What on earth is þorrablót?

Magazine What on earth is þorrablót?

What is there to do in the darkness of the Icelandic winter, you might ask. Well, ask no more. Þorrablót, or the ”Month of Thor”, is a great time to visit Iceland, if you are willing to throw yourself into ancient traditions and the extreme foods you’ve only heard about so far. 

I experienced þorrablót in Vík i Myrdal, the southernmost town in Iceland. It’s a small community of about 300 people and one of them is Sigurður Elías Guðmundsson, hotel manager at Icelandair Hotel Vík and one of the main organizers of the þorrablót in town.

- There are about a dozen people organizing the event. It will be a feast of all the Icelandic foods people read about in the weird sections of travel guides, Elli smiles.

Þorrablót’s roots are basically celebrating midwinter pagan style. Local people come together with friends, family, and in many cases the whole town, to celebrate and eat these traditional Icelandic dishes. Rest of the year they eat normal people food. In Icelandic the word Þorrablót itself means ”the (sacrificial) festival of þorri”, and according to historians was named either after a Norwegian king, þorri Snaersson, or the God of Thunder himself. Today it is basically a winter food festival, which begins on the first Friday after January 19th and lasts until mid-February.


In Vík, at 19:30, the doors of a local club house opened and guests started pouring in. After an initial taste of some rotted shark (hákarl) and a shot of Brennivín – the local hard liquor also called Black Death (!) – everyone took an assigned seat.

A very traditional þorrablót table entails the following dishes: rotten shark’s meat (hákarl), congealed sheep’s blood wrapped in a ram’s stomach (blódmör), boiled sheep’s head (svid) and sour ram’s testicles (súrir hrútspungar), among other things. I tried all of it. And it’s not as bad as it sounds! Just try not to focus too much on what you’re eating. Just think this was what made the viking so tough in the olden days. During dinner the crowd watched a show, featuring our Elli, the manager of Icelandair Hotel Vík, of comedy bits consisting of the past year’s events in town. Games, storytelling and dancing are traditionally involved, usually until the early hours of the morning.



Most of the festivities around þorrablót concentrate on the first weekend of the festival, but in many countryside towns there are þorrablót-happenings throughout the month. If and when you come to Iceland during midwinter, ask our Icelandair Hotels staff to guide you to the nearest þorrablót festivities. It's definitely worth it! And here’s a pro tip regarding dresscode: DRESS UP FANCY. I learned this the hard way, arriving at Vík in only a cardigan, jeans and winter boots. Thanks for the lovely Erika at Icelandair Hotel Vík for the borrowed shoes!


Crowd singing


Sini Koskenseppä

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