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Tours to do over Christmas in Iceland

Iceland is the ideal place to spend the winter holidays! There is a great variety of options waiting for travelers to choose how they want to soak up the Icelandic winter!

In this article, we listed the very best activities that are available this time of the year. The selection is vast but availability is limited due to popular demand. Book your trip as soon as you can!

Christmastime in Reykjavík

The end of December is the darkest period of the year in the Arctic region, so Icelanders start to decorate their houses with bright Christmas lights as early as November.

The houses and the streets in downtown Reykjavík are all lit up. Shops, cafés, and restaurants put up Christmas trees, play festive music, and decorate their tables with candles, even putting them on the street outside of the entrance!

Tiny Christmas markets and ice skating rinks along with countless concerts, choirs, and cultural events create a high-spirited atmosphere throughout the city as the air becomes filled with festive feelings.

Elizabeth Ellis - Reykjavik in winter
Elizabeth Ellis – Reykjavik in winter

Christmastime in the Countryside

Iceland’s winter wonderland landscapes and the magical Northern Lights will enchant the mind of every traveler. Reindeer wander down from the mountains, the fur of the Arctic foxes changes into its winter white, and the Icelandic horses put on their soft, thick winter coats as well.

Under the white blanket of snow, which is painted by the surreal colors of the low-lying winter sun, the colorful Icelandic houses, oceanside hamlets, and fabulous landscapes look like a festive postcard or a scene from a fairytale.

Wintry Icelandic landscape in December
Wintry Icelandic landscape in December

Explore the Very Best of the Icelandic Winter

There is a great variety of tours and things to do during the holiday season in Iceland. Life doesn’t stop because of the holidays. On the contrary, there are dozens of options waiting for travelers to choose how they want to soak up the Icelandic winter!

Northern Lights Tours

Naturally, witnessing the Northern Lights is at the top of everyone’s bucket list – especially those who decide to visit Iceland in December. This is truly the very best month of the year to see the aurora! The daylight periods are as short as 4–5 hours, which means that you have 19–20 hours of darkness during which the Northern Lights can appear at any time. Even at 9:00 in the morning or 5:00 in the afternoon, the Northern Lights could make a surprise appearance.

Even though if they’re strong enough, you’ll have a good chance of seeing the lights even in the city, a guided Northern Lights tour offers more than you might think.

Night at Reykjavik with Northern Lights
Beautiful scene from downtown Reykjavik with aurora borealis in the sky above – Reykjavik City hall is the building on the far left and to the right of city hall is Althingi

First, the same light show will be much more intense if you watch it from a dark place where there’s no light pollution. Often, the auroras aren’t strong enough to outshine the city lights. This same aurora will look spectacular if you watch it from a dark place.

Also, clouds often cover the sky. If this happens, you won’t be able to see the lights at all, no matter how strong they are. Guided tours, however, can take you out of the cloudy area and drive you to a place where the clouds have cleared or where there’s a big opening in the cloud cover so that you can see what’s going on behind them.

Northern Lights Tours Iceland
Northern Lights in a Super Jeep‎

Guided Northern Lights tours come in many different forms such as minibus tours, adventurous Superjeep tours, boat tours, and so on. Here are some of the best options that we highly recommend trying:

  • Superjeep or a Minibus Northern Lights tour
  • Northern Lights boat tour
  • A combination with lava caving or snowmobiling
  • South Coast or Golden Circle Sightseeing & Northern Lights tour
  • Glacier hike, South Coast & Northern Lights tour
  • Golden Circle sightseeing, bathing in the Secret Lagoon & Northern Lights tour
Watching Northern Lights
Admiring the Northern Lights

Sightseeing Tours

Come explore the matchless beauty of the Icelandic countryside! If you’d like to see as much of the country as you can, we highly recommend going on sightseeing road trips and seeing the natural attractions that make Iceland so incredibly famous.

Even if you’ve been to Iceland before and have seen some places in the summertime, you’ll be surprised by how different they look in their winter outfits. The light conditions are completely different as the sun paints the skies and the snow pastel-pink through the entire daylight period. The waterfalls are frozen, the black beaches are partly covered with white snow, and the wintry landscape, in general, is just miraculous.

Don’t bother with the difficulties of driving on winter roads. Join a guided tour and enjoy the views to the fullest! Your tour guide will tell you stories and anecdotes about Icelandic Christmas traditions and all the interesting aspects of Iceland.

