An ancient Icelandic folk-story, which is still believed by a surprising number of Icelanders today, is the existence of elves ('huldufolk' - or 'secret people'). The history van be traced back over a thousand years, as mention of elves were made in Viking-era poetry from the island. The concept of elves differ from the tiny figures of American or British culture - instead these figures look much like humans, and live in mounds in the Icelandic countryside.
The dramatic, moon-like volcanic landscapes of Iceland, coupled with remote locations and unpredictable weather, certainly do have a mystical element. This may help to explain why, in a survey conducted in Iceland in 1998, over 54% of the respondents said that they believed in elves. In fact, the belief is so deep-rooted in Icelandic culture that on any major construction project, such as the building of a new road, specialist 'elf-consultants' are engaged to ensure that the planned construction route does not disturb elf settlements! There have also been tales of unexplained machinery breakdowns and other unforeseen interruptions when building in areas believed to be occupied by elves.
There have been three separate attempts at building a road through Alfholl in Kopavogur, one in the 1930s, another a decade later, and finally an attempt in the 1980s. All were unsuccessful due to a variety of construction problems, and in the end the road was constructed around the hill!
Today, the Icelandic Elf School in Reykjavik organises educational excursions for visitors, including a visit to Hellisgerdi Park - said to be the city's largest elf colony!