When you are driving around Iceland in your rental camper, you might accidentally come across one or two festivals held in different towns around Iceland. We feel that it’s a bit of an exclusive thing we have here for many towns and villages hosts their own annual festival, celebrating different parts of their history. Some festivals have become so popular that Icelanders travels to them. To help you plan your trip around Iceland, we put together a list with many of the festivals with details as to where they are found and when they are held for you should experience at least one of them while here.
1. The Great fish day
Let’s start off with one of the most popular one, the one that has grown the most and the one people traveling in north Iceland will always try to attend. It’s the Great fish day held in Dalvík every year. It’s held in either the first or second Saturday in August. This festival is just the biggest festival of love where the main purpose is to invite guests for free fish courses, to let people enjoy what the sea has to offer and what the village has to offer. Everyone involved in fish takes part in this festival, everyone from cooks to the commercial fishing companies to the locals. The cuisine is not limited to Icelandic but from all around the world and you get to taste more or less everything the sea around Iceland has to offer. For FREE!
A detail making this festival even more amazing is that the locals takes part of this event with all their heart by also inviting people into their homes for free food. If you see a lantern burning brightly in front of any house on the Friday before the festival, it’s a signal inviting you to enjoy fish soup with the hosts. Just knock on their door and you will get invited. The most lovely way to meet the locals.
The sea food buffet itself starts at 11:00am to 17:00pm on the Saturday. If you want to camp in Dalvik for the festival, make sure you book it well in advance for it’s one of the most popular festivals in Iceland.
Not only is this festival you will rarely experience anywhere else in the world, you are also surrounded by stunning nature with big mountains behind you and a beautiful fjord in front of you. There is also whale watching in Dalvik.
GPS Coordinates: 65°58’18.15″N 18°31’48.53″W
2. French days
Fáskrúðsfirði in East Iceland differs from many other villages in Iceland by having the street names both in Icelandic and French. This has its origin from the period when French fishermen, mostly from the town Gravelines in France, used Fáskrúðsfirði as their base. During this time, a strong connection developed between the French and the Icelanders. To honor this, the people in Fáskrúðsfirði decided to set up a connection with the people in Gravelines. From the beginning, 18th of August, 1991, this friendship between the two towns have grown deeper with the years and now there is communications on all levels, resulting in different common events in both places. The French days is a result from this friendship. Even the French Bastille day is flag day in Fáskrúðsfirði.
During the French days, which takes place in the end of July every year, you will find all kind of events taking place like concerts, plays, games for the kids, dancing in the evenings and all kind of fun competitions and races, very suitable for the whole family.
GPS Coordinates: 64°55’58.13″N 14° 1’37.27″W
Read more: Where to camp in Iceland
3. Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum
During the last weekend of July or the first weekend in August the biggest camping weekend in Iceland takes place. It’s the holiday we call the commerce holiday when the majority of Iceland are out camping. The biggest and probably the oldest commerce day festival (shop keeper’s holiday) takes place in Westman islands, a national celebration day festival that has been going on every year since 1901.
They always have a whole bunch of concerts, events and the most important thing of all, Brekkusöngur. That is the last night when literally everybody sits around (maybe 15.000 people) and sing together. Again, this is a very well sought festival and tickets needs to be booked well in advance to have a chance to join this festival but is well worth it.
GPS Coordinates: 63°26’28.42″N 20°17’7.94″W
This one might not be for all but we guarantee you a fantastic time. It’s the European championship in swamp soccer. It might be one of the more colorful festivals in Iceland. Not only is the soccer matches so much fun to watch, even if you don’t like soccer but there is also a whole lot of music and events taking place. 2016 will be the 12th time this event takes place.
It all happens in the Westfjords, in Ísafirði to be exact. It takes place during Verzlunarmannahelginn, the commerce holiday which is the last weekend in July or the first weekend in August. You will find a few camping sites in Ísafirði but like any camping in popular areas during this weekend, one has to book well in advance to be guaranteed a camping spot.
You may even take part in the competition but you don’t have to have a whole team. If you want to join, the organizers will give you a spot in any of the other teams. The rules are as follows:
5. Reykjavik Cultural Night
Reykjavik Cultural Night (Menninganótt) is probably the biggest event that is happening annually in Reykjavik or in Iceland for that matter. The city gets to be so crowded and so many streets gets closed which is something to plan if you are staying in a hotel in the downtown area. If you take a trip during the day, you wont be able to drive to your hotel during the evening. The whole city is literally bubbling with activities the whole day. There are concerts everywhere, art shows, happenings, interesting things for the whole family, all kind of food is found all over town. There is so may things happening, you will have a problem deciding what to do, where to go. Whatever you decide, there are two events most people will not miss. That is the big concert taking place in the big open area between downtown and Harpa. You can’t miss it. When that is done, the main event takes place, a huge fireworks display they shoot off from a platform floating on the sea. You will see it from wherever almost but most walks to the road that goes along the water east of Harpa. When the fire works is over, the BIG traffic jam starts. Depending on the organisation of the traffic flow, it might take you hours to get out from Reykjavik. The Reykjavik cultural night usually takes place sometime around the 20th of August every year.
