So you’ve decided to brave the darkness of the Icelandic winter? In a land of extremes, this is admittedly a magnificent time of year but as you succumb to the awe-inspiring forces that rule these parts you might want a list of activities to lighten the heart should you find yourself writing existential poetry or showing an unnatural interest in throat singing. Take a page from our book and follow these directions should it all become a bit too dark.
After a summer of almost continuous daylight most Icelanders embrace the sun finally setting properly in September and as it gets colder there’s nothing better than lighting some candles, putting on your favorite somber music and catching up on your reading. This is the time of year to buy some delightful fairy lights, lamps and candlesticks to add a gentle touch to that comfy darkness. The same applies outdoors and when you catch your first glimpse of the Northern Lights you realize how wonderful the dark is. There is nothing quite like it, and if anything can pluck an Icelander away from binge watching the latest Netflix series and get him outdoors it’s the Aurora Borealis.
Despite the tiny population of this very large island, Iceland is as light polluted as they come so it’s best to get out of the city to view them properly. Don’t worry, you’ll see them from downtown Reykjavík alright but if it looks like they might make a real show of it while you’re in the city a good idea would be to head down to a place along the shore (Grótta/Örfirisey/Ægissíða) where you’re a little removed from the street lamps and better view the marvel.
The most frequent question Icelanders are asked when abroad is: “Isn’t it really, really cold there?” No, not really. Even though the windchill will sometimes feel quite scary, the cold is easily manageable with all the geothermal activity. Make the most out of this luxury and enjoy the abundant hot water, warm houses and heated garages. Besides this Icelanders relish their eider duck feather duvets and superb winter clothing. And then there’s the temperature regulated outdoor swimming pools and the truly hot hot-tubs. A dip in an outdoor swimming pool may sound preposterous if you’re already cold but trust us on this one and head to your nearest pool in the next snow storm. You won’t regret it.
There’s nothing like a nice crowd of people to warm you up from the inside out and this is where Icelanders truly excel. One of many contradictions that define this country is that this spacious capital with its tiny population hosts an impressive variety of cultural events. Check out Rósenberg Café on Klapparstígur for live music every night of the week. Tiny artist-run gallery and performance venue Mengi on Óðinsgata is the perfect destination for an intimate experience of something new and experimental and then there’s the crispy new concert hall Harpa for something on a larger scale. Harpa houses an ambitious program ranging from the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra (highly recommended) to music festivals Dark Music Days (contemporary) to Sónar (dance and electronic). Should you not be in the mood for music check out art gallery Kling&Bang, the Museum of Design and Applied Art or the Writer’s Union events at Gunnarshús. It might get dark but you definitely won’t be lonely.