Your Celebratory Guide to Festivals in Iceland

Explore the vibrant cultural scene and festivals in Iceland through our blog post. Here are the most exciting festivals happening across the country!

blog authorBy Johanna Sigurðardóttir shield verificationVerified Expert

Icelanders are a nation that doesn’t need any excuse to celebrate and have a party. From national holidays to music, and art – you’ll have your pick of festivals in Iceland throughout the year. And whilst many tend to add a few local events to their trip itineraries whilst on the island, some actually book trips around certain festivities here.

Irrespective of which category you fall in, this article will give you a good idea of which types of festivals you will find here on the island and which might be worth a perfectly-planned trip to Iceland.

Festivals in Iceland

The following are the different types of festivals that Iceland has:

Art Festivals

These are not necessarily art in the literal sense but take on more of a cultural angle. So, art festivals here in Iceland can range from showcasing local and international art pieces as well as performance art such as dancing or theatre, and also extend to literary works.

Music Festivals

The music festivals held here on the island encompass a wide variety of genres such as rock, EDMS, experimental, folk, jazz, and much, much more. It honestly doesn’t matter what your preference is, you will find at least one music festival dedicated to your style of music. Line-ups can range from local musicians to international acts.

Festivals in Iceland

National Holidays

As with any other country in the world, Iceland has national holidays that evoke celebrations all across the island. These can range from holidays celebrated globally such as Christmas and New Year, to country-specific holidays such as the Icelandic National Day and the First Day of Summer.

Odd Traditions

Some festivities are steeped in tradition and commemorating the Icelandic culture and heritage. And whilst some of these may seem a bit odd, they are always a lot of fun. Good examples of these are Jolabokaflod and Dalvikurbyggo.

Jolabokaflod translates to ‘the Christmas book flood’ and this is based on the tradition that Icelanders tend to give each other books for Christmas. This tradition has obviously led to a staggering increase in demand for the festive season, and Jolabokflod was the solution to supply.

Every year, thousands of books are scheduled for release right before Christmas, so there are plenty of new books to choose from for the Christmas tree.

Dalvikurbyggo aka ‘The Great Fish Day’ commemorates the close relationship Icelanders have with the fishing industry, both past and present. It is held in Dalvik every year and is essentially an invitation to a giant free seafood buffet. Definitely not a bad way to spend the day.

Iceland festival traditions

The Top 15 Annual Festivals in Iceland

Below are some of the most popular festivals and events held every year that are known to draw visitors to the island:

Reykjavik Food & Fun Festival

When: March

Where: Reykjavik

The Reykjavik Food & Fun Festival is exactly what it sounds like; a family fun day in the capital city where everyone is stuffing their faces with delicious local cuisine. Some of the city’s best restaurants take part in the festival, so it’s not to be missed if you are a bit of a foodie.

Reykjavik Arts Festival

When: June

Where: Reykjavik

The Reykjavik Arts Festival is a good example of one of the festivals that brings out the cultural best of local and international talent. Whether it’s art, street performance, or music – the Reykjavik Arts Festival showcases it all, all across the capital city.

Reykjavik Winter Light Festival

When: February

Where: Reykjavik

When the winter darkness becomes a bit much, Icelanders combat it with light and festivities. The Reykjavik Winter Light Festival is celebrated at various venues all throughout the municipalities of the capital region, and you can look forward to things such as a light art display at Hallgrimskirkja, light-inspired art installations at the Reykjavik City Hall, and even special events at local swimming pools that offer free entry for the night.

LungA Art Festival

When: July

Where: Seydisfjordur

LungA Art Festival is another cultural event here on the island, but along with all the festivities, exhibitions, and concerts, you can find lectures as well as workshops to attend. And all of this is done and presented by leading experts in their field, both locally as well as internationally.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by LungA (@lunga.festival)

Secret Solstice Music Festival

When: June

Where: Reykjavik

The Secret Solstice is definitely not your usual music festival and is one of the largest music festivals here in Iceland. The festival serves to celebrate the longest day of the year (which here is essentially 24 hours long, since the sun never really sets during a Midnight Sun).

At the Secret Solstice, you will find various “stages” where local and international acts perform. These include a 5000-year-old lava tunnel and a glacier cave. This is an Iceland music festival that definitely offers a unique experience.

