Iceland is famous for its winters, probably because people who are visiting Iceland imagine snow covered mountains and icy glaciers. Visiting Iceland during winter is a totally different experience than during the summer, usually with lower prices and less crowds.

Personally I'm a big fan of the winter and I wanted to share with you some activities I enjoy doing over the colder months. 

Experience the northern lights

The best thing about visiting Iceland during winter time is the chance of seeing the northern lights. To the locals, the northern lights are a part of their life, as they light up the night sky in surroundings dominated by snow, rugged mountains and harbours. When you see them it’s like witnessing a celestial ballet of light dancing across the night sky painting it with shades of green, purple and blue!

The best way to spot the Northern lights are when the skies are clear and it's dark. That's why it's recommended to go out of the cities to get rid of the light pollution. You can do so, either by driving on your own or go on a organised tour. There are many tours to chose from where experienced guides will find the best spots to see the lights and even help you out with catching them on photo. 

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Visit Snæfellsnes Peninsula

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula has some of the most spectacular scenery of the country with wide range of interesting sights. Its collection of lava fields, basalt cliffs and high glaciers draws regularly travellers as well as locals for stay at the Peninsula. 

If you’re planning to visit Snæfellsnes, give yourself time to enjoy it but 2 days should be enough to cover the main spots. It’s truly an incredible place and — even after traveling all over Iceland— it remains one of my favourite spots. 

I can particularly recommend this 2 day tour to Snæfellsnes Peninsula, as it goes to all the main sights as well as going whale watching, caving and visiting a hot spring. 

P.s. If you are here between November and April, head to Grundafjörður for spotting Killer Whales. They are known for hanging around close to the town but you don’t see so much of them in other parts of Iceland. One of our locals Tómas Freyr was lucky enough to see them when he went on a tour with Láki Tours. 

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Arnarstapi

Visit Búðir at Snæfellsnes

Head to the westernmost tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to visit Búðir, a small hamlet surrounded by a remarkable lavafield and the magical Snaefellsjokull glacier in the background. The most ionic symbol of the place is the pitch-black church with its white-framed windows.

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Go Glacier Hiking

In my opinion you haven't truly experienced Iceland until you've walked on a glacier, surrounded by raw nature. If you are staying in Reykjavík, one of the most convenient tour will take you to to Sólaheimajökull glacier, a beautiful outlet glacier on the South Shore. It's a mere 2 hour drive from Reykjavik on a nice paved road. 

From there hikers will enjoy outstanding views of the glacier and surrounding mountains. The hours spent hiking includes many photo & rest stops as well as learning about interesting glaciology.  

To see some impressive landscape, that isn't easily found in many other places around the world, you should definitely look into going on a glacier hiking tour! You can even try your hand at glacier climbing as well, with an ice axe!

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Visit Dyrhólaey and Reynisfjara beach

Close to Iceland's southernmost point lies the famous Reynisfjara black beach. This place is truly magical where you will witness some of the most dramatic landscape of the country. The black beach is surrounded by beautiful cliffs and basalt stones where extremely powerful waves are hitting the rocks all around. In the middle of the ocean are Reynisdrangar stacks towering out from the ocean 70 meters into the air.

Despite the natural beauty, Reynisfjara can be dangerous. The waves are especially strong and unpredictable, and fatal accidents have occurred at this beach, so people are advised to take extra care when visiting the area.

Nearby is Dyrhólaey, a natural rock bridge formation that makes for a stunning view point. Once you are on top you will have a breathtaking view to all directions. To the west you can view the endless black coastline, to the east you will see the black beach itself, to the north you see Mýrdalsjökull glacier. 

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Witness arctic golden hour

“Ó, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.” 

Because of how close Iceland is situated to the arctic circle, the nation gets the full on effect of seasonal changes on a unique scale. During the summer we get long, sunny days and, as expected, winter comes with complete darkness. The sunrises and sunsets during winter can last for almost an hour where the golden glow tends to accentuate colours and elongate shadows, which provides plenty of scope for dramatic and expressive photography. Get outside and enjoy watching the snowcapped mountains become bright red and pink!

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Iceland in winter

Go Skiing/Snowboarding

With its long cold winters, plentiful snow, and numerous mountains, it is no surprise that you can go skiing in Iceland. Many skiers and snowboarders who live in Iceland are lucky enough to visit their local ski area every weekend during the winter. Iceland doesn’t have really tall mountains but heading to the skiing areas can be a great way to mix in with the locals.

It’s definitely not a tourist attraction, still we have a skiing area situated only 40 min drive from Reykjavík and 20 min drive from Akureyri. All the skiing areas will rent out gear like, snowboards, ski, boots and helmets. However they do not rent out clothing, so you would need to bring your own. Here is the Icelandic ski area website, where you can find updated information about the ski conditions during wintertime.

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Meet the Icelandic horse in its winter coat

Riding the Icelandic horse in wintertime is a lot of fun, particularly in fresh snow. They horses are extra charming during winter wearing their fluffy winter coat. The Icelandic horse is truly special for few reasons, they are smaller then most horses but what makes them really unique among all other breeds are the 5 different gaits (most horses have only 3). 

Spending time in the Icelandic nature at the back of a horse is a excellent way to experience what the country has to offer. The scenery you'll pass through is simply stunning — from tiny picturesque farms to fields of crumbling lava. 

However, be prepared for the winter cold. Dress in layers so you can maintain a comfortable body temperature. Layering apparel allows you to add or remove clothing easily as your body temperature changes.

