What To Do In Iceland In December
Hi there! The holidays are here again yet another year and the world is beckoning to be explored as new wonders, experiences, and cultures are waiting to be enjoyed, while new memories are in the offing to be forged to form stories cool stories that you can tell to your friends and family. If it is the tradition of you and your friends or family to travel in search of adventures or unique experiences when the Christmas and New Year holidays come around in December, you guys might must likely favour the more famous tourist destination spots, popular cities or some exotic Caribbean island that attract crowds to their beaches and lifestyle around this time, for sure a country like Iceland might not attract a pin in your “places to visit” map, but what if we told you that it should?
Iceland, a beautiful, intimate island sitting close to the North Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans. This country is known for its rich history and culture adorned with spectacular legends, lovely temperate weather, peaceful and welcoming people, a healthy economy and a wild, robust terrain partly responsible for making it the! new must-visit destinations this holiday, Iceland is a land of and for adventurers from all over the world. It’s okay if you have never thought about visiting Iceland (some folks haven’t even heard about the place), but this country is an enchanting island waiting to be discovered by you and your friends or family.
In this post we shall be learning more about the country, the fun annual festivals you should attend and the other exciting activities that await you, if you are considering or already made travel plans to go here this December (even though it’s worth visiting in any other month of the year). But first, let’s know more about Iceland, including its history and some fun facts about the country, not just for educational purposes, but also because it makes for a great conversation (fingers crossed).
Iceland is a European nation with a long and quite sophisticated history, it is also a Nordic country with a proud Scandinavian heritage as most of its citizenry either have Norse or Gaelic roots. Scandinavians are said to be the first to settle on the island, although other accounts claim that Papar monks were the first to live here. The history of the country gets even more interest as Vikings were said to have landed at the shores of the island in 870, after which came the Norse, Scandinavians and other emigrants. Around 930, inhabitants of the island set up a sort of legislative and judicial assembly to see to the proper management of its commonwealth.
However, in 1262 due to some internal conflicts, the now ineffective assembly broke down and the country was now under the complete control of the Norwegian kingdom which lasted from 872-1397, after which it then became part of the Kalmar Union 1415 which was a union of the Swedish, Danish, and of course Norwegian kingdoms. The events that followed saw the dissolution of the Union, but still was a part of Denmark and Norway. The island came under hard times caused by natural disasters especially volcanic eruption and harsh climatic conditions and disease outbreaks. Furthermore, as the union between Denmark and Norway broke, the country inspired to become independent and as a result of an agreement with Denmark in 1918, the country became a sovereign state and became a kingdom and in 1944 its people voted to become a republic.
Despite the various political struggles and invasions, the country is one of the most developed and wealthy countries in Europe and is very politically stable, is peaceful, relies completely on renewable energy, and is becoming a top tourist destination.
Some Fun Facts About Iceland
Did you know that?…
Its legislative and judicial parliament that was set up in 930 is one of the oldest known parliaments in the world.
Reykjavík (yea it’s quite a mouthful) is the capital of Iceland and more than half of Icelanders live here.
There are still volcanic eruptions that occur in Iceland even till this day
If you are not a fan of bugs there are very few insects in Iceland
Icelanders don’t have surnames; they are simply called by their first names or son is added to the name of their father or mother.
The country is so peaceful and has very low crime rates as they have no standing military with and their police don’t use guns.
Here is a weird fun fact; Iceland has a naming committee that approves names that can be given to children.
Another pretty awesome fun fact is that Iceland had the first democratically voted female president.
In December, Iceland is almost completely covered by snow and experiences only four to five hours of sunlight a day as it is mostly dark but don’t let this deter you because the cold is tolerable and doesn’t stop the tons of fun activities from taking place and holiday spirit from spreading, as a matter of fact, in this time, there is a kind of romantic feel and unique magic about the country that will capture your imagination and warm your heart despite the frigid conditions.
If you are the daring type then you will be pleased to know that you will have the time of your life visiting the country, as there are tough terrains to be encountered that will test your endurance and magnificent sceneries to see. From active volcanoes to large glaciers to awe-inspiring mountains, to breathtaking auroras that you can check out and certainly capture unbelievable pictures for your scrapbook, postcards or social media profiles, Iceland has a lot of surprises in store for you.
What’s more? To add to the wonderful nights in December, there is an abundance of Yuletide spirit and activities seeing as the country is Lutheran, so also expect bold Christmas decorations and lights shimmering in the night. Icelanders love the Jól (Yule) as they call the season.
