Petra Sveinsdottir collected many thousands of local stones and created the most successful museum of East Iceland - 25.0000 visitors a year.

There are a lot of amusing things that has happened in Petra Sveinsdóttir’s life while collecting her huge collection of stones. The stories on how she has acquired each of the stones she has now are mostly funny yet so inspiring. It has been 80 years now that she has been enthusiastically collecting stones and in the eyes of fellow collectors, Petra has been an inspiration as well as a person who brought the extraordinary out from the ordinary. Who would have thought that stones can be quite an amusement to a country that consists of amazing tourists spot and dashing celebrities? Although these things overshadowed Petra, still this lady has a lot to offer rather than her collection of stones. She is on the great international scale in showcasing not only her collection of stones but the wondrous tales that surrounds her collections. Let us read about the amusing yet wondrous tales and how she has started this extraordinary love for stones.

The Collector

Steinasafn Petra

Petra Sveinsdóttir can be described in two words, a collector and a naturalist. Her passion for stones started at her early years, actually her parents might even have predicted that she will going to make it big with stones, because they named her Petra which simply means stone in Greek. It might be a coincidence but for her family it is her destiny. Petra started collecting stones even when she was a little girl, she use them for her artworks or for playtime and as decoration for gullabú or little huts that was built together with her playmates. Even at an early age of seven, she knows the importance of stones in her life. She cannot keep the stone collections from her childhood merely because she doesn’t have any space to keep them. The first mineral cavity fillings she has ever touched were those from the stones that she and her friends collects while decorating gullabú. The true collecting work of Petra started when she was 24, when she has some place to keep them. It was 1946, when she and Nenni, her husband, got a place of their own. When she was getting up the cliffs and around east Iceland to get her collections of stones, people criticized her and even called her a nutjob and that she should do more productive works like baking or knitting or such, but this never stopped her. Stones after stones, she found special things inside everything she touches. It is like she has this intuition that there will be something great inside or with the stones she picks.


The Collection of Stones and their Stories

When she has many stones and minerals inside their house and cannot possibly keep them in, she started to arrange them in her garden. She arranged her entire collection of stones south of their home and continued on the west back into her garden again, the collection of stones where vast that she needs to properly arrange them so they wouldn’t look like they just had been piled up like simple garden decors. In 1950’s travelers had been quite curious about her and her collection of stones and minerals and random people keeps on asking her if they can take a glance of her collections. Her first visitors where Icelanders who happened to be just travelling around Sunnuhlíð village, then years after years, her guestbook was full of visitors from other countries. The news about her collection of stones and minerals have spread all throughout and not long before they knew it, she have become a popular collector.



For years, her collection of stones was freely visited by thousands of visitors. Most of them though they were entering a public museum were in fact it is just Petra’s humble home they are visiting. One even asked her to expand the lavatory but amusingly she answered that they were only three of them inside the house and one toilet is enough for them. She agreed to charge fees only when she needed to built a Story Hut in her garden and to have public lavatories. But other than that, she wanted her collections to be seen free of charge. But as time goes by and she isn’t getting any younger, Nenni even passed away, she needed the money for her retirement and gladly, the people in Iceland as well as the thousands of tourists understood and keeps on coming back to view her collection. This is now the most popular tourist destination in East Iceland.


Petra’s collection of stones and minerals have somewhat funny and amusing stories like for example her “Urine Stone” which it was just accidentally found during she and her friend Þórdís Ásmundsdóttir stumbled on it while addressing “nature call” in Fáskrúðsfjörður. It was a large rock that was lying on the beach and probably from the cliff. As they were doing their business, Petra started examining what she was holding on to and knocked it with a small stone. The rock split open and out came magnificent quartz. The two ladies, found it very difficult to carry it to their car given that the stone was quite large and because they were laughing as they were carrying the stone. There are several more funny stories about how she got her collection of stones so if you happen to visit her home, be sure to read on the tablets or just pay her a visit and ask her or her grandchildren about these amazing stories.


Map to Petra’s Collection of Stones and Minerals