Iceland in winter is a magical place, actually, Iceland is a magical place at any time of year, but when the snow and ice cover everything it is even more so.
I have visited Iceland twice, the first time in winter and the second time in summer to do trekking that’s not possible in winter.
Iceland in Winter
Reykjavik in winter gets chilly! But all the warm and cosy restaurants, cafes, and bars in Reykjavik feel more the better for it after wandering around outside.
Head to the main downtown area and the lake behind town hall should be frozen over mid-winter and makes for some great photos.
Lake in Reykjavik frozen over.
Take a stroll through the icy streets on the main drag and see the various statues before heading towards the port area. It’s around Reykjavik port that you will find the large indoor market where you can try the national Icelandic shark dish, hakarl (see bottom of post).
Reykjavik in winter.
Head to the other side of Reykjavik and take a look at the modern Hallgrímskirkja church with its epic tower that looms over Reykjavik.
Driving in Iceland in Winter
One of the best things to do in Iceland in winter is to rent your own car and get out driving to some of the best places to see in the country.
It will also help with being able to drive out of Reykjavik easily and get away from the city lights to hopefully catch a glimpse of the northern lights in Iceland.
Driving in Iceland in winter gets a little more tricky as the ice covers the roads in parts, even with the best efforts to keep it clear, and in the more remote areas and off-beat places, it can be very difficult.
Having said that renting a car is still the best way to get out and see things.
If you can’t do that then there are tours you can join to go and see things outside the capital.
Driving in Iceland in winter.
The Icelandic Transport Authority have excellent advice on how to drive in Iceland.
The roads can be very hard in parts getting to some of the tourist areas.
Winter in Iceland.
The Golden Circle in Winter
It’s possible to see the main Golden Circle that Iceland is famous for in winter and you will get a much different feeling than in summer.
The rivers and waterfalls are surrounded by ice.
The geysers steam away the ice and snow and add some warmth to the area.
Hiking in Iceland during winter is possible in some places especially the lower areas away from the middle of the country.
Just a few hours drive from Reykjavik you can visit remote hot springs that are just a short hike from rocky roads you can drive up.
Hiking in Iceland in winter.
Remote hot spring in Iceland at the base of mountains.
Escape into nowhere.
Reynisfjara black sand beach is also only a few hours from Reykjavik. I have visited this area in summer and winter and in winter it’s a much more atmospheric place to be.
Reynisfjara black sand beach.
Just a few minutes drive past Reynisfjara black sand beach you can get great views at sunset past the cliffs and rocky outcrops in the ocean.
Make sure you know what to pack for Iceland in winter. It gets cold!
When in Reykjavik be sure to try the hakarl shark that the Vikings used to eat and is a national dish of Iceland. It consists of a shark that is fermented and then left out to dry or buried in the ground for 4-5 months.
It’s an acquired taste but go ahead and try!
Hakarl seller in market in Reykjavik.
Travel Iceland in Winter
Touring Iceland in winter is like said at the beginning, one of the most magical things you can do.
Be sure to take the right clothing with you, a warm jacket, fleece, etc but very importantly take the right footwear. Some of the best boots for Iceland in winter include the excellent German brand of Hanwag that produce the Tatra Top gtx boot that is highly recommended by outdoor experts.
If you visit Iceland in summer (also highly recommended) then one of the best activities is to do some trekking. My favourite trek in Iceland is the Laugavegur Trail which takes around 3 days to hike that shows the diverse and beautiful landscapes of Iceland. It’s also been voted one of the best treks in the world by National Geographic.
Find places to stay in Reykjavik here.
Some of the best winter tours in Iceland:
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