Did you know…? 10 Curious Things About Iceland

Iceland is an incredible and very original country. While preparing our trip and during the journey we discovered several weird things about the Land of Ice and Fire and we would like to share them with you 😀

  • Although Iceland is considered a very cold place (as its name should prove), the weather is not as cold as you think, thanks to the North Atlantic Current and Gulf Stream that make the climate more temperate. In winter, average temperature in Reykjavik is between 0° and 4° C, a lot warmer than New York in the same season
  • Since Iceland is a small country and many Icelanders share common ancestors, the Íslendingabók app prevents people from dating a cousin or a relative, thanks to its database including family trees and family birthday calendars.
  • The most delicious snack for Icelandic people is fermented (almost rotten) shark meat, hákarl . Its taste is really intense and it strongly smells of ammonia 😖 . In the past it was produced by burying the Greenland shark meat under gravel and stones for 6-12 weeks for fermentation. Nowadays, a modern process is used. We tasted the hákarl at the Shark Museum in Bjarnarhöfn, with dark rye bread and the local spirit brennivín.
Fermented shark
Fermented shark
  • Many Icelanders believe in elves, trolls and “hidden people”: this is not just a superstition. The Icelandic Times reports that, according to the most recent survey (2006), only 13% of the Icelandic population declare that the existence of elves and other creatures is pure fantasy. One of the proofs of elves’ existence would be the fact that they intervened to block the expansion of a geothermic lagoon to the benefits of tourists. Apparently, during the construction of the site, the machinery came to a complete halt, and the management had to call in a medium to negotiate with elves and finally get their approval.
  • In Iceland there are no surnames and family names: they use patronymic and – occasionally – matronymic. This tradition is also present in other Northern Europe countries, however Icelanders are the only ones who perpetuated the tradition until nowadays. Thus, a person’s surname is composed by his/her father’s first name + son (for men) or dóttir (for women).
  • Iceland had the first democratically elected female and openly gay Prime Ministers. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. She served as an MP between 1987 and 2009 and was then elected Prime Minister and held this office until May 2013. This is a sign of Iceland’s openness: in recent years, Iceland has always topped World Economic Forum gender gap’s rankings. With regards to LGBT rights, civil unions between same-sex couples were approved in 1996, adoption in 2006, and marriage in 2010.
  • The Hringvegur is the only highway of the country, it was completed in 1974 and it runs along the coast of the island. It is two lanes for most of its length but small bridges are single lane in the East; it’s mainly paved but there are still some stretches where it is gravel road. Sigur Rós filmed a video driving all the 1 339 km, check it out!
Hringvegur or Ring Road
Hringvegur or Ring Road
  • In Reykjavik there is the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the only museum in the world to display a collection of phallic specimens belonging to different types of mammals. In the Museum there are more than 200 penises, from whales, polar bears, seals and walrus. There are also several objects related to the theme of the museum…like the reproduction of the penises of the Icelandic Handball team! 😂
  • In the telephone book everyone is listed by their first name and you can find the telephone number for everyone in Iceland on the internet, the Prime Minister included!
  • In Iceland reading is very popular. An average Icelander reads four books a year and one out of ten publishes something in their lifetime! The country has more books written, published and sold per capita. In particular, Icelanders love to offer books for Christmas: it has become a national tradition, called Jólabókaflóð (literally a “book flood”).
A bookshop in Reykjavik
A bookshop in Reykjavik

Did you know about those facts? If you know others, comment below!

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