Reykjavik is a city thriving within Iceland’s recent popularity as a travel destination. The multicultural influences that have become prevalent within a society which until relatively recently, was quite isolated have made the city into something of a cultural melting pot.
The world’s most northerly capital city is nestled on the southwest coast of Iceland, it’s colourful buildings contrasting with the country’s vast landscape of volcanoes, lava fields, rocks and snow. Reykjavik’s population of just under 120,000 makes up more than a third of that of the entire country, leaving the rest of the Iceland largely unpopulated and remote. Reykjavik is noted and celebrated for its thriving nightlife, with the many bars and clubs throughout the city open until the early hours, seven days a week.
Reykjavik Dance Festival takes place four times a year, featuring a full programme of events which takes place throughout the city. The upcoming festival between the 26th – 29th November 2014 is themed ‘Queering the Popular’, and is concerned with what pop aims to do for localised micro-communities within areas of creative arts. Performances including radio broadcasts, dance parties, ‘danceoke’, and a typically-Icelandic heated debate at the local swimming pool come together to form a weekend-long festival, which offers an opportunity for visitors wanting to submerge themselves into Iceland’s intriguing culture.
Icelandic culture is quite unique. Steeped in tradition, the cultural beliefs and practices of Icelanders have been shaped by the challenging conditions brought each year by the changing seasons. Icelandic culture features many customs and traditions, with storytelling playing a prominent and pivotal role. The Icelandic culture of today is quite progressive, with many modern influences being embraced by the Nordic nation. Icelandic folklore ensures that the tradition and stories that have shaped their culture are able to live on through the people. In 2011, Reykjavik was the first non-English speaking city to be named a UNESCO City of Literature.
The changing seasons are particularly noticeable in Iceland, with the experience visitors to the country may have dependent upon the time of year that the visit occurs. In the summer, wildlife thrives and there are whale watching tours in operation, as well as some bird life to observe, including colonies of puffins. The hours of daylight that visitors of Iceland experience is also seasonal. In January there are but a few sunlit hours, and yet towards the end of June each year, there is a brief period where there is only daylight. From September throughout the winter and into the spring, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights may be seen to dance in the Icelandic skies on a clear night.
Iceland is home to many active volcanoes. Once you leave Reykjavik, the landscape is characterised by many volcanic peaks, from the famous Eyjafjallajökull, to Katla, Hekla and the most recently active Bárðarbunga. The Bárðarbunga live activity is steadily ongoing. The country is peppered with signs of it’s volcanic activity, from glaciers and lava fields, to geysers and hot springs. The geothermal energy which is produced by the naturally-occurring hot springs in Iceland is utilised to the fullest. It is the primary source of energy used in the country, offering many geothermal pools for bathing, and also providing hot water and heating for homes throughout Iceland.
The culture, coupled with the almost other-worldly landscapes, aim to make Iceland a unique and exciting travel destination. The city of Reykjavik offers an alluring base from which to explore the many wonders which Iceland has to offer, and encapsulates relaxed urban cafè culture with the hustle and bustle of its vibrant nightlife.
Which other countries offer urban culture coupled so closely with nature?