man jumping in front of snowy mountain

Winter
Activities
in Iceland

All The Fun Stuff

Slider

What to do in Iceland in Winter

More and more people are fascinated by the idea of venturing out on their own into the Icelandic wilderness, and the campervan is increasingly the #1 choice. There is something extraordinary about driving independently around Iceland, especially in the winter. Northern lights hunting is a ton of fun, and the sites are much less crowded. It’s cheaper with winter season prices, and you have a drastically higher chance of experiencing a hot spring session in complete solitude. The organized tours are much less likely to be sold out, leaving you free to pop in for a quick guided ice-cave trip at your leisure. There are also the Christmas traditions as Icelanders tend to be especially festive during the holiday season and New Year’s Eve, which is spectacular in Reykjavík.

Stuff you must try in the winter

Ice Caving

You literally „must“ try this in the winter, as the water that runs through these crystal caves only freezes during the winter months. You can‘t see these stunning natural phenomena at any other time of year.
We highly discourage trying to go at it alone, but you can find multiple tour operators that would love to take you in. Tour operators in Iceland are comparatively good, and they become a large part of the show in our experience. Let them take you into the long, frozen chambers, under a ceiling of translucent blue waves, and tell you the story of how they formed and what lies in store for these majestic tunnels of ice. When you see the tour photos, it looks photoshopped, but we can assure you, it‘s not. Finding an ice cave operator to take you in is easy.
Glaciers riddle the landmass and cover more than 8% of the country, with Vatnajökull proving the most massive in the whole of Europe. Icelandic glaciers are also accessible; oftentimes you can drive right up to the base, or even slightly on top of the glacier itself.

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing is must-try for any adrenaline junky. For those, go straight to the crevasse climbing and look down the whole time!

For the ordinary people, we recommend you find a guide and start at the bottom of a sheer ice cliff, instead of rappelling into a bottomless pit the first time around.

We went for the crevasse right off the bat. Some of us didn’t make it. Check out the video at the bottom.

Glacier Hiking

You don’t have to clamber up vertical ice walls or crawl into ice caves to enjoy the Icelandic glaciers. It’s exhilarating to mount on those snow chains (crampons), grab an ice ax in each hand and hike onto a moving sheet of ice, hundreds of meters thick in some places, and just be there.

We recommend dancing on the glacier.

Hot Springs

There‘s no question. Hot spring and swimming pool visits must be on your travel plan in winter. It truly is a unique experience. We make sure our maps are always up to date and have confirmed access to more than 45 natural hot springs you can bathe in, and that‘s aside from the hundreds of geothermally powered swimming pools you‘ll find in every town you come to in Iceland. Check out more in the Hot Spring section.

We advise skepticism on maps out there, as we wrote this article and did some research, many of the suggested locations aren‘t accessible anymore or have been removed.

There are a few things better than to soak in a natural hot spring after a long day of hiking and activities.

Color codes on map:
Easy to access Hot Spring are Blue.
Only 4×4 access to Hot Spring is Orange.
Tour operator access to Hot Springs are Black.

You can press the [ ] icon in the top right corner of the map for better access.

Horseback riding

The Icelandic horse. A legend in its own right. With a step, no other horse breed can imitate, the 5th gait, known as Tölt. The gate is incredibly smooth, despite the fast pace.

The winter coat that covers the Icelandic horse makes it look somewhat smaller, without dampening the power and vitality of these beautiful animals in the slightest. You will have an easy time of finding an operator to help you mount up and ride into the wild.

Caving

Once you are underneath the earth’s surface, it doesn’t matter if it’s winter or summer. Indeed, the temperatures once you start spelunking are very similar, regardless of the season. Iceland has a lot of fascinating caves to explore, and you can find guided tours all-year-round. There are plenty of great tour operators that can take you in, and they know all the little secrets, history, and science behind the formations.

You can go by yourself, but we recommend extreme caution if you do so. The absolute minimum equipment is a helmet, lights, registered travel plan, and extra batteries. And never do so alone.

Northern Lights

Amazingly, Iceland is one of the best places on the planet to view these spectacular phenomena. There are Aurora seasons, and they are more complex than just winter or summer. Click here for a more detailed Northern Lights summary.

The Aurora Borealis is a scientific occurrence, with highly charged electrons from solar winds hitting the upper atmosphere. Still, it’s easy to imagine the superstitions that arose from the visual spectacle. It looks more like something magical like it’s from a Fantasy Novel. 

The best time and place to see the Northern Lights?

Away from all habitation, or more accurately, any source of light and in early or late winter. And anywhere you have clear skies.

What is the best mode of transport to search for the Northern Lights?

The Easy Clever and the Easy Viking were born for a Northern Lights hunt. But as a rule, you’ll want to be as mobile as possible, as chasing clear skies is #1 on your list. A camper is a handy tool in this endeavor.

Nightlife in Reykjavík

It‘s already highly charged and renowned for the local feel to it. Moreover, in winter, Icelandic people tend to go out of their way for an even bigger blast, peaking around Christmas.
The prevailing darkness produces a setting for an endless night of partying. There are more than 100 bars in the city, so everyone should find something to their liking.

Snorkeling

Yeah, it‘s cold. But it also offers a unique experience. There aren‘t many places in the world where you will find clearer waters than in Silfra in Lake Þingvallavatn.

The water is actually clear and clean enough for drinking, as it‘s been filtered for years during its glacial journey through the lava rocks.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Iceland has quite a few ski areas that offer a unique experience. We recommend the smaller ones, in the East or in the North.

Cross country skiing is also pretty big and can be very enjoyable in Iceland. Check out the ski areas that have lifts on the map.

A map of all the ski-areas in Iceland that have ski-lifts.

You can press the [ ] icon in the top right corner of the map for better access.

Museums

A museum visit can be an excellent way to get out of the cold for some or a place to soak up interesting information that‘s rich in history for others. Either way, Iceland has some impressive Museums. They tend to be quite different from what springs to mind when we hear the word Museum.
There are loads of Museums in Reykjavík, and information on each one is easy to come by. We decided to focus on the Museums outside of Reykjavík on our map.

Map of CampEasy Favorite Museums

You can press the [ ] icon in the top right corner of the map for better access.

Snowmobiling

Many Icelanders own snowmobiles and there are too many world-class snowmobile destinations to count in Iceland.

There are also tons of snowmobile operators in Iceland, with the cheapest trips around 15.000 ISK per person for a couple of hours of sledding in the mountains.

Holiday Seasons

Christmas and New Years. Both are holidays that are full of local traditions and customs. We love how flashy those customs actually are, with the entire city lit up during Christmas and the awe-inspiring magnitude of fireworks we blast into the sky during New-Years. Then there are the 13 evil Santa-Clauses (Jule-Lads) and their hideous, ogre mother that descend from the mountains to eat humans every Merry Christmas, the delicious Laufabrauð (Leaf-Bread) and blazing bonfires.

An unscripted 5-day adventure
CampEasy Tries Out The Icelandic Winter
Play
the professionals in winter rentals
Winter Camping with CampEasy
Play
Slider