Whatever holiday fun you are interested in, Iceland has it and then some, so, let’s get right to it.
Events To Attend
1. Local Holiday Concerts
If you are lover of good music, and you are constantly in need of good dose of it where ever you visit, then you will absolutely love being in Iceland in December as there are several musical concerts that are also happening I this time of the year from popular local bands to provide the perfect soundtracks to the beautiful cold nights and ushering in Christmas and the New Year while serenading the locals and visitors alike. You might be caught off guard by just how much the music in this part of the world is in and how much Icelanders love them as is evident in the concert venues.
The concerts and music festivals scheduled in this time features various artists, across various genres and mostly takes place in Reykjavík. So, whatever type of music you like, you should find a concert where you can go enjoy the sounds. Harpa is one of the most famous concert halls in Reykjavík, that host Christmas concerts that will have you warmed up in the cold with feelings of the festivities.
We recommend that you take a look-see online before visiting to find concerts you will love to attend, or you could check with your travel agent to find out this information, or even better, talk to the locals and ask about the concerts they might be attending and ask for suggestions.
2. Go Ice Skating at Ingolfstorg Square
If you are searching to reawaken your inner child or find an engaging and activity to do with your kids and loved ones, then this event is an enchanting experience you can’t afford to skip while in Iceland in December. The ice-skating event is organized by some brands and after the skating rink is finally set up with dazzling Christmas lights and Christmas decorations, it is truly a sight to behold. The romantic setting makes for the perfect place for couples to celebrate or rediscover romance and is also makes for wonderful holiday memories your kids might never forget and will tell their kids about.
The magic doesn’t end there, as there is a Christmas village made of shops and booths around the ice rink also decorated with wonderful lights where people attending can get delicious foods, confectioneries, and drinks and also rent skating gear, that will allow them to participate in the skating event taking place. The event offers free admissions and takes place every day at 10 pm local time through till the 24th of December. So, get ready to lace of your skates and go skating in this amazing winter wonderland.
3. The Christmas Market At Heidmörk
This is another unique experience courtesy the Reykjavík Forestry Association that takes place in Heidmörk woods, organized to promote the Icelandic culture and the love for the festive season. Beyond this, it is meant to create an exceptional family holiday experience where the whole family can take part in the activities culminating in the event. The Heidmörk Nature Reserve is located just outside Reykjavík and provides the perfect venue to deliver the whimsical and folklore experience that the event was meant to simulate.
For the visitors, the Christmas Market is a place that is fascinating to be in as they can participate in it, even though the natives enjoy this annual event very much too. Asides the commercial activities going on in the market which includes purchasing lovely artistic products made from natural things in the craft market, and the foods and beverages to be available, the event also features; storytelling and holiday songs amongst other activities that are guaranteed to get you in the mood for Christmas give you goosebumps. The market is opened weekends from the 30th of November through to December 22nd.
Shopping is a major activity that the people are very much engaged in this season and that is why there are other popular Christmas markets like; The Christmas Market in Hjartagarðurinn, and the Christmas Village in Hafnarfjörður.
4. New Year’s Eve In Reykjavík
New Year’s Eve celebrations in big cities like London or New York (Time Square) are famous the world over, but in Iceland, they go all out and do it very big and explosive too (literally). The nightlife in Reykjavík is pretty upbeat and is especially so on this special night is otherwise known as the last night of the year, as both the young are out in bars and nightclubs celebrating and anticipating the coming year. If you have been making new friends, then you might be lucky to be invited to a party or else you can go out in the streets and soak in how the people celebrate the night.
This night the sky is lit up with more than a thousand firework shows or displays because the country doesn’t have strict limitations on lighting up fireworks that torch the night sky and illuminating the streets and neighborhoods below. Probably the best place to be at this night for an optimal appreciation of the fireworks is by the ancient, magnificent, and famous Hallgrímskirkja church, where the building stands tall in a canvas of some wonderful firework displays.
Asides from the fireworks, the New Year’s Eve is something to be experienced in Reykjavík as there are also various massive bonfires around the city for extra lighting and effect. Going around the city you will find various groups of people around bonfires laughing, chatting away, and even singing. You might not find a country full of easy-going and fun-loving people like Iceland.
Outdoor Activities and Tours To Take
Asides from the holiday activities you can enjoy while visiting Iceland, there are a lot of outdoor activities you can take on and adventures to venture on for those who wish to take a trip off the beaten path. Here some of the fun activities you can try.
