Reykjavik – Celebrating New Year the Icelandic style

Happy New Year from Reykjavik

New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Reykjavik, and it’s all about the fireworks. The rules prohibiting fireworks are relaxed on New Year’s Eve, and households gleefully purchase boxes of them for the celebrations, because we all love an explosion, deep down.

Periodically throughout the days preceding the event, random explosions took place, when “test” fireworks were detonated, usually followed by another few bursts by neighbouring homes, because men people are inherently competitive.

Facing the Sea – honouring the fishermen of Iceland

It was our last full day in Reykjavik, but unless you want to walk about in the dark, there is not a great deal of point in getting up early, as it is not fully daylight until 11.00 am ish. There are 4.5 hours of true daylight at this time of year, with an extended twilight period either side. It’s a weird feeling as you lose that inherent sense of the time, so much so that I kept waking throughout the night, with no idea how long we had slept.

We headed down to the harbour, and came upon a fun run taking place where the competitors wore costumes. Darth Vadar made a brief appearance. His peripheral vision however,was somewhat impacted by his helmet, as was his gentleman’s region when colliding decisively with a bollard. We’ll take a moment here to sympathise.

The sparkling exterior of the Harpa Concert Hall

The clear cold air seemed to amplify the colours. and the distant mountains were close enough to touch.

As darkness descended, the excitement level rose, and families headed to the frozen lake to allow the kids to ignite some of the tamer fireworks, whilst their fathers worked on sequential explosions of a larger kind.

The masters of the art are stationed at the foot of the spectacular Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, with their arsenal of pyrotechnics. A continuous eruption of colour and noise will greet you, from all directions, including the odd stray horizontal spray of sparks, but what is a firework show after all, without that element of danger? We all remember those nights from our childhood. The deafening screech of roman candles, colliding with the rockets launched from the operator two feet away, well, its just incredible.

Remember that this is nearing midnight, its mid-winter, and its Iceland. So, rug up, its cold. Double glove, is my advice. Take a flask along for internal warmth. The crowd vibe is great, fireworks being an ageless attraction, so there are all ages watching with upturned faces.

The church bells chime in the new year in Reykjavik

As the hour strikes, the Cathedral chimes in the New Year. It will be one you will never forget.

Don’t be a stranger, I’d love you to like this, or better yet, follow me. No spam, no selling, just pretty great stories from a couple of ordinary travellers.

Posted by

Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

4 thoughts on “Reykjavik – Celebrating New Year the Icelandic style

  1. Great photos, as ever. Being a Brit and used to celebrating ‘bonfire night’ in November, it doesn’t really seem right watching fireworks in anything other than cold weather (usually rain too) and packing up small children in so many layers of clothing they are unable to move their limbs freely.
    It always seems a little bizarre here in France where 4th July (Bastille day) is celebrated with fireworks and usually only one layer is required.
    I have never been to Iceland but did read an interesting novel recently called ‘The Seal Woman’s Gift’ which told of Barbary pirates raiding the coast of Iceland for slaves. That was in the 17th century but what a difference it must have made for the Icelanders, used to short, dark days arriving in somewhere like Algiers. If it weren’t for the fact they were then sold into slavery and didn’t always get treated kindly (to put it mildly) the weather would have made a nice change at least.


    1. Thanks, I must look that book up. We used to have bonfire night, with fire crackers as kids, but they have long since banned any such festivities …
      Our daughter had joined us and fly out the same day, with explosive residue all over her clothing lol. Its funny but the more I look back at Iceland, the more I think I have unfinished business there…lol. Coming off a massive writer’s block for the blog, where I have been procrastinating up a storm, honestly think I could compete in the Olympics in procrastination….


  2. thanks for writing about it! I’ve been looking at Iceland as potential New Year’s destination but I’ve heard in the past that it wasn’t a good place to go as everyone was spending time with their families rather than our celebrating but now I’m rethinking it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s