Iceland that distinguishes you from an average tourist? Here are our top nine picks:
#1 Get a Viking Portrait
When in Iceland, be a Viking. Your trip to this magical country cannot be complete if you do not get a Viking portrait. We recommend visiting the Mink Viking Portrait Studio to get your
photographs taken. And while you’re there, talk to Gustavo – he will make you look like a Viking and teach you how to pose with props. In the end, walk out of the studio with great memories and a souvenir to take back home.
#2 Visit Unusual Museums
Who doesn’t love strange museums? Here is a short list to start you off on a quirky journey:
a) Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft: If learning about sorcery and witch hunts is right up your alley, then this one’s for you. Located in a black shack in the country’s Westfjords, you will find on display creepy items such as demons, skulls, and necropants – yeah, that’s right, necropants.
b) Sea Monster Museum: Want to see a serpent-like, giant creature swimming in the sea? Go to the Sea Monster Museum in the Bíldudalur village on the shores of Westfjords if your answer is yes. Here, you will witness these elusive creatures come to life through narration, images, and videos. First-hand stories from numerous local fishermen are also shown to visitors. Do not forget to visit the ‘monster table’ to know where the dreaded shell monster (Skeljaskrímsli) lurks.
c) The Icelandic Punk Museum: For all the music lovers out there, check out this museum dedicated to music from the punk era. The most unusual part is that the place is situated underground, in what used to be a public toilet! The punk God, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, had lauded this museum.
#3 Rent A Car And Drive Around The Golden Circle
The Kerid Crater. Image: Pitchathorn Chitnelawong/123rf.com
You can book a rental car from Reykjavik Excursions, which starts from ISK19.90, and drive around the Golden Circle. It is a day trip that includes the hot spring Strokkur, the waterfall Gullfoss, Kerid Crater Lake, and the national park Thingvellir. While you’re at it, stop by at Friðheimar, a tomato and cucumber farm-restaurant in Reykholt, run by a local family. You will get everything, starting from tomato ice-cream to tomato chutney.
#4 Eat Fermented Shark
Anthony Bourdain tasted this delicacy and said ‘never again’. But hey, don’t let his opinion affect yours!
Humans cannot eat Greenland Shark as it is toxic. Hence, the Icelanders came up with an alternative way to eat it. Earlier, the locals would bury the shark and – wait for it – urinate on it before letting it ferment for some months. Over the years, the process improved (phew!) and now they just bury and hang the shark meat for 5 months to dry.
#5 Visit The Myvatn Nature Baths – An Alternative To The Blue Lagoon
Image: Vasilis Ververidis/123rf.com
Myvatn Nature Baths, located in North Iceland, are an alternative to the famous Blue Lagoon. It is a less crowded hot spring swimming pool, where the water temperature is always around 36° to 40° Celsius. This natural hot spring is open for visitors for extra hours and is the best place to bathe in and watch the sunset.
This area is called the Dark Cities. Legend has it that Satan fell on the area surrounding the hot spring after being banished from heaven. The elves, later on, claimed the Dark Cities and cast
#6 Go To Namafjall Hverir, The Geothermal Area
At Hverir, you’ll see several boiling mud pots and smoking fumaroles, enclosed with sulphur crystals of various colours. Due to the presence of sulphur, this area has a strong egg-like smell and little vegetation.
Hverir has a hiking track up to Námafjall Mountain and Námaskarð pass, which leads to the highway and the parking lot.
#7 Swim Between Continents At The Silfra Rift
Want to experience something unique and magical? Visit the Þhingvellir National Park and snorkel between two continents. This area is known as Silfra Rift, which appeared after an earthquake in 1789. The water is crystal-clear and it is possible to scuba dive if you have a drysuit certificate. It has the longest underwater visibility on Earth.
#8 Say ‘Ho Ho Ho’ To Santa
As a child, almost every one of us dreamt of visiting Santa’s workshop. When you’re in Iceland, you can live that dream. In the city of Akureyri, you will find a red house with a candy on the roof at spot called Jólagarðurinn. When you enter the house, you will find all kinds of Christmas-y knick knacks. The ‘fairy-tale tower’ next to the house is the largest Christmas calendar in the world.
#9 Look For Or Learn About Elves
Small houses built into the landscape. Image: Micha Klootwijk/123rf.com
Many Icelanders still believe in elves. To the point that numerous construction projects have been abandoned or altered to preserve elf homes. In case you are looking for a unique peek into the culture, take out time to learn about Huldufólk. Elf sightings are pretty common among locals – so ask them to share an anecdote or two. You may even see tiny houses built into rocks when you travel around the country. Iceland is also a famous film/television shooting spot. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will quickly recognise some of the places from the show. For instance, lmannagjá gorge is represented as the Gates of Moon, which leads to the home of Lady Lysa. The Thingvellir National Park is a place where the Hound and Brienne fought in season 4.
So, what are you waiting for? Head to Iceland and enjoy a unique holiday!
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