Iceland is a country like no other; it is equally bizarre and incredible during winter. The glittering white glaciers contrast beautifully against the black volcanic rocks of the mountains. The waterfalls freeze and some of the popular ones become accessible. The Northern Lights are best seen during winter months. This is why many people still flock to the country during winter.
But what really makes this island country special? What are the popular things to do in Iceland in the winter season?
The Land of Fire and Ice
Contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not full of ice, it has lots of vibrant green fjords, lush geothermal lagoons, spurting geysers, and even cracked lava fields. It is easily one of the most stunning places on the planet.
Its nickname, “The Land of Fire and Ice”, couldn’t be more fitting, as this island country is set on top of a volcanic basin, yet has some of the most magnificent glacial landscapes. So what are the things to do in Iceland in winter? Well, it turns out, quite a lot.
Majestic Winter Wonderland
Winter gives you the chance to see the majestic side of the country’s most spectacular landscapes, not to mention the magnificent frozen waterfalls, ice shards that look like diamonds on the black sand beaches, and glacier lagoons. Unique activities like snowmobiling, ice caving, and of course, spotting the world-famous Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights, are once-in-a-lifetime-experiences only available during winter.
Still not convinced? Here are the best things to do in Iceland in winter.
Watch the Aurora Borealis
No trip to Iceland will be complete without seeing the majestic natural light display in the sky – the Northern Lights. The light show fills the sky with hues of green, purple, and red. Many consider it as a magical, other-worldly, and even life-changing experience. The experience is quite difficult to put into words, and what is even more incredible is no two Northern Lights displays are the same.
Most people visit places in the Northern Hemisphere primarily for this natural light show. But as with many natural phenomena, it is never guaranteed. Conditions must be perfect for the light to be visible in the sky – the night sky must be extremely dark. Luckily, winter is the darkest time of the year in the country. Also, though you don’t need an organized tour to see the lights, it is best to get an experienced guide when it comes to hunting the lights.
The Aurora Borealis can be seen in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere, like Tromso in Norway, Yukon in Canada, Swedish Lapland, etc. The good thing about the Northern Lights in Iceland, however, is that you can combine it with plenty of fun daytime activities and adventures.
Walk inside a glacier
Yes, you read that right. You can actually walk inside a glacier during the winter in Iceland. Ice caving is another can’t-miss activity when visiting Iceland. The way the light slices through the ice and the vivid blue hue of the icy chambers is truly mesmerizing.
The ice caves are located at Vatnajökull and Kötlujökull glaciers, and are only accessible for the public from mid-November to early March. You need to book a guided tour to get there.
Like the Northern Lights, no two caves are the same. They are different each year, too. This is because the caves are naturally formed by nature each winter – the glacial meltwater freezes during winter and melts when the weather warms up.
Celebrate the Holidays
Christmas and New Year’s Eve are big celebrations in Iceland. As a matter of fact, the festival starts from mid-November and stretches all the way to early January. Cities like Reykjavik are adorned with pretty Christmas decorations and colorful lights. This also means there are plenty of Christmas markets, carolling, and concerts happening throughout the country.
There are also lots of festive traditions guests can join and be part of, such as the Yula Lands (a Christmas walking tour). Icelanders celebrate St. Þorlákur’s Day on December 23 when they eat skata (fermented skate and potatoes). It’s also a big shopping day for Icelanders.
New Year’s Eve is usually a big party and January 6th (the end of Christmas season) is topped off with bonfires and fireworks.
Ease your aching muscles at the geothermal pools and hot springs
As said earlier, Iceland sits on a volcanic landscape. The best thing about the volcanoes in the island country is the brimming geothermal pools and hot springs. And there are lots of them in Iceland.
The water that flows through the river is naturally heated by the active volcanoes. The result is a steamy mineral-rich water perfect for everyone looking to relax and ease their aching bodies from the frosty winter’s day.
The most famous are the Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon (accessible from Reykjavik), and the Myvatn Nature Baths (North Iceland).
Snow adventure at The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular year-round and winter attractions in Iceland; when you get there, you will instantly understand why.
This place shows the diversity of the country, thus, it has lots to offer. It has some of the most incredible landmarks, such as the marvelous Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir National Park, and the Geysir geothermal area. It’s a fun way to discover the country.
The UNESCO world heritage, Thingvellir National Park, has some of the country’s most prevalant historic, religious, and cultural attractions. It is also one of the primary film locations of Game of Thrones. So if you’re a huge fan, this is a must-visit for you.
The best thing about exploring the area is you can cover a lot of ground and see a lot of beautiful places in a day – from hot springs, waterfalls, valleys, etc.
Tread through the true winter wonderland at the Diamond Beach
The pitch black volcanic sand of Breiðamerkursandur beach is ornamented with glistening chunks of ice that look like sparkling diamonds. Like an image from a fairytale.
These huge blocks of ice calves from the glacier and icebergs that float around the lagoon vary in shapes, sizes, and even colors with white, transparent, and blue.
These are just a few of the many things to do in Iceland in winter. Visit Iceland today and discover the majestic beauty of The Land of Ice and Fire yourself this winter!