The Land of Fire and Ice is filled with legend and folklore, and magic and mysticism is woven into every fabric of the country – whether its majestic landscapes or its culture. One place that celebrates the weird and wonderful past and colorful beliefs of the island is the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.
In this article, we tell you exactly what to expect (and look forward to) from a visit to Iceland’s witch museum, where it is, and how to get there. So, if you’re interested in diving into the magical side of Iceland, read on.
The Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft
The museum first opened its doors in the year 2000 but grew incredibly popular very quickly due to its intriguing subject matter. Today, at least 11,000 visitors walk through the museum each year.
As we already mentioned, the island is no stranger to mystical creatures and all sorts of magic or Strandir (what sorcery is referred to here in Iceland). The museum is a celebration of these old-timey traditions and embraces the fairy-tale-like quality of the country’s past as it depicts the evolution of Strandir throughout the ages.
Where is Iceland’s Museum of Witchcraft?
The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft is located in the Eastern Westfjords of Iceland, in a small, little village called Holmanik.
Getting to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
Most visitors get to the museum in one of two ways:
Via a Guided Tour
You will find plenty of tour operators and guides here on the island who will be able to take you to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. This can range from a dedicated day tour or a combo day tour to a multi-day tour package that includes a number of stops at various local attractions and custom-made private tour packages.
Which you choose will solely rely on your personal preferences and your budget. But if you are planning on coming to the island during our busy summer months, we highly recommend that you make any/all bookings in advance to avoid disappointment.
Via a Self-drive
This is our preferred method of travel here on the island, as this allows you to stay in full control of your time and itinerary. The important thing to take note of is that there are certain roads here on the island, such as the F-roads, that one can only legally access with a 4x4 vehicle. One of the regions that are notorious for this is the Westfjords (where the museum is located).
Since the museum is only 3 hours away from the capital city of Reykjavík, some (such as the tour operators) take it on as a day trip during the summer season when one has plenty of daylight hours, but we recommend that you include the museum as a stop on a road trip, properly exploring the island. The museum is conveniently located close to two of our most popular road trip routes here on the island; the Ring Road and the Westfjords Way.
When to Visit the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
You can visit the museum all year round, but you’ll need to be aware of the seasonal changes to its operating hours. During our peak summer season in Iceland (mid-May till the end of September), the museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 to 18:00.
The other times of the year, and what we refer to as our “down” season, the museum is open on weekdays from 12:00 to 18:00 and from 13:00 to 18:00 over the weekends. It’s always a good idea to double-check operating hours during your trip, and if you’re visiting during the winter season, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the Iceland weather forecast and the Iceland road conditions as your plans might get thwarted by harsh weather conditions or sudden road closures.
How Much is Entry to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft?
Entry to the museum is not very expensive and costs about $10 for an adult, $8 for a student (if they have a valid student card with them), $7 for pensioners and the disabled, and no charge for children up to the age of 14.
A Few Favorites to Look Forward to When Visiting the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft
There are a few items that are considered to be highlights at the museum. These are a few of these that you can look forward to:
There are a few magical staves at the museum (which unlike in Harry Potter can take on various forms) that are believed to have incredible power attached to them. The magical stave of Angurgapi looks like a wooden arts and crafts project, but is apparently one of the most powerful staves in the entire country. Then there is Hulinhhjalmur, the magical stave of invisibility, which is said to do exactly what the name suggests; turn one invisible.
Okay, so it may not be the real deal, but it still makes for a pretty cool photo opp. But this is not a representation of just any old zombie. Jon Rögnvaldsson was one of the most powerful sorcerers in Northern Iceland, and in 1652, he was accused of having conjured up a zombie to terrorize and harm his enemy. Whether he was really guilty or not will be up to you to decide for yourself, but in the eyes of the law he was found guilty and burned alive as his punishment.
Not only did his zombie incident go down as one of the most famous stories in Icelandic history, but even his death was significant. That’s because Iceland’s own witch trials which saw numerous women and men burnt at the stake would only take place from 1654 to 1690, which makes Jon Rögnvaldsson one of the island’s first magical martyrs.
Okay, so this is yet another dramatic representation, but we honestly don’t know whether to cower in fear or burst out laughing when it comes to these creatures of darkness. These demons were called Tilberi and they looked like gigantic, hairy worms with mouths on both ends of their bodies, and what these guys did lies somewhere between a nightmare and any housewives dream.
They would scour the neighboring farmlands and suckle on cows till they were filled with milk. Then they would return “home” to whoever conjured them up in the first place. They would then vomit up the milk, but in the most helpful way possible, as the milk they vomited up in the churn was practically butter already.
And if that’s not strange enough, people used to test whether butter was the product of these evil entities by making the sign of the cross in the butter. It was believed that if the butter exploded, a Tilberi was behind the produce.
This is probably the most famous item at the museum, and (thankfully!) is a replica of the real deal. The popularity of this attraction at the museum grew exponentially after Stephen Fry mentioned the item on his TV program, QI, with people flocking to see the strange pants for themselves. Necropants or Nabrok as it’s called in Iceland were prominent in the 17th century and required some morbid planning.
You would need to make an arrangement with someone before they died. You had to persuade them and give you permission to use their skin to make a pair of Necropants when they’ve died. And if you managed to get the permission, making these pants was no easy task. The person still had to get buried, whereafter you had to dig up the body and skin the person from the waist down, ensuring that the skin remained in one piece.
You would then wear the pants. But even after all this, it would still not be the entire story. Now you had to steal a coin from a poor widow and carry it in the scrotum of the pants with a magical sign with “Nabrokarstafur” written on it. As long as you didn’t remove the coin, the belief was that you would attract wealth.
These pants could be kept for generations as long as the pants were “transferred” to the next wearer one pant leg at a time, by having them step into a pant leg as soon as you stepped out. But this “transfer” was not only to ensure generational wealth, but also to guarantee salvation for the initial wearer.
The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft is Not to be Missed!
No trip to Iceland is complete without diving into the weird and wonderful world of Viking warriors, legendary stories, mythical creatures, and, of course, magic.
And one of the best places to experience this for yourself is at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft. Make the most out of your visit to the museum by renting a campervan in Reykjavík and making it a stop along your Ring Road or Westfjords road trip. Your magical Icelandic adventure awaits!