Top 5 bucket list worthy winter experiences in Iceland

5 Amazing Things to Do in Iceland in Winter (Unforgettable Experiences!)

In Iceland, Travel inspiration by JurgaThis post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. More info: Disclosure.

Traveling to Iceland in winter and wondering what are the best things to do in Iceland in winter? You’ll find some inspiration in this article. Take a look!

Iceland is a magical place in winter. Watch the Northern Lights, visit the ice caves, or go hiking on a glacier…. These and other incredible experiences will make your winter trip to Iceland unforgettable. In this post, you can learn about the most incredible things to do in Iceland in winter that will get you booking a flight right away!

Sure, it is cold in Iceland in winter and you will have to face the elements if you decide to visit the Arctic during winter months, but it’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I would recommend to everyone!

What makes Iceland so special and what can you expect of your winter trip? Here is my selection of the most unforgettable things to do in Iceland in winter. Find out!

Read also: Iceland winter itinerary

Iceland in winter - best activities and experiences you shouldn't miss
 

Bucket List Worthy Winter Activities in Iceland

Below is just a short list of the very best things to do in Iceland in winter. Some of these winter activities are unique to Iceland and each is a good reason to visit Iceland in winter in each own. Find out!

1. Watch the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are one of nature’s greatest displays. It’s a dazzling experience that is difficult to describe in words, because it is so unique every time. No two aurora displays are ever the same and I don’t think you could ever tire of watching it.

For many people, the chance of seeing Northern Lights is the prime reason to travel to Iceland in winter, despite the high cost and the cold. But as with all the natural phenomena, it can never be guaranteed…

With luck you will see the sky turn green and purple and it will be one of the most humbling experiences you could imagine, but don’t get obsessed with auroras and don’t let it spoil your vacation even if you don’t see them. There are so many other exhilarating winter experiences that make a winter trip to Iceland worthwhile.

Good to know: You don’t need to go on an organized tour in order to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, but knowledgeable guides and years of experience might come in handy when it comes to aurora hunting. The biggest advantage of going with a tour is that they really do their best to find places where conditions for aurora viewing are optimal for that specific night.

✓ Here you can book one of the best-rated small-group Northern Lights tours from Reykjavik.

Watching northern lights in Iceland
Seeing northern lights is a bucket list experience
Seeing northern lights is a bucket list experience
Dazzling aurora display in Iceland
 

2. Experience a True Winter Wonderland – Jokulsarlon & Diamond Beach

The cold and the wind turns Iceland into a true winter wonderland, so when you travel to Iceland in winter, you’re in for a real treat. Frozen waterfalls, icebergs, water that turns into ice as you watch…

Don’t miss the black sand beach, also called Diamond beach, at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon if visiting Iceland in winter! Diamond beach is located just across the road from the famous glacial lagoon. The scenery here changes all the time so make sure to check on both sides of the bridge. To me, this was the most special winter experience in Iceland. I could have stayed on that beach the whole day!

You can drive to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon with a rental car, or take an organized tour. Note that Jokulsarlon is really far from Reykjavik and if you decide to visit Jokulsarlon from Reykjavik in one day, it will be a very long day in the car.

✓ Here you can find the best organized day tour from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon!

Ice beach of Jokulsarlon in Southern Iceland
Diamond Beach near Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Iceland winter wonderland - icebergs on Jokulsarlon beach in winter
Jokulsarlon beach is a true winter wonderland
 

3. Discover the Ice Caves in Iceland

How amazing would it be to walk inside a glacier?! Visiting a natural ice cave is one of the winter-only experiences in Iceland, so don’t miss it. Every ice cave is different and you never really know what you’ll get to see before you go in, but they are a truly mesmerizing wonder of nature. Definitely a bucket list experience and undoubtedly, one of the best Iceland winter activities.

Ice caving is not something you can experience on your own, but no worries, there are knowledgeable guides that will take you on this epic journey under the blue ice.