5. Take A Dip In The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one the most popular spots that a lot of visitors come from various parts of the world to relish in and evidence of this is the fact that you will find a lot of foreigners like yourself at and in the Blue Lagoon should you choose to visit. The is a geothermal spa, and one of the wonders of the world, that is known to be therapeutic for both the body and the as it is rich in natural minerals, silica, and algae and extremely relaxing. The lagoon is created by a mixture of geothermically heated water and sea-water. The lagoon is located near Grindavik in the southwest of Iceland and is surrounded by a lunar lava field.
The lagoon is a luxury to be experienced that is created by a collaboration between man and nature that attracts large crowds, which is a reason why sessions are booked ahead of time by people that intend to visit. Guests are pampered and giving special treatment that depends on the packages that they had booked. There are lovely restaurants located near the spa that you might want to visit after your unforgettable time at the blue lagoon.
A fun fact about the Blue Lagoon is that; it is that its clinic is a renowned psoriasis treatment because people with the condition have been known to show massive improvement after visiting the facility.
6. Visit Gullfoss Waterfall
Also located in the southwestern region of Iceland is a powerful and breath-taking natural wonder to see at least once in your life. Gullfoss or Golden falls in English is found in the Hvita river canyon. The great waters from the river cascade down the canyon in two stages, 11 meters and 21 meters in a gap 32 meters deep to form a splendor that displays the great power of nature in all its beauty. This is yet another famous tourist attraction that anyone visiting Iceland will likely visit as it’s part of the golden circle. Around this time, the waterfall is even more enthralling freezes over forming a two-step wave of ice. When it is sunny the water takes on a golden color which is responsible for its name.
Also, if you are visiting this destination in December be sure to join a tour touring the area, to be safe.
7. Witness The Amazing Northern Lights
If you have been to Iceland or have heard about the country then for sure you must be eager to see the natural phenomenon known as the aurora borealis. This magical display of colorful lights waltzing in a clear wintery night sky on this island is one of the most beautiful and inspiring natural phenomena that everyone should see. An aurora borealis caused by strong interplanetary magnetic fields and solar winds. Sounds less romantic huh? But the result of this activity produces a display in the dark skies that will leave short of words to describe and nothing short of amazed.
If you are hoping to catch a sight of the Northern lights then December through to January is the best time to see them because this time of the year is the darkest and as mentioned previously has only 4 to 5 hours of light. Sighting one though isn’t a guarantee that you will see sight the lights this is why you might need to go hunting for the dancing lights. You can improve your chances of seeing the northern lights by booking a guided tour for days that a forecasted to have clear night sky, and with a little luck hope that the odds are in your favor. If you a skilled driver, you can opt for the DIY option and take a drive away from the alluring city light and go on your hunt for the northern lights with your friends.
For a more fun and exclusive trip, hunting down the lights you can choose to book a Northern Light Super Jeep tour, which is guaranteed to have your heart racing and take your trip to another level as you will be exploring other parts of the island in search of an aurora.
8. Join The Pack and Go Dog Sledding
The adventures that are to be had in Iceland are numerous and this is why you should be open to letting your guard down a tad and taking on some hair raising, yet fun activities like Dog sledding. If you are a dog lover, or not this is one unique way to explore more of the land as you will be transported by some amazing, well-trained dogs aboard a sled across an unending landscape of snow. You can book a dog sledding tour before or while you are in the country.
This is an activity you must try, that will get to know more about dogs and even yourself. Don’t worry you will be fine because you are in great paws, dogs are man’s best friend remember?
9. How About Whale Watching/Spotting
Ever been on the seen a whale swimming in the ocean in its natural habitat? Well, it is quite a sight to behold; seeing these humongous sea mammals travel in small groups. This is another experience that you can have in Iceland (albeit off the shores). Booking a whale spotting tour guide is an investment that you will be glad you made as you can take the most amazing photos while on the tour and possibly see other exotic sea creatures. If you are worried if winter in December is a good time to go whale watching? The answer is yes, as this period is as good a time as any to do this.
10. Grillmarkadurinn For The Foodies
Owing to the country’s history, it has a very wide variety of cuisines and drinks that you can enjoy while there. If you are a foodie, then Grillmarkadurinn should be where you should be heading next as it offers great restaurants renowned for their mouth-watering menus and dishes. Visiting this location, you are sure to discover a whole new meaning to sweet-tooth.
These are only but a few activities that can be enjoyed and places to visit in Iceland that will have you wanting to extend your stay and after falling in love with all things Icelandic. Remember temperature around this period gets just below freezing point, so ensure you pack appropriate winter clothes that will assist you to stay warm and comfortable as you discover the northern pearl that is Iceland.