Top 5 bucket list worthy winter experiences in Iceland

Top 5 Winter Experiences in Iceland

In Europe, Iceland, Inspiration by Jurga27 Comments

Iceland is a magical place in winter. Watch the Northern Lights, visit ice caves, or go hiking on a glacier. These and other incredible experiences will make your winter trip to Iceland unforgettable. Find out 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 for an adventurous winter break.

Read also: Our one-week Iceland winter trip itinerary

Bucket List Worthy Winter Activities in Iceland

5 unforgettable winter experiences in Iceland. This will get you booking a winter trip for sure!

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 every performance is so unique. 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 the Arctic regions, 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.

You don’t need to go on an organised 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.

✓ Discover some of the best Northern Lights Tours from Reykjavik!

Read also: How to See and Photograph the Northern Lights

Watching northern lights in Iceland

Seeing northern lights is a bucket list experience

Aurora borealis in Iceland

Dazzling aurora display

 

2. Experience True Winter Wonderland

The cold and the wind turns Iceland into a true winter wonderland, so 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 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 organised tour. Note that Jokulsarlon is really far from Reykjavik and if you decide to do a one day tour, it will be a very long day in the car.

✓ Discover the best organised tours to Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon!

Ice beach of Jokulsarlon in Southern Iceland

ICE land

Iceland winter wonderland - icebergs on Jokulsarlon beach in winter

Jokulsarlon Diamond Beach is a true winter wonderland

 

3. Discover the Ice Caves in Iceland

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

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 go to Vatnajokull glacier in South East Iceland or at Langjokull glacier in South West Iceland.

TIP: Note that ice caving tours in Iceland are extremely popular and are often fully booked months 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. Book an ice cave tour in Iceland today!

Glacier ice caving in Iceland

Featured image by 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. Experience a truly surreal landscape with the most spectacular scenery!

Glacier hiking was one of my favourite 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 probably better book in advance.

✓ Book your glacier hike in Iceland today!

Hiking on Skaftafell glacier in Iceland

Hiking on Skaftafell 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. 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.

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.

TIP: Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik is very popular and so it’s also best to book this experience in advance.

✓ Book Blue Lagoon tickets, discover the less known Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths or go hiking and discover the secluded hot pools of Reykjadalur.

Myvatn Nature Baths - geothermal pool in Iceland

Myvatn Nature Baths

 

Other great winter activities in Iceland

The five previously mentioned winter experiences in Iceland are each worth a trip to Iceland in winter. 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. Our tips for packing for Iceland in winter.

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5 incredible winter experiences in Iceland for your bucket list or for the next trip

5 incredible Iceland winter experiences for your bucket list

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Top 5 Winter Experiences in Iceland was last modified: February 13th, 2017 by Jurga

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Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  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. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

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