From viewing the Northern Lights to attending Reykjavik’s Winter Lights Festival, there are plenty of great reasons to visit Iceland in winter, and the arctic island is at its most magical over the holiday season. For a truly unique experience, liven up your itinerary with some of these activities you probably didn’t know you could do in Iceland in winter.
1. Enjoy Open-Air Swimming
With temperatures plummeting as low as 0˚C, stripping down to your swimwear is probably the last thing on your mind, but open-air swimming is actually a favorite winter pastime in the country. Thankfully, Iceland’s natural hot springs and geothermal pools are a steamy 38ºC or more, so you’ll be unlikely to catch a chill. The famous Blue Lagoon is on many travelers’ must-do lists, but other good spots include Reykjadalur, the Mývatn Nature Baths, Seljavallalaug and Landmannalaugar.
2. Go Snorkeling in Thingvellir National Park
Forget swimming through schools of tropical fish in balmy Mediterranean waters – snorkeling in Iceland is a whole other experience. Head to Thingvellir National Park, where you can don a dry suit and dive into the icy waters of the Silfra volcanic fissure. The narrow canyon is located on the tectonic rift, and its crystal clear waters offer an otherworldly view of the lava-sculpted underwater landscape.
3. Ride a Horse Through the Snow
Riding a native Icelandic horse is a thrilling experience at any time of year, but a winter adventure is the ideal way to explore the country’s snow-dusted topography. Best known for their unique gait – the “tolt” – Icelandic horses are small, but hardy and surefooted, making them ideal for navigating icy trails and snowy plains.
4. Spot Whales in Their Natural Habitat
The best time for whale watching around Reykjavik is from April to September, when it’s possible to view dolphins and orcas as well as minke, humpback and blue whales. Don’t worry if you’re out of season, though – whale-watching tours still run during the winter months and sightings are still frequent, especially along the northern Arctic coast, around Akureyri.
5. Hit the Ski Slopes
Iceland may not rival Europe as a skiing destination, but there are still some great spots to hit in the winter months. Head to the Blafell ski area, close to Reykjavik, or Hlidarfjall, near Akureyri, where it’s possible to enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding and sledding.
– Contributed by Zoe Smith