Biggest travel weekend of the year getting underway

29.07.2022 - 11:40
Mynd: RÚV / RÚV
This weekend is Verslunarmannahelgi in Iceland, with the first Monday in August always a public holiday. It has become known as the biggest travel weekend of the year, with festivals large and small in communities across the country. In decades past, the largest towns were all but abandoned for the weekend, though the difference has become less prominent in recent years.

The chair of the Þjóðhátíð committee says the Vestmannaeyjar festival this year could be the biggest yet—as many as 15,000 festival guests. There will be a record number of the distinctive white tents this year, as well, or around 260. They will be watched over by 40 security cameras in Herjólfsdalur valley and a similar number of police officers—as well as many more around the rest of the island.  

“The weather will decide whether this will be a record Þjóðhátíð or not. The weather is really important to sales in the final days. This could be one of the biggest, at least,” says Þjóðhátíð committee chair Orri Grettisson.

True to the form of this very cool and unsettled summer, the weekend’s weather forecast is not great. The best of the weather was predicted to be in the east, but Vestmannaeyjar will see some sunshine too. Indeed, the latest forecast is for the best of the weather to now be in the south, and for the north and east to see rain. It will be unseasonably cold in all regions, with nighttime lows of just five degrees in some spots.

South Iceland police expect heavy traffic, as the route to many of the big festivals this weekend takes travellers south—as well as the national youth associations’ games in Selfoss, which will attract thousands from all over Iceland.

There are also festivals in Flúðir, Fljótshlíð, Skógar, Akureyri, Neskaupstaður, Grímsnes, Patreksfjörður, among others—even including Reykjavík.

Verslunarmannahelgi means 'tradesmen's weekend'. It is always the weekend of the first Monday in August and has been celebrated since the late 1800s, when it was the year's only guaranteed day off for people working in trade and retail. These days, ironically, many in the service industry will be busier than ever this weekend.

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