In Iceland during summer, in spite of the fickle weather, we love being outside listening to music and enjoying time with our friends – especially during the long bright summer nights. That’s why we have various “Útihátíð” or “outdoor festivals”. As you might notice, many of the festivals are connected to fish. How surprising! Still, fish is usually not the main thing there, but the music. Haven’t you always dreamed about enjoy spending time outside, listening to Icelandic pop music that you’ve never heard before, meeting new people and eating good lobster soup from a plastic cup? Here are some of my favourite festivals in Iceland.
Beginning of July – Neskaupsstaður
This is a rock music festival, held between the beautiful mountains and fjords of the east, inside the sports venue. Though focusing on metal rock, the music is various, everything from hard metal rock to soft pop music. The bands playing are mostly Icelandic, but with the occasional foreign band. Note: Not to be confused with Neistaflug, a family Festival in Neskaupsstaður.
July 23rd – Borgarfjörður Eystra
At Bræðslan you can find all the best musicians of Iceland gathered in one place. The focus is on friendly atmosphere and having fun. Music is for everyone; mostly indie, rock and pop. This festival is becoming increasingly popular and often sold out. The location is stunning, a small remote village in a fjord far north-east. The concerts are inside a 40 year old fish factory and only 800 tickets are sold. If you don’t have a ticket you can also check out the off venue events the days before.
Irish days & Lopapeysan
Beginning of July – Akranes
This peninsula, only 40 minutes from the capital was settled by two irish brothers slightly after the year 880. To celebrate this celtic roots, the town is decorated with the irish flags ones a year. There are various events, like a competition about the most redhaired icelander. This festival is mainly a family festival in the daytime with sports, markets, fishing and sandcastles ending with a dance/concerts by the harbour called Lopapeysan (icelandic wool sweater).
Late July – Fáskrúðsfjörður
In late 19th century, in mountainous landscapes in east Iceland, French fishermen came here to fish, mostly from Brittany, and this tiny village was one of their headquarters. This festival has the main focus on family fun and honoring the friendship with France. There are events like church concerts, pétanque tournament (french sport), harmonica dance, a run (Tour de Fáskrúðsfjörður), fireworks, and ending with a real countryside dance.
Bíldudals Grænar (Green beans)
End of June – Bíldudalur
Every second year in the beautiful Westfjords this culture festival takes place. There are art markets, a bonfire-barbeque, a strongest man competition (Vestfjarðavíkingurinn), and in the evening everyone sings together and there’s a outdoor dance underneath the (hopefully) clear, blue sky. The best thing about this festival is that many locals cook traditional recipes, and invite people to their homes to taste food or coffee. The sunset is magical in this fjord and there’s the option to do a midnight boat trip.
If you’re in Iceland during the summer and you’re driving around, I recommend visiting some of this festivals. They are the perfect example of Icelandic traditions of the small fishing villages, and always take place in beautiful natural surroundings.