A land of yule lads & northern lights - 6 days/5nights
Follow the journey of the Yule Lads brothers in a country full of natural wonders and with a unique Christmas culture. The Icelandic Christmas period is an intriguing mixture of religious practice and traditional folklore. As many countries do, Iceland celebrates Christmas mostly with good food and gifts to loved ones. Unlike most countries that have a single Father Christmas or a Santa Claus character, Icelandic children are fortunate enough to be visited by 13 Yule Lads that live in a country with harsh winter and on an island that has been isolated for centuries. The Icelandic Yule Lads bear little similarity to the world-famous Santa Claus. They are descended from trolls and their original role was to strike fear in the hearts of children. The thirteen brothers are the sons of two of the most hideous ogres ever known in Iceland, Grýla and Leppalúði. No doubt most children would have wanted to avoid the Icelandic Yule Lads in the old days, since they were used by parents to frighten their children into behaving – as Grýla and Leppalúði are still being used today.
In the 20th century, the Icelandic Yule Lads became strongly influenced by their foreign colleagues, both in terms of conduct and appearance. They began wearing red garments on special occasions, similar to the Santa Claus. They also developed an unprecedented kindness towards children, to the point where they started depositing gifts. Even though the Yule Lads took on the role of Santa Claus by his appearance and his behaviour their number stayed unchanged: 13. Icelanders are proud of the Yule Lads folklore so their names have been the same all this time. If the Yule Lads have to make an appearance in Iceland they always introduce themselves with their Yule Lads name (e.g. Kertasníkir – Candle Stealer). Nowadays the brothers put gifts (or a potato if the child has been misbehaving) into shoes placed by children on their window sill. This tradition has become very popular in Iceland and almost every child participates with their family for the last thirteen nights before Christmas Eve.
We travel to Akureyri, the capital of North Iceland, where we visit the famous Christmas house and a beautiful folk museum. We explore Lake Mývatn with its unique geological features. We see a spectacular panorama of surreal lava, crater and cave formations and sulphur-streaked mountains. Allow yourself to lose track of time while admiring the beauty of the landscape. We meet with the trolls and the Yule Lads at Dimmuborgir, a place with unique lava sculptures. We walk along pseudo craters and visit the bubbling mud pits, steaming vents and hot springs of Námaskarð. Oh, did we mention a relaxing soak in the Mývatn Nature Baths? In South Iceland we travel the well-known Golden Circle Route to Þingvellir National Park and UNESCO world heritage site, to the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall and to Geysir hot springs. During our 6-day Christmas Tour to Iceland, we encounter many of the merry Yule Lads, experience the beauty and joy of this festive season, go on a snow shoe hike, a torch walk, search for the Northern Lights, bake Icelandic Christmas bread and listen to many stories. This tour is for everybody that loves the beauty of Christmas and is ready to believe in the existence of troll parents and their 13 Yule Lads.
Day 1: WELCOME TO ICELAND (50 km/31 mls)
The Flybus shuttle brings you from Keflavík International airport to Reykjavík where you spend the first night in Iceland. We provide you with ideas how to explore Iceland's capital on your own. Meals: none
Day 2: THE CAPITAL OF NORTH ICELAND, CHRISTMAS HOUSE AND THE YULE LADS (140 km/87 mls)
Meet your tour guide. Transfer to Reykjavík Domestic Airport for a morning flight to Akureyri, the capital of North Iceland. We explore this charming town of 17000 inhabitants, visit the botanical garden and enjoy the panoramic view over Eyjafjörður fjord. Next stop is the Christmas Garden, a small museum and shop where you find countless items connected to the festive season from all parts of the world. You are introduced to the Icelandic Christmas traditions. Beautifully decorated "leaf breads" and legs of smoked lamb hang from beams. Quality handwork, crafted by many artists from all parts of the country deck the shelves, making this a place which appeals to all the family. You get to know the 13 cheeky Yule Lads and their parents, the most important Christmas characters in Iceland. Be prepared to bump into them unexpectedly during our trip!
