Winter is an excellent time to visit Iceland, the possibilities of what to do and see are almost endless. Moreover, winter is a fantastic time to experience the dark days of winter and the solitude of Iceland’s wide open spaces, stunning nature and snow-dusted landscape.
December is a truly a great time in Iceland, a time that is characterized by a joyful spirit and traditions with Christmas season, or jól in Icelandic, which starts in late November with Advent and stretches over the New Year. We recommend a visit in December to partake in Icelandic traditions and to enjoy the colorful Christmas lights and decorations that Icelanders put up in beginning of the month.
December in Iceland
Photo: Christmas light in Reykjavík in December
In December there are only a few hours of daylight and everything is much more quiet and peaceful – as well a joyful – than other seasons in Iceland. There is still plenty to do and see in Iceland during December and since the days are dark the possibilities of Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, are even greater. Standing in nature gazing at the green glow dancing mischievously above you is unforgettable. For more on Northern Lights see our previous blog about the Aurora Borealis magic.
Photo: Yule Lads - jólasveinar
Advent starts in Iceland four Sundays before Christmas Day and therefore lasts four weeks. Icelanders use this time to prepare for Christmas by baking, decorating, writing Christmas cards and wrapping presents. This is a time that is often celebrated by spending time with family and friends, either at home in cozy setting or meeting up at restaurants for Christmas buffets, or jólahlaðborð in Icelandic, and going from there to Christmas concerts or other events.
The festive period in Iceland lasts thirteen days but the main evening is Christmas Eve, on December 24th when families come together, dressed in their best clothes, and dine before opening up gifts. Read more about other festive days on our previous blog about Christmas and New Year in Iceland.
Other traditions in Iceland are the thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads, or jólasveinar in Icelandic, sons of trolls Grýla and Leppalúði. The Yule Lads “come to town” from the mountains, where they live, thirteen days before Christmas and perform all sorts of mischief. Thirteen nights before Christmas kids in Iceland leave a shoe in their windows or by chimneys at home for the Yule Lads who then fill it every night with treats until Christmas. The tradition is that if kids have behaved well they can expect a treat in their shoe in the morning but if they misbehaved they will get a potato in their shoe!
Christmas and New Year
Photo: New Year's Eve in Iceland
Christmas and New Year is a festive time in Iceland and we recommend taking the opportunity to experience the season’s celebrations first hand. A perfect way to do that is to spend Christmas with the locals and dine delicious traditional food in cozy environment at the Country Hotel Hraunsnef. Another option is to spend the New Year in the Countryside and ring in the New Year in a breathtaking winter setting with friendly locals.
We have plenty of ideas on how to spend your days in Iceland during winter. Experience the quietness of the countryside and recharge by staying at charming accommodations and connecting with nature and locals or be active and go snowmobiling with a guided tour on a glacier, or if you dare go into a glacier.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if we can assist in planning your holiday in winter wonderland!