Like much of Scandinavia, Iceland has a strong and vibrant Viking history. Vikings from across the region first settled here in the early 9th Century AD, at a time when the island was most likely a tougher and more inhospitable place. However, the Vikings were an exceptionally hardy race, already accustomed to icy temperatures and wild landscapes.
For those interested in the lives of these tenacious people, Iceland has a lot to offer. From fascinating museums to villages and historical sites steeped in Viking lore, here we’ll be taking you on a hale and hearty Viking tour of Iceland. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Reykjavík's museums and exhibitions
Our Viking adventure kicks off in Reykjavík, where many of Iceland’s top museums are found. There are several dedicated to Iceland’s Viking past, and many more Viking destinations within easy reach of the capital. We’ll also cover a few more places further afield.
The National Museum of Iceland
This fascinating museum houses some of the best relics in Iceland, 2000 artefacts to be exact. Their collection spans the complete history of the nation, from Viking times to the 20th Century. Viking pieces worth discovering include well-preserved tools and weapons, as well as intricate jewelry, belt buckles and coins.
The Settlement Exhibition
This modern exhibit has been built in and around the site of an excavated Viking longhouse, incorporating interactive digital elements to bring the story to life.
There are also rare manuscripts housed here, with the entirety of the site offering visitors a tantalizing and ingenious glimpse into Reykjavík’s Viking past.
This museum is situated right on the Reykjanes Peninsula about a forty-minute drive from Reykjavík. Viking people were seafaring folk that traveled impressive distances across tempestuous oceans.
As such, this site has created a full-size replica of an actual Viking ship to further capture the culture. This ship is fully functional and even sailed across the Atlantic to New York in 1996.
Today it sits proudly facing out to sea in the grand hall at Viking World. Visitors can find out all about how the Vikings navigated across the ocean to discover new lands, with exhibits explaining the ingenious engineering behind their highly skilled boat building culture.
This museum is one of the best spots in Iceland for getting fully immersed in Viking history. There are four main exhibits to enjoy, each offering a fascinating angle on the lives of Iceland’s formidable ancestors. These are titled:
The Icelander (The Viking Ship)
The Vikings of the North Atlantic
The Settlement of Iceland
The Fate of the Gods
The Saga Museum
Stories based on historical fact that chart the rise and fall of the great early families of Iceland, ‘Sagas’ are a key part of Icelandic history and are taught in schools from an early age. This museum brings these stories to life using waxwork figures. It’s a fun and informative museum ideal for visiting with children.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is one of the three main sights along the popular Golden Circle sightseeing route in South Iceland. The park offers a beautiful natural setting full of hiking trails and impressive views, with a huge historical significance that dates back to the time of the Vikings.
This is where the Vikings held their ‘Alþingi’ or parliament. Dating back to 930 AD, it was a very early example of a functioning democracy. Everyone would gather at this site to raise concerns and decide upon the future of their community. Disputes would be settled, and new laws would be voted on and then enacted.
The area became a national park in 1930, one millennium after the original parliament was established. The name Thingvellir actually translates to ‘The Fields of Parliament’. It is a wonderful place to visit, filled with the magic of times gone by.
Fjorukrain Viking Village
For a fully immersive Viking adventure, head to the village of Fjorukrain in Hafnarfjörður province south of Reykjavík. The village has been recreated to resemble an authentic Icelandic Viking village settlement. Visitors can see what traditional Viking houses would have looked like and learn about everyday life in a busy Viking community.
For the full experience, book into the Viking Hotel and treat your group to a feast at one of its restaurants. The hotel has 42 Nordic or Viking-themed rooms, all very comfortable and fully equipped with plenty of mod cons, so you’ll be staying in a little more luxury than the Vikings of yesteryear.
There is a choice of two restaurants at the village: the quieter and smaller Valhalla, best for those who would like a little peace while they dine, and the bigger, bolder and brasher Viking Restaurant, which brings the fun and games. Expect music, raucous sing-alongs and quite a few more surprises along the way!
Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival
If you visit Iceland in June, then make sure you get your crew to the Viking Festival in Hafnarfjörður. There’s a Viking market selling all sorts of handicraft and jewellery. You will also be treated to re-enactments of famous Viking battles, historical stories, musical performances and games. Of course, there will be plenty of feasting as well.
Ingólfsskáli Viking Restaurant
This is a must-visit destination to help fuel your Viking tour of Iceland! Located less than an hour from Reykjavík in the little town of Ölfus, this restaurant is a highly entertaining and fun destination. The outside resembles a traditional turfed Viking longhouse, while inside heavyset carved wooden furniture is ready for guests to gather around and feast.
You won’t get more authentic food than this, as much of it is foraged by the chefs or sourced locally. The menu features lamb, salmon and goose, and meals are expertly prepared. Diners can also have a go at drinking from a traditional Viking drinking horn.
Eiriksstadir Living Museum
This interactive museum is in the town of Dalabyggð in West Iceland, making it a good one to visit if you are heading off on a road trip. The exhibits are dedicated to the famous Viking explorers Eric the Red and his son Leifur Erikson. However, during the high season there is much more to explore.
Visitors can sit around the campfire and enjoy Viking stories told over the flames. They will also be able to meet modern-day Vikings and learn about Viking tools and craftsmanship. The guides are experts, so visiting makes for a memorable and informative day out.
Stöng Commonwealth Farm
Located in South Iceland, the Stöng Commonwealth Farm is a recreation of Viking houses. These houses were destroyed by a devastating volcanic eruption- the Hekla Volcano eruption which occurred in 1104 and covered several Viking settlements. More recently they have been carefully excavated and provide a fascinating insight into Viking life at the time.
Viking tour in Iceland: A Road trip adventure.
Most of the sites mentioned in this article are next to or near the Ring Road, Iceland’s main highway route that encircles the entire island. Make sure you add them to your itinerary so you can create your own Viking adventure! Book your car rental in Iceland today and get ready to embrace the ways of traditional Viking living!