Iceland: Holidays, climate, national customs
The Icelandic National Day is June 17th.
Festival of Lights
At the beginning of February, Reykjavik celebrates the Festival of Lights. The exact date changes every year!
Since the serving of beer was legalized on March 1, 1989, there is a lot going on in the country’s pubs on this day.
Another holiday is Sumardagurinn fyrsti, the first day of summer on the first Thursday after April 18th
The Seemannsfeiertag takes place on June 5th and the Verslunermannahelgi, the employees holiday, takes place on the first Monday in August.
winter festival Þorrablót In Þorri, the fourth winter month, the mid-winter festival Þorrablót takes place. It was originally a festival of sacrifices, but today it is similar to Carnival.
public holidays or festive days Otherwise, as in Germany, there are the following public holidays:
January 1st (New Year); Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday; May 1st (Labor Day); Ascension, Pentecost; Bankholiday (August 5th); Christmas Eve (from 12:00 on December 24th); Christmas (December 25th and 26th); New Year’s Eve (from 12:00 on December 31st).
Source: Countryaah – Iceland Holidays
|January 21st – February 20||The co- winter festival ablorrablót. A revitalized Viking tradition, with old Icelandic dishes such as cured lamb or fermented shark and dried fish.|
|February 7-10 (2013)||Festival of Lights in February in Reykjavik. (The date changes annually)|
|February 25-28||Food and Fun, the annual gourmet festival with well-known guest chefs and the best Icelandic chefs|
|March April||One of the musical highlights of the year takes place at Easter with numerous concerts|
|May June||The annual art festival of the city of Reykjavik offers a stage from May 14th to June 5th for international and national artists of all genres.|
|June August||Marathon time in Iceland: at Lake Mývatn in northern Iceland, the midnight sun marathon, the highland marathon (55 km) from one highland pearl to the next (Landmannalaugar – Þórsmörk), or a multi-distance marathon in Reykjavík.|
|First weekend in June||Festival of the Sea, after the traditional sailors’ holiday celebrated in every port in the country.|
|June 21||Longest day of the year|
|June 23-26||Arctic Open – a very special kind of golf tournament. It takes place under the bright midnight sun in Akureyri and lasts until dawn.|
|July 22-24||The classical music festival in Reykholt|
|August 6th – 7||Gay pride. Homosexuals celebrate in downtown Reykjavík.|
|20th of August||Cultural night in Reykjavik to mark the city’s anniversary (Aug. 18). The highlight of the night is a large firework display.|
|the beginning of October||Annual jazz festival in Reykjavík|
National customs and peculiarities
A special national custom is the adoption of the paternal first name as the surname. Son, for son or dottir, for daughter is added to the father’s name. In the event of marriage, the respective surname remains.
Alcoholic beverages can only be bought in state monopoly shops in Iceland, not in supermarkets or other shops.
The so-called beer day is celebrated on March 1st of each year. On this day, in 1989, the 75-year beer ban, which had been issued because of the excessive drinking habits at the time, and not least because of the influence of numerous abstinence associations, ended on this day.
The Icelandic alphabet has 32 letters, with some letters unknown in our alphabet.
Trolls and Elves The
belief in trolls and elves is so strong that there is even an appropriate representative
The following table shows a range of climate data for the country. It should be noted, however, that the climatic conditions in different regions of the country can differ from each other and thus also from the values shown. In addition, such monthly temperature averages say little about the possible current minimum or maximum temperatures. It is not uncommon for average temperatures in July and August of around 15 °C on a number of days to reach maximum values of 25 °C or even more at times. The table therefore only provides a general overview of the climatic conditions in the country.
|Month||Average number of rainy days||Mean maximum temperatures in (°C)||Mean minimum temperatures in (°C)|
|January||19-21||at 02||at 2 o’clock|
|February||16-18||at 03||at 2 o’clock|
|December||19-21||at 02||at 2 o’clock|
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that IS stands for the nation of Iceland as a two-letter acronym.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Thingvellir National Park (2004)
Thingvellir is located in the south of Iceland near the Reykjanes Peninsula.
