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.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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

The Worst Drivers In America Live in These 15 States

Life of Pix, Pexels
Life of Pix, Pexels

No matter how many times you've been cut off on a road trip, anecdotal evidence alone can't prove that a certain state's drivers are worse than yours. For that, you need statistics. The personal finance company SmartAsset compiled data related to bad driving behaviors to create this list of the 15 states in America with the worst drivers.

This ranking is based on four metrics: the number of fatalities per 100 million miles driven in each state, DUI arrests per 1000 drivers, the percentage of uninsured drivers, and how often residents Google the terms “speeding ticket” or “traffic ticket.”

Mississippi ranks worst overall, with the second-highest number of fatalities and the second lowest percentage of insured drivers. This marked the third year in a row Mississippi claimed the bottom slot in SmartAsset's worst driver's list. This year, it's followed by Nevada in second place and Tennessee in third. You can check out the worst offenders in the country in the list below.

Some motorists may be more interested in avoiding the cities plagued by bad driving than the states. These two categories don't always align: Oregon, which didn't crack the top 10 states with the worst drivers, is home to Portland, the city with the worst drivers according to one quote comparison site. After reading through the list of states, compare it to the cities with the worst drivers in America here.

  1. Mississippi
  1. Nevada
  1. Tennessee
  1. Florida
  1. California
  1. Arizona
  1. South Carolina (Tie)
  1. Texas (Tie)
  1. New Mexico
  1. Alaska
  1. Louisiana
  1. Alabama
  1. Oregon
  1. Arkansas
  1. Colorado