We continue our journey along Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord, where we reach a unique turf farmhouse, a prime example of old Icelandic architecture, furnished with household items and utensils from the turn of the 19th century. Check-in at Hotel Reynihlíð for two nights, a comfortable and well-located hotel at Lake Mývatn. In the afternoon two Yule Lads tell us the story of their brothers and parents. You will know all about the Yule Lads family afterward. Lake Mývatn is known as a winter wonderland with Northern Lights. Join an evening lecture about Northern Lights and don't miss the chance to step outside the hotel after dinner to search for the magical auroras. Meals: breakfast & dinner
Day 3: LAKE MÝVATN CHRISTMAS ADVENTURES (30 km/19 mls)
After breakfast we bake Laufabrauð together. They are round, thin and crisp unsweetened cakes, known in English as “leaf bread” or “snow-flake cake” because of their beautifully cut geometrical patterns. A few weeks before Christmas, families across Iceland gather to make Laufabrauð together. After lunch we drive to Dimmuborgir “the dark castles”, and take you on a snow shoe hike through the lava formations hoping to get a glimpse of the trolls who are said to live there. Back on the bus we continue to Námaskarð, a geothermal ground with bubbling mud pools and steaming solfataras. We visit the bread holes where we taste traditional dark bread baked underground in the geothermal heat. Now it is time to warm up and take a relaxing soak at Lake Mývatn Nature Baths containing a unique blend of minerals, silicates and geothermal micro-organisms and whose warm soothing waters benefit both skin and spirit alike. After dinner we take you on a torch walk into the darkness to hunt for Northern Lights. You better watch out – Yule Lads love to pray on rural farms at nights. Rather than a stocking, you might want to put a shoe in front of your room door in the hope that one of the Yule Lads will leave a gift, or a rotten potato, depending on how well you behaved. Meals: breakfast, light lunch & dinner
Day 4: MORE ADVENTURES IN NORTH ICELAND (130 km/81 mls)
After breakfast we visit the Mývatn bird museum together with the Yule Lads. It is now time to say goodbye to them, and after lunch at the hotel we leave for Akureyri. We stop at the bizarre lava formations at Kálfaströnd followed by a walk around the many pseudo craters near Skútustaðir. We continue to an important spot in Iceland’s history, Goðafoss, the waterfalls of the Gods. In Akureyri you have some free time to go shopping, to the local swimming pool, visit museums and check out the cakes in the local bakery. Evening flight to Reykjavik and check-in for two nights in a hotel in the center of town. Evening free at leisure. Meals: breakfast & light lunch
Day 5: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE ROUTE (260 km/161 mls)
At 08:30 we depart Reykjavik to explore the Golden Circle route. We pass the Blue Mountains, home of Grýla, the ogress and the mother of the Yule Lads boys. Grýla lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband Leppalúði, her children and a black cat. We travel to Gullfoss, “the golden falls“, a double waterfall that tumbles 34 meters into the Hvítá river. Gullfoss is one of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls. Exploring the hot springs at Geysir is a geography lesson in real life: natural springs bubble away in the ground until the pressure reaches the limit – and explode in a spectacular style. Geysir and Strokkur are the two biggest geysers in Iceland. While Geysir no longer is active, Strokkur still spouts every 5 to 15 minutes to the delight of visitors. We continue to Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, where the Althingi, the oldest legislative assembly in the world was founded. This is one of Iceland's most fascinating places both geologically and historically. We explore Þingvellir National Park and discover its history and its role in establishing Iceland's sense of national identity. The site is situated on the boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and the Eurasian continental plates drift apart. We travel back to Reykjavík, where we stop at Kringlan shopping center and also down town for some last minute Christmas shopping before returning to the hotel.
In the evening, we celebrate our Christmas tour with a traditional Icelandic Christmas meal at Restaurant Floran in the botanical garden in Reykjavík. Icelandic Christmas songs and dancing around the Christmas tree are of course part of the program. Don't miss this last chance for a look out for the Northern Lights from the garden. Meals: breakfast & dinner
Day 6: DEPARTURE HOME (50 km/31 mls)
Individual transfer by Flybus airport shuttle from your accommodation in Reykjavík to Keflavík Airport. Meals: breakfast.
Departure Dates: Around Christmas
Duration: 6 days/5 nights
Accomodation: 3 nights in Reykjavik in 3 or 4 star hotel, 2 nights at Hotel Reynihlíð at Lake Mývatn
Meals: 2x light lunch and 3x dinner
Group Size: ideal for groups 10-30 persons.
- Arrival airport transfer by private bus & guide
- Fully escorted 4-day bus tour with a professional guide as per program
- Departure airport transfer by private bus (no guide)
- 5-nights accommodation including breakfast
- 2x light lunch and 3x dinner
- Visit to Christmas House & Garden in Akuryeri
- Entrance fee to historical turf farm in North Iceland
- Entrance with towel at Mývatn Nature Baths
- Hot steam baked bread tasting
- Snow shoe hike (or hike if no snow) in lava labyrinth
- Visit to Mývatn bird museum
- Laufabraud making seminar
- Torch walk and Northern Lights search
- Many encounters with the Icelandic Yule Lads & Christmas surprises
- Northern Lights lecture and film presentation
- Domestic flight Reykjavik-Akureyri-Reykjavik incl. airport tax and transfers
- Use of winter & Northern Lights explorer equipment: simple non-slip snow & ice grippers spikes for shoes and a flash light that is helpful when walking in the dark and operating your photo camera at night
PRICE PER PERSON: contact our group department for an offer - email firstname.lastname@example.org