This island nation is fairly small, but there are a ton of fun things to do in Iceland. There are plenty of articles showing the less offbeat activities in the Land of Fire and Ice, so I wanted to highlight some of the more unusual and quirky activities and sights to add a unique spin to your visit.
Iceland has a nice representation of museums, and some of them are definitely more. . . unique. Let’s begin with Strandagaldur, the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Located in the northern part of the island, this museum houses various items related to the practice of magic in Iceland’s early history.
One of their more peculiar items on display are the necropants, which are a pair of pants made from human skin. They guaranteed the wearer an endless supply of money.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik boasts the world’s largest collection of penises and penile parts. They also claim to have troll and elf penises, but as those creatures are invisible you can’t actually see them.
There’s even a documentary about the museum.
Iceland has some very popular waterfalls which are usually seen as part of an organized tour or road trip. However, there are a couple that are particularly impressive but most people don’t know about them.
Svartifoss is a very unique waterfall located in Vatnajökull National Park. One of things that sets this waterfall apart is that it flows over basalt columns. When you see amazing, mythical-appearing landscapes such as this it’s easy to see why many modern Icelanders believe in trolls and elves.
Another waterfall to make sure you visit, which is off the infamous Ring Road, is Gljúfrafoss. This waterfall is hidden in a cave located behind a cliff. There is a trail for hikers to be able to see it up close. Visitors will also find a staircase so they can get a different view of the impressive falls.
Interesting Natural Formations
In northwest Iceland, you can observe Hvítserkur. This huge basalt sea stack looks like a monster rising up from the ocean. Some see a dragon dipping its head into the waters for a drink. Local legend says it was a troll that wanted to destroy a nearby convent’s bells, but it was hit by sunlight which, of course, petrified it.
The area is also home to a large population of sea lions, probably the largest gathering in Iceland. There are also a lot of birds. In fact, the formation’s white appearance is from their guano.
Near the small coastal town of Vík, located in Iceland’s south coast, you’ll find one of my most favorite places—Reynisdrangar. Here you’ll find a gorgeous black beach with a basalt column formation to one side and very cool sea stacks to the other. The basalt cliff forms a small cave that looks like the entrance to another dimension.
The formations in the ocean are, of course, pesky trolls who turned to stone while trying to drag a ship back to shore.
The whole scene is just so other-worldly it shouldn’t be missed. South coast tours usually include this location as a stop, but it’s also not a far drive from the capital.
If you have an affinity for elves and their kind, then you should consider going to Hafnarfjörður where you can take a tour of their hidden world. You could also take a more in-depth course about them through The Elfschool.
Geothermal pools are not unusual at all in Iceland; however, between May 15 and August 1, you can visit the golden sand geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík. You can bathe in the waters in the lagoon, but there is also a sauna and two pools, one of which is designed for small children. Conveniently, there are also changing rooms, towel and swimsuit rentals as well as food vendors. Use of the facilities, including the pools, is free during the summer.
As one might imagine, agriculture wasn’t a booming industry in Iceland’s early history. This has resulted in some unique cuisine.
One of the country’s most popular foods is the hot dog. The Icelandic version is made from lamb. These are traditionally served with raw and fried onions, ketchup, a slightly sweet brown mustard and remoulade. They are absolutely delicious and surprisingly inexpensive. We still crave them from time to time.
One of the more famous infamous foods in this country is hákarl. This is essentially fermented shark. This particular sea creature lacks kidneys, so the fish is left for months to drain the urea from its body before being cured. Some might argue the smell is worse than the flavor, but I think it’s really a draw.
If you decide to partake, plan on having a big spoon of peanut butter at the ready. You’ll want to slowly suck on the peanut butter to partially rid yourself of the aftertaste. It’s a gift that keeps on giving for hours.
Minke whale is another popular seafood dish, and it’s quite delicious. The flesh is dark red and has a similar consistency to beef. You can find it in many restaurants, but it’s also available in grocery stores and at the flea market in downtown Reykjavik.
One food item I didn’t get to try while there was puffin. This tends to be a seasonal item, but there are some restaurants that serve it year round. It is usually smoked but is sometimes served broiled. Some people have described the flavor as being reminiscent of pastrami.
Not quite as unusual but still particular to modern-day Iceland is Skyr. It is very similar to Greek yogurt in its consistency but is technically a soft cheese. It is high in protein, very low in fat, and high in calcium. I always look for it in markets elsewhere. It’s a great gustatory reminder of this wonderful country.
Which unique things to do in Iceland will make it onto your list? Will you brave sampling hákarl?