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Winter is coming: top reasons to visit Iceland this wintertime

In the UK we don’t seem to get much of a winter anymore – save for a few frosty mornings and the occasional bitter flurry of snow that rarely settles and only seems to offer commuting chaos. For many this is preferable, but for those lusting after the chilly nip of a ‘proper’ winter, we have the solution. Forget a skiing holiday – Iceland is where those in the know head to get a dose of the white stuff. There’s no need to get fit in preparation, purchase piles of expensive kit that lies dormant for much of the year or take out costly winter sports travel insurance to cover you for those painful bumps.

Whether you’re interested in the northern lights, spotting whales and other incredible wildlife or trying unusual cuisine (think: fermented shark meat), Iceland offers an array of activities to satisfy your wanderlust. But why should you visit in the winter, rather than the more hospitable summer months?


The weather

Yes, it can be very, very cold. You’ll need a thick, warm coat to protect you from the snow and soft, insulating thermals to keep you toasty from within. The snow often falls horizontally from the sky and the chill will turn the tip of your nose red in a matter of minutes, but it’s all worth it to see the country blanketed in snow. It’s an otherworldly experience, like a giant duvet has been rolled out across the landscape. Holidays to Iceland often visit thermal baths such as the Blue Lagoon, but we take you away from the crowds to experience the thermal waters somewhere a little different. On our Icelandic Winter Adventure you’ll bypass the queues for the Blue Lagoon and instead head to Myvatn Nature Baths. Here you can wallow in the warm waters with a beer in hand, surrounded by snow. Few people travel this far north during the winter months,  so it’s often devoid of other tourists (so much so that on past trips, customers and staff – who will remain nameless – have made snow angels in their swimming costumes just next to the pools).
 

Trying winter ‘sports’

Though Iceland does have a few small ski runs, the best way to experience the snow is on a sledge. In the north of Iceland we’ll take you up a mountain on a snowcat for stunning views, before sledging at the bottom of the mountain. It’s not for kids – we’ve seen customers in their seventies regress to a child-like state of hysteria as they barrelled down the hill on a heavy-duty plastic sleigh. Don’t worry if you fall off – the snow is often a few feet thick and you can warm up with a fish lunch and a beer tasting later in the day.

 

The ice cream

Though Iceland does have a few small ski runs, the best way to experience the snow is on a sledge. In the north of Iceland we’ll take you up a mountain on a snowcat for stunning views, before sledging at the bottom of the mountain. It’s not for kids – we’ve seen customers in their seventies regress to a child-like state of hysteria as they barrelled down the hill on a heavy-duty plastic sleigh. Don’t worry if you fall off – the snow is often a few feet thick and you can warm up with a fish lunch and a beer tasting later in the day.
 

More time to explore

Early mornings are often the only downside to a packed itinerary, especially if you want to see the sunrise. But not in Iceland! During the winter months the short days mean that the sun rises at about 9.30 in the morning, so a lazy start means you’ll still get to see the spectacle.


 

The Northern Lights

Though the warm months may afford clearer skies and warmer temperatures, you’re less like to see the northern lights as the sky doesn’t get dark enough – often the sun doesn’t set until after midnight and evening becomes perpetual twilight until a very premature sunrise in the early hours of the morning. Visit in the winter and the dark nights and shorter days mean optimum conditions for seeing the northern lights. Many of our itineraries take you to the north of the country, where the chances of seeing the aurora are better still.



 
We asked a few of our staff to tell us why they loved visiting Iceland in the winter…
 

Naomi Jackson, Senior Operations Manager

Iceland is a very unique, photogenic and rugged country. I’m fortunate to have been there in both summer and winter. The summer sun shining through your curtains in the middle of the night is a curious event which I recommend experiencing but if I had to choose I’d visit Iceland again during the deepest of winter to experience true magic. During the day there is around six hours of twilight when everything is a hue of purple and the sun doesn’t appear to ever make it all the way up into the sky, and night time when you may be lucky enough to see the magnificent northern lights. The snow is deep, the ice sparkles and everything feels oddly exciting. No matter your age, Iceland makes you feel childlike again and listening to stories of elves and Vikings with a crisp Icelandic beer is a highlight!
 

Georgie Clayton, Customer Support Executive

I love Iceland in the winter because I will never forget experiences like drinking a hot chocolate standing in the thick snow waiting to capture a great photo of the Northern Lights; eating traditional rye bread straight from being baked in the hot ground; or bathing in naturally heated hot pools with snow falling onto my face! Iceland in winter is magical and definitely one to tick off the bucket list.
 

Emily Bland, Customer Support Manager

I love Iceland in the winter because you can stay out of the cold and keep cosy in the warm geothermal waters of the lagoons, and like me, you may even be lucky enough for it to snow whilst you bathe. Iceland truly has one of the most impressive landscapes in the world and winter is one of the best times of year to see it in all its glory. And if you are really lucky, you may see the northern lights.
 

Hayley Garner, PR & Marketing Assistant

I love Iceland in the winter because it becomes a land of extremes and wonders. The first heavy snowfall brings a completely different setting and illustrates how much you are at the mercy of the elements. Although the cold is bitter, it brings with it fresh powdery snow that claims everything as its own, and icicles that sparkle in the low light of the sun. The short days of winter give you the best chance of catching a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights



Book with Explore to see Iceland this winter and discover the adventure for yourself.

Book with Explore to see Iceland this winter and discover the adventure for yourself. We offer a range of different itineraries, including our Iceland Winter Adventure, a 10-day holiday which will take you around the whole island. Our ever-popular short break is the Northern Lights with Expert Astronomer trip, offering four days to chase the aurora borealis with our expert Andy Green.

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