The Fascinating National Sport of Iceland

August 25, 2023

About Iceland

Iceland, known for its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and eccentric traditions, is a country that has mesmerized travelers for centuries. In addition to its stunning natural beauty, Iceland is also renowned for its unique national sport, which holds a special place in the hearts of its people.

The History of Icelandic Sport

The national sport of Iceland, called "Glíma," has deep historical roots that can be traced back to the time of the Vikings. Glíma, meaning "struggle" or "wrangle" in Icelandic, is a form of traditional wrestling. It was practiced by the Vikings both as a means of honing their combat skills and as a form of entertainment during long voyages.

Glíma embodies the spirit of ancient Icelandic warriors and carries a sense of national pride. It represents the strength, agility, and endurance required to survive in the unforgiving Icelandic environment.

The Rules and Techniques of Glíma

In Glíma, two competitors, known as glímumenn, engage in a wrestling match on a circular mat called a "glímatró." Unlike other forms of wrestling, Glíma focuses on technique rather than brute force.

The objective of Glíma is to throw your opponent off balance and make them touch the ground with any part of their body above the knee. The match begins with the competitors holding hands with interlocked fingers. They move in a circular motion, attempting to unsettle their opponent's balance with strategic footwork, twists, and turns.

Glíma has four main techniques, known as "hryggspenna" (backlock), "brókarúlla" (trouser roll), "brotsjórn" (control grip), and "hægri-glíma" (right-sided wrestling). Each technique requires precise execution and quick thinking to outmaneuver the opponent.

The Significance of Glíma in Icelandic Culture

Glíma is not just a sport in Iceland; it is a cherished cultural tradition that promotes unity and strengthens the bonds within the community. It is often practiced during festive occasions, national celebrations, and family gatherings.

Competitions and championships are held across the country, showcasing the skills of talented glímumenn. The annual national Glíma championship, known as the "Glímingameistaramót," attracts participants from various regions who vie for the prestigious title of the best glímumaður (glíma wrestler) in Iceland.

Glíma also plays a significant role in preserving Icelandic heritage. It serves as a reminder of the country's Viking origins and the spirit of perseverance and determination that characterizes the Icelandic people.

Glíma's Impact on Health and Well-being

Aside from its cultural significance, Glíma promotes physical fitness, mental agility, and overall well-being. Regular practice of Glíma improves strength, coordination, balance, and flexibility.

Engaging in Glíma fosters a sense of discipline and sportsmanship. It teaches participants to respect their opponents, accept victories and defeats gracefully, and appreciate the value of hard work and dedication.

Glíma in the Modern Era

While Glíma originated as a male-dominated sport, it has evolved over the years to welcome female participants. Today, both men and women actively engage in Glíma, showcasing their skills, athleticism, and love for the sport.

The popularity of Glíma has also transcended national borders, with international Glíma tournaments attracting participants and spectators from various countries. This increased global exposure has helped elevate the recognition and appreciation of Glíma as a unique sporting tradition.


Glíma, the national sport of Iceland, is a fascinating and distinctive aspect of Icelandic culture. With its historical significance, technical prowess, cultural traditions, and positive impact on health and well-being, Glíma continues to captivate the hearts and minds of both Icelanders and visitors alike.

Whether you are a sports enthusiast, a history buff, or an adventurer seeking to experience Icelandic traditions, witnessing a Glíma match or even trying it out for yourself is an essential part of immersing yourself in the vibrant Icelandic spirit and understanding the strength and resilience of its people.

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