25 Things to Do During Christmas on Your Solo Trip to Iceland
Imagine the two best things in the world coming together—a solo trip to Iceland and your favourite festival Christmas. Hallelujah!
Aimlessly roaming around always features on the top of my ‘things to do on a solo trip’ list. But if you are heading to Iceland on Christmas, I will push you to exploit the Christmas vibes in ‘The Land of Fire and Ice‘ and return home with the most memorable experience.
Here’s another fun fact before you plan a trip to the wonderland destination during the most coveted time of the year—Icelanders celebrate Christmas on December 24!
1. Take a walk around the Christmas market
My first tryst at a Christmas market was in the beautiful town of Hereford in the UK. Popularly called the ‘German’ Christmas markets, they are major crowd pullers. Honestly, I did not get what the fuss was all about.
During the next few years, aligning my solo trips in Europe with Christmas was not a coincidence! The markets and the festivities started growing on me.
Walking around with a mug of hot chocolate and binging on cinnamon san churros in a Christmas market in the town of Reykjavik may sound like the most cliched thing to do but trust me, you will not get tired of it! There are a number of Christmas markets to explore in Iceland. Make it a point to visit both the traditional Christmas markets slightly off the town and those in the downtown area.
While you can easily gel with the friendly locals visiting the markets, I can assure you that you will enjoy it equally, keeping to yourself and taking a walk through the busy markets!
2. Do grab a glass of mulled wine
What’s Christmas time without a glass of mulled wine? Make sure this mandatory seasonal treat features in your priority list on your solo trip to Iceland during Christmas!
The Hlemmur Mathöll Food Hall is among one of the few places where you can grab a mug of mulled wine in Iceland. Though closed on Christmas day and Christmas eve, you can enjoy this on other days during your trip!
3. Book your accommodation in advance
Well, coming to the most practical yet essential part of the solo trip during Christmas now. While on a solo trip, we often take the accommodation bit with a pinch of salt, and I get why! But if you are travelling to Iceland during the time of Christmas, it is highly recommended that you book your accommodation well in advance. Places get filled quickly during the festive season, and you would not want to stress till the last minute if your accommodation is not sorted. Early bookings will also ensure that there is no big hole in your pocket.
4. What about spending it with a local family?
This option may not strike you when you are making your Christmas itinerary for solo travelling in Iceland. When it comes to solo trips, it is usually about reconnecting with our inner selves.
It was during my first solo trip in Rishikesh in the Indian state of Uttarakhand during Diwali that I felt slightly morose as I saw families coming together to celebrate. As I watched a family from a distance bursting firecrackers, they gestured to me to join them. Within minutes, I was upbeat again!
I cannot stress this enough—do NOT underestimate how lonely you can get during festivities if you are on a solo trip. Iceland has a range of beautiful homestays, which allows you to have a local experience—staying with a family and enjoying good conversations and scrumptious meals while on a solo trip is the perfect milieu of all good things in life for me! Do try this ‘home away from home’ option even if you are an introvert. The warm Icelanders will not leave any stone unturned to make you feel welcome. Plus, you can also be a part of the gift opening ritual on this day (my favourite part of the day)!
5. Enjoy the midnight mass
If you are a lover of traditions or not, enjoying a midnight mass on Christmas in Iceland is a must-do! A Christmas dinner followed by attending the mass is hands down a great way of soaking into the local experience in Iceland.
6. Pick up candy treats
If you have read a few blogs by now, my advice will probably sound repetitive. But how can you miss treating yourself to Sara—an absolutely Icelandic (originally Danish) delicious treat! This chocolate-filled macaroon dessert will blow you over. Let me slip in another fun fact here—it is named after the French actress Sarah Bernhardt. If you are staying with a local family, I am sure you would be inundated with these treats, with families typically making a large batch of these. Otherwise, you can pick up some from the traditional bakeries or candy stores.
If you want vegan options and want to pamper yourself during the festive season, you have nothing to worry about. There are plenty of vegan ice creams, protein bars, chocolates available across Iceland.
Do not forget to carry some treats with you back home!
7. Plan your meals
I do not know about you girls, but while on a solo trip, especially to exotic locations, I am super excited about the food! My things to do on a solo trip notebook are mostly full of sticky notes on ‘where to eat what’ (laugh at me for all you want, but you will thank me later). Christmas is family time! Hence a lot of restaurants and cafes are shut on Christmas eve, Christmas Day, and even during the season till New Year’s eve!
