The weird and wonderful world of Iceland

Earlier in the year I wrote about my bucket list destination of Iceland. I have a real love for the beautiful land of fire and ice, of the glorious scenery, the geysers, the stalagmites, the landscapes that span from mountains and glaciers to expanses of cold sea. In my earlier post I looked at some of the most popular, and traditional places to visit during a trip, but Iceland is truly a weird and wonderful land, and there are so many other places and experiences to enjoy that are far away from the beaten track. Whether you are a lover of Halloween, or of Christmas, or just a football fan who fell in love with that Icelandic chant and clap this summer, Iceland has so much to offer that promises to be unforgettable, and as you can enjoy the Country at your own pace with self drive tours in Iceland,  you will be left wondering just how soon you can get back there.

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Trawire is a company that rents portable wifi modems giving you and your travel companions constant internet access while traveling in Iceland. These small portable devices can fit in your pocket while hiking or a cupholder while in the vehicle – perfect for your Iceland trip! With so many destinations that you will want to share, this is a great way to stay in touch by staying online.

Now, Here are some places that will appeal to you if you want to get a different taste of Iceland.

The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft

Iceland is the perfect place to visit for a spooky Halloween experience. The most mystical and mysterious of all Icelandic museums, the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft looks at the history and legends of Iceland’s witches, who, quite unusually, were mainly male. The museum (Strandagaldur) has some truly horrendous artefacts and exhibits. The most unusual has to be the necropants which were the dried skin of a man from the waist down, worn as a sort of trouser in order to create spells. This museum is perfect for those who like their history to be gloriously gruesome!

The Hallgrimskirkja

The tallest building in Iceland is situated in Reykjavik is a must visit for those with a love of interesting, other-worldly architecture. The Hallgrimskirkja is a 244ft Lutheran church which offers some of the best views across Reykjavik from it’s bell tower. The white facade of the church almost makes it appear as if it has been carved from ice and has a modern feel that echoes the fact that although it was begun in 1945, it was not completed until 1983, making it a relatively modern building.

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Close to the Hallgrimskirkja is Tulipop. An original, design-led character brand from Iceland, it is a cool store based on the mystical Tulipop island and its inhabitants. Both cuddly and gothic and strongly inspired by forms and colours in nature, the Tulipop world features intriguing characters such as Bubble, a shy and dreamy mushroom boy and Gloomy, an adventurous mushroom girl, who loves surprises and cheeky little pranks – challenging gender stereotypes.

 

Alfaskolim (Elf School)

A lot of superstition in Iceland is linked to elves, with at least nine races of elves recorded.  In Iceland, a large rock or boulder could be just a large rock, but it could also be a secret home to Elves. If you are interested in learning more about this rather wonderful superstition, then enrolling in a short course at Elf School could be for you. Based in Reykjavik, Elf School allows you to learn about elves to diploma level in a whistle stop five hour course. At the end of the course you will be awarded a diploma in elf studies, which is definitely something to add to your CV!

Sea Monster Museum

Definitely one for anyone with interest in Loch Ness, or Krackens, the Sea Monster museum (Skrimslasetur) is, quite fittingly, housed in a former fish factory located in the north-west cost village of Bildudalur on the shores of Arnarfjordur fjord. The Fjord is believed to be one of the most famous places when it comes to monster activity, so as well as being able to find out about monsters through images, films and stories, you may actually get a chance of spotting in a real monster. Children under the age of 10 are allowed, but must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

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Christmas Garden (Akineym Area)

If, like Roy Wood and Wizzard, you wish it could be Christmas every day, then you need to add the Christmas garden to your bucket list, for this is a place where it is always the most wonderful time of the year. The Christmas Garden has a traditional Santa offering gifts,and you can visit his workshop throughout the year to check his progress, but you can also learn about Icelandic traditional Christmas stories and traditions, including the tale of Gryla, the Christmas Ogress and her 13 sons, the Yule lads. Gryla boils horrible children in her cauldron – another deliciously dark Icelandic tale!

