Situated high up in the North Atlantic and cut off from its neighbors by icy waters, Iceland offers a truly unique vacation experience. Many people travel to the country to see its lava fields, geysers, ice-topped volcanoes and glaciers, but it’s not only in terms of its scenery that Iceland excels.
Iceland boasts a welcoming culture complete with lots of live music and an interesting, if a little unusual, cuisine. This brief guide talks you through some of the features that you won’t want to miss while on a trip to this part of the world.
Delicious salted mackerel and red onion. Photo courtesy of Shulevskyy Volodymyr via Shutterstock.
Fun But Curious Foods
Thanks to its relative lack of industry, Iceland boasts some of the healthiest fish, seafood and meat available and, thanks to farmers’ use of hothouses, it also benefits from a surprisingly good selection of vegetables. Lamb is especially popular on the island, with sheep outnumbering people by four to one. Often, the meat is served grilled or in rich stews.
Preserved foods played a major role in the nation’s food history, and Icelanders haven’t lost their love of these long-life products. If you want to sample a quintessentially Icelandic snack, tuck into Harðifiskur, a wind-dried cod or haddock which makes a most satisfying treat. Most people simply tear pieces off and chew it, whereas others like to spread butter on it for a little extra indulgence. Pickled herrings are popular too. Meanwhile, smoked lamb, called hangikjöt, works terrifically in sandwiches. As a word of warning though, unless you have a stomach made of steel, you might want to stay away from some of the country’s more unusual offerings.
Unsurprisingly given the climate, there aren’t many endemic vegetables to sample. However, you might see fjallagrös, a type of lichen, served up dried into black curls.
Folk music festival in Iceland. Photo courtesy of James Brooks via flickr.
Soaking Up The Culture
To appreciate the full Iceland experience, it’s best to be there during one of the nation’s many festivals, such as Thorrablot, which starts in the thirteenth weekend of winter. Traditionally a sacrificial event during which people made offerings to pagan gods, it’s now mainly an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. After the feasting, traditional songs and games are enjoyed, and stories are told.
To catch some Icelandic folk tunes, time your trip to coincide with the Folk Festival in the town of Siglufjörður in early July. As well as hearing bands do their thing, you can check out seminars in music and handicrafts.
Meanwhile, in the capital from mid-May to early June you can experience the Reykjavik Art Festival. First celebrated over four decades ago, it recognizes music, art, dance, design, literature and more.
Sparsely populated it may be, but Iceland has one of the most interesting and welcoming cultures you’ll find anywhere on the planet.
Sources Used: Rough Guides
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