Looking for some incredible things to do in Iceland in Winter?
You’ve come to the right article as these are the 15 best things to do in Iceland in Winter! Iceland is one of the most incredible countries you can visit in the whole world, and there’s truly no better time of the year to visit than in the winter for certain activities. As the name suggests, ICEland is pretty cold, and for a proper Scandinavian adventure, it’s best to visit when the country is at its coldest.
But there are many misleading articles out there stating that you can go whale watching or see puffins in Iceland in winter. There’s a very slim chance of seeing anything of that sort. It’s the wrong time of the year, period.
So what can you do in Iceland in those colder months? Well, these are some of the best things to do in Iceland in Winter. Without further ado, let’s crack on.
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Things to do in Iceland in Winter
1. See the Northern Lights
Would it really be a trip to Iceland without seeing the Northern Lights? It would be a shame to visit one of the best countries in the world without seeing the auroras. It’s best to book a Northern Lights tour for one of your first nights in Iceland, as most tour companies will take you back out again if you fail to see the Northern Lights on your tour.
Winter is actually one of the best times of year for seeing the Northern Lights across Nordic countries including winter activities in Tromso. That’s why it’s first on this list of things to do in Iceland in Winter. And the fact that it’s one of the most surreal things you can do in your life.
Browse through these Northern Lights tours:
2. Take a South Coast Tour
Any trip to Iceland should include a tour of the South Coast. Most tours will include stops at Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Solheimajokull, which are 3 of the most popular Iceland South Coast highlights. Seeing the waterfalls and glaciers in real life is incredible, a true pinch-yourself moment. And once again, there’s no better time than in winter. Especially for seeing Vatnajokull or Solheimajokull, the glaciers in the south coast of Iceland. But the 2 famous waterfalls are also spectacular at this time of year. And if they’re frozen over, wow, that’s a unique sight.
Check out this day trip and 2-day trip to the South Coast:
3. Relax at a Hot Spring
The Blue Lagoon is amazing all year round. But many people will tell you that winter is the best time to go to the Blue Lagoon. It’s like being in a hot tub- it’s nicest when the air is cold outside. So imagine you’re sitting in a toasty natural geothermal pool, but you’re being cooled down by the winter breeze in Iceland. It’s the perfect combination. Not to mention that prices at the Blue Lagoon vary by time of day and time of the year, and it’s usually cheaper to go in winter.
There’s always a debate whether it’s better to visit the Blue Lagoon and the Sky Lagoon. The usual outcome is it’s impossible to decide. So seeing that winter is the best time to unwind in a geothermal pool, why not visit them both and make that decision for yourself? The Sky Lagoon is less popular but more natural. It also offers a unique 7-step ritual for you to take part in, consisting of: Lagoon, Cold Plunge, Sauna, Cold Mist, Sky Scrub, Steam Room, Shower. You’ll leave feeling like a completely new person!
You must book this in advance, there are tour options with transfers from Reykjavik:
[UPDATE: Blue Lagoon is temporarily closed. The closure will remain in effect until December 7, at which point the situation will be reassessed.]
4. Explore the Golden Circle
Just like the South Coast, a trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without taking a Golden Circle tour. A Golden Circle route is the most popular one people take on a trip to Iceland. It stops at Geysir Geothermal Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. Again, these are 3 must-dos. No matter what time of year it is, visiting Iceland without going to these sites would be a shame, unless you miss them on purpose to guarantee a second trip to the country!
You can opt for a Golden Circle tour, with or without a geothermal spa experience:
5. Go Snowmobiling
Snowmobiling is one of the most fun and thrilling things you can do in your life. It’s one of those things that it doesn’t matter where you are, who you’re with, what the weather’s like or how cold it is. But, Iceland in winter provides the perfect conditions for 3 of these. Unfortunately, the country can’t control who you bring with you! The weather in winter in Iceland makes for the most ideal snowmobile conditions, and there are lots of snowmobiling tours in Iceland that you can take to have a day you won’t forget.
