Our recommendation to visit Iceland
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Iceland Travel guide
Events and festivals in Iceland
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.GO TO EVENTS
Food in Iceland
While you have been preparing for your trip, you have no doubt asked yourself what you can eat in Iceland. Well, cuisine in this country has two basic pillars: fish and meat. There are also some dishes containing vegetables and dairy produce.
The majority of traditional dishes eaten in Iceland are preserved and may be fermented, marinated, smoked, dried or salted. Food which has undergone the drying process, or Purrkun, is the most abundant.
On the other hand, fish is undoubtedly the star of Icelandic gastronomy. Whether salmon, shark, cod or herring, it is included in soups, meatballs, salads, stews, and even aperitifs. But, let’s have a more detailed look at the traditional Icelandic dishes that you can try during your trip.
This dish has an almost unpronounceable name and is made with dried fish, normally cod. It is eaten spread with butter and is one of the most traditional dishes of Icelandic cuisine. Icelanders are practical cooks, so you will be able to find this fish dish vacuum packed in many supermarkets.
Fish, potatoes, and onion are used to make this traditional Icelandic dish. They are boiled together to make a stew which is well-known and popular throughout the country. Apart from the above ingredients, it also contains butter, milk, flour, salt, and pepper. This is the perfect dish to warm you up and to savor the succulent Icelandic food.
Continuing with fish, we move on to the shark. To make this Icelandic dish, shark meat is fermented for a month and a half at least. Once the fermentation process is complete, it is dried and, once dried, it is ready to eat. The shape is reminiscent of the traditional Spanish pork trotters, but don’t be confused by this, it has a very strong flavor, even for the most accustomed Icelanders.
If you are not afraid to try new things, you may be brave enough to try this Icelandic invention consisting of a cake made of macerated ram’s testicles. These are cut into slices and are served in a type of soup or broth. There are opinions both ways on this dish, so you will only know if you like it or not by trying it for yourself.
This is a combination of different types of dried, smoked meat. It is served cut into slices or pieces and is eaten as a buffet food, in the same way as Spanish cured meats. It is part of a fish and meat starter. You may find anything from whale meat, to beef. The taste depends on the variety of meats used.
Another traditional Icelandic dish to rebuild strength is a soup of vegetables and mutton. This is made with cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, turnips and the joint of mutton. To flavor it, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, celery, and salt are used. All the ingredients result in a very tasty soup to be eaten in winter.
Mutton, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the basic foods of Icelandic gastronomy. In this case, to prepare the Svie, a boiled sheep’s head is eaten accompanied by a puree of potatoes and turnips.
This is the name given to hot dogs in Iceland, that is, they have their own particular way of preparing them. With a little predisposition to invasion by other cultures, Icelanders have allowed this snack into their kitchens. They prepare it with mutton or pork meat and serve it accompanied with raw onion, Lombardy cabbage, and mild mustard.
This Icelandic dessert consists of yogurt whose texture and flavor is very much like fresh cheese. It used not only used as a pudding or as a snack, but it also accompanies dried fish dishes. To make it, skimmed milk is used, to which blueberry conserve is added. It is delicious, so much so that it is eaten beyond the country’s borders.
Other traditional Icelandic desserts are pancakes, known in Iceland as Pönnukökur, and the Slöngukaka, a chocolate cake that you will want to eat at any time.
The Brennivín or burning wine is the traditional Icelandic drink. Its main constituents include fermented potatoes, to which are added cumin and caraway seeds to give it aroma. This strong-flavored alcoholic drink is 40% proof, so if you try it, do so in moderation.
In relation to drinks, you should also try some of the Icelandic beers. The Brío and Boli beers are the most famous and recommended ones. Now you know what to eat in Iceland and which are the main traditional dishes. Don’t forget to discover new flavors during your trip, as this is also part of the experience.GO TO GASTRONOMY
Shopping in Iceland
Of everything you can buy in Iceland which you could imagine, you certainly didn't expect some very special souvenirs. The land of ice, as this country is known in Old Nordic, has some extraordinary typical products.
To talk about the typical products of Iceland is to enter a magical world of unique legends and sounds. Icelandic music, a popular culture full of elves and fairies, and the scenarios of Game of Thrones can only be found in this country.
Let's see, out of all the souvenirs of Iceland which you could take home, which ones are the most representative.
Icelandic wool jumpers are undoubtedly the most typical things to buy in Iceland. The wool of the sheep of this country has a unique quality, which makes the garments made with it highly valued. If you want a perfect gift to fight the cold, don't hesitate to buy an Icelandic wool garment. Of course, check that it isn't made in China, and go to places where they guarantee its authenticity.
