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Events in Iceland: Everything You Need to Know

Events in Iceland: Everything You Need to Know

Subject: Learn about all around the year events in Iceland. Discover what the events celebrate, when they are and how you can enjoy them. Read more in our special blog.


Iceland is more than a popular tourist destination and boasts of a rich and colorful culture. The country’s residents celebrate a number of important festivals throughout the year. Many popular events including some that are internationally renowned also mark the calendar. Icelanders take great pride in celebrating special occasions and keeping their traditions alive. Tourists are also welcome to witness the various famous events that take place throughout the year. Many of Iceland’s holidays and festivals are also unique to the country. 


Are you planning on experiencing popular events and celebrations in Iceland? Take a look at the list of events to plan your visit to the country and collect unparalleled experiences. 


The Most Famous Events and Happenings in Iceland 

Þrettándinn - Þrettándinn or the thirteenth day of Christmas, marks the end of the 13-day-long Christmas festival in Iceland. It is held on the 6th of January, a day on which the Yule Lads to their homes. The activities that mark this occasion include are lighting bonfires and setting up parade marches with folklore-based creatures like elves, the Yule Lads and trolls. During the night of January 6th, fireworks light up the skies across Iceland, welcoming the New Year. Icelanders assign great importance to observing the religious traditions of this day, which marks the auspicious beginning of the New Year. 


Þorri - Þorri or Thori is another famous festival held during mid-January to mid-February. Þorri is a reference to the coldest month of the Old Norse Calendar when sacrifices were made in the hope of summer’s arrival. It can be seen as a festival to appease the Gods, but one that had subsided after the arrival of Christianity, only to see a resurgence during the 19th century. While no sacrifices are made nowadays, Icelanders celebrate it by eating foods based on old traditions. Some delicacies enjoyed during Þorri include kæstur hákarl (fermented shark), svið (singed sheep head) and súrsaðir hrútspungar (pickled ram’s testicles). Fermented food is respected a lot as it helped early Icelanders get through harsh winter times in the past. 


Myrkir músíkdagar - Myrkir músíkdagar or the Dark Music Days is a musical event held at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. This music festival, started in 1980, functions as a base for Icelandic as well as international musicians to showcase their talents. Myrkir músíkdagar draws huge crowds or locals and tourists, who come to experience the wide variety of fresh and original sounds being played. This festival is generally held during the last weekend of January, so plan your Iceland visit accordingly to witness it. 


Reykjavík International Games (RIG) - The Reykjavík International Games (RIG) is an annual sporting event held at Laugardalur valley in Reykjavik. It sees the participation of Icelandic and international athletes across a variety of different sports disciplines. You can witness many events including archery, athletics, badminton, figure skating, powerlifting, karate, shooting and swimming. This event draws large crowds of spectators and sporting enthusiasts from all parts of the world. RIG is generally held during the January-end and early-February period. 


Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival - The Winter Lights Festival is held in the capital city during the first weekend of February. It is a celebration of winter and the longer days that follow its end. During this time, people participate in various outdoor activities and visit some of the iconic public places in Reykjavik to have loads of fun. Most of the city’s museums open up to the public and offer a great selection of attractions on display, including dance, live music, movies, book reading, and theatre. The Festival is followed by Pool Night when all the geothermal pools around Reykjavik are opened to the public, who celebrate with the accompaniment of music. 


List í ljósi at Seyðisfjörður - Icelanders eagerly look forward to the return of sunlight following the cold and dark months of winter. One of the most famous events held to commemorate the sun’s return is the Art of Light Festival or List í ljósi, at Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland. Many outdoor events including vivid art exhibitions with works from Icelandic and international artists are displayed during this event. Seyðisfjörður becomes a busy town and its residents are joined by tourists and art lovers from all over the world. You should plan on visiting the town during this festival for an amazing cultural experience. 


National Beer Day of Iceland - Beer is one of the favorite beverages of Icelanders and it's no surprise that there is a day dedicated to it. The 1st of March is celebrated as the National Beer Day in Iceland every year. It is hard to believe that beer was banned in the country for a long period of prohibition that ended in 1989. Now it is legal again and one can find a great selection of beers in Iceland. If you are in Iceland during this day, be sure to visit local pubs and bars for amazing deals on beer prices. Icelanders enjoy this single-day celebration to the fullest. 


