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Iceland Mag

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An American in Reykjavik: A list of Icelandic souvenirs worth buying

By Matt Eliason

  • Wool Icelandic sweaters and blankets provide great gifts for loved ones back home. Photo: geysir.com

Matt Eliason has just moved to Iceland from Chicago. In his regular column for Iceland Magazine he chronicles his first impressions of the country, its people and traditions.

 

Finding the Right Gift
The worst part of going on vacation is the last-second panic of finding an authentic gift to present your family members with as they welcome you home. How many times have you found yourself raiding the airport gift shop for an overpriced keychain or stuffed animal, in an attempt to prove to your loved ones that you were actually thinking about them rather than partying it up with your friends or co-workers. Like it or not, any time you visit an exotic location such as Iceland, there is going to be lot of pressure to bring back souvenirs. Rather than scrambling last second at Keflavik airport and splurging on an over-priced stuffed puffin, I thought it would be useful to make a list of noteworthy Icelandic souvenirs that are truly authentic and actually practical, to show your loved ones that you care.

JS Watch Mixed with lava.

Jewelry with Volcanic Rock
Iceland is well-known for its volcanic activity and there is no better way to capture the Icelandic spirit than by purchasing a gift including Icelandic lava rock. Just looking through the shops on the main street in Reykjavík, Laugavegur, you can see some really cool watches and jewelry with the distinct black, mixed in with the vibrant neon blue of the Blue Lagoon. Depending on your budget, you can customize the watch (this will set you back a few Króna), but how many times will you have the opportunity to buy a watch mixed with Lava?

Places to find the Jewlery with Volcanic Rock: Gullkúnst HelguJS Watch                                                                                                              

Lopapeysa Icelandic wool sweater at alafoss.is

Icelandic Sweaters and Blankets
Icelanders are known for their style. Be sure to make a Scandinavian fashion statement with one of Iceland’s many sweater styles. When I first came to Iceland, I was looking at the sweaters saying, “There is no way I can pull that off.” I now find myself shopping around for the distinct looking sweaters not only to fit in, but to live up to the high standard of style that is present at the Reykjavik nightlife spots. Kids and adults alike, will appreciate the “cool” style of the sweaters, and with the temperature rarely reaching 15 degrees Celsius, the Icelandic sweater manufactures know how to make a warm pullover. Take this back with you to your next family birthday party and give the perfect Icelandic gift. Also, make sure to get the tax form to save 20% upon returning to your country of origin.

Places to find the Icelandic Sweaters: Farmers Markethandknit.is GeysirVarmaThe Viking Souvenir Shop

 

Brennivín Iceland's signature liguor.
 

Brennivin Hard Liquor
I have mentioned Brennivin hard alcohol a few times before in previous articles, but I must reiterate, there is no better way to make an entrance at a party than whipping out the distinct green bottle of Brennivin and serving up some of Iceland´s signature drink. The unique taste and strong alcohol content is sure to make whoever drinks the “black death” remembers the experience for years to come. Buy some Brennivin for your friends before departing Keflavik airport at the duty free shop and present them with this truly authentic gift that is rarely found in the US or Europe.

Places to find the Brennivin: Vinbuðin, Nordic Store, Duty Free Iceland

 

At the Blue Lagoon You can enjoy the treatment on the spot and take it away in a bottle.

Blue Lagoon Spa Treatments
While your friends and family may not have the opportunity to bathe in the Blue lagoon natural geothermal pool, you can bring back some of popular tourist destination’s natural spa treatments. While at the Blue Lagoon you can see visitors rubbing the light blue clayish treatments that can be found on the rocks surrounding the volcanic rock. The Blue Lagoon store has bottled these lotions, which are said to have the power of healing skin, not sure if I believe this part, but nonetheless the lotion products are soothing. These products are not only available at the Blue Lagoon, but also shops found through Reykjavik and in the Keflavik Airport.

Places to find the Blue Lagoon Spa Treatments: Blue Lagoon Iceland

The sweet stuff Should come with a warning label.

Rís Buff Candy
The Rís Buff Candy found at all Icelandic convenient shops and grocery stores is so addictive it should come with a warning label. Covered in chocolate with rice crisps and some sort of gooey marshmallow concoction, the Buff candy will make you Mr. Popular at your office if you put these out for co-worker consumption. I have even considered forming my own company in order to bring these delicious treats to the American market. Grab some before you head out of Iceland and share them with friends and family or just eat them yourself, that’s probably a more realistic outcome.

Places to find the Buff Rís Candy: Bonus, 1011 Convenient Store

Downtown Bad Taste's record store is located at Laugavegur street. Photo /Ron Eliason

Icelandic Music
Yes, we’ve all heard of Björk, but what else does Icelandic Music have to offer? I’ve found that the Icelandic music scene has a unique identity which includes a mixture of heavy metal and dreamy house music, which provides a great accomplice for your morning run, or if you need some back-up music at your office desk during work hours. I have had the chance to discover some of Iceland’s most authentic music at Bad Taste Record Store, located on the main street in downtown Reykjavik. Björk’s record label owns the store, and in an age of MP3 downloads and hit singles; the small green structure of Bad Taste Records provides the perfect setting to hear a CD through its entirety. Purchase CDS from popular Icelandic bands such as GusGus or Kaleo as a gift for your loved ones back home and they are sure to get an genuine taste of the Icelandic music culture.

Places to find the Icelandic Music: Bad Taste Record Store, Iceland Music Export

 A reason to return The Northern Lights can only be seen in the winter. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

Northern Lights Memorabilia 
One common misconception that a lot of tourists don’t understand about Iceland’s Northern lights, is the fact that they can only be seen in the winter. However, you can capture the amazing scenery of the Northern Lights in a picture from Aurora Reykjavik, the Northern Lights Center. These gifts will provide a great backdrop for apartment decorating or can also enhance your office wall at work with the breathtaking backdrops of the vibrant colors of the Northern Lights.

Places to find the Northern Lights Memorabilia: Aurora Reykjavik

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