Skogafoss waterfall in winter

The Golden Circle

Iceland’s most epic tour route, the Golden Circle, awaits visitors all year round. The route covers 185 mi. (300 km) and circumnavigates three of Iceland’s most famous natural attractions:

  • Thingvellir National Park: The location where the continental plates drift apart and where the world’s first democratic parliament was founded a millennium ago.
  • Gullfoss Waterfall: One of the most powerful cascades in Iceland, this is a giant and highly impressive waterfall.
  • Geysir Geothermal Area: This legendary area is filled with fierce hot springs and frequently erupting geysers.

These sights look truly spectacular in wintertime and the landscape between the stops is simply stunning!

The rift valley in Thingvellir in winter
The rift valley in Thingvellir in winter

You can complete this trip in various ways. For the most fun, choose a Superjeep and opt for an extra stop to go snowmobiling on Iceland’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull. You might even see a natural ice cave!

Or you can choose a much warmer option. Why not go swimming in a geothermal hot spring after your amazing road trip?

You can even combine your Golden Circle tour with a Northern Lights tour. There are so many different options to choose from! These are the bests:

  • Golden Circle tour with extra stops (Superior tour)
  • Express afternoon tour
  • Golden Circle + Kerid Crater combined with a visit to the the Blue Lagoon
  • Golden Circle sightseeing combined with snowmobiling, horse riding, lava caving, snoerkeling or the Northern Lights
The Secret Lagoon in winter
The Secret Lagoon, Iceland’s largest geothermal pool from an aerial view in the wintertime

The South Coast

Many say that the South Coast has the most picturesque landscapes in all of Iceland by far. It’s hard to disagree! This scenic area offers thrilling sights at every kilometer. In fact, Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and black volcanic beaches are all located here. They coexist with the crown jewels of all the natural attractions: the beautiful Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and the Diamond beach!

Traveling along the South Coast comes highly recommended all year round. In wintertime, however, this area is an entirely different world. A beautiful snow blanket covers the land and the frozen waterfalls sparkle like crystals under the winter sun. The whole landscape seems like a scene taken from a movie! Find the selection of the best South Coast tours here. These are we recommend the most:

  • Sightseeing tour in a minibus
  • South Coast tour combined with a glacier hike and the Northern Lights
  • An extended South Coast that takes you all the way to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon & the Diamond Beach
Seljalandsfoss-waterfall
Seljalandsfoss waterfall in the wintertime

Snowmobiling

Iceland’s wintry wilderness offers unlimited options for exciting outdoor activities and snowmobiling is one of the best you can choose! Gliding through the endless snowfields with a roaring engine between your legs could easily be the most amazing adventure you have ever had!

Snowmobiling on the surface of a glacier that is thousands of years old and hundreds of meters thick is something that you’ll never forget for sure. Moreover, midway through your adventure, you can visit a majestic natural ice cave! This will allow you to get a whole new perspective on glaciers and is, of course, a great chance to snap a couple of photos.

There are plenty of exciting snowmobiling tours that you can choose from. Here are our favorites

  • Glacier snowmobile and ice cave tour (with or without Reykjavik transfer option)
  • Snowmobiling, Golcen Circle sightseeing & Northern Lights tour
  • Snowmobiling & geothermal bathing in the Secret Lagoon
northern lights dancing above the snowmobiling base
Our snowmobile base camp on Langjokull glacier

Snorkeling Between the Continental Plates

If you’re already in Iceland, why not celebrate the end of the year doing something totally crazy and memorable? Treat yourself to the most amazing adventure you’ve ever had and go snorkeling between the tectonic plates!

Don’t worry! This adventure only sounds crazy. In reality, it isn’t extreme at all. Even though you can expect the water to be very cold, you’ll be wearing a safe, floatable drysuit. This means that your body won’t feel anything from the cold and, apart from your hands and your face, you’ll stay completely dry and warm.

Snorkeling in the world’s clearest freshwater along a rift between the tectonic plates in the deepest Arctic winter is something that not many people can say that they’ve done. This is the experience of a lifetime!

You can even combine your snorkeling tour with other activities. Here are the best tips:

  • Snorkeling tour from Reykjavik or from Thingvellir
  • Horse riding & Snorkeling tour
  • Snorkeling & Golden Circle sightseeing tour
Clear waters at Silfra
The visibility under the water exceeds 328 ft (100 m)

Glacier Hiking

As you probably know, Iceland is a glacier paradise. Eleven percent of its total land area is covered by glaciers and the largest ice cap in Europe is located here. These amazingly picturesque glaciers offer truly spectacular landscapes. Their surface is rugged and beautifully blue, decorated with hair-raising ice sculptures, deep crevasses, and massive icefalls. Walking on a glacier is a completely surreal experience!

There are safe and easy guided glacier hiking tours that will take you up to these ancient ice formations. In wintertime, some of these tours even take you into hidden ice caves!

