Iceland Myth Busters

Iceland Mythbusters

These past few weeks the internet has been blowing up with lists sharing Top Travel Destinations for 2016. And do you know what place is on almost all of these list, besides Cuba???

My beloved Iceland!

Now in my opinion Iceland totally deserves to be on all of these lists, I mean this country is gorgeous! And apparently many of you agree from all of the messages I have been receiving lately with people planning a trip to Iceland this year!

With Iceland’s increasing popularity among travelers (and my family and friends back home!) I am constantly getting questions about things people have heard about this unique country. Some of the things people ask me about, well they are a bit out there and most definitely false. But other things people ask me about Iceland, well they are a bit out there too, but they are true.

So to get the facts straight about this place I call home here is my Iceland version of myth busters!

Iceland is green and Greenland is covered in ice

Iceland, Unlocking Kiki


This is the most common question I get about Iceland, and really all I knew about Iceland as well before I met my Viking. While you will still find ice covering parts of Iceland (like one of the largest glaciers in Europe!) the country for the most part is covered in gorgeous green landscape that makes for fairy-tale road trips. Well, in the summer time it is green, winter is a different story.

We live in igloos
Winter in Reykjavik


Sorry to squash your idea that Iceland is the land of Eskimos and igloos but you won’t find anyone inside an ice house here. I may love my Viking but not enough to live in an igloo so I am more than happy that there are no igloos in sight. Instead the houses you will find are charming colorful ones in a range of colors, even neon green and purple.

The winter is completely dark
Winter in Iceland

The winter sunrises, they are worth waiting until 10am for! #unlockingiceland

A photo posted by Kaelene (@unlockingkiki) on


My first winter in Iceland everyone kept warning me about the long dark days ahead. In my mind this meant that I wouldn’t see the sun for weeks and the days would be like one long never ending night. Thankfully I was totally wrong about this, and while the nights are certainly much longer we are still treated to at least 4 hours of daylight on the shortest days.

4 hours, okay that does sound really short, but the winter sunsets that we get to see at 3pm and the Northern Lights that light up the sky at night, they are gorgeous!

You have to get naked and shower before entering any of the popular swimming pools


You won’t find any nude beaches here in Iceland but you will find everyone stripping down before getting into the popular swimming pools and hot springs. In fact, it is required that everyone takes a shower before putting on their bathing suit and entering the pools, even at the famous Blue Lagoon. Many first time visitors find this uncomfortable and people often ask me if they really have to strip and shower. My answer, yes, if you don’t Icelanders will find it gross and disrespectful, I mean who wants to swim in dirty water right? But don’t worry, everyone is doing it, so strip down, rinse off, and then head out to enjoy a relaxing swim in the hot pools.

There are polar bears roaming around Iceland
Icelandic Horses


I assume people think that there must be polar bears in Iceland since Iceland is an island in the Arctic, but don’t plan on seeing any on your trip here. But there are ridiculously cute Icelandic horses roaming about everywhere! And I think the Icelandic horses are a bit friendlier than if you ran into a polar bear.

All Icelanders believe in elves and trolls
Dimmuborgir, Iceland


Or a myth, depending on who you ask.

It is often said that more than half of Icelanders believe in elves. It is up for debate as to how many Icelanders actually believe in elves, but you often hear stories of roads not being built somewhere because it would disrupt the elves, so maybe they believe more than they think. I have yet to decide which side of the debate I am on, but after visiting the elf church (pictured above) hidden in the lava fields I may be turning into a believer.

There is an tunnel from Iceland to Greenland
Unlocking Kiki, Iceland


Okay, not going to lie, when I first heard this I at first thought, “wow that is awesome”! I have a good reason for at first believing this. There is an underwater tunnel that goes from Reykjavik to a city across the peninsula, so you know anything is possible right. But sadly no, there is not a tunnel to Greenland, if that was true I would be visiting Greenland all the time! Instead you will have to save up and purchase the very expensive plane ticket over to Greenland from Iceland, I am keeping my fingers crossed that one day I get to make the trip over there.

Family names are not common in Iceland
Háifoss, Iceland


While some people do have family names, for the majority of Iceland’s there is no family name. That Viking of mine, he has no family last name that I would take if we were to get married. Instead the Icelandic last names are their fathers first name, plus either son or dottir at the end depending on if your male or female. For example, if my dad’s name is Jón (a popular Icelandic male name) than my last name would be Jónsdóttir. Interesting right!


And now you can go impress your friends with all your Icelandic knowledge!

Want to learn more about this unique country I call home? Check out my Iceland page , it won’t take long before you will be dreaming up your own Icelandic adventure! Interested in what it is like to be a foreigner living in Iceland? Well if your me it tends to be full of embarrassing moments, but always an adventure.

Question of the Day?
Have you heard any myths about Iceland? What about your own country?