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Get lost

One of my favorite things to do in Iceland is just driiiiive. There is so much to look and even without any plans I always happen to find something beautiful that’s worth a stop.

That's what's so unique about Iceland, that there is stunning nature everywhere. – splashing waterfalls, striking mountains, endless lava fields and wild horses at every meter. Within minutes of starting your road trip in Iceland, you will feel a bounce in your step. Oh, and you may even catch the magic of the Northern Lights a few times too. There is no better place then Iceland to just jump into a car and start driving into the wilderness. I’ll assure you if you just start driving it will lead you to an adventure.

So hit the road and get lost! But not as lost as this guy though...

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Drive Hvalfjörður

Hvalfjörður or "Whale Fjord" is situated close to Reykjavík. The fjord is extremely beautiful and there you will find spectacular nature and historic sites. The main attraction is in the end of the fjord the highest waterfall in Iceland Glymur, as well as plenty of interesting hiking trails.

What is really special about the fjord is that it almost looks like it’s abandoned. In 1998 the Icelandic government built a tunnel under the fjord so the locals wouldn’t need to drive the extra 45 minutes to get across. The tunnel has made the drive much shorter and everyone is so glad to get this new road under the ocean that they have forgotten about the fact that Hvalfjörður is actually quite beautiful. For that reason you will never see heavy traffic or big crowds nowadays and you will sort of get the feeling that you have the place to yourself.

Iceland in Winter 13

Visit Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir national park is a site of historical, cultural, and geological importance and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This is where the Icelandic Parliament, was established in 930. At Þingvellir you can clearly see big cracks from the continental drift between the  North American and Eurasian Plates.  The cracks and rifts are really beautiful and sometimes filled with crystal clear water, which you can go snorkelling and diving in!

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Check out the red cliffs in Heiðmörk

Heiðmörk is situated 10 min drive out of Reykjavík. It’s a place where many locals go for long walks or even horse back riding. There are many beautiful places to be found in Heiðmörk, like small woods, lava fields, and lakes.

Iceland in Winter 14

Visit Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss is one of the best known waterfalls in Iceland. It’s situated between Selfoss and Skógafoss close to the ring road. The waterfall is wonderful but during wintertime you have to be careful. The paths are icy and they can get really slippery. During summer time it’s possible to walk behind the waterfall, but do not attempt to do that in winter unless you have crampons.

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Visit Skógafoss Waterfall

Skógafoss waterfall is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country and definitely one of the most picturesque waterfalls of Iceland! Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. You can get view of the waterfall from above and below. Be careful though during winter the stairs can be frozen and it get’s really slippery.

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Visit the airplane wreck

At the South Shore of Iceland lies a picture perfect airplane wreck. In 1973 a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, in the South coast of Iceland. Fortunately, everyone in that plane survived. The scenery around the airplane is stunning and makes perfect for photos. The plane lies on the black sand with Eyjafjallajökull glacier behind it. Go here to find the tour to the Sólheimasandur plane wreck.

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Visit Harpan music hall

When you stroll around downtown Reykjavík you will easily spot Harpa music hall that is situated on the harbour. It’s a big shiny building with an interesting architecture that can be nice to observe. The house is open to everyone with few coffee shops and design stores.

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Visit Kerid volcanic crater

Kerid is a volcanic crater that is a popular stop when traveling the Golden Circle. It doesn’t require any hiking so it’s really accessible. In the middle of the crater lies a bright blue lake that is usually frozen during winter time.

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Explore the amazing nature around Mývatn

Mývatn is a shallow lake situated in a volcanic area the north ofIceland. Because of the volcanic activity there are a vast number of sights for visitors around the lake. Here you will find endless craters, caves, thermal areas and the famous Krafla volcano.

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Visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

One of our favourite spots in Iceland is the magical glacier lagoon, called Jökulsárlón in southeast Iceland. Usually large icebergs are floating on the lagoon since blocks of ice are constantly breaking off the neighbouring glacier, Breiðamerkurjökull. The lake is up to 250 meters deep which makes it the deepest lake in Iceland.

Sometimes the lagoon is full of big ice bergs but sometimes it’s empty. It really depends on the weather, like direction of the wind and so on. In both cases the lagoon is beautiful and usually it’s easy to spot a lot of seals here. Last time we were there we saw hundreds of them trying to warm up in the sun.

Just remember not to try to step on the icebergs that are floating in the lake since it’s extremly dangerous. There have been incidents where the icebergs are flipping over and travellers fall into the lagoon.

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Visit the black glacier beach

When visiting the glacier lagoon travellers tend to forget about the black beach right next to it. The place is magical and often full of ice bergs that have washed to shore.

Winter activities in Iceland

Visit the North of Iceland

The North of Iceland is full of interesting places. Its long valleys and peninsulas are interspersed with mountains, lava fields and smooth hills carved out by rivers. The North is famous for excellent whale watching, thermal areas, beautiful hot springs and the second largest city of Iceland – Akureyri.

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Try to spot some reindeers in the East of Iceland

Today the wild reindeers live only in East of Iceland. During summer time they are usually at higher elevations but during winter time they tend to seek lower grassland, closer to the coast. That’s why they are more easily spotted during wintertime. Last time we saw them they where running around close to the glacier lagoon – Jökulsárlón.

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About me

A 24 year old engineer student with a mind of an adventurer. Born and raised in Norway but moved to Iceland at the age of seven. Since then I have used every chance to travel around Iceland and experience all the great places it has to offer! Feel free to contact me if you need information about Iceland, also check out my travel blog: From Ice To Spice

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