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10 Reasons to Travel Iceland in Winter
This post was updated in summer 2023.
Anyone who has read my posts about Iceland already understands my love for this place.
If you'd like to read about my winter adventure in Iceland, you can read about it in the following link >>
I would like to disprove the thought that traveling during the tourist season is always the best option, and I would like to highlight the advantages of traveling during the low season.
In many places around the world I traveled in the low season, and even if sometimes the weather disrupted some of the plans, there was always a really interesting adventure out of it.
Iceland is a wonderful place to travel all year round, but it has real charm on winter days.
All the landscapes take on a much more extreme hue, the ground is covered with snow, and the green colors of summer change to the black and white of winter.
I even think the place becomes much more alien in winter.
Therefore, in the next post I will show you all the reasons why you should come and travel in Iceland in the winter..!
So, ready to pack a bag full of coats? :)
1. Along with the temperature, prices also drop
One of the main reasons you should consider a trip to Iceland in the winter is the fact that prices drop really significantly during the winter months.
I also wrote a post that gives a glimpse of the costs of a trip to Iceland and the expected differences between the summer and winter seasons - feel free to read >>
Iceland is generally not a cheap country to travel to, and is considered one of the most expensive destinations to travel to in the world.
Therefore, on a winter trip you will actually be able to afford to see and do more because the prices of basic things like accommodation or car rental are almost half of what they are in the summer months.
Car rental prices in Iceland - winter vs. summer
In the hot season, small family cars will cost you around $900 for two weeks.
Larger vehicles or 4WD vehicles will already cost you around $ 1,700 for two weeks.
In the cold season, however, small vehicles will cost you around $600 for two weeks, and larger vehicles or 4WD vehicles will cost you about $900 for two weeks.
That is, in winter you can rent a much more powerful and larger car (and with better heaters) at the same price as renting a small car in summer.
Rental Cars is the source of all the prices shown here, and is a search engine with attractive prices that I highly recommend (from experience..!)
Accommodation prices in Iceland - winter vs. summer
In the hot season a night in a good hotel will cost you around $300, compared to in the cold season you can find a comparable room for $150 or so (in Reykjavik it is even cheaper).
2. Watching the Northern Lights
Of all the reasons that made me choose to travel to Iceland as a winter destination, one main reason stood out, (which is a big dream) and that is to watch the Northern Lights.
As mentioned, the Northern Lights do shine even during the summer, it simply cannot be noticed because of the many hours of daylight during this period.
The best conditions for observing the glow are at night, in cloud-free skies, and some say that it is also better on nights of a new moon.
Between November and April, the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are significantly greater.
So for those who dream of the Northern Lights like me, they should come to Iceland in the winter, pack a thermos with hot tea for the road, and go out to a frozen spot and see one of the most beautiful phenomena in our world.
3. Hot springs on cold days
One of the most wonderful things, and a good reason to travel in Iceland in winter, is the concept of a hot spring on a cold day.
The truth is that you don't need a resort, because Iceland has the highest percentage of pools per person in the world, and many of these pools are heated pools.
One of the main attractions I got to enjoy in Iceland is getting to one of the pools in the small towns along the way, putting on a bathing suit, running frozen cold into a 40-degree pool and pampering myself there until all my skin wrinkled.
Even though most of the pools I've been to are human made, it's still a lot of fun, and there's a good chance that snow will fall on you while you're there inside.
But the real fun is actually in Lake Mývatn, where there is a natural hot spring, with theraputic mud that you can spread on the body, which smells almost like the mud of the Dead Sea.
The really cool feeling is being in the spring when everything is snowy outside and only your face is freezing outside.
Oh and of course, because there are waiters who will come to you with a beer in hand (or a fruit smoothie).
4. Christmas and New Year celebrations
One of the best reasons to come to Iceland in the winter is to experience Christmas or New Year celebrations there.
Icelanders have some unique customs at this time of year.
For example, on New Year's Eve, they make huge bonfires as part of an Icelandic communal tradition.
Only in the Reykjavik area, can you watch so many bonfires and tell your New Year's dreams to the friends next to you.
Besides, despite the cold, you should not miss the New Year's parties between Reykjavik's bars and clubs.
Icelanders have really good beer, so sharing a beer with the Icelanders on new year can be a particularly exciting experience!
And of course, there is the special holiday atmosphere in the air, and a large ornate Christmas tree in the center of the city.
Icelanders also have a special bread they bake for Christmas called Laufabrauð that you should really taste.
On New Year's Eve there are fireworks displays as well as other events, and you can also launch your own fireworks if you want .
5. Special Events and Festivals
So besides the New Year and Christmas celebrations, even on the cold days of winter there are several other events and festivals around Iceland.
Winter Lights Festival
Every year in Reykjavik at the beginning of February, there is a special festival of lights that stimulates city life in the heart of winter.
The festival celebrates the fact that the days become longer after the Icelandic dark months.
You can enjoy and learn quite a bit about Icelandic culture, art, sports and history while at the museums and thermal pools - all completely free!
Food and Fun Festival
In February/March, the best chefs of our world come to Iceland for restaurants around Reykjavik for a very special food festival.
