Festive Breaks In Iceland

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Iceland is an exciting country to visit during the holidays, and there’s no better place to begin your exploration than in the island’s capital, Reykjavik. With great shopping, architecture, museums and easy access to other regions, it’s an ideal place in which to base yourselves for your festive break in Iceland. Your itinerary may include taking the plunge at the Blue Lagoon, sipping Glögg at a Christmas market or staying up all night to see the dancing Northern Lights in all their glory. Whatever you decide, you’re sure to find it all in this magnificent country.

Explore Reykjavik’s Art and History

If it’s your first visit to Reykjavik, head straight for Hallgrimskirkja to get your bearings. Designed in 1937 by Guðjón Samúelsson the iconic church was inspired by shapes created when lava flows and cools into basalt rock. The interior features an impressive pipe organ and a 73-metre-high tower viewing platform boasting 360-degree views of over Reykjavik, so don’t forget your camera! Other must-see Reykjavik attractions include the National Museum of Iceland and Perlan. The latter invites you to a Wonders of Iceland exhibition where you walk through 100-metre-long ice caves, marvel at indoor geysers and view the Northern Lights from the planetarium. 

You don’t have to travel far for delicious Icelandic cuisine either. The roof of Perlan is a glass dome offering breath-taking views of the capital and it’s also home to one of Reykjavik’s best restaurants - Út í bláinn. After dinner, enjoy a performance at nearby Harpa Concert Hall, home to Icelandic Opera, Iceland’s Symphony Orchestra and a variety of musical ensembles.

Aerial View of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirja

Credit: Tsuguliev

Take a Dip in the Blue Lagoon

At first glance, you can be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived on another planet. The foreboding volcanic landscape surrounding Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon is both awe-inspiring and otherworldly. Steaming, milky aquamarine waters sit at 39 degrees Celsius year-round, so a festive plunge isn’t out of the question. If you’ve scheduled a full day to discover the benefits of these natural mineral waters, the Premium Blue Lagoon Package is worth a splurge. With this you gain entrance to the lagoon, can discover benefits of their mineral mud masks, plus drinks and a reservation at Lava Restaurant are included.

For a more personalised experience book the Retreat Spa Package. Hidden lava coves and subterranean spaces add to the ethereal vibe, offering a place of solitude and relaxation. Here, you can enjoy massages and treatment rituals which rejuvenate mind, body and spirit. Blue Lagoon in Iceland has been named by Condé Nast Traveller as one of the Top 10 Spa’s in the World, so don’t forget to book in advance to avoid disappointment!

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Credit: Bhushan Raj Timla

See the Thundering Waterfall Gullfoss

Gullfoss or the Golden Waterfall as it’s also known, is one of Iceland’s most visited natural wonders. The two-tiered waterfall is peppered with rainbows on sunny days and in winter, the waterfall freezes with chandelier-style droplets of ice. Beginning at the upper part of Hvítá River, you can traverse the pathway, discovering hidden crevices and sculptures, and if you stay after dark during winter months, you’ll be treated to dancing Aurora Borealis across the night skies. Truly magical.

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Credit: Fominayaphoto

Sip Glögg at a Christmas Market

Although Reykjavik has several pop-up markets and fantastic food halls, lovers of traditional outdoor Christmas markets should take a trip to the former Hanseatic town of Hafnarfjörður. The town – once a major trading port, has deep belief in the existence of elves and is known for its annual Viking celebrations. At their annual festive village, you can get cosy with a loved one on a carriage ride, sip Glögg and browse Icelandic decorations until your heart’s content. Alternatively, enjoy the natural festive wonderland of Heiðmörk a few miles outside Reykjavik. Snow-capped spruces envelop this picturesque forest where you can enjoy live music, book readings, local handicraft stalls and a sustainable Christmas tree sale, where for each tree sold, fifty more are planted. 

Festive Market, Reykjavik

Credit: Helena G.H

Stay up Late to See the Northern Lights

Iceland is probably one of the most accessible countries in Scandinavia in which to see Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. The incredible natural show of light is created when electrically charged particles from the solar wind merge with earth’s atmospheric gases. As the collisions occur, myriad colours and patterns are produced depending on the altitude. You’re likely to see the most common lemon, lime green and violet colours at lower altitudes and higher, you gain shimmering patterns of reds, oranges and more. Between October and March, you’ll have ample opportunities to see Aurora Borealis throughout Iceland, but where to see them? 

A prime location is Hella in southern Iceland. If you arrange a stay at nearby Hotel Ranga you’ll be treated to spectacular nightly performances. Alternatively, Skógar is a small village with less than 50 residents, therefore skies are clearer due to less light pollution. Take a blanket, snacks and a hip flask and snuggle up together as Icelandic skies alight with a kaleidoscope of colours. Arctic Adventures offer a selection of Northern Lights Tours via land, boat or horseback with durations of two to eleven hours depending on your preference.

Aurora Borealis

Credit: basiczto

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