The national park is enclosed by four active volcanoes. There is evidence that the legislative assembly of the “Althing” was held here as early as 930, and the Icelandic parliament – the Althing – met every summer until 1798. On June 17, 1944, the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed from this historic place.
The Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park has the largest waterfall in Europe, the Gullfoss waterfall. The park has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2004. It is particularly worth mentioning that here the Eurasian and North American plates meet and that this plate tectonics above sea level can nowhere be observed as well as here. In the park there are therefore deep crevices filled with glacier water, which are also an Eldorado for divers.
Surtsey volcanic island (2008)
This island was formed by a submarine volcanic eruption on November 14, 1963 about 30 km off the south coast of Iceland and represents the southernmost point of Iceland. The island was named after Surt, the northern fire giant and enemy of the sir.
There is currently a research station on the island and the island is under nature protection and may only be entered for scientific purposes.
The volcanic island was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008.
Vatnajökull National Park (2019)
The approximately 12,000 km² Vatnajökull National Park is located in southeast Iceland.
It was established in 2008 on the foundations of the Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárgljúfur Reservoir. The Vatnajökull glacier covers an area of around 8,100 km² with a maximum thickness of around 900 m and an ice volume of around 3.3.00 km². It has about 30 runners.
The glacier is the largest glacier in Europe – outside the polar region. Vatnajökull National Park was added to the list of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites in 2019
Cities with over 5,000 residents
The port city of Akranes is located north of Reykjavík and has around 7,100 residents.
Here there is a relatively large and worth seeing open-air and local history museum, in which a mineral collection and a boat and fishing museum can be seen.
Iceland’s oldest surviving fishing trawler is also here.
A department of the museum has the National Institute for Land Surveying as well as for tunneling under the Hvalfjörður (see below)
The two local lighthouses from 1918 and 1946 are also worth seeing. A sculpture commemorates 11 young people who died in 1905 when the ship Hafmeyjan sank had come.
The port city of Akureyri has around 18,600 residents. The island of Grímsey has been part of the municipality since May 31, 2009. Grímsey is a 5.3 km² island 40 km north of the north coast of Iceland.
The Arctic Circle (66 ° 30`) runs over the island and it is also the northernmost inhabited area of Iceland.
Gardabar (Garðabær) has about 14,200 residents and is located in the southwest of Iceland. The Icelandic Museum of Design and Applied Arts, founded in 1998, is worth mentioning.
In addition, the white concrete church Vídalínskirkja from 1995 and the older Garðakirkja and the town hall tower that can be seen from afar
Iceland’s third largest city with a little under 29,000 residents is practically a southern suburb of Reykjavík. A large part of the city stands on an 8,000 year old lava field.
The area around the harbor with its many shops and restaurants is well worth a visit. From the numerous vantage points in the city you also have a wonderful view over the city and the harbor.
The port city of Keflavik has around 8,200 residents and is located in the southwest of the country.
The harbor is worth seeing with some historical buildings, such as the red house of the Danish merchant Peter Duus from the 19th century.
Nearby is the fisherman’s memorial by the Icelandic artist Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893-1882, who also received international recognition.
The small church Keflavíkurkirkja from 1915 and the white and blue lighthouse Vatnsnesviti are also worth seeing.
Kopavogur is the second largest city in the country with around 32,500 residents and is located in the south-west of the country.
In the city, the Gerðarsafn Museum, opened in 1994, houses an extensive art collection that specializes in the works of Icelandic artists
, including works by the sculptor Gerður Helgadóttir (1928-1975). The windows of the Kópavogskirkja, consecrated in 1963, for example, come from her.
Also worth mentioning is the Natural History Museum (Náttúrufræðistofa Kópavogs), where you can find out more about the zoology and geology of the country.