Here are some of the best snowmobiling tours to check out:
6. Hike along glaciers
One of the most wintery things about Iceland is, of course, the glaciers. As you might guess from the name of the country, it’s pretty icy. And most of this comes from the glaciers. There are lots of opportunities to hike along glaciers in Iceland, and it’s also a surreal experience. Iceland is the definition of a winter wonderland, and as you walk along the neverending sheet of white snow and ice, you’ll feel like you’re in a movie exploring the Arctic.
A guide is mandatory for a glacier hike. Vatnajokull is the largest glacier located in the south-east coast of Iceland. Glacier hiking tours start from Skaftafell for Vatnajokull. There is also Solheimajokull, another popular spot for glacier hiking on the South Coast.
Browse through these glacier hiking tours on the South Coast:
7. Go ice climbing
But if hiking along the glaciers isn’t enough for you, you can take it one step further and go ice climbing in Iceland. It’s pretty extreme and definitely not for the faint-hearted, but it doesn’t matter if you have experience or not. Anyone can take part in ice climbing on the glaciers. And if you felt like you were in a movie hiking, you’ll feel like you’re the star of a movie climbing up Everest this time. It’s an indescribable experience and one of those things you’ll remember forever.
Here are the best tours for glacier hiking & ice climbing:
8. Go dog sledding
If you’re an animal lover, this one’s for you. The dream of going dog sledding is one many people have. Imagine yourself standing on the sledge as a team of huskies pull you along through the winter terrain. It’s pretty cool, right? Well, Iceland can make this dream come true. In the northern region of the country, there are lots of dog sledding tours you can take. Don’t worry, the dogs absolutely love it and they’re all very ethical experiences too. These huskies are treated like royalty.
Check this Husky Sledding Tour near Reykjavik:
Continuing the theme of getting active in the winter conditions in Iceland, did you know there are actually some spots where you can go skiing in Iceland? Or snowboarding, if you’re that way inclined. But it’s true! Although it’s far from the most popular country in Europe for skiing, there are some ski resorts in Iceland. And there aren’t even any trees posing as obstacles either- as there are in other parts of Europe. Most ski resorts are along the south coast of Iceland, but there are also a few in the north. They’re a lot less busy than the ones in mainland Europe which is another big selling point.
10. Explore an Ice Cave
One of the best things to do in Iceland during winter months is to explore a natural ice cave. Iceland’s ice caves at Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in the country, get formed when glacier meltwater freezes each winter. Each year forms different ice caves with varied shapes and tunnels, and it’s not the same as the previous years. Do note that you need to book an ice cave tour to visit one of these caverns.
We had the chance to explore a natural ice cave in summer on our Iceland ring road itinerary. The only one that is open all year round. Katla Ice Cave tour was the highlight of our time on the south coast of Iceland.
Book an ice cave tour:
11. Celebrate Christmas in Iceland
Christmas in Iceland is special. It’s so unique too. Being Scandinavian, Icelandic people celebrate Christmas and Yuletide. They’re very similar but have some differences too. It’s just like how every country celebrates Christmas slightly differently. A fun example is that children leave shoes on their windows for 13 days hoping to get gifts from yule-lads. But overall, it’s just a magical place to spend the holidays.
12. Stay warm in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is usually people’s base camp for a trip to Iceland, offering the perfect spot to take day trips from Reykjavik in winter. But many people actually skip over the city during their trip, and that’s a big mistake. Reykjavik is such an underrated city, and while there may not be many things to actually see, the atmosphere is really friendly. The city is small and compact, making it pretty cosy. You can see the top attractions in Reykjavik in a day.
Consider a food tour in Reykjavik:
13. Swim between 2 continents
Iceland’s Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the tectonic boundary between the plates of the 2 continents of North America and Europe. In this boundary, there’s a “crack” known as Silfra, which is filled with water, which you can snorkel in. So by snorkelling here, you’re swimming between two continents! Heads up, it’s pretty cold. But it’s cold all year round. It’s worth being cold for the experience. How many people can see they’ve swam between 2 continents?!