Another one of the souvenirs of Iceland with which to surprise yourself are the sagas, a compendium of the history, culture and popular folklore of the traditional Icelandic culture. These beautifully written stories are the perfect memory of a different and incredibly beautiful country. If you want to get the best sagas, we recommend the Saga of Njál and Egil. Both narrate Icelandic history in medieval times and are authentic treasures of the country's literature.
Icelandic fiction novels
Iceland is one of the countries with the most writers per capita in the world. Authors such as Halldór Laxness, who has been awarded the Nobel Prize, attest to the quality of fiction literature in this frozen country. If you like reading, this is something to buy in Iceland which will help you remember your visit to the country in a special way.
Works of art
In the Icelandic art galleries, they exhibit well-known artists. If you like art and want to take home a sample, you can visit the Mokka Café or Port Verkefnarými. Contemporary Icelandic paintings and illustrations will satisfy the most demanding tastes.
One of the main brands of Icelandic chocolate is Omnon, which manufactures a variety of chocolates of great quality and flavor. This is one of the typical products of Iceland which is most coveted by tourists and lovers of sweet food. You can find it both in supermarkets and in souvenir shops, and I assure you that you will not regret having bought it.
Blooberg tea is actually a variety of Icelandic thyme with antibacterial properties. It is perfect for curing colds and stomach problems and has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. You can find it in most supermarkets and it happens to be one of the most traditional Icelandic products.
To remember your trip to Iceland there is nothing better than a bottle of Brennivín liquor. This brandy is made from potato purée, which is flavored with caraway. It is the traditional Icelandic drink and will remind you of the frozen landscapes which you have admired so much during your trip.
The Icelandic sense of humor is poorly known, however, Icelanders love to laugh at themselves as much as at tourists. Therefore, they have created a range of condoms called Enjoy our Nature, with images of erupting volcanoes or northern lights. The wrappers have naughty phrases like high-quality condoms from the country of explosions. If you want to take a different souvenir from Iceland, this is what you were looking for.
Sweets with powers
If that is the way Icelanders are, they are able to market Icelandic souvenirs as the original. In this case, these are bags of sweets which provide special skills. There are some to let you see elves, sing like Björk, have magical powers or understand Sigur Rós. Of all the typical Icelandic products, these take the prize for originality and self-confidence.
Boats to Bit of Iceland
We continue with the typical products to buy in Iceland to get a smile from your friends. In the souvenir shops, you will find some boats labeled with the most bizarre contents. They have anything from an ice cube of a glacier, to volcanic ash, all with instructions and a little history of the content. You can even take home pure Icelandic packed air. If you thought that the cold made them have a bad character, these souvenirs will make you completely change your mind.
Now that you know what to buy in Iceland, as you may have seen, this magnificent country offers you many different and unique souvenirs and typical products. Do not forget to take one of them as a souvenir of your visit.GO TO SHOPPING
Iceland tourist attractions
More information about Iceland
A Nordic nation located in the North Atlantic, Iceland is a sparsely populated country famed for its abundance of epic landscapes which feature glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, active volcanos, and lava fields. Known as the Land of Ice and Fire, thanks to its geothermal activity, the country’s isolated location has not affected its cultural wealth and in fact, has fostered a vibrant and unique cultural scene and a prosperous nation.
The majority of the population are concentrated in the southwest corner of the island, where the capital city, Reykjavik is located, the northernmost capital city in the world. A tour of Iceland is the best way to experience the vast landscapes and more underdeveloped parts of the country, away from the popular city.
Many are drawn to Iceland for the unique natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights or to bathe in the warming thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. A holiday to Iceland is sure to ignite your love of untamed nature and open your eyes to a beautiful country, which has thrived despite its secluded location.
History of Iceland
The island of Iceland was first settled in 847 AD by Norse communities, who, over the following centuries, continued to build communities on the island, along with other Scandinavian settlers. The country spent much of its history under Norwegian and Scandinavian rule and, on a trip to Iceland, you are sure to notice the influence this has left on the culture and traditions of the country.
In the late 14th century, the country was unified with the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the Kalmar Union. Under foreign rule, Iceland saw many years of hardship, from the Black Death to the turbulence of the Reformation and extreme weather, which often caused starvation and suffering as Norwegian merchant ships carrying precious supplies could not reach communities due to frozen fjords and icebergs. The 18th-century eruptions of the Katla and Laki volcanos devastated much of the country with toxic ash, lava and floods. It was not until the 20th-century that things began to look up for the island as a period of home rule, followed by sovereignty and eventually complete independence in 1944 saw progress in economic and social spheres.