The capital of Iceland is located in the southwest of the island. Most of the Icelanders live here and every year more people are drawn to the city.
A hundred years ago, Reykjavík was less than ten thousand people, while today it has a population of 119,000. This means that the city is not a metropolis of millions, but it is the lively heart of the country.
Even if Reykjavík does not have many attractions, it is still worth visiting the city. Continue here >>>
Selfoss has about 7,200 residents and is located in the southwest of the country.
It is certainly historically interesting that the British Army stationed soldiers here until 1941, three of whom were killed in an air raid by the Germans in February 1941.
Since the city is located at the intersection of the southwestern volcanic zone and the southern crevice zone, earthquakes occur here again and again. This was taken into account when building the local houses.
Special buildings and streets
Adalstraeti is the main street with the oldest buildings in Reykjavik, at Adalstraeti 10 you will find the oldest house in the city from 1764.
In 2001 archaeological remains were discovered here that date from around 870 AD – with some uncertainty from 2 years. The finds can be viewed in the land acquisition pavilion.
The residence of the president is on a peninsula. It was built in 1763 and was one of the first stone buildings in Iceland.
Offices The Prime Minister’s offices include a small white building on Lækjargata in Reykjavik, which was originally built in 1771 as a prison.
Geothermal hydropower plants
In Iceland there are a total of 10 geothermal hydropower plants that generate electricity with the help of geothermal energy. Reykjavík’s district heating system supplies the city and some of the surrounding areas with hot thermal water.
The deepest borehole for the district heating is over 3,000 m deep. About 55% of Icelanders get their heat from Reykjavík’s geothermal district heating.
Höfði, the guest house of the city of Reykjavík, dates back to 1909. The Höfðihaus became world-famous in 1986. On October 11th and 12th, the first summit meeting between Ronald Reagen and Mikhail Gorbachev took place there, which was the first step towards ending the Cold War represented.
Hall Reykjavik’s new City Hall was inaugurated in April 1992. It stands on the north bank of the Tjörn town pond. What is striking is a large relief on the exterior that depicts Iceland.
The upper floors of the modern building contain offices and conference rooms, the ground floor is accessible to visitors until 10 p.m.
The Parliament Building in Reykjavik was built in 1881 from black basalt. The front of the building looks rather unadorned, only a small balcony and a Danish coat of arms adorn the house.
The futuristic building is located on the hill Öskjulið. The water, which is transported via pipelines from the geothermal power plant Nesjavellir, is stored in the hot water tanks. The saga museum is also located in one of the tanks. In the glass dome of the building you can eat well in a gourmet restaurant.
The museum village Arbær is located east of the center of Reykjavik on the river Elliðaá. The museum was opened in 1957. Houses from all over the country were brought to Reykjavik and rebuilt on the grounds of the open air museum, including a church from Silfrastaðir in northern Iceland.
In addition to the architecture, interior design and fashion from past centuries, on some Sundays you can also see how people used to live and work. The museum is only open in the summer months and sometimes on public holidays.
District Museum in Skogar
The museum – partly housed in historical buildings – has a very well-known collection of Icelandic tools and implements as well as handicrafts and handicrafts.
The exhibition gives a good impression of the life of the “normal” Icelandic 100 to 150 years ago.
Vesturfarasetrid emigration center
This center in Hofsos documents the causes and history of the mass emigration to the USA between 1870 and 1914, as well as the conditions there for immigrants from Iceland.
The center opened in 1996. The center is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from mid-June to September.
Ghost exhibition in Eyrarbakki
In the coastal town of Eyrarbakki you can admire ghosts that sometimes appear surprisingly out of the darkness.
Visitors receive a CD player that “tells” them 24 ghost stories – while the visitor looks at the associated illustrations, enjoys them or is scared.
Glacier exhibition in Höfn
In the village of Höfn in the south-east of the country, visitors can find out in detail about the formation, development and behavior of glaciers. You can also learn a lot of interesting facts about Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull.