You need to book a snorkelling or diving adventure tour:
14. Horse riding with Icelandic horses
One of the most common missed opportunities in Iceland is to go horseriding. The horses in Iceland are different to in most countries. They’re Scandinavian-bred, and they actually have their own breed of horse- Icelandic horses. Having had no natural predators in their entire existence, the horses are very friendly and love interacting with humans. Horseriding in Iceland is a different opportunity you can’t get anywhere else in the world, it’s so special.
Check these horse riding experiences:
15. Visit Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Winter at Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon offers a magical experience. The massive icebergs form a fantastic photo opportunity and a breathtaking sight. This lagoon is also the starting point for many ice cave tours in winter.
Last but by no means least of these things to do in Iceland is to visit Diamond Beach. Diamond Beach has grown in popularity in the last few years, particularly thanks to TikTok. The beach has black sand, like many of the beaches in Iceland, but it’s right by a glacier so it commonly has huge blocks of ice lying on the black sand. It actually doesn’t seem real, but it is, and seeing it for yourself is unbelievable. You can see the phenomenon at any time of the year, but it’s best to go in the morning before the ice melts, and since the sun rises later in the winter, it gives you more time to get to the beach.
You can explore Jokulsarlon by a self-drive option or via a tour:
Iceland in Winter: FAQ
Below are some questions related to things to do in Iceland in winter along with the answers to each respective question.
Is Iceland worth visiting in winter?
Yes, Iceland is absolutely worth visiting in winter. In fact, it offers a much more authentic experience as Scandinavian countries are notoriously cold. Winter makes for the best time to visit because the conditions are ideal for activities like snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice climbing and the big one, seeing the Northern Lights.
How many days are enough for Iceland in winter?
Most people spend 5-7 days in Iceland in winter. This allows for enough time to do all of the Iceland must-dos as well as some winter-specific activities like going snowmobiling or hiking across a glacier.
How cold does it get in Iceland?
It gets pretty cold in Iceland, with the winter months seeing average temperatures in the south – where it’s most popular to visit – coming in at around 0°C (32°F). So if you’re planning a trip to Iceland in the winter months, make sure to bring lots of warm clothes.
Can I wear jeans in Iceland winter?
Jeans aren’t a great item of clothing to bring to Iceland. They absorb water very quickly and dry very slowly, leaving you cold and wet in conditions that are already cold and wet. It’s not the best idea to bring them to Iceland at all, especially in winter when the weather is worse.
Do I need snow pants in Iceland winter?
You don’t need snow pants in Iceland in winter, but having them would definitely be a good idea if you want to stay both dry and warm. The weather in winter is cold and wet, and if you’re going to be outside a lot seeing waterfalls or maybe even exploring a glacier, then it’s a good idea to have snow pants.
Iceland in Winter: Conclusion
And there you have it, a complete list of the best things to do in Iceland in Winter. Iceland is a real-life Winter Wonderland.
Whether you stick to the classic things to do like the Golden Circle tour or South Coast tour, or whether you go more adventurous and go snowmobiling or ice climbing, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable time in Iceland.
This post was written by Josh Band from A Backpacker’s World. Josh loves to write about backpacking all around the world. From Southeast Asia to Europe, and everything in between, Josh loves to explore and spend as little as possible while doing so.
If you are planning a trip to Iceland in spring or summer months, do check out –
For a complete road trip itinerary: The Ultimate Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: 12 Days self-drive road trip
If you have 5-7 days to explore Iceland: Iceland in 5 to 7 days: Three Epic Itinerary Options
For estimating your Iceland Trip Cost and planning tips, read Iceland Trip Cost + How to plan a road trip to Iceland
For exploring the capital, see Reykjavik sightseeing
For travel tips on North Iceland, read North Iceland Highlights: The Diamond Circle Route + Travel Tips
For travel tips and top attractions in South Iceland, read Iceland South Coast Itinerary: The Best of South Iceland attractions
For travel tips and attractions in West Iceland, read West Iceland attractions: Best Things to Do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula
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Have you visited the Land of Fire & Ice? What has been your favorite destination or experience there?
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