Voyage to see Iceland’s 13 Santa Clauses

Iceland Christmas Tree

What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than with boundless snow, the freezing cold and glittering lights? Scarcely anywhere do these three ingredients come together as beautifully as they do in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. In the darkest months of the year, the city in the far north gleams brightly, all the streets and houses are decorated with festive lights and Christmas trees. There are also a few small, magical Christmas markets that are definitely worth a visit, such as the Jólaþorpið on Ingolfstorg square in the city centre. A visit to the city of Hafnarfjörður in the greater Reykjavik area provides festive cheer: the residents work flat out throughout the Advent season and transform the entire city center into a fairytale Christmas village. Laufabrauð is just one of the culinary specialties which you really must try at Christmas time. It’s a wafer-thin piece of white bread baked in oil into which people carve artistic Christmas ornaments and scenes.

Where Just One Santa Claus Doesn’t Suffice

In Germany, it’s Santa Claus or the Christkind that bring the presents; in Iceland, the task requires 13 Santa Clauses! From 12th December, the Jólasveinar, 13 Christmas trolls from the mountains, gradually appear until their numbers are complete on 24th December. Children place their shoes in the window so each troll may leave gifts for the well-behaved boys and girls, while the naughty ones are given old potatoes. The Jólasveinar are rather rugged fellows, each has his own personality and their names indicate which tricks they like to play: such as Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod), Þvörusleikir (Spoon Licker), Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage Swiper) or Kertasníkir (Candle Stealer), for example. Then, from 26th December, a troll leaves each day until on the Epiphany, 6th January, no more remain.

The Play of the Northern Lights

Iceland’s December sun already sits low on the horizon by 2 p.m., and the country’s position close to the Arctic Circle offers the perfect conditions to observe the fascinating theatrics of the Northern Lights. To see them, you really ought to leave any well-lit areas. Numerous guided tours depart from Reykjavik, but you can also head out on your own and make your way through predominantly uninhabited terrain. A clear sky and a gloomy moon are also required for optimal viewing of this natural spectacle; it’s best to check the Aurora Borealis forecasts in advance.

Daily direct flights to Reykjavik from Berlin-Tegel with Icelandair:

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