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

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

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.

LEARN MORE: Where, When & How to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

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

LEARN MORE: Glacier hiking in Iceland

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:

READ ALSO: Iceland Travel Guide – all the info in one place

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Lynn

Sunday 8th of March 2020

Thanks for this guide. I had no idea there were such beautiful ice caves in Iceland until I read your article. We just returned from our Iceland winter trip end of February and the ice cave tour was the highlight.

Jurga

Sunday 8th of March 2020

Glad to hear that, Lynn. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Jane

Tuesday 15th of October 2019

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

Jurga

Tuesday 15th of October 2019

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.

Margaret

Monday 21st of January 2019

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!

Jurga

Monday 21st of January 2019

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.

Rucha Smith

Tuesday 12th of September 2017

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.

Jurga

Tuesday 12th of September 2017

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

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

Wednesday 7th of June 2017

[…] The “Top 5 Winter Experiences in Iceland” is a must read for anyone looking to explore the magic of Iceland for the first time during winter. Jurga managed to provide her readers with precious information and enticing activities that any adventure enthusiast will say yes to.  Full Suitcase wins the Best “First Timer’s Bucket List” Travel Article award and we look forward to uncovering all about her future travels! […]

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