Population and language
Iceland’s 320.000 inhabitants live mostly around the coastline and the central highlands are completely uninhabited. The capital Reykjavík with its satellite boroughs is home to two-thirds of the nation.
According to the old Landnámabók the settlement of Iceland began in 874 when Norse settlers reached the island. In 930, the settlers founded thir own parliament Alþingi. Now the world’s oldest parliament, with 63 members, elected every four years.
Icelanders still speak the language of the Vikings, although modern Icelandic has undergone some changes of pronunciation and vocabulary. Iceland is alone in upholding another Norse tradition: using patronymics rather than surnames. An Icelander’s christian name is followed by his or her father’s christian name and the suffix -son or -dóttir depending on the sex. Members of a family can therefore have many different “surnames”, which sometimes causes confusion with foreigners!
Much of Iceland’s traditional cuisine is based on fish, lamb, and dairy products, with little to no utilization of herbs or spices. Due to the island’s climate, fruits and vegetables are absent from traditional dishes. Nowadays the use of greenhouses has made such fare more common and you can buy tomatoes, paprika, cucumbers, lettuce and carrots cultivated in Iceland!
A good way to get an insight into Icelandic traditional food is the so called “Þorramatur”, which is readily available in supermarkets and consumed during the month of Þorri, which begins on the first Friday after 19 January.
Mostly during summer, but all year round as well, you will find festivals all around the island and it will be an unforgettable experience to join this part of cultural and social life in Iceland. The months for the events are mostly fixed, but for the detailed dates you best asked in tourist information or agencies. The following list is just a selection of the bigger annual festivals:
August: Unglist – Young Art Festival A yearly event since 1992. The program consists of music, design, fashion, photography, paintings and theater just to mention a few.
August: Reykjavik Marathon Involves thousands of participants from Iceland and abroad.
August: Gay pride This colorful event shows solidarity with the gay community in Reykjavik. Gays and lesbians come out in force and style to parade and party. The grand open air stage show down town features various entertainers, artists and bands.
August: Cultural night Thousands of people strolling the streets on this eventful night. Any number of cultural institutes such as galleries, ateliers, shops, cafes, churches, restaurants and bars in downtown stay open until late.
October: Iceland Airwaves What started out as a showcase for local DJs has evolved into a full-blown, international music festival that presents the hottest new bands from the USA, Europe and Iceland.
October: Reykjavik Jazz Festival An increasingly prestigious event on the international jazz scene. It features many acclaimed international Jazz players as well as the majority of Iceland’s leading Jazz musicians.
Akureyri and surroundings
May: Museums Day in Eyjafjord The numerous and interesting museums in the fjord organize different programs. Entrance on this day is free to all the museums.
July: 24 peaks in 24 hours [hike] The 24 peaks in 24 hours is an ambitious annual hiking event set in July. This event covers 24 peaks in 24 hours, a great challenge for any hiker.
August: “Ein með öllu” festival A family oriented festival
August/September: Akureyri Celebration of town rights- Town Festival The end of The Summer Arts Festival which is a joint project by all those who are engaged in promoting cultural activities.
August: The Dalvík Fish Festival All you can eat – for free! The Great Fish Day of Dalvík – everybody is invited to a sea food buffet.
July/August: Bræðlan music festival Held in the old rendering house in Bakkagerði (Borgarfjörður eystri). Many famous bands and musicians do play there.
November: Days of Darkness An all-round celebration in East Iceland organized to brighten the gloom of the darkest days, eat, drink and be merry.
October: Autumn feast Celebration of autumn and the harvest at Seyðisfjörðurs towns festival. Handicrafts- and flea markets, concerts, cinema, dance, food, clothes, and harvest products for sale.