Text by: Samantha Bazely
As I walked to pick up my daughter from kindergarten today, I was reminded of just how quickly winter is approaching. There is a nice white dusting of snow atop the mountains outside of town and our days are quickly getting shorter. While I will miss the midnight sun that the summer months bring, there is something comforting, cozy and even exciting about the winter in Iceland.
Many people assume that winter activities in Iceland revolve around being inside and warm! While there are many indoor activities that pass the dark months, it is still very possible, and exhilarating to get outside during these months. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with all year round, but especially in the winter months. Following a few local websites to keep an eye on the weather conditions and the road conditions is something I recommend to everyone.
Here are my favourite winter activities:
Get out and hike: The pristine snow-capped mountains and gorgeous ice-covered lakes can make for some incredible photography. However, without the right equipment it can also make for a dangerous day trip. If you are wanting to get out an enjoy some hiking during the winter months here are a few ways to do so safely. Considering going with a touring group where a professional guide can help you enjoy your trip and show you the sights. I always recommend supportive hiking boots, multiple layers (one of which should always be waterproof), and some snacks and water. One of the best winter hikes to take is up Vörðufell. This mountain has incredible views and a beautiful frozen lake to see in the wintertime.
Take a swim under the falling snow: Whenever I tell my friends and family about swimming outdoors all year round, I always get the look of shock. “In Iceland!? Isn’t it FREEZING?” Swimming and enjoying the hot tub are actually some of my all-time favourite winter activities. The pools and hot tubs are always heated to keep you comfortable and it is a great way to get out of the house on those cold and dark winter days. Whether you want to swim some laps or just soak in the hot pots, definitely pack your swimsuits for your winter trip to Iceland.
Hunt for the Aurora Borealis: This is probably the most popular question I get from friends, family and tourists alike. “When can we see the Northern Lights?” If only I had that magic switch to flip them on and off! This magnificent show that Mother Nature puts on never disappoints. While there are a few websites and apps you can use to find your likelihood for seeing this incredible show, your best bet is to pick a night that is very chilly, with clear skies, and head outside of whatever town you are staying in. In order to see the best display, it’s always best to be away from man-made lights. Grab a mug of hot coco and get out to enjoy this show. So many people never get a chance to see the lights, and it truly is a show that shouldn’t be missed.
Ski your way to sightseeing: With some of the most breathtaking views in the world, it’s no surprise that skiing and snowboarding is becoming more and more popular amongst tourists. With a handful of resorts around the country, there is something for everyone. While there are a variety of runs available based on skill level, as well as equipment for rent, it is definitely helpful to have a basic knowledge of the sport before you head out. Beyond renting the equipment, it is incredibly important to prepare yourself for the weather in Iceland – you’ll see most of the locals dressed in layers including a thermal or wool layer, and something that can repel at least some water. If downhill skiing or snowboarding isn’t something that interests you, there is always the option for cross country skiing as well. A fabulous workout and beautiful way to see the back country of Iceland.
Winter’s in Iceland can be a lot of things. They can be dark, dreary, rainy, windy, and freezing cold. But it is one of my favourite places to get outside because it is so rewarding. Whether you reward yourself with a beautiful view at the top of a hike, a dip in a thermal pool or hot tub, or a delicious warm bowl of seafood soup, there truly is something for everyone here. So, what are you waiting for? Don’t let your fear of visiting the Land of Ice in the dead of winter keep you away. Everyone needs to experience this country in the winter, it truly is one of a kind.