What Makes Iceland the Perfect Christmas Destination

man in santa claus costume to showcase christmas tours in iceland

Welcome to our guide on celebrating Christmas in Iceland, a magical destination that transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland during the festive season. 

This blog aims to provide you with everything you need to know to make your Icelandic Christmas unforgettable, from discovering local holiday traditions and savoring delectable seasonal cuisine to exploring enchanting Christmas markets and embarking on thrilling tours and activities amid the country’s awe-inspiring landscapes.

Join us as we journey through the country during the most wonderful time of the year. Let us help you uncover the hidden gems and unique experiences that make Christmas in Iceland a truly unforgettable adventure.

Festive Lights and Decorations: Exploring Reykjavik’s Christmas Charm

During the Christmas season, Iceland transforms into a magical winter wonderland, with Reykjavik, its capital, at the heart of the festive celebrations. 

As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, the city comes alive with enchanting lights and decorations, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. This section will guide you through some must-visit locations in Reykjavik to truly soak in the Christmas spirit.

Ice-skating at Ingólfstorg Square

Begin your Christmas journey at Ingólfstorg Square, in Reykjavik’s heart. The square turns into a bustling hub of activity with its annual outdoor ice-skating rink, surrounded by twinkling lights and festive music. 

This is the perfect place for the entire family to enjoy skating under the starry winter sky.

Illuminated Laugavegur Shopping Street

After a fun ice-skating session, head to Laugavegur, Reykjavik’s main shopping street. The street is adorned with charming Christmas lights and decorations, making it a delightful place for a leisurely stroll while browsing through the many shops, cafes, and restaurants. 

Keep an eye out for the beautiful window displays, which often showcase Icelandic Christmas traditions and stories.

Reykjavik Christmas Market

The capital city’s main Christmas market, located in Ingólfstorg Square, is a hub of festive activities throughout December. Here, you’ll find an array of local handicrafts, ornaments, handmade gifts, delicious seasonal food and drinks. The market also features an ice-skating rink and regular live performances, adding to the cheerful atmosphere.

The Christmas tree in Austurvöllur Square

Next, make your way to Austurvöllur Square, home to Reykjavik’s iconic Christmas tree. 

Every year, the city of Oslo donates a majestic Norwegian spruce tree to Reykjavik as a symbol of friendship and goodwill. The lighting ceremony of this magnificent tree is a highly anticipated event, usually held in early December and marks the beginning of the festive season in the city.

Close to Austurvöllur Square, you’ll find the beautiful Reykjavik Cathedral and the Icelandic Parliament, both elegantly illuminated during Christmas. Take a moment to marvel at the breathtaking architecture and the stunning light display that enhances these historic buildings’ charm.

Town of Elves

Another must-see Christmas destination is Hafnarfjörður, a picturesque harbor town just a short drive from Reykjavik.

 Known as the “Town of the Elves,” Hafnarfjörður hosts a delightful Christmas market where you can find handcrafted Icelandic gifts, taste traditional holiday treats, and even meet some friendly Icelandic elves. The market is usually open during weekends in December, making it an ideal day trip during your Christmas vacation.

Yule Lads and Icelandic Christmas Folklore: Discovering the Mythical Side of the Festive Season

Iceland’s Christmas celebrations are steeped in rich folklore and traditions, with a unique cast of characters that bring an extra touch of magic to the season. Let us introduce you to the “Yule Lads,” Iceland’s version of Santa Claus, and delve into the captivating world of Icelandic Christmas legends and customs.

Who Are the Yule Lads?

The Yule Lads, or “jólasveinar” in Icelandic, are a group of 13 mischievous trolls who descend from the mountains during the Christmas season. 

Unlike the benevolent Santa Claus, these pranksters are known for their naughty antics, causing chaos in Icelandic households. Each Yule Lad has a distinct personality and plays a specific role, from slamming doors and stealing sausages to licking spoons and snatching candles.

Despite their mischievous nature, the Yule Lads also have a kinder side. Starting 13 days before Christmas, they visit children who have left their shoes by the window, leaving small gifts for the well-behaved and potatoes for the naughty ones. This tradition continues until Christmas Eve, when the last Yule Lad makes his appearance.

Accompanying the Yule Lads is their fearsome mother, Grýla, a terrifying ogress who is said to eat naughty children during the festive season. Grýla’s presence serves as a warning for children to behave well during the holidays. Alongside Grýla is the Yule Cat, a monstrous feline that prowls the Icelandic countryside, preying on those who haven’t received new clothes for Christmas.

Iceland Christmas Folklore Experiences

To immerse yourself in Icelandic Christmas folklore, consider joining a guided tour exploring these captivating stories and traditions. These tours often include visits to museums, galleries, and cultural centers that showcase the legends and customs surrounding the Yule Lads, Grýla, and the Yule Cat.

One such destination is the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum, located just outside Reykjavik. This fascinating museum offers insights into the mythical world of Icelandic folklore, featuring exhibits and artwork dedicated to the Yule Lads and other legendary creatures.

Another great place to learn about Icelandic Christmas traditions is the Árbær Open Air Museum in Reykjavik. This living history museum showcases a collection of original buildings from different periods in Icelandic history, providing a glimpse into the country’s yuletide customs and festivities from centuries past.

