10 Activities to do in the Winter in Iceland



10 Activities to do in the Winter in Iceland

02.03.2020 | Kaelene Spence

If you are planning a visit to Iceland during the winter months it is very likely the list of activities you want to do are looks something like this: 

  • See the Northern Lights
  • Explore the snowy landscapes on a road trip
  • Visit a frozen waterfall

These are all great activities to do during the winter in Iceland, but these are just the start of the winter fun you can have here!

Iceland is a one-of-a-kind country, which means it is meant to be explored in a unique way. The winter time is a perfect time to experience some of the unique activities Iceland has to offer! To help you plan out an unforgettable winter escape to Iceland we have rounded up some of our favorite winter activities. Whether you are looking for an outdoor adventure, or a more relaxing experience, we have an activity that will be perfect for you on this list!

1. Go Inside An Ice Cave

Ice Cave in Iceland

Ice Cave Adventure on Glacier Vatnajökull

If you are an adventure seeker than joining a tour to explore inside an ice cave will be an unforgettable activity for you. A visit to an ice cave will have you walking through a frozen wonderland as the ice shimmers with beautiful blues, it is like walking under a frozen ocean!

In order to visit the ice caves you need prolonged freezing temperatures to ensure that the ice cave is stable enough to enter. Due to the unstable environment ice caves are created in, the ice cave is short-lived since they melt and change during the warmer months. This means that you will likely never visit the same ice cave twice making the experience even more rare and special.

In Iceland you can only visit the ice caves during the winter months, specifically mid-November to mid-March. Never try and visit an ice cave without a professional guide as this can be very dangerous.

Venturing into an ice cave is definitely an activity that you won’t get many opportunities to experience so make sure you get the chance while visiting Iceland! Check out this list of ice cave tours offered by our partners.  

2. Hit the Slopes

Heliskiing in Iceland

Heliskiing in Iceland Viking Heliskiing

Looking to keep active during your trip to Iceland? Do as the locals do and hit the slopes! Iceland might not be a well known skiing destination like Switzerland or Italy, but there are still plenty of decent mountains for avid skiers and snowboarders to enjoy while in the country. The mountains may not be the tallest you have experienced, but the peaceful landscapes and views all the way down to the Atlantic ocean will be a one of a kind experience.

Ski resorts can be found all around the country making it easy for you to find one in the location you will be traveling in. Bring your own gear, or rent gear from a resort. From beginners to advanced skiers or snowboarders there is a trail for you. In addition to skiing and snowboarding many ski resorts offer trails for cross-country skiing, however they are weather permitted so confirm that the trails are open before planning your visit.

Some of our favorite ski resorts around the country include Bláfjöll Ski Resort, located just 30 minutes outside of downtown Reykjavik, Dalvik Ski Resort and Hlíðarfjall Ski Resort, outside of the city of Akureyri in North Iceland.

3. Go On a Dog Sledding Tour

Dog Sledding in Iceland

Dog Sledding Experience near Lake Mývatn - Reykjavik Grapevine

Experience an arctic old way of transportation and join a dog sledding tour on your winter escape to Iceland. What better way to explore the beautiful landscape than with some of the cutest travel partners in the country?!

This activity is perfect for the whole family, whether you have an animal lover or a thrill seeker in your group all will enjoy a dog sledding tour. Tours typically last a few hours and there are tour operators in both the north and south of Iceland making it an easy activity to fit into your trip. While it is ideal to have snow to complete the winter experience there are dog sledding tour options on dry-land as well so no matter what the weather you can enjoy this activity.

An added bonus, guests on these tours will get to spend some time hanging out with the adorable dogs while they visit their kennels and learn more about dog sledding in Iceland. Cuddle dogs, a unique experience and stunning landscapes, not a bad way to spend a few hours in Iceland.

4. Visit Frozen Waterfalls

Iceland is known for its spectacular waterfalls, and the waterfalls, they are definitely a special sight to be seen. But you know what makes these waterfalls even more magical? Waterfalls in the winter time when they are covered in snow and ice making them sparkle like diamonds underneath the winter sun. 

Iceland is covered in waterfalls so you won’t have to worry about finding one to enjoy during the winter months. However some waterfalls are more difficult to reach than others during the winter months, so to help make your waterfall search easier here are a few of our favorite waterfalls to visit during the winter that will be easily accessible even with all the snow.

  • Öxarárfoss

Oxararfoss in Iceland in Winter

Öxarárfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle

  • Goðafoss

Goðafoss Waterfall in North Iceland (Winter)

Goðafoss Waterfall in North Iceland - Simply Angella

  • Skógafoss

Skógafoss Waterfall in South Iceland (Winter)

Skógafoss Waterfall in South Iceland - Wake up Reykjavik

  • Kirkjufellsfoss

Northern Lights over Mount Kirkjufell

Northern Lights over Mount Kirkjufell

Note: It is important to use caution when visiting the waterfalls during the winter time as the snow and ice mixed with the water from the waterfall can make for some dangerous situations. Please pay extra attention to closed trail signs, and use caution when walking on slippery ground. 

5. Enjoy the Winter Sunrise and Sunsets

Winter Sunset in Iceland - Styrmir Kári

Winter Sunset in Iceland - Styrmir Kári - Iceland Monitor

With all the action packed fun you will be having this is one activity that will slow things down a bit. Starting in October the days will get shorter and shorter until the winter solstice in December. Daylight will still only be a few hours until the end of January meaning you won’t have to wake up early, or stay up late to get to enjoy both a sunrise and sunset.

