Can you find the elves of Hafnarfjörður?

trouver les elfes en islande

Hafnarfjörður is an Icelandic town considered to be the capital of the elves. On this island in northern Europe, beliefs are as strong as the temperatures are cool…

There are many stories and writings about elves. These are sometimes luminous, dark, black or directly linked to the god Freyr, from Norse mythology. As with all works of mythology or tradition, there are many overlapping discourses, and we end up with a fairly precise idea of the subject. Here, the elves of Iceland, and more specifically those of Hafnarfjödur.

Hafnarfjöður is one of those towns with undeniable charm and warmth. What’s more, it’s considered the capital of the elves, thanks to the magic that envelops it as the festive season approaches. And why is that? Because it’s at the end of the year, it seems, that elves go out the most. Many people set off in pursuit, hoping to catch a glimpse of them. Now it’s our turn to investigate and go in search of the elves of Hafnarfjörður.

Identifying the target of our investigation: elves

Elves are associated with a powerful folkloric imagination that today extends far beyond Iceland’s borders. These little beings are described as beautiful, with pointed ears and a beautiful singing voice. They have their own language, which J.R.R. Tolkien transcribed. Elves are intelligent and possess ancestral wisdom, as well as being immortal. Magicians, they have great powers, and master the elements of nature.

Scouting in the Hafnarfjörður area

les elfes en islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Photography by SC

Located just 10 kilometers from the Icelandic capital Reykjavík, Harnarfjöður is a pretty little town with a population of around 30,000. Its name means « harbor fjord ». It’s a fishing town, with a plethora of boats operating daily. We can therefore assume that the elves we’re looking for may have arrived by sea. Why not, after all? That’s what the Vikings did, many centuries ago. As elves are quite clever, it’s completely within their grasp to sail straight into the unknown… like the Buzz L’Eclair of ancient times.

Now let’s focus on the town itself. If the elves live there so secretly, they must find a place to hide. Together, we’re going to find them. Let’s explore the streets and buildings of this 14th-century town. Rather small, the tree-lined town of Hafnarfjöður bears a striking resemblance to the capital Reykjavík. Its human scale is a reminder that Icelanders are not numerous: 300,000 people live on the island. This does not help us in our investigation.

Elves who love nature

Indeed, the fact that it’s so sparsely populated is a very good sign. Nature is very present here, and elves love nature. From an ecological point of view, that’s all to the good. As a result, the elves have plenty of time to find places to hide and build their homes. Let’s not forget that they have power over nature, so we can well imagine them using it! It would be foolish of them not to, and we know they’re clever. First pitfall: elves have plenty of room to hide.

We need to refine the search area a little more. Because if we had to search the whole town, despite its small size, it would take days, even weeks! Let’s not give up. If people believe in this, it’s because others have seen the elves before them. That’s how it normally works. They’re out there, somewhere, perhaps lying quietly on a low wall camouflaged by their magic. Let’s get clever and explore the surrounding area more passionately. Let’s start with the Viking Village.

The Viking Village, a promising lead?

viking village en islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jon Chica

If they arrived on their boats, then perhaps they’ve attached themselves to the Norse barbarians of old. This reconstructed village will give us an idea of what life was like for the Vikings when they first arrived on Icelandic soil. Unperturbed by the Scandinavian climate, they are now the roots of the Icelandic family tree. That’s why an app was created in 2013, expressly to check kinship links with the person you meet. In short, it doesn’t get us any closer to the elves. If there’s no sign of elves in Viking Village, perhaps we should continue on to Hellisgerði Park? This pretty little park has a trail called « The Elf Walk ». Bingo! It’s a clue!