There are several places in Iceland where you can do ice caving, the most popular tours to the natural ice caves go to Vatnajokull glacier in South East Iceland (see suggestions below). Langjokull glacier in South West Iceland has a man-made ice tunnel that you can visit the whole year-round.

TIP: Note that ice caving tours in Iceland are extremely popular and are often fully booked long in advance. So if you are traveling to Iceland in winter, this is one experience you definitely want to book beforehand.

✓ Don’t miss this incredible experience in Iceland in winter! The best natural ice cave tours leave from Skaftafell or from Jokulsarlon – take a look at availability and book asap.

Visiting a natural ice cave - one of the best things to do in Iceland in winter
Featured image © Anna Omelchenko/ iStock
 

4. Go Glacier Hiking

For those who want to get up close and personal with the ice in Iceland, I can recommend glacier hiking. This is your chance to experience a truly surreal landscape with the most spectacular scenery!

Glacier hiking was one of my favorite activities in Iceland in winter. It’s a humbling experience, one that makes you truly appreciate the vastness and the power of nature.

Glacier hiking is not strenuous, but don’t attempt it on your own! You do need appropriate gear and a guide who is familiar with the area and the ice. Just as many other Iceland winter activities, glacier hiking is something you better book in advance. Here you can read all about our glacier hiking experience in Iceland.

✓ Here you can book your glacier hike in Iceland! It’s also possible to go glacier hiking as a day trip from Reykjavik.

Hiking on Solheimajokull glacier in Iceland
Hiking on Solheimajokull glacier
Glacier hiking in Iceland
Adventurous glacier hiking – only for the experienced
 

5. Bathe in Iceland’s Geothermal Pools

Bathing in a hot geothermal heated pool in winter is definitely a bucket list experience. This is one of the most fun winter activities in Iceland that everyone can easily do.

There is no better way to end a day full of exhilarating winter activities than taking a dip in a hot pool on a cold winter evening.

The Blue Lagoon is a very popular option because of its proximity to the Keflavik airport and to Reykjavik, but Iceland has many other natural geothermal pools all over the country. Secret Lagoon and Fontana Wellness are both good options along the Golden Circle, and there are countless other geothermal pools all over Iceland.

In the North of Iceland, the most popular options include Myvatn Nature Baths, Geosea in Husavik, or our personal favorite, Sundlaugin á Hofsósi.

Good to know: Pretty much every town has a swimming pool heated with geothermal energy, saunas, and hot tubs. It’s a great value for your money and one of the best things to do on cold dark winter evenings in Iceland!

TIP: Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Fontana Wellness are all very popular and so it’s best to book your tickets in advance.

✓ If you are in for a winter hike and a dip in a natural hot tub, you can also hike to Reykjadalur Valley that’s famous for its hot spring.

Myvatn Nature Baths - geothermal pool in Iceland
Myvatn Nature Baths
Public swimming pools in Iceland cost just a fraction of the popular places like the Blue Lagoon or Myvatn Nature Baths
Public swimming pools in Iceland are a bargain
 

Other Great Winter Activities in Iceland

The five previously mentioned winter experiences in Iceland are each worth a trip to Iceland in winter. But of course, there are many more things to do and experience in Iceland in winter!

Here are some more ideas for fun winter activities in Iceland:

TIP: To make your Iceland trip truly enjoyable, you need to travel well prepared. Make sure to check our tips for packing for Iceland in winter.

   
More tips for your winter trip to Iceland:

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

Best things to do in Iceland in winter
5 incredible winter experiences in Iceland for your bucket list or for the next trip. Wouldn't you travel to Iceland in winter for this?
5 unforgettable winter experiences in Iceland. This will get you booking a winter trip for sure!
5 incredible Iceland winter experiences for your bucket list

Comments

  1. beautiful pictures. I was in Iceland about 3 years ago but unfortunately didn’t see the northern lights was sooo disappointed. pls could you give me more tips on what months and time of day is best to see the northern lights as I am planning again to go sometime next year with my 9 year old daughter

