Iceland is one of the most beautiful and dramatic countries to visit during winter. Expect the landscape to be under a thick blanket of pristine white snow with volcanoes, glaciers and mountain peaks bursting through. Spending some time in Iceland in winter, which typically runs from October to April, will mean wrapping up warm, but still offers visitors a wide variety of things to do, and places to go. Daylight during winter is limited, with the country seeing around four to five hours of sunlight in December.
Despite these darker days, the country is still incredibly beautiful. Watch the sunrise without getting up too early, and experience the sheer magnitude of sights like the Northern Lights for longer. Winter in Iceland tends to be quieter and cheaper for tourists during winter as many choose to avoid the colder and darker months.
Not only will this make things more pleasant as you visit popular places, but it will also allow you to see more of the country more affordably as accommodation is priced lower. Keen photographers will also enjoy the ability to photograph some of the most stunning destinations in Iceland without the crowds. There are many exciting and beautiful places to visit in Iceland during winter; here are 20 to get you started.
- Iceland in Winter
- Top Tours
- 20 Places To Visit In Winter In Iceland
- 1- Explore The Golden Circle
- 2- Reykjavik
- 3- Blue Lagoon
- 4- Silfra Fissure
- 5- Langjokull
- 6- Katla Volcano Ice Cave
- 7- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- 8- Húsavík
- 9- Thingvellir National Park
- 10- Akureyri
- 11- Lake Mývatn
- 12- Skógar
- 13- Snæfellsnes Peninsula
- 14- Stykkishólmur
- 15- Kirkjufell Mountain
- 16- Djúpalónssandur
- 17- Kaldakinn
- 18- Laugarvatn Fontana
- 19- Snæfellsjökull Glacier
- 20- Godafoss Waterfall
Iceland in Winter
20 Places To Visit In Winter In Iceland
1- Explore The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle forms an invisible boundary around the three most important, popular and significant natural attractions in Iceland.
Within the Golden Circle are Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and the Gullfoss Waterfall.
There are many tours available of this 190 mile (300 kilometre) circle to allow you to take in each natural wonder with a knowledgeable guide, and over a few days.
Visiting the Golden Circle in the winter months is particularly magical as the entire landscape is blanketed with thick snow, and the sun rises later and sets earlier, creating truly breathtaking experiences.
When visiting the Golden Circle, be sure to take your camera as there are plenty of beautiful sights to capture.
Recommended tour: Reykjavik: Golden Circle Full-Day Tour with Kerid Crater
Reykjavik is the perfect Icelandic destination in winter for those looking to experience city life as well as the country’s natural wonders.
Reykjavik has a number of festivals throughout the winter period including Dark Music Days, a music festival celebrating the shortest and darkest days of the year, and the Winter Lights Festival in February which lights up the city’s most iconic buildings in celebration of the light returning to the island.
From the city, many tours out to the countryside and darker skies operate to allow visitors to experience the magic of the Northern Lights set against a white snowy backdrop.
Recommended tours and tickets:
- Iceland: Northern Lights Bus Tour from Reykjavik
- Reykjavik: Entry Ticket to FlyOver Iceland Experience
- Reykjavik: Perlan Museum Wonders of Iceland Entrance Ticket
3- Blue Lagoon
Taking a dip in an outdoor natural lagoon may not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for places to visit and things to do in Iceland in winter, however the Blue Lagoon offers visitors something a little different.
This lagoon is not only breathtakingly beautiful to look at but is one that creates lasting memories.
The water is heated naturally from an underground hot spring, creating a unique experience of bathing in relaxing warm waters while being completely surrounded by snow and ice.
If you are visiting on a particularly wintery day, explore the Blue Lagoon as the snow falls for a particularly magical experience.
This spectacular natural spa is a must-visit winter destination in Iceland, particularly if you arrive before daybreak so you can watch the sun rise over the water and surrounding winter landscape.
Recommended tour: From Reykjavik: Blue Lagoon Admission with Transfers
4- Silfra Fissure
Silfra is a truly beautiful and utterly unique destination to explore when in Iceland, but visiting in Winter adds an additional element of awe to your trip.
Silfra is the only destination in the world where it is possible to snorkel between two continents.
This trench was carved out during an earthquake in the late 1700s creating a rift between the North American and European tectonic plates.
It filled with glacial water, and is now a must-visit destination for a truly bucket-list experience.
The water is filtered through volcanic rock making it incredibly clear, allowing snorkelers to see clearly to typically obscured depths of the ocean.
Recommended tour: Silfra: Fissure Snorkeling Tour with Underwater Photos
Langjokull is Icelands second-largest glacier and when it is completely surrounded by icy white snow it becomes the perfect winter destination.
