Like many countries, Iceland’s history is packed with mythology and folktales. Stories featuring elves, trolls and other fantastical creatures stretch back centuries and are still told today. We should point out that we aren’t denying the existence of elves. After all, the elves wouldn’t like that very much.
Along with cute stories of friendly elves, there are also scary stories, generally designed to make children behave. Many of the ghosts featured in Iceland’s tales are almost as well known as the country’s heroes. That’s why some clever people set up Draugasetrið, or the Ghost Center—to tell foreigners the ghost stories that most locals know.
Stokkseyri: the Ghost Centre and Other Icelandic Wonders
In the small town of Stokkseyri, on the south coast of Iceland, lies the Icelandic Wonders museum. This museum takes you on a journey into local folklore, with separate exhibits on Icelandic ghosts and elves. Inside the museum there’s also a cinema where you can watch a short film all about Iceland’s greatest natural wonder: the northern lights.
The Ghost Center—which is the English translation of Draugasetrið—is naturally designed to spook you. As you make your way through a 1000 square-meter maze, you’ll be told 24 different ghost stories, all with accompanying visuals. You’ll learn about the country’s best-known ghosts and the tales surrounding them.
The dark and eerie atmosphere of the Ghost Center is sure to set you on edge. The settings which accompany each story are made to look like the locations they’re based in. Many ghosts are featured in the Icelandic Sagas, dating back over a thousand years, so you’ll get a history lesson too.
The Ghost Center is culture, history and excitement all rolled into one exhibit. Fortunately, you have the more light-hearted Icelandic Elf Museum right next door to provide a calm counter-balance. Here you’ll discover the origin of elves in Iceland, their lifestyles and interactions with humans. In some ways, elves are still very much a part of Icelandic culture.
Once you’ve filled your mind with Icelandic elf and ghost knowledge, experience the wonder of the northern lights indoors. Not all of us are fortunate enough to see the lights in real life; this is the next best thing. The film on display will explain how the aurora is formed and showcase some incredible examples.
Finally, if you want to take some souvenirs home, have a browse in the on-site gift shop. There’s tea, coffee, waffles and alcoholic drinks available if you want a quick bite or drink before moving on.
FAQs About Draugasetrið
How much does it cost?
The entrance to the Ghost Center is ISK. 2,000 for adults, 1,500 for ages 10-15, and 500 for ages 6-9.
How do you get there?
Stokkseyri is less than an hour from Reykjavík. Follow Route 1 east until you come to Route 39, and continue south onto Route 38. From there, turn onto Route 34, then Route 33, and you will arrive at Stokkseyri. The Icelandic Wonders building is in the center of the town.
When does it open?
The museum is open from July to August, between 1 pm and 6 pm every day.
Are group discounts available?
Yes, group discounts are available! Contact the Ghost Center for details here.
Do I need to understand Icelandic to enjoy my visit to Draugasetrið?
No, you don’t need to have any skill in Icelandic to have a blast. You will be given a headset to hear the stories and multiple languages are offered, including English, Icelandic, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and more.
An Intro to the Icelandic Ghost Stories in Draugasetrið
There are different types of ghosts in Icelandic folklore. There are those who did not cross over so as to seek revenge on those who wronged them in life. Then there are those who were revived by magic, similar to a zombie. In many stories, ghosts attached themselves to a specific place, haunting all who came into the area.
In old times, ghosts of various forms were often blamed for negative occurrences. If you had bad luck in farming or a stretch of bad weather, many said a ghost was responsible.
For a fictional example of superstition affecting a farming family in the 20th century, read Independent People by Halldór Laxness. For a more action-packed experience of mythical monsters from Norse history, play God of War by Santa Monica Studio.
One of the most famous ghost stories is “Djákninn á Myrká”, or “The Deacon of Dark River”. Set on a farm called Myrká or Dark River, the story involves a deacon (a servant in a church) and his girlfriend. Listen to the story as it’s told by Icelandic poet Svanur Þorkelsson in the video below:
Will you Be Brave Enough to Visit Draugasetrið?
So you want to learn about Iceland’s famous ghosts? Then visit Draugasetrið, and be prepared for your teeth to rattle. Experience the life of a small—and very old—town in Stokkseyri, which was first settled over 1000 years ago. Explore the south coast, regarded by many as the most beautiful and picturesque area of Iceland.