Iceland Airwaves 2019: An Insider's Guide
Whether you’re new to Iceland Airwaves or a seasoned pro, if you plan on joining the party this year, there are a few things you should know. Take a look at our insider’s guide for some top tips on how to have as much fun as possible in four days.
What to Pack
Warm-ish clothing Reykjavík can be cold in November, but not so cold you’ll need to wear down jackets and moon boots; just bring what you would normally wear for the season. The main problem you’ll have to deal with is getting too hot once you’re inside. The events take place in a number of different locations in the downtown area and not all the venues will offer a cloakroom service. The best solution is to bring a warm, light coat you can easily tie around your waist, or a nice tote you can stuff your coat in. Also, a coat in a tote makes a good buffer for comfort in crowded places.
Note! If you think you’ll have time for adventures in the great outdoors, then by all means bring your walking shoes and plenty of layers and waterproofs. Don’t forget to ditch the Hyvent and Gore-Tex for your glad rags, though, once you get back to civilization.
Fanny packs (bumbags) These are great for festivals, and thanks to a mashup of normcore, dadcore and some other “core” trends, they no longer look dorky if you wear them around your shoulder.
Earplugs Your daily dose of decibels will go through the roof during this festival, so if you care about your hearing, invest in some decent earplugs. They might also help you get some sleep if you’re staying in downtown Reykjavík.
Beer Alcohol is notoriously expensive in Iceland, so stock up at duty-free. To save money, locals tend to start the party at home or the hotel before they hit the nightlife.
Note! If you have the Airwaves Plus upgrade, you’ll get 20% off all alcohol sold at the official venues.
Hangover cure Bring Alka-Seltzer (they don’t sell it in Iceland). In case you forget and are in need of the next best thing, head to the nearest apótek (pharmacy) and ask for something called Treo.
Mumford & Sons, Iceland Airwaves 2017. Photo by Florian Trykowski.
Get the Airwaves app. It lists the full festival schedule and bios of all the bands performing and you can use it to create your own schedules. It has a map of the venues and more.
Reykjavík Appy Hour is an app that lists all happy hours at Reykjavík bars. It’s a great money-saving tool for economic drinkers.
Avoiding the Queues
The best way to avoid the queues is to either get there early or get an Airwaves Plus upgrade (ISK 12,000 / US$90), which allows you, amongst other special festival privileges, front-of-line access. You can also check with the event’s social media, which give regular updates on how busy venues are and whether or not there are queues.
Iceland Airwaves is all about discovering new music, so don’t be afraid to go off-piste a bit. Walk, or run—depending on the weather— between the venues and let chance lead you to some new audio dynamite.
The Flaming Lips, Iceland Airwaves 2014. Photo by Matthew Eisman.
Live music sounds from the most unlikely places during Airwaves, with coffee shops, bookstores and even clothing shops getting in on the action. While the official venues are where the main action takes place, most of the artists also play at the off-venues, usually with stripped-down acoustic sets.
Where to Relax
The atmosphere during this four-day festival is overloaded with energy, so you’ll definitely need a place to unwind. Here’s where Iceland’s geothermal pools come in handy. Swimming pool culture is big in Reykjavík and there’s a pool in every district of the city. The closest in the downtown area is the newly-renovated Sundhöllin pool.
You Can’t Be in 10 Places at Once
When it’s all over you can’t help feeling like you’ve missed something, and then you hear about what happened here and there and realize you have. Don’t feel bad, though; hearing and sharing your experience with people is all part of the fun.
Text by Lisa Gail Shannen.
Banner photo from the 2018 festival by Florian Trykowski. Photos courtesy of Iceland Airwaves.
This year's festival dates are 6 to 9 November. Check the official festival website for more info and the full lineup: icelandairwaves.is. It's not too late to get tickets: see our travel packages for this year's party.
This article also appears in the Icelandair Stopover magazine, fall 2019
To help you get the most out of the world’s coolest music festival, check out some of the anticipated highlights of the 2019 lineup.