• The Traveling Locals

New Year’s Eve in Iceland

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Reynisfjara, One of the Worlds Most Dangerous Beaches
Reynisfjara, One of the Worlds Most Dangerous Beaches

Most people think of Iceland in January as perhaps not the best vacation destination, but Iceland in winter is a completely different travel destination from Iceland in summer. Is it cold? Absolutely. Freezing. But oddly enough, it was colder in Boston, from where we departed on this Nordic journey. Winter time in Iceland is magical, with most of the ground appearing like snow covered lunar landscapes pierced with boiling hot geysers and geothermal springs. And the Icelandic people really take partying on New Year’s eve to a whole new level. It was still dark 8:30am on January 1st when we finally ended our celebration, and we were in the minority. But we needed a couple hours of sleep. You don’t want to waste the barely four hours the sun barely crests over the horizon to provide a slight amount of sunlight.

Stunning Frozen Iceland Landscapes
Stunning Frozen Iceland Landscapes


We found some last-minute tickets for Iceland that were dirt cheap (under $150) on a now bankrupt and defunct airline (I guess they should have charged more). We convinced two of our friends to make this last second insane journey and we made the short flight up to Boston to catch our lift to Iceland. It was a short flight overnight from Boston to Keflavik airport on the southwest coast. We rented a car, and I was a bit intimidated to drive in snow and ice as I live in a destination without either of these natural phenomena. But the roads were surprisingly easy, and outside of a few instances of extreme weather, we turned out just fine. The drive into the capital city of Reykjavik took about 45 minutes and most of the scenery was otherworldly and cloaked in darkness as it was only 6:30am. The city really surprised us, it was extremely modern, well laid out and surrounded by extreme natural beauty. We had done some research on some unique local restaurants and they didn’t disappoint. The seafood was fresh from the north Atlantic and presented on a tray of dry ice, causing a cloud of smoke to envelope and circle around our food. And the drinks were even better. Drinking alcohol seems to be a strong pastime in Iceland, so we were going to fit in with the locals pretty well! I have never been served a drink that was on fire intentionally, and the flaming rosemary sprig on top of my drink really made it taste amazing.

Flaming Drink, Reykjavik Iceland
Flaming Drink

New Year’s Eve Fireworks and Bonfires

We hadn’t realized Iceland is often listed as one of the best places to celebrate New Year’s eve, but after experiencing it first hand, I can see why. The evening starts off with the Icelandic tradition of bonfires stacked tall with wooden pallets and various other debris. We went to a large one on Ægisíða street in the west part of Reykjavík and were lucky to get there just as it started. There are many more bonfires to see around the city, but this one was on the beach and it was huge! The heat coming off the enormous ball of flame was nice as it was around 32F outside. I did a little research, and the tradition of the bonfire is to gather all the things and clutter you don’t need for the next year and symbolically and physically burn them.

Fireworks are taken to a level I’ve never witnessed before in Reykjavik. They started early and seemed to never stop, just an ongoing 360 degree spectacle of bright colored explosions and flares taking up the night sky. The fireworks started early, around 7pm and continued relentlessly well into the night and way past midnight. We heard that fireworks were only sold during this time of year, and it seemed credible as everyone looked like they were setting off huge displays. The vo