Whatever your take on Valentine’s Day – essential memorial to the life-affirming power of love, or bloated greeting card selling ceremony – there are few places on earth that do it better than Iceland. In fact, they enjoy commemorating romance so much that they have double the amorous traditions we do, with Bóndadagur being a day for men, and Konudagur being a day for women. Konudagur in particular has come to rival Valentine’s Day, placed as it is on the second Sunday after 14 February. This year it falls on 18 February.
So where better to fall in love with love than in Reykjavik? Sure, Iceland in February will be cold but isn’t snuggling up half the fun? Below are my favourite ways to celebrate this beautifully Icelandic holiday.
Whatever the Weather
The roots of the twin holidays can be found in the pre-Christian Norse calendar. Þorri, the male personification of winter, and Góa, Þorri’s wife, were also known as the harshest months of midwinter. Locals used to mark their beginning by welcoming them in, in the hopes that this would assuage any season-lengthening bouts of bad weather – which, that far north, could be serious. Þorri was greeted by the woman of the house in January, while Góa was welcomed by the man in February.
Fast forward to today, and the old ways are kept alive by wives celebrating their husbands at the end of January, while women get their day of appreciation at the end of February.
More Than Words
These days, the cool origin story doesn’t frequently come into things when Icelanders are celebrating Konudagur. However you’ll often find deals and events set up around this period, so it’s a great time to see what Reykjavik has to offer (not to mention viewing the Northern Lights, one of nature’s most breathtaking – and romantic – spectacles).
The Northern Lights
Every night for a few hours either side of 1am, the night sky comes alive with swirls and ripples of solar radiation, hitting the upper atmosphere and ionising to create dazzling displays. Your best chance to see the Aurora Borealis is between late September and late March, when the sky darkens after 6pm, and there’s – hopefully – little cloud cover. Around the Reykjavik area there are plenty of places to go glow-spotting, which is best done in areas with little population and little light pollution (this also makes for an intimate setting for you and your significant other).
Things Are Looking Up
These are some of the best spots to take in nature’s fireworks display with your sweetheart, according to locals:
- Grótta Lighthouse is just outside the city, looks out over the ocean and features a perfectly dark setting to view the show.
- Reynisvatn is a fishing lake within walking distance of town, which offers a good mix of seclusion and accessibility.
- Borgarholt (in Kópavogur) is a little burg with a good view of both city and sky. While you’re here, check out what locals call ‘the McDonald’s church’. Once you see it, you’ll know why.
Top Tip: Guided tours are available all around town. They’ll offer a dizzying array of ways to see the lights from land, sea and even air. Feel free to make your date creative!
A Bite to Eat
Fittingly for a city called the Paris of the North, Reykjavikers know their food. If you’re a fan of seafood, Iceland’s position in the North Atlantic and its seafaring culture mean that you can find the best dishes here year-round. However, there are more options than just fish and it’s easy to find a special place to bring that special someone.
The name of this restaurant means ‘fish company’ in Icelandic – but the prosaic name and the bare stone and exposed beams belie an outstanding level of cuisine. Seasonal and local are the watchwords here, with set menus highlighting the best of Icelandic and international fare. It’s also very reasonable for the standard, with meals coming in at either side of 10,000 krona (approximately £60).
Another of my favourite spots is just around the corner. Apotek focuses on local produce, starting each tasting menu with an enlivening shot of the local firewater, Brennivín (or ‘burning wine’ – which is about right). By local, we’re talking flavours of dill, rye, lamb, and even puffin, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Where to Stay
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura – This four-star eco-friendly hotel is in Öskjuhlíd Hill, located to the south of the city… and the Icelandic Modern Art Exhibition is in the building.
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina – This hotel is located right in the popular Harbour District. Here you can find marina views, a roaring fire and everything else you’ll need for a romantic Nordic getaway.
How to Get There
Reykjavik has two airports, Keflavik International (KEF) being the biggest and just 40km from the city centre. Eight airlines fly directly from the UK with up to 76 flights a week (the flight time is three hours from London).
Small as it is, Iceland can be tricky to navigate because of the idiosyncratic language. To make things as convenient as possible, I’d advise a pre-booked shuttle. Shuttle Direct offers a door-to-door service that’ll get you to your hotel in Reykjavik in about an hour.
- UK to KEF Flight Time: 3 hours
- KEF to Reykjavik Distance: 40 kilometres
- Shuttle Direct Transfer Time: 1 hour
About Shuttle Direct
Here at Shuttle Direct we have some of the best local drivers providing expertise and professional service. We’re proud to say we have over forty years’ experience getting holidaymakers to their destinations around Europe, and we try to make every trip special.
NB: All dates and prices correct at the time of publication.