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Supermarket yarn |© Jennifer Boyer / Flickr
Supermarket yarn |© Jennifer Boyer / Flickr
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11 Things You Can Only Buy in Iceland

Picture of Camille Buckley
Updated: 6 October 2017
Iceland has experienced a tourism boom in recent years meaning there are plenty of products specially made with tourists in mind. These products range from stuffed Puffin bird toys, magnets featuring geysers, and t-shirts that say ég tala ekki íslensku. However, if you bypass these tailored souvenir shops around the country, you can find unique products that are not mass-produced and truly worth it as a souvenir from Iceland.

Icelandic Wool Sweater

The Icelandic wool sweater, or lopapeysa, is a staple in Icelandic fashion. With the typical circular patterning around the shoulders and a wide variety of colors, this will definitely remind you fondly of your trip while keeping your warm. The yarn used, lopi, is made from unspun sheep wool, so it contains more air than spun yarn and consequently, it has better insulation properties. This is the same for all Icelandic woolen products including blankets, mittens, and hats—all of excellent quality and durability.

Shops: Farmers Market, handknit.is, Geysir, Varma

Hand knit icelandic wool sweater | © Upupa4me/Flickr
Hand knit Icelandic wool sweater | © Upupa4me/Flickr

Nature Condoms

Designed by two Icelandic art students while still in school, Enjoy Our Nature condoms promote Iceland’s natural landmarks such as iconic geysers, volcanoes, aurora borealis, and sea stacks. Each package comes with one lubricated condom and details about the Icelandic natural feature’s history and geology. They can be purchased at Nordic Store and most convenience stores in Reykjavik.

Icelandic condoms | © Jessica Simpson/Flickr
Icelandic condoms | © Jessica Simpson/Flickr

Artwork

If you´re looking to invest in Icelandic art, there are a few commercial galleries worth visiting which represent some of the most well-known artists from Iceland. However, if you are interested in something smaller and more portable (with less travel insurance fee), check out the monthly art exhibits at Mokka Cafe, Bismút cafe, and Port Verkefnarými, all located in the downtown area.

Art on the walls of one of the oldest cafes in Reykjavik, called Mokka | © Lonnie/Flickr
Art on the walls of one of the oldest cafes in Reykjavik called Mokka Cafe | © Lonnie/Flickr

Poems From a Troubadour Poet

On the corner of Austurstræti and Posthússtræti in downtown Reykjavik, you can find a handful of elderly Icelandic gentlemen selling their own self-published poetry books. This is something definitely unique to Iceland that you can’t find in exactly the same manner anywhere else. The text will most likely be in Icelandic, however, this just adds to the character and rarity.

Icelandic Fashion

Within a short walking distance in Reykjavik, you can come across all of the country’s best-known fashion boutiques. These boutique shops reflect well the aesthetic of Icelandic fashion, the quirky brightness, yet the inspiration of natural elements that they are so well known for. Check out the KronKron store, for example, for some truly timeless, eccentric pieces.

1705 | Courtesy of KRON by KRONKRON
1705 | Courtesy of KRON by KRONKRON

Lava Rocks

With Iceland being famous for attracting visitors because of its volcanic activity, what better way to commemorate your visit than by taking home a piece of lava rock? While it may be tempting to pick up your own rock while out hiking, it is against Icelandic law to remove them from their habitat. Instead, you can find lava rocks in the form of jewelry, carefully handcrafted into pieces combining silver and other materials.

Wool Yarn

Check out The Icelandic Handknitting Association for an excellent selection of textures and colors and advice on knitting your own lopapeysa sweater or other wool product. You can even find a nice selection of yarn in the supermarket. As handknitting is such a strong tradition in Iceland, taking home the skill of this trade could reap many beautiful products sewn from your trip to Iceland. Better yet, find some sheep horn/vertebrae buttons to add to your sweater for fastening.

Supermarket yarn | © Jennifer Boyer/Flickr
Supermarket yarn | © Jennifer Boyer / Flickr

Bloðberg (Arctic Thyme) Tea

This traditional Icelandic tea has a distinct, subtle alpine taste. It can be found in most convenience stores and grocery stores in Reykjavik. It has long been used for medicinal purposes in Iceland and in other Scandinavian countries, as it is especially prevalent in Northern environments. It has antibacterial properties and is considered a good aid for the cold, flu, and upset stomachs.

Licorice

Icelandic licorice can be found in all kinds of different versions, mixed with chocolate, marzipan, toffee, or even ice cream. This is usually the thing Icelanders ask people to send them from home when they are living abroad. Most convenience stores offer a wide variety of the best offers. Take home Góu Kúlur (milk chocolate covered soft licorice), Appolo licorice (licorice and marzipan), or Nóa Sírius brand licorice.

Licorice Factory, Reykjavik, Iceland, 1984 | © Roger Goodman/Flickr
Licorice Factory, Reykjavik, Iceland, 1984 | © Roger Goodman/Flickr

Brennivín

This clear, unsweetened schnapps is considered to be Iceland’s signature liquor. It is the shot of choice for special occasions and is the traditional drink for the mid-winter feast of Þorrablót, which features mostly fermented foods. Brennivín is made from fermented grain or potato mash and flavored with caraway. It is also the drink of choice after eating the fermented shark hákarl.

Shops: Vinbuðin, Nordic Store, Duty-Free Iceland

Herbal Sea Salt

Take home a variety of hand-harvested herbal sea salt blends from the Saltverk company in the Westfjords with blends offered such as Arctic Thyme, Birch Smoked, Licorice, Lava, and Rhubarb Anjelica. This is a real treat that can go with both savory and sweet dishes.