Travelers to Mývatn in northeast Iceland can meet the 13 Icelandic yule lads, have a taste of Icelandic Christmas specialties and bathe in the Mývatn Nature Baths.
Mývatn invites visitors to take part in a program called “Welcome to Mývatn, the Magical Land of Christmas,” organized by project Snow Magic, which features the infamous 13 yule lads.
“We started with this program last year and it was popular among both Icelandic and foreign visitors. Tourists from abroad find the story of our unique yule lads very interesting,” project leader of Snow Magic Jóna Matthíasdóttir tells icelandreview.com.
Folk stories tell the tale of vicious trolls that came down from the mountains shortly before Christmas to play tricks on people, steal their food and even eat children.
With time, the reputation of the yule lads has improved. Although they are pranksters still, they now leave presents behind in children’s shoes, starting 13 days before Christmas.
According to Snow Magic, the 13 yule lads live in the rocky area of Dimmuborgir near the lake. Throughout December they will meet with visitors to Dimmuborgir, a 2000-year-old lava field, and travel around the area to perform.
“This is a very ambitious project. Director Oddur Bjarni Thorkellsson and actress Margrét Sverrisdóttir supervise the yule lads,” Matthíasdóttir explains.
Last weekend the yule lads had their annual bath in the Mývatn Nature Baths. “A big group of people showed up to watch the yule lads bathe in their special bathing suits and some visitors went into the Nature Baths with them,” Matthíasdóttir says.
At least two of the yule lads stay in Dimmuborgir to meet and have their picture taken with visitors every day from 1 pm to 3 pm. But they also travel around the countryside and every weekend they help milking the cows in public cowshed and café Vogafjós.
Children unable to visit the Icelandic santas can send letters to them instead. All letters addressed to “Santa Claus, Iceland” are forwarded to Santa World in Sel Hotel at Mývatn, and all letters are replied to. Letters from the santas can also be ordered online, on www.santaworld.is.
Snow Magic is a joint project between Iceland, Sweden and Finland. It was launched by the Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) to increase cooperation on cultural projects in northern territories.
The goal of the Icelandic leg of the project is to boost the economy in the Mývatn area, especially during the winter, with emphasis on culture and tourism.
For more information, visit www.snowmagic.is.
Photos by: Gunnar Jóhannesson, Margrét Sverrisdóttir and Birkir Fanndal.