In recent years, Iceland has been a place that has appeared as one of many travelers’ dream destinations. The majority of these explorers venture to this foreign land in the summer but adventuring throughout Iceland in the winter is a journey you won’t want to miss! I took the road less traveled and booked my trip to the world’s northernmost capital city, Reykjavík, for the middle of January. Many aspects make people hesitant to visit Iceland in the off-season, but this winter wonderland is an experience you’ll never forget. Not convinced? Well, try these perks on for size!
It’s not that cold!
Despite Iceland’s northern location, the winters are pretty mild. Average winter temperatures tend to hover around 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. While that may seem pretty cold to those who love the heat, it is generally not as harsh as the winters you would experience in the Northern United States or many parts of Europe. Additionally, as long as you pack the right number of layers and outdoor gear, it won’t be much of a problem!
You Can Travel on a Budget
During the winter months, flights, rentals, and accommodations tend to be cheaper than during the summer. These discounts make your vacation more affordable if you’re trying to cut down on costs. Iceland does have a reputation of being a bit on the expensive side for travelers due to the fact that they have to import a large portion of their goods, so you might as well benefit from less expensive airfare and seasonal lodging deals!
Avoid the Crowds
An obvious perk of skipping the peak season is that you’ll get to experience Iceland’s beauty with far smaller crowds. Whether you decide to rent a car or partake in tour groups, the sights will have a lot fewer people flocked around them. For example, when I toured the famous Golden Circle, my tour could have held up to twenty people. However, due to the time of year, we had a total of seven including our guide. Take advantage of the offseason and behold the beauty of Iceland’s landscapes all to yourself.
Thanks to Iceland’s geothermal activity, one attraction that the country is recognized for is their geothermal pools. There’s nothing quite like sinking into a bubbling outdoor bath while the surrounding air temperatures are freezing. The most famous (and touristy) of these would be the Blue Lagoon. This lagoon is incredibly beautiful in color and is a once in a lifetime experience, but I preferred the afternoon I spent at a local bath, Sundhöllin. Regardless of how much you’ve been dreaming about the Blue Lagoon, I’d recommend also trying a local, public bath. It is much less expensive, and I found it to be more authentic and relaxing. There are also many other natural pools throughout the countryside. Both the Blue Lagoon and other pools offer different hot spring experiences, but either way, your soak surrounded by snow will be one to remember!
Easily Watch the Sun Rise and Set
Iceland’s light casts a stunning glow over the entire landscape. Though it is dark for a majority of the day during the winter, this makes it incredibly easy to witness every time the sun ascends and descends. Golden hour seems to last forever. December has the shortest days, and the hours of light get longer moving throughout January. Though it was a bit strange to adjust to at first, the darkness didn’t bother me. Every morning, the snow-covered landscapes were cast in a light pink glow, and every night, a warm orange haze descended upon us. The beauty of these sights made the short days worthwhile!
The Northern Lights
Need I say more? In addition to the beautiful sun cycles, the shortness of daylight gives you a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights. In the summer, Iceland only gets a few hours of darkness per day, so you are less likely to observe this phenomenon. Witnessing the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis is an item on many travelers’ bucket lists, so why not maximize your chances of seeing their magic?
Iceland in the winter is mystical and enchanting. From glaciers and ice caves as blue as the ocean, to cascading frozen waterfalls, to black sand beaches contrasted again the white falling snow, to the golden glow illuminating every landscape, each day spent in this winter wonderland is unforgettable. Many of the vast panoramas seem almost extraterrestrial, and the thin blanket of snow only made them more mystical. Every adventure is filled with breathtaking sights and traveling in the winter has many highlights that you would miss out on in any other season. If you’re hesitant about venturing with a vehicle in the snow and ice, there are many affordable tour companies that have various excursions available for booking. Additionally, the city of Reykjavík itself is very walkable. Though it is Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík has a slight village-like feel and is an adorable place to explore.
While I’m sure summer in Iceland has its own set of perks, all of these winter advantages make the colder season the perfect time to explore this wondrous country. The variety of sights and experiences that Iceland has to offer are incredible. To witness your very own winter wonderland filled with once in a lifetime memories, skip the summer season and experience Iceland’s frozen fairytale!