Do you believe in elves and magical people? My daughter definitely still does. So, when we heard about the Elf Garden in Hafnarfjörður Iceland, of course, we had to visit. Hafnarfjordur Iceland is a fishing town located near Reyjkavik which has a charming harbour and an Elf Garden in Hellisgerdi Park supposedly populated with Hudufolk (the hidden people of Iceland). We convinced my son to visit because Hafnarfjörður is also the site of a Viking Village in Iceland. Travelling in Iceland with kids involves a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking, geothermal bathing and horseback riding. Also important for active kids – there are only a handful of smallish museums to interrupt all that outdoorsy fun.
Hafnarfjordur s a short 15 minute drive from Reyjkavik, the capital of Iceland, heading back towards the international airport at Keflavik and the famous Blue Lagoon. Frankly, it is hard to know where Reyjkavik finishes and Hafnarfjordur starts.
Hafnarfjörður has been an important port since the 14th century thanks to its secluded harbour. The town was (and is) an important fishing center in Iceland.
Want to spend more time in Hafnarfjordur? The Elf Garden is a day activity but the Viking Village is really for dinner. If you have time in between these activities, why not try a taken this Icelandic mythology and hidden folk walk My kids absolutely adored Icelandic horses and horseback riding was one of the best things we did in Iceland with kids.
Searching for Elves in Hafnarfjörður
Hafnarfjordur is believed to be one of the areas with the most magical people in Iceland. The town has an organised hidden worlds tour which we missed, unfortunately, because it is available only twice a week.
If we had been more organised, we would have taken this Icelandic mythology and hidden folk walk.
The Elf Garden Iceland
The Elf Garden is set in a lava landscape in Hellisgerdi Park, a small park set amongst residential homes in Hafnarfjordur.The park, itself, is not very big but so well landscaped that it feels bigger.
The Elf Garden has a centre for Icelandic Elves and Huldufolk (Hidden People of Iceland) which was not open when we visited. We couldn’t find signs for when the opening hours are either. Apparently, this Elf Garden has got great Elf Tea which sadly we missed out on.
We also didn’t see any hidden people or elves from Icelandic folklore during our walk around Hellisgardi Park, much to the children’s frustration.
Despite our disappointment over missing any sightings of magical people and missing out on the Elf Walk/center, we had a beautiful walk in Hellisgardi Park that felt magical. The children had a blast climbing up and down hills and peering into crevices searching for elf houses in Iceland.
We didn’t see even one elf house never mind an elf village in Iceland. Even the Elf Cathedral was empty but, to be fair, we weren’t visiting on a Sunday.
Hellisgerdi Park in Hafnarfjörður Iceland
Without any Icelandic elves sightings at the Elf Garden we explored the beautiful and tranquil Hellisgerdi Park in Hafnarfjörður. As you can see, this lava stone park is worth visiting for its combination of man-made and natural beauty.
Check out TripAdvisor’s reviews of Hellisgerdi Park!
Why Did Icelandic Folklore Produce Huldufolk?
Iceland and elves seem to have a complicated relationship. Over 80% of Icelanders surveyed by a University of Iceland survey in 2007 refused to deny that elves and hidden people exist. On the other hand, most of these people were not willing to say that these creatures of Icelandic folklore definitely existed. People in Iceland seem like they were hedging their bets on Icelandic fairy tales!
Why did Icelandic people even believe in the possibility elves and hidden people?
Traditionally, life in Iceland was brutal and full of hardship. Perhaps the huldufolk of Iceland had a much better life which helped fill an active fantasy life. People were also very isolated in their rural environments and maybe the feeling that they weren’t alone with that active volcano in their back yard gave them comfort. After all, the Icelandic winters are long, dark and cold.
So, why still the fascination with Huldufolk in Iceland?
Frankly, the question really is why not? Elves and huldufolk in Iceland is a part of the country’s history and heritage. There’s nothing wrong with being practical and imaginative at the same time!
Today, the hidden people of Iceland embody a nostalgia for the old ways (which frankly was terrible in reality for most people). After all, according to Icelandic folklore, the huldufolk of Iceland were mainly farmers and fisherman just like regular people.
The belief in elves and hidden people has an effect on real life as well. For example, sometimes roads in Iceland are rerouted so that they can avoid certain specific areas. Lots of people also have a little wooden elf house in their garden in case any huldufok stop by. We actually didn’t meet any people though who had any confirmed Icelandic elves sightings!
Viking Village Iceland
The Elf Garden in Iceland is a short drive from the visitor’s centre in Hafnarfjörður, and the other main attraction in town if you are travelling in Iceland with kids, Viking Village. Our kids had been entranced at the Dublin Viking museum, Dublinia, but Viking Village is probably a misnomer. It’s more a hotel and restaurant complex with a farmyard element (some chicken coops). If you would like more of a learning experience, the Viking Museum near Keflavik Airport is a fabulous experience with kids.
Check out TripAdvisor’s reviews on Viking Village!
You can choose among dining options at Viking Village Iceland:
- Valhalla is a restaurant open for dinner set in a converted house.
- Fjörugarðurinn is the Viking restaurant that is also open for dinner and has live entertainment, including that stalwart of Viking life, a good kidnapping.
- The Thorra Buffet is your one-stop buffet stop for all those intriguing Icelandic foods you may have heard about – fermented share, pickled whale blubber and sheep liver sausage. It’s only open for a couple of months over the winter.
You can chose to stay near Viking Village in either the luxurious Hotel Viking or one of the cottages.The hotel has 43 rooms furnished in Viking style (of course!). The cottages are a good idea if you are travelling in Iceland with children because they can accommodate up to 5 people.
Check out the TripAdvisor reviews for the Viking Village Hotel!
Since 1995, Hafnarfjörður has been the place to be every June when there’s a Viking Festival in Iceland. Held over several days, the Viking Festival is populated with a Viking re-enactment group. There are Viking fights, sports, archery and story-telling. Here’s a list of the activities for the Viking Festival in 2017 and as you can see, it’s perfect if you are visiting Iceland with kids.
Feeling more of a Fisherman than a Viking? You can also visit Fisherman’s Village (Hlid) which also has a restaurant and lodging at Guesthouse Hlid. At Guesthouse Hild you can also have an extra bed in case you are travelling with children. There’s the usual Icelandic fare (lamb steak, fish soup, meat soup etc) at the restaurant but also Thai food..
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