So don’t forget to check out which restaurants and cafes would be open and their timings on these days. Do not rule out supermarket ready-to-heat meals either! I have found them to be a saviour during the holiday season when on a trip! I also occasionally like to cook a meal or two while sipping wine in the common kitchen when in an Airbnb.
If you are in a homestay, you have little to worry about!
8. What about a Christmas buffet?
This may seem too high-end, especially if you are on a budget solo trip! But do give it some thought—a widespread in the land of your dreams along with drinks. The Icelanders call it jólahlaðborð and do flock to the buffets! You will usually find them in large groups huddled, enjoying a nine-course meal and laughter.
So if you are in for trying out a nine-course (and more) meal, what are you waiting for? Book early and splurge on yourself!
If you are a vegan and wondering if you can taste Iceland’s traditional dishes, you are in for a treat! Hotels have introduced as wide as a 13-course vegan menu for Christmas!
9. Attend a bonfire on Christmas day
Post dinner, go sit by a bonfire with your camera and journal in the town of Reykjavík. You can do some deep thinking with a scenic backdrop, a warm bonfire as you watch people assemble for the bonfire!
10. Wander around the lit uptown
What better to do than to enjoy a decked uptown on this special day? The light decoration in Iceland is to die for. If you are on a restricted budget (or trip) and looking for things to do on a solo trip in Iceland, wander around the winter wonderland admiring the festive lights.
11. What about booking yourself the perfect Christmas package?
I know you must be wondering how I am shifting gear now with recommending you a package right after suggesting a walk around the town will make your Christmas trip worthwhile!
Well, it is not a secret that some of us enjoy doing touristy things, even on solo trips! There are a number of companies that offer you Christmas packages in Iceland and ensure that you have a near-perfect experience. So trust me, if you are beginning to feel overwhelmed that your Christmas Iceland experience will be once in a lifetime experience, let the experts do the planning for you while you sit back and enjoy!
I must remind you here that do not be under the impression that these tours are templated! There are tailor-made packages available. All you need to do is e-mail the concerned company and chalk out your preferences. Yes, girl! You are ready to hit the ground now.
12. Shopping in Christmas
The best part about solo travelling is the flexibility with your itinerary. While many people find it a waste of time to shop on a trip, shopping is sacrosanct for me on any trip! In fact, let me spill my beans now! It was in Venice that I settled for two bananas for lunch to save money on a meal. Any guesses? Well, I spent that money on clothes (are you judging me already, or are you a part of my clan too?).
The capital Reykjavik is an absolute paradise for shoppers where you will find boutiques lined up in the main shopping street Laugavegur. If you are not pampering yourself around Christmas, when else will you do it? So head to the city centre and buy yourself some new clothes for the season!
Iceland also has lovely souvenir shops and sound music records collections if you are a lover of such things!
If you are in south Iceland, you will find international chains as well as handmade products to choose from. Do not forget to pick up some items of craft if you are passing through the quaint towns in this region.
13. Skating in Iceland
If you are a lover of adventures, skating in Iceland around Christmas should be at the top of your bucket list. Rent out the skates and enjoy in the Ingólfstorg square, which is turned into a skating rink for Christmas. It goes without saying that you will spot a large number of children indulging in this fun activity. So this will only help your spirits soar and dive into the child in you as you put on your skates!
There are also times when ice skating is arranged on the city pond Tjörnin.
14. Go hiking on a glacier
You are on a solo trip to Iceland, and that too around Christmas—can this get any more fun? If you have had enough of the hustle and want to escape the ‘festive feel’ yet pack adventure into your trip, hiking on a glacier is perfect for this time of the year!
All you need is a good hiking guide, and you are sorted! And do not forget your waterproof pants, waterproof jacket, and your hiking boots while going on a hike. It may seem like obvious advice, but you will be surprised how many people actually forget to turn up prepared for this activity!
15. Ice-caving is no less fun
Have you heard of Iceland’s ice-caves? Of course, you have! In fact, that’s already on your list for your Christmas! First things first—do NOT in your wildest dream try accessing ice caves without a guide. Ice-caving gives you the opportunity to see a glacier from the insides!
You can book an ice-caving tour with an adventure company. I would suggest book one with refund options in order to have flexibility with the tour.
