Iceland hosts many festivals and events throughout the year, including music festivals. The country never ceases to amaze those who have a penchant for arts and music. Ranging from local country fairs to large scale international music festivals, there is a variety of music events to treat the explorers. Along with international artists, many local bands and musicians grace these festivals. Iceland has produced artists of repute lately, such as Of Monsters and Men, Kaleo, Sigur Rós, and Björk. Whether you are a fan of individual playback singing or bands and collectives, the Icelandic music scene will allure you with the talent it hosts.
Icelandic music festivals are diverse in terms of music genres. So even if you are attending a festival which focuses on folk music, tunes of rock and pop will also be heard there. Most of the music festivals take place during summertime, which signifies that you can camp comfortably during the night. So let us check out the best music festivals in Iceland.
Secret Solstice Festival
If you want to experience three days of uninterrupted music from all over the world under the glistening midnight sun of Iceland, then Secret Solstice is something you should definitely attend. Secret Solstice Festival started in 2014, with a promising note of filling the massive gap in the festivities in Iceland during summertime. Less than a decade old, Secret Solstice has established itself in no time with the support of artists like Deftones, Wu-Tang Clan, and Die Antwoord. It is one of the most recommended festivals in Iceland because it takes place when Iceland embraces the beautiful midnight sun. Usually, that is 21st June of every year but the dates vary. The festival’s outrageous fame is also due to marketing campaigns run from months before the festivities.
The Secret Solstice Festival hosts world-renowned artists such as Radiohead, the Foo Fighters & the Prodigy, and Of Monsters & Men. The flavor and diversity that these artists bring hold the molding effect. Secret Solstice always hosts one secret headliner, a surprise artist revealed at the time of the performance. This adds to the surprise element and hype of the festival. The main stage is set-up at the Laugardalur recreational area of Reykjavík, beside Reykjavík’s largest swimming pool. All the activities are conducted in this area. You can camp at the site of the festival to make the experience more fun. If you are lucky and fast, you could grab a Super-VIP Óðinn pass. It is a little expensive but comes with free supplies of meals and alcohol and includes in-staff and artist after-parties and a boat party. A general festival pass only costs 24,900 ISK for 4 days and that is something you will gladly spend to have a happening party under the midnight sun in the northernmost capital of the world.
Iceland Airwaves Festival
In the drizzling nights of light winters listening to some amazing music always gives us jitters in a good way. Iceland Airwaves Festival is a perfect experience if you want to immerse yourself in Icelandic music. It happened for the first time in 2017 and since then has garnered enough attention from locals and tourists. The festival is known for promoting various upcoming and established national bands. The line-up each year features some of the most exciting and fresh artists from across the world.
While the marketing and artist line-up announcements start in February, the festival takes place in November every year. Ace musicians such as Björk, Ásgeir Trausti, PJ Harvey, and Fleet Foxes have graced the festival in the past. The main event of the festival is always in Harpa Concert Hall, but separate venues are selected around Reykjavík each year for some of the festivities. This is the best part about Iceland Airwaves as locals who attend it taste the flavor of a new place each year. Through the course of four days, more than 200 artists showcase their talent. The festival gets sold out quickly but if you missed the ticket, do not get disheartened. You can look for the free Off-Venue festivities conducted across various venues around Reykjavík.
Dark Music Days
As the name suggests, the Dark Music Days festival takes place in the days considered depressingly dark- from 25th January to 1st February. The Society of Icelandic Composers deliberately selected these dates to uplift the mood of the nation through rejuvenating musical vibes. Since 1980, when it was conducted for the first time, Dark Music Days have been entertaining the Icelanders. Due to its soaring-high popularity, explorers from around the world come here to experience a diverse line-up of composers. A favorite of art connoisseurs, Harpa Music and Concert Hall is the venue for the festival. This music festival gives chance to everyone, from traditional classical composers to contemporary music-makers. You can listen to experimental sounds, rock bands and much more at this festival.
Aldrei Fór Eg Suður Rock Music Festival
Aldrei fór ég suður means ‘I Never Went South’ in English. The festival’s name has its origins in a song by Icelandic music legend Bubbi Morthens. Naming things might not be the specialty of Iceland but the country tops when it comes to offering beautiful locales and awe-inspiring music festivals. ‘I Never Went South’ is a free music festival for rock music enthusiasts. Started in 2004, the festival is a great platform for upcoming artists. It happens every year around the time of Easter in Ísafjörður, a town in the north part of the Westfjords.
If you like the old- school music festivals with raw-feel and enormous encouragement by the crowds, Aldrei fór ég suður is for you. The arrangements for the festivities happen in an old fishing warehouse and along with popular bands from the south, it majorly focuses on the local talent. This festival is iconic because it features all genres of music, from rock, funk, and punk to folk and electronic music. The crowd mostly involves locals, music enthusiasts, and budding singers. A large chunk also travels from other areas to get involved in the community. Without any sound checks and headliners, you can experience the Icelandic spirit of music at its purest in this festival. An atmosphere of equality, encouragement, and support for every talent is created. There are no queues for tickets, no fancy show, just musical bliss.
Braedslan Music Festival
Can you ever think of a music festival with just 900 people? If not, you need to visit Braedslan Music Festival. Even with a limited crowd, the festival offers some amazing sounds that are soul-stirring. Bands and composers from around the world come here to perform. The venue is an old herring plant situated in the small fishing village of Borgarfjörður Eystri. If you wish to explore the countryside in Iceland, you can embark on this festival.