    1. Author

      Hi Jane, unfortunately, Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and it’s really impossible to predict. Compare it with seeing a rainbow – it can happy anywhere and any time. With the Northern Lights, exactly the same, except that you need to be high up North, have darkness, and clear skies. The rest – pure coincidence that depends on solar activity. Here you can find our tips for finding and photographing the Northern Lights.
      I think that with a 9-year old, you better go in September if you can. It’s not that cold (so easier to stay outside for a longer period of time) and the chances are as good as you can have. Also, if you already visited Iceland and your main focus is to see auroras, you may want to consider Northern Norway instead. The weather is usually more stable there, so it’s usually easier to find cloudless skies and see the Northern Lights. Here you can read about my experience with Northern Lights in Tromso. If you still rather prefer Iceland, then try to go in September-October or February-March. But it’s just a general guideline and you don’t know what you get till you are there.
      Another thing – taking a tour will always increase your chances to see auroras. They have the experience, keep an eye on the weather radar, and go to the places where chances to see auroras are highest for that specific night. Many tours in Iceland offer a second try for free if you don’t see them the first time. Here you can find these and other winter tours in Iceland.
      If I can give you one more tip – plan your trip in such a way that you’ll enjoy it no matter what. Then Northern Lights will be just a cherry on the cake. Whereas if you just concentrate on seeing auroras and you pick the bad weather week, you might be very disappointed again.
      Hope this helps.

  2. Hi! Fantastic blog and SO helpful – thank you thank you!! Question – did you or anyone you know ever go snorkeling in Silfra between the two tectonic plates? It is rated as a highly must do activity on other sites but was curious if you had any feedback (didn’t see it anywhere in any of your posts). Thanks in advance!

    1. Author

      Hi Margaret, no I personally have no experience with Silfra snorkeling in Iceland. However, this question has been asked multiple times in our Facebook group for Iceland & Scandinavi travel, and everyone who has done it was super enthusiastic. Many people do it winter as well. They say that you have to be prepared that your face will get really cold, but for the rest it’s perfectly ok.
      You can read many customer reviews on these best-rated Silfra snorkeling tours as well.
      Hope this helps.

  3. Yes, I agree with you that Iceland is a magical place in winter. Last November I had visited this land with my boyfriend. We had seen both Geothermal pools and Northern lights. We really enjoyed our trip. We were happy to be away from the crowds.

    1. Author

      Thank you for sharing your experience Rucha. Indeed, visiting Iceland in winter is a perfect way to escape the crowds.

  4. Pingback: The Winners of 2017's Best Travel Articles Awards (Iceland Edition) Have Been Announced! - Days to Come

  5. Hello, thanks for the informative post. I should be going to Iceland end of March and you article was helpful. I was wondering though if you have any driving tips during winter? I keep on reading different reviews about how safe/dangerous driving is during winter time and I’m quite confused!! Will be great if you can offer me some intel regarding this issue. One more question please, do you know if it’s ok to pay the north a visit during winter? Thanks a lot 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Marwa, thanks for your feedback. The questions you ask here have been answered in several other posts already. For winter trip you can find most info here: Iceland winter itinerary (also check the comments with other people’s questions). Check also our newest post with Iceland itinerary suggestions.
      I guess it’s normal that you find different reviews in regards to driving in Iceland in winter – it all depends on peoples’ personal experience. We had very good roads in November and a snow storm in June, so our experience is that winter driving is easier than summer :). It really depends on the weather when you travel.
      As for the North of Iceland, I don’t think it’s such a good idea in winter, since they do have road closures quite often. But once again, you might be lucky and have a different experience. I’d leave the North for July-August or book some organised day tours from Akureyri and not worry about having to drive.

      1. Hi Jurga, thank you for your reply. The links you provided are great, they will definitely help with finalizing my itinerary. They include most of what I had in mind actually but you might have given me a couple of new ideas.

        You are correct, the weather and road conditions play a big part! I will see how it goes and hope for good weather.

        I think so too specially that going north means rushing myself going through the southern part and I don’t want to do that so maybe some other time.

        Thanks again for the help.

