Iceland is a land of fire, ice, and festivals. We’ve got something to suit every taste, from heavy metal fans to art lovers to people who just enjoy playing soccer in the mud. If you’re looking to attend an Icelandic festival during your trip, you’ve landed in the right place. We’ll cover some of the most popular ones, both mainstream and unusual.
We’ll also look at some Icelandic festival dates at different times of the year. This will give you a clearer picture of where and when things are happening in the country.
Attending an Icelandic Festival
When you come to our small Nordic island, you’ll be surprised by the cold weather, the warmth of the people, and the beauty of our landscapes. You’ll no doubt want to immerse yourself a little bit in our culture. And attending an Icelandic festival is the perfect way to do that. Rub shoulders with both locals and tourists alike as you get to see everyone having fun in their natural environment.
While there are festivals in Iceland year-round, a vast majority of them take place in the summer. This is because the months of June, July, and August offer the nicest weather and the chance to enjoy being outside.
Enjoy an Icelandic Music Festival
Perhaps the most typical of Iceland festivals is an Icelandic music festival. And we’ve got plenty to choose from. Let’s look the most frequented ones.
Of all of the annual events that take place in Iceland every year, perhaps the Secret Solstice Festival (June) is the one we look forward to the most. Happening right around the time of the Midnight Sun, this music festival is essentially three days of non-stop partying. It happens right at the peak of the summer solstice, which is our longest day of the year.
Previous acts have included the Black Eyed Peas, Jonas Blue, and homegrown talent Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men
Along with secret solstice, this is the other major international music festival in Iceland. There’s one big difference, however. best musical Gathering takes place in November, which means you have the chance to see the Northern Lights. Not only will there be great music and a wide variety of DJs, singers, and bands. But you’ll also get to experience the dazzling nighttime show in the sky of undulating emerald, turquoise, and amethyst waves. Icelandic festivals plus the Northern Lights, what could beat that?
Some of the past performers in the Iceland airwaves music festival lineup come from a vast array of musical genres. Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, Florence and the Machine, Thievery Corporation, Björk, and The Flaming Lips have all graced the Iceland Airwaves stages.
It’s not just bands and performers that you’ll hear on the radio who come to Iceland. Sónar is an electronic music festival for those looking to see artists like Major Lazer and Skrillex live. It’s held in the more traditional venue of Harpa Concert Hall with light installations special effects. Much like the Sónar Barcelona festival, lovers of electronic music dance the night away. This Reykjavik festival also takes place during Northern Lights season so keep an eye out for the Aurora Borealis before or after the concerts.
Aldrei fór ég suður
This music festival takes place every year during Easter weekend. The lovely town of Ísafjörður hosts this gathering of music lovers and makes for the perfect backdrop in this postcard-perfect locale. It has become a favorite way for locals to celebrate Easter weekend.
Originally started in 2004, by singer Mugison and his father Guðmundur Kristjánsson, it’s a free Iceland Music Festival. Yes, you read that correctly. Attendees don’t have to buy a ticket and bands play for free. It’s all about positive vibes and sharing the experience of good music together. What a great way to save on your budget!
Honorable mentions for Icelandic Festivals
There are dozens of Iceland music festivals every year, so it would be impossible to cover all of them here. at the same time, we don’t want you to miss out on something you might be interested in. So here’s a very brief overview of some other popular ones.
The Braedslan (Bræðslan) Music Festival (July) takes place in East Iceland in a remote area known for its fjords. It’s a cool festival with a relaxed atmosphere that focuses mainly on Icelandic rock bands.
Eistnaflug is the heavy metal Iceland music festival in July. Metalheads and mohawks descend upon Neskaupstaður every summer to rock out. This is Iceland’s largest music festival of rock, heavy metal, and indie music
Keeping it Cool
Reykjavik also has a cool collection of more laid-back events. If you happen to be in Reykjavik at the beginning of September, you might want to buy tickets to the Reykjavik Jazz Festival. It’s becoming an increasingly popular festival on the international jazz scene. Leading jazz musicians from both Iceland and abroad play live jazz in a variety of styles. Whether it’s contemporary, avant-garde, latin jazz, or big bands and gospel, you’ll find it all here.
The Reykjavik Blues Festival (April) is another good one for those who like to focus on the simplicity of the players of their and their instruments. Join in on the jam sessions with legends from Iceland, Europe, and North America. You also get the chance to see some up-and-coming blues artists from around the world.
Lastly, the Reykjavik Folk Festival is one to put on the books for fans of folk music. It lasts for three days and celebrates the heritage of Icelandic folk music. There’s also the summertime five-day Folk Music Festival in Siglufjordur. This cultural event kicks off annually on the first day of July.