When the sun does finally decide to make an appearance it creates the most dazzling cotton-candy colored sky as it slowly brightens for the day. And just a short few hours later as the sun disappears again you can enjoy a slowly darkening sky that has just the right amount of golden light to make the landscape extra majestic.

Enjoy a leisure morning coffee with the sunrise, or take a stroll along the sea underneath the setting sun. It will be hard not to feel at peace when you enjoy the vibrant colors painted across the winter sky. And if you are a photographer you will want to be sure to have your camera with you, the lighting the winter sunrise and sunsets creates is a photographers dream!

6. Walk on a Glacier

Vatnajökull glacier hike

Vatnajökull Glacier Hike

With 11% of Iceland covered by glaciers they are an important part of nature here making Iceland a great place to spend some time exploring this powerful phenomenon of nature and learning about the importance of them to our environment.

Certain glaciers around the country are possible for you to drive right up to it making it very tempting to jump out and start exploring the glacier on your own. However, even though you can easily access these glaciers it is not safe for you to go out walking on them on your own. While it might look like a safe and sturdy area it is most definitely not. So please do not visit a glacier without a professional guide as this can be very dangerous.

There is a variety of glacier tours to choose from ranging from easy 2-3 hour glacier hikes, longer glacier hikes that include ice climbing, and even a tour going inside the world’s largest man-made ice cave on Iceland’s second largest glacier. Check out the wide range of tour options we at Hey Iceland provide with our partners to find the best one for your group, there is an option available so that everyone can experience the remarkable Icelandic glaciers.

7. Browse Through Museums

Wonders of Iceland, Perlan

Wonders of Iceland, Perlan Perlan Museum

We would like to say that everyday brings perfect winter weather, but this is Iceland we are talking about so unpredictable weather is what is to be expected. With a stormy day or two highly likely during a winter visit it is a good idea to have a few indoor backup plans just in case. And a day spent browsing through museums is a great option to have for an indoor activity.

You can keep the exploring of Iceland going even on a stormy day with a visit to one of the interesting museums in the country. Museums can be found all over the country so be sure to check out the museum options in the towns you will be visiting. For those staying in Reykjavik here are a few museum options that will have you learning more about the Icelandic culture and its history all in an interactive setting. 

Interested in more museum options while in Reykjavik? Be sure to read our article that has a roundup of the best museums in the city.

8. Explore Iceland on a Snowmobile Tour

Snowmobile in Iceland

Langjökull Snowmobile Tour

Prefer a more action-packed type of experience when you travel? How does going snowmobiling on a glacier sound to you?

Cruising around on your snowmobile will be one unique and adrenaline filled way to get out and explore Iceland's diverse nature up close. Adding to the thrill, many of our snowmobile tours start off with a super jeep taking you up on the glacier which is an exciting adventure in itself!

9. Relax in a Hot Spring or Swimming Pool

GeoSea Thermal Baths in North Iceland

GeoSea Thermal Baths in North Iceland - Travel Addicts

It might be chilly outside but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying a visit to one of Iceland’s wonderous geothermal pools or spas. In fact, a pool experience in the winter time is extra special as you watch snow sparkle all around you while you relax in the warm water. And, you never know when an evening swim will be joined with a Northern Lights sighting, a magical experience indeed!

The list of options for where to go for your winter swim is endless. From local swimming pools to the amazing geothermal spas they all stay open year round for all to enjoy. To make sure you have the best swimming experience possible we have put together a few options that we think would make for extra special visits while in Iceland in the winter. These options aren’t the usual spots such as the famous Blue Lagoon, but that makes them even more special as fewer people know about them meaning less crowds!

Some pool locations to have on your list are:

We love the Icelandic geothermal pools and spas so much we have an entire post with our Top 30 Hot Springs and Swimming Pools in Iceland.

10. Join a Northern Lights Tour

Northern Lights over Jokulsarlon Lagoon in Iceland.jpg

Northern Lights at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

This list wouldn’t be complete without having the wondrous Northern Lights on here. The Northern Lights are a bucket list item for many who come to Iceland, and how can they not be, the Northern Lights are a magical sight to be seen. However, they can prove to be quite tricky to actually see, and if the conditions are not completely perfect (they rarely are!) you may need some assistance in chasing down the lights. Enter in a Northern Lights tour and you will hopefully be on your way to enjoying the Northern Lights.

If you choose to book a Northern Lights tour there is no guarantee that you will get to see the Northern Lights, but you will have the added bonus that most tour operators will take you (at no extra cost) every night that you are in Iceland until you get to see the Northern Lights. This is a big bonus since the Northern Lights are highly unpredictable and you never really know when they will make their appearance so having multiple opportunities will increase your odds. And having professional guides search down the best spots for the highest chances of seeing the Northern Lights will keep you from doing the hard work. Instead, you get to focus on what you came for, enjoying the beautiful Northern Lights. 

It might be chilly, but a visit to Iceland during the winter months will keep you so busy you won’t even notice the cold! To prepare for your winter trip to Iceland be sure to read our article What to Expect on a Winter Trip to Iceland so that you will be fully prepared for your visit. 

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