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Iceland Mag


A guide to the 2016 New Year's Eve bonfires in Reykjavík

By Staff

  • An important tradition The New Year's Eve bonfires have a long tradition, stretching back to pagan times. Today they are a family gathering, but their origins are unclear, although many believe they were inteded to help light the way for elves and hidden people's who are out and afoot on New Year's Eve. Photo/Pjetur.

One of the highlights of New Year's Eve in Iceland are the bonfires. All in all there are some 90 different bonfires organized around Iceland on New Year's Eve. Virtually every town and village has at least one fire where locals gather to bid the old year farewell and welcome the new.

A pagan tradition

New Year's bonfire

A family tradition Gathering at the local New Year's bonfire is an important tradition for many famili. Photo/Pjetur

The New Year's bonfires are family events, families often bring young children and fireworks are banned, although teenagers are known to disregard the ban! Attending the fires is a great way to participate in the Icelandic New Year's festivities, and a great warm-up for the highlight of the evening which are the crazy fireworks at midnight!

The bonfires are believed to have a pagan origin, and some believe they are connected to the belief that elves and hidden people are on the move on New Year's Eve, and that the bonfires are intended to light their way.

Ten bonfires in Reykjavík
There are ten bonfires organized in Reykjavík, four large bonfires ones and six smaller fires.

Most of the fires are lit at 20:30, except three of the smaller fires: The Skerjafjörður fire, on the south coast of Reykjavík, will be lit at 21:00, but a torch-walk will begin at 20:30. The fire in Laugardalur valley will be lit at 18:00 and the fire by Úlfarsfell mountain in one of the eastern suburbs of Reykjavík will be lit at 15:00.

After the long string of winter storms hitting Iceland in the past few weeks the weather forecast for New Year's eve is looking extremely good, ideal for fireworks, with clear skies and calm winds. 

The location of the ten bonfires are:

1) By Ægisíða street in Vesturbær neighborhood, on the south coast of Reykjavík: Large fire
2) In Skerjafjörður neighborhood, by Skildinganesi road no. 48 - 52,  Small fire, lit at 21:00, following a torch-walk beginning at 20:30.
3) Suðurhlíðar, in the southern foothills of Öskjuhlíð hill, outside the Fossvokskirkjugarður cemetery. Small fire..
4) Laugardalur, valley, by Laugarásveg street no 18,  Small fire
5) Geirsnef recreational area, at the mouth of the Elliðár river Large fire
6) By Suðurfell street in the Elliðárdalur valley, small fire
7) North coast of Rauðavatn lake, Large fire 
8) Gufunes farm and recreational area, Large fire. 
9) By Kléberg far on Kjalarnesi, foothills of mount Esja. Small fire
10) By Úlfarsfell fountain by Lambhagavegur street, small fire, lit at 15:00 

You can find exact locations of the fires here, and a pdf version of the same map as below here.  

New Year's bonfires 2016

New Year's bonfires 2016 Map from Reykjavík City Hall showing the 2016 bonfires in Reykjavík Photo/City of Reykjavík


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