Iceland off the beaten path is a country like no other. Legendary Viking history. Intriguing culture and cuisine. Plus it is just far enough removed from its neighbors to make others curious about this island nation.
Turns out that in addition to being breathtakingly beautiful, Iceland is overflowing with cool, quirky, unique and offbeat sights and activities — not to mention countless strange but intriguing museums dedicated to sorcery, penises, sea monsters and more. The more you explore, the more interesting things you discover. However for those short on time, here is a quick starter guide to experiencing Iceland off the beaten path:
Attend The Icelandic Elf School
It’s no secret that many Icelanders believe in elves and hidden people — people who look just like us but are invisible to most “normal” people. In fact stories abound about elf “consultants” being hired for construction projects or to help with the planning of bridges and highways. And while the numbers vary depending upon which survey you trust, it’s safe to say that between 1/4 and 1/2 of the population believe in these fascinating creatures.
Since opening in 1991, the Icelandic Elf School has been the go-to source for all things historic and educational about elves (apparently there are 13 different types), as well as hidden people. Their weekly classes are held every Friday and are attended by both locals and foreigners alike — although the founder, Magnús Skarphéðinsson, admits that the majority of his students over the last two and a half decades have been foreigners interested in learning more about Iceland’s culture.
Scuba Dive In The Arctic Circle
Þingvellir National Park
When people think of Iceland, their pristine glaciers and legendary hot springs are what always come to mind first. But have you ever thought about scuba diving in the Arctic Circle? Diving here is like nowhere else on earth! Why? Because of the Silfra Rift!
A rift is where two or more tectonic plates meet. Most often this occur underwater and a few are located on land, however the Silfra Rift is the only rift in the world located inside of a lake — the Þingvallavatn Lake.
Each year these plates drift another two centimeters apart, which results in an earthquake roughly once a decade. However scuba diving in Þingvellir Lake to witness the geologic beauty of planet Earth is safe and a once-in-a-lifetime experience unlike any other. Oh and did I mention that the glacier water here is so clear that underwater visibility is some of the best in the world — often 250 feet or more!
Get Your Museum On
Scattered around the country
I’ve long been a fan of strange, quirky and unique museums around the world and Iceland is home to several of these. Of course all their museums dedicated to sorcery, sea monsters, fish and water seem perfectly normal when compared to the Icelandic Phallological Museum — otherwise known as the penis museum, for those of you who have forgotten the medical term for the male reproductive organ.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains a pant-swelling collection of nearly 300 mammal penises and penile parts from around 100 different species. In addition to the (educationally) stimulating exhibits, the museum also strives to shine a light on how this particular organ has influenced the history of human art and literature. Oh…and there may or may not be a couple examples of the Homo Sapien penis on display — but you’ll just have to visit for yourself to find out.
Don’t tire yourself out too much at the Phallological Museum, though. Skrímslasetrið, otherwise known as the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum, covers the entire history of Arctic sea monsters and sightings. They have even begun to classify these monsters as one of four basic types based on their characteristics. For all the curious souls out there, they are: “the fjörulalli (Shore Laddie), the hafmaður (Sea Man), the skeljaskrímsli (Shell Monster) and the faxaskrímsli (Combined Monster/Sea Horse).
Other notable museums include Randulf’s Sea House in Eskifjorður (dedicated to fishing and fisherman, this museum is also part time capsule and part restaurant), Vatnasafn (the Museum of Water) and of course the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft, which should be fairly self-explanatory.
Want more? Check out all the unique types of alcohol only found in Iceland to really “soak up” more of the local culture 😉 And remember to keep traveling off the beaten path! These are just a few of the offbeat, obscure, strange and unique things to do in Iceland, a country never fails to impress first-time visitors. Never been before? Here’s a quick and easy guide on where to stay in Iceland….have fun!