The Best Glacier Hikes on Sólheimajökull Glacier (Near Vík)

Glacier Hikes on Vatnajökull (From Skaftafell)

Hikers on Falljokull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajokull
Hikers on Falljokull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajokull

Ice Cave Tours

December is the most ideal time for ice cave explorations in Iceland! These astonishing blue glacial ice caves are found inside the glaciers and are almost always inaccessible during the spring, summer, and autumn periods.

Ice caves are formed during the warm season by the power of meltwater as it travels through the crevasse channels of a glacier. When the cold season comes, the caves that the water left behind freeze completely, becoming stable and safe enough to visit.

Thanks to the special physical characteristics of glacial ice, these ice caves are colored insanely blue. They are so clear and transparent that you can see meters into the body of the ice. In many cases, you can even see the layers of ash from ancient volcanic eruptions trapped in the crystal-clear ice. Icelandic ice caves offer a surreal atmosphere that simply can’t be experienced anywhere else in the world!

During the Christmas period, there are plenty of ice caves that you can visit in Iceland, located on different glaciers.

the ice cave under the volcano
Katla Ice cave in the winter of 2018

Vatnajökull Glacier (From Skaftafell)

Myrdalsjokull Glacier (From Vík)

Langjökull Glacier (from Gullfoss)

Crystal ice cave on Vatnajökull glacer
The Crystal ice cave on Vatnajökull glacier in 2019 winter

Horse Riding

Icelandic horses are adorably short, good-tempered, and intelligent – but they’re not ponies! They’ve become really popular on the international scene for being easy-going and are considered one of the friendliest horse breeds in the world. Therefore, anyone can easily ride an Icelandic horse without having had any previous experience.

Riding a horse is a very authentic way to explore the Icelandic landscape. In wintertime, these cuties are very furry and love to play in the snow. If you love animals and pretty views, then this the ideal activity for you!

There are plenty of exciting horseriding tour options. Here are some we recommend:

  • 1-or 2-hour horse Riding tour near Reykjavík
  • A South Coast Sightseeing tour combined with a horse riding activity
  • Horse riding on the Black sand beach at Vík
  • Horse riding combined with snorkeling, lava caving or a Northern Lights tour
Horse riding in winter in Iceland
Horse riding in the snowy Icelandic landscape

Lava Caving

The land of fire and ice not only offers ice caves but also offers spectacular lava caves! These subterranean geological wonders were formed during volcanic eruptions and remain stable and safe enough to visit. Expect vivid colors, fascinating rock sculptures, beautiful lava flow formations, and a host of other things that will inspire awe and wonder in equal measures.

In wintertime, sparkling icicles grow from the ceiling while ice sculptures rise from the ground like natural festive decorations!

There are plenty of lava caves in Iceland, some of them quite close to Reykjavík. You can also combine this activity with other tours such as horse riding, snorkeling, or a Golden Circle tour.

  • Caving tour with a transfer option from Reykjavik
  • Lava caving combined with Golden Circle sightseeing, Northern Lights tours, snorkeling, ATV or Blu Lagoon tours
Lava cave in winter
Lava cave in winter

Multi-Day Tours

Due to the shortage of daylight hours during the Christmas season, we highly recommend giving yourself plenty of time in Iceland. If you’d like to make the most of your stay, the best thing to do is to join a multi-day tour.

You can save both time and money as you won’t have to plan everything out for yourself. Multi-day tours with accommodation included are often cheaper than doing day tours while staying in Reykjavík.

The best winter multi-day offers include the South Coast, the Golden Circle, and, of course, the Northern Lights! For those who prefer more off-the-beaten-track destinations, we’d recommend a Snaefellsnes Peninsula road trip or an adventurous Superjeep ride to the snowy Icelandic Highlands where you can even soak in a natural hot spring while admiring the Northern Lights!

Snowy Icelandic landscape in December
Snowy Icelandic landscape in December

For those who have plenty of time in Iceland and would like to see as much of the country as possible, the Around Iceland or the Ring Road tours may be the best option.

With such a great selection available, we’re sure you’ll find what you’re looking for! These are the most popular options:

  • 2-Day Snaefellsnes Peninsula Tour and the Northern Lights
  • 2-Day South Coast, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, the Northern Lights and ice cave exploreation
  • 3-Day Kerlingarfjoll & Northern Lights Winter Paradise Tour
  • 3-Day South Coast. Golden Circle & ice cave tour
  • 4-Day Snaefellsnes, North Iceland & Northern Lights tour
  • 5-Day Winter Package
  • 6 days around Iceland Tour

Whichever tour or activity you choose, you won’t be disappointed, that’s for sure! We wish you a memorable trip and a magical Christmas holiday in Iceland!

 


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