Much to my family’s dismay, I have found the Christmas spirit (even though it’s only the middle of November and a few years ago I’d say bah humbug if anyone mentioned the holidays before December). I’m singing Christmas songs in my head all the time and I’m itching to go to IKEA to buy anything with snowflakes or little Christmas people on it. I’ve got the Christmas fever.
By the way, did you know that IKEA’s Vinter 2017 line, their Christmas line this year, is inspired by Iceland? True story. You know your country has made it when it’s inspiring Swedish flatpack furniture and nail polish.
Anyway. It’s a good thing I’ve connected with my inner Cindy Lou Who because our inbox is full of e-mails from bewildered travelers that have no idea what to do during their Christmas holiday in Reykjavík. I’ve actually written a number of posts about Christmas in Iceland but I guess they either didn’t see that or they’re looking for something a bit more specific.
So to answer the call, I’ve decided to tell you about a few Christmas and New Years Eve themed tours and activities you can check out in December. These are not all the tours on offer, just a few that popped up when I did some digging. If I find something else worth your time closer to Christmas, I’ll update this post accordingly.
Because most of these tours are new or only offered once a year there are no recent reviews available for them. Therefore I’ve added a few comments, my two cents if you will, to each one to help you decide which one is the best option for you.
Experience Iceland’s take on Scandinavian Christmas hygge in an Icelandic home
Price: 8.990 ISK. Duration 2.5 hours. Starts: 18:00 – Ends: 20:30. Available at the end of November and in December.
I’m actually super excited to share this particular activity with you because I’ve been carrying it around with me for almost two years (which is about the same time as the gestation period of an elephant – those poor things). We did a Christmas walking tour 2 years ago which our guests loved with but this time we wanted to take it even further.
In December my husband and I will be inviting you to our home for an evening of Christmas cheer where you will get a taste, literally and figuratively, of Christmas in Iceland. We’ll tell you all about our Christmas traditions: the food, the gifts, the decorations and the music – not to mention an in-depth psychoanalysis of the Icelandic yule lads.
Because the maximum group size is 10 people this will be a cozy and intimate evening where you can ask all the questions you could possibly have about Christmas in Iceland.
My two cents
Obviously, I’d recommend this since it’s my home and my husband. It’s actually just an elaborate scheme on my part to get permission from my family to decorate early.
We’ll also be doing our walking tours every day in December except the 25th.
Fireworks cruise at sea on New Years Eve
Price: 18.900 ISK. Duration: 1,5 hours. Leaves at 11:00 – returns to land at 00:30. Only on offer on December 31st.
As you may know, Reykjavík (or Iceland in general) is known for its amazing display of fireworks on New Years Eve when everyone and their uncle blows up tons and tons of awesome fireworks. This tour will take you out to sea just for front row seats and you’ll get a glass of bubbly to cheer in the new year.
My two cents
I do think this tour is a pretty good idea. You’ll get unrestricted views of the fireworks and seeing the firework mayhem happening over the city should give you some pretty spectacular pictures. The only downside I see to this tour is the weather – if it’s cold it gets even colder out at sea and if it’s windy the ocean might be a bit rough.
It’s perhaps a bit pricey for 1.5 hours but it’s a once in a lifetime sort of thing so it may just be worth it.
Bonfire and fireworks bus tour on New Years Eve
Price 12.900. Duration: 5 hours. Starts at 20:00 – ends at 01:00. Only on offer on December 31st
This bus tour will bring you to one of the many bonfires that Reykjavík is famous for on New Years Eve. At midnight, you will be taken to a viewpoint that offers good views over the city where you’ll be treated to one of the craziest fireworks show you’ll ever experience and a glass of bubbly. Between the bonfire and the fireworks, light refreshments will be offered.
