Icelandic winters are colder than one would imagine and more beautiful than one would have perceived. While Iceland is cold almost all-year-round, the winters are extra crispy and extra fun for the lovers of chills. The biggest attraction of Icelandic winters, known in the world, is northern lights hunting but there are several more things to look forward to and enjoy if you are traveling to Iceland in winters. Summer is the peak season for tourists so winters are much calmer and hence make Iceland an ideal place to be for the ones who are not an admirer of the crowd. Most of the land is covered in snow and many summer-exclusive destinations are not accessible. But come winter, other ones like ice caves and northern lights become available to hunt and explore. Snow and ice are very much available to gaze upon in summers as well but the true meaning of ‘Iceland’ comes to light only in winters. The snow-clad landscape is different than any other country which sees snow the most time and every bit worth exploring. Iceland in winters is a haven for lovers of serenity, nature, cold, and solitude.
Top 10 Winter Activities in Iceland
About Winters in Iceland
September to April is roughly the winter season of Iceland. As far as temperature is concerned, it stays somewhere between -4°C to 11°C throughout the winter season. January and February are the coldest months while September, October, and April are a little bit closer to fall and spring. Winters, even the most of spring and fall, are cold enough for you to carry some very heavy clothing and wind sheeters to ensure that you remain safe during your entourages in the peak of the cold season.
Winter season does not get much precipitation, especially in the north. The roads will still be slippery with the snow so you need to watch out when driving. Some roads, are closed for a few months due to inconvenient travel conditions and the harsh weather, but those are mainly the roads in the highlands. The roads around the Ring Road and Golden Circle are well contained all year round.
Daylight is more like a lost cause in the season and when the winter solstice is around, you only get about 4.5 hours of light on average in the whole day. And that is just the ‘day’ light we are talking about. Seeing the sun is still a rare case scenario around the winter solstice. So, most of the excursions are either going to be at night – like the northern lights hunting – or scheduled around the day. The extended dark hours of the day invite the opportunity to celebrate the festivals that include a lot of lights like several concerts, the new year, Christmas, etc.
Best things to Do in Winters in Iceland
No matter what the place or which season it is, there are always some top things that one has got to try when they visit a country. It is as if a rule, for example, visiting the Eifel Tower when in Paris. The following are some of the top things that every tourist should experience when traveling to Iceland in winter.
One sole reason for many tourists out there to visit Iceland is just for either watching or photographing the northern lights. Aurora Borealis or the northern lights is a phenomenon that occurs when solar wind enters the atmosphere of earth, getting past the magnetic field. A certain energy is released by the collision of particles in the atmosphere with the atoms in the wind which is better known as the northern lights. Different areas on the planet see the aurora in many different colors at different points of time, including red, pink, yellow, green, blue, violet, orange, and white. The colors depend on what the particles in wind collide with. For example, a collision with oxygen creates yellow and green lights in the sky.
Scientific facts and phenomena aside, these glimmering lights are one of the most beautiful natural things on earth to lay your eyes upon. There are several places specially dedicated for northern light watching but the best way to catch them is in winters, in an open area probably atop a glacier or out in an open lava field. The night needs to be pitch-black for the lights to be spotted in the sky. It is impossible in summers but winters are dark enough that northern lights are even visible from the capital city. Thingvellir National Park, Vik, Blue Lagoon, and Ásbyrgi canyon are some of the top places to catch northern lights in the country.
Northern Lights Tours
Ice Caves | Winter Must Do in Iceland
Winters have their exclusive activities and exploring ice caves is just about one of them. Iceland’s ice caves only form in the winters, meltdown every year as the days get warmer and form back again the next winters. Ice caves in Iceland are even more beautiful than the glaciers that house them; some are filled with glittering electric blue ice from head to toe, while others are more unconventional with black ice or azure-colored sculpture in the middle. The beauty of these places is something that you would be able to escape and the fact that they are only available to access in winters, it must be on your to-do list.
Tours to ice caves start opening form October or November at maximum. Several ones are worth visiting on your trip. Black ice cave of Katla volcano (open all year), Vatnajökull Glacier Crystal Cave, Langjokull ice caves with unusual ice sculptures, Svínafellsjökull blue and white ice cave and the seldom appearing Diamond ice cave of Vatnajökull glacier. The last one on the list appeared only once but it was as beautiful as they come. Ice cave tours often come as a packaged deal, you can combine them with sightseeing hiking, snowmobiling, and more. You can also book a self driving ice cave tour, perfect for anyone wanting to rent a car and drive around the country on their own.