Reykjavík Folk Festival - Reykjavík Folk Festival is a three-day music festival held in the Icelandic capital during early March. It is an exhibition displaying Icelandic folk music at its best and acts as a platform where Icelandic folk artists unite. Apart from folk music performances, one can also witness musical tales and concerts. This is another shining example of Iceland’s diverse culture and a treat for tourists in the city. Plan your Iceland visit at the start of March to enjoy this amazing festival. 


Food and Fun Festival - The famous Food and Fun Festival, held during February or March, is a fantastic occasion to enjoy a diverse palate of exciting flavors. This brings in some of the most famous chefs in the world to the restaurants and cafes of Reykjavik. The eminent chefs partner with the city’s restaurants to create internationally-inspired dishes with Icelandic ingredients. Locals and tourists can meet the chefs and taste the wide variety of foods cooked by them. The Food and Fun Festival is perfect for culinary enthusiasts and those that enjoy interesting gastronomical delights. The last day of this 7-day festival is marked by a competition between the renowned visiting chefs, followed by a city-wide celebration. 

The Carnival Days - The Carnival Days is a festival stretching over three specific days in early March are referred to as Bolludagur, Sprengidagur, and Öskudagur. Bolludagar is the Cream Bun Day is associated with a funny tradition of children spanking their parents with a Bun Day paddle to receive buns as rewards. Sprengidagur or Bursting Day is marked by the eating of salted lamb or horse meat. It is also the day of eating as much as one can, owing to an age-old Christian custom. The third day, Öskudagur or Ash Wednesday is when children dress up in colorful costumes and visit local shops and businesses. There they sing songs to earn candy as a reward. The Carnival Days are special ones for Icelanders to feast on some very delicious foods. 


DesignMarch - DesignMarch is one of the most prominent design festivals, generally held in Reykjavik during a mid-March weekend. This festival features experiences related to all forms of design, including furniture, architecture, fashion, and food. DesignMarch sees the participation of many famous internationally-renowned designers. Although the event started in 2008, it has gained a lot of importance in just over a decade. It also gives Icelandic designers the opportunity to interact with international retailers, media persons and designers. The festival opens with a daylong lecture session called DesignTalks.


Sónar Reykjavík - The Sónar electronic music festival comes to Reykjavik once a year, bringing with it an exciting array of performances from globally renowned musicians. The Harpa Concert Hall hosts this festival that attracts thousands of local residents and tourists. Sónar Reykjavík, which started in 2013, has seen performances from various prominent electronic musicians in recent years. The festival also lays a strong focus on highlighting Icelandic musicians across all levels, many of whom perform concerts at the Harpa. Visit Iceland during mid-March to enjoy the Sónar Reykjavík festival if you are an electronic music lover. 


AK Extreme - AK Extreme is an outdoor sporting festival held around Iceland’s second-most populated city Akureyri in early-April. The Eimskip Container Big Jump is one of the main events of this sports festival and is broadcasted on TV around Iceland. Another famous event is the Origo Downhill Competition, a race down from the top of the mountain. Many other winter sports events are held during AK Extreme, which brings in thousands of spectators every year. 

Saga Fest - Saga Fest is a two-day festival that takes place at Stokkseyrarsel farm near Selfoss at the end of May. It is an important event that aims to help people come together and experience the famous sagas of Iceland. It features several arts and music events related to the stories of the Sagas. This festival is a great opportunity for locals and tourists to unite and perform a range of cultural activities, including Acro Yoga, Icelandic Shamanism, poetry, dancing, and art creation.


Reykjavík Arts Festival - Listahátíð í Reykjavík or the Reykjavik Arts Festival is a two-week festival that takes place every two years. It highlights various categories and styles of artistic work and celebrates the spirit of creativity. Established in 1970, this event is quite famous internationally and brings in artists from all corners of the globe. Local artists also use this festival as a way to form meaningful connections and spread awareness of their works. It is held in June but you should confirm the dates before planning your trip.

