Visiting Iceland? These are the 11 Icelandic words I wish I’d known

Oct 26, 2022

Iceland is easily the most magical place that I visited this year ❄️

It’s hard to put into words the otherworldly natural wonders you’ll see, but what made Iceland so special for me was that I felt moved the entire time. There’s an indescribable feeling of peace and

contentedness that comes from the organic, imposing quietness of the landscape, which pulls you gently into thoughtful silence and inspires a childlike sense of wonder. Every thought and stressor of home seems to slip away and leave only a peculiar, sweet feeling that you can choose to go in any direction and find something incredible.

But speaking of indescribable things that are hard to put into words, we have to talk about the Icelandic language.

It sounds lyrical from a native Icelander, but my attempts at pronunciation and even trying to sound out the words phonetically in my head were totally abysmal.

Why does it matter? Because many of Iceland’s natural wonders and cities are composite words of the Icelandic language, meaning they have a prefix or suffix that describes what the place is

Yes, every Icelander I met spoke English, but if you’re looking at signs on the road, a map, or your phone hoping to spontaneously stop at a unique spot or get off the beaten path, you’re not going to be able to discern what you may be heading toward based on your 9th grade romance language prowess. And if you’re road tripping in Iceland, you can’t count on cell service to bail you out.

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Have you ever had trouble finding the right words to describe “heavy snowfall with large flakes occurring in calm wind?” Me either, but it’s hundslappadrífa.

According to the official Visit Iceland website, “The Icelandic language is a dialect of Old Norse: the pan-Scandinavian language at the time of Iceland’s settlement 1,150 years ago. But this common Norse tongue evolved into Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish over the centuries as local Kings tightened their grip – or lost an invasion. The Icelanders, meanwhile, kept the language alive by penning stories known as the Sagas of Icelanders.”

Heading into the unknown is fun, but if want to pick and choose what kind of unknown you’re heading into, one of my best Iceland travel tips is to bring this simple cheat sheet with you!

Learn these 11 Icelandic words before your Iceland road trip

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