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Eat and drink your way around exotic Iceland

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Iceland, a land of breathtaking landscapes and captivating culture, has a culinary scene that's as unique and mesmerizing as its natural wonders. From the freshest seafood to traditional Viking fare, Icelandic cuisine is a delicious journey through history and innovation. 

A land of contrasts 

Iceland's culinary landscape is heavily influenced by its contrasting natural elements. With its volcanic activity, geothermal springs, and the frigid North Atlantic Ocean, the island offers a wide range of ingredients that are unlike any other. It's a place where fire and ice meet on your plate. 

Seafood extravaganza 

Plokkfiskur fish stew, Icelandic food cuisine in Iceland
Plokkfiskur is a fish stew that tastes excellent with rye bread.

Being an island nation surrounded by nutrient-rich waters, Iceland boasts some of the freshest and most succulent seafood in the world. You simply can’t visit Iceland without indulging in its seafood delicacies. 

1. Icelandic salmon: Known for its vibrant color and rich, buttery taste, Icelandic salmon is a must-try. Served raw as sashimi or smoked to perfection, it's a delicacy that will leave your taste buds dancing. 

2. Langoustine: Iceland's cold waters are home to some of the world's finest langoustine. These succulent delights are often grilled with garlic and butter, creating a mouthwatering dish that's every seafood lover's dream. 

3. Plokkfiskur: A hearty fish stew made with cod or haddock, potatoes, onions, and béchamel sauce, Plokkfiskur is the ultimate comfort food on chilly Icelandic days. 

Two shakes of a lamb’s tail 

Kjötsúpa lamb soup, Icelandic food cuisine in Iceland
Kjötsúpa soup tastes even better on a cold day!

Icelandic lamb is renowned for its tenderness and unique flavor, thanks to the animals' diet of wild herbs and grasses. Lamb dishes feature prominently in Icelandic cuisine, and you can taste the difference in every bite. 

1. Hangikjöt: This is a festive holiday dish made by smoking and drying lamb. It's often served sliced thin and pairs wonderfully with mashed potatoes and béchamel sauce. 

2. Kjötsúpa: This traditional Icelandic lamb soup is heartwarming and delicious, featuring tender pieces of lamb, root vegetables, and a rich broth. 

Living Viking heritage 

Hákarl Icelandic food cuisine delicacy, fermented shark in open warehouse at Bjarnarhoefn
A warehouse of hákarl, or fermented shark.

Iceland's Viking heritage is alive and well in its cuisine. Traditional dishes harken back to the days of longships and raiding parties, offering a unique taste of history. 

1. Hákarl: A delicacy for the adventurous eater, hákarl is fermented shark that “smells like urine and tastes like dried cheese!” The process involves burying the shark meat in sand and gravel for several months to ferment. This unique delicacy is often accompanied by a shot of Icelandic schnapps, Brennivín, to chase it down. 

2. Svið: This dish consists of singed and boiled sheep's head, and while it might sound intimidating, it's a traditional Icelandic meal that's full of flavor. 

3. Skyr: Skyr, an Icelandic dairy product that's similar to yogurt, has been around for over 1000 years. Creamy, protein-packed, and mildly tangy, skyr is a staple in Icelandic breakfasts and desserts. 

Old meets new 

In recent years, Iceland has experienced a culinary renaissance, with talented chefs embracing local ingredients and innovative techniques to create modern Icelandic cuisine. Reykjavik, the capital, is at the forefront of this movement. Inspired by the New Nordic Food Manifesto, Icelandic chefs are redefining their cuisine by championing local, seasonal ingredients.  

This approach has led to the creation of dishes that are both visually stunning and incredibly flavorful. Fermentation has become a trend in Icelandic cuisine, with chefs experimenting with unique flavors and textures. Try fermented shark or pickled ram's testicles if you're feeling adventurous. These days, geothermal energy is being harnessed to grow a wide variety of vegetables in Iceland's greenhouses, allowing chefs to create vibrant and fresh salads and side dishes that would previously have grown on the island. 

Dining Experiences 

While enjoying Icelandic cuisine, you'll find a range of dining experiences to suit your tastes and preferences: 

1. Local cafés: Explore cozy local cafes for a taste of traditional Icelandic pastries like kleinur or vínarterta, paired with a steaming cup of coffee. 

2. Fine dining: Reykjavik is home to Michelin-starred restaurants like Dill, where you can savor exquisite tasting menus crafted from locally sourced ingredients. 

3. Farm-to-table: Take a trip to the countryside and dine at farm-to-table restaurants, where you can savor dishes made with ingredients sourced directly from the farm. 

Imbibing in Iceland 

Brennevin, 1 liter bottle, front and back. Icelandic liquor, Iceland drink
(Photo: Alexander Grebenkov, Brennevin, CC BY 3.0)

Iceland's craft beverage scene has been gaining international recognition, and it's not limited to the famous Icelandic schnapps, Brennivín. 

1. Craft beer: Iceland's craft beer scene has exploded in recent years, with microbreweries popping up across the country. Try a variety of brews, from traditional styles to innovative creations featuring Icelandic ingredients. 

2. Icelandic schnapps: Give Brennivín a shot, quite literally! Known as the "Black Death," this caraway-flavored schnapps is a traditional Icelandic spirit often enjoyed alongside hákarl. 

3. Geothermal water: Don't forget to taste Iceland's pure and refreshing geothermal water, straight from the tap. It's some of the cleanest and most delicious water you'll ever encounter. 

Try it for yourself 

Icelandic food and drink offer a culinary adventure unlike any other. From the pristine flavors of its seafood to the rich heritage of Viking dishes and the innovation of modern cuisine, Iceland's gastronomy is a reflection of its resilient people. So, pack your appetite and embark on a delicious journey through the flavors of the North. Skál (Cheers)! 

Why not eat and drink your way around Iceland with SA Expeditions? Check out our most popular Iceland itineraries here. Then speak to a Destination Expert about making it your own. 

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