30 Things Iceland Is Known and Famous For

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Iceland is a segregated island with volcanoes, mountains, and lagoons. It is a Nordic country, located between Norway and Greenland. Furthermore, it borders the Greenland Sea as well as the North Atlantic Ocean. Despite the high cost of living, there are many things that Iceland is known for that make it an attractive destination for many.

What Is Iceland Known For? 

Iceland is famous for its natural wonders, abundant wildlife, and lively towns. Its Scandinavian roots are prominent when taking into account the unique Viking heritage and interesting architecture. Additionally, Iceland is known for its breathtaking glaciers, impressive waterfalls, The Blue Lagoon, and Northern Lights. 

History, Culture, and Traditions Iceland Is Known For

Þorrablót 

Þorrablót, also known as Thorrablót, is a customary Icelandic tradition. It is celebrated in January and February by families and friends. 

In the celebration, various types of meat are smoked and preserved. Iceland is famous for its meats, including lamb and shark, as well as other more typical meats such as pig and horse. Be sure to try out some delicious Icelandic food when you visit.

Originally, this tradition was created to honor the mythical god Thor, who was associated with thunder. Arguably, this could also be in devotion to Thorri Snærsson, the King of Norway.

Sólarkaffi 

Sólarkaffi, known as the Sun Coffee Day, is based on the idea that Iceland is known for being dark. This darkness is between the end of November and the end of January. 

Fundamentally, the sun stays hidden behind the clouds, hidden behind the mountains due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle. As a result, many regions in Iceland are engrossed in darkness. When the sun finally emerges again, Icelanders gather an assortment of treats and coffee and drink it together. 

This celebrates the re-appearance of the sun.

Bolludagur 

Bolludagur is an Icelandic holiday that locals name ‘cream bun day.’ 

On the Monday before Ash Wednesday, a Christian celebration, children receive a wooden stick from their parents. With this they must chase and spank their parents, receiving a pastry for each hit. 

Usually, these are choux buns filled with jam. There are many variations, including chocolate, nuts, or dried fruits. 

Vikings 

When you hear Iceland, one of the first things you think of is irrefutably Vikings. Iceland is famous for its Nordic Vikings. These are travelers that predominantly traveled to Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in the 8th century.

Three centuries later, they subsequently settled in these Scandinavian countries, and their culture progressively died out. One of the fun facts about Iceland is that it is one of the last areas for humans to settle.

There are many stereotypes surrounding Vikings, such as horned helmets and their aggressive nature. Although this was not always the case, the media labels Vikings this way and as a result, this is how they are commonly remembered. 

Réttir 

Réttir is the annual round-up of sheep in Iceland. 

During the warm summer months, the sheep are allowed to freely roam the hills of the countryside. However, in September, it is Icelandic tradition to put in a communal effort and gather the livestock so that they can be counted, marked, and therefore protected. 

This has been a valued tradition for over three centuries, as it brings together friends and family. Iceland is known for these special traditions.

Clothing

Clothing is a significant element of Icelandic culture; Iceland is famous for its woolen clothes.

Because of the vast sheep population, wool is in abundance. This means that warm clothing such as woolen vests, sweaters, and jackets are popular in all regions. 

Traditional pieces of clothing include the ‘treyja’, which is a buttoned jacket that was first worn in the 7th century. A ‘peysa’ is a similar sweater that is worn more casually. 

Historically, traditional shoes are made of fish or sheep, due to how copious they are.

Verslunarmannahelgi 

Verslunarmannahelgi is a festival of colossal magnitude. It is a chance to camp for three days, and enjoy the warm weather before winter comes. It is held annually on the first Monday of August.  

The festival itself is a culmination of several festivals all around the country. The main event is Mýrarboltinn, known as mud football, where participants dance to the music and can simultaneously compete in sports.

Others include Þjóðhátíð, which includes fireworks and a barbeque. These sort of beautiful celebrations is what Iceland is known for.

Cuisine 

Iceland is famous for its distinct cuisine. Popular dishes often include lamb, because of the sheep population which exceeds the human population! This lamb can be fermented and eaten as Hangikjöt, which is smoked meat. Alternatively, it can be added to soup as Kjötsúpa. 

