Iceland fuses the best of both worlds. It is a country that treasures and celebrates its cultural traditions and history whilst championing an innovative and forward-thinking mentality within its society.

If you’re heading to our little Nordic island, we thought we’d give you a quick insight into more of our culture and customs. Just so you’re prepared!


One of our biggest cultural events here in Iceland is þorrablót (Thorrablot). It begins every year on the first Friday after January the 19th and is a midwinter celebration that began as a time of sacrifice to the Pagan Gods.

It’s a pretty old tradition! Basically, we just eat a whole lot of traditional Icelandic food. You might be grossed out by a lot of it, which includes hákarl, which is rotten shark meat (our English visitors think it tastes like Stilton cheese!), and svið, otherwise known as boiled sheep heads. Give it a go anyway, just to say you have!

hakarl a traditional Icelandic food Iceland customs and culture

No Alcohol in Normal Shops

We knew we had to pop this one in simply because of the number of confused travellers we speak to about it. We do sell alcohol – we’re sure you’ll be relieved to hear! – but we don’t sell it in normal supermarkets or grocery stores. You can only buy it from specific state-owned liquor stores. If you’re having trouble finding one, just ask us! Trust us, we know where they are. But it’s much cosier in the Base Camp bar anyway and that’s where you will make plenty of new friends!

Iceland's best place to stay and get a drink alcohol in Iceland

13 Santa’s

When it comes to Christmas in Iceland, we’re not content with just one Father Christmas – oh no, we needed many more. That’s why we have thirteen! The Jol Lads, as we affectionally call them, are all quite naughty, which explains why they’re called things like ‘Door Slammer’ and ‘Bowl Licker’. In the 13 days before Christmas, kids across Iceland pop a shoe up on their window and every morning one of the 13 Yule Lads will leave them a treat.

Babies Sleeping Outside

A lot of people who visit Iceland are completely freaked out by babies napping outside, but don’t be! It’s totally normal to see a pram outside a shop or café with a little snoozing baby inside. As our crime rate is so low, parents don’t worry about things like that. It’s just part of our day to day life – even in sub-zero temperatures, the babies are fine outside! It’s not cruel, they’ll be all wrapped up and very happy.

Midgard Base Camp Mums, child friendly hostel

It’s All First Names

Last names aren’t at all important over here. Unlike other countries where it’s polite to greet people by saying Mrs or Monsieur or whatever your country says, followed by the last name of that person, here everyone goes by their first name. This is because last names are just your parent’s name followed by either son or daughter, so we don’t really bother! Greet us by our first names and we’ll be happy!

Solo Travellers in Iceland making friends

If you want any more information on Icelandic customs and culture before you head over, just ask our team. We’re more than happy to help and will give you all the knowledge you need to prepare you for your visit.

Want to know a lot more about Iceland? Read our Ultimate Guide to Winter In Iceland.