I had the opportunity a few days ago to attend to the illumination of the John Lennon Memorial, called the "Imagine Peace Tower", of Viðey Island in Reykjavik. It was illuminated for the 12th time this year. Despite the harsh weather we had that night, it was an amazing experience.
The Imagine Peace Tower is a piece of art, an ode to peace, designed by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. It is located on Viðey Island in front of Reykjavík. It is not a real tower, but a huge pillar of light heading toward the sky. When lit up, it is visible from all over Reykjavík. The lights are hidden in a “wishing well” on which the words “Imagine Peace” are written in 24 different languages
The tower is illuminated from the 9th of October to the 8th of December, respectively the dates of birth and death of John Lennon. In addition to that, it is also lit up for a few dates during the year: • Winter Solstice : 21st of December • New year’s morning : 1st of January • First week of spring: from the 20th to the 27th of March (Dates of wedding and honeymoon of John and Yoko) • Yoko Ono’s birthday: 18th of February
Videy Island is accessible all year round by ferry. We actually sell many tours to the Island. Although, there are a lot more ferries going during summer.
The day of the event, all the efforts are made by the city to make sure everyone can attend. Buses from Stræto, the public transportation service, are reserved to bring people straight from the main bus station downtown, Hlemmur to the harbour of Skarfabakki, and back. Those buses are free. For the 12th Illumination, last 9th of October, buses were running from Hlemmur to Skarfabakki from 5:15pm to 7:00pm. And back from 8:40pm until the last ferry got back.
Ferries were also free that night, sailing back and forth from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. First ferry to leave the island to bring people back was at 8:30pm, and ferries sailed until everybody evacuated the island
I jumped in the first ferry heading to Videy. At that time, weather was cold but still beautiful.
So, after very quick ferry ride (less than 10 minutes) I headed as soon as possible to the main building, the white house you can easily spot from land, to warm myself up with a hot coffee. It’s also interesting to take a little stroll inside this white house, called Viðeyjarstofa, since it’s the first concrete house built in Reykjavik, constructed in 1733 for Skúli Magnússon, the national sheriff at the time.
I then took a few pictures, the view on the ocean, the mountains and the Reykjavík’s skyline is absolutely fantastic from the Island. And I started to walk toward the tower where concerts were about to take place.
It started to rain, so I took shelter and drank another warm coffee in Naustið just by the tower. There, you could write peace wishes on papers and light candles. The purpose of the papers was to be hung on the tree just nearby. This is where the Icelandic musician Högni Egils was going to perform from 7:00pm to 7:30pm. When he started, he told us we must receive his music as an invitation to relaxation. And it worked; even in the place was quite packed with a lot of people. He first played violin, the guitar, and also sung.
The tower was supposed to be illuminated by Yoko Ono around 8pm, so I was waiting outside when the rain started. Before the illumination, a choir was singing despite the rain and the cold weather, I regret I was not closer and could not hear them as well as I would have wanted. They sung for about half an hour
After they finished singing, all the lights were turned off, “Imagine” from John Lennon was played in the speakers, and one light after another, the tower started to be illuminated.
Wherever you are in Reykjavík, the lights of the tower are visible in the sky and this intense blue light is very impressive. It is obviously truer when you are standing just next to it. If you look online for pictures of it, you will quickly notice how this light perfectly fits in the landscape when northern lights are showing up. Unfortunately, I headed back to the ferry quickly after the illumination and missed them, but I learned later that some northern lights showed up for the day of the illumination. I’m sure it was quite magical.
This was the 12th year the tower was lit up, and apparently, this is the year the most people showed up to the event. Besides the events of the illumination every year, the tower can be visited and seen from up close any day, all year round. This is a very nice activity to do during autumn or even winter, when days are short and you cannot venture too far away from Reykjavík that easily. To get there, you just have to take a ferry from the new harbor area: Skarfabakki. From October to May, Ferries are departing every day at 13:15, 14:15 and 15:15. They are returning at 14:30, 15:30 and 16:30.
The tower is one of the main attraction of the island, but Videy is full of walking paths. If you head there, I would definitely recommend going with the first ferry, and leaving with the last one. You will then have 3 hours to discover the island and gaze at the panoramas it has to offer. I think this is not too long, nor too short. During summertime though, you can stay a bit longer, ferries are sailing until the evening, and the place is just perfect for a family picnic. In that purpose, it is a quite popular destination among Icelanders.
If you are interested in a guided tour of the island, we can help you with that. We are offering different options to discover Videy. You can have it combined with a whale watching tour, head there for the Northern lights or simply book a return ticket for the ferry and visit the island on your own. Whichever option you choose, and regardless of the season, from spring to winter, Videy island is definitely worth the visit.
The best travel recommendations come from locals. Check out these Wanderguides from Iceland by locals sharing their travel tips and hidden gems.