My two cents
This tour is not a bad deal, especially if you want to avoid the hassle of having to figure out how to get between places yourself (there’s no public transportation on New Years Eve and taxis are almost double the normal price). You will be brought to a real bonfire and a viewpoint where the views of the city are great, so it does everything it promises it will do.
You can, however, do these things without doing a tour, it won’t take you to any special places that are not already known. Also, it’s much likelier that you’ll meet other tourists on this tour than locals but maybe that’s OK if you’re having a blast anyway. It’s a great option if you’re a bit lost about where to go and what to do and how to get there.
Magic and Mystery at New Year bus and activity tour
Price: 16.500 ISK. Duration: 4 hours. Starts: 09:00 – Ends: 13:00. Only available on December 31st.
This tour is a bit of a new years eve safari with a folklore twist and you will cover a lot of ground. First, you’ll go visit Iceland Search and Rescue at one of their fireworks kiosks where you’ll learn a little bit about their work and get a chance to purchase some fireworks for the evening.
Next, you’ll visit the old cemetery of Reykjavík and learn about some folktales about what happens there on this night. Then, you’ll go to Hafnarfjörður, the elf town, and learn a little bit about the hidden people and what they get up to on New Year’s Eve.
You’ll end the day in a forested area with a small bonfire and fireworks.
My two cents
I like the idea of this tour and I think it would be extra interesting for families with kids that need something to pass the time before the big night. You’ll get a bit of the local flair mixed with tried and tested tourist clichés such as the fact that everyone in Iceland believes in elves. We don’t, but you should never ruin a good story with the truth. Or however that saying goes.
The company that does this tour is one of the big bus companies though and they’re not exactly known for their personal touch or intimate tours but if they’ve found a good guide for this I think it would be a great way to spend your morning.
Bonfire bus tour
Price: 9.500 ISK. Duration: 3 hours. Starts: 20:00 – Ends: 23:00. Only on offer on December 31st.
If you are fine with figuring out where and how to see the fireworks at midnight (pro tip: just look up) you might want to consider doing a Bonfire tour that will take you to some local bonfires and even give you some sparkles so you can blend in with the locals. The tour finishes just in time for you to run to whatever hotspot you’ve chosen to watch the fireworks at midnight.
My two cents:
Again, like with the bonfire and fireworks tour, you can do this on your own but if you want to avoid the hassle of figuring out the particulars yourself – this tour is a good option. It’s a typical bus tour but you’ll be spending most of your time outside anyway, so the vehicle shouldn’t matter so much.
Bonfires are fun, especially if you have kids, so whether you do this tour or not you should check them out.
Reykjavík Christmas Walk
Price: 18.900 ISK. Duration: 3 hours. Starts at 9:00 – Ends at 12:00. Available five times a week December 1st to December 23rd.
This Christmas walk (not conducted by us – just so there’s no misunderstanding) will show you around downtown Reykjavík area with a guide dressed in Iceland’s national costume and it includes some Iceland tastes (shark, dried fish etc.) and a visit to the Settlement Exhibition (which is one of my favorite museums in town). The focus will be on Christmas Traditions old and new with a dash of history, art and architecture.
My two cents
I have to be very honest here and say that it’s really difficult for me to be impartial when I happen to think our walking tour is awesome and think you should all book with us, but this tour covers an area we mostly stay out of and it starts at 9 am when it’s still dark so you can enjoy all the beautiful Christmas lights along the way.
Without knowing exactly what is included I will say though that maybe this tour is a bit pricey. For 18.900 ISK you could do our walking tour and our Christmas hygge and still have money left to buy someone a beer at the bar (or visit the Settlement exhibition on your own). For 2000 ISK more you could even add a northern lights tour so you’d basically get three tours for one (or 9 hours instead of 3). I also have to mention that in the description for this tour they use words like intimate which I think is a bit of a stretch when you see that they’ve 50 spots available for each tour.
But like I said, I’m not unbiased and if you just want to get it all over with (a city tour and something Christmassy) in one go, this might be the tour for you.