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Extensive travel and tourism guide for Iceland, Europe

Events and Celebrations in 2003

Festivity in a Distinctive Setting

Whatever time of year you’re in Iceland, there’ll be something going on that will take your fancy. Sometimes it’s a familiar festivity in a distinctive Icelandic setting, and sometimes it’s a charming local custom that will grab your imagination. Then there are regular cultural and leisure events, indoors and outside, to keep you entertained and busy for the whole of your stay.

Check out these regular features on the Icelandic calendar:

Cultural season. Music, art and theatre scene gets back into full swing with programmes for all interest groups.

Jan. 24th—Feb. 23rd
Midwinter feast (Þorrablót). An ancient Viking tradition – feasting on “delicacies” such as boiled sheep head and rotten shark meat as well as more edible goodies. Be brave just once a year.

Festival of Lights in Reykjavík. Dedicated to the theme of light and energy, an exciting public festival centred around Laugardalur Park.

February 26—March 2
Food & Fun. An annual food festival featuring well-known, visiting chefs competing right along with Iceland´s finest culinary masters. The festival is also a chance for restaurants to strut their stuff. A delight for the taste buds.

March 1
Beer Day. Beer was only legalized in Iceland in 1989 and people celebrate the big day in suitable style on the anniversary every year.

March 3—5
Bursting time. Fill up before Lent, with all the cream buns you can eat on “Bun Monday” and oversized helpings of salted meat and mushy peas on “Bursting Tuesday.” Then on Ash Wednesday, watch the children dressed up in the streets, singing and playing pranks.

One of the peaks of the musical year, with diverse concert programmes. Plus chocolate eggs of huge proportions, smoked lamb and a time for families to relax together. The skiing season peaks.

Trout fishing season in lakes and rivers around the country.

April 24
First Day of Summer. Icelanders still welcome the end of winter and start of summer – a national holiday – with colourful parades and entertainment in the streets.

Whale watching season. With thousands of whales just off its shores, Iceland offers more chances of sightings than just about anywhere else in the world.

Bird time. Puffins, Arctic terns and rarer migrant birds zoom in from the south, bringing summer with them.

Miss Iceland beauty contest. One look at Miss Iceland and you’ll definitely miss Iceland when you leave!

Marathon time. Fresh air and scenery that’ll take your breath away, including: Mývatn Midnight Sun Marathon (north Iceland, June 21); Highland Marathon (55 km of uninhabited landscapes between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk nature reserves, south highlands); and Reykjavík International Marathon (several distances around the city, August 16).

Salmon fishing season. Clean air and rivers make Iceland one of the best places in the world for anglers. Make sure to book your rods well in advance.

Festival time. Communities all around the country stage fun celebrations on local themes.

Early June
Festival of the Sea. Based on the old Icelandic tradition of Seamen´s Day, the festival runs the first weekend of June and honours those that make their living from the sea. However, the festival has been modernised of late. It now includes numerous cultural activities, parades, arts and crafts activities for kids, food fairs, sailing competitions and new residents of Iceland are given the opportunity to share their unique cultures.

June 1
Seamen’s Day. First Sunday in June, with fun and games at every harbour in this country of fishermen and seafarers.

June 17
National Day. Icelanders take to the streets to celebrate independence (since 1944). Colourful ceremonies followed by parades, street theatre, sideshows and outdoor dancing in the midnight sun, all over the country.

June 21
Summer solstice. Gatherings to celebrate the magic of the midnight sun on the longest day of the year.

June 25—28
Arctic Open International Golf Tournament. In Akureyri just south of the Arctic Circle, tee off at midnight in bright sunshine and play through the night in a marvellous natural setting. Other open midnight-sun-tournaments are also held in Reykjavík and the Westman Islands (see

July 25—27
Reykholt Music Festival. “Classical music in a classic environment” in the beautiful church at the west Iceland site where saga writer Snorri Sturluson lived.

August 1—4
Bank Holiday weekend. On the first weekend in August, almost everyone goes off to camp at festivals around the country – everything from family events to wild rock festivals.

Flight of the Puffling. A sight not to be missed in Vestmannaeyjar off the south coast, when millions of baby puffins leave their nests and take to wing for the first time.

August 9—11
Gay pride. Gays and lesbians come out in force and style to parade and party in Reykjavík.

August 16
Reykjavík Cultural Night. To mark Reykjavík’s anniversary on August 16, bookstores and museums stay open into the closest Saturday night and artistic events are staged in the streets and at cafés, bars, and restaurants all over the capital, culminating in a massive fireworks display.

Cultural season. Concerts, opera, ballet, drama, visual arts – you name it, it’ll be on the season’s agenda somewhere in Reykjavík.

Culture festival time. Every year Reykjavík hosts a Jazz Festival and Film Festival – both of them international events with plenty of celebrated guests. Actually, September is not the only time for jazz and film lovers, since Egilsstaðir in the East stages an annual international jazz festival in August too, and there’s a festival of short films in Reykjavík every spring.

Sheep round-up. Colourful and lively time with plenty of song and merriment all around the countryside. Held at pens where farmers herd in the sheep they have rounded up from summer grazing in the wilds.

Icelanders go in for Christmas in a big way, with 13 separate Santa Clauses who play pranks and sing in the beautifully lit streets. Check out the delicious Christmas buffets and traditional festive season delicacies such as smoked lamb, ptarmigan and reindeer.

December 31
New Year’s Eve goes off with a bang with the biggest firework display you’ll probably ever see, everyone takes part. There are public bonfires and the merrymaking lasts right through to the following year.