The post-World War II period was a turning point for Iceland as its prospects transformed completely. Industrialised fisheries and membership to the European Economic Area lifted the country out of poverty and subsistence farming and within a short space of time the country made huge developments. Today, it is thought to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, known for its technology and high standard of living.
Iceland runs almost entirely on renewable energy, has the worlds highest median wealth per adult and is also considered the most peaceful country on earth. It has no standing army and gender-based pay inequality is illegal, proof of the countries dedication to equality, peace and freedom. A tour to Iceland will open your eyes to a progressive, friendly and open society, who despite centuries of isolation and struggle, have built a truly successful and admirable nation.
Nature in Iceland
Above all, a holiday to Iceland is the first choice for nature lovers. The island is home to such a wide array of natural wonders that it is impossible to leave the country without feeling a sense of awe for the power of mother nature. Many travellers choose Iceland to experience the spectacle of the Northern Lights whose green, blue and purple streaks dance across the night sky between late August to mid-April.
It is unlikely to see the light show in the summer months when daylight hours are long. The further north you travel, the more likely you are to catch sight of the phenomenon, although darkness, low levels of light pollution and clear skies are the three main factors which will determine your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights. Northern Lights tours, with professional meteorologists, are also a safe bet for hunting down the elusive natural attraction.
Another highlight of Iceland’s natural environment is its many impressive waterfalls, such as the Skógafoss, Goðafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Háifoss and Svartifoss which are among the most popular and are largely concentrated in the southern part of the country. If the soothing sound of waterfalls makes you want to kick back and relax, the iconic geothermal Blue Lagoon is perhaps one of the countries most popular tourist attractions, welcoming visitors to bathe in its steamy waters, surrounded by a snowy landscape.
Iceland has a mostly subarctic climate, lying just outside of the Arctic Circle. It often sees sub-zero temperatures in the winter and has mild summers, so as long as you are prepared for the cold, a trip to Iceland is suitable any time of year. The unique geology of the island is characterised by its volcanic nature. It is home to 30 active volcanic systems and its most famous and active volcano is Hekla, which last erupted in the year 2000. Geysers, springs which periodically erupt with hot water, are another of Iceland’s rare natural phenomenon, and a prime tourist attraction.
The Strokkur Geyser, which erupts as frequently as every 10 minutes, propelling steam and hot water into the air, is the country’s most popular. Wildlife is another element of Iceland’s natural attractions that cannot be missed. Its only native land mammal is the Arctic Fox, but you can also find reindeer, rabbits and the famous wild Icelandic horses, roaming freely in the wilderness of the interior. The occasional polar bear has also been sighted on the mainland, arriving on floating icebergs from Greenland.
Culture in Iceland
Iceland has a unique and rich culture, focused strongly on the country’s Scandinavian heritage. The country’s isolated location has ensured that its culture has preserved its own traditions and originality away from outside influences. Much of the population is descended from Gaelic and Norse settlers, and the Icelandic language is closely linked to Old Norse and has retained a number of unique runic letters, not seen in any other modern language.
Medieval sagas are still a prominent feature in Icelandic culture; stories and literature about the island's history, particularly the era between the 9th and 11th centuries, are passed down through the generations. Folk dance remains an important component, with a number of active dance ensembles committed to keeping the tradition alive. In Reykjavik, there are numerous cultural institutions, from professional theatres to an opera house and a large number of art galleries, bookstores, cinemas, and museums.
Visitors on holiday in Iceland will find no shortage of both modern and traditional cultural attractions. A further point to note about the culture of Iceland is the importance of community to the inhabitants. Due to its small population and geographical isolation, there is a huge focus on community and helping each other. It is not unusual for locals to strike up conversations with visitors and the country is also famed for its egalitarian politics; Iceland is thought to have one of the lowest inequality rates in the world.
Land of ice and fire, a tour of Iceland is a captivating experience, which will charm visitors with its plethora of natural wonders, from volcanos, geysers, and waterfalls, to the dazzling Northern Lights. Travelers can be sure to find respite from the sub-arctic chill of its harsh climate in the bustling capital of Reykjavik and the warm hospitality of the locals.
Iceland travel information
Valid passport or identity card.
No visa is required to enter the country.
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Other useful information
Tap water is drinkable and probably even more healthy than bottled water, as it is sourced in general from the nearest glacier.
There are no mandatory vaccinations.
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