ÞJÓÐHÁTÍÐ: How to Experience the People's Feast in Iceland

In the first week of August, around 10,000 people flock to the Iceland's only inhabited Westmann Island for a music festival on the edge of the world.

Aerial view over downtown Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrimskirkja church with rainbow and ocean, capital city of Iceland Photo © Getty Images/Lingxiao Xie

Location

Heimaey, Westmann Islands, Iceland 

Dates

Verslunarmannahelgi - the first weekend in August.

Description

All over Iceland, bonfires are lit and vodka is shared to celebrate the ratification of the country’s constitution in 1874, but Heimay hosts the mother of all parties. Some 10,000 people make like the local puffins and flock to the only inhabited Westmann island for a music festival on the edge of the world.

Scandinavian bands like Sigur Rós take to the stage, but the music is perhaps the least remarkable aspect of the event. For starters, the stage is in the shadow of a volcano, which last erupted in 1973. The chilly climate induces an extreme degree of heart- and hide-warming camaraderie, with singsongs rolling across the site between sets. At night, the festival hotfoots it to the huge bonfire halfway up the volcano.

Not that there’s much night, of course. Due to its position at the top of the map, Iceland experiences almost endless daylight during the summer, a situation that’s cruelly reversed during the winter. At the festival, roving bands of ‘sleep police’ kindly encourage catnappers not to waste the day. The gangs’ job is easy – most people are more interested in warming themselves with a bottle of vodka or a fellow Arctic beauty.

Level of Participation

5 – down vodka with sleep-deprived party animals on a frosty Icelandic island.

Essentials

Bring your thermal underwear and a strong constitution. 

Other Local Attractions

Surtsey Island was thrown up by a volcanic fissure in 1963. 

More infoReykjavic Tourist Information Centre

About the Author

Lanthy is a freelance travel writer and blogger based in New York City. She shares her adventures at home and abroad on her blog, nod 'n' simile. Her next great journey will be a trip around the world beginning in July.

Want to know more about Iceland? Check out our podcast. We chat about where to capture the best photos in Iceland, how to speak like a Viking (almost), and how a social policy got the country to the World Cup.

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