Icelandic Phallological Museum
This museum is probably the only one of its kind in the world where you can see the phalluses (penises) of all mammals in the country. The Phallus Museum now has more than 100 phalluses and phallic parts from almost all land and marine mammals in Iceland. There are 30 specimens of 12 species of whale, 1 specimen of a bear, 18 specimens of 7 seal and walrus species and 51 specimens of 16 species of land mammals, or a total of 100 specimens of 36 animal species.
pavilion in Reykjavik In the building there is an exhibition that shows the life and customs at the time of the land grab of Iceland. Via multimedia, visitors can get a very clear picture of the living conditions of the people at that time. The land grabbing, i.e. the settlement of Iceland, began around 870 with the immigration of a few hundred settlers from Scandinavia.
Land acquisition center in Borgarnes
This exhibition opened in 2006 in two of the oldest and interconnected houses in Borgarnes – on Borgarfjörður in the Vesturland region. Here visitors are introduced to the conquest of Iceland up to the founding of the Icelandic Parliament (Athingi) in 930 AD by audio guide in four languages. A second part of the exhibition is also dedicated to the saga hero Egill Skallagrimsson. The land grabbing, i.e. the settlement of Iceland, began around 870 with the immigration of a few hundred settlers from Scandinavia.
The National Library of Iceland “Þjóðarbókhlaðan” Arngrímsgata is right next to the National Museum in Reykjavík.
The National Gallery, the Listasafn Islands building, used to be a freezer store. After that a disco was housed in it. In 1971 the building fell victim to a fire and was converted into the National Gallery by 1988.
The National Museum Þjóðminnjasafnið was founded in 1863. In 1952 it moved to the current building. Here the visitor gets the best overview of the history of Iceland from the 9th century until today. There you can see documents from the Viking Age, ecclesiastical works of art and objects from everyday life.
The cathedral was built at the end of the 18th century and was consecrated in 1796 when Reykjavík became the bishopric. The building got its current appearance after a renovation in 1847.
The church was consecrated in 1986 after more than 40 years of construction. It was designed by the Icelandic state architect Guðjón Samúelsson. There is a viewing platform in the church tower. In front of the church is the statue of the probably first (before Columbus) discoverer of America, Leifur Eiríksson.
Landakotskirkja (also Krists konungs Basilica)
The Christ the King Basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in all of Iceland. It functions as the cathedral of the Reykjavík diocese, which incidentally includes all of Iceland. The church, also known as Kristskirkja, was made a papal minor basilica in 1999 and is located on a hill in the west of Reykjavík. It was designed by the architect Guðjón Samúelsson and inaugurated in 1929. As a special characteristic, the new Gothic house of God has a flat topped tower that does without a helmet tip.
In addition, there has been an elf school in Reykjavík since 1995, in which tourists can also find out about the problems of elves. The historian Magnús Skarphédinsson helps with this.
University and Magnússon Institute
The University and the Magnússon Institute . The university, which was founded in 1911, has between 4,000 and 5,000 students in nine different faculties. In 1940 the Icelandic University in Reykajvík was able to move out of the parliament building and into the current building. The Magnússon Institute is housed in one of the university buildings on Suðurgata. There are the oldest manuscripts of the Icelandic texts.
University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands)
The university, founded in 1911, is the oldest university in Iceland. It also offers its students the largest range of courses in the country. The university, which is curiously financed by a college lottery, is currently attended by around 9,000 students.
University of Reykjavík (Háskólinn í Reykjavík)
It is a bit more expensive in this (by the way largest Icelandic) private university, because there are between 128,000 and 625,000 ISK of tuition fees per semester. The university, which is very closely linked to business, has existed since 1998.
Anyone visiting Iceland shouldn’t miss a walk through a lava field from the inside. From below you can find stalagmites growing out of ice and above hanging stalactites made of rock.
