Winter Activities in Iceland
All the fun stuff in the colder months
The land of fire and ice
The land of contrasts
The land of natural wonders
Winter travel in Iceland
More and more people are fascinated by the idea of venturing out on their own into the Icelandic wilderness, and the campervan is increasingly the #1 choice. There is something extraordinary about driving independently around Iceland, especially in the winter. Northern lights hunting is a ton of fun and the sites are much less crowded. It‘s cheaper with low season prices and the chances of experiencing a hot spring session in complete solitude are drastically increased. The organised tours are much less likely to be sold out, leaving you free to pop in for a quick guided ice-cave trip at your leisure. There are also the Christmas traditions as Icelanders tend to be especially festive during the holiday season and New Year's Eve; which is spectacular in Reykjavík.
Stuff you must try in the winter
You literally „must“ try this in the winter, as the water that runs through these crystal caves only freezes is the winter. You can‘t see these amazing natural phenomena any other time of year. You can take a tour into the long, frozen chambers under a ceiling of translucent blue waves. When you see the tour photos, it looks photoshopped, but we can assure you, it‘s not. The entire country is riddled with glaciers, which cover more than 8% of the country. Finding an ice cave operator to take you in is easy.
A must for any adrenaline junky. For those, go straight to the crevasse climbing and look down the whole time! For the normal people, we recommend you find a guide and start at the bottom of a sheer ice cliff, instead of rappelling into a bottomless pit the first time around. We went for the crevasse, some of us didn't make it. Check out the video at the bottom.
You don't have to clamber up vertical ice walls or crawl into ice caves to enjoy the Icelandic glaciers. It's truly exciting to mount on those snow chains, grab an ice ax in each hand and hike onto a moving sheet of ice, hundreds of meters thick in some places and just be there. We recommend dancing on the glacier. Just because. Check it out in the video at the bottom of the article.
There‘s no question. Hot spring and swimming pool visits must be on your travel plan in winter. It truly is a unique experience. We make sure our maps are always up to date and have confirmed access to more than 45 natural hot springs you can bathe in, and that‘s aside from the hundreds of geothermally powered swimming pools you‘ll find in each and every town you come to in Iceland. Check out more in the Hot Spring section.
We advise skepticism on many of the maps out there, as we wrote this article and did some research, many of the suggested locations aren‘t accessible anymore or have been removed.
Blue represents Hot Springs with easy access.
Orange represents Hot Springs with F-Road only access.
Black represents Hot Springs with NO Camper access, but accessible via organized day tours.
You can press the [ ] icon in the top right corner of the map for better access.
The Icelandic horse. A legend in its own right. With a step, no other horse breed can imitate, the 5th gait, known as Tölt. The gate is incredibly smooth, despite the fast pace. The winter coat that covers the Icelandic horse makes it look somewhat smaller, but the power and vitality of these beautiful animals aren't dampened in the slightest. You will have an easy time of finding an operator to help you mount up and ride into the wild.
Once you are underneath the earth's surface, it doesn't matter if it's winter or summer. Iceland has a lot of really interesting caves to explore and you can find guided tours all-year-round. You can go by yourself, but we recommend caution if you do so. The absolute minimum equipment is a helmet, lights, registered travel plan and extra batteries. There are also plenty of really great tour operators that can take you in, and they know all the little secrets, history, and science behind the formations.
Amazingly Iceland is one of the best places on the planet to view these spectacular phenomena. The Aurora Borealis is strictly a scientific occurrence, with highly charged electrons from solar winds hitting the upper atmosphere but it‘s easy to imagine the superstitions that arose from the visual spectacle. It looks more like something magical, like it‘s from a Fantasy Novel. The best time and place to see them? Away from all habitation, or more accurately, any source of light and in the dead of winter. The Easy Clever was born for a Northern Lights hunt.
Nightlife in Reykjavík
It‘s already highly charged and renowned for the local feel to it. But in winter, the Icelandic people tend to go out of their way for an even bigger blast, peaking around Christmas. The 18 hours of darkness creates a setting for an endless night of partying. There are more than 100 bars in the city, so everyone should find something to their liking.
Yeah, it‘s cold. But it also offers a unique experience. There aren‘t many places in the world where you will find clearer waters than in Silfra in Lake Þingvallavatn. The water is actually clear and clean enough for drinking, as it‘s been filtered for years during its glacial journey through the lava rocks.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Iceland has quite a few ski areas that offer a unique experience. We recommend the smaller ones, in the East or in the North. Cross country skiing is also pretty big and can be very enjoyable in Iceland. Check out the ski areas that have lifts on the map.
Many Icelanders own snowmobiles and there are too many world-class snowmobile destinations to count in Iceland. There are also tons of snowmobile operators in Iceland, with the cheapest trips around 15.000 ISK per person for a couple of hours of sledding in the mountains.
A nice way to get out of the cold for some of us, a place to soak up interesting information that‘s rich of history for others. Either way, Iceland has some awesome Museums. They tend to be quite different from what springs to mind when we hear the word Museum. There are loads of Museums in Reykjavík and information on each one is easy to come by. We decided to focus on the Museums outside of Reykjavík on our map.
Christmas and New Years. Both are holidays that are full of local traditions and customs. We love how flashy those customs actually are, with the entire city lit up during Christmas and the awe-inspiring magnitude of fireworks we blast into the sky during New-Years. Then there are the 13 evil Santa-Clauses (Jule-Lads) and their hideous, ogre mother that descend from the mountains to eat humans every Merry Christmas, the delicious Laufabrauð (Leaf-Bread) and blazing bonfires.
We have of course tested all of it, but we took it a step further last winter and made a little movie for you. Enjoy.