This tiny island in the North Atlantic, with its historical use of handicrafts and careful cultivation of natural products, has created a plethora of artisan goods you can take home that you can’t find anywhere else. These are the gifts we recommend for your friend obsessed with Iceland. Besides edible and wearable gifts, we recommend those you can read or listen to.
This typical Icelandic wool sweater, with the iconic neck design, will last you decades. Its quality allows for great insulation and breathability at the same time.
You can find Saltwerk products in most grocery stores and even 10-11 shops in Iceland. This handcrafted salt infusion includes such flavours as liquorice, Arctic thyme, and birch smoked.
Try OmNom chocolate products, a company that began in an Icelander’s garage. They offer varying degrees of sweetness and bitterness with chocolate imported from Tanzania, Nicaragua, and Madagascar that is mixed with a further variety of flavours such as liquorice, raspberry, and salted caramel.
At Geysir shops, a clothing and home decoration store based on an aesthetic of rural city living, you’ll find a great framed map of Iceland that has become an iconic look encompassing the vestiges of Iceland’s mythology as ultima Thule.
Halldor Laxness (1902 – 1998) is the only Icelander to win a Nobel Prize in literature, which he did in 1955. Nobel Prize or not, his work is said to capture something distinctly Icelandic that no other authors have been able to pen. Check out the novels Independent People and Salka Valka.
Arnaldur Indríðasson (born 1961) is well known for his cycle of crime-fiction novels – of which there are currently 14 – written from the perspective of the protagonist, Detective Erlendur. With a keen sense of justice, the author channels his own moral standpoint into the weary detective. He writes about contemporary Reykjavik as well as Reykjavik in the 1940s during the British occupation. He previously worked as a journalist and film critic for the main Icelandic newspaper. In 2006, the novel Mýrin, part of the crime-fiction series, was made into the film Jar City, directed by Baltasar Kormákur.
Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (born 1962), known simply as Sjón, meaning ‘sight’, is one of Iceland’s most established authors. As well as novels, he has written lyrics for Björk and many plays. Most recently, he wrote Moonstone, which is about a young gay prostitute living in Reykjavik in the early 20th century. Sjón began his career as a surrealist poet before beginning to write novels, and his poetic language is clearly evident in his novels. You can check out our interview with Sjón about Moonstone.
Auður Ava (born 1958) is a professor of art history at the University of Iceland. She has written books of poetry, novels and plays. Her 2004 book, Butterflies, won the Tómas Guðmundsson Literary Award in Iceland in November (Rigning í nóvember). Check out her novels Undantekningin (The Exception) from 2012 and Ör (Scar) from 2016.
Andri Snær (born 1973) has had works published in over 30 countries. His most recent book, Tíkimakistan, or The Time Casket, won the Icelandic Literary Award, adding to a long list of awards he has won in recent years. He ran in the 2016 Icelandic presidential election on a strong environmental platform. Check out his other book, Dreamland, about some of the issues facing modern Iceland.
Hallgrímur Helgason (born 1959) is a novelist, poet, critic and painter. He is best known for his 1996 novel, 101 Reykjavik, upon which the film of the same name was based. It perfectly captures modern Reykjavik, especially in regard to its nightlife culture, with the recent legalisation of beer in 1989. You can also check out his recent novels The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning from 2008, Konan við 1000 or The Woman at 1000 from 2011, and Sjóvekiur í Munchen or Seasick in Munich from 2015.
Dried fish is an old Iceland classic, a staple food that has been eaten there since the first settlers arrived. The most common types are Cod, Haddock, and Catfish. It’s best eaten with butter, as it can be a very dry and flaky snack, as well as with beer to wash it down. You can find it in most grocery stores and convenience shops.
After the beer ban was lifted in Iceland in 1989, the country has gradually picked up the pace when it comes to producing their own craft beer with unique concoctions. Check out the breweries Kaldi and Einstök.
Along with the increase in local craft beers, Iceland has a wide variety of infusions that are uniquely Icelandic. Check out Brennivin, Hembrimini Gin, and anything from Foss Distillery.
With such a unique assortment of natural materials and mythological symbols to choose from in Iceland, it’s jewellery designers have made ample use of both. Check out designs by Orr.
If you’re looking for a unique gift for someone obsessed with Iceland who might actually want to attempt learning the language, a simple Icelandic children’s book can be a great start.