In the approximately 50 km long solidified lava field Hallmundarhraun there are, for example, several caves that are reminiscent of underground train shafts. The Hallmundarhraun lava, which emerged about 1,100 years ago, had a temperature of over 1,000 °C, which meant that it was relatively thin and therefore moved very quickly. Obstacles on their way into the valley had dammed up the hot lava, so that it cooled down relatively quickly at the edges and turned into solid lava rock, while the lava inside could flow away.
The name “Hallmundar” comes from a troll who is said to have lived in a cave and, according to a well-known Icelandic legend, was visited by Grettir the Strong, an outlaw.
The longest lava cave in the Hallmundarhraun lava field is the approximately 4 km long Kalmanshellir, which visitors are not allowed to enter.
The 1,970 m long Surtshellir lava cave can be visited. It is located around 8 km northeast of Kalmanstunga, west of the Langjökull glacier. Its name is derived from the Germanic fire giant Surt – the enemy of the Aesir.
The cave is separated from the Stefanshellir lava cave by a 35 m long collapse area and therefore basically forms a cave system.
The Íshellir lava cave (ice cave) is located south of the lava field, the floor of which is partly covered by ice all year round.
The lava cave has a length of 1,520 m and is separated from the Surtshellir lava cave by a 35 m long collapse area and therefore basically forms a cave system.
The approximately 1,585 m long Viðgelmir lava cave is located about 11 km northeast of Húsafell and is one of the largest lava caves. The cave lies at a depth of around 40 m and has a height of up to 16 m. The temperature inside fluctuates between 2 and 5 °C.
Since 2016, an easily accessible path made of wooden blanks and stairs has led through the front part of the lava cave. However, a visit is only possible as part of a guided tour, with protective helmets and lamps being made available to the visitor. Human remains, possibly from Vikings, have been found in the cave.
More natural beauties
The Esja is a 914 meter high elevation, which is about 10 kilometers away from Reykjavik. The “mountain”, which can be classified as a volcanic mountain range, inspires in particular with its easternmost peaks, which are called Moskarðshnúkar and shine unusually bright. Responsible for this natural spectacle is the rhyolite (also called liparite), a material that can always be found in the center of central volcanoes. The Esja is popular with the Reykjaviks as a recreational area as well as for climbing and hiking tours. The best hiking trails lead to the Þverfellshorn and the 851 meter high Kerhólakambur.
The Blue Lagoon has hot springs and geysers. The natural geothermal bath is located about 40 km from Reykjavík, near Keflavík Airport. It is located in the middle of black sand beaches and lava fields. There is a bus to the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavík Station.
This river in southwest Iceland is fed by several headwaters that arise from the Bláfjöll volcano and cross Reykjavik. The Elliðaá passes by Lake Elliðavatn and on the western outskirts near the Árbær Museum. Interesting are the smaller waterfalls that the river forms on its way to the Atlantic within the urban area of Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is located on Faxaflói Bay, which belongs to the Atlantic Ocean and extends below the 900 meter high mountain Esja. Faxaflói is very wide and offers a fantastic view of the Akranes Peninsula and Snæfellsjökull, about 120 km away, from its banks on a clear day. The Faxaflói, the southeastern branch of which is the Kollafjörður fjord, also serves as the town’s important fishing area.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a gorge up to 100 m deep and about 2 km long in the southeast of the country. The eponymous river Fjaðrá flows through the gorge and flows into the Atlantic after about 25 km. The origins of the gorge go back about two million years. It is located near the ring road in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. A waterfall on the west side of the gorge can be admired from a viewing platform at the end of a 1 km hike on the eastern edge of the gorge
Strokkur geyser The Strokkur
geyser, from which an approximately 20 meter high water and steam fountain shoots up about every 10 minutes. It is located in the southwest of the country.
Langjökull Glacier The Langjökull
glacier is the second largest glacier in Iceland with a current area of around 925 km². Its maximum ice thickness is 580 m.