For puddings, Skyr can be used in a combination of ways. This is a yogurt-like food with a creamy consistency that can be eaten alone, or as a part of another dessert. Icelandic desserts can be the perfect cherry on top of your trip around the country.

Cities And Travel Destinations Iceland Is Known For

Reykjavik 

Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland and houses 60% of its population. This contributes to its lively atmosphere, bustling streets, and spectacular nightlife!

One of the best things to do in Reykjavik is explore the restaurants and cafes. They are prominently known for their Pulsar, hot dogs made of lamb. Because of the impressive sheep population, and tried-and-true recipe, this cuisine is essential to try out. 

If you are visiting with friends, the nightclubs are also a great attraction to visit! This is in stark contrast to other Icelandic towns, which are quieter and more well-known for their scenery. Despite this, Reykjavik has several natural landmarks. This includes The Blue Lagoon and Gullfoss Falls.

Seyðisfjörður 

Seyðisfjörður is a beautiful town in Eastern Iceland, famous for its colorful buildings, creativity, and vibrant atmosphere. 

If you are an art admirer, Seyðisfjörður should be on your list of cities to visit in Iceland. The LungA Art Festival is a series of concerts, workshops, and activities held yearly lastly one entire week. Here, you can experience an immersive festival celebrating individuality and spirit.

Another place to visit in Seyðisfjörður is the Tvisongur Song Sculpture atop a mountainous backdrop. This consists of five domes that utilize frequency to create unique sounds.

Hofn

Hofn is a town in South-East Iceland. It is famously known for the Hoffellsjokull Glacier, one of the most popular natural landmarks in Iceland. This is a stunning river of ice flowing from Vatnajökull which creates a scenic lagoon.

Another natural landmark in Hofn is Vestrahorn Mountain. The mountain is 454 meters and towers over the peninsula below, which is perfect for hiking along the trails. Iceland is famous for its mountain ranges, especially because of the picturesque backdrops.

Lastly, Hofn is known for its museums. The Kiddi’s Workshop is a stone museum with a range of distinct rocks and minerals, whereby you can explore pieces from around the world. Furthermore, there is a gift shop for souvenirs to take home!

Akureyri 

Akureyri in Northern Iceland is a relatively large town, with several impressive features.

The Akureyri Botanical Gardens are amongst the most remarkable attractions in the city. They were found in 1910 and have since then accumulated over 7000 species of flowers that are native to Iceland.

Furthermore, there are various waterfalls scattered around the city. Iceland is known for its natural landmarks, whereby the most famous is undeniably the Godafoss Waterfall. This is found in the Skjálfandafljót River. It is otherwise known as the Waterfall of Gods, as legend states that Pagan statues were thrown into the water body by a famous Viking.

Husavik 

Husavik is known as the Whale Capital. Iceland is known for its wildlife, and Skjálfandi Bay is no exception.

It is well-known for having a variety of whales such as humpback, minke, and harbor porpoise. Additionally, there are dolphins and other fish which can be observed from the shore, jumping up and down.

Similarly, The Husavik Whale Museum is a natural history museum that displays hundreds of skeletal remains. This is not restricted only to whales, but also to other marine life.

Kópavogur 

Kópavogur is a large city in Iceland. It translates to ‘seal pup bay’, due to the Kópavogskirkja Church which displays a seal pup below it.

The Church is located on top of Borgarholt Hill; therefore, you can view the city panoramically upon entering. The modernist style of architecture combined with the crisp white interior makes it one of the most interesting landmarks in the city!

Similarly, The Kopavogur Art Museum is a contemporary gallery with over 1400 works from a variety of modernist artists. 

Landmarks And Architecture Iceland Is Famous For

Blue Lagoon 

The Blue Lagoon is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations and famous landmarks in Iceland. It is found in the Reykjanes Peninsula, which is ideal due to its proximity to Iceland’s main airport. 

The Blue Lagoon is famous because of the healing properties of the water, which is enriched with minerals that leave your skin feeling hydrated and repaired. Furthermore, the mud here is made of silica, a white substance that keeps you looking youthful and refreshed. 

Aside from the spa-like qualities, The Blue Lagoon is also romantic and perfect to visit with a partner. There are several hotels, restaurants, and waterfalls you can visit, helping you to relax and enjoy your vacation.

