Iceland seems to have really amped up as far as popularity for visitors in recent years. Everyone advertises reasonable plane tickets, or maybe it’s more that we worry that the colder parts of the world are going to disappear at some point, but I don’t know.
I think it’s just beautiful, and the global nature of our society these days has brought our attention to attractions we might not have ever imagined visiting before, and that’s not a bad thing.
If you’re thinking about visiting Iceland and want to know more, here are 16 cool facts!
16. They actually grow bananas.
Iceland is actually home to the largest banana plantation in Europe, though technically, Spain grows more in the Canary Islands.
The Icelandic Agricultural University grows between 1,100 and 4,410 pounds of bananas using geothermal energy every year.
15. You won’t be able to grab a Big Mac.
There used to be McDonald’s in Iceland, but the last one closed in 2009.
Right before the last location closed there, an Icelander bought one last meal – 10 years later, it still looks fresh.
14. There’s a word for an ice cream road trip.
If you really love ice cream, take an Ísbíltúr – you jump in the car, driver around, and grab ice cream along the way.
And no, it doesn’t have to be hot. Ice cream tastes delicious any time of the year.
13. Your baby’s name has to be approved.
To stop people from giving their children truly ridiculous names, parents must choose from an official register of approved names.
If you want to step outside the box, you have to request permission from the “Naming Committee.”
12. You can visit a museum dedicated to penises.
It’s called the Iceland Phallological Museum and boasts 200 “penises and penile parts” from a wide assortment of animals.
And in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
11. You can attend the Elf School.
Elves have a long tradition in Iceland, and if you want to know more about them and their interactions with humans, you can attend Reykjavík’s Elf School.
One local study concluded that over 62% of Icelanders believe elves might be real, and some of them even build “elf homes” into the landscape.
10. They elected their first female head of state in 1980.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, a divorced single mother, was elected president of Iceland in 1980.
That makes her the first female elected head of state anywhere in the world. Boom.
9. They once elected a comedian as their mayor.
Comedian Jón Gnarr ran as a joke, but was surprised to actually be elected as mayor of Reykjavík.
He served faithfully and well for four years, though he did have to back out of his campaign promise of adding a polar bear to the local zoo.
8. It’s home to over 130 volcanoes.
Only roughly 30 of the volcanoes are active currently, though Fagradalsfjall, a long-dormant volcano on the outskirts of Reykjavík, has erupted fairly recently.
7. If you spend Christmas there, you’ll likely receive at least one book.
There’s a tradition there called Jólabókaflóð, which translates to “Christmas book flood” and involves gifting books on Christmas Eve and then snuggling up to read while you wait for Father Christmas.
It goes over well in Iceland, which publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world.
6. But you do get gifts for 13 nights instead of 1.
Well, at least you would if you were a child.
Children who put a shoe on their windowsill receive presents from the 13 “Yule Lads” on the nights leading up to Christmas, though the “naughty” kids will receive only rotten potatoes.
5. Your baby would sleep outside, no matter the temperature.
Not like, overnight or anything, but for sure during nap time.
Parents in most Nordic countries believe that abundant fresh air helps baby sleep and also prevents bothersome illnesses.
They do get blankets and stuff, so don’t worry.
4. It would take less than a day to circle the entire country.
It would take 17 hours to drive a loop around the entire country.
The Ring Road does the 828-mile loop, though the sights are too pretty for most people to even think about doing it in one day.
3. Their hotdogs are to die for.
You’d think it would be something more exotic-sounding, but hey – who doesn’t love hotdogs?
If you do, you’ll want to check out the hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavík.
They’ve been in operation since 1937 and their hotdogs are made from lamb and served topped with remoulade (Icelandic mustard), fried onions, raw onions, and Icelandic ketchup.
2. You can take a once-in-a-lifetime swim.
There’s a rift called Silfra, located in the Thingvellir National Park, and it’s the only place in the world where you can take a dip between two tectonic plates.
As a bonus, the water is so clear that both the diving and the snorkeling are amazing, so suit up while you’re there.
1. You will never accidentally date your cousin.
Iceland is a small, really homogenous island, and though the people there are super happy, they also have a higher chance of being genetically related.
A group of college students started an app called ÍslendingaApp that lets people find out whether or not they’re related to a potential date before they run into each other at the next family reunion.
That’s definitely a case of making technology work for the better, wouldn’t you say?
I’m feeling smarter than every, and also I’ve really got an itch.
I have you been to Iceland? Tell us about your visit in the comments!