Winter in Iceland brings a particular sort of experience, from chasing the shape-shifting Northern Lights to trekking through caves of glacial blue ice. Despite its chilly name, the Land of Fire and Ice is not inhospitable to winter wanderers. As soon as it’s no-go from the central highlands, the Ring Road, that paths the coast, stays open all year. Remember, though, that you’ll need studded tyres to drive the Ring Road, plus a willingness to quickly change your plans in harsh weather. Of course, you can avoid the dodgy driving conditions by adhering into the cities or reserving on a tour. However you choose to do it, here are the top five places to go in Iceland in the winter.
The best location to begin your visit to Iceland in the winter? Reykjavík
Having a typical January daylight temperatures of 0.5°C (similar to winter temps in New York) there’s nothing stopping you from packaging your parka and going into the world’s most northernly capital.
In the city, multicoloured rooftops are dwarfed by the creature spire of this concrete-clad Hallgrimskirkja church. One of several avant-garde buildings which make Reykjavík a cure for those who have a thirst for design.
Food is much better than you’d believe; the New Nordic landscape throws up spins on traditional dishes like reindeer and puffin. Restaurant Dill was awarded Iceland’s first Michelin star last year.
Old fishing factories in the Grandi Harbour are now hipster cafes, restaurants and breweries. Enrol at”beer school” at the Bryggjan Brewery to learn about their methods as you taste the craft beers.
You require a rest in the booze, go in search of orca, humpback, and minke whales on a boat excursion in the Old Harbour, which run yearlong.
A springboard for the Golden Circle, you can day-trip from Reykjavík into the site of the older (outdoor) parliament, or the unbelievable Geysir waterspout.
To get a more active — and definitely cold — trip, snorkelling and scuba-diving are on offer even in mid-winter. Within day-reach is dip mecca, Silfra. Here, the water flowing between two tectonic plates hovers permanently around 2-4°C.
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Then get a sense for Icelandic scenery in Snaefellsnes
Even the Snaefellsnes peninsula is sometimes known as”Iceland in mini” thanks to the diverse landscape of glaciers, lava fields, and black and gold beaches.
Inside the Golden Circle, it’s only a two-hour drive up from Reykjavík and makes an easy day trip.
Clamp on your crampons and start with a guided climb of the Snæfellsjökull volcano’s glacier. Hard work but worth itthe 1446m summit climbs above the clouds, to provide views of snowy peaks stretching in the North Atlantic ocean.
Walk to the south to descend — this time, through a subterranean spiral staircase into the ancient Vatnshellir lava tube.
One of Iceland’s most impressive organic wonders, the caves type in the ice once it begins to melt the summertime, carving out spaces in the glacier which remain suspended winter.
You are going to need a guide to direct you — fresh caves are formed annually and your guide will know where to go. Most will sort you out with spikes, ice axe, a helmet and exploit (appearing like a hardcore explorer is an extra bonus).
Take half a day our from caving to stop by a iceberg-filled lagoon, the seven-square-mile Jökulsárlón, one of the nation’s most photogenic places. Boat tours stop at winter but you can wander around it any time, marvelling in the icebergs’ geometric artistry.
Base yourself near Skaftafell, part of the Vatnajokull National Park and four hours east of Reykjavik. Find a hotel or homestay with large windows so you can gaze out at the glaciers over breakfast.
Set out to touch the Artic Circle in Akureyri
It might be brushing the Arctic Circle however Akureyri, the’Capital of the North’, is on the map because a yearlong destination. Direct flights in the UK launched this year which makes it easier than ever for to.
Weather here is really like Reykjavik. What’s more, for such a very small city it is surprisingly lively, with fantastic restaurants as well as some nightlife.
Sample local beers at Ölstofa Akureyrar and then eat at Strikið, on the top floor of this Skipagata 14 building, overlooking the mountains and fjord.
Just outside Akureyri, in Eyjafjörður, you’ll find that the very unique turf homes.
A one-hour drive away is Mývatn, where naturally warm water is pumped into rock pools — perfect for a relaxing dip. Subsequently speed things up with a dog-sledding day at nearby at Heiði farm, where you’ll be pulled by cuddly Siberian huskies.
Hunt the Aurora in the East Fjords
There’s a sense of solitude with this 75-mile stretch of coastline. The East Fjords stretch from Berufjörður from the southwest, to the small fishing village of Borgarfjörður Eystri from the northwest.
As just 3.2% of Iceland’s population live round the remote fishing villages, farms and woods here, there’s little light pollution. That usually means the northern lights ought to be a lot easier to spot.
Fly to Egilsstaðir and push into the town of Seydisfjordur, where pastel coloured Norwegian-style homes are tucked in between mountains and the fjord.