Mystical Iceland is a country of striking and sometimes supernatural beauty – matched by its rich and extensive folklore.
For years, Iceland’s myths and legends have intrigued visitors. They love the unknown and want to discover more about Icelandic superstitions. They also relish the adventure of visiting the sites of thousands of years of mythology – and perhaps even spot the elves and trolls, if some locals are to be believed.
Now you can not only explore Iceland’s folklore and culture, but also save up to $1000 per cabin on selected 2022 itineraries with Hurtigruten’s Iceland cruises.
The Land of fire and ice is also a wildlife haven where you can go whale watching, spot seals and walrus. It is a paradise for birds and puffin colonies seen against a background of towering mountains, fjords and majestic waterfalls. Only Iceland offers surreal lava fields, bubbling hot springs, amazing Viking heritage and unmatched wildlife.
Many locals believe in huldufólk – hidden elves. Folklore has it that when roadwork projects run into trouble in Iceland, a medium is consulted to appease these “angry elves” before work can resume.
Here are some “otherworldly” experiences you can expect while you are in Iceland.
In Iceland, whether you are in a populated city or the middle of supernatural-seeming wilderness – you’re likely to come across álfhól. These are small wooden houses people have been constructed for elves, who are said to live in them. You may even see very small churches, which are created for the purpose of converting the elves to Christianity. These elf homes range from simple to quite elaborate. Try counting how many you can spot.
Special Times for the Huldufólk
Certain holidays seem to bring the huldufólk out of hiding in Iceland. If you are in the country during New Year’s Eve, Twelfth Night, Midsummer or Christmas night, expect to hear folktales of elves holding parties or humans hosting bonfires for them. It is also an Icelandic custom to clean the house and leave food for the huldufólk on Christmas. Then there’s Midsummer night which gives you the chance to sit at a crossroads and have the huldufólk offer you great gifts – but the real rewards come from refusing them, or so the stories say.
The Trolls of Vík
Visit the beautiful black sand beaches in Vík and you will come face-to-face with trolls, according to local legend. Vik is one of the world’s most enchanting beaches tucked away near a very small city. You will also notice basalt rock formations known as Reynisdrangar. The legend says these rocks are really trolls, who were caught in the sunlight as they tried to drag ships ashore and were turned into stone.
Then there are monsters, known in Icelandic as skrimsli, who may live in the sea.
Thorvaldur Fridriksson, a scholar of sea monsters said: “Some of these monsters are dangerous. People are reluctant to tell about them because others will laugh. But about 70 percent of Earth is sea and who knows what the sea hides?”
The Elf School
If you’re interested in Icelandic folklore, stop by the Elf School in Reykjavik and learn about Iceland’s folklore, elves, fairies, trolls, dwarves and more. There are also tours of the “habitats of the hidden folk” served with coffee and pancakes. And you’ll even get a diploma.