Christmas in Iceland: The Story of Gryla and the 13 Yule Lads

In Iceland, the Christmas period is an intriguing mixture of religious practice and traditional folklore. Perhaps the most famous and commonly known folk story is that of Gryla, her 13 sons, the Yule Lads, and her pet, the Christmas Cat.


Gryla is a truly dreadful character, described as part animal and part troll who ascends from her home in the mountains at Christmas in search of naughty children to boil in her cauldron. Only children who have behaved well over the year will be saved from her evil! Yule-lads-sled-1_large

Causing further havoc and mischief in the days leading up to Christmas, Icelandic children can expect a visit from one of the 13 Yule Lads. Each day will bring one of the Lads who are adaptably named to suit their wayward personalities. By leaving a shoe on your windowsill at night, you’ll soon know whether you've been naughty or nice by way of a gift of sweets or rotten potatoes !

Folklore also states that every Icelander must receive a new piece of clothing for Christmas or they will find themselves in danger. This danger comes in the form of Gryla’s enormous black cat, The Christmas Cat, who prowls Iceland on Christmas Eve and eats anyone who doesn’t follow this simple rule.


The legend of the Yule Lads has rapidly changed over the years, as a law was passed to prohibit parents from frightening their children with such stories. Today, the Yule Lads are only seen as slightly mischievous, but feature a similar resemblance to Santa Claus – depositing only kind gifts in the waiting shoes.

In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, the Yule Lads will also be making an additional stop to our social media pages, where you can find out more about their mischievous antics.

Find out more by following us on Twitter or on Facebook

Posted on December 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | E-mail this

Complimentary A1 classroom poster: Energy in the Azores

Discover the World Education are delighted to offer you a new complimentary poster to help support you and your students in the classroom. The poster focuses on energy in the Azores and how the nine volcanic islands continue to deliver a sustainable energy solution despite an increase in demand. The poster encourages students to consider issues surrounding the topic of energy with particular focus on supply and demand, sustainable planning and conservation. 

If you would like to request a copy of this poster then please email including a postal dress in the main email body. Further resources on the Azores plus more destinations can be found on 

Azores Poster JPEG (1)

Posted on November 5, 2015 in Azores , Geography | Permalink | Comments (0) | E-mail this

Travelling to Iceland with your school? Please read this important safety information for visiting beaches and glaciers

The sight of black volcanic sand stretched along a rugged and beautiful surf-ponded coastline is iconic to Iceland and beaches are usually accompanied by a variety of rock formations, basalt columns, hidden caves and blow holes. However, the serenity of the beaches can often mask the risks so it is important to remember that Iceland is a place like no other and circumstances can change in an instant. Large and powerful waves can crash down onto the shore without warning and in recent years, there have been a number of incidents where tourists have been swept out to sea, sometimes with fatal consequences. These waves can occur unexpectedly, even when the sea appears relatively calm.

To help address this issue, we would like to make you aware of the following advice that we respectfully ask your group to adhere to stringently:

It is extremely important that your group do not cross distance warning signs when present. When visiting beaches without such signs the local recommendation is to remain 20 metres away from the sea’s edge (50 metres for Djupalonssandur). However, we do want to emphasise that this is also the very minimum distance to adhere to. Conditions may dictate that you should remain even further back.


A similar approach needs to be taken when visiting Iceland’s spectacular glaciers, as the dangers may not appear obvious at first. We have therefore provided the following advice in addition to the information presented on our risk assessments and itineraries:

When visiting a glacier, it is extremely important that your group do not cross distance warning signs when present, unless on a scheduled glacier hike with specialist glacier guides.

When visiting glaciers without warning signs the local recommendation is to remain at least 15 metres away from the glacier edge. However, we want to emphasise that this is the very minimum distance to adhere to. There are a number of hidden hazards particularly near the edge of a glacier so extra precaution is needed.


We are well aware that safety is at the forefront of teachers’ minds, which is why safety is of paramount importance to us as well. The health and safety culture that we promote within the company along with our relationships with our suppliers allows us to offer you more adventurous activities than any other UK tour operator to Iceland. We thoroughly road-test all our activities and extra precautions are made to ensure we meet rigorous external audits as outlined by the School Travel Forum.

Posted on October 16, 2015 in glaciers , Iceland , Study Trips | Permalink | Comments (0) | E-mail this

New Direct Flight to Egilsstadir, East Iceland

From May 2016, travellers from the UK to Iceland can fly direct to East Iceland's Egilsstadir Airport. Exclusive to Discover the World, it is the very first time that a flight has been offered between the two locations, offering easy and convenient access to one of Iceland's most spectacular and lesser visited regions. In under 3 hours, visitors will be transported to the dramatic landscapes, charming villages and unique culture of the North and Eastern Fjordlands.

You now have the opportunity to explore many more of Iceland’s highlights and best kept secrets, without the hassle and cost of a domestic flight in Iceland. Within a two hour drive, witness a showcase of volcanic and geothermal landforms surrounding the enormous Lake Myvatn which, in summer, is a magnet for impressive birdlife. See, hear and smell the bubbling mud pools at Namaskard; hike amongst eerie lava formations at Dimmuborgir and keep watch for the hidden people! Take a dip in the soothing Nature Baths (the Blue Lagoon of the North) and visit Akureyri, a tiny north Iceland city voted Lonely Planet’s best place to visit in Europe for 2015.

Waterfalls are also plentiful; from the famous Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful, to Hengifoss in the East Fjords, Iceland’s third tallest at an impressive 128 metres!

Flying into Egilsstadir also brings you closer to Europe’s largest icecap, Vatnajokull, which feeds the stunning iceberg lagoon, Jokulsarlon and many impressive glacial tongues.

To find out more about the new flight or to see some of region's many highlights, please CLICK HERE


Posted on October 8, 2015 in Geology , Iceland , Study Trips | Permalink | Comments (0) | E-mail this

© Discover the World. 2013. For any queries concerning this site, please contact our Webmaster.