>Check Blue Lagoon Admission And Transport

Hallgrímskirkja Church

If you are a fan of Icelandic architecture, you should consider visiting the Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik. Iceland is known for its beautiful designs, and the Hallgrímskirkja Church is the largest Church in Iceland, standing at 74.5 meters tall!

The building is a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture. This is demonstrated by the pointed arches, symmetrical arrangement, and clean white granite material.

In front of the Church is the statue of Leifur Eiríksson. This is a monument dedicated to the first man from Europe to enter North America.

Sólfarið Sculpture

The Sólfarið Sculpture, also known as the Sun Voyager, is a beautiful figure in Sæbraut, Reykjavík. It depicts a Viking ship, or a dreamboat, and is made of steel material. Iceland is famous for its rich Viking heritage, therefore visiting this attraction is a must.

Jón Árnason, the architect of the sculpture, stated that it aimed to convey “freedom and hope” to whoever passed by. This is an inspirational message paying homage to the Vikings who roamed the Scandinavian countries in the late 8th century.

The main advantage of this sculpture is that it is on the waterfront. After visiting and taking pictures for memories, you can stroll along the harbor peacefully. Hallgrímskirkja Church is also nearby!

Northern Lights 

The Northern Lights are a popular phenomenon observed in Iceland. They are best seen in Reykjavik during the winter months between November and February, as this is when the skies are darkest.

Scientifically known as ‘aurora’, the northern lights are essentially caused by particles with high energy from the sun. These charged particles strike atoms in the atmosphere of the Earth, and this collision subsequently produces flickers of light. Although the process is much more complex, this is what causes the green and blue hues.

Iceland is known for its Northern Lights, which are also seen in parts of other countries such as Sweden and Norway.

>Check Tours For Northern Lights

Thingvellir National Park 

Thingvellir National Park is a stunning landmark in Iceland that is great for visiting with family. There are several attractions here that are enjoyed by both children and adults. 

The main attraction in Thingvellir National Park is undoubtedly the Oxarafoss Waterfall. It is a stunning natural feature that flows from the Oxara River and plummets rapidly down. There is a 4km loop which you may also enjoy hiking!

At Thingvallavatn Lake you can observe plenty of wildlife. This includes brown trout and arctic char. Because of the cold waters, these fish had to adapt, however, this makes it perfect for snorkeling! 

Gullfoss Falls 

Gullfoss Falls, otherwise known as Golden Falls, is a waterfall in the Hvítá river. It is 32 meters tall, making it one of the top landmarks in Iceland you should visit. The waterfalls have two powerful cascades consisting of one upper drop and one lower drop. Iceland is famous for having several waterfalls, however, this is one of the most beautiful.

The Gullfoss Falls is part of The Golden Circle, a list of three must-see attractions in Iceland. Thingvellir National Park and The Geysir Geothermal Area are the remaining landmarks, which all together form a circle east of Reykjavik.

>Check Gold Circle Tour

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Food Iceland Is Known For

Hangikjöt 

Lamb is undoubtedly what Iceland is famous for, as it can be cooked in a variety of ways. Hangikjot is a type of smoked lamb which is served usually during the festive period such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Rarely, it can also be other meats such as sharks.

Hangikjot can be eaten by itself, or as a main with other side dishes. These can include vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and cabbage. On top of this Icelanders adore a tasty sauce, usually Béchamel, which is a simple mixture of roux and milk. You can also eat hangikjot as part of a sandwich, for instance at lunch. 

Kjötsúpa 

As we mentioned, Icelanders are huge fans of lamb. Kjötsúpa is a hearty soup made of lamb and vegetables, which is perfect in the cold winters that can drop as low as -13 °F. 

It is an affordable soup that features plenty of readily available ingredients. You can mix potatoes, cabbage, carrots, leeks, and other winter greens. Adding the lamb to this gives the soup more richness and depth. Furthermore, the flavors are simple and don’t include much seasoning. Instead, the dish focuses on fresh flavors. 

Pylsur

Pylsur is a hot dog chain that can be found throughout Iceland. This is one of the most famous foods you have to consume when visiting Iceland, as it is raved about globally. The meat itself is made of lamb, however, pork and beef options are also usually added.

Because of this unique combination, hot dogs are better tasting than usual hot dog recipes. Again, there are not many spices used in this mix, as the flavors from the meat itself are full-bodied and delicious.