Viking Festival Iceland
Moving on from music festivals, we have another very typical event: A Viking Festival in Iceland. Although the Vikings settled our small Nordic island over a thousand years ago, we still have a ton of pride in our Scandinavian roots.
The annual Viking Festival in Hafnarfjordur takes place over four days in the middle of June. Although it’s a wholly typical Icelandic gathering, you’d be surprised at how many visitors from all over the world are drawn here. With the recreation of a typical Viking village, there are blacksmiths, artists, artisans, musicians, and of course, Viking warriors. They’re ready for displays of strength and manliness at a moment’s notice with the swords and shields that they yield.
Live the experience of what life was like during the time of Ragnar Lothbrok at the Hafnarfjordur Viking Festival in Iceland
Reykjavik Pride: A Joyous Icelandic Festival
This is probably one of the biggest Icelandic festivals and just might be the largest one. Like all Pride celebrations around the world, this one is filled with good vibes, happy people, and a pure outpouring of love. Reykjavik as a city that is quite friendly to the LGBTQ+ community as well as their friends and family. The normally mild-mannered Reykjavik city center is taken over by live music, colorful costumes, glitter, sequins, feathered boas, and people dancing in the streets.
Festivities kick off with the Pride parade on Saturday and continue late into the night with parties. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, lesbian or bi, queer or otherwise; diversity is celebrated and everyone is welcome. Even the former mayor shows up in drag every year. Make your way to Reykjavik during the second weekend in August so you don’t miss the party.
Reykjavik Culture Night
Although Iceland might be a small island, it’s packed to the gills with culture. this may come as a surprise to many, but it’s true. There’s a thriving music and arts scene in addition to our cultural heritage.
Reykjavik Culture Night is a permanent fixture on the Iceland festival circuit and kicks off the city’s cultural year. This typically marks the launch of the year’s calendar of events for theaters, museums, and other Reykjavik cultural institutions. You’ll find celebrations all across the city’s streets, squares, businesses, and residential gardens. With the slogan “Come on in!”, it’s clear that the city wants to welcome you with its hospitality and warmth. Culture night is a wonderful way to bring a close to the summer as it takes place at the end of August.
The art exhibitions, music performances, an architectural displays are all free of charge so that everyone can participate. The Reykjavik Cultural Office, who produces the event, aims to provide a rich, diverse array of cultural events for different tastes. Of all the Icelandic festivals, this is one of my favourites.
Art Festivals and Film Festivals
For art aficionados out there, there are multiple art festivals in Iceland to choose from. Of our main art festivals, the Reykjavik Art Festival is by far the premier cultural event. It combines artists from around the world in the disciplines of music dance theater and visual arts.
Another is the LungA Art Festival in Seydisfjordur, a beautiful town in East Iceland resting on the shores of a fjord. LungA is the celebration of art, creativity, and culture with lectures, workshops, and other activities. it culminates in a weekend celebration with concerts and art exhibitions.
And for cinephiles out there, the Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) is one that focuses on independent cinema.
An Iceland Running Festival
If music, art, movies, or Vikings are not your thing, what about sports? Besides the Swamp Soccer tournament in the Westfjords (usually held around Merchant’s Weekend), we’ve also got marathons and races. These usually take place in the summer along with the Iceland Winter Games and the Fossavatn Ski Marathon happening during the colder months.
If you’re looking for an Iceland running festival, you’re in luck because there are plenty to choose from. While some may not consider them Icelandic festivals, they’re still a major part of yearly celebrations. Here’s a list of some running and cycling events for you to choose from.
The Reykjavik Marathon is composed of a full Marathon, half marathon, and 10K event. It coincides with Reykjavik Culture Night in August
The Suzuki Marathon (June) is a half marathon, 5K, and 10K race. You’ll find a beautiful views and to challenging terrain as you race during the Midnight Sun.
The Laugavegur Ultramarathon takes you through the stunning natural landscapes of Iceland Highlands. You’ll see everything from colorful rhyolite mountains to black volcanic lava fields in Landmannalaugar.
The Color Run (June) is a worldwide event and Iceland is one of 300 cities in more than 50 countries that participates.
The Thorvaldsdalur (Þorvaldsdalur) Valley in Northern Iceland is home to the Thorvaldsdalur Terrain Run (July). Another chance to experience our unique scenery as the backdrop to your race.
If you’re not interested in an Iceland running festival, then maybe a bike race is more your speed. The WOW Cyclothon (June) lets team members cycle on Ring Road in turns in this bike relay race.
The Best Iceland Festivals to Attend
I hope this list of Iceland celebrations and festivals has given you some good ideas for fun activities during your campervan road trip. The only thing better than taking a trip around the Ring Road is stopping the party at one of the many cultural and music festivals on offer. For a full list of Icelandic festivals dates as well as their locations, click here.