Find clues: did they leave any traces?

traces de pas elfes en islande

Photo credit: Shuttertsock / Alessandro Pierpaoli

As mentioned above, the elves have finally left their mark: a trail in Hellisgerði Park. It’s a naturally shaped lava field, and very well maintained. The park isn’t big enough to risk getting lost for too long. On the other hand, its size works in our favor, and we’ll be able to explore it to find the elves. If we follow the right path, we shouldn’t come up empty. So we pass some beautiful sculptures, fountains and other stone trolls… But no elves. Have we been lied to? Or are we just blind? Although the walk is very pleasant, our investigation is going nowhere, and it’s unthinkable to leave it at that. Harnarfjöður is surely hiding other secrets from us, and we’re going to set about uncovering them.

Find a trail and follow it… all the way!

ou trouver des elfes en islande

Photo credit: Shadowgate for Flickr

Not letting the absence of elves get to us, we continue on our way. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t find some. Icelanders seem to be in good spirits. Why should they believe in beings with intelligence, magic and immortal powers, if these are just nonsense? We agree, it doesn’t make sense. Our search continues until we start asking questions of our neighbors. There’s nothing like a neighbor to teach us a thing or two. So there are guided tours, organized by Hidden Folks Walks. Now we’ve got something concrete, we’re in the thick of it!

On this one-and-a-half-hour tour, we discover Iceland as seen from Hafnarfjöður. Our guide takes us to the foot of the Hamarinn cliff, where the royal family of the elven people is believed to live. He also has fun telling old stories – a sort of magical immersion in local folklore and landscapes. Suddenly… we see what we’ve been looking for all along: elves. These little beings from a hidden world have finally revealed themselves to us! It’s a victory for us. Now it’s your turn!

How do I see elves in Harnarfjörður?


Of course, first you have to be clever enough to carry out an investigation properly. But we have faith in you. To try your luck, travel to Iceland, usually – and quickly – by air. Our partner Ulysse can help you find the cheapest flights toReykjavík airport. Harnarfjörður is located 10 kilometers south of the capital. There are several ways to get there:

  • bus: line 1 from Reykjavík. Tickets cost between €3.20 and €3.40, depending on the time of year.
  • cab: 10-minute journey, between €23 and €35, depending on your point of departure
  • by rented car: Route 41 from Reykjavík


Iceland is a cold, basic country. Summer and winter temperatures are very different from our own. While July seems to be the best time to visit, the magic of Christmas, the search for elves and relaxing by the fire are best experienced in November or December. These are difficult months, but if you’re well protected, you’ll have a wonderful time.

What I can discover in the area

Où dormir à Reykjavik ?


Of course, the city of Reykjavík, the gentle, human capital, is a must-see if you’re lucky enough to visit Iceland. Elves hide here too, go figure. You could always have fun looking for them, among the city’s colorful houses and tree-lined streets. Humans can’t be the only ones basking in the warm waters of Sundhöllin’s thermal pool.

Reykjavík Elf School

So, if your passion for elves isn’t satisfied, even though you’ve carried out a very professional investigation, you can still become one. Yes, you read that right. Just four hours of learning, tea and treats, and you’ll receive your diploma. The diploma that will prove to the world that elves do exist! And yes, you are one, as this paper attests. What more do skeptics need? They’ve been wrong from the start!

Christmas Village (November and December)

In November and December only, to make the most of the Christmas festivities, you can visit Harnarfjður’s Christmas Village. This event, dedicated to Christmas, is located right in the center of town. Every day, you’ll be treated to colorful entertainment and live music. You can also buy handcrafted souvenirs from the stalls and, of course, sample some of Iceland’s wackiest specialities!

Whale Exhibition, Rekjavík

You’ve searched for elves, those small, graceful creatures, and found them fascinating. Now, discover Iceland’s whales through an exhibition featuring no fewer than 23 life-size models of these cetaceans. These models are surrounded by interactive stations and film projections. It’s a way of becoming even more aware of the danger threatening the survival of these species. An ideal stop for families, or travelers at the end of their stay. Guided tours are available daily at 10.30 a.m. and 1.30 p.m.

statue d'un elfe en islande

Photo credit: Shutterstock / leospek