6. Lobster festival
The Lobster festival in Höfn is a bit like the big fish day in Dalvík but smaller in size so far but it’s growing every year. This festival started in 1993 when the local companies wanted to host an annual outdoor festival for people who left the town and their friends. Now it’s an open party for everyone and have been a great success from the start. Locals are inviting guests for lobster dinners and all kind of things are taking place all over with a big party on the Saturday with live bands. Höfn have been known for it’s lobster fishing and the locals are celebrating the lobster with this festival. An absolutely must if you are driving in East Iceland when this is taking place. I’ts always held on the last weekend in June. Höfn also boasts an excellent camping site but like with all festivals, call ahead or send an E-mail to try to book a place on the camping site, just to be sure. East Iceland also have, more often than not, warmer summers than the rest of the country so you might be in for a treat while attending this festival.
GPS Coordinates: 64°15’17.78″N 15°12’33.17″W
7. Reykholt Chamber Music Festival
This music festival is on of the more established music festivals in Iceland. Held at the cultural and medieval centre of Snorrastofa in Reykholt. A place loaded with history and beautiful nature. This festival is for the lovers of classic music, tranquility and history. During the festival one can listen to the best in Icelandic classic music and between concerts one can take part in seminars, take long walks in the surroundings or just sit in peace and quiet and enjoy life.
The festival was founded in 1997 and is one of the most prestigious summer festivals in Iceland. For the first 15 years of the festival pianist Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdóttir was the artistic director and now it’s cellist Sigurgeir Agnarsson. The Reykholt Chamber music festival have commissioned all the big Icelandic composers to compose new pieces for the festival.
So if classic music, tranquility, history in beautiful surroundings, this festival is for you. You also have a camping site right by the church/venue.
GPS Coordinates: 64°39’52.21″N 21°17’20.06″W
Read more: Top camping sites in Iceland
8. The Big day of the forest
Yes, you read correctly! The day of the forest! In East Iceland we have a beautiful forest running along the big river Lagafljót. The locals there hosts a fun festival there to celebrate and cherish the fruit of their labour which is the maintenance and growing of their wonderful forest.
During the the big day of the forest, which is held in the last Saturday in June, hosts a variety of events like the Icelandic championship in lumberjacking, the forest run (14km/8.7miles), local farmers invite guests to BBQ lamb and a whole BBQ beef, hot dogs for the kids, live music and usually there are artists who shows their talents with a chainsaw. Definitely a different and fun activity in Iceland for the whole family!
GPS Coordinates: 65° 7’28.83″N 14°41’49.54″W
9. Act alone
Another funky and fun art festival. This one is dedicated to theater. Act alone is fully dedicated to, as the name suggest, acting alone on stage, monodrama! Anyone can apply to act and it’s not limited to the Icelandic language, quite the opposite. They have had guests from abroad to act. This festival has continuously grown since its start in 2004. There is also concerts, poetry readings, dance and magic. This is also the only annual theater festival in Iceland so it should be great fun for the theater buffs. Act alone takes place in the remote and beautiful village of Suðureyri in the Westfjords of Iceland. For 2016, the festival is between the 10th ot 13th of August. One fun thing with driving there in your camper is that you get to drive through a tunnel with a crossroad in it. Great fun!
GPS Coordinates: 66° 7’43.96″N 23°31’26.11″W
Read more: Ferries in Iceland
Sólheimar is not a festival but an incredible friendly sustainable community where things are happening like all the time. The place was founded in 1930 and have around 100 people living there all year around. There are a lot of space there and common houses to inspire and they stress the importance and encourage the equality and possibilities for people with special needs, both in work and play.
There are so many things happening at Sólheimar, you might end up volunteering there for that is a possibility too. There are events, things to see, things to do, lectures, exhibitions, concerts, a whole array of handmade things to buy, everything ecofriendly. There are people from all over the world coming to this place, creating a quite unique atmosphere. All the farming is organic and the bakery and food-processing at Sólheimar are organically certified, and the coffee shop, Græna kannan, offers only organically certified refreshments. So just go there and enjoy. It only takes an hour and 15 minutes to drive there from Reykjavik.
GPS Coordinates: 64° 3’57.40″N 20°38’37.82″W
These festivals is just a small example of all the things going on here in Iceland. While you are driving around here, you are most likely bound to come across one or two festivals here and there. If you do, just join in. We are sure everybody will be so happy to have you.
Happy travels! #WohoCamper
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