*A version of this post was originally shared over at the lovely Helene’s site

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  • Cynthia

    I think the most publicly naked I have ever been has been Iceland for these reasons, haha… but it’s true – I think no one cares :)

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Haha right, same here! My first experience H hadn’t told me that I had to strip down and shower first so I was so confused. Now I am totally used to it.

  • Bailie @ Brightly Bailie

    Before I first moved to Sweden everyone kept trying to convince me there were polar bears and I was like yeah I know that is not true otherwise I would not have to keep seeing those sad pictures of a lone one floating away in the ocean!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Ha right! Those poor pictures of the polar bears floating away, so sad. They did a skit this summer where a guy walked around asking tourists questions and one of them was if they had seen any polar bears yet. So many people responded with something like not yet but they are looking forward to it ha.

  • The Wandering Blonde

    Hahah this reminds me of when I was in third grade, we had a boy join our class from Alaska. We constantly tortured the poor kid by asking if he lived in an igloo and had a pet polar bear. But hey, it sounds logical enough….

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Haha right, I mean it makes sense, if you live in the arctic you should live in an igloo with a pet polar bear! I am still bummed I don’t get to have a pet polar bear ;)

  • Tanja / The red phone box trav

    great post!:)

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you!

  • Helene

    The myth i want busted is how you can be so far away yet I feel like we should be besties?!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Right?! I feel like it is a sign that a blogger trip somewhere in Europe needs to happen!

  • Casey

    Love all of these… but the tunnel one, we totally drove that tunnel our last trip there and it was intense!!! And while I love Iceland getting so much attention, because it is amazing, I’m sort of sad to see such a huge influx of tourists when even a couple years ago it was still such a remote place to travel to!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      That tunnel stresses me out as well! I have to not think about it otherwise I think I might have a panic attack in the middle of it. It is insane how much the tourism has increased in just the past few years, I find it such a bummer that they are building so many hotels as well.

      • Casey

        Seriously! I was driving when we went through that tunnel and it was freaky… and then you think about how much water is on either side of those walls and it’s even worse.

  • Amanda Elizabeth

    The elves and trolls comment cracked me up ;-) Thank you for these myth busters, the first one I had heard before and good to know I wasn’t completely off base!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      I think the first one was all I knew about Iceland when I met H, I had lots to learn :)

  • Jen | Beautiful Junk

    This was fascinating! Especially about their family names… pretty cool!
    Also, that “elf church” photo is AWESOME… how many tries did it take to get that right?? :)

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Isn’t that pretty cool! Haha, I tend to take a lot of jumping pictures so not too many to get the perfect shot:)

  • Kristen @ SYIAP

    love all of these! i love to read myths and what’s true or not about different countries. i certainly believed some silly things before. the tunnel one is hilarious!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Me to I find them so interesting! What is your favorite one about Australia?

      • Kristen @ SYIAP

        drop bears! makes me laugh every time when someone asks me about them.

  • Leanna @ Being Leanna

    This was such a cool post!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you Leanna!

  • Kate

    That’s so interesting, and I love the part about elves! I feel like being in a land like Iceland that has such beautiful scenery would make me believe too :)

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks Kate so glad you enjoyed! Sometimes when I am out in the countryside I can totally see how people believe there are elves running around!

  • Sarah

    The last names thing is fascinating – I had no idea.

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Isn’t it interesting, I am always explaining that one to my family.

  • Jenn

    A lot of these are really interesting. that’s so weird/cool about the last name thing!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      When I first visited Iceland a lot of people where introducing themselves with their first name and middle name, which I found a bit strange. Now I totally get it since the last names don’t really have the same meaning.

  • Maryrose @

    Such an awesome post!! That picture of you at the hot spring!!! WOW! The myths are pretty fascinating!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much! That hot spring, it is my favorite!

  • Anna Bjornsson McCormick

    Some people in Iceland do have family names, just not very many.

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Very true, my boyfriend’s mom has a family name, but I know they are very rare.

  • Danielle Crouch

    In Germany it’s also required to shower before swimming in pools (although I’m not sure about natural bodies of water since I don’t think I’ve ever been to a lake or outdoor hot spring in Germany). I don’t like this rule at all. I think getting wet before you go into the water completely detracts from the swimming experience (plus the water is filled with cleaning chemicals anyway!), so I usually just sneak past the showers and get quickly into the pool. So far it hasn’t been an issue.


    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      It definitely took me some time to get used to it! Never much fun when you have to shower than run outside in the cold!

  • Danielle Crouch

    In that last part did you mean father’s FIRST name? That makes more sense with the example you gave.

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Woops, yes fathers first name, thanks for catching that!

