Icelandic New Years Traditions

Icelandic New Years Traditions

When it comes to New Years, Iceland is one of THE places to experience it. You might not think it, but there is a whole lot of party wrapped in such a small country! Iceland has a few important New Years traditions that take place over the night of the 31st, and you can get to experience all of it. 


The evening doesn’t start with partying: the anticipation of the day leads to the evening time when annual bonfires are lit all around the city. These Bonfires are called “Ármótabrenna”, some say that it functions as a ritual cleansing of the year, where all the things that you want to forget (or maybe even the sins) of that year are burned away, ready to start afresh in the new year. The bonfires are set up in 11 specific locations around Reykjavik and are quite large. Each will see a large gathering of people and there is a great atmosphere. It is common to visit the bonfires at 20:30, and they are over by 22:30 (everyone is home by then) just in time for the next New Years Tradition.


Once everyone has headed home, a television show is broadcast called the Áramótaskaupið”, or ”Skaupið" for short, which is an Icelandic satire show on the events of the year. For those who are familiar with it, it similar to Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, a satirical eye is cast on the events of the preceding year, and serves as a hilarious as well an interesting hindsightful take on the year. It lasts about an hour. Here is last year’s show:




When we say that Icelanders is serious about their fireworks, we really are not kidding. Some people spend up to an entire months salary on fireworks, and people really love them. This small city of 200,000 people will send up 500,000kgs of fireworks in 6 hours. Don’t believe us? See it for yourself:



That’s pretty damn epic in our books. Most people try to get to a high veiwpoint for the main show, which usually takes place in front of Reykjavik’s iconic Hallgrímskirkja. Equally, many people will go to the opposite hillside where the catholic cathedral (Landakotskirkja) stands to get a view from there. 

Time to Party!

After the main fireworks (the fireworks don't stop all night), people will begin to go out to New years parties: all the bars and clubs in Reykjavik and everywhere else will stay open until the small hours in what is safely the wildest party night of the year!

Happy New Year!

The New Year is a time to reflect on the event of the previous, but also a time to look forward to new experiences. Check out our range of day and multi-day tours; kick start the New Year with an awesome journey through some places that you didn’t even know could exist. 






Hailing from London and born into a British/Brazilian/Italian housebold, Joseph came to Iceland originally to complete a masters degree in Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Iceland: the rest is history.

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