Each chef creates a unique menu made up of Icelandic ingredients and products, so if you are a culinary lover, you should not miss this event!
National Beer Day
On March 1, Icelanders celebrate International Beer Day, after years of repression and prohibition of beer on this small island.
It turns out that it was only in 1989 that drinking beer in Iceland was legalized, and since then Icelanders already know how to do the job.
The Icelandic beer is one of the tastiest I've tried, and I especially liked the Dark Viking.
On Beer Day, Iceland's bars offer special prices so there won't be anyone left who can't afford to drink beer on that day.
So for those who are beer lovers like me - this is the event for you!
There are many more special events around Iceland during the winter months - for more information read here >>
6. Attractions operate normally
If you were assuming otherwise, and thought that this is a reason maybe not to travel in Iceland in winter, then you should know that almost all the attractions that can be done in the summer - can also be done in the winter!
And even more than that, there are some attractions that are special only for the winter months that you really shouldn't miss.
From whale watching, ice climbing, dog sledding, visiting ice caves, ATVs and more, all these operate normally, except that perhaps due to unstable weather they may be canceled.
There are some treks that can't be done, and camping probably won't be the most recommended form of accommodation (although I met an Israeli guy who did it), lots of other things are still possible.
I personally made several daily trips to the glaciers that did require walking in the snow, but it also burns more calories :)
With the exception of one attraction that was cancelled due to a snowstorm, the rest of the route went more or less according to plan - feel free to read my road story in Iceland in winter for some inspiration >>
7. Everything is white and beautiful
In Israel we don't get much snow (if at all), and so the sight of a white snowy landscape is particularly special for us.
Iceland's landscapes are already alien and breathtaking, so in winter it even manifests itself in a much more pronounced way.
The rocky lava soil combined with the snow creates some really special sights and a combination of black and white landscape like in the postcard that deliberately changed its colors.
There were areas that were especially beautiful in winter, like Dimmu Borgir, where they also filmed Game of Thrones footage. It really felt like we were guarding the wall against the white walkers :)
And when we climbed to the Hverfjall caldera, we made our way back down by butt sliding instead of descending like normal people.
A cozy feeling comes when a snowstorm locks you inside in the middle of the day and all you have left to is do jump and make a snow angel :)
8. Frozen lakes and waterfalls
So frozen lakes and waterfalls are among my favorite sights in the world, and a winter trip to Iceland definitely delivers.
Lots of lakes would surround the road and the cold and icy landscape attracted me so much that I had to get out of the car and walk on those lakes.
There's nothing like standing in the middle of a frozen lake and hoping the ice will keep you :)
On one of our day trips, we happened to stumble upon a small flowing stream, filled our bottles with the clear, cold water and continued along the stream.
At the end we found an amazing waterfall that was completely frozen and at its bottom a spring of ice. I felt like I was in a frozen style ice kingdom (even though that was long before the movie came out).
Unfortunately I don't have photos of the place because we got there quite by chance, but you will get to see so many spots like this along the way so don't worry.
9. You don't have to plan everything many months in advance
In winter, naturally fewer tourists come to Iceland (unless this post goes really viral and then everyone will go there in winter), which means that a lot of things don't need to be booked a lot of time in advance, which leaves you with some improvisation space.
Please note - Iceland is still a destination that requires planning!
You will have to plan trip in the summer months a year in advance, (really a year in advance) otherwise you will not have cheap places left to sleep and most attractions will already be booked. However you can plan a winter trip even two month in advance.
When planning my itinerary, I took into account only the special attractions that I didn't want to miss, which I booked in advance about two or three months before (such as visiting the ice caves).
But there were definitely attractions that I book right during the trip because I didn't want to be too limited in the days, and rather to leave room to maneuver if the weather conditions were less than optimal.
I booked accommodation about a month before the trip when my itinerary was already set.
Even if there were changes while traveling I had no problem booking accommodation, even during the trip, and at reasonable prices.
I'm a person who doesn't like planning, and really likes to leave room for changes, so for me personally going in the winter really suited the way I traveled.
10. It's really not that cold
Although the weather in Iceland is unpredictable (even in summer), Iceland has a distinct advantage in the level of cold compared to its Scandinavian friends.
The average temperature during the winter months is 0°C in the southern plains of Iceland.
Sometimes it will feel colder if accompanied by wind (on weather sites you will always notice two indicators - the temperature itself and how it really feels outside).
The reason Iceland isn't that cold is because it's next to the Gulf Stream, which brings with it relatively warm weather.
Of course that doesn't mean you won't be cold, you should still take the right equipment with you, but you won't be very, very cold :)
Speaking as a person who freezes easily and escapes the Israeli winter even every year, I was really fine in Iceland.
So if you're a winter person, or someone who isn't really scared by cold and snow, I'd suggest you try to experience Iceland in the winter (and tell me how it was!).
To me, this is a particularly interesting destination, and a winter trip can be a very special adventure that should not be missed.
So I'm wondering, would you now consider traveling in Iceland in the winter?
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Thank you very much for the support and I wish you an amazing trip in Iceland :)
The photos in the post were taken by Max of myself, and should not be used without permission :)
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Enjoy your trip :)