The Strange and Wonderful Museums of Iceland
Odyssey’s Iceland cultural & wilderness small group tour for couples or solo travellers, is a 16-day clockwise journey of this fascinating island, designed for mature-aged or senior travellers. During this small group tour, visitors experience Iceland’s spectacular landscapes filled with glaciers, geysers, and waterfalls, as we cruise among Arctic icebergs at great destinations such as Vatnajokull National Park, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, and Snaefellsness National Park. Surrounded by natural wonders such as volcanic craters, and the famous Strokkur Geysir and Gulfoss Waterfall, travellers will also go whale watching in the fishing village of Husavik. Depending on the time of year, visitors may even be fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights.
A Museum for everything in Iceland to be seen
This country has some two hundred and sixty five small Icelandic museum (265) and permanent exhibition spaces. The Icelander has a passion for collecting things so much so that it permeates Icelandic culture. We think it is unique as people have turned their homes into somewhere to stop for a piece of Icelandic history or as a curiosity to identify what stone is that. Odyssey has been taking small group educational tours to Iceland since 2009. Our local guided tour leaders and accumulated knowledge of the Icelandic nation provide you with a great small group tour for senior couples and mature solo travellers twice a year. The October departures are scheduled to maximise the opportunity to see the Northern lights whilst following the golden circle yes still getting off the beaten track on your tour typically of less than 12 like minded people.
Examples of the museums of Iceland to explore.
There are many museums that travellers would expect to visit;
- a Viking Museum (great),
- Larva and Volcano Museum(wonderful),
- the Icelandic Saga Museum,
- at least two whale museums (the one in Husavik is amazing),
- the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik city , the Iceland museum which is an excellent introduction to touring the country,
- Sigurgeir’s Bird Museum at Myvatn – full of dead, stuffed birds beautifully arranged.
- the Reykjavik museum
- Perlan Museum
- A heritage museum, provides the the visitor with the story of Iceland’s history
- and art museum including the national gallery with a permanent exhibition of Icelandic art.
However, what is unexpected is the number of museums (approximately 1 for every 1,000 people), and how quirky and unexpected so many of these museum are. Quite a few of them started as a collection in someone’s garage or a room (then three) in someone’s house. There is approximately one museum for every 1,000 people – and some are very unusual.
The Icelandic Punk Museum
The Icelandic Punk Museum is situated in a renovated public bathroom at the bottom of Reykjavik’s major shopping street, Laugavegurin central Reykjavik. In its heyday during the early 1980s, Icelandic punk music made a cultural impact that has rarely been felt since. Anti-establishment, deliberately raw, full of anarchistic anger and fresh creative energy, the movement would go on to birth some of the country’s biggest future stars, including Queen of Icelandic pop, Björk. Stepping into this compact little complex, visitors will have the chance to read display boards-ripped papers lathered to the cubicle walls-as well as listen to Icelandic artists including some of the biggest bands of the era such as Purrkur Pillnikk and KUKL.
Petra’s Stone Collection, East Iceland
In East Iceland is a colourful, picturesque garden full of rocks and minerals, and with stunning views of the Port of Stöðvarfjörður. Ljósbjörg Petra María Sveinsdóttir began collecting rocks and minerals in 1946 around Stöðvarfjörður and other locations in East Iceland. A dedicated person can collect a lot of stones and minerals in 80 years and that is what Petra did. It is interesting that in Greek, ‘petra’ is the word for stone or rock. The collection, in her home, was opened to the public in 1974, and is a monument to a life-time’s passion. It is a fascinating place to visit and there is even coffee and cake to be had.
Library of Water, Stykkishólmur
The Library of Water is a long term project overseen by American visual artist, Roni Horn, and is located in the coastal town of Stykkishólmur, on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, since 2007. Overlooking both the ocean and the town, the Library reflects Roni Horn’s relationship with Iceland’s culture and nature over the years. Primarily a sculpture space this permanent exhibition allows visitors to observe up to 24 columns filled with water from various Icelandic ice caps. Light reflects and refracts through these columns, creating stunning patterns across a rubber floor embedded with Icelandic and English words. These words and phrases change depend on the weather outside on any given day.
