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10 reasons not to miss Rainbow Reykjavik (including sexy guys bathing in hot springs)

10 reasons not to miss Rainbow Reykjavik (including sexy guys bathing in hot springs)

When it comes to outstanding natural beauty, this is just the tip of the iceberg

It started as an experiment by then-new LGBTI travel company Pink Iceland – with support from Icelandic industry heavy-hitters, including national carrier Icelandair.

And next month, the fully grown Rainbow Reykjavik Winter Pride Festival returns for another year.

Recalling the first festival, Birna, a Pink Iceland founder, says: ‘This was before the country was such a popular destination. We had no idea if anyone would show up. All of the sudden we were planning a three-day festival for what turned out to be 50 guests.’

He adds: ‘It was a huge success and gave us confidence. Everything since has been a dream. Our little company has grown so quickly. Rainbow Reykjavik is our favorite time of year; we really involve the local community and always go wild at the Masquerade Ball…’

Here, Birna reveals 10 reasons to attend this year’s festival, taking place from 11-14 February…

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Jón Gnarr, the last Mayor of Reykjavik, heading his first Pride in Reykjavik.

1 Because Reykjavik is a city bursting with LGBTI pride

Heed the advice of the Fijian Prime Minister who recently called for all homosexuals to leave the island and go to Iceland (where they are most certainly welcome). Reykjavik is famously proud of its LGBTI community, and Icelandic laws guarantee equal rights, and local attitudes are among the best in the world. With the first openly gay Head of State and a straight ex-Mayor who dressed in drag for Pride 2010, rest assured, Reykjavik will welcome you with open arms.

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Paul Oscar performing at last year’s Masquerade Ball.

2 The special guests and performers

Guests of the festival will get a chance to experience two phenomenal performers at this year’s festival. Singer and comedian Hera Björk will entertain guests during the welcome dinner and Paul Oscar will perform and DJ on the closing night.

Rainbow Reykjavik guests line up for a group photo during the 2014 festival.
Rainbow Reykjavik guests line up for a group photo during the 2014 festival.

3 The new friends you’ll make

Previous festival-goers, some of whom attend every year, agree this small and intimate event has created life-long friendships and deep connections with other guests from all over the world. Some Rainbow Reykjavik alumni have created their own Facebook groups and travel to different places every year.

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A typical Icelandic landscape

4 Iceland’s amazing natural beauty

Iceland is to Instagram as what Neil Patrick Harris is to an awards ceremony: a perfect match. Whether it’s the city or outside, we recommend you bring a portable battery for your smartphone, as you’ll have a hard time putting it away.

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The Northern Lights as seen from the seaside in downtown Reykjavik

5 The Northern Lights

There is nothing like the sight of the Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky above you. While the lights are fickle, February is a great month to visit and the festival organizers will be keeping an eye on the sky, making sure you will not miss them if they do appear. With extension tours available before and after the festival, why not extend your stay and double your chances of seeing one of Mother Nature’s most awe-inspiring wonders.

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Ex-Mayor Jón Gnarr with Pink Iceland and Rainbow Reykjavik organizers, Birna, Eva and Hannes. [Gnarr is the second from the right].
6 For an introduction to Pink Iceland

You’ll be hard pressed to find a nicer bunch of people than the staff of Pink Iceland who organize the festival. As one Gay Star News reporter put it: “You can see it by the look in their eyes and the soft tones in their voices – their passion is to share this enjoyment with the world, and their special guests.’

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Snapshots from last year’s Masquerade Ball

7 THE social event of the season

While 500 people in a club may be just another Friday night for you, it most certainly is not for the Icelandic LGBTI scene! The Masquerade Ball has become the event of the winter in Iceland, attracting visitors and locals alike, dressed to the nines and sporting amazing masks.

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So. Much. Confetti.

8 The confetti

And the glitter!

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Rainbow Reykjavik guests enjoying themselves in the Blue Lagoon.

9 The hot bods on display

You’re not unlikely to encounter an ab or six at the world-famous Blue Lagoon or Fontana Steam Baths! But, of course, participants do remain fully clothed for most of the activities, garnering the festival the affectionate nickname ‘Parka Pride’. Don’t worry though – despite its name, Iceland’s climate is pretty temperate in winter.

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A newly-married couple enjoy the views from the southern shores of Iceland.

10 For moments like this

Enough said.

For more information, visit rainbowreykjavik.com.