You may be surprised to discover that there are many popular festivals in Iceland. From the more traditional festivals to the more modern ones, Icelanders have important festivals and celebrations throughout most of the year. The cold and ice don’t put them off.
The country of Iceland has an area of 103.000 km2, and its inhabitants succeeded in changing the government and removing their prime minister. The population is of Nordic origin, particularly of Celts and Scandinavians.
This Nordic inheritance is clearly present in the country’s demonstrations and cultural events. Nonetheless, it is also a modern society at the forefront of technology and contemporary art.
Let’s find out which are the most representative popular Icelandic festivals taking place according to the months of the year that you can choose when visiting the country.
January and February
During these two months, one of the most important Icelandic festivals takes place: the Thorrablót. This Icelandic festival is also known as the Thurseblot and celebrates the ancient month of Thor. The festival has medieval origins which include a gastronomic feast that is not suitable for those with a delicate constitution.
Families and friends gather during these months to eat traditional dishes from Icelandic cuisine. If you are invited by an Icelander, the menu consists of, and you can try dishes including sheep’s head, right through to ram’s testicles and even fermented shark meat. All washed down with abundant Brennivín, the traditional Icelandic drink. A complete banquet in the purest medieval style.
For three days at the end of February, Icelanders celebrate the Festival of the Winter Lights. There are many activities and displays taking place, particularly in the capital and in the Natural Park of Laugardalur.
This month continues the culinary banquets, as March is the month in which the most emblematic culinary events take place in Iceland. In Reykjavik, an international cuisine festival is celebrated which draws the best chefs in the world.
During the festival, different chefs work in the kitchens of different restaurants and create original dishes with one hundred percent Icelandic ingredients. If you visit the country in March, don’t miss the opportunity to do some gastronomic tourism and to discover new flavors.
April and May
Among the popular Icelandic festivals that take place in April, Easter also has its days of celebration. Smoked lamb and chocolate eggs are the main characters in this festival of Catholic origin.
Also in April, Icelanders celebrate the First Day of Summer, the “Sumardagurinn Fyrsti”, according to the ancient Nordic calendar. There are popular barbecues and traditional dances from Icelandic folklore.
In May, the most notable festivals in Iceland are the Ascension and Pentecost, which are also related to the Catholic religion.
June and July
June commemorates one of Iceland’s most important dates, their Independence. The streets are filled with parades and official functions and concerts, popular meals are also organized, and the festival ends with a fireworks display.
Also in June, towards the end of the month, Icelanders celebrate the coming of the Midnight Sun, with music marathons and many bonfires in honor of the ancient Nordic gods.
And if you want to visit the famous Viking Festival at Hafnarfjörður, you will need to be in the country on 21 June. Numerous events bring many Icelanders together, wearing their traditional dress, to celebrate this festival. There are crafts stalls, dances, and traditional Icelandic gastronomy.
In the Westman Islands, during the last week of July, Icelanders organize concerts and many fireworks displays. There is also the Folk Music Festival at Sigluf Jördur. Be sure to go there if you are in Iceland this weekend.
August includes one of the most participatory festivals in Iceland: the Menningarnótt or Night of Culture. In mid-August, in Reykjavik, the art galleries, museums, and even private houses open their doors to the public so that they can enjoy many works of art.
Of course, there are also concerts and fireworks displays to celebrate the event, as well as theatre, cinema, cabaret and all kinds of cultural events. There are also other festivals in the capital during this month, like the Reykjavík Dance Festival, the Lókal International Theatre Festival, and the culinary festival of Great Fish Day.
September to December
During the Icelandic autumn, various music festivals are celebrated, such as the Sláturtíð; the Music Festival of Thjorsarver; and the Iceland Airwaves. All take place between the end of September and October and bring the many international events to the country.
In the same way, as many other countries worldwide, in December Icelanders celebrate Christmas. Both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are celebrated in Iceland with large family meals and fireworks displays.
You will find all the above during your trip to this unique country. Don’t forget to note some of these festivals on your travel guide and enjoy the company of the Icelanders during their celebrations.