Longing for a more unusual winter getaway over Christmas and New Year? Then Iceland has got what you are looking for!
Located only a three hour flight from the UK, with flights available with Icelandair from Heathrow, Manchester and Glasgow and with Iceland Express from Gatwick, Iceland has a whole lot Christmas visitors can enjoy, from the Christmas market to the Yule Lads and the Northern Lights, basic parts of the country’s magical winter flavor.
Families will love the Yule Lads, 13 playful ‘Christmas Creatures’ which come down from the mountains from 12 – 23 December each year, probably the most well known of Iceland’s Christmas folklore. Yule Lads bear names like Window-Peeper, Spoon-Licker and Door-Sniffer and visitors may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them. The Yule Lads give presents to Icelandic children each night for the 13 days before Christmas, or a raw potato if they have been bad.
Visitors who want to see the Yule Lads in their traditional setting in north Iceland will enjoy Saga Travel’s ‘Yule Lads by Lake Myvatn’ day trip. The trip combines the incredible natural attractions of the north, including Godafoss waterfall, volcanoes, boiling mud pools and sulphurous steam vents with a visit to the Yule Lads in the volcanic caves of Dimmuborgir. More information can be found at: http://www.sagatravel.is The trip departs from Akureyri, which can be reached in a 45 minute flight from Reykjavik with Air Iceland.
To make Christmas in Iceland extra special this year, award-winning filmographer Gunnar Karlsson has created seven ‘Christmas Creatures’ which will be projected onto buildings in secret locations throughout Reykjavik. Visitors can join the "Hunt for the Christmas Creatures" competition by locating the seven creatures and answering questions about them on a special map for a chance to win a prize.
Other must-visit festive venues are the ‘Laugardalur Christmas Valley’ in Reykjavik with its Christmas lights and decorations, ice skating, music performances, warming hot chocolate and roasted almonds and special events at Reykjavik Zoo. The notorious Yule Cat, one of Iceland’s Christmas Creatures, can often be found sneaking around the valley and zoo.
Visitors wanting to buy gifts for families and friends should head to the Hafnarfjordur Christmas Village which is located just south of Reykjavik and is accessible on a short bus ride. The market has mouth watering Christmas banquets, Icelandic gifts, musical performances and the houses are decorated with hundreds of multicoloured lights.
New Year’s Eve is a huge celebration in Iceland and the only night where private fireworks are legal with the locals putting on a spectacular display. The day starts with Icelanders gathering for big family dinners followed by attending a local bonfire, accompanied by the singing of traditional Icelandic folksongs. At midnight, New Year is welcomed by ‘chaos, mayhem and explosions’ as everyone sets off their own fireworks into the night sky. The party then continues in pubs and clubs until 6am the following morning. Tourists are welcome to join in the celebrations and several tour operators offer News Years Eve packages.