Though winter is one of the quieter times to visit Iceland, for many it is the ideal time to travel to this beautiful island country. Though Iceland’s weather is milder than many people imagine, many tourists do not want to brave an Icelandic winter on their travels, and so those that do venture to the island will find fewer tourists and quieter attractions.
While Icelandic winters present lower temperatures and limited hours of daylight (as few as 4 hours in December), and you’ll need to plan your activities carefully, there is still plenty to keep you busy and enthralled when you travel to Iceland in the colder months. Here’s our list of the best things to do in Iceland in the winter.
Explore the Ice Caves
Ice caves are the perfect activity for a winter trip to Iceland. In fact, this is an activity that can only be experienced in the winter. Between the months of November and March, those lucky enough to visit Iceland can experience the raw and striking beauty of these caves.
These caves are formed in a glacier when melting water passes through or beneath the glacier, causing the ice to melt and leaving openings, tunnels and “caves” in their wake. These otherworldly caves provide an unforgettable experience as well as unparalleled photo opportunities.
Enjoy Indoor Experiences
For those days when the weather just won’t cooperate with your plans, there are plenty of amazing things you can do indoors in Iceland that simulate the outdoor beauty of the country. If you’ve been struggling to catch the Northern Lights, there are plenty of places you can go to see an aurora simulation, which is almost as good as the real thing.
Or, to get a feel for different parts of the country that you may not be able to access during winter, you could pay a visit to Perlan, which plays host to an impressive number of attractions and recreations of some of Iceland’s most popular landmarks.
Go on a Snowmobiling Tour
Winter means snow, and that means snowmobiling is possible! There are plenty of options for snowmobiling in Iceland, and a wide array of tours you can choose from. The most popular snowmobiling tours take adventure enthusiasts across some of Iceland’s most formidable glaciers, like Lankgjokull or Myrdalsjokull.
Snowmobiling tours appeal to tourists of all ages, sizes and fitness levels. This mode of transport allows you to cover a lot of ground in one day so that you can take in all the glorious scenery of the mammoth glaciers in Iceland. Snowmobile tours also make for a fantastic group activity, so if you are travelling with a number of family members or friends, this is a wonderful winter activity to take part in.
Tour a Glacier
If high speed isn’t your idea of a good time, you can still experience the majesty of an Icelandic glacier on foot through a hiking or ice climbing tour. That’s not to say, though, that these tours are for the faint of heart. Hiking a glacier brings you up close and personal with the power and magnitude of the glacier, and can be physically challenging. But make sure to check with tour operators, as some are suitable for people of all fitness levels and are less challenging.
Some glacier hiking tours also offer an ice climbing option, which makes for the thrill of a lifetime. Coming face to face with some of the most impressive ice walls, ice climbing gives you the chance to suit up with capons, harness and an ice axe.
Soak in the Hot Springs
What better way to unwind after a day in the cold weather, climbing glaciers and exploring ice caves, than by relaxing in natural hot pools of mineral-rich waters? Iceland is a hotbed for volcanic activity, and as a result, there are numerous natural geothermal pools that visitors can enjoy. Some, like the Blue Lagoon, are popular and complete with changing rooms and many other facilities, like cafes and even a hotel.
But you can also experience very natural pools in natural surroundings with nobody nearby. Pools like The Secret Lagoon or Gudrunarlaug feel a little more natural and remote, allowing you to connect with nature while you soak away your cares.
When travelling around Iceland, do not enter any geothermal pools you have not researched or that are not clearly signposted. Some natural hot springs are actually too hot to safely enter, so always practice precaution before entering one.
Seek out the Northern Lights
Of course, for many, the ultimate reason for visiting Iceland in the winter is the chance of seeing the Northern Lights. This natural phenomenon which sets the northern sky alight with a luminous dance of pinks and greens is visible in Iceland between September and April.
There’s no guarantee that if you visit during Northern Lights season that you will definitely see them, unfortunately. You must be met with a perfect storm of conditions, with a lack of light pollution, lack of cloud cover, and being in the right place at the right time. You can join Northern Lights tours, which can increase your chances of seeing them thanks to expert guides. But if you do miss out on seeing the Northern Lights on your winter trip to Iceland, you can always visit the aforementioned Aurora Reykjavik!