On a muddy patch of grass on a small hill, my ear is pressed against a boulder. I block out the shrieks of children playing and strain to catch a whisper of ... something.
“Can you hear it?” the tour guide enquires, eyes bright with encouragement.
I’m supposed to be hearing a troll laughing.
Tourists who make it to Iceland without hearing about elves soon learn what they didn’t know: elvish keyrings and stuffed toys fill the shelves of souvenir stores in Reykjavik.
The huldufólk elves look like humans, I’m told, but live in an invisible parallel dimension. The “hidden folk” visit humans from time to time but cannot be seen unless they allow it.
If the huldufólk were to exist, there could not be a better home for them than Iceland. With volcanoes, bubbling geysers and rainbow-framed waterfalls, the country resembles a real-life fairyland.
Before arriving, I had heard Iceland compared to Mars for its alien landscapes. In some parts, enormous glaciers smother the earth.
With just five days in Iceland, we do what many visitors do and base ourselves in Reykjavik, home to 130,000 people, roughly a third of the country’s population.
Reykjavik’s bars have made it a famous party town, and there are cafes, vegetarian restaurants and pizzerias that wouldn’t be out of place on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, or South Yarra’s Chapel Street.