  6. I’d love to spend a year in Iceland! I think it’d be really cool to get that kind of locals knowledge. Your pictures in this article are beautiful too!

  7. Very informative post!
    I was in Iceland in November and it was truly magical! Though it’s a very expensive place to visit, I can’t wait to go back.
    I didn’t have a chance to see any northern lights, but I hope to chase them during my next trip.
    Happy travels!

    1. Author

      Thank you, Gem. Happy travels to you too! Hope you get to see the Northern Lights next time!

  8. We didn’t get to see the lights =( And our crystal cave tour got canceled because of flooding. I am definitely going to go back again!

    1. Author

      So sorry to hear it! That’s traveling of course, you never know if mother Nature will cooperate. We once had to change half of our (pre-booked) road trip in Canada (while already there) because of floods and mudslides that closed the roads completely. It turned out great in the end, so I hope that you too had good time in Iceland despite this!

  9. Your photography is absolutely incredible!!! I really want to go back to do the glacier hiking and ice caves, those were the only things I missed and reading about them here makes me want to book a trip back ASAP lol!

  10. I must admit that the main reason I wanted to visit Iceland was for the Northern Lights – but after reading your post, I also want to go to the geothermal pools and the glaciers and the ice caves. I just don’t know if I’d be able to handle the cold because I’m so used to South Africa’s warm climate.

    1. Author

      You’re not the only one. I was the same, I had been to Iceland before and the main reason to visit in winter was the hope of seeing the auroras. They were definitely worth the trip, but so was all the rest!
      As for the cold, there is no bad weather, just bad clothing, so even Iceland is perfectly doable in winter if you travel well prepared, Sara. And if I remember well, the wind in Cape Town can definitely compare to that in Iceland! 😉

  11. Everything looks so magical. I really want to see the Northern Lights when I go one day!

  12. oh I desperately want to visit Iceland and this post made me want to go even more! What an amazing experience and what a fantastic way of describing your experience! thank you so much for sharing it and glad you enjoyed!

  13. Yes I’d definitely be up for the thermal pools! And I can’t believe the colours in that glacier, those black veins, they’re so beautiful.

    1. Author

      Ha ha, the thermal pools are definitely a nice way to end a day full of outdoor activities in winter. As for the glacier, the black colour comes from the ashes of the recent volcano eruption – Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. Normally, there would be no black colour on the glacier.

  14. Oh wow Jurga, you truly capture Iceland in the most amazing way. I love your pictures and what a great experience you had. I went to Iceland 10 years ago and it rained most of the time. I have always had it on my list to go back again and experience this magic that you show.

    1. Author

      I have to admit that we were extremely lucky with the weather in November, Mel.

  15. Woohoo, I did 4/5. (I’m still bitter about the Northern lights refusing to show up when I was there for New Year’s last year, but I’ll have to try again soon. Love your photographs.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Karen. Northern Lights is indeed something you cannot count on, but wouldn’t you agree with me that Iceland is worth a trip in winter even if you don’t get to see the auroras?

  16. This post has made me want to visit Iceland even more! I don’t know much about the Glacier Lagoon or ice caves so I found reading this post really interesting. I hope I get to visit Iceland in the winter one day! Did you base yourself in one place or did you travel around for different accommodation?

  17. Ik was vorig jaar juni in IJsland en vond het toen al enorm koud, maar wat een schitterend land he? Ik zou dolgraag nog eens teruggaan in de winter, dat lijkt mij een hele andere ervaring.. maar ik weet niet of ik dat wel aankan qua temperaturen 😀

    1. Author

      The temperatures were quite ok, just with the windchill factor it felt really cold on several occasions. With the right clothes Iceland is really bearable, even in winter, Brigitte.

  18. Jurga I must beg you to stop!

    Stop putting on amazing posts about Iceland.

    I really wanted to go anyway now it’s becoming an obsession!

    Such inspiration from your posts – I am loving them!

  19. incredbile! I think Iceland has one of the most interesting landscapes I have ever seen! It is most definitely on my list! Amazing pictures, too #ftb

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.