Iceland is a weird and wonderful place. It’s true.
We all know that Iceland is an amazing country filled with abundant natural beauty including thousands of waterfalls. But did you know there are also elves?
Punk Rock fanatics? And a Penis Museum?
Read on to find out about these curious things that make Iceland a unique place to visit.
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Elves in Iceland
Okay, maybe not elves in the traditional sense, but Huldufolk, or Hidden People.
The stories of the Hidden People are a part of the culture all Icelandic children grow up hearing.
Folklore surrounding them has been retold and passed along since the age of the Vikings.
They are thought to be a people living in a parallel universe to the human inhabitants, looking and behaving very much the same way, only on the other side of the rocks.
They can only be seen if they wish to be.
Do all Icelandic people believe in elves?
Ask an Icelander this question and see if you can get a straight answer.
Government construction projects have been known to be delayed or reconfigured based on the belief of their existence.
There have been many books written that take place in Iceland and that refer to the Hidden People.
As part of my pre-travel research, I always like to read some fiction related to the culture of my planned destination.
Before visiting Iceland recently, I read a fantastic novel called Storytellers, written by Bjørn Larssen. Gunnar, the main character in the tale, allows us a great peek into rural Icelandic culture. And, well, you just may meet an elf.
And if you are a reader, you may want to check out this gift guide for traveling readers as well, before you head off on your next trip.
Hidden people are one of the most endearing sides to weird and wonderful Iceland.
Watch this fascinating video interview of Icelandic residents explaining the existence of the Hidden Folk.
Rainbow Bounce Pads
Are you traveling in Iceland with kids? If so, you need to know about Iceland jumping pillows.
What exactly are these jumping pillows Iceland offers? They are a cross between a trampoline and a bouncy castle and best of all they are free!
These rainbow colored bounce pads are great for kiddos and bouncy people of all ages.
There are over 100 of them installed around the country and are free for all to use.
You will usually find Iceland jumping pillows near a playground. Here is a link to an interactive map where you can find them located.
The Icelandic jumping pads are a great way to burn some energy after a long day of driving on Ring Rd. They are fun for adults as well but its not as easy as it looks as you can see in this video short of one jumper.
Just keep in mind, the people of Iceland have installed jumping pillows for their children’s use. They weren’t meant to be tourist attractions. So as always when traveling, respect the local communities you visit.
Punk Rock Museum
Are you a lover of punk rock music? Then this funky, one-of-a-kind museum is a dream.
This tiny, former public restroom, and creative space is a fun way to spend an hour or so. Just grab the wrought iron railing and head underground.
The proprietor will greet you and entertain you and talk about the music for as long as you wish. If you are looking for a deep conversation about your favorite bands, this is the place for it.
Maybe it was the blond hair and blue eyes, but when I entered the museum I was greeted in Icelandic. The owner says he thought I was native, but I think he was just trying to get me to laugh. It worked!
A Tomato Restaurant
Iceland has a restaurant with a menu dedicated to the theme of tomatoes.
The restaurant menu includes tomato soup, of course, but also such items as tomato beer, tomato ice cream, and green tomato apple pie.
You might even want to try a tomato espresso.
Friðheimar Tomato Restaurant offers visits to the greenhouse where you can dine for lunch as well.
Produce is grown all year round using artificial light and geothermal water to heat the greenhouse.
If you plan on stopping for lunch, a reservation might be a good idea. Here is the Friðheimar website for more information.
Weird and Wonderful Facts about Dating in Iceland
Do you think finding your soul mate is hard where you live?
Imagine living in a country with less than 400,000 people.
Most of whom have descended from the same group of Viking explorers who settled there in the 9th century.
Throw in hundreds of miles of separation in a country where harsh weather conditions keep you apart most months of the year.
As a result, Íslendingabók was created in 1997. Translated it means, Book of Icelanders.
It is an online database that Icelanders can use to check how closely related they are to each other.
It was created by a medical research company to address the unique demographics of Iceland’s population.
So, when you meet that special someone over a drink at the pub, you can log in to find out if they are your cousin.
Einkamál is a dating site and app that has been used in Iceland for the past 20 years. It connects people around the country for both romance and friendship.
Both dating and marriage are very casual affairs in Icelandic culture.
Names in Iceland
When you are visiting Iceland, if it seems like everyone around you has the same name, well… it’s because they do. Iceland has a unique naming system.
When you have a child, they are not given your last name. Instead they will take the father’s first name and add either “son” or “daughter” to the end to create the surname.
Names are very traditional in Iceland. The same first names are used over and over. To preserve the language you may only name your child from a specific accepted list.
If you wish to deviate form the list you must present it for approval by the Icelandic Naming Committee. The list itself contains over 3,500 approved names.
Since there are no family names, and last names change with each generation or partner, the genealogy database is even more critical in keeping track of close blood ties.
Weird and Wonderful Iceland Eggs as Sculpture
While driving along the East Fjords you may come across some unusual art.
These large stone eggs balanced on cement columns are known as The Eggs of Merry Bay.
An unexpected sight along the gray harbor of Djúpivogur.
These unique eggs were created by local artist Sigurður Guðmundsson to represent the 34 species of birds who nest in the area.
It feels so typical of Iceland. Unexplained beauty against the harsh landscape.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum is a real thing.
Try not to snicker. I think we can agree that this tops the list for weird and wonderful things about Iceland but this is a serious scientific and historical museum.
The collection was developed slowly over the course of the past 40 years. It consists of nearly 300 specimens from close 100 different mammals.
Located in downtown Reykjavik they are open every day. And yes, there’s a gift shop.
Now You Know
Beyond the undeniable natural beauty, there is so much more to see and do in Iceland.
So now it is for you to decide which of things are the weird, and which of these things are the wonderful.
It is safe to say that the local culture in Iceland will make your travels to Iceland a very memorable experience.
Read this helpful article if you are wondering about the cost of traveling to Iceland.
Íslendingabók. http://www.islendingabok.is. Accessed 13 Nov. 2022.
Magazine, Smithsonian, and Rose Eveleth. “Some Icelanders Are Accidentally Dating a Relative and Now There’s an App for That.” Smithsonian Magazine, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/some-icelanders-are-accidentally-dating-a-relative-and-now-theres-an-app-for-that-25175819/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2022.
“New App Helps Icelanders Avoid Accidental Incest.” AP, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/04/18/new-app-helps-icelanders-avoid-accidental-incest/2093649/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2022.
Pönksafn Íslands. https://icelandic-punk-museumponksafn-islands.business.site. Accessed 13 Nov. 2022.