Let me show you the best things to do in Winter in Iceland (in my opinion): the ice caves, the glaciers, the waterfalls, the black beaches... There is much to choose from, but I have selected my top 21 Winter attractions for you to enjoy and I am sharing pictures to show you their beauty. Have a great trip!
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Best things to do in Winter in Iceland - short answers
In the following article you will see the pictures of 21 fantastic Iceland Winter Attractions to experience. But let me start by saying that even if you don't stop anywhere, just driving around Iceland in Winter is magnificent. The scenery is a Winter Wonderland.
If you need me to reduce even more than 21 because you are limited in time, my top 5 absolute favorite things to do in Winter in Iceland (the best places to visit) are:
All the locations listed in this article are accessible in Winter by car.
Of course road closure can always happen due to snow and wind - check out the status on road.is and look at my tips about driving in Winter in Iceland
They are all included in my eBook (with other wonderful ones), the help you easily plan your Winter itinerary:
Plan your perfect trip to Iceland in Winter!
- 6 easy-to-plan Maps
- 75+ pre-selected scenic locations
- Winter Accessibility + Planning Tips
- 115+ large photos to decide where to go
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
1 - Warm up at the geothermal areas
Winter in Iceland is not as cold as some may think. But if you are bored of the white of the snow, you can head to a geothermal area to see a little bit more colors. LOL. There are many options around Iceland, I have selected one in the South and one in the North, but you can also find out more options on the Reykjanes peninsula.
1a - Haukadalur and the Strokkur Geyser
Located on the Golden Circle, the Haukadalur geothermal area is the most famous in Iceland and one of the most visited attractions in Winter and in Summer.
It is home to Geysir which is not really active. However the Strokkur geyser is. It erupts every 3 to 7 minutes. You can see the bubble forming and then breaking, it is quite fascinating.
1b - Hverir in North Iceland
In North Iceland, the Hverir / Namafjall geothermal area is one of the top things to do around Lake Myvatn in Winter.
The area is home to large mud pools and fumaroles. I love the contrast with the surrounding snow.
2 - Get a shower at the many waterfalls - Iceland Winter Highlights
Iceland is famous for its waterfalls. There are many to choose from.
In my opinion some are even more beautiful with the coat of snow, especially the small one with frozen water. None of the well-known ones freezes completely though.
Here are a few notes on the major waterfalls:
- Gullfoss on the Golden Circle - Flowing water, beautiful canyon covered in snow - see more photos
- Seljalandsfoss on the South Coast - Flowing, not possible to walk behind in Winter - see more photos
- Skogafoss on the South Coast - Flowing, as impressive in Winter as in Summer - really easy access - see more photos
- Hraunfossar on the Silver Circle - Flowing with some icicles - absolutely breathtaking in Winter - see more photos
- Godafoss in North Iceland - Flowing with stunning icicles - I loved in Winter! a magical moment - see more photos
- Kirkjufellsfoss on the Snaefellsnes peninsula - Flowing with large icicles - the alignment of the unique mountain with the waterfalls is stunning in Winter too - see more photos
3 - Go underground in these Iceland Winter attractions
3a - Ice caves
For everyone, one of the main highlights of a Winter trip in Iceland is visiting an ice-cave. A natural one. You can't do it in Summer as they become unstable with the heat or disappear. Caves can be visited at different tongues of the glaciers.
The most famous tours are from Jokulsarlon.
I liked this tour because they look every year for new caves and try showing you both a black and the blue ice caves. Something truly unique that will not be there next year.
You can book this tour with a black and a blue cave if conditions permit.
Or you can check out my article about choosing your Ice cave tour.
3b - Vidgelmir Lava Tunnel
There are other lava caves in Iceland but I love this one, especially in Winter.
The Vidgelmir lava tunnel is easy to access with just a few staircases and a good pathway all the way.
It can also be visited in Summer, but in Winter it has something special. In one area, ice stalagmites form on the lava. I had never seen such a phenomenon. I love the contrast: being in a tunnel created by burning lava combined with ice formations.
Guided tours only - you can book here
3c - Ice Tunnel
Another famous underground experience (accessible in Winter and in Summer) is the Ice Tunnel 'Into the glacier'. The giant 4WD truck drives you up the glacier to access a man made tunnel. At one point you are 40m under ice and snow.
It is not beautiful like the natural ice caves, but it is quite an experience!
You can book here
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
You can choose from some great local companies!
- I selected Route 1 car rental (and paid entirely for it). I really enjoyed their service to drop and pick up the car, as well as all their advice before going on the road - Check out prices and car availabilities
- Otherwise you can compare the vehicles and prices from local companies on this practical website
4 - Get up close with the glaciers
Iceland is the land of fire and ice. Glaciers cover a large portion of the land. Some of the tongues are quite easy to access and will leave you with unforgettable memories.
4b - Glacier Lagoons
You can see them from the distance with a glacial lagoon at your feet. The most famous one is Jokulsarlon on the picture above. The glacier is further away but it produce icebergs that float in the lagoon before heading to the sea. On my last visit there had been a storm and the lagoon was completely filled with icebergs. It was very impressive.
See more photos
4a - Walk on a glacier
And, if you are fit enough, you may want to join a guided tour to walk on a glacier. To see the intense blue and the crevasses. There are several locations to do it. They will provide spikes and safety equipments. It possible on the South Coast at several glaciers - before and after Vik for example at Solheimjökull - see options or Skaftafell - see options
5 - Spot wildlife and admire the horses
Wildlife is not the main attraction in Iceland, especially in Winter. However there are still a few options for you to enjoy animals.
