Searching for a wildlife-filled spring getaway? Whether you want to admire exotic orchids, listen out for birdsong or spot a blue whale in the wild, Europe has something to offer. James Lowen, author of 52 European Wildlife Weekends, discusses the highlights.Read more...
Iceland - Calendar
Catch a glimpse of the northern lights
Visit Iceland in winter to be in with the best chance of seeing the northern lights © Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, Visit Reykjavik
Many make the winter pilgrimage to Iceland to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis. Created by solar storms, there’s nothing quite like watching the northern lights dance across the sky in all their green glory. For recommended tour operators running trips to see the northern lights, click here.
Iceland’s rich and unique design scene is celebrated in the annual DesignMarch festival, held at the Icelandic Museum of Design and Applied Art. Guests can check out everything from tanned fish-leather fashion accessories to inventive product design.
Iceland’s national day
Iceland’s national day (Þjóðhátiðargurinn) or independence holiday is on 17 June. Festivities normally include a big parade and picnics and a jubilant mood. People wear national dress and fly Icelandic flags – it’s a great time to visit because these are the longest days of the year.
International Viking Festival, Hafnarfjörður
The International Viking Festival is held in June © Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, Visit Reykjavik
Typically held in mid-June, the festival focuses around an outdoor market, swordfights, music, dancing, and your usual Renaissance fair fare but with a Viking twist.
Hike the Laugavegur Trail
Take advantage of July and what is likely the best weather of the year for Iceland. Locals get their summerhouse keys ready and head out chasing the midnight sun. Do the same and embark on the Laugavegur Trail (Laugavegurinn) that will take you from hot springs to snow fields, glaciers, mountains and lava fields over four breath-taking days of trekking.
Jazz Festival, Reykjavík
Reykjavík’s jazz scene goes way back to the very beginning and is known for its very eclectic expression and enthusiastic local following. More information about the annual festival can be found on its website.
In a heartfelt attempt to lure tourists up off the ring road, Dalvík hosts the annual Fiskidagur or ‘fish day’ festival in mid-August, which involves the townspeople stuffing you with copious amounts of seafood (for free). It’s a delicious distraction.
Horses play a big role in the annual roundup © Daria Medvedeva, Shutterstock
The roundup (réttir) takes place in the early autumn, between 1 and 30 September. After a summer of free grazing up in the highlands, the sheep are rounded up and chased back down to their respective farms. Icelanders show great skill on their horses, and it’s a time of outdoor activities like camping and horseriding – those who can experience this annual event in person, should.
Remember John Lennon at Yoko Ono’s Peace Memorial
The Imagine Peace Tower is lit up from October to December © Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, Visit Reykjavik
Yoko Ono’s peace tower, an installation that projects a beam of light into the sky is lit on John Lennon’s birthday 9 October each year and turned off on 8 December, the day of his death. Yoko set up the tower on Videy Island in memory of her husband and his message of peace. She has said she chose Iceland because the island is regularly voted the most peaceful country in the world.
Iceland Airwaves, Reykjavík
Iceland Airwaves is the mega-huge, much-talked-about music festival that rocks Reykjavík every October/November. The hype is well deserved and if you happen to be around, you’ll hear well-known international headliners play alongside Reykjavík’s many bands, both crazy and sane. Iceland Airwaves has been attracting huge headline groups in recent years.
Christmas village, Reykjavík
The Christmas village picks up at the end of November and is open every weekend until Christmas Day. It’s all about shopping and Santa Claus (and elves!), but with enough Icelandic flavour to make it credible.
New Year’s Eve
Fireworks form a part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations © Ragnar Th, Sigurdsson, Visit Reykjavik
New Year’s Eve (Gamlárskvöld) is the party to end all parties: Icelanders light giant bonfires and then blow up all kinds of fireworks – even winter-dark Reykjavík lights up like a rocket. Traditionally, New Year’s Eve has also been a time of magic, when humans could trick the hidden people into giving them gold.