5 Winter Festivals That Are Worth a Trip to Iceland

Iceland's winters are cold and dark, but with these celebrations you won't mind

With daylight often squeezed into just a few afternoon hours and temperatures consistently below freezing, many travelers find the prospect of visiting Iceland in the winter daunting. But for those who are willing to brave the elements and travel to far north latitudes, Iceland offers some truly amazing festivities to make the journey worth your while. If you can make the trek to Reykjavík for one or all of these celebrations, you won't be disappointed.

The Icelandic Beer Festival

Let's start with the least daunting. Taking place in the first four days of March, daylight is not as sparse for the annual beer festival. And while temperatures are still quite low, you have the advantage of drinking yourself a jacket. Commemorating the end of Iceland's outdated prohibition law in 1989, Icelanders recreate the revelry that followed when beer was finally made legal. Over four days of celebration, you can try festival beers and meet the brewers who make them. The festival concludes with in Reykjavík a closing event that includes "live music, exclusive beers, and beer oriented menu."

Bolludagur, Sprengidagur, and Ö​skudagur


Iceland Magazine

Three food-based festivals, three days in a row! These celebrations, leading up to the first day of lent, are particularly fun for kids, but they include something tasty for the whole family. Bolludagur, also known as Bun Day, takes place on Shrove Monday, and for adults, it basically involves eating as many of the customary cream buns—bolla—as you like. Adapted from the Scandinavian holiday of the same name, Iceland's variation adds a special feature for children. Namely, on this day children are expected to wake their parents with rapid, spanking blows from the bolludagsvöndur—a colorfully decorated spanking wand—and the number of spanks they manage to get in before their parents can stop them is the number of bolla the children will receive throughout the day. No, I am not making this up.

The second day of festivities is Iceland's take on Fat Tuesday. Sprengidagur, depending on who you ask, either means "exploding day" or it refers to a practice of sprinkling holy water. If you stick with the former, Sprengidagur is all about stuffing your face with rich, fatty foods until you're ready to burst. On the traditional menu is a lot of salted meat—including horse—and yellow peas.

Lastly, Öskudagur, which takes place on Ash Wednesday, is often referred to as Icelandic Halloween, because little kids in costumes wander around collecting candy from strangers—but in Iceland the kids sing for their candy! If that isn't adorable enough for you to book plane tickets, you're broken.


traditional Icelandic foods

Iceland Monitor

This last festival is...not for everyone. If you are not an adventurous eater, you'd better steer clear. But for those of us who are willing to hold our noses and dig into some traditional Icelandic cuisine, this annual celebration is the perfect time to experiene it all. Thorrablot—or Þorrablót—is dedicated to all the things that people who live in frozen darkness will eat to survive, including but not limited to Blóðmör (blood sausage), Hrútspungur (ram testicles), and Hákarl (putrefied shark). If you can handle all that, you've earned a soak in one of Iceland's legendary hot springs and a glass of Brennivín under the northern lights.

hot spring in iceland

Subscribe now

Related Posts

The Best Museums in NYC

In honor of #NationalMuseumDay, here are the best NYC can offer.

While quarantine may keep museums shuttered for the summer, it will be more important than ever to return to them when they're re-opened.

Under normal circumstances, the sheer number of museums in The Big Apple can be overwhelming. Sure, the MET and MOMA are all well and good, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't take the time to delve deeper into the city's bustling museum culture. In honor of #NationalMuseumDay, here are the best museums the city has to offer.

The Noguchi Museum

Noguchi Museum

A quaint and pristine Long Island City museum built by esteemed American-Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi, The Noguchi Museum is an oasis of abstractionism and eccentricity. Decorated with paper mache lamps across two levels of exhibition space, the museum also offers a secluded overflowing ivy garden. Akin to Noguchi's style, the art is often a collection of minimalist geometric sculptures that transfix the eye with their unique congruity. The works have only gotten more breathtaking as Noguchi's style has evolved over his 70 year career.

The New Museum

For those artsy-fartsy museum goers who require their art to be brash and bold, The New Museum will most definitely scratch that itch. They regularly champion up-and-coming modern artists, with little constraints on what they'll accept. From filmmaker Kahlil Joseph to Australian painter Helen Johnson, The New Museum is great at offering variety. Some exhibits are better than others, but the diverse, creative risks that The New Museum rewards tend to make the viewing experiences unfounded and unforgettable.

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

the smithsonian

Located in a breathtaking 1900's Georgian Mansion, this Upper East Side museum promotes groundbreaking work in technology, architecture and design. From metalwork and sculptures to pottery, furniture, and advanced technology, the sprawling museum usually offers around 200,000 different pieces of captivating design from over the years.

Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art

The Chelsea-based art museum contains an extensive array of art from the Himalayas and India. With over 38,000 pieces from the past 1,500 years, the sculptures and installations provide a fascinating look at Himalayas rich culture. From photos by legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, to sculptures and renditions from Tibet's Lukhang Temple, The Rubin offers an experience unlike any other.

National Museum of the American Indian New York

National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of American Indian was erected in the middle of a bustling Manhattan intersection to share the stories of over 1,200 indigenous cultures. From authentic ceremonial objects to gorgeous wood carvings and detailed pottery, the groundbreaking museum is one of the most important in the city to helping preserve the legacy of indigenous culture.

The Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum

Located on the Lower East Side, the Tenement Museum is located in a historical tenement house, and offers authentic tours of the working-class apartments that helped house immigrants. The tour, which recreates each tenement with stirking detail, encompasses the housing evolution of LES, and how its budding immigrant residents shaped it into one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city.


10 Endangered Animals to Weep Over

Celebrate Endangered Species Day.

An endangered species is not a tragedy, because if a species is endangered, then they aren't yet extinct.

Sadly, there are millions of endangered species across the world, all facing threats that mostly stem from human activities. Still, it's not too late. Take a gander at these majestic animals, and then donate to a wildlife fund or environmental activism group of your choice.

Of course, nature doesn't need saving—humans do—and climate change and environmental destruction are threats to humans as well as animals, but if you need a reminder of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, check out these extraordinary species.


Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!