Due to a set limit, tickets usually sell out fast. The lineup includes folk, country, and indie-rock musicians mainly. Bands of aura such as Of Monsters and Men, Emiliana Torrini, Damien Rice, and Belle and Sebastian have performed at this charming festival. Even if you miss the chance to buy a ticket, this music festival is still recommended. Multiple off-venue concerts start taking place a week before the main event. This festival is conducted during summer in late July every year. This gives you ample opportunity to explore the villages in the vicinity. You can see beautiful landscapes, camp and enjoy some incredible music. Make sure that you carry a sturdy jacket for the chilly nights.
LungA Art Festival
Explorers experience a fusion of art and music at LungA Art Festival. The festival takes place in Seyðisfjörður, a small town located on the east coast of Iceland. You will be welcomed to the festival through breathtaking landscapes. Multiple arts and music workshops are conducted throughout the week during the festival. Along with live music, it includes gallery exhibitions; workshops; market pop-ups, and fashion exhibitions. It ends with harvest weekend that consists of concerts, art exhibitions, and events. A group of local young people founded this festival to bring a fresh vibe to their region.
It took place for the first time in 2000 and since then it has grown tremendously featuring world-famous artists and not just musicians but painters, craftsmen, and other creative souls. In the beginning year, only a few people showed up for the concluding concert while last year the number of viewers swelled up to 4000. LungA Art Festival is a non-profit event, conducted annually in the second week of July. Carry your camera along to bring back some incredible memories.
The National Festival of the Westman Islands
This festival is close to every Icelander’s heart, being one of the oldest Icelandic events. Locally known as Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum, the festival opens on the first weekend of August. The festival was conducted in 1874 for the first time in Herjólfsdalur valley in Vestmannaeyjar. Icelanders celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of Iceland’s settlement on that day. The valley is prone to volcanic eruptions which led to the change in the festival’s venue in the 1970s when an eruption in the valley almost destroyed the town. However, Herjólfsdalur valley was restored shortly as the venue of the festival. National and international artists of superb talent are included in the lineup of this festival each year.
This Viking party will rock you with mind-blowing music from various genres. If you are a fan of punk and absurd music, you cannot miss this festival. The raw feel of the event attracts youngsters majorly. Drinks and dancing all night are the activities you should be prepared for. Carry along a waterproof, heavy-duty tent as Iceland’s weather is uncertain especially during the nights.
Eistnaflug Music Festival
Eistnaflug is a festival for metal, thrash, and hardcore punk lovers. It is widely believed that it cannot be a Scandinavian country without having one music festival dedicated to heavy metal. It takes place over three days in the town of Neskaupstaður in the East Fjords. The setting adds perfection as you can see black mountains of remote East Fjords all around while listening to your jam.
Along with famous foreign musical groups, the lineup involves dozens of metal bands that you can trip on. This incredible event also gives a chance to other genres from rock, punk, and black metal. This is a good part as it allows everyone to participate whether they play head-banging sets or acoustic covers. You can look forward to enjoying good food and alcohol with mind-buzzing music. Some exquisite company and camping all night are added perks of this music festival.
Reykjavik Blues Festival
Sometimes all we need is harmonies of guitar that touch the heart and amazing company while listening to them. The Reykjavik Blues Festival is all about that. It took place from April 15th to 18th last year, celebrates one of the most favorite genres of everyone- Blues. Improvised sets and spontaneous performances are quite common at this music festival.
The jam sessions are conducted by blues artists from Europe, Iceland, and North America. The artist lineup is iconic every year. The previous list includes performers like Joe Louis Walker, Strákarnir Hans Sævars, and Þorgrímur Toggi Jónsson. This is considered one of the most amazing music festivals because it hosts a cool after-party. Club Blúshátíðar welcomes all the party animals after the concert is over. You can look forward to swanky cocktails and authentic Icelandic food. This after-party is included in the ticket prices. Tickets are limited for this week-long festival, so keep heading to the website and social media handles of the festival to know more.
Siglufjörður Folk Festival
Siglufjörður Folk Festival is for those who love to hum the traditional melodies. Pop concerts are quite popular but when it comes to traditional folk melodies, there are fewer opportunities to listen to them. Siglufjörður Folk Festival brings together those artists and listeners who look to stay attached to their roots. You will experience rare tunes such as the nation’s ancient, rhyming chants known as Rímur. Native instruments like the langspil and fiðla can be heard throughout, in the premises of the folk festival. Iceland’s beautiful scenery consisting of majestic fjords and massive mountains of the island’s isolated north serves as the backdrop of the Siglufjörður festival. The tumultuous Icelandic life through the years of war and natural calamities is translated in the somber and melancholic tunes of folk.
The festival concludes in four to five days during which you can experience harp concerts, jazz quartets, choirs, and traditional Icelandic folk songs. The best part is events take place in various corners of the town Siglufjörður. This becomes an opportunity to explore the countryside in Iceland.
Music festivals and concerts are always fun but some important points should be remembered. A few performances happen in small premises. Make sure you switch off/ silent your phones while attending these performances. Icelandic weather and roads can be notorious without warning so remember to drive safely. Since most of the festivals take place at the night, ensure that you pack warm clothes.