16. Self-driving in Iceland to see Northern Lights
Some mild Google search must have already given you the idea of self-drive packages to see the Northern Lights in winter. Yes, there is an abundance of such tours available! Your package will typically include an agent to oversee your itinerary, a tentative map of the areas you will cover, a car, and an accommodation plan! The tours would range from two-day-long to seven-day-long and more, depending on how long you want to spend on the trip!
17. Visit Hafnarfjörður
Located around 10 km south of Reykjavík, the Christmas village of Hafnarfjörður will immerse you in the joy of experiencing the vibrant Icelandic culture. The family restaurants and cafes will leave the most indelible impressions of Christmas in Iceland. You can also walk around the harbour, which houses a number of studios and galleries. In fact, you may even consider spending a couple of days in Hafnarfjörður and gel in with the locals during the festive season.
18. Take a dip in the pool and unwind
What can be a better way to enjoy your solo vacation in Iceland than to spend some time unwinding in the geothermal pools in Iceland? The pools are mostly outdoors and will leave you rejuvenated to engage in a range of activities for the rest of the day! I would recommend you typically start your day with this, and it will keep you going for the entire day!
19. Wait, have you heard of the 13 Yule lads?
Your things to do in Iceland list will remain incomplete if you do not meet the 13 Yule lads. You must be wondering if I have never outgrown the child in me. Well, obviously, I haven’t! I will not go too much into the history of Iceland’s Yule Lads. But let me name them for you: Sheep-Cote Clod, Gully Gawk, Stubby, Spoon Licker, Pot Scraper, Bowl Licker, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Swiper, Window Peeper, Doorway Sniffer, Meat Hook, and Candle Beggar. Make sure you catch their glimpses at the Christmas markets!
20. Buy yourself a book in line with the traditions
This may not feature in a stereotypical list of ‘things to do in Iceland on your solo trip,’ but why not gift yourself a book on Christmas eve when in Iceland and curl up on your bed to devour it as you welcome the special day?
Did you know that Icelanders gift each other books on Christmas eve? They usually then spend the night reading them!
A book reading retreat on Christmas eve is the perfect opportunity to celebrate Christmas and a solo trip to Iceland. This way, you will also contribute to Jolabokaflod or the Christmas ‘book flood’ when a huge number of books are sold between September to December for the purpose of book gifting in Iceland!
21. Prepare for the New Year Eve’s run
I swear by physical exercise, and there is no excuse to maintain your physical fitness regime during the festive season or while on vacation. On New Year’s Eve, there is a traditional annual running event where runners from across all age groups participate. You would find a number of people from outside the country taking part in this running event.
You can spend the Christmas holidays preparing for this event and keeping yourself in good spirits!
22. Ice-climbing in Christmas
Ice-climbing in Iceland—even the sound of it is like a dream come true. And solo trips are the perfect opportunities to engage in activities that you haven’t tried yet!
Accompanied by a qualified guide, it will be a perfect day activity. The tours are suitable for everyone and will be one of the most cherish-able fun activities that you will undertake in Iceland.
23. Take loads of selfies and photographs generously
Do I even need to tell you this? Perhaps, I do! While some of us might indulge in selfies a little too much and not enjoy our immediate surroundings, many of us forget to document our memories through photographs!
When I look for memories from my initial solo trips, I have very few photographs to rely on! Over the years, I have learnt to be more organised when it comes to taking photographs. After all, photographs on solo trips are a treasure hunt when you want to go down memory lane. So don’t you dare forget to capture your best travel moments!
24. Snowmobiling on a glacier
Too many glacier activities, right? Yes, you are really spoilt for choice when it comes to adventurous activities in Iceland around Christmas. Racing through the ice as a solo traveller—can this get any better? Make sure you book this tour in advance and enjoy the most thrilling time of your life!
25. Concerts in Iceland
If you want to delve into the Christmas vibes of Iceland, and experience the music and artistic culture of the wonderland, buy a concert ticket!
The festive feeling at the annual concerts will want you to stop time!
Are you already planning your Christmas trip to Iceland?
Have these recommendations already lured you into planning a Christmas solo trip to Iceland? Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section!
If heaven falls to earth, it is perhaps Iceland. Can there be a better occasion than the festive time of Christmas to enjoy this paradise? Go enjoy your solo travel! If you need more tips, hit me up in the comments section!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.