Thorrablot: the year starts with one of Iceland’s most unusual events: Thorrablot, which usually take place mid to end of January. Associated with heathen celebrations to pacify the God of Thunder, Thor, it is now the culinary highlight of the year. Brace yourself, though, because traditional delicacies include fermented shark meat and singed or jellied sheep washed down with Viking Brennivin schnapps. Restaurants get into the spirit with Thorrablot menus.
Sample product: Thomson Cities and Short Breaks offers two nights’ bed and breakfast in Reykjavik from £299 per person including flights.
Food and Fun Festival: the Icelandic restaurant scene has blossomed in recent years with organic produce and world-class chefs. This foodie festival showcases Iceland’s culinary expertise, with 12 international chefs designing a menu for 12 leading Reykjavik restaurants, ending with a cook-off, where each chef must create a three-course meal. Visit Foodandfun.is for next year’s dates.
Sample product: Cosmos Tourama has a four-night Images of Iceland break from £525 per person twin-share, taking in the Blue Lagoon and two days in Reykjavik.
Beer day: Iceland’s 75-year prohibition of beer was lifted in 1989 and is now marked on March 1 by a day of revelry across Reykjavik. Locals say the clean-tasting beer is a result of the pure water. While Iceland has some of the highest taxes on alcohol in Europe, prices are not as expensive as you’d think, with a large beer costing from £4.50.
Sample product: Discover the World has a three-night Reykjavik city break from £379 per person twin-share, including flights and transfers.
Rite of Spring: as the weather improves, all thoughts turn to banishing the long, dark days. New for 2006 is a spring music festival to help blow away the cobwebs with a mix of jazz, folk and world music acts. Acts confirmed so far include the Scottish Latin American folk fusion group, Salsa Celtica and Icelandic jazz–funk pioneers Mezzoforte. Dates confirmed for this year are April 27 to 30.
Sample product: Icelandair Holidays has return flights and two nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation from £385 per person twin-share in April.
Whale watching: Icelandic waters are home to over 20 of the 90 whale species with excellent conditions for feeding. The whale season starts in May and lasts until September. The easiest option for Moby Dick fans is Reykjavik harbour.
Sample product: ScanTours has three nights from £386 per person twin-share including flights, transfers and accommodation with whale-spotting from £40 per person in May.
Summer Solstice Festival: hot on the heels of Icelandic Independence Day on June 17, the Summer Solstice Festival celebrates the longest day of the year on June 21 and harks back to Viking times. Festivities are held throughout the country, with bonfires at midnight. Legend suggests if you roll naked in the dew, all your dreams will come true.
Sample product: Bales Worldwide has a 14-day Iceland Panorama package over the Solstice from £3,675 per person twin-share including flights, meals and accommodation in Reykjavik.
Reykholt Music Festival: this classical music festival is held at a church in the village of Reykholt. Clients can visit Reykholt’s geyser or relax in a thermal pool during the intermission. Back at the church, Schumann, Haydn and Beethoven recitals are performed by Iceland’s finest musical talent. Visit Vortex.is/festival/reykholt_eng.htm where dates will soon be published.
Sample product: Icelandair Holidays offers two nights near Reykholt from £425 per person twin-share including flights and bed and breakfast accommodation.
Flight of the puffling:the of every August, the Westman Islands become a hive of activity guaranteed to leave nature fans transfixed. An annual event, the flight of the puffling (baby puffin) sees millions of birds leave their nests in the cliffs of Heimaey. The islands are the most westerly breeding ground of Wigeon and Pied Wagtail.
Sample product: Naturetrek has a nine-day package focusing on Icelandic birdlife and mammals for £1,595 per person twin-share including flights, transfers, accommodation, some meals and guided activities.
Reykjavik International Film Festival: now in its third year, the Reykjavik International Film Festival aims to promote the Icelandic film industry. Icelandic directors’ films are previewed in ‘New Visions’, seminars feature international guest speakers, and a Human Rights programme is run annually in association with the children’s charity UNICEF. This year, the event takes place between September 28 and October 8. Visit Filmfest.is for details.
Sample product: Regent Holidays offers a two-night beak in Reykjavik from £350 per person twin-share including flights, transfers and breakfast.
Iceland Airwaves: this event started as a showcase for local DJs and has evolved into a full-blown music festival. With hot new bands from the US and Europe, it has helped to establish Iceland as an exciting destination for live music. The event will take place this year between October 18 and 22. Visit Icelandairwaves.com
Sample product: Icelandair Holidays offers an Early Bird Iceland Airwaves package from £349 per person twin-share including flights, two nights’ accommodation and an Iceland Airwaves universal entry pass from £349 per person for bookings before April 30.
Young Art Festival: the annual cultural event, inaugurated in 1992, celebrates Iceland’s young creative spirit with music, design, fashion, photography and theatre. Known locally as ‘Unglist’ (young art), the festival’s programme is packed with performers to showcase local talent. This year’s event will be held between November 4 and 12. Visit Visitreykjavik.is.
Sample product: Gold Medal offers three nights in Reykjavik from £305 per person twin-share, including flights and transfers.
The Yuletide Lads: Christmas festivities start early in Iceland with the switching on of the Christmas tree lights at Austurvöllur Square on December 4. December 12 marks the invasion of the ‘Yuletide Lads’, a group of 13 impish elves that go by a variety of monikers such as Gully Gawk, Window Peeper and Door Slammer. They come from the mountains bearing food and gifts for children.
Sample product: Thomson Cities has two nights’ bed and breakfast in Reykjavik from £291 per person twin-share including flights and transfers in December.