If you are planning a trip to Iceland this summer and are interested in joining in on an Icelandic festival you are in luck; there are dozens of festivals happening all over the country. From outdoor music festivals to celebrations in small fishing villages, there is something exciting to check out all summer long.
Add one of these festivals to your trip to Iceland this summer and experience a part of the local culture on your visit.
Aldrei fór ég suður in the Westfjords
Aldrei fór ég suður, in English “I never went South”, is a rock music festival that kicks off the summer festival season and takes place over the Easter holiday. At the festival, you will find a mix of local bands and some of the biggest names in the Icelandic music scene playing. The festival held in the town of Ísafjörður in the picturesque Westfjords, and you won’t find a music festival in a more beautiful location! From the rugged mountains to the lovely fjords, the Icelandic nature mixed with the fun festival will be a celebration to remember.
Reykjavik Arts Festival in Reykjavík
Reykjavik Art Festival is an annual festival held in May and is one of the oldest and most respected festivals in Europe. Starting in 1970, the Reykjavik Art Festival has invited hundreds of artists from all over the world to perform or exhibit at the festival over the years. Performances and exhibitions both of contemporary and classical works are found all over the city during the two-week festival.
My favourite part of this art festival is that the performers use unconventional places around the city as exhibitions. For example, my first experience at the Reykjavik Arts Festival was watching dancers from California perform on a side of a hotel, which was amazing to watch!
Sjómannadagur, all around Iceland
Sjómannadagur, in English “Seafarer’s Day”, is celebrated every year on the first Sunday in June. Sjómannadagur is a day to celebrate and honour the contribution fisherman have made to the Icelandic culture and economy, as well as to remember those that have been lost at sea. Celebrations can be found all across the country so find the closest fishing town and stop by to take part in the festivities!
Sjómannadagur celebrations typically include family activities, musical performances and food and drink, all with a “sea theme”. If you are in Reykjavik for this day be sure to head down to the harbour, the event has gotten bigger each year with entertainment and activities for all to enjoy.
Þjóðhátíðardagurinn, all around Iceland
Þjóðhátíðardagurinn, in English “Iceland’s National Day”, is celebrated on June 17th, a national holiday in Iceland. The day marked the founding of the Republic of Iceland in 1944 when Iceland gained independence from Denmark. The 17th of June was chosen as the day of celebration for Iceland’s independence as it is the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, a leader of Iceland’s independence movement.
The National Day is a festive day in Iceland; people gather in city centres to watch or partake in parades, events and entertainments that have been organised and held all around the island.
Höfn Lobster Festival in South Iceland
Looking for a festival that combines food and fun? Head to Höfn located in the South of Iceland just past Vatnajökull National Park and join in on the small fishing town’s annual lobster festival. The harbour in Höfn is one of the main suppliers of lobster in Iceland, and the lobster has played an important role in shaping the town’s image, all of which is celebrated at this annual festival in late June.
If you are a lobster lover be sure to head to Höfn and join in with the locals for a day of celebrating, and of course eating lots of lobster.
Secret Solstice in Reykjavík
A more recent event to the Icelandic festival scene is the outdoor music festival Secret Solstice. This three-day music festival occurs during the summer solstice in June, which means festival goers can dance the night away under the midnight sun. I joined in on the fun last year, and I have to say, the party never does end when it doesn’t get dark out!
Even though Secret Solstice is a new festival in Iceland, it is quickly growing into one of the most popular festivals in the country. There are several stages and a range of music, popular artists and up-and-coming talent, Icelandic and international artist. I am super bummed to miss it this year, Of Monsters of Men is playing!
LungA in East Iceland
If you are looking for a festival that has a stunning location and a variety of entertainment to offer, LungA is for you. Located in the East of Iceland in the small town of Seyðisfjörður, LungA mixes art and music to create a unique experience of creative fun. A seven-day festival, held in July, where you can join in on different workshops, listen to music, or just enjoy looking at the art on display.
LungA is quickly becoming one of Iceland’s most interesting events and sells out quickly, so be sure to book your ticket for 2017!
Þjóðhátíð in South Iceland
While it is certainly a mouthful to try and pronounce, Þjóðhátíð is one festival you are going to want to check out. The festival is one of Iceland’s largest camping festivals and held on the beautiful Westman Islands in July/August.
During the festival, the small island’s population grows from 4,000 to 16,000 people – all there to have a great time! Although it is more of a camping festival than a music festival, Icelandic bands do play at the festival and each year a new song is composed that everyone sings together in the evening. Although the festival is more popular with the younger generation who come to party for the weekend, there are all age groups at the festival.
I have yet to experience Þjóðhátíð myself, but from all the stories I have heard this is one unique Icelandic experience that you want to check out if you can. A weekend spent listening to classic Icelandic songs, hanging out with the locals and taking in the gorgeous views of the Westman Islands, it certainly sounds like a memorable time.
The weekend of Þjóðhátíð is known as Verslunarmannahelgi in Iceland, a bank holiday weekend and the biggest camping weekend of the year for Icelanders. Various festivals take place this weekend, but Þjóðhátíð is the largest one. Others are Ein með öllu, in English “One with Everything” held in Akureyri in North Iceland and Neistaflug, in English "the Flying Sparks festival" held in Neskaupsstaður in East Iceland.
Menningarnótt in Reykjavík
Menningarnótt, in English “Culture Night”, is an all day festival held on August 18th or the first Saturday thereafter in Reykjavik. The day is filled with dance, music, art, performances and all sorts of interactive activities and entertainment, the perfect celebration to end the summer. Be sure to grab a spot on the hillside in downtown where concerts will be happening all day. It is also the perfect spot to watch the fireworks at the end of the evening.
Réttir, all around Iceland
If you are in Iceland in September head off to the countryside to experience one of Iceland’s oldest traditions, Réttir, the rounding up of the sheep. While some might view the rounding up of the sheep from the summer pastures as a chore, it certainly is not the case in Iceland! Réttir is the country’s oldest cultural traditions where sheep farmers invite family, friends and others who are interested in helping out with rounding up the sheep from their summer grazing periods in the mountains and valleys.
It is a fun day where you get to work with the farmers and in the evening toast the day's work and join in on singing Icelandic songs. You won’t get this kind of experience anywhere else.
This list is just a few of the many events happening in Iceland over the summer. We didn’t even talk about the Great Fish Day in Dalvík in North Iceland, Danish Days in Stykkishólmur in West Iceland, French days in Fáskrúðsfjörður in East Iceland, Gay Pride in Reykjavík, or Food and Fund Festival in Reykjavík. If you are in Iceland and have the chance, I highly recommend adding a visit to a local festival to your schedule. It is guaranteed to be a fun and unique way to experience the country!