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Icelandic Football

The whole of Europe seemed to fall in love with the Icelandic National football team this summer during the Euro 2016 tournament in France. The spirited display on the pitch, and the fearsome Icelandic Clap celebration (apparently borrowed from Motherwell) was both to be feared and enjoyed. The Icelandic football league is called the Urvalsdeild. Currently FH are top of the league, followed by SFJarnan.

If you fancy watching a game of football in Iceland, you can find FH playing their home games at the Kaplaknkavolkr. This is in Hafnarfjorour and has a capacity of 6738. If you are used to watching the Premier League, you will find a very different scenario in Iceland, but one that is definitely filled with pride, passion and lots of atmosphere.

Iceland – a weird and wonderful land that has to be experienced.

Why I long to visit Iceland

Before Joe was born, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time traveling, and loved the excitement of discovering new places. I visited lots of different and diverse places, from the Art Capitals of Europe, to the ultra modern skyscrapers of Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, to the blissful idyllic beaches of Thailand, the land of smiles. But I felt less inclined to travel so far afield with a young baby in tow, and so the last few years have been restricted to package holidays in Menorca and time spent enjoying our caravan in Snowdonia. In my head though, I have been compiling a wishlist of all the exciting, wonderful places I still wish to visit. With Joe now reaching seven, and exhibiting the same wonderlust that has always given me itchy feet, the time my well be right to harness that travel bug once again, and the place at the top of my list is Iceland.

Why Iceland?

It’s a bit of a silly question really – is there anywhere with a landscape more breathtaking and awe-inspiring that Iceland? It truly has it all, from volcanoes and mountains, to glaciers and geysers. With beaches covered in black sand, to hot springs and waterfalls, Iceland quite rightly earns the name ‘the land of fire and ice’. It is otherworldly and totally stunning in it’s uniqueness. Whether you are interested in finding out more about the Vikings, or want the chance to see the Northern Lights, Iceland is a place you must visit before you die. A true bucket list destination.

The Northern Lights

The wonderful Aurora Borealis is one of the wonders of the modern world, and Iceland is a good place to see them – especially between the months of November and March, so now is still a good time to travel. You can spot the lights in many different ways, from an organised trip, or just choosing an appropriate night to stare at the sky. Whichever way you choose, make sure you put on those layers – the best conditions for seeing the lights are when the temperature drops below freezing. Hopefully braving the cold will be rewarded by the spectacular light show.

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The Blue Lagoon at Grindavik

Going to Iceland on honeymoon? Then you must visit the Blue Lagoon at Grindavik. This is a naturally heated spa that has swim up bars serving everything from health drinks to Champagne. There are also lots of restaurants at the lagoon so you can round off your day of relaxation with some fine food. This is another to-do on my bucket list, imagine being surrounded by snow sitting in the heat of the lagoon – just heavenly.

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It’s all about the Whales

You can’t go all the way to Iceland and not attempt to spot the magnificent whales. You can take a whale watching trip from the harbour in Reykjavik and maybe try to spot an humpback whale. Even if you don’t get lucky, there are other wonderful forms of marine wildlife to enjoy, including porpoises and dolphins.

If you are really interested in finding out more about whales, then you could also take a trip to The Whale Museum in Husavik. Based in an old building that used to be an abandoned slaughterhouse, it is now one of the most visited places in Northern Iceland. You can check out whole whale skeletons and find out fascinating facts about these giant mammals.

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History and Culture at the National Museum of Iceland

A treasure trove of artefacts that date back more than 1000 years, the National Museum of Iceland will help you understand more about the history of this most beautiful of places. There are exhibitions on Arts and Crafts, homes and settlements and social culture.

Arnarfjorour

My final place of interest is Arnarfjorour, which is known as one of the most beautiful of all the Fjords. This is due to the mountains that surround it, and the magical Dyjandi waterfall (the name means thunderous). This is a great place to visit if you like hiking and being close to nature – it is simply breathtaking.

Iceland is literally a thousand landscapes and experiences tied into one island. A place to visit and never forget.