8 Unusual Experiences to Have in Iceland

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iStock

As the land of fire, ice, Northern Lights, and cheap flights, it’s no wonder Iceland has become one of the world's most popular destinations. From 2000 to 2014, the number of foreign visitors has more than tripled, according to the Icelandic Tourist Board [PDF].

Unfortunately, a good portion of those visitors don't make it outside of Iceland's famed Golden Circle, which means they miss out on some of the most memorable experiences the country has on offer. Planning a trip to Iceland? Consider making time for some of these slightly-off-the-beaten-path adventures.

1. FLOAT NEXT TO A GEYSER AT THE SECRET LAGOON.

Stephanie Vermillion

For a no-frills, authentic hot spring experience, make a stop at the century-old Secret Lagoon, Iceland's oldest swimming pool (it opened in 1891 and began offering swim lessons in 1909). The Secret Lagoon is located right off the Golden Circle in Fludir, atop active geothermal grounds that naturally heat the water year-round. Adding to its appeal: It has an active geyser on the premises, which (safely) erupts every five minutes.

2. LEARN ABOUT ICELAND'S "HIDDEN PEOPLE" AT THE ELFSCHOOL.

Elves, gnomes, dwarves, trolls, fairies, and other huldufólk ("hidden people") have long captured the imaginations of Icelanders. (According to one 1998 survey, 54 percent of Icelanders believe in the existence of invisible elves.) If you're looking to get up close and personal with the magical creatures—or at least hear the stories of those who have—check out The Elfschool in Reykjavik. Open year-round, the school hosts lectures and discussions about people who have come in contact with elves. You can opt to end your visit to the school with a private walking tour to one of the country's most popular "elf sighting" spots, located adjacent to the school.

3. EXPLORE THE DIMMUBORGIR LAVA FIELD.

Stephanie Vermillion

Dimmuborgir, located in northern Iceland, is an enormous lava field filled with otherworldly rock formations and volcanic caves. The site has numerous hiking trails, including routes leading up to the towering Hverjfall Crater, and might look familiar to Game of Thrones fans—it served as one of the main wildling campsites.

4. HIKE TO GLJÚFRABÚI, THE SECRET WATERFALL.

Stephanie Vermillion

Southern Iceland is home to some of the country's most beautiful waterfalls, including the mighty Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, where you can hike behind the falls, and a hidden waterfall few travelers know to seek out—Gljúfrabúi. Just a five-minute walk from Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi is tucked away behind mountains, accessible only through a small opening in the rock formation. You may get wet on your hike there—you have to cross a stream—but that temporary discomfort is well worth the awe-inspiring, secret spectacle that awaits you on the other side.

5. LEARN ABOUT OLD ICELAND AT THE GLAUMBAER MUSEUM.

Stephanie Vermillion

For hundreds of years, Icelanders lived in grass-roofed “turf houses,” designed to insulate against the country's harsh winters. Today, travelers can visit these traditional Icelandic homes at north Iceland’s Glaumbaer Museum, located right along the Ring Road. Depending on how much time you have, Glaumbaer can be a short (free!) photo stop in-between destinations, or a full-blown dive into a piece of Iceland's architectural history.

6. SNORKEL BETWEEN TECTONIC PLATES.

Sure, you can hike between the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park. But for a truly unusual experience, opt to snorkel through them. Guided tours take divers into the Silfra fissure, a navigable, underwater crack where the two tectonic plates are drifting apart at a rate of two centimeters per year. You won’t witness sea life on this snorkel expedition, but get your waterproof cameras ready for some of the most vibrant shades of blue you’ve ever seen.

7. GO INSIDE A VOLCANO.

Geology nerds, take note: One tour company has actually made it possible for travelers to go inside the (dormant) Thrihnukagigur volcano. Visitors are lowered through the crater opening in a basket-like elevator, and are given around 30 minutes to explore the volcano floor. The tour takes five to six hours total, including travel to and from Thrihnukagigur.

8. VISIT GRÍMSEY ISLAND IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.

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For one of the most remote Icelandic experiences possible, consider taking the three-hour boat ride to Grímsey Island. The only part of Iceland located inside the Arctic Circle, Grímsey Island is just over three square miles and home to fewer than 100 residents. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in opportunities for adventure. You can hike, bike, dive, fish, swim, and, if timed right, view puffins and the Northern Lights.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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How Anoka, Minnesota Became the Halloween Capital of the World

A photo of Main Street in downtown Anoka, Minnesota.
A photo of Main Street in downtown Anoka, Minnesota.
123dieinafire, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

On November 1, 1919, the residents of Anoka, Minnesota, a suburb about 20 miles north of Minneapolis, woke up to what Smithsonian calls a “prank of epic proportions.” Outhouses were overturned, wagons were parked on roofs, and cows roamed through the streets.

The prank was part of an epidemic of Halloween-related hijinks that seemed to grow more extreme with each passing year. Civic leaders decided that the time had come for the city to do something to dissuade such mischief—or at least to keep would-be pranksters so busy that they couldn’t dream of causing trouble.

So in 1920 a Halloween committee, fronted by local businessman George Green, planned one of the first—and largest—community-wide Halloween celebrations in the United States. The 1920 celebration, featuring a parade, a bonfire, and free candy for children, and was so successful that the police received no reports of pranks.

The celebration only grew in subsequent years, and Anoka leaders wanted people to know it. In 1937, 12-year-old Anoka local Harold Blair was one of 200 Minneapolis Journal newspaper carriers to receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Members of the Anoka Commercial Club seized on the opportunity, sending Blair off with a request to Congress that Anoka be formally designated as the “Halloween Capital of the World.” A fire in Anoka destroyed many of the city’s earliest documents about the Halloween celebration, so it’s hard to know whether Congress approved the moniker back in the 1930s. But in 2003, Minnesota state representative Mark Kennedy restated the proclamation, officially cementing Anoka’s title.

“It’s like a pebble being dropped into a pond,” Karen George, a member of the board of directors of Halloween, Inc. (the nonprofit organization that plans Anoka’s yearly festivities), told Smithsonian in 2019. “It’s really the people of Anoka who want to enjoy this hometown festival, and then they bring along relatives and friends who tell others about it.”

Today, Anoka’s Halloween festivities have expanded to three parades instead of one, and includes other community activities such as a house decorating competition, bell ringing, and a group pumpkin smashing. In 2020, Anoka’s Halloween festival is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. By most accounts, the holiday has become a part of Anoka’s identity.

“I would say Halloween is in my bone marrow,” Anoka resident John Jost told CBS Minnesota. “Being an Anokoan, the Halloween experience is tied directly to that.”

This story has been updated for 2020.