As you’re dreaming about trips to take at the beginning of a new year, consider an outdoor adventure to COLD weather! Most people in the winter are looking to escape the cold and retreat to some warmth, BUT winter is quite possibly the best time to visit Iceland. It’s incredible!
A number of years ago, Bo and I traveled to Iceland with our friends in February (aka the middle of winter). It is such a magical place! You can feel the sense of wonder from the moment you step off the plane (no wonder 50% of the population believe in elves).
It’s worth noting that I HATE the cold. I mean...I despise it with every fiber of my being. And I have felt this way my entire life, despite growing up in frigid Minnesota.
Despite my hatred of the cold, I still believe that winter in Iceland is something to behold! Trust me! The types of activities and adventures are entirely different. They are totally worth it!
Flights + Accommodations
When it comes to taking any trip, the cost is a crucial factor to consider. Winter is Iceland’s “offseason,” which means prices for flights and accommodations are generally lower than the other times of year.
PRO Tip: We landed an awesome deal through IcelandAir that included flights, hotel, and excursions, so keep your eyes peeled on their offers. They also used to offer deals that allowed you to stop here on your way to Iceland and extend your layover for as many days as you wanted. It’s a great place to spend a few days on your way to/from Europe!
Like other countries, you can stay with major hotel chains or opt for a quaint Airbnb in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. Decide what will be best for your family and go for it.
You might be thinking, “Uh...ok...but isn’t it cheaper because there are no things to do?” Not at all!
The cold winter weather presents the opportunity for unique experiences that don’t exist in the summer months. Some experiences can be enjoyed year-round, but again, there is something jaw-dropping and idyllic about them in the winter.
Iceland has more geothermal activity than any other place on earth its size. You can see the natural hot springs and volcanoes everywhere. (Return in the summer to travel to the bottom of a volcano...if you dare!)
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These stunning sights amidst the snow are why we think winter may be the best time to visit Iceland. Adventure awaits!
There are so many hours of sunlight in the summer that it’s impossible to witness Iceland’s natural wonder of the world -- Aurora Borealis! The best opportunity to view the Northern Lights is from late September to late March. We went in February, so it was prime viewing time.
We booked a boat tour to view the incredible light display from the water, far away from Rejkyavik’s light pollution. We bundled up, cruised on the sea, sat on the top deck in the frigid air, got neck aches from looking straight up at the sky...but unfortunately never saw a single flicker of a northern light.
BUT that doesn’t happen all the time. Sadly, we happened to be out there on a day with heavy cloud cover. Plus, we were leaving the next day, so we had no wiggle room to try again.
PRO Tip: Plan to see the Northern Lights on one of your very first nights in Iceland. Then, if the weather is not cooperating, you can always reschedule for a later day in your trip.
Our favorite relaxing experience in Iceland was hands down the Blue Lagoon! Surrounded by Iceland’s natural landscape, you soak and swim in massive pools of geothermal seawater.
The stark contrast of the pure teal water and the white snow-covered rock formations around you, create a picturesque experience you will never forget.
The water is rich in silica, algae, and minerals. All offering healing properties for your skin. Enjoy your own silica mud mask and experience the rejuvenation for yourself.
PRO Tip: Pre-book your experience here. You will have your spot guaranteed, and you’ll be ready to settle into relaxation from the moment you arrive.
While you can visit the Blue Lagoon in the warmer months, there is something indescribable about relaxing in the warm water while breathing in the cold, fresh air. With steam rising all around you, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered the loveliest dream.
PRO Tip: Embrace this frozen paradise completely and stay at the Blue Lagoon’s Silica Hotel or Retreat Hotel.
Below freezing weather produces ICE! While that may sound chilling, it actually gives you the opportunity for incredible experiences in and on Iceland’s glaciers.
This is my biggest regret from our trip--we did not do any glacier activities. We chose to enjoy some of the other nature adventures around Iceland due to our limited time. BUT if we go back again, glacier adventures will be at the TOP of my list of things to do!
You can walk or snowmobile ride on top of a glacier. Or gain a whole new perspective by walking INSIDE a glacier. (Channel your inner Elsa. Ahtohallan anyone?)
If you're up for an even bigger adventure, try out ice climbing or ice cave exploring. You’ll be up close and personal with the glacier learning all about how it’s formed and how it functions. Plus you’ll have remarkable stories and pictures to share with everyone back home.
One of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls is Gullfoss Waterfall, meaning Golden Falls. It is one of the main stops on the popular Golden Circle Tour. The water cascading over this 1+ mile-long ridge is breathtaking.
Viewing this waterfall in the winter is remarkable. The wide sheets of waterfalls crash amidst the dark snow-covered cliffs. Some water has frozen, icy chunks that float with the current and crash against snowy rocks. Winter displays incredible beauty at the Gullfoss Waterfall.
Supposedly, the word “geyser” originates from Iceland’s Geysir. Stand in awe as you watch it blast boiling water up to 230 feet in the air.
As the hot water comes into contact with the frigid air, steam instantly appears all around the vertical stream of water. It’s like a magnificent special effect in real life. What an incredible way to experience nature and science firsthand.
We were surprised to learn that Iceland is one of Europe’s most modern cities. Amidst the quaint traditional Icelandic buildings you will find streamline architecture and modern art on display around Reykjavik. Public transportation is super easy to use and will take you almost anywhere, making it easy to tour around Reykjavik from wherever you are staying.
Reykjavik’s downtown area is quaint with everything covered in snow. You can find cute shops, or sit down at a restaurant for unique Icelandic food such as whale, fermented shark, puffin or horse.
If you want the best Icelandic hot dogs, visit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand. I’m convinced that the cold weather makes their warm hot dogs taste 10x better!
PRO Tip: Avoid walking around downtown in the middle of a snowstorm. You’ll end up with icy snow pellets beating your face as you’re trying to put one foot in front of the other. Ask me how I know.
Visit Iceland in Winter
From the frozen waterfalls and glaciers to steaming geothermal pools, the natural beauty of Iceland is simply outstanding. It will leave you in awe. The cold winter weather only magnifies the beauty--making it the best time to visit Iceland.
Remember, I despise cold weather and everything that comes with it. So if I’m saying it’s the best time to visit, it must be pretty epic! Check out the incredibly cool (see what I did there) adventures, and you’ll discover it’s Worth Every Trip!