  • Melai @ Loved and Wanderlust

    I also thought that Iceland is covered in ice! I’m happy it’s not. I really loved the different landscape colors when we went there last autumn. :)

    I asked our icelandic guide what he thought of Singapore. He said that he heard that people here are addicted to cleanliness and it’s strictly implemented. MYTH! People are just so disciplined here. :)

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      The landscape really is amazing! It is so interesting the different myths that people believe about places!

  • Isabel @ TheSunnySideofThis

    I find Icelandic culture so fascinating, such a cool post!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thank you! Any myths you have heard about Slovenia?

      • Isabel @ TheSunnySideofThis

        That it was part of the Soviet Regime, they were communists but under Tito’s Regime. And you would be surprised how many bloggers and publications get this wrong!

  • Eric Brink

    Here a few other things I’ve heard and along with my belief:

    Geothermal heat is so plentiful and cheap that when it get’s warm at home, folks don’t turn the thermostat down, but rather let the heat out. (True)

    Once Icelandic Horses leave the country, they can’t come back. (True)

    in Iceland the rule of 6 degrees of separation is more like 2 or 3 degrees since this is a relatively “farm like” community due to the few people that hold up the community. Also a lot of people have hobbies that interconnect people like music and the rescue squad (only volunteer work) (True)

    The cheapest alcohol is at Duty Free at Arrivals (True!)

    One iconic Icelandic Statement is “It will be fine” – True?

    My Wife Gayle’s Icelandic Name is Guðlaug Ragnarsdóttir! Mine is Eiríkur Rodneysson and my Son’s is Davíð Eiríksson. True!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      The geothermal heat is quite wonderful :) And yes there is an Icelandic statement that roughly translates to “it will work out” :)

  • Betsy

    I loved this post. It’s completely fascinating. Especially the part about the family names. So when people get married, does everyone just keep their last name and then the kids have their own? I feel like I remember you writing once that the marriage culture was completely different than in the US and that often people would get married way down the road after having kids. Am I remember correctly?

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much Betsy! Ya, when people get married they keep their names. And you are correct :) Marriage is more common further down the road after kids.

  • Suze

    It’s ironic that Iceland has no ice and Greenland is the icy one! I’d absolutely love to visit and to see the Northern lights. Thanks for all these insights, it was interesting about your husband’s family name

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      The northern lights are amazing! Hope you get to see them one day:)

  • Camila @ AdventitiousViolet

    This is such a great post! I love the fact that there are no family name – though it feels a bit archaic that it’s still to do with the father’s name. Glad to hear it’s not completely dark in the winter! And I get the igloo thing a lot for Canada haha

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much Camila! I am so glad it is not completely dark in the winter either, the four hours of daylight are rough enough!

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi

    Can I just ask that you debunk the debunked myth about igloos & move in to one? That’s not crazy, right? :D

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Right! As long as I can bring my geothermal heating in the igloo with me I am down:)

  • casacaudill

    Like so many, Iceland is on my 2016 wish list and I can’t wait to go. Your list just solidified that since I loved every picture you posted. But clearly I haven’t done my research properly because I had no idea about that last name thing. That’s kind of crazy and wonderful at the same time!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much! Do you have a trip planned? There are lots of unique things about this beautiful country I love learning about them:)

      • casacaudill

        Nothing formally planned, except it’s on our list for 2016 travel. We’re thinking in late October or early November since the chance of seeing the northern lights is stronger then.

  • Stephanie

    Very cool about the last names, I had no idea! I hope the elves thing is true, I like to believe it is :)

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      I like to believe it is too:)

  • Teawashere_

    I asked almost everyone I met there about elves and trolls and at some point I had a feeling they were messing with me :’). I wish it was common everywhere to take a shower before entering a swimming pools, I mean it’s 2016 …

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Ha right, I feel that way as well!

  • laurenonlocation

    I always have so much fun reading about Iceland here! I have to admit I’ve heard a few of these myths that I just assumed to be true. That is so so interesting about the last names! I had no idea! I wonder if there are other countries that do that. Such a funny concept, imagine just not having a last name …. haha :D

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much Lauren, and thanks for reading! I wonder as well about what other countries do with last name/family names!

  • AmyMacWorld

    I think the only thing American kids learn about Iceland is that Iceland is GREEN and full of hot springs and Greenland is ICE…because that’s all I knew for most of my life, too ;).

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Haha right it really is the only thing we learn! My little brother did a school report on Iceland so at least his classmates are better informed:)

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee

    I learned the Iceland/Greenland thing from the Mighty Ducks, that was the first I’d ever even heard of Iceland! We were just talking last night how we really really want to go back, I want to go hunting for Elves this time!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Right ha, I think that is where I learned it from as well! I hope you guys get to come back!

  • Shane Prather

    This post is incredibly fascinating! Makes me so stoked to visit!

    • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

      Thanks so much girl, I hope you get to visit soon!