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If a nation could earn a gold star for quirk, it would be Iceland. The country has an unabashed affinity for the bizarre, the humorous and the questionable. It’s home to Bjork, a mystical population of “Hidden People” (a.k.a. elves) and 10-12 million crazy-looking birds with bright orange beaks called puffins. In any other country the list would end right there, but it doesn’t in Iceland and a big part of what makes traveling the country so fun is the endless opportunity to stumble upon things that otherwise would raise a collective eyebrow back home. Here are 12 of Iceland’squirkiest, must-see attractions:

Also: The best of Iceland’s Ring Road

Iceland Philological Museum

Iceland Philological Museum | Photo courtesy of Erica Bray

1. The Iceland Philological Museum: Reykjavik

This has got to be the most well-endowed museum in the world. Commonly referred to as “the Penis Museum,” it boasts more than 200 male appendages of animals found throughout Iceland, from whales to hamsters. Weird whimsy extends beyond these main attractions, however, in the form of lamps made of scrotum skin and vases made from the manhood of sperm whales.

2. Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft: Holmavik

The star attraction at this museum detailing the history of sorcery and witchcraft in Iceland’s Westfjords region is the last intact pair of Necropants. Made by skinning a dead man from the waist down (a ritual practiced in the country during the 17th century), these “pants” are supposed to bring wealth and luck to the owner who wears them. (Um, shades of Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs”?)

Dranghlio Houses

Dranghlio Houses | Photo courtesy of Erica Bray

3. Drangshlio Houses: southern Ring Road

Iceland’s Ring Road (the main highway that circles the country) takes you past some incredible oddities, both natural and manmade (some are a combination of both). One that often inspires double-takes and unplanned stops are the Drangshlio Houses, near the Skógafoss Waterfall. These crazy-looking homes are built into the base of a massive rock with elf legends attached to it.

4. The Elfschool: Reykjavik

Learn about one of Iceland’s national treasures, its elf population, or “Hidden People,” from a Reykjavik professional who’s been studying them for nearly 30 years. Headmaster Magnus Skarphedinsson runs hisElfschool eachFriday for those curious about Iceland’s most mystical inhabitants. Interesting note: Although he’s interviewed more the 800 Icelanders who’ve met and sustained friendships with “Hidden People,” according to the website, Skarphedinsson has never met one himself.

Puffins at Saeheimar Aquarium

Puffins at Saeheimar Aquarium | Photo courtesy of Erica Bray

5. Saeheimar Aquarium: Vestmannaeyjar

The Westman Islands are home to the country’s largest puffin colony. These birds are a riot to watch whether they’re waddling, attempting to fly or simply doing nothing at all. The local aquarium is where you’ll meet Tóti, a spunky, one-bird welcoming committee and rescue who welcomes photo ops with visitors. You won’t find this type of hospitality from a puffin anywhere else in Iceland.

6. The Ghost Centre: Stokkeyri

Step into a campy production highlighting some of Iceland’s darkest ghost tales. This 40-minute, audio-guided journey through a maze of tales will make you learn, scream and laugh. The tour ends at Ghost Bar, where visitors have the opportunity to raise a pint with “The Alcohol Ghost.”

Laufkalar

Laufkalar | Photo courtesy of Erica Bray

7. Laufskalar: southern Ring Road

Another site sure to inspire a “huh?” to the unsuspecting driver along the Ring Road is Laufskalar. These eerie stone formations appear out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere. The site was constructed by locals and tourists to carry on a tradition of “good luck” in the shadow of where a volcano eruption in 894 demolished an ancient Icelandic farm. Bring a stone to contribute to the living legacy.

8. Minilik: Fludir

Brag to friends about eating Ethiopian food … in Iceland. Minilik is Iceland’s only Ethiopian restaurant, tucked into a tiny town along the famed Golden Circle tourist loop from Reykjavik and winner of numerous rave reviews. In a country where seafood reigns supreme, this culinary adventure is exceptionally random.

Icelandic Santa Mailbox

Icelandic Santa Mailbox | Photo courtesy of Erica Bray

9. Icelandic Santa’s Mailbox: Reykjavik

The red mailbox that sits in front of the “Little Christmas Shop” on Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s main shopping drag, inspires wide-eyed squeals from children (and adults!) around the world. That’s because all letters that get deposited in it go to Icelandic Santa. (If you thought he lived in the North Pole, just roll with this; Iceland is close enough.) Purchase the special shop stationary, craft your letter, then expect a December surprise in the mail (no matter where in the world you live).

10. The Big Lebowski Bar: Reykjavik

If The Dude still abides, you’ll find him here. For fans of the 1998 Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski,” this bar is a can’t miss. It’s the cult classic brought to life, complete with bowling-themed décor, a retro 1950’s diner and an extensive White Russian selection.

litlibaer-west fjords-iceland

11. Litlibaer: West Fjords

This is quite possibly the cutest pitstop in Iceland! Feast on fresh waffles and coffee in a tiny, turf-inspired farmhouse dating back to 1894, where ceilings are not quite 6-feet-high and dollhouse-like rooms are adorned with local taxidermy and family photos.

12. Pretty much any town in Iceland

Stykkishólmur. Hafnarfjörður. Skötufjörður. These are town names that most non-Icelandic speakers, especially Americans, cannot pronounce. Have fun with it. And invite locals to help you with your Icelandic—it’s as amusing for them as it will be for you!

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Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.

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