Viking Festival

When: June

Where: Hafnarfjördur

The Viking Festival is a family-friendly event that will bring out the child in even the oldest amongst us. During this festival you are essentially transported back in time, walking through the Viking Village with your fellow Vikings, buying a few souvenirs, taking part in a Viking feast, and even being privy to some spectacular “battles”. We cannot recommend attending this festival enough!


When: March

Where: Reykjavik

This Reykjavik festival encompasses everything design – from architecture, and product design to interior, furniture, and much more. During the DesignMarch festival you will be treated to talks from the leading experts in their fields, get to see incredible exhibitions, and get a glimpse into what the future of innovative design holds.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by DesignMarch (@designmarch)

Siglufjördur Folk Festival

When: July

Where: Siglufjördur

The Siglufjördur Folk Festival is incredibly special. This festival that started as an intimate event created by locals has grown into a full-fledged 5-day-long festival. During the festival you will be treated to all sorts of Icelandic and Scandinavian music and dancing, you can choose to attend workshops or listen to some folklore – and to experience all of this in a place that has some of the most breathtaking views across mountains and fjords here in Iceland – simply indescribable!

Reykjavik Pride Parade

When: August

Where: Reykjavik

Pride Parades are a fairly global phenomenon, and this annual event is a much-loved event in Iceland each year. What once started as a protest action with just 1500 onlookers has grown into a week-long festival that’s filled with festivities all across the capital and that draws visitors from all around the world. The Reykjavik Pride Parade should be on your August Iceland trip itinerary whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or not.

Reykjavik Culture Night

When: August

Where: Reykjavik

Reykjavik Culture Night is quite literally celebrated in every inch of the capital city; in the streets, various venues, the squares, and even inside people’s private gardens. Everywhere you go you are met with music, poetry, art, theatrical performances, and much more. Truly a night to remember!

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by JLQ (@jlqtube)

The Lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower

When: All year long

Where: Reykjavik

As you might’ve already gathered from the name, this tower is dedicated to John Lennon and what he stood for as he once made very clear to the world in his hit song, Imagine. The Imagine Peace Tower is not really a tower at all, but rather multiple beams of light that form a column shooting 10 meters up into the sky.

It is lit at certain periods throughout the year, and the lighting comes along with its fair share of fanfare and celebrations. It’s definitely something worth attending if you’re a fan of John Lennon or simply a fan of his ideologies.

Iceland Airwaves Music Festival

When: November

Where: Reykjavik

Iceland Airwaves is yet another one of Iceland’s biggest music festivals held in the capital city of Reykjavik. This festival boasts an incredible line-up of multiple music genres brought to you by local and international talent. This is an event not to be missed for all the music lovers out there.

Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF)

When: September/October

Where: Reykjavik

The Reykjavik International Film Festival is one for all those who love cinematography. This festival brings you talks from the experts and showings of some of the most critically acclaimed local as well as international films of the year, and you should not be surprised if you bump into your favorite actress or actor at one of the local RIFF party venues.

Reykjavik Jazz Festival

When: August

Where: Reykjavik

The Reykjavik Jazz Festival is a world-renowned festival that draws jazz lovers as well as prestigious jazz acts from all across the world each year. Grab the opportunity to listen to your favorite artist live or be introduced to a new artist on the jazz scene. This Reykjavik music festival is the second longest-running music festival on the island and is growing from strength to strength each year.

Dark Music Days Festival

When: January

Where: Reykjavik

The Dark Music Days Festival is yet another attempt to lighten the dark winter days with beautiful music. Most acts are on the classic side, with one of the main attractions being the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. So, if you are a classical music fan, this one’s for you.

The Festivals in Iceland; a Celebration of Life

With so many festivals and events all throughout the year, it is clear that whilst Icelanders keep to traditions, are a culturally rich nation, and enjoy a public holiday or two, or three, or four… these celebrations have deeper roots. Ultimately, it’s about celebrating life and the fact that we can enjoy the things we find interesting and share them with our loved ones.

If any of the festivals that are a bit “out of the way” on the island takes your fancy, don’t let distance stop you from experiencing it. Simply rent a car in Reykjavik and make a road trip out of it. We hope to see you at our next celebration!

Reserve a rental car in Iceland instantly!

Book Now