Mt. Esja Ultra - It is an important mountain race at Iceland’s Mount Esja, situated at a short distance from Reykjavik. This is a great event for adventure lovers and those with a passion for hiking. Up to 100 participants can take part in the event, which has several challenging mountain trail races. Þverfellshorn and Kerhólakambur are two of the most popular hiking paths in the Mt. Esja Ultra race. You can choose to be a spectator of the races usually held on a June day.

Secret Solstice Festival - The Secret Solstice Festival is held for four days starting on June 21st, the day of the Summer Solstice. The midnight sun shines high above as people break out in festivities at the Laugardalur park. Spectators can witness performances by world-renowned musicians and bands. They are joined by Icelandic musicians and others, bringing the total number of performers to 150 who show their craft across six stages. If you intend to experience the Secret Solstice Festival, make sure to also enjoy The Lava Tunnel and Into The Glacier extra events.

Siglufjörður Folk Festival - Siglufjörður Folk Festival is a five-day folk music festival that celebrates Icelandic and Scandinavian music, dance, and global music. A total of 19 concert events take place during this festival. Some of the attractions you can enjoy apart from the music are handicraft workshops, folk dance classes, and folklore culture sessions. This festival is held during early July and attracts huge crowds to the mountain town of Siglufjörður. You can enjoy all that the festival has to offer and explore the scenic surroundings of the town.

LungA - The LungA Art Festival, held in the town of Seyðisfjörður takes place for a week in mid-July. It features many concerts, art exhibitions and a variety of interesting events that bring in people of all age groups. This is a fantastic festival for art lovers and budding artists who can take part in several workshops. Take a trip to Seyðisfjörður in Iceland’s Eastern Region to raise your awareness about Icelandic art and culture.

Reykjavík Pride - Reykjavik Pride is the most significant event for the LGBTQI community of Iceland and is being celebrated since 1999. People from Iceland and all parts of the globe unite at the Pride, which sees crowds of up to 100000 people. Reykjavik Pride reflects the stance of Iceland as a tolerant, progressive and peaceful society for people of all genders and orientations. 

Fiskidagurinn mikli - Fiskidagurinn mikli or The Great Fish Day is a festival that takes place in North Iceland’s Dalvík, usually during the second week of August. This two-day festival features events like the Fish Day Family Walk, along with a concert and a dazzling show of fireworks as the clock strikes midnight. During Fiskidagurinn mikli, a feast is arranged to offer some of the best fish-based dishes to visitors. It is a popular event frequented by locals and tourists alike. Make sure to taste cod, salmon, char, haddock, trout and plaice items while at this festival.

The Reykjavík Marathon - The Reykjavík Marathon is the signature marathon event of the Icelandic capital. It sees the participation of Icelanders and many marathon enthusiasts from all parts of the world. Many race events for different age groups and physical types are held during the Marathon. Children, adults and differently-abled individuals can also take part in the events, that start from Lækjargata in Reykjavik’s center. You can run the marathon if you want, or spectate the crowd of marathon runners going down the city’s streets. 

Reykjavík International Literary Festival - The Reykjavík International Literary Festival (RILF), established in 1985, is a biannual festival, regarded as one of the best in Europe. It offers literary enthusiasts the opportunity to meet some of the world’s leading authors, witnesses many readings and seminar sessions, and attend the famous Literary Ball event. This literary festival also witnesses the visit of many Nobel Prize-winning guests.

Reykjavík International Film Festival - Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) is the most important film festival in Iceland and the country’s answer to the Academy Awards. It is generally held during the end of September and the start of October and spans over a duration of 11 days. Here you can catch some of the most groundbreaking classic and contemporary movies from all regions of the globe. 40 countries participate in the RIFF with their entries, with an aim to win the famous Golden Puffin.

Iceland Airwaves Music Festival - The Airwaves Music Festival is one of the most popular musical events held during early November, and sees the participation of many Icelandic and international artists. It started in 1999 and has grown as an amazing platform for aspiring artists. This is a great event for the lovers of live music performances and has become quite famous internationally. 


Visit Iceland and experience its amazing events to create fantastic memories with your loved ones. 


Author: (Abhi Chauhan)
Date: 09/11/2019


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