Hakarl 

Hakarl, also known as fermented shark, is a traditional Icelandic dish. There is no denying that this is an acquired taste, but it is important to attempt new cuisines because they are often delicious!

The national dish of Iceland, Hakarl, is frequently made of the Greenland shark. The fermentation process is important because eating the shark raw is poisonous, so it has to be properly prepared. This includes covering the meat in the sand for up to three months until its toxicity is reduced. 

The taste is compared to sweet nuts, and the texture is cheesy.

Plokkfiskur 

Plokkfiskur is a form of fish stew. Iceland is known for its fishy dishes, due to its proximity to the sea. Usually, the fish used is cod, because it is so abundant in the North Atlantic Ocean. Popular alternatives include haddock or pollock. 

In addition to the fish, mashed potatoes and bechamel sauce is added to the dish. This perfect combination is a great comfort meal that can be eaten regularly and is not specific to a specific event or celebration.

Skyr 

Skyr is popular internationally. It is a yogurt that is sold in supermarkets all over the world, originally made in Iceland almost 1,000 years ago.

It has a creamy consistency due to its high milk content and uses Icelandic cultured products. In comparison to other yogurts, it has an unusually high protein content, making it popular with gymgoers and perfect for filling you up quickly.

Although it is mainly eaten by itself, Skyr can also be used as part of a dessert. Skyr cheesecake is a popular example, with recipes often adding fruits and candies. This can also be a good breakfast food in Iceland.

Famous People From Iceland 

Björk Guðmundsdóttir

Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known more commonly as Bjork, is a singer, songwriter, and actress. Bjork was born in Reykjavik and is one of the most famous people from Iceland. 

Bjork has produced ten studio albums, six remix albums, and multiple collaboration albums. Out of these, several have made the international charts and reached the top ranks. Her most famous hits include ‘Hyperballad’, ‘Army of Me’, and ‘Declare Independence.’

Music by Bjork is often indie or pop, yet includes a range of vocals and styles. This is a huge reason why her music is enjoyed by a variety of fans.

Stefan Stefansson

Stefan Stefansson was one of the most famous Icelandic people. He was an actor born in Hafnarfjordur, but sadly died in 2018 due to a tragic illness. 

Stefansson was best known for his role as Robbie Rotten in the children’s show ‘Lazy Town’, which he played for over ten years. In the show, he played the villain and was the enemy of the main character Sporticus. The contrast between lazy Robbie Rotten and active Sporticus made the audience laugh, and therefore earnt Stefansson his fame. 

Aside from Lazy Town, Stefansson played in a variety of other television shows and movies. He was also heavily involved in theatre, such as The Grinch in the musical ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas.’

Vala Flosadottir

Vala Flosadottir is a famous Icelandic athlete who is best known for competing in pole vaulting. 

Flosadottir is best known for achieving the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in 2000. She came in 3rd, earning a bronze medal with a 4.5-meter jump.

In addition to this, she was a repeat competitor in the European Championships and traveled to places like Belgium, Austria, and Spain. Flosadottir came in 1st twice in Sweden, once in 1996 and again in 1999.

Although now retired, she remains the only woman to have won a medal in the Olympic Games from Iceland.

Eiður Guðjohnsen

Eiður Guðjohnsen is a former football player. Like many famous people from Iceland, he was born in Reykjavik.

Guðjohnsen has played for a variety of football teams, the most notable being Chelsea, Barcelona where he played as a forward and midfielder. During his career, he has played with other internationally recognized footballers such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard. 

After his career as a football player, like his father, Guðjohnsen decided to become a professional football coach.

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Discovering More Things Iceland Is Known For

These are some of the many things that Iceland is famous for. The country’s captivating natural features include the Golden Circle known as Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Falls, and Geysir Geothermal Area, amongst others.

On the other hand, Iceland is also renowned for its dynamic towns such as Reykjavik and Hofn. Here, you can visit the local restaurants and sample Icelandic cuisine, or stroll around and admire the modernist architecture. 

Take a trip to Iceland and enjoy its unique sights, sounds, and experiences. Even when you take into account all the famous things that Iceland is known for, there’s still so much more to learn and explore!  


WHAT IS ICELAND KNOWN FOR? PIN IT FOR LATER!

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.

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