Gay Vacations in Reykjavik, Iceland

Aerial view of downtown Reykjavik, Iceland
Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland (Rene Frederick/Digital Vision/Getty)

Reykjavik Highlights

  • Alcohol is both popular and expensive. To curb over-usage during Iceland's depressing winters, the government levies heavy taxes on drinks, some of the highest in Europe, but that doesn't seem to stop Reykjavik's nightlife at all.
  • English is king. Icelanders learn English in school, and everyone under 50 speaks it fluently.
  • Don't be fooled by the icy name. Thanks to the jet-stream, Iceland's summers are mild and more similar to what you'd find in Ireland and England than you would in the Arctic Circle.

Far from its chilly image, Iceland is an amazingly fertile and lush volcanic island that is also warm-hearted toward gays and lesbians. Half of the population lives in the capital of Reykjavik (pronounced "Ray-ka-vick"), where a small handful of queer bars burst at the seams on weekends and roaming groups of LGBTs pop up at straight clubs with barely a hiccup from anyone. But with its insular populace, you'll stand out as the new hommi (gay) or lesbian in town when you show up. The city has been host to events ranging from lesbian volleyball tournaments to bear festivals, and Iceland even passed a law allowing foreign gay and lesbian couples to register in the country as domestic partners.

Reykjavik is a low-rise, mellow city with brightly painted houses dating back a century or more. The main commercial thoroughfare of Reykjavik is Laugavegur Street, where most of the nightlife is to be found including Samtökin '78, the very helpful LGBT center complete with bar, café, and library. The small gay pride in Reykjavik has no fixed schedule but happens generally in July or August, and straights and families come out to join in spades. Icelanders make the most of their summer, with a nude male-only sunbathing area on the western slopes of Öskjuhlíð. Anywhere you go in town, Hallsgrimkirche, a striking art deco cathedral high on a hill, gazes over the goings-on.

Reykjavik in Icelandic literally means "Smoky Bay," referring to the geysers and the steam from hot springs the Vikings saw when they first sailed into this long, deep harbor. You’ll understand why just an hour south of town at the Blue Lagoon, a steaming man-made thermal lake now developed into luxuriously healing baths and a beauty spa. Other outdoor pursuits near Reykjavik include glacier sledding, volcano climbing, and white-water rafting beneath giant waterfalls. And don't forget the world's first parliament, the Thingvellir, erected in 1000, is now a museum just out of town.

Published: 15 Aug 2008 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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