A trip to Iceland will leave you with memories you’ll treasure for a lifetime. There’s nothing like standing right in front of a glacier, a volcano or one of the world’s most incredible waterfalls. Maybe you’ll even get a few great pictures to remind you of the places you visited on your adventure.
Despite that, we all know that souvenirs are a big part of any holiday. Those ornaments scattered around your house will make you smile and bring many memories. Just like any country, Iceland has its own collection of unique items that distinctly represent the nation, so let’s take a look at the must-buy Iceland souvenirs!
What are Good Souvenir Gifts to Purchase in Iceland?
Souvenir shopping isn’t just about what we buy for ourselves. Our friends and family expect gifts when we return from a holiday, so we have to make a proper packing list. Here is some inspiration for souvenir shopping while in Iceland:
• Key rings, fridge magnets and postcards: these simple yet classic items that depict Iceland’s landscape are always a good buy. Viking souvenirs, such as drinking horns, are also an entertaining addition to any house.
• A 'Lopapeysa' sweater: If you want something that’s traditionally Icelandic, consider a wool blanket or wool jumper. You can be confident that these items are made in Iceland, using Icelandic wool from Icelandic sheep. They are popular among locals and tourists alike and serve a practical function: keeping you warm.
• Food souvenirs: Iceland’s souvenirs include food and they’re more than just decoration. Various types of salt are popular purchases on an Iceland trip, such as Icelandic sea salt and lava salt. They have a strong, pure taste when used in cooking and look great in any kitchen.
• Icelandic soap is another great gift. It's easily transportable and contains local ingredients, such as volcanic ash or glacial water. Sapusmidjan, the Soap Workshop, has vegan, handmade soaps in many gift shops around Iceland.
• A piece of history: If you think your gift recipient will want to learn about Iceland’s history, consider buying a Book of the Sagas. These are writings detailing Iceland’s early settlement life and early Icelanders' cultural practices and beliefs. There are many to choose from and all are hugely important historical texts.
Where Can Visitors Buy their Souvenirs in Iceland?
You’ll find Iceland’s best souvenir shops catering to tourists in downtown Reykjavík. In particular, the Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur streets. The latter leads to the imposing Hallgrímskirkja church and contains many souvenir shops. Most of them have a unique approach, specializing in one type of product or another, whereas others generalize their stock.
Generally, every shop will have at least some Iceland-made products, and purchasing them will further support local businesses. If you want to shop Icelandic specifically, check the label before buying.
For Iceland wool items, head to Icewear. This store produces Icelandic wool sweaters in the traditional style, which will remind you of Iceland whenever you wear them. They have multiple outlets around the country, including several in Reykjavík.
For books about Iceland, the Vikings or the Sagas, head to Penninn Eymundsson, a local bookshop chain. They sell books in both Icelandic and English and will happily provide you with something that informs you about local history. Penninn has many branches around the capital, with one on the main shopping street, Laugavegur.
In addition to the gift shops in the capital’s center, you’ll generally find one at the more popular natural sites. For example, at the main stops on the Golden Circle—Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area and Þingvellir National Park. These all have gift shops in their visitors’ centers, with particular souvenirs pertaining to the spots where they’re located.
This is true for most of the popular tourist destinations around the country: Dimmuborgir lava field, Jökulsárlón, Vestrahorn and more. These gift shops often contain items made by people native to the area, so you’ll be directly supporting local trade!
What are the Most Popular Souvenirs in Iceland?
Alongside the Icelandic sea salt and wool products, lava rock ornaments are also popular buys. It’s really not a good idea to pick up rocks you find in the wild and take them with you. If everyone did that, within a few years, there would be no rocks left.
Buying lava rocks through the tourism industry ensures that lava is collected sustainably, with ecological concerns in mind. You can find jewelry with attached lava pieces, as well as lava candleholders.
Anything puffin-related is also very popular in Iceland; although it’s not the country’s national bird, it’s certainly an important symbol. In the summer months, Iceland has the largest population of Atlantic puffins in the world, so it’s not surprising. As a result, many visitors make it a high-priority goal to see puffins up close while in the country.
After you’ve seen puffins, you’ll naturally want a puffin toy or key ring to take home with you. Souvenirs with puffin likenesses can be found virtually anywhere, so you won’t have to look too hard.
Viking themed gifts
As in most countries, t-shirts are also a common purchase here for tourists. You will find many t-shirts with Viking or Norse mythology-related prints, such as a portrait of Thor or Odin.
One design that is very prominent is the printing of Galdrastafir or Icelandic magical staves. These are runic symbols dating back hundreds of years, that were said to channel magic when drawn in specific ways.
Two of the most commonly seen staves are Ægishjálmur and Vegvísir. Ægishjálmur or “Helm of Awe” was said to be drawn onto the foreheads of warriors to protect them in battle, while Vegvísir or ‘Way Finder’ was used to ensure one never got lost on a journey.
One product worth particular mention is Icelandic skincare, which serves as both a gift to yourself and others. Since Iceland has some of the cleanest air and water in the world, it’s only natural that it’s also a producer of great organic health products.
• The Blue Lagoon famously has a range of its own skincare products, made using naturally occurring silica and algae. They have stores in Keflavík Airport and downtown Reykjavík, as well as at the Blue Lagoon itself.
• Sóley Organics is a very popular brand created by Icelandic actress Sóley Elíasdóttir, who creates the products using wild herbs. She has carried on her family’s long-standing tradition of using local herbs for healing purposes.
• SKYN Iceland also utilizes naturally occurring, vegan ingredients in its product range to de-stress your skin. Combine that with some hot pool visits, and you’ll leave Iceland feeling renewed.
Why you should buy souvenirs in Iceland
The items that you purchase during your time in Iceland won’t just stir up memories from your trip, they’ll also serve to remind you that you can always come back. This country has so much to explore and every season gives its landscape a different feel.
The Land of Fire and Ice is a place you’ll want to visit over and over again and you’ll want to take a memento back with you every time! With that in mind, make sure you plan ahead and leave some space in your suitcase to take everything home with you.
The search for the best Icelandic souvenir is on! Are you up to the challenge? Book your car rental now and see what treasures you can find!
Samuel Hogarth, Cars Iceland.