Searching for Iceland’s ‘hidden people’

It was during the flight there that I came across the paragraphs referring to them in the guide book I was reading. Completely fascinated, I read it aloud to my husband “the term ‘hidden people‘ applies…to the various humanoid creatures living in Iceland, including elves, dwarves, gnomes, trolls…”. That was all it took. The next day few days were going to be all about finding these ‘hidden people’.

Reading on, I learned that elves, the most prominent of the hidden people, tend to make their homes inside rocks, hills and cliffs. So, we decided to improve our chances of seeing these elusive elves by renting a car and heading out of Reykjavik and into the surrounding hills.

Our first stop was Geysir, a geothermal area filled with hot springs, bubbling mud, steaming rivers and geysers.

‘Geyser’, the geyser that all other geyser’s are named after is here but although his eruptions once reached 80 meters, he’s lost his steam (quite literally) over the years. Neighbouring geyser Strokkur erupts regularly though, entertaining visitors to the area with its bursts of steam and boiling water reaching heights of up to 30 meters every 10 minutes or so. Other, smaller geysers are also nearby.


We saw lots of silica encrusted pools, sulphur scented mud pots and steaming vents….but no elves. Determined to stay optimistic we convinced ourselves that the area was quite uninhabitable, even for elves. The whole area is sitting on top of a large boiling cauldron after all. So, we continued on our search.

Next stop was Þingvellir (Thingvellir), the site of Iceland’s first parliament; now a national park. Sitting on the continental rift, Þingvellir is a lava-covered valley flanked by cliffs on either side. In 2004 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site, marking its importance to both the Icelandic people and visitors to Iceland  – it’s one of the main stops on the popular Golden Circle day trip from Reykjavik. In hindsight this would have been the perfect place to find the hidden people. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay long enough to realize this. To find out why, you can read more here.

Continuing on our search we headed to Gullfoss, Iceland’s impressive “golden falls”.  Water from the River Hvita thunders down an 11 m step followed by a 22 meter drop before crashing into a long gorge at the bottom. Standing on a ledge in front of the falls, I scanned the walls of the gorge for trolls (they’re believed to make their homes in cliffs). But alas, there was a nary a troll to be seen.



Perhaps my guidebook was correct and the trolls really are extinct now. Determined to leave no stone unturned, we carried on to Kerið, a deep volcanic crater lake to try our luck again.

Formed thousands of years ago, this crater is a beautiful mosaic of colours culminating in a vivid aqua blue lake at its centre. I sat and admired it, searching the walls for elf caves the whole time.

I heard that native singer-songwriter Björk once performed on a raft in the centre of the crater which I presume drew a crowd and sent echoes of the music and her voice bouncing around the crater’s walls. I have to assume this scared off any resident hidden people because once again, I saw none.

Our last stop had us wading into the Blue Lagoon, the famous geothermal spa located in a lava field. Surely the hidden people aren’t averse to spas?

I wasn’t able to verify the existence of the hidden people during my stay but I’m not completely discouraged. Perhaps they knew I was a tourist or perhaps they just prefer to stay hidden. In a land with such a diverse and strange landscape where glaciers live on top of volcanoes and where daylight sometimes stretches well into the night, who’s to say these hidden people aren’t real? Not me.

Have you searched for Iceland’s hidden people?

11 responses to “Searching for Iceland’s ‘hidden people’

  1. Beautiful pics! Shame there were no elves, though… I sort of fancy the Orlando Bloom variety. *sigh*

Send me a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s