Crazy to See and Do

Quirky things worth checking out in Iceland

1. Donate Your Penis

It was a proud moment for the Icelandic Phallological Museum when they received their first gray and wrinkled human specimen in 2011. The pickled penis came from a 95 year old man who had vowed to donate his little bits to the strange phallus shrine fifteen years prior. And the collection is set to, um... grow with another three donations promised from a German, an American and a Briton (in case you’re wondering, the American nicknamed his Elmo).

The museum, which is the only one of its kind in the world, openly encourages men to sign their members away—of course, the appendage is only taken once you die. So if you find yourself in Reykjavik (Laugavegur Street), and would like troves of women to gawk in awe at your cock for all of history, make sure to stop by and give a little endowment – afterall, this is the nutter’s list you’re reading.

If, on the other hand, if you’re of the female variety, you’ll want to put down your Fifty Shades of Grey and check out the museum purely for scientific reasons: is the old adage that size really does matter true?

2. Play Golf in the Snow

With limited hours of daylight during the winter Icelanders had to get a bit creative in the entertainment department. Queue snow golf, the same traditional game, except played in the winter on snow.

To play, you’ll need a golf course (always recommended when playing the sport) – Lake Mývatn is a popular local spot. Next, find yourself a fluorescent ball, pink always helps to cheer the spirit, and a solid graphite club. Watch out for the greens, these are actually made of an ice surface for snow golf.

Challenge: If you want to pump up the entertainment factor, try the sport using a white golf ball instead.

3. Eat Rotten Shark

Buried for two to six months, hakárl is an Icelandic delicacy served during the midwinter festival of Thorrablot –but, despite the innocent sounding name, the dish isn’t your traditional gourmand of French pastries and caviar.

Rotten shark, which either tastes like cheese or solid urine –depending on your taste buds—is the putrefied and decayed flesh of the fearsome carnivore – cured this way because sharks from the region are poisonous to eat.

To ease the potential gagging backlash, Icelanders recommend taking the dish with a shot of brennivin, which is equally vile.

Challenge: Feeling steely-stomached, we dare you to try the Icelandic delicacy of ram’s testicles.

4. Make Yourself a Traditional Concoction

With a nationwide beer prohibition until 1989, you can imagine the hurried frenzy that ensued over Iceland once the ban was lifted.

From cocktails to moonshine, a favourite concoction of Icelanders over the festive season is a combination of malt extract mixed with Applesin (Iceland’s answer to Fanta). The perfect mix of each is subjective; we suggest trying fifty-fifty and tweaking it from there.

Challenge: Put some hair on your chest with a shot of Brennivin, the caraway seed liquid is nicknamed the ‘Black Death’ and rightly so. If you really want to experience the suffrage Icelanders had to endure during the alcohol embargo, mix non-alcoholic beer with brennivin or gin –the taste is foul, but the end result the same.

5. Party Under the Midnight Sun

The rúntur isn’t your run-of-the-mill pub crawl; it’s really just a wild weekend of debauchery that Icelanders use to pass away the dreary winter nights and endlessly seamless summer days.

After having guzzled down a few cold ones at home (drinking is prohibitively expensive in Iceland), you’ll hit Laugavegur Street in Reykjavik just after midnight and queue in line to enter vibrant nightclubs that only hours prior had been quaint restaurants (use this as your chance to meet others).

Once you’ve toured the neighbourhood in a drunken stupor you’ll make your way to the city’s most popular hot dog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (try saying that when you’re drunk).

Tip: Remember, when you fall out of that club at five in the morning the light will prove your enemy. Bring some large sunglasses to provide a temporary refuge.

Top 5 Usual Suspects

1. Lake Silfra

Located thirty miles from the Arctic Circle, Lake Silfra offers a unique experience for tourists.

The large fissure runs between the American and Eurasian continents and the water here is one of the world’s clearest –with over one hundred metres visibility. However, in saying that, it’s bloody cold (and that’s an understatement) –at 3 degrees Celsius, you’ll need a dry suit to get into this baby.

Should you take the plunge, scuba diving is nice, but the variations in depths (at times you’ll need to surface through certain areas) means you’ll probably get more out of the experience snorkelling (and save mo’ money).

Tip: Thanks to two-thousand years of distillation through lava fields, the water in Lake Silfra makes for better drinking than Evian –make sure you fill up a bottle with the ice-cold liquid on your way out.

Image Credits: Charles Hood

2. Turf Territory

You won’t have a hard time seeing the forest through the trees when you visit Iceland –that’s because the country has an obvious lack of both. Over felling by the Vikings combined with the harsh climate and fallible birch made the availability of timber for construction a rarity.

Consequently, Icelanders got innovative and threw some grass on their long homes. The resulting turf habitats provide both superior insulation from the cold as well as an authentic Icelandic photographic opportunity—proving that these historic nomads were far beyond their years when it comes to clean, green habitation.

You might be peaked to know that back in the hay days, Vikings would release tree trunks into the ocean like driftwood and subsequently settle where the pillars washed adrift. If you’re not into interpreting the wishes of the gods through timber, we suggest you make a landing at the Laufás turf house located off Route 82 (between Mývatn to Reykjavik).

3. Blue Lagoon

Few things are more iconic to Iceland than the Blue Lagoon. The turquoise oasis is one of the most popular tourist attractions and provides the perfect panacea to those travelling body aches.

The silica-rich seawater, which is heated volcanically, is claimed to possess healing properties known for curing certain skin ailments (don’t expect miracles though).

It’s only once you wander out into the Lagoon, steam rising into the air and your cheeks flushed from the cold, that you can fully appreciate its beauty—having said that, the best part of the chalky blue pool is arguably the water bar, which serves mud-masks, beer, and ice-cream sticks in indiscriminate amounts and provides a welcome excuse to let your body turn into a giant wrinkled prune.

4. Stare in Awe at the Aurora

Need to get some perspective in your life? Mother Nature’s very own laser show of red, greens, blues, and violets might not solve all your problems, but it’ll certainly take your mind of them but for a moment.

The Aurora Borealis, a spectacle witnessed only during the Northern hemisphere’s winter months (November through to March), is similar to the Northern Lights seen in Canada but unparalleled in comparison due to country’s proximity to the Arctic.

To properly witness these radiations of Technicolor you’ll want to get as far away from the city fringes.

Tip: plan your night-sky perv around the New Moon as a Full Moon will wash the sky of its plasma colours.

5. Trolling Around in Glacier Caves

Enter the eerie palace of ice and sulphur steam at the Kverkfjoll Glacier Caves. Carved from a hot river flowing through the underground channels, the frosted glacier walls are constantly changing shape from season to season.

On the West side of the mountain you’ll find the country’s largest geothermal region, Hveradalur, and the Northern region of the park is claimed to have homed the famous outlaw Fjalla-Eyvindur and his wife Halla. Getting there is the hard part, once you enter the park, rangers organise free walks to the glacier for visitors.

Top Tips

When to Go: Depends, in winter there are fewer daylight hours, however, this is when Iceland truly comes into its own– if you’re allergic to the cold, visit the country between June and August.

Religion: Evangelical Lutheran

Country Code: + 354

Emergency No: 112

Currency: Icelandic krona (ISK)

Tipping: Tipping is not expected in Iceland


Anonymous - It looks cold!.    Commented on 13-Sep-2012 11:06 AM
Anonymous - hmmm.    Commented on 13-Sep-2012 03:15 PM

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