With few plots available in Fossvogskirkjugarður and Gufuneskirkjugarður, the two cemeteries in the capital still open to the recently departed, an increasing number of Reykjavíkers are electing to be cremated. RÚV reports that continued construction delays on Úlfarsárdalskirkjugarður, a new cemetery long planned for the east side of Reykjavík, is not expected to be ready for use until 2030.
In 2019, Icelandic news outlets projected that Reykjavík residents who died between 2023 and 2025 and wanted to have a coffin burial would have no choice but to be laid to rest in nearby Kópavogur, as all of the plots in Fossvogur and Gufunes Cemeteries would be filled. At the time, it was said that the new cemetery wouldn’t be ready for use until 2025 at the earliest. Projections have now extended that date another five years.
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Thus far, however, no Reykjavíker has had to relocate to Kópavogur in death. Ingvar Stefánsson, Managing Director of Reykjavík Cemeteries, says that this is due to the fact that an increasing number of people are opting for cremations. As such, there are still free grave plots available in Gufuneskirkjugarður. There are still columbarium niches available in both Fossvogur and Gufunes cemeteries.
“Gufunes Cemetery was supposed to be fully utilized by now, but will probably be full around 2030,” says Kári Aðalsteinsson, the horticultural director of Reykjavík Cemeteries. “We also have Kópavogur Cemetery and, of course, we have space there, and presumably will until Úlfarsárdalur Cemetery is ready.”
‘A work in progress’
Although current projections slate Úlfarsárdalur Cemetery to be ready for its first burials in 2030, budget cuts announced by the City of Reykjavík may delay the project even further. The cemetery is jointly funded by the municipalities of Reykjavík, Seltjarnarnes, and Kópavogur, but the majority of the cost is to be covered by Reykjavík.
Rúnar Gísli Valdimarsson, a civil engineer with the City of Reykjavík, says he believes it will be another three or four years before the park at Úlfarsárdalur is filled in with soil. After that, he says, there will still be a lot of work that needs to be done before the cemetery can be put into use. So he thinks the 2030 projection is accurate. “It’s kind of a work in progress, as one says.”