Skip to main content

Why You Should Visit Iceland in the Winter

January 6, 2020  By: Beth

You know Africa Adventure Consultants as your expert for one-of-a-kind experiences in Africa. But did you also know we offer custom-designed trips to other top wildlife and nature destinations around the world? Iceland is one of our featured Out of Africa destinations. Below, Marketing Manager Beth shares her top 5 reasons why you should consider a trip to Iceland in the winter.

scenic view

Picturing Iceland in the winter probably conjures pictures of dark days and frigid temperatures. Due to its position in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is chilly for most of the year. Yet, in winter, it’s not nearly as cold as one might expect. Winter highs are usually around 32 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the country. During the winter months, daytime is shorter but manageable. When I visited in early March, there were about 10 – 11 hours of daylight each day – plenty of time for exploring and enjoying all the country has to offer.

Beth on glacier

Iceland is, simply, spectacular. It fast became one of my favorite countries I’ve visited. It seemed like there was another breathtaking natural site to see around every corner. And, despite a difficult to read and understand Icelandic language, it was surprisingly simple to communicate with locals. All children learn English in school and adults were eager to speak to us in English, educate us on their fascinating culture and history and help us when needed. Despite visiting in the winter, we were still able to wander around the capital city of Reykjavik, see the sites the country is famous for and enjoy some special experiences perfectly suited for winter. Here are my top 5 reasons to consider visiting the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ during winter.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

The most popular reason to visit Iceland in the winter is the chance to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Seeing the Northern Lights had long been on my bucket list and was the primary reason my husband and I decided to travel to Iceland in winter. If spotting the Lights are important to you, I recommend you let Africa Adventure Consultants book a tour for you, rather than self-driving. Similar to wildlife viewing, an experienced driver/guide is an invaluable asset and can make or break your experience of this natural phenomenon. They know where to go to get away from the human-produced light and can navigate the dark, wintery roads for you while you relax. Our guide was also a skilled photographer who helped us adjust our camera settings to capture the best shots and emailed us a few of his images from the night afterwards as well. With everything taken care of for us, we were able to sit back and enjoy the light dance across the sky. Bucket list: check!

Snaefellness Peninsula

Breathtaking Landscapes

Iceland is one of the most stunning countries I’ve visited and visiting in March only amplified its beauty! Iceland is known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ and winter was the perfect time to see these extremes colliding. We saw snow-tipped mountains jutting up along the coast, volcanoes and the lava fields they’ve left behind, thermal fields bubbling and shooting skyward, rushing waterfalls, and unspoiled national parks. No trip to Iceland is complete without visiting the Golden Circle – a route consisting of three of Iceland’s national treasures. Visit Geysir geyser (where all geysers get their name), Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park where you can see the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. We recommend arranging a private guide for a day trip around the Golden Circle to make the most out of your experience. Learn more about the history of the region and the sites you’re visiting while enjoying the small, picturesque villages and scenic views along your drive.

Tip: stop for lunch at the Gullfoss Panorama Café for a bowl of traditional lamb stew. It’s delicious!

Gulfoss waterfall

Fewer Tourists

Iceland’s attractions and beauty are no secret. This small country of just 300,000 residents hosted over 2 million visitors in 2017. Don’t let the crowds dissuade you from visiting though! Visit in the winter, when there are fewer travelers and the cost to visit is slightly lower. Outside of Reykjavik and the major sites to see near the capital city, we saw very few tourists during our week in Iceland.


Whale Watching

While whale watching is at its peak during the summer, there are still opportunities to spot them in the winter months. In fact, some species of whales like orcas (also known as killer whales) are best seen in winter, specifically February and March. When I visited, we didn’t plan a whale watching trip due to time. Luck was on our side, however, when we spotted a school of orcas swimming close to shore while driving around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We pulled over and spent close to a half hour watching them swim and hunt for fish.

Beth in ice cave

Winter Activities

Take advantage of the winter season by skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, exploring an ice cave, crawling through an ice tunnel, hiking a glacier, and/or relaxing in a geothermal pool or spa like the Blue Lagoon. While some of these activities are available year-round, experiencing them in the winter was even more magical. In addition to seeing the Northern Lights, hiking a glacier was on my bucket list. We had a guided hike arranged that came complete with all necessary equipment. The group was divided by skill level and then we set off in our small group up the glacier. During our hike (my first time with crampons and an ice pick!), we saw ice caves, ice tunnels and how the glacier had been receding over time. I recommend doing this before the opportunity is gone!

Blue Lagoon

If you go to Iceland, you must visit a geothermal pool. We visited the Blue Lagoon, named by National Geographic in 2012 as one of the ‘25 Wonders of the World.’ The geothermal waters will keep you warm as you take in the lava field landscape topped with snow all around you. The Blue Lagoon is also a full-service spa, with saunas, massages, in-water treatments and has 2 restaurants and a bar directly in the water.

Tip: ask us how to incorporate a visit to the Blue Lagoon on your arrival or departure day.

What do you want to see in Iceland?