The name ‘Langjokull’ translates to ‘long cave’, and it stretches for 50 kilometres (31.07 miles) and is, at it’s widest, 20 kilometres (12.43 miles).
The glacier has two ice caves inside that are accessible to the public.
Explore inside the glacier through the largest man-made ice tunnel in the world in a guided tour with a glacier expert where you can learn more about how the glacier was formed, and how we can reduce our impact on the climate.
Recommended tour: Húsafell: Into the Glacier Ice Cave Tour
6- Katla Volcano Ice Cave
Continue exploring more of Iceland’s indescribable beauty by visiting the Katla Volcano Ice Cave.
Katla Volcano Ice Cave is in the middle of the vast Icelandic wilderness and can only be explored with a guide.
The ice caves are close to the Katla Volcano, which last erupted in 1918.
Your tour guide will help you navigate the challenging terrain leading up to the mouth of the cave, before taking you into a frozen paradise.
The texture of the ice resembles honeycomb, and has hues of blues and greens throughout.
Recommended tour: From Vik or Reykjavik: Katla Ice Cave and Super Jeep Tour
7- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon borders the Vatnajökull National Park.
The glacier covers 18 square kilometres (6.95 square miles) and its glassy surface is dotted with ice bergs.
During winter the lagoon freezes over creating an otherworldly winter landscape.
The lagoon is one of the best destinations to see the Northern Lights from due to its remote location.
If the lagoon isn’t fully frozen over during your visit, take to the water on a boat tour or explore the waters on a kayak.
Recommended tour: From Reykjavik: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Full-Day Trip
Húsavík is a must visit place in Iceland in winter if you love whales.
The city is the country’s whale watching capital, with a museum dedicated to this majestic creature, and many private tours heading out onto the waters to see them up close.
While the main whale-watching season ends in October, there are still plenty of tours during winter including those exploring the Húsavík Bay in search of humpback whales and minke whales.
The town’s Whale Museum is a great place to visit in winter to learn more about whales, including the famous whale Keiko, the killer whale from Free Willy, who was born in Iceland.
9- Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is another extraordinary location in Iceland where it is possible to be between the two tectonic plates of North America and Europe.
Walk between the fault line along the main track which is still maintained during winter.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is filled with breathtaking winter landscapes.
In winter, many of the parks pathways are maintained allowing visitors to enjoy the park and its surrounding landscape.
There is a visitor centre too offering guide books, souvenirs, restrooms and food if you are planning on spending the day exploring.
Recommended tour: From Reykjavik: Golden Circle and Glacier Snowmobile Tour
Another excellent Icelandic city to visit in winter is Akureyri which sits at the base of the Eyjafjörður Fjord in the north of the country.
The city is close to the Arctic Circle, and during winter is under thick snow.
The city is covered in fairy lights and has plenty of welcoming and cosy cafes and restaurants to spend time warming up in.
Explore the old town and its colourful houses, some of which date back to the late 1700s.
Downtown is another must-visit area of the city, as it’s is filled with old buildings, plenty of cafes and restaurants, shops and galleries.
Recommended tour: Akureyri: 3-Hour Classic Whale Watching Tour
11- Lake Mývatn
Lake Myvatn is a spectacular destination in Iceland to visit during winter.
The lake was formed more than 2000 years ago after a volcanic eruption from one of the surrounding volcanoes.
Look out for the snow covered lava pillars on the shores of the lake adding stark contrast to the white landscape.
Some roads and footpaths around the lake are inaccessible winter, however there is usually a cleared route with car parking available even after the heaviest of snowfall.
After exploring this unique and otherworldly volcanic landscape surrounding the lake, visit the Myvatn Baths, a man-made pool fed by natural geothermal weathers.
Recommended tour: Mývatn: Myvatn Nature Baths Admission Ticket
Visit the small of Skógar and experience the unique outdoor museum of Skógasafn.
The museum is a folk museum consisting of 6 historical buildings and 3 museums, filled with more than 18,000 regional artefacts.
Explore the Hölt timber house from 1878 and its domestic artefacts, and the 19th century-style church made from other decommissioned churches.
While in the village, head to Skógafoss waterfall, a 60m (196ft) high waterfall cascading into the Skógä river.
The waterfall is the main draw to the village for tourists throughout the year, however during winter expect to see less people, and truly be able to experience the power of the falls in a more intimate setting.
Recommended tour: From Akureyri: Myvatn Lake, Craters, & Waterfall Tour
13- Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Explore the ancient volcanic landscape of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula during your winter visit to Iceland.
The peninsular was once an area of extreme volcanic activity, with most activity occurring between 7 and 15 million years ago.
These volcanic eruptions and activity has created a unique landscape filled with volcanoes, lava fields, glaciers, waterfalls and hot springs.