During your Christmas vacation, you may also encounter special events and performances that bring Icelandic folklore to life. From theatrical productions and storytelling sessions to guided walks and workshops, there are plenty of opportunities to delve deeper into the enchanting world of Icelandic Christmas legends.

Northern Lights: A Magical Christmas Experience in Iceland – Unveiling the Best Ways to Marvel at the Aurora Borealis

One of the most spectacular natural phenomena you can witness during your Christmas visit to Iceland is the enchanting dance of the Northern Lights. 

First and foremost, it’s important to note that the best time to spot the Northern Lights in Iceland is from late September to early April. This means the Christmas period is ideally situated for aurora hunting, with long nights and optimal darkness providing excellent viewing conditions.

When planning your Northern Lights excursion, remember that the key factors affecting your ability to see the aurora are darkness, clear skies, and solar activity. Therefore, it’s essential to check the local weather forecast and the aurora forecast, which rates the likelihood of Northern Lights on a scale of 0 to 9, with higher numbers indicating better chances of seeing the display.

To increase your odds of witnessing the Northern Lights during your Christmas vacation, consider joining one of the many guided tours available in Iceland. These tours are led by experienced guides who know the best spots for aurora viewing, and they’ll take you to remote locations away from city lights to ensure optimal darkness.

Celebrating Christmas in Icelandic Style: Traditional Foods and Drinks – Exploring Iceland’s Festive Culinary Delights

Christmas in Iceland is a time of joy and merriment, and the country’s unique culinary traditions play a central role in the festive celebrations. From mouthwatering dishes to seasonal beverages, Iceland’s Christmas cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious. 

In this section, we’ll introduce you to some of the must-try traditional Icelandic foods and drinks and share recommendations on where to sample them during your Christmas visit.


This smoked lamb dish is an Icelandic Christmas classic. The lamb is first marinated in a mixture of herbs and spices before being smoked over birch wood. 

Served cold or warm, hangikjöt is often accompanied by potatoes, peas, and a creamy béchamel sauce. Many restaurants in Reykjavik, such as Íslenski Barinn and Matur og Drykkur, serve this traditional dish during the holiday season.


Also known as “leaf bread” or “snowflake bread,” laufabrauð is a thin, round, and crispy flatbread intricately decorated with geometric patterns. 

Making and frying laufabrauð is a beloved family activity during the Christmas season. You can find laufabrauð in most supermarkets and bakeries during the festive period.


This festive Christmas drink, also known as “Yule ale,” is a non-alcoholic beverage made by mixing malt extract and orange soda. 

Jólaöl is a popular accompaniment to holiday meals and can be found in supermarkets and bars throughout the country during Christmas.

Christmas Beer

Iceland boasts a thriving craft beer scene, and many breweries produce limited-edition Christmas beers with seasonal flavors like ginger, cinnamon, and chocolate. Be sure to visit local bars and microbreweries like MicroBar, Skúli Craft Bar, or Bjógarðurinn to try these festive brews.

By indulging in Iceland’s traditional Christmas foods and drinks, you’ll better appreciate the country’s rich culinary heritage and festive customs. So go ahead, savor the flavors of the season, and create lasting memories of your Icelandic Christmas adventure.

Winter Wonderland: Exciting Tours and Activities for a Memorable Icelandic Christmas

A trip to Iceland during the Christmas season offers the chance to experience the country’s unique holiday traditions and provides a wealth of exciting winter activities and tours to make your festive break truly unforgettable.

Glacier Hiking

With its stunning glaciers, Iceland offers visitors the unique opportunity to embark on guided glacier hikes. Led by experienced guides, these tours provide the chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Iceland’s icy landscapes while learning about the country’s fascinating geology. 

Some popular glacier hiking destinations include Sólheimajökull, Svínafellsjökull, and Vatnajökull glaciers.

Ice Caving

Delve into the mesmerizing world of ice caves, where you can marvel at the vibrant blue hues and intricate ice formations. Guided ice cave tours are available in various locations across Iceland, such as Vatnajökull glacier and Langjökull glacier. 

These tours usually operate from November to March, making them an ideal activity for a Christmas vacation.


Experience the thrill of snowmobiling across Iceland’s pristine snowy landscapes. Many tour operators offer snowmobile excursions on glaciers like Langjökull and Vatnajökull, providing visitors with an adrenaline-pumping adventure amid spectacular scenery. 

No previous snowmobiling experience is required, as expert guides will ensure your safety and enjoyment.

Geothermal Hot Springs

After a day of exploring Iceland’s winter wonderland, there’s no better way to relax and unwind than by taking a dip in one of the country’s many geothermal hot springs. The Blue Lagoon and the Secret Lagoon are popular options, but you can also discover lesser-known gems like Mývatn Nature Baths and Laugarvatn Fontana.

With so many incredible tours and activities to choose from, your Christmas in Iceland is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Embrace the enchanting beauty of Iceland’s winter wonderland and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Contact us About a Christmas Tour of Iceland

From exploring festive Christmas markets to embarking on thrilling adventures like glacier hiking and snowmobiling, Iceland delivers an enchanting Christmas vacation like no other.

To make the most of your Icelandic Christmas getaway, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team of expert tour planners will be more than happy to create a bespoke Iceland Christmas tour itinerary tailored to your interests and preferences. 

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