Iceland’s Christmases are different. While there are picturesque blankets of snow, you’ll also find volcanically inspired lava fields, spouts and lordly glaciers that form a unique collection of ecosystems. Enjoy the cheer of Reykjavik or head out to a host of winter activities all under the watchful gaze of the Northern Lights.
In the capital, Christmas time brings a festive atmosphere to already lively bars. Streets are decked in lights and Nordic feasts can be had throughout the city to the backdrop of carol signers and choirs. Linger a little longer for New Year’s Eve when celebrations culminate in spectacular firework displays above the city’s skyline. Just outside its limits, beat away the cold with a trip to the Blue Lagoon, whose steamy geothermal waters average between 37 and 39 degrees.
Move out of Reykjavik to discover Iceland’s exciting natural features. And, you don’t have to travel far with the famed Golden Circle route bringing you to three of the country’s best-loved sights within just 100km of the city. Watch as Gullfoss carves a waterfall torrent through highland greenery only to drop through 32m of tiered walls or marvel at Geysir – the original discovery that has lent its name to the geothermal phenomenon. Thankfully, you rarely have to wait more than a 10 minutes for an eruption of up to 30m. There’s also Thingvellir National Park, whose rugged ice fields and pine forests offer the perfect introduction to Iceland’s wilds. For the more adventurous, travelling further afield can reward you with stunning coastal drives and cooling lava fields.
The Christmas season is, in fact, one of the best times to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights in all their technicolour beauty. As still winter nights produce less rain and fewer clouds, visitors enjoy ideal viewing conditions as shorter days offer more chances to spot the stunning aurorae. You can even see them from Reykjavik but, for the best chances, leave the city light pollution behind. Perhaps head north to Lake Myvatn whose volcanic formations and lush wetlands make for an arresting backdrop to the dancing greens and reds of the lights.
You’ll also find a full complement of snowy activities to get stuck into. Take a snowmobile for a spin to reach remote ice fishing spots while ski resorts in the north offer a more traditional approach to the slopes. To get even further into the region’s heritage, take a team of huskies out for a sledding experience.