Podcasts to Help You Understand Iceland

Iceland: Viking Rune | © Victor Montol / Flickr
Iceland: Viking Rune | © Victor Montol / Flickr
Photo of Camille Buckley
12 January 2018

From professors detailing the events of the Icelandic sagas to contemporary Icelandic comedians, there is no reason to arrive in Iceland without a clue. The following podcasts will help you become informed about this mysterious little island-nation in the North Atlantic. Prepare for your travels to Iceland in a relaxing manner with these experts.

Saga Thing

Saga Thing is a podcast hosted by two former grad-school colleagues who have been saga enthusiasts for years – and who are now both bearded professors of medieval literature. Their goal is to read and review the sagas with a critical eye, one at a time. Each episode is broken down into a summary and a discussion, as well as a judgement section in which an evaluation of the story is made, including best bloodshed, body count, nicknames, outlawry, and witticisms. You’ll definitely leave this podcast with a lot of useful knowledge about the sagas.

Iceland panorama | © Andrés Nieto Porras / Flickr

Icelandic-Australian Live Comedy

This podcast is hosted by an Icelandic artist well-known for his dark humour and satirical comics, Hugleikur Dagsson. In this podcast, he teams up with the Australian comedian Jonathan Duffy, and together they are the duo Icetralia, the first and only Icelandic-Australian double comedy podcast act ever. Duffy moved to Iceland in 2015 and has been working as a producer and director there ever since, but he is perhaps most famous for his stand-up comedy. They describe the podcast as ‘…filthy but friendly, honest and oversharing’. They can be seen live at Húrra, a bar in central Reykjavik. Older podcasts are available on Jonathan Duffy’s website.

Icelandic Literature Center

This podcast features a few episodes on one of the country’s most popular exports, literature, and the habits that surround this book-loving nation. One episode is completely dedicated to the single Icelander to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Halldór Laxness, in 1955. In light of all of Laxness’ titles being printed in Germany for the first time in 2011, the producer of the podcast interviews the manager of the most eminent publishing house in Iceland, Forlagið, about what the year could bring for Laxness enthusiasts. The podcast also features a chat with local college students visiting Gljúfrasteinn, the former residence of the Nobel Laureate.

Bookshelves of Halldor Laxness | © Qtea/Flickr

Nordrid-Icelandic Music

This podcast explores all the best parts of the Icelandic music scene, hosted by two experts. They feature interviews with musicians, as well as reviews and critiques. The focus is mostly on the latest generation of Icelandic musicians, who have come to typify the sound most people associate with the island – a dreamy electronic or shoegazy kind of soft rock with mesmerizing vocals.

Stafrænn Hákon | © Bernard McManus/Flickr

The World Wanderers

This podcast features a different location each week as part of the producers’ six-month travels around the world. On the episode about Iceland, they give a more general outlook on what a traveller can expect on a short trip here, as well as general information about the island. The producers, a couple from Canada, celebrate Iceland’s National Day, try the famous hot-dog stand and other new foods, and explore the most popular landscape tours, such as the Golden Circle.

Viking Age

Lee is the presenter of the Viking Age, which features episodes with titles such as ‘poetry and politics’, ‘my big fat Viking wedding’, ‘the Icelandic free state’, ‘swords and ships’, ‘chieftains and temples’, and ‘the discovery of Iceland’. The project aims to share the history of the Viking world from a historian’s perspective – one that goes a bit deeper than what the History Channel might deliver – by moving past the stereotype of blonde barbarians.

Iceland: Viking Rune | © Victor Montol / Flickr

Learn Icelandic With I Heart Reykjavik

This podcast is based on the I Heart Reykjavik blog, a travel site dedicated to sharing all the tips and curious pieces of information people might want to know should they find themselves visiting or moving to Reykjavik. The presenter starts with simple phrases tied to daily life, giving the listener an easy entry into the language on a day-to-day basis. She begins with the phrase, ‘Sorry, I don’t speak Icelandic but I’m willing to learn’ (which, in Icelandic is Afsakið, ég tala ekki íslensku en ég er til í að læra) and breaks it all down for the listener, making it extremely easy and pleasant to follow.