The Alternative Guide to… Iceland
Iceland at a Glance
Capital city: Reykjavík
Local currency: Icelandic króna (£1 = 183 króna)
Famous face: Keiko, a male orca who portrayed Willy in the 1993 film “Free Willy“
5 things you never knew about Iceland
Many Icelanders believe in elves. Huldufólk are elves in Icelandic and Faroese folklore. If you want to build a house, construct a dam, or lay a road you may have to check with the elves first – campaigners have been known to step in to ensure development doesn’t disrupt the little people’s dewllings (main picture, above).
Beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989. Red wine was legalised, followed by spirits in the 1930s, but before that, Icelanders drunk their national drink brennivin, a distillation of potatoes containing about 40% alcohol, known as the “Black Death”.
Iceland has no army. It also has virtually no trees.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavík houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts. The collection includes 280 specimens from 93 different species of animals, including whales, seals and land mammals.
In 2009 McDonald’s shut down the country’s three branches and the last ever McDonald’s burger and chips is on display at the Bus Hostel Reykjavík. You can no longer have a happy meal, but you can feast on hangikjöt (smoked Icelandic lamb); ein með öllu (the iconic Icelandic hot dog); or Svið (singed and boiled sheep head).
Anyone for hákarl? That’s fermented shark meat, just so you know.
If you see one thing in Iceland, make sure it’s…
… Geysir, sometimes known as the Great Geysir. It’s one of the main attractions on Iceland’s most popular sightseeing route, the Golden Circle. This geysir shoots water up to 30 metres into the air every few minutes and it’s a sight to behold.