The Nonsense Museum, Westfjords
The Nonsense Museum in Flateyri, the Westfjords, showcases the biggest collection of tiny little oddities, collected by those with a mania for amassing strange and pointless objects, such as countless airplane and tractor models, bottle caps, sugar cubes and sachets, teaspoons, match boxes and wartime tobacco packets, more than 100 police caps from forces across the world. The museum, itself, is small, but worth a visit because it is intriguing and also to help support the 180 year-round inhabitants of Flateyri.
The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft
On the whole, Icelanders have a penchant for believing in unseen forces; witchcraft and wizardry, trolls and ghosts, elves, curses and rune spells-all have their place in the ancient Sagas and have permeated folk tales for centuries. Some modern Icelanders follow the pagan belief system of Ásatrú which is a religion dedicated to the gods of the Norse pantheon. The religion’s name derives from the old Norse words meaning “faith in the Aesir” or the gods of the Norse tradition – Odin, Frigg, Höðr, Thor, and Baldr.
Visitors can learn in-depth about these supernatural beliefs at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, located in Hólmavík in the Westfjords. The museum attracts over 15,000 visitors each year, teaching them of the regional enchantments and rituals that have made the Westfjords famous as a centre for spell craft. Particular highlights at the museum include exquisitely detailed rune-cravings and a pair of “necropants”-trousers made from the stripped skin of a man’s legs and genitals, used by witches and sages as a source of unlimited wealth.
Sverrir Hermannsson’s Sundry Collection in Akureyri
Hermannsson’s Sundry Collection is a private museum like no other in Iceland. It is not only an historical or agricultural museum, an appliance, and household collection; nail and forging compilation, or a key collection but all of this and much more.
The collection was started by Sverrir Hermannsson, who was born in 1928. As a master carpenter, Sverrir spent much of his career maintaining and rebuilding old homes in his native Akureyri, Iceland’s unofficial capital of north Iceland. Throughout his life, he was ever on the lookout for items others might have considered “junk” for his growing collection of odds and ends.
For decades Sverrir collected over a thousand items per year, ranging from gramophone needles to whole private collections of workshop tools. He has turned this assemblage into interesting exhibits and distinct sculptures that function as unique art souvenirs. There is a white-washed board bristling with nails. They are nails so old they were made by hand: squarish, rusty and often bent. One such nail is a rarity, but en masse these local nails show an investment in time and a way of doing things. Sverrir was the sort of man who saved every pencil he had ever owned, scores of keys organised meticulously by size, door knobs, and other treasures.
Icelandic Phallological Museum
The Icelandic Phallological Museum located in Reykjavík, Iceland, houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts. As of early 2020 the museum moved to a new location in Hafnartorg, three times the size of the previous one, and the collection holds well over 300 penises from more than 100 species of mammal. Also the museum holds 22 penises from creatures and peoples of Icelandic saga and folklore.
Founded in 1997 by since-then retired teacher Sigurður Hjartarson and now run by his son Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson, the museum grew out of an interest in penises that began during Sigurður’s childhood when he was given a cattle whip made from a bull’s penis. He obtained the organs of Icelandic animals from sources around the country, with acquisitions ranging from the 170 cm front tip of a blue whale penis to the 2 mm baculum of a hamster, which can only be seen with a magnifying glass. The museum claims that its collection includes the penises of elves and trolls, though, as Icelandic folklore portrays such creatures as being invisible, they cannot be seen. The collection also features phallic art and crafts such as lampshades made from the scrotums of bulls.
As part of the museum of Iceland collection this has become a popular tourist attraction with thousands of visitors a year and has received international media attention, including a Canadian documentary film called The Final Member, which covers the museum’s quest to obtain a human penis. According to its mission statement, the museum aims to enable “individuals to undertake serious study into the field of phallology in an organized, scientific fashion.”
Enquire today to secure your place to learn more
An Odyssey Travellers’ accompanied tour of Iceland will ensure that travellers can experience many of the famous museums, but there is often time on a free afternoon to see the strange and wonderful in each town visited.
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Iceland cultural and wilderness small group tour
Our escorted tour gives guests an insight into the history of this Icelandic nation. Travelling as a small group, our daily itineraries explore the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and others, national parks and majestic waterfalls as we learn about Iceland’s natural heritage and its Viking past from experienced local guides. There is a single supplement for solo travellers.
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