As summer ends and the Icelandic days get shorter and the air crisper, it’s time in Iceland to crank up that thermal heating and listen to a good story. Bring on a Saga. The Icelandic Sagas are the ancient stories of the country, they are the Icelanders touchstones of their history, their Acropolis or Great Wall if you know what I mean. They are basically family sagas of the early Celtic and Norse settlers who struggled and warred during Iceland’s settlement in the 10th and 11th centuries.
In a massive literary effort the sagas were written into prose histories during the 13th and 14th century, thus beginning a strong literary tradition in Iceland. If you don’t have time to read the dozens of sagas, there’s a place you can go which will give you the modern, dynamic version: The Settlement Center. Located in the coastal town of Borgarnes, about an hour’s drive north from Reykjavik, The Settlement Center was developed by people with backgrounds in theatre and television so you can be assured this is no dull day out. There is a multimedia exhibition plus theatre performances that bring the the Saga of The Settlement of Iceland to life and also Iceland’s most famous Viking and first writer Egill Skallagrimsson.
If you schedule a visit here for the beginning of your visit to Iceland, you’ll find the landscape, the history and the culture make a lot more sense as you explore the island. And if the sagas leave you hungry for more, head into a bookstore and hunt down some contemporary Icelandic writing; modern day Icelandic storytelling is impressive too.