Today is the last day of the year in Iceland as everywhere else. New Year’s Eve is an amazing time in Reykjavík. Icelanders fire up around 6-700 tonnes of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. That’s over 2 kg of explosives per inhabitant. Unlike in many places, we don’t have any organized fireworks shows. This is all blown up by people like you and me. It is mostly a result of neighbors competing for bragging rights in their street.
The greatest things about this madness, is that almost all of the fireworks are bought from the Icelandic volunteer search and rescue teams. The volunteer rescue teams are very busy all year in this volatile country, full of lost tourists, blizzards and volcanic eruptions. Since the teams are almost entirely funded by selling fireworks, they have to work like crazy for these few days a year when it is allowed to sell fireworks. That’s why I’ve been neglecting this site for a while. I’ve been selling fireworks and using all my off time to enjoy the benefits of a holiday in Iceland, ice climbing, skydiving etc.
Tonight will be a perfect night for fireworks. The weather is great and the ground in Reykjavík is covered with the greatest snow depth ever measured in December. I’ll have what can be described as the typical Icelandic New Year’s Eve celebration. It typically starts with a big family dinner with lots of relatives around 6 o’clock. After dinner, people go out for a walk to the nearest bonfire. There are many bonfires around Reykjavík where hundreds of people gather together to sing and meet their neighbors. After the bonfire, people walk back home for desert and to watch the annual Skaupið or Áramótaskaup. Skaupið is an hour long comedy sketch which summarizes the events of the year. It has watched by nearly 100% of the nation. It ends briefly before midnight and then everybody rushes out into the street to fill the sky with fireworks. Meanwhile the President is on TV in the empty house wishing the nation a happy new year. Sometime after kissing and congratulating, the younger generation leaves the family parties and heads downtown for more partying.
I'm going to Iceland in January and it is my dream to feel an earthquake. I have been monitoring the seismic activity maps I know there are often small ones under Katla right now, but is it possible to actually feel them? and how often would they be felt in Thingvellir or Reykjavik? I'll also be over near Blue Lagoon if that helps. Thanks!
Earthquake chasing would require a lot of time and patience. Yes a whole bunch of earthquakes occur in Iceland every day, but being in the right place at the right time is very difficult. I’ve lived in Iceland most of my life and I’ve felt maybe a handful, at least less than ten. If you look at the live seismic maps, you’ll see the hottest spots. You are right that Katla is currently trembling a lot. But those are hard to feel. You’d have to be high up on the mountain and there are not a lot of places to hang out there while you wait. If you were directly on top of the glacier, you might not feel anything. I was once on top of the nearby Sólheimajökull glacier during an earthquake. It made lots of freaky sounds inside the ice, but we didn’t feel anything. The glacier dampened the movement.
In Reykjavík, you’ll only feel an earthquake every other year or so. Þingvellir as you mention would be more likely, but still it might be once a month or so. The town of Hveragerði would be your best bet. They have earthquakes every day and one large enough to feel might be once a month or so. They’ve actually been complaining about a lot of earthquakes recently. Several a week even. They stem from drilling up in the Hellisheiðarvirkjun geothermal area.
Your only safe bet would be to try an earthquake simulator. There is one in the Volcano museum at Geysir (part of the Golden Circle). It is quite close to real life, vibration wise. You can select past earthquakes on a screen and then the floor shakes very realistically, following the actual seismic graphs of past earthquakes.
I have been offered the chance to spend 3 days in Reykjavík in January. I was wondering if you could suggest some things worth doing in the short time I have there?
3 days is a short time, but here’s a suggestion.
Day 1: You’ll have to see a glacier and bathe in a natural hot spring at some point. You can combine the both in for example a tour called Ice and Fire. I’m not impartial since I used to guide this tour, but I know it’s good.
Day 2: Do the Golden Circle. I know it’s the standard thing to do, but it’s standard for a good reason. If it was summer I’d suggest combining it with a glacier tour (I used to guide that), but in the winter I don’t know. A whole bunch of companies offer guided bus tours. If you have the money though, it would be worth doing it in a small group. If you get back in time, take a swim in one of the downtown swimming pools. There are several great swimming pools in Reykjavík and that’s where you’ll find the Icelanders. Some are open until 10 in the evening and they are super cheap.
Day 3: Days 1 and 2 are full days out so take day 3 to explore Reykjavík a little bit. When you head back out, take one of thus airport shuttle’s that drop you off at the Blue Lagoon on the way. That’ll give you a couple of hours to soak in geothermal water before flying home.
Icelandic emergency services were surprised to receive several reports of a possible eruption beginning in the Katla volcano. Both locals and volcano nerds around the world who keep an eye on the Katla webcam reported peculiar lights high up on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which covers the volcano. Although the earthquake monitors have shown a lot of activity recently, nothing interesting was showing up at this moment. After a bit more research, they discovered that the lights were from the film crew of Game of Thrones who were filming up on the glacier.
If you want to keep an eye on some Icelandic volcanoes yourself, then check out the Katla or Hekla webcams.
Took this photo while driving a section of Ring Road this past April. I only had the car for a day, but it was one of the best days of my life. Came across this abandoned little barn near a cave full of seagulls near Dyrhólaey.