The population of Iceland is currently 334,252 according to government figures. However, if folklore is to be believed and you count trolls, elves, and hidden people, then the actual number of Icelandic beings living on this volcanic land may be significantly higher. Of course, the chance of catching sight of one of these magical creatures is pretty low but this doesn’t mean they do not exist, just that they are rather hard to track down.
The huldufólk – hidden people or elves – are believed to live in the wild terrain of this ancient land and have been known to make a nuisance if they are disgruntled in any way. Elves and trolls have been blamed for many strange happenings over the years and folklore dictates that they can be quite troublesome if annoyed.
As you travel around the countryside keep your eyes peeled for “álfhól”, these are the tiny, colourful wooden houses which locals have built respectfully for the elves and hidden people. If you look carefully you may also spot the occasional elf church.
During the winter season, when the nights close in, the activities of the huldufólk seem to increase and sightings are more frequent around Christmas and New Year. It is said that tiny bonfires have been spotted around the time of seasonal celebrations. Icelanders always show great respect for the hidden people and often leave a gift of food for them at Christmas time.
The secret to spotting elves, trolls and monsters in Iceland lies in respecting mother nature.
If you venture to the beautiful black beaches of the South Coast, a visit to the historic town of Vik is essential. Vik’s ancient myths elude that the magnificent rock formations located just off the coast known as Reynisdrangar are actually the silhouettes of ancient trolls caught by an early sunrise as they tried to haul ships ashore.
Iceland’s enchanting folklore tales don’t stop at elves and trolls. Generations of fishermen and their families have maintained a healthy respect for the great Atlantic Ocean. Sea monsters and terrifying creatures sometimes known as “skrimsli” have been detailed in legends for hundreds of years and many visitors to Iceland leave having experienced a sighting of some unidentifiable sea creature.
Of course, the secret to spotting elves, trolls and monsters in Iceland lies in respecting mother nature. Take time to enjoy the tranquillity of the countryside, soak up the atmosphere of this unspoilt natural environment and allow the sights and sounds of Iceland’s wild terrain to quiet your mind. The ancient lava fields, powerful waterfalls, craggy mountains, and volcanic beaches are all alive with their unique inherent natural wonders, some clearly visible to the naked eye and others the stuff of legend and local folklore.