More people than sheep, jumping pillows and flights from London to Akureyri
Iceland's population will reach a milestone in 2024, signalling the robust year ahead for the travel industry. Here are forthcoming events and openings we can't wait to see and visit in 2024.
The population of Iceland will exceed 400,000 people after record growth
After Iceland’s tourism industry bounced back from the Covid pandemic, a shortage of labor has welcomed a record number of new residents to the country. Statisticians expect the 400,000 milestone by early 2024, some six years ahead of predictions before the pandemic.
As the vast majority of Icelanders lives in the southwestern area of Reykjavík - about 70 percent of the population - a growing population is creating grounds for a major revamp of the city’s public transport. The new system, known as City Lane, will be rapid transit lanes for electric buses.
(Fun fact no more: Iceland’s human population will for the first time exceed the number of sheep.)
Akureyri Airport Lands the Expansion
Keflavík Airport, the major international airport nearby Reykjavík, will finally have a rival with the expansion of Akureyri Airport.
The new terminal - some 1100 square meters, much larger than the current airport - will facilitate the growing demand for direct flights between Europe and northern Iceland. EasyJet already offers twice-weekly flights from London and according to the marketing agency Visit North other routes are in the pipeline.
People of Reykjavík vote to make public spaces more fun
Public spaces in Reykjavík are, increasingly, shaped by pitches from residents. Public telescope at the vista in Grafarvogur, infrared sauna at a public pool and recycling bins along popular walking paths – all of these forthcoming installments are the result of the direct democracy project known as Hverfið mitt, taking place every two years.
After making an open call for pitches, city planners assess the cost of each initiative and then put the roster to an online vote. Residents, fifteen and older, have two weeks to weigh in.
Reading the results from 2023, one thing is clear: voters love neighborhood playgrounds to have rainbow-coloured jumping pillows (pictured) and drinking fountains along pedestrian streets.
The Prose Edda enters a new chapter
Expect security to get tight on the University of Iceland campus sometime early next year when the Prose Edda — the medieval vellum chronicling the fundamentals of Norse mythology — will be moved from one building to the next.
The Eddas are among the treasures of Icelandic literature penned on skin, preserved by the Árni Magnússon Institute. After years of waiting, the institute will move into a swanky new campus building named - you guessed it - Edda.
Pretty Seyðisfjörður Seen from Above
The village of Seyðisfjörður, nestled at a fjord in the innermost point of the Eastfjords, is a former merchant hub famous for some of Iceland's best 20th century architecture. Modern design is about to make a mark, too.
Baugur Bjólfs, a large cliff-edge viewing platform designed by SJA ARCHITECTURE, will be located above the village's avalanche barriers. Construction is set to start next year after the project received one of the highest grant ever rewarded by the The Tourist Site Protection Fund and support from the Múlaþing municipality.
Traffic jams prevail but with less pollution
Icelands leads the way - second after Norway - with the world’s highest share of electric cars entering the streets. As one liter of fuel carries an 85 Krona tax in Iceland, car owners driving electric will in 2024 have to pay their share with a milage fee, 6 Krona per kilometre. This means driving the 1400km Ring Road will cost 8400 Krona in milage fees, a modest amount compared with gasoline cars.
Road construction scheduled for 2024 include improvements to the southern Westfjords and the first pillars in a new bridge to Selfoss that will shorten the Ring Road by a few kilometres.
Akureyri and Blönduós complete the makeover
One step, two step, three step. The stairs to Akureyri church will be new concrete after over one year of construction. It’s no minor maintenance, for a good reason: the 96 steps leading to the modernist church are a major landmark in the northern capital.
Blönduós, another northern town, will pride itself on renovations, too. Thanks to new ownership of Hotel Blönduós buildings in the old part of town will spring to a new life - the former pharmacy a cute cafe, Apotekarastofan, and the old church a boutique hotel room, available for reservations.
And, finally, the Mývatn Nature Baths will open a brand new reception and facilities overlooking the milky-blue lagoon, a major investment for the popular destination.
New Hotels at New Destinations
High interest rates, at 9,25 percent towards the end of 2023, will continue to damper hotel expansions. Several major projects, however, are close to completion.
Luxury hotel Höfði Lodge is set to put small-town Grenivík on the map as a place to stay in North Iceland. The seaside establishment will pack a spa with indoor and outdoor pools, a barn for 16 horses, two helicopter pads for off-piste mountain skiing, a golf simulator, two conference rooms and a wine cellar. Opening is scheduled for summer.
Highland Base Kerlingarfjöll will remark its first winter at the highland location. The alpine area, at 700m, will be kept open with snowplows and super-jeeps.
In the remote valley Sælingsdalur new owners of the country hotel Dalahótel plan for a year-round opening. Situated nearby Búðardalur, the hotel helps sustain the growing demand for visiting the Westfjord's where accommodation is scarce over the summer season.
And it might be a little less hard to find accommodation on the southern stretch between Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Höfn when a new four-star hotel, with 120 rooms, opens at Reynivellir nearby the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón. Construction was in full force at the time of writing, with plans to open ahead of the summer season.
Arctic Henge 'Activated' by Skálmöld
Folk metal band Skálmöld, on a grand Europe tour next year, will put on a unique show at the Arctic Henge in the remote northeast. The rare event, scheduled in September, is expected to draw thousands of fans to the iconic site overlooking the village of Raufarhöfn.
Another genre-busting Icelandic artist, the singer-songwriter Laufey, will perform her 'modern jazz' album Bewitched at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavík. Tickets are already sold out, but rest assure she is only beginning.