What time of year should you visit Iceland? If you ask me, I will probably answer that it depends on your expectations! My favourite season is winter: I love freezing myself, especially in Iceland.
Winter makes all the landscapes white, the days short and the sunlight make them look even more beautiful as the sun lazily rises and sets. You also have the chance to be amazed by stormy skies, which paint the sky with shades of yellow, orange, blue, pink, sometimes all at the same time. The long nights are quite special when you're standing outside in the dark and then suddenly you're surrounded by crazy green Northern Lights.
Winter in Iceland is usually the season between November and March... but the winter can start sooner and last longer. There's almost no spring or autumn as these seasons are very short. In winter, the daylight lasts around 6 hours which allows you to do some activities. Just be sure to plan ahead to avoid cramming too many activities into the day which might leave you too tired to stay up to hunt the Northern Lights.
I must admit that glacier's activities are my favourites. To me, the South Coast is "the place to be" in the winter time. There are plenty of tours organized during the winter (click here to explore glacier tours).
When in Iceland, it's hard to resist exploring one of the many glaciers accessible by foot or Super Jeep! Glacier hikes are a great way to explore these icy giants & I suggest that you take a look at my blog about this activity.
There are plenty of tours available all year long! If it's your first time on a glacier, just go for the easiest tour, especially if you don't know how you will walk with crampons (HINT: just walk like a cowboy ;) ). If you're driving the South Coast, I would highly recommend stopping by Skaftafell, as it's one of my favourite spots and there are many things to do on the adjacent glacier as well as general hiking routes (see my blog here). Just remember that the hikes are only possible with crampons during winter ;)
Of course, Ice caves should be on your bucket list during winter. Being under the ice is just a magical experience. There are many tours available that allow you to explore these hidden wonders. My favourites are maybe the ones that start by Jökulsárlón, as you can spend some time before or after in this amazing place (see my blog here).
Winter doesn't change the beauty of the landscapes in Iceland, it's even more magical. You will sometimes feel completely lost and disoriented when walking in an endless completely white environment.
Find Winter Self-Drive Tours here.
The must-sees of Iceland are amazingly beautiful in winter, especially when dramatic skies show up. If you fancy an Icelandic road trip in the wintertime, I highly recommend the south coast. Here, you will find the most famous waterfalls (Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss), the black sand beach, Vik, glacial paradises and of course, Jökulsárlón (see full article here).
There are plenty of tours on offer during the winter on the South Coast. You can also find some great 2-3 days tours that combined visits in different parts of Iceland. My favourite is this tour that includes a 5 days tour, combining a visit of the south coast, as far as Jökulsárlón, an ice-cave visit, the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. If you want to experience the Icelandic winter in a short time, this tour is for you! (transportation and accommodations are included).
Chasing northern lights is a popular activity during winter time. You can try to spot them by yourself but you can also book a tour. My personal experience: I think, the first time, I just missed northern lights because I didn't know what to look at or observe. Sometimes, it's maybe better to book a tour just to make sure to see some ;)
Well, if you really don't know what to choose, especially if it's your first time in Iceland, I recommend taking a combo-tour. There are many tours that will fulfil your expectations:
One day tour with ice caving and northern lights (departure from Jökulsárlón)
Two days tours including ice caving and the south coast (departure from Jökulsárlón)
See all the combos available during winter here. Contact me for more information.
- If you plan travelling through Iceland, always check and double check these websites: https://en.vedur.is/ (weather forecast - you also have a section for aurora forecast), http://www.road.is/ (check the map at the top of the website, it shows the road conditions in all the regions of Iceland)
- Rent a 4x4 if you want to drive around Iceland.
- Don't put yourself in danger (like standing in the middle of the road watching northern lights... ;) )
- Always take some warm and waterproofs with you - anytime in winter, especially if you're planning on watching northern lights during few hours outside.
Have a nice trip! Góð ferð!