Winter in Iceland is truly a magical time. From the snow-capped landscapes lit up by the Northern Lights to crystal lakes and glaciers, the sights and sounds of this Nordic country will leave you spellbound.
The best way to experience winter in Iceland is by engaging in activities specific to the season. But we know what it is to feel overwhelmed by the range of choices available. This is why we have covered the top seven things to do so you can experience the best of Iceland in the winter.
1. Witness the Northern Lights
You cannot miss the spectacular Aurora Borealis shining across the Arctic sky on your Icelandic holiday. Although the chances of witnessing them are greater between October and April, the phenomenon depends upon a number of factors such as darkness, clear skies, and the absence of light pollution. The long winter nights in Iceland make it the ideal time and place to watch the Northern Lights.
Whether you choose to go on a guided tour or drive yourself to less populated spots, watching the Northern Lights should be at the top of your Icelandic winter things-to-do list.
2. Celebrate Christmas and New Year in Icelandic Style
The holiday season in Iceland lasts from November to January, which means you can enjoy the festive spirit across the winter months. Be prepared to be amazed by the rich cultural traditions of this Nordic country. You can try traditional Christmas dishes such as smoked lamb (Hangikjöt) or watch the annual comedy show (Áramótaskaup) on New Year’s Eve. From hearing tales of mischievous Yule Lads to witnessing spectacular bonfires, spending the holiday season in Iceland is an unforgettable experience.
The Icelandic Christmas tradition of book gifting (Jolabokaflod) has made it the largest publisher of books per capita, with 5 different books per 1000 Icelanders.
3. Explore Ice Caves and Glaciers
Winter is the perfect time to explore ice caves in Iceland as they are formed naturally from glacial water. The shapes and tunnels vary each year, which makes each Icelandic ice cave a unique one. You can choose guided tours exploring the interior of tunnels and watch the beautiful ice formations. Afterwards, you can snowmobile or hike across the glacier-capped landscapes.
Did you know that 11% of the landmass in Iceland is covered by glaciers?
4. Go on a Route 1 Road Trip Drive
An excellent way to spend your winter in Iceland is to explore the different regions of the country. You can do this by driving on the Ring Road which is a major route that loops around the country. One of the highlights of driving on the Ring Road is the increased chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Our guide to driving on the snow might come in handy.
You can also choose to explore a section of the Ring Road. Our top two recommendations are the South Coast and West Coast as they’re easily accessible from Reykjavík and packed with incredible sights. If you decide to head West, you cannot miss the small villages at the northern end of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula such as Ólafsvík and Hellissandur. There is also a national park at Snæfellsjökull which is quite popular amongst tourists.
5. Relax in Geothermal Hot Springs
Your Icelandic winter things-to-do list does not need to be restricted to activities. You can wind down on your holiday by soaking in a hot spring. As you watch the snow-dusted scenery, your body will feel the benefits of the mineral-rich waters. You can even add some sauna and spa therapy to this Nordic wellness ritual.
There are plenty of pools to choose from. The Blue Lagoon is undoubtedly highly sought after, but it might be worth trying some lesser-known charms such as Landbrotalaug.
6. Visit Icy Waterfalls and Glacier Lagoons
The sparkling waters of Iceland’s waterfalls are enchanting. Come winter and you’ll be spellbound by the sight of them frozen. The sight of cascading water freezing into icicles is, perhaps, second only to blue icebergs floating on top of glacier lagoons.
Whether you choose Skógafoss in the south or Dettifoss in the north, you won’t be disappointed. Add the mighty ice glacier Vatnajökull to complete your Iceland winter things-to-do list with the largest ice cap in the country.
7. Explore the Wonders of the Golden Circle
Your Iceland winter itinerary is not complete without a tour of the Golden Circle. A comprehensive trip covering major Icelandic landmarks, the Golden Circle is one of the most popular tours in Iceland. Within the space of a few hours, you could be witnessing geothermal activity at Geysir and watch the Golden Falls (Gullfoss) plummeting 105 feet into the rafting river Hvita. Best of all, it starts from Reykjavík making the tour easily accessible.
Set foot on the meeting point of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates at Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park on your Golden Circle tour.
There is no doubt that an Icelandic winter holiday is enchanting. From exploring ice caves and glaciers to relaxing in geothermal hot springs over the festive season, there is plenty to keep you occupied. In this blog, we have covered the best things to do in Iceland in the winter to help you make the most of your holiday.
You can hop into one of our rental cars right after you land at Keflavík International Airport. Not only are they built for exploring the rugged landscapes of Iceland, but they are designed to cater to your needs. You can even choose additional features for enhanced comfort and maximise your Icelandic driving experience.