Shear Genius

The sheep in this country far outnumber the people, which is good because Icelanders have a penchant for their ovine friends. Although the lamb chops are delish and the ewe’s milk cheese is divine, it’s these wooly coats that are the prize of Iceland’s flock.

The wool of the Icelandic sheep has been used to clothe Icelanders for centuries. And for good reason: it’s great stuff. Warm, waterproof, breathable and nearly indestructible. You’ll see the locals walking around in their lopapeysas, which is the traditional ring-neck sweater.

The unique composition of the Icelandic wool consists of two types of fibers: inner fibers are insulating – fine, soft, retain warmth well. Outer fibers are water-repellent – long, glossy, keep water out of the garment.

All Icelanders have one of these heavy-hitters in their cold-weather arsenal—most likely knit by their granny. But for those of us who don’t have an Icelandic granny, you’re in luck: There are grannies for hire all around the country, knitting like mad to keep the tourists warm.