Since May 2015 there has been an artificially created glacier tunnel approx. 500 m in length about 30 m below the surface of the glacier. The glacier tunnel can be visited as part of a guided tour, whereby spikes must be worn under the shoes.
At the deepest point of the tunnel there is a small chapel where, among other things, you can get married.
The Glymur is the highest waterfall on the islands with a height of 196 m.
Gullfoss, the largest waterfall in Europe, is located in Thingvellir National Park.
Hitardal is a bizarre lava landscape.
On the small island north of Reykjavík you have the opportunity to see puffins.
The Hraunfossar (hraun = lava) are over 100 waterfalls lying next to each other, which pour into the river Hvítá over a width of approx. 700 m.
The water of the waterfalls comes from the over 1,000 year old Hallmundarhraun lava field. The Hraunfossar are located north of the Ok volcano – the Barnafoss waterfall is nearby.
Here you will find a hotel, a campsite and numerous scenic hiking trails.
The summer nights are bright all over Iceland. In June, the midnight sun is excellent to watch, especially in the north of the country.
The Skógafoss waterfall is 62 m high. It is located on the south coast of the country.
This beautiful recreational area near Reykjavík offers not only many hiking and biking trails, but also riding stables, riding trails, a small ski lift and a swimming pool. The nature lovers will find picturesque little forests with birch, fir, förhen and spruce trees. Ornithologists also get their money’s worth, as a total of around 60 species of birds use the forest area as a natural habitat.
This lake in Reykjavik, known as the “pond”, is one of the most famous lakes in Iceland. It’s really picturesque and provides a natural habitat for ducks, geese, swans and other birds. Its location in the middle of the city is also interesting. Important buildings such as the town hall, the famous Menntaskóli Reykjavíkur school, the Icelandic National Museum and the University of Háskóli Íslands are located on or near the lake.
The Vatnajökull glacier covers an area of 8,100 km² and, with its ice volume of 3,000 km³, is the largest glacier in Europe.
Vatnajökull National Park
In June 2008 this national park in which the glacier of the same name is located was re-established. The park covers an area of approx. 12,000 km².
In addition to the glacier region of the Vatnajökull glacier, the Skaftafell National Park and the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park are located in the newly established park.
The 1,666 m high volcano with the almost unpronounceable name “Eyjafjallajökull” is located on the extreme southern tip of Iceland. It was climbed for the first time on August 17, 1793 by the Icelandic doctor and naturalist Sveinn Pálsson (1762-1840).
The people in the rest of Europe became aware of the volcano because, as a result of a series of eruptions – beginning on March 20, 2010 – ash was thrown so high into the atmosphere that air traffic had to be suspended for several days in large parts of northern and central Europe.
a result of an eruption on May 21, 2011, this 1,725 m high volcano brought air traffic to a standstill in Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover and Berlin for a few hours a few days later. In Iceland, visibility around the volcano was temporarily only a few meters. The volcano is located in the Icelandic highlands in the southeast of the island and is one of the most active volcanoes in the country – it erupts on average every 10 years.
This fissure is located where the European and North American continental plates drift apart – about 2 cm per year. The visibility in the water of the crevice is extremely good with up to 100 m. This natural phenomenon can be found in the Thingvellir National Park – about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik.
Heimaey is a 13.4 km ”island, which is about km south of Iceland in the Atlantic. The town of Heimaey with the same name and around 4,300 residents is located on the island.
The residents live mainly from fishing.
On January 23, 1973, a new volcano, the Eldfell, erupted near the city. Fortunately, with the help of the local fishing boats, the people could be brought to safety, so that no people were harmed.
But around 100 buildings were destroyed by the lava and parts of the city were partially buried up to 8 m under volcanic ash. However, most of the buildings were uncovered in the months that followed by residents and numerous volunteers.
The volcanoes Helgafell and Eldfell can be climbed. The cinder cone of the Eldfell is 200 m high and that of the Helgafell is 227 m high.