Vikings in Iceland: The Best Places to Visit
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- National Museum of Iceland: Unveiling the Viking Legacy
- The Settlement Exhibition: Step into a Viking Longhouse
- Viking World: Setting Sail on a Viking Ship
- The Settlement Center: Discover the Saga of Egil
- Snorrastofa: Unraveling the Legacy of Snorri Sturluson
- Eiríksstaðir: Birthplace of Leif Erikson
- Thingvellir National Park: Where Laws Were Made
- Hvolsvöllur Saga Center: Diving into Njal's Saga
- Glaumbær Folk Museum: Step into a Turf Farm
Exploring the Historic Viking Sites on Your Icelandic Road Trip
Icelanders are the descendants of the Vikings, and exploring this history while on a campervan trip in the country is a great way to get in touch with the local culture. Not only did the breathtaking landscapes act as a retirement home to the legendary seafarers, but it also cast a spell upon them that would be the beginning of many legends and folk tales.
For a glimpse into the lives of Iceland’s first settlers, below we’ve rounded up the best Viking sites in Iceland to add onto your campervan road trip.
National Museum of Iceland: Unveiling the Viking Legacy
Our first stop on this Viking adventure is the National Museum of Iceland, located in downtown Reykjavik. This museum is the gateway to Iceland's history, which means that it provides a comprehensive overview of the Viking Age and the Commonwealth Period.
Here, you can expect immersive exhibits that showcase rare artifacts from the Viking Age, such as amber necklaces, belt buckles, ancient swords, and plenty more. It all stitches together for a comprehensive overview of the Vikings’ daily life, culture, and traditions. If you’ve got some time in Reykjavik before or after your campervan trip, this museum is a solid addition of your list of things to see and do in the capital.
The Settlement Exhibition: Step into a Viking Longhouse
Another great attraction to visit in Reykjavik is the Settlement Exhibition. This unique museum is built around an excavated 10th-century turf longhouse, providing a glimpse into the daily lives of Viking settlers and how they used to go about their days. Interactive displays bring the exhibition to life, highlighting the architecture of the time and the daily, domestic life in the area back in the early days of settlement.
The longhouse ruins are some of the most intact in the country, discovered when the hotel above decided to carry out renovations in their basement. As you admire the remains, you can easily picture the bustle of a Viking family as they cooked, slept, and entertained guests under one roof.
Viking World: Setting Sail on a Viking Ship
For a truly immersive Viking experience, make your way to Viking World, just a short drive from the Go Campers office in Keflavik. Here, you'll have the opportunity to step aboard an exact replica of a ninth-century Viking ship. This ship, built by Captain Gunnar Marel Eggertsson, sailed across the Atlantic in 2000, honoring the voyages of Leif Erikson to the New World.
On board the ship there are videos and exhibits that transport you back into the days of the Vikings. You’ll discover the secrets of Viking navigation and learn about the engineering skills that allowed them to build such fast and stable vessels. Even more information delves into the Vikings explorations of new lands, and their encounters with indigenous peoples. Viking World is a must-visit for anyone seeking to understand the Vikings' seafaring legacy.
The Settlement Center: Discover the Saga of Egil
We venture into West Iceland for our next Viking attraction in Iceland, territory where a lot of the Icelandic Sagas took place. The town of Borgarnes is home to the incredible Settlement Center, one of the highlights of Viking history in Iceland. This museum delves into the captivating story of Egil’s Saga, one of the most renowned stories in the country.
Egil’s life and adventures are detailed throughout the museum, using immersive technology, art, and artifacts. Egil was a warrior-poet whose adventures were filled with sorcery, battles, and personal struggles. The impressive artistic interpretations of the Saga offer a beautiful blend of art, history, and storytelling.
Snorrastofa: Unraveling the Legacy of Snorri Sturluson
In the small town of Reykholt (again in West Iceland) you'll find Snorrastofa, a historical site that was once home to Snorri Sturluson, a prominent figure in the Viking Age. Snorri Sturluson was a renowned writer, chief, and scholar who played a crucial role in preserving Norse mythology and the historical accounts of the Nordic countries.
At Snorrastofa, you can explore the remains of Snorri’s private residence, and admire his gorgeous hot spring (unfortunately closed to the public – here are some hot springs you can swim in!). You can even enter the dark tunnel where Snorri was assassinated by order of the King of Norway.
Eiríksstaðir: Birthplace of Leif Erikson
Travel to unassuming Eiríksstaðir, located in – you guessed it – West Iceland, and you’ll find yourself at the birthplace of one of the most famous Vikings in history: Leif Erikson. This historic site is the former home and farm of Erik the Red, Leif Erikson's father. Leif is one of the most renowned explorers in the world, and it’s said that he even discovered the Americas before Christopher Columbus. At this birthplace, you can explore a reconstructed longhouse for a glimpse of how the Vikings lived, worked, and raised their families.
Thingvellir National Park: Where Laws Were Made
No exploration of Viking Iceland would be complete without a visit to Thingvellir National Park, one of three National Parks in Iceland. This UNESCO World Heritage site is not only known for its stunning natural beauty but also for its historical significance as the site of the Althing, the national parliament of Iceland from 930 AD to 1798. It’s usually the first stop on any tour of the Golden Circle, which makes it easy to add to any campervan itinerary.
At Thingvellir, you’ll be standing on the very spot where Viking chieftains gathered from around Iceland to discuss legal matters, settle disputes, and enact laws. You’ll stop by the ancient assembly site, and the famous Law Rock, where the law speaker recited the laws of the land for all to hear.
Hvolsvöllur Saga Center: Diving into Njal's Saga
For a truly immersive experience into Viking sagas, make a stop at the Hvolsvöllur Saga Center. Located in the area where Njal's Saga takes place, this interactive museum brings ancient tales to life. Immerse yourself in the saga through low-tech, human-centered exhibits that make the story accessible to visitors of all ages. It’s a great stop to make as you venture toward Iceland’s South Coast.
Engage with the highly informed and personable custodians, who can provide fascinating insights into the characters and events of Njal's Saga. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even dress up in period Viking costumes and become a part of the saga's world. Don't miss the opportunity to contribute your stitches to the 270-foot tapestry depicting Njal's story, a project that showcases the enduring legacy of the sagas.
Glaumbær Folk Museum: Step into a Turf Farm
For a glimpse into rural Viking life, head to the Glaumbær Folk Museum in North Iceland. This living history museum offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the traditional way of life on a Viking-era turf farm. Wander through the well-preserved turf houses and discover the artifacts, tools, and household items that were part of everyday life.
Learn about Icelandic farming practices, explore the exhibitions on traditional crafts, and gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges and resilience of Viking farmers. Glaumbær Folk Museum offers a tangible connection to Iceland's rural past, providing a rich and immersive experience for visitors.
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