Visitors to Iceland are often divided on some of its weird and wonderful delicacies — just ask a tourist what they thought of hakarl, aka fermented shark. In a country so popular for its rugged, otherworldly terrain, food and drink might not be what you first associate with the Scandinavian island. But fuel is most certainly what you'll need. And as you map out your adventures up mountains, in lagoons and on horseback, you'll do well to stock your backpack with these (or sample them in restaurants while taking shelter from the elements). Here's our guide to Iceland's must-tries.

1. Icelandic Schnapps

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All hail the original Icelandic spirit. You’ll never look back. It’s a cleaner, gentler, herbier version of vodka made with grain and flavored with caraway seeds, and Icelanders will shoot it till they drop. This schnapps is a successful replacement for tequila when the dreaded shot round occurs, and also a nice after-dinner tipple on the rocks if you’re classy like that.

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2. Glacial Geothermal Malt Whiskey

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If there was ever a reason to sip whiskey before 5 p.m., the fact that it’s distilled from glacial water and created through geothermal energy must be one. Thoran Distillery's creation hits shelves soon; in the meantime, try the brand-new young volcanic barley single malt, Flóki, which has unavoidably cute Norse-themed branding. The compass points to handcrafted bevs.

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3. Arctic Barley Juniper Gin

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One to take home with you when you descend from this northern land. It’s a celebration of spring in a bottle! The incredible juniper berry vibe is set off by the crispness of the organic Arctic barley it’s made from, and you also get a hint of rhubarb.

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4. Björk Liqueur

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It’s nothing to do with the artist: Her name means "birch," sprigs of which are handpicked to flavor this grainy spirit, along with syrup from the tree. Like almost everything in Iceland, it’s distilled sustainably, with the trees planted as part of a soil conservation program near the country’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull. It can be served in a cocktail or added to your coffee. No one will ever know.

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5. Sea Salted Almond Chocolate

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Omnom chocolate is made in Iceland but uses upwards of 65 percent Madagascan and Tanzanian cacao beans for full and luxurious flavor. The colorful geometric-graphic packaging is eye catching, and the bars are described like fine wines, with "notes of brown sugar and pears," "nimble forest fruits" and "earthiness invigorated by a complex floral tang" being used to describe chocolate that includes fjord sea salt and Persian lakkris (licorice). Oh my.

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6. Hot Dogs Anywhere, Anytime

Photo by Andrea Schaffer via Flickr

Actually, not anytime, because everywhere closes pretty early in Iceland. But hot dogs — usually a mixture of pork and lamb topped with fried onions, dried onion crispy bits and two types of mustard — are beloved here. They’re also an affordable alternative to the many pricy restaurants.


7. The Sea Baron’s Lobster Bisque

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You might want to avert your eyes from the minke whale and puffin on offer if you’ve just been on a whale- or puffin-watching tour, but this old harbor cafe is an institution in the country’s capital. The late owner, dubbed the Icelandic Hugh Hefner, was apparently quite the comic, quite the ladies’ man and quite the entrepreneur. Even though he’s gone, his waxwork sits in the restaurant next to his loyal old buddies, who come and lap up the famous bisque without the batting of an eyelid.

Where: Geirsgata 8,101 Reykjavík
More info: +354 553 1500;


8. Pizza at the Pizza Place That Shall Not Be Named

Photo by Mikael Axelsson

Kind of like Voldemort but with none of the bad. Also goes by Pizza with No Name, Unknown Pizza Place and Hverfisgata 12 (its address). Radiohead ate here three times in a row when they were recently playing in the city, and any fan can attest to front man Thom Yorke's pickiness when it comes to everything from sound distorters to aviation. (Why should he be any different about food? Just saying.) Pizza toppings include duck thigh, roasted beetroot and, of course, the Icelandic yogurt skyr. Look out for the black door… and a giveaway menu in the window.

Where: Hverfisgata 12, 101 Reykjavík

By Alexandra Pereira

Alexandra currently lives in Berlin and loves anything rhubarb-themed, the smell of old book pages and loud shoe gaze. She has written music, art, film and opinion stories for lots of magazines, and she keeps a story blog. She loves to travel alone or with easygoing companions.