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All about Iceland Airwaves Festival

Iceland truly is a weird and wonderful place. With its otherworldly landscapes and midnight sun it inspires all sorts of creativity. Music has been one of its top cultural exports with artists like Bjork and Sigur Rós finding international success. The Iceland Airwaves music festival is a great place to catch new acts on the rise. The festival has a fantastic policy of showcasing new upcoming acts as well as more established bands and artists.

The first Iceland Airwaves festival was held in November 1999 in an airplane hanger a Reykjavik’s Keflavík International Airport. Since then this tiny island halfway between North America and Europe has developed a big reputation on the music scene. Today the festival is known as a new music showcase and industry favourite.The likes of Rolling Stone Magazine and Kerrang regularly report from the festival and tickets sell fast.


If you do want to get tickets for the festival it is a good idea to book well in advance of its annual November date. 2019 is the 20thAnniversary of the Iceland Airwaves Festival so it is sure to be a very special and popular year. In this article we will run through some top tips for making the most of your festival experience. Including, what to pack for a November visit to Iceland.


Iceland Airwaves Festival: Insider Tips


Look out for unusual venues

Many of the best gigs are the ones that you stumble across. The kind of bands that you probably will never have heard of, but who might just be the next big thing. There are events held right across the city in tiny record stores, art museums and bars. Keep your eyes and ears peeled and don’t be afraid to venture somewhere obscure.

Visit the airport duty free

If you like to indulge in a few drinks then call into the airport duty free shop and stock up on some bottles of your favourite tipple. Alcohol is famously expensive to buy in Iceland, both in the state run shops and especially in bars and venues. Do as the locals do and have a few pre-drinks at home. You can then just drink soft drinks or have a beer or two when you are out and about. The beer in Iceland is generally pretty strong so one or two might be all that you need to get your party started. If you are feeling flush then do buy a few rounds and make some new friends. Note:If you are in need of a hangover cure head to your nearest pharmacy and ask for a ‘Treo’. It is a little like an Alka-Seltzer.


Get the App

The official Iceland Airwaves App is a must have. It allows you to check what bands are playing where, make playlists and put together your own festival itinerary. It will also give you a useful map of the venues. It will even give band suggestions based on your musical tastes if you grant it access to your Spotify account.

Don’t forget your swimsuit!

Swimming, soaking, floating and wallowing are popular pursuits in Iceland. The country has some serious volcanic activity producing thermal hot springs and pools aplenty. Even if you don’t venture as far as the Blue Lagoon there are lots of thermal pools and spas in and around the city of Reykjavik. Soaking in one of these warm mineral pools is a fantastic way to unwind and rejuvenate after a night of dancing (and perhaps drinking one too many).


Big name secret shows

Like we said, alongside the main venues there are all sorts of little venues hosting live shows. From cool bars to clothes shops and restaurants, pretty much any space can be used. As well as smaller acts many of the big name headliners will make surprise performances in these little venues. Often they will be solo acoustic shows that offer a really intimate and unusual way to see the artist perform. Chat with the locals and you might get some insider information.

Equality rules!

Iceland Airwaves Festival is one of just over 100 music festivals worldwide that have committed to booking an equal number of male and female acts by the year 2022. The initiative is called Keychange and Iceland Airwaves achieved the target early in its 2018 edition.


What to pack for Iceland in November

This very much depends on what else you plan to do when you visit Iceland. If you are just attending the festival and then heading home then you can pack light. Although November is winter in Iceland it is not too icy in the southern city of Reykjavik. You should pack a light water and windproof jacket and some reasonably sturdy shoes. You can end up doing quite a bit of walking between venues but you won’t need snow boots. The main issue you will find is that once inside the venue you are going to want to get rid of the jacket. So it is best to take something compact and light.


If however you are planning on exploring Iceland beyond the city limits you will need to pack a little more. This is of course something that we very much recommend. If you are travelling to Iceland you should make the most of it. Head out to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to see the Northern Lights or take a driving tour of the Golden Circle by campervan. It will be a great detox after your city partying. If you do this then you will need to pack microfiber layers, sturdy walking shoes, gloves, warm hats and socks. Enjoy your adventure!

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