There are many tours available of the peninsular which take in key filming locations for shows such as Game of Thrones, and the wildlife haven Ytri Tunga Beach, where a seals colony resides.
Stykkishólmur is a pretty fishing town in the west of Iceland and is an excellent destination to visit in winter.
The town is along the northern edge of the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Stykkishólmur has EarthCheck Certification which has enabled it to be an exceptionally clean and eco-conscious city, with green initiatives including the banning of plastic bags.
Explore the town on foot and visit its many shops and galleries, including the Volcano Museum.
One of the best galleries is the Library of Water, a unique gallery experience where visitors walk through a former library and listen to a collection of audio recordings of Icelandic weather reports.
The Library of Water is a room filled with floor-to-ceiling high tubes filled with glacier waters from all 24 glaciers in the country.
Recommended tour: From Reykjavik: Snæfellsnes Peninsula Full-Day Tour
15- Kirkjufell Mountain
Kirkjufell Mountain is perhaps the most famous mountain in Iceland, and its slopes and the surrounding landscape are well worth a visit during your winter Icelandic escape.
The mountain has been used in scenes in Game of Thrones, making it a popular stopping destination on tours of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The mountain with its uniquely shaped peak stands at 463m (1519ft) and overlooks a glassy lake.
In winter the mountain is covered in white snow creating the ultimate picturesque winter landscape which is particularly imposing when looking up at the mountain from the water.
Despite the icy conditions, there are many hiking paths surrounding the mountain that are well maintained during winter, however coming prepared with spikes is recommended.
Recommended tour: Reykjavik: Snaefellsnes & Mt. Kirkjufell Guided Minibus Tour
Djúpalónssandur is a beautiful black sand volcanic beach within the larger Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
The beach is famous for the remains of the shipwrecked Epine Gy7, its shorelines strewn with volcanic stones and many ancient lifting stones.
The pebbles on the beach are jet black and have been shaped and washed ashore by the ocean, and are protected by the country.
Visits to the beach during winter, particularly after heavy snowfall can be difficult as some roads may close, however if the roads are passable, the short hike to the beach is well worth it.
Kaldakinn is a region of Iceland bordered by towering Kinnarfjöl mountains covered in permanent snow.
The area is popular with ice climbers due to its varying levels of challenge.
If you are an experienced ice climber, there is lots of information online about the best places in Kaldakinn to explore.
For those new to the winter sport, ice climbing tours are available for beginners to help you learn the basics of a thrilling sport in safe surroundings.
18- Laugarvatn Fontana
Laugarvatn Fontana is one of the best places to visit in Iceland in winter, not only for its beauty and popularity, but for its healing properties.
Laugarvatn Fontana is a geothermal bath heated with natural springs.
The waters have been enjoyed by locals since 1929.
Today there are steam rooms with a grid floor to allow guests to hear the gentle bubbling of the natural waters below, three connected outdoor mineral baths and a hot tub with panoramic views of the spectacular surrounding landscapes.
Uniquely, Laugarvatn Fontana also has a geothermal bakery, where an old and traditional bread is baked by burying it in the sand for 24 hours and then dug up.
On tours of the geothermal bakery you can sample the bread fresh from the ground and served with butter.
Recommended tour: Laugarvatn Fontana: Geothermal Bread-Baking Experience
19- Snæfellsjökull Glacier
in the Snæfellsnes peninsula is the spectacular 700,000 year old glacier that covers a stratovolcano.
The volcano, its glacier and the surrounding landscape became a national park in 2001.
Surrounding the glacier are dark volcanic lava fields creating a truly unique and rugged landscape to admire, even when covered in snow.
The best way to explore the glacier is on a guided tour with a local glacier expert.
If you are visiting in early or late winter, enjoy a challenging glacier hike.
When visiting in the rest of winter it is possible to reach the top of the glacier on a SnowCat truck as part of your tour to take in the views of the glacier and the surrounding area below.
Recommended tour: Arnarstapi: Snæfellsjökull Glacier and Volcano Hike
20- Godafoss Waterfall
Godafoss Waterfall is between the city of Akureyri and Lake Myvatn, and is one of the best places to visit in Iceland in Winter.
The waterfall is partially frozen thanks to the geothermal waters in the pool below, however the water cascading into it forms large and glasslike icicles.
The waters here are a deep blue which creates a magical contrast against the volcanic rocks and the pristine white snow.
Godafoss Waterfall is a horseshoe shape with water dropping 12ft (39m) into the pool below, before it carries on as the River Skjalfandafljot.
Even during winter and heavy snowfall the falls are easily accessible as they are close to the road and the walk is level and short.
Recommended tour: From Akureyri: Goðafoss and Húsavík Tour with Geosea Baths
For more winter wanderings, read: