Iceland Culture: Folklore, Customs, Language - Iceland Culture: Folklore, Customs, Language -

The Ultimate Guide to Iceland Culture

When people decide to visit Iceland, they tend to focus on the majestic natural aspects and wonders of the country. But there is far more to Iceland worth exploring. Iceland culture is rich in history and tradition. Today we will explore Iceland culture, Icelandic folklore, how do people live in Iceland, and even Iceland fairies, also known as elves. There are many hidden gems of knowledge worth knowing before you visit Iceland. 

The History of Iceland

Iceland culture is just as rich and diverse as the landscape in this beautiful country. Although its history is not relatively long, it is very colorful!


Have you ever wondered what do people in Iceland speak?


Icelanders are proud speakers of the ancient Viking language. The official language is Icelandic, and English is taught as a second language. Many Icelanders speak Danish, German, French, and Spanish as well. 


Icelanders are very proud of their heritage and traditions and have created harmony between the ancient and modern world. 


Iceland was settled in the 9th and 20th centuries, and it was the last European country to be settled. Its first people arrived mainly from Norway and many other areas in Scandinavia. Several people moved from the Norse settlements in the British Isles and brought with them the strong Celtic elements that now Iceland is so popular for. 


The first known settler was Ingolfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking who made it to what we now know as Reykjavik around 874 AD. Less than 50 years later, the Viking settlers founded the world’s first parliament. They were the first to establish a constitution based on individual freedoms and land ownership. 


Icelanders adopted Christianity around the year 1000. What followed was an incredibly prosperous and happy period, as we see in the classic Icelandic Sagas. Fast-forward to 250 years later, the Norwegian Lind, Haakon, declared control over Iceland with the introductions of strong embargos and taxes. Iceland was tormented by extreme poverty, disease, and extreme natural disasters for six centuries. The hardships almost put an end to the country, but in the 19th century, an independence movement began that would turn Icelandic history around. Sigurdsson helped put a stop to trade monopoly, and after many victories, Iceland entirely broke ties to the Danish crown, declaring their independence on  June 17th, 1944.  

Icelandic Folklore

Iceland’s ancient folklore beliefs are a big part of their culture, even in today’s modern world. People in Iceland still believe in hidden people. Iceland‘s hidden people are like elves, who look a lot like humans and live in lava rocks. Belief in the hidden people has its roots in Christianity. It is said that when God paid a visit to earth, Eve decided to hide her unwashed children away in lava rocks, where they remained hidden. 


Elves are viewed as kind-hearted beings, but they are very protective of their homes, so anyone who disturbs their homes suffers great harm. To this very day, Icelanders go out of their way to never disrupt the rocks where elves might dwell. Elves are invisible, but Icelanders believe that there might be an appearance of an Elf on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve, Midsummer Night, etc. If you visit Iceland, you can learn about the hidden people, the elves, in Hafnarfjordur.


Equally important to Iceland culture are the trolls that only come out to play in the dark because the sunlight turns them into stone. One of the most important Icelandic stories involving trolls is the story of Dimmuborgir. The story is about a big troll party that was so much fun that the trolls forgot about the sunrise. As the sun rose in the sky, it turned them into stone, now known as the lava pillars that make up Dimmuborgir. 

Iceland Dating Customs

If you are single and visiting Iceland, it might be a good idea to know a bit about their dating customs. Iceland natives are of North Germanic heritage, and Icelandic people’s physical traits for women are very different in description than men’s. Women are generally described as light-footed and graceful, and Icelandic men as thick with large flat feet. If you plan to participate in the dating scene in Iceland, keep the following tips in mind:


  • Avoid pick-up lines, even if they are from your home country and you think they sound cute. 
  • Don’t be pushy. Casual conversations and a good laugh are the best way to connect to Icelanders. 
  • Do not mention drugs or using drugs.
  • Don’t “interview” people.
  • Be chill and relaxed.


At second glance, the above points are decent advice if you are thinking of dating people from any culture!

Music Scene in Iceland

If we consider that Iceland’s total population is 320,000, then the number of art galleries and museums is simply exceptional. Even the smaller villages in Iceland appear to have spaces dedicated to art and heritage. 


Music in Iceland is internationally acclaimed, with many prominent punk, indie rock, and hip-hop bands. Iceland’s capital has many music venues, including the Harpa Concert Hall, where one can enjoy the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. 


If you are a fan of arts and music, you need to experience the Icelandic Opera in the Harpa Hall. It usually hosts two to four events throughout the winter, so keep that in mind and arrange your trip accordingly. The performance is a world-class experience featuring Iceland’s top performers. 


The capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, is well-known for its contemporary music scene. Little cafes and bars host memorable small gigs that are definitely worth your time! 


Finally, if you are a fan of music festivals consider coordinating your trip with some of the most well-known festivals such as:


  • Reykjavik Jazz Festival – August
  • Iceland Airwaves Music Festival – November
  • Secret Solstice Festival – June

Discover Iceland Culture with

Iceland is full of natural beauty and mystical history. A camper van trip in Iceland promises a wide range of culturally rich experiences for anyone looking to explore incredible natural landscapes, cozy little cafes, and fantastic music festivals. Contact to start planning your visit, and we will match you with the perfect Iceland camper van!