5a - Reindeers in the East fjords
In Summer, the wild reindeers live in the Central Highlands. However in Winter they come down to the East fjords for the easier conditions. You can see them on the side of the road. Be careful as they may cross sometimes!
I know you will want to stop to admire them, but be really careful and don't stop in the middle of the road!
5b - Whales from Reykjavik or Akureyri
Iceland is the land of Whale Watching. You can do it from Reykjavik, Akureyri or Husavik. Winter is not the best season, because most of them migrate, but you still have a chance to see some. See tour options
5c - Icelandic horses
Those are not wild animals. But if you love horses, the Icelandic horses are adorable and you can find them on the side of the road.
Do not feed them unless there is special food available for you at the carpark (like near Haukadalur).
You can also book horse back riding activities, even in Winter. See options
5d - Artic Fox
I have been lucky to see a wild artic fox in Winter. However I don't have a pictures because it was running under the wheels of the vehicle. In Winter, their coats are white, so they are very difficult to spot.
6 - Climb a crater - yes, this is what to do in Iceland in Winter 🙂
This you might not have expected, but you can climb a volcanic crater a Winter. It is not that difficult.
However I am not talking about the big ones here. Just some small ones on the side of the road.
6a - Saxholl
Climbing Saxholl, on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, was one of my favorite experiences in Iceland in Winter. I was lucky because the visibility was incredible that day.
The views from the top of the crater with the lava, the snow, the glacier and the sun... unforgettable!
Just be reasonable in case of very strong wind and don't climb.
6b - Myvatn pseudo-craters
For this one I am cheating a little 🙂 Around a pond by Lake Myvatn are what look like volcanic craters. But they are pseudo-craters created by lava meeting water. It is a very rare phenomenon. I love them so much in Summer!
In Winter the experience is surreal. The pond is not visible as covered in snow. So you can only see some black pimples over the white landscapes. At one point I was alone on top of one of them and it felt like being in an Ice Age.
7 - Enjoy the black beaches
Iceland has a lot of black beaches. This is due to the intense volcanic activity. In Winter the contrast of the dark black with the white snow creates and even more intense visual experience.
7a - Diamond beach
Diamond beach is a true gem. This is close to Jokulsarlon on the South Coast. The icebergs escape to the sea but are pushed back towards the beach and end up on the black sand. When the sun is out, they are sparkling like diamonds. Some are white, others blue and a few black.
The last time I visited was after a storm and the beach was covered with icebergs of all sizes.
Here the scenery is almost similar in Winter and in Summer.
7b - Reynisfjara
Reynisfjara is the most famous. When talking about the "Iceland black beach" is normally refers to this one. it is located on the South coast, near the town of Vik.
It is a very long black beach with a cave, basalt columns and pillars in the water.
If you are visiting, please be extremely careful as the waves can suddenly come a lot higher than the ones before.
7c - Fauskasandur
One of my favorites is Fauskasandur. It is located in the East Fjords. The beach itself has nothing special except for a monolith. But I love the view with the mountain and the small cliff. This is one of my favorite pictures from my last trip (taken in February).
8 - Let your imagination run wild in lava fields - (best places to visit in Iceland in Winter)
Iceland is full of lava fields created by numerous eruption over time. Some are recent and still very dark, others are old and covered with moss (but you can't see it in Winter with the snow).
8a - Dimmuborgir
In North Iceland, Dimmuborgir is a famous lava field near Lake Myvatn. Here the formations are giant and your imagination will have a blast discovering strange shapes in the rock. In Winter the landscape is pure black and white, so you might feel a little bit disoriented.
If visiting in December, this is the home of the Yule Lads (the local version of Santa Claus).
See more photos on my Dimmuborgir in Winter article
8b - Londrangar
On the Snaefellsnes peninsula, a lot of the coast is made from lava cliffs. At Londrangar the legend says that the 2 giant lava plugs are trolls.
A viewing platform as been set up so that you can take it all in.
8c - Arnarstapi
Arnarstapi is probably the most famous in the Snaefellsnes peninsula. On this coastal walk you can see many lava formations being hit by the waves: simple monoliths, basalt columns, an arch, a bridge, holes... Take your time and look at the details in the rock.
Plus if you look inland, you can admire the Arnarstapi mountain and its beautiful pyramid shape.
9 - Stay up to see the northern lights
Most people visit Iceland in Winter to see the Northern Lights. It is the best time to see them, since the nights are longer.
But remember there is no guarantee. You need a clear sky and sun activity 18h before.
Many hotels offer wake-up calls to inform you when they are visible so that you can sleep and don't have to check every 15min.
And then you just have to hope they are strong. See my article about the Northern lights.
Top things to do in Reykjavik in Winter
You may only have a few days to spend in Reykjavik in Winter.
In that case, my recommendation is to book day trips to see Nature as this is the best Iceland has to offer. For example:
- Tours to the Golden Circle
- Tours to the South Coast
- Tours of the Snaefellsnes peninsula
But if you are stuck in Reykjavik or just enjoy cities, I recommend:
- The Perlan museum for the circular platform offering views in all directions (such as in the picture above)
- The Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront
- The cathedral
- The Flyover 4D cinema for a short but amazing experience flying over Iceland - you can book here
- The museum Whales of Iceland with its life-size replicas - pre-purchase your ticket in your own currency
And to finish, if you want to dream about your travel around Iceland in Winter, here is my summary video to take you travel with me 🙂
Want to see more of ICELAND IN WINTER
Which ones do you look forward the most?