Iceland is Open for Everyone! | All restrictions are lifted since February 25, 2022 Learn more

7 Things to Do in Iceland in Winter

|December 21, 2021
Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.

Many visitors to Iceland opt for a winter holiday, when the nights, snow and ice are at their most captivating. Here’s a quick guide to the best things to do in Iceland in winter time.


frozen Godafoss waterfall in winter

Godafoss waterfall, Iceland in winter

Is Iceland Worth Visiting in Winter?

Absolutely. While it can get cold (it’s not called “Sunland”!), visiting Iceland in winter is always a good idea. Snow blankets the landscapes, the Northern Lights are visible for longer, and it’s the only time of year to experience the country’s unique ice caves.

The colder climate brings some challenges that aren’t there in warmer months, but Iceland winter is an unforgettable experience quite unlike anything else on Earth.

Here’s a quick guide of the best things to do in Iceland in winter.

What is there to do in Iceland in winter?

There are plenty of Iceland winter activities to enjoy. From Iceland winter tours to events and festivals - you can create an Iceland winter itinerary you prefer.

1. See the Northern Lights in Winter

The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are among the most enchanting things you’ll see in your lifetime. Caused by sun particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the result is a cosmic ballet of dancing lights in the night sky. People travel from all over the world to take a Northern Lights tour.

Aurora Borealis above the mountains in Iceland

Northern Lights over the Mountains in Iceland

Because they’re only visible at night, and daylight hours reduce greatly during the winter months, it is the best time of the year to see this phenomenon.

These lights are special even for us Icelanders, and we’re lucky enough to witness them many times. And even for those of us who see them often, the Northern Lights are too wonderful to keep to ourselves. When you see the lights, you call your mom straight away and then jump on social media to tell your friends. Only once you’ve shared it with everybody do you stop to bask in this spectral beauty.

couple watching Aurora Borealis in Iceland

Couple enjoying the Northern Lights in Iceland

If all of this sounds appealing, you can check out our Northern Lights tours, where you can experience the natural wonder that is the Aurora Borealis.

2. Take an Ice Cave Tour

ice cave tour in Iceland during winter

Crystal Ice Cave in Iceland

Only available in winter, the enchanting ice caves are definitely something you shouldn't miss while visiting Iceland in winter.

These natural phenomena form in glaciers during Iceland’s coldest months, forming spaces, shapes and shades of blue that you’ve never seen before. We have a range of ice cave tours: some combine these visits with a glacier hike or a snowmobile ride, which can take place in Skaftafell, on Langjokull and often on Solheimajokull.

3. Go Skiing

It should come as no surprise that a country called “Iceland” has embraced skiing!

man skiing in Iceland on winter

Skiing in Iceland

Skiing has been popular in this country for some time. Our ski areas (we won’t call them resorts because that is not technically what they are) are small and the mountains aren’t particularly high.

Still, downhill skiing in Iceland is a fun experience. Close to Reykjavik, Bláfjöll (or the Blue Mountains) is family-friendly and perfect for beginners. If you want a little more action, Akureyri, the capital of the north, is a very charming city with a wonderful ski area.

The small but incredibly appealing towns of Dalvik, Isafjordur and Siglufjordur all have ski lifts and slopes worth exploring.

If you end up in Dalvik, it’s worth remembering that this is also one of the best places on the planet to go whale watching.

4. Hike to the Hot Springs

Winter is prime time for hiking and for visiting geothermal pools and hot springs – especially in this tour!

woman bathe in Icelandic hot springs on winter

Bathing in Geothermal Hot Spring in Iceland

The hot springs in Reykjadalur are always a fine way to spend half a day. It’s a relatively easy hike up to a valley where the river meets the hot springs, making it the perfect temperature for a bath.

The Secret Lagoon or Gamla Laugin (the old pool) is a delightful place to visit on its own, or as a part of a Golden Circle Tour.

The Blue Lagoon is probably one of the best Iceland tours in winter, especially if you're looking to warm up.

Aurora Borealis over wooden hut in Iceland

Northern Lights above the Wooden Cabin in Iceland

If you time your winter visit to Iceland just right, it’s perfect to use the darker hours of the day for a dip, where you could spot the Northern Lights as you float around in the warm water of a hot spring. The pools are also considered a much-needed remedy to soothe tired legs and minds after a long day of hiking and exploring.

Don’t forget to pack the right gear! Getting cold is a sure way to dampen the mood on those hikes. The temperatures won’t be frigid, but we would advise doing some research on how to layer your clothes in an effective way.

woman exploring geothermal river in Iceland

Thermal river in Iceland

As luck would have it, we have written a post on what to wear on a hike.

5. Food and Drinks

The atmosphere changes in Iceland in winter. As nights get longer and the temperature drops, indoor get-togethers get cozier.

Icelandic bars can go shoulder to shoulder with any in the world: the décor tends to be homely or chic, we’re great at cocktails and know what we’re doing when it comes to beer as well.

If you’re not sure where to start, our beer and drink tours.

beer and fish dish in Icelandic restaurant

Beer and Sea food in the restaurant, Iceland

Icelandic food doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Indeed, we love fresh ingredients, innovation and especially quality seafood. The Reykjavik Food Walk will bring you everywhere from classy restaurants to mouth-watering food markets.

Further afield in Stykkisholmur, the Viking Sushi Tour is a tasty tour of local seafood delicacies. The tour also includes sightseeing, where you’ll bear witness to incredible landscapes.

6. Enjoy Winter Festivals

Iceland has a number of indoor and (yes) outdoor events in winter. 

These include: 

Iceland Airwaves

A world-famous music fest that draws bands and fans from every corner of the globe. Previous Iceland Airwaves performers include Bjork, Vampire Weekend, Robyn and even Yoko Ono. 

Christmas Markets

Iceland is a perfect place for Christmas markets, with its winter wonderland appearance, winter festival atmosphere and – of course – close proximity to Santa Claus! Christmas markets are part of Iceland and pop up throughout the country in December.

Christmas Market in Iceland

New Year’s Eve

We like to ring in the new year in style, with partying, reflection and (of course) spectacular fireworks. Reykjavik is an especially good place to enjoy NYE celebrations.

We have a full calendar of these events and more in our comprehensive Iceland festival guide

7. Explore the capital

colorful houses in Reykjavik during wintertime

Colorful houses in Reykjavik, Iceland

This dynamic Iceland's capital offers tons of activities all year round, including winter. If you're visiting Reykjavik for the first time, you can engage in a city walking tour or hop-on hop-off tour.

You can also go for day tours from Reykjavik. For example, this Northern Lights tour is a famous Iceland winter tour from Reykjavik.

Aurora Borealis above Reykjavik city

Reykjavik, Iceland at night with a Northern Lights

Also, we encourage you to check out this Reykjavik city guide before visiting the capital.

See you there!

Many visitors prefer Iceland winter travel, as they can enjoy unique marvels like the Northern Lights and ice caves, before unwinding in a warm spring or comfortable bar. Prepare for your Iceland winter vacation and maybe see you on a glacier sometime soon…

Best Seller

Related tours

Related blogs