Iceland: The land of ice and fire where you never know when the next volcano erupts and where the weather changes within minutes from sunshine to rain, snow, strong winds and vice versa. Residents live in 100 year old houses with furniture and equipment from the 1970s. And to top it all off, Iceland’s specialty is dried fish and rotten shark accompanied by the burning schnaps called Brennivin.
You are right, you should be! Even though Iceland water can be rough, there are great reasons to go. Most people debate whether to go in the summer or winter. You will most likely get a very different experience depending on when you go but I can definitely recommend going in the late winter season.
My best reasons to visit in the winter
- There is a great chance to see the Northern Lights which is a very special occurance for most travelers. The longer your stay, the better your chances are to see them. Check out this useful site or download the Aurora Forecast App!
- Don’t miss out on visiting the stunning crystal caves and get up close with the disappearing glaciers. Book early and well in advance as tours sell out quickly. I went with Glacier Trips which I can highly recommend.
- Waterfalls in the snow look spectacular. You will have many opportunities to see them surrounded by ice and snow.
- What’s better than hiking in snow and getting rewarded by a bath in a steaming, natural river all by yourself while it is snowing
- If you are like me and try to avoid tourists, definitely go in the winter where there are much less visitors
- It’s also a lot easier to find accommodation and you can book later (more about accommodations below)
Things to see and do year-round
- Jump into 2°C glacier water and snorkel between the tectonic plates – yes, you heard correctly! Don’t worry (too much) you will be given a special dry suit and thermal suit to wear. It is a once-in-a-life time experience! You can see 100m through the blue waters while drifting in the Silfra (the Eurasian and American plates drift about 2,5 cm per year apart). Also book early to secure your spot with Dive.is!
- The horse fans will be happy to take a ride on one of the many Icelandic horses
Reasons to visit in the summer
- You can leave the ring road and take the highland routes to cross the country
- Join a multi-day hiking or mountain biking tour and see a different side of Iceland
- Book a whale-watching tour in Husavik where sightings are guaranteed 90%. I haven’t been but read great reviews Extreme Iceland
Iceland requires a little bit more planning than your average trip. Keep in mind, that in the winter roads could be closed off, heavy snowstorms will slow you down and guesthouses book up quickly.
Book as much ahead as you can and feel comfortable. I recommend booking the big tours first and then the rest of your trip around these dates. When looking into accommodation, check out Airbnb.com (you also get €31 off your first booking!) to stay with locals and cozy guesthouses or also Booking.com for great deals.