5 Reasons to Visit Iceland in Winter
The name alone "Iceland" is enough to ward off most tourist but it's not as cold as you would think because of the warm gulf stream. The average temperature in winter is 0 °C (32 °F) in the south and −10 °C (14 °F) in the north.
We chose to visit Iceland in the earlier part of winter (November) because in the later months, the days get much shorter. We're talking about 4 hours of daylight in December!
Despite of the colder weather, here are 5 reasons why more people are choosing to visit in winter!
1. Avoid the Crowds
Tourism in Iceland is booming with a record breaking 1.7 million people in 2016. You can imagine that there must be a lot of people visiting the major attractions.
Winter is considered to be the low season for tourism in Iceland. While we were there, we were at major attractions with almost no one around us. This is great for photos and just appreciating the beauty without the distraction of large crowds that you encounter in summer - the busiest time in Iceland.
2. Great Savings
There are considerable savings compared to travelling in the summer. Iceland could be an expensive country to visit compared to other destinations. By travelling in winter, this can help you cut down costs.
Our 4x4 camper van rental in November was 24500 ISK ($210 USD) per day, the same rental in July would be 49000 ISK ($421 USD). That's double for the same rental in summer!
For a luxurious stay at the Silica Hotel (on the Blue Lagoon property), it would cost 46000 ISK ($395 USD) in November and 50750 ISK ($436 USD) a night in summer! These are just some examples, there are Airbnb options & other hotels available so don't let the prices scare you away.
3. Winter Scenery
As the country known as the "Land of Fire and Ice" for its volcanic activity and glaciers, you can't say you've truly experienced Iceland without seeing it in winter. Yes it's true that Iceland is known for its panoramic green hills & majestic waterfalls but there's nothing quite like enjoying a natural hot spring bath with flurries falling gently while starring at a backdrop of snow-covered mountain peaks.
There is less daylight in winter. This means that the sky is almost always a beautiful orange. The whole day feels like a constant sunset. This "Golden Hour" light is the perfect lighting for photography & sure to get enviable Instagram worthy shots! What's also awesome is that if you're not a morning person like we are, you'll still catch the sunrise everyday (around 11am).
Iceland is so scenic, it's no wonder that many movies (Rogue One, Star Wars, Batman Begins) and award winning series (Game of Thrones) were shot there.
4. Glacier Ice Cave
There are winter specific activities that you can only experience in Iceland, during the winter months. At the top of that list is seeing the glaciers from inside!
As glaciers are constantly moving, glacier caves are not permanent and only safe to visit between November to March. Glacier hikes & ice climbing was also a fun experience but is available for most of the year.
5. Northern Lights
The northern lights or Aurora Borealis need no introduction. Here's how we hunted for them while we were there! This beautiful display of dancing lights can be better seen at night. With 15-20 hours of darkness in winter, your chance of seeing them are higher.
Already seen Iceland in Winter?
So you've seen Iceland in winter, why would you go back? While there are many beautiful destinations, Iceland is a country worth revisiting. It's completely different in summer with midnight sun, lush green hills and puffins! In winter we weren't able to go into the highlands, see the puffins and enjoy fields of purple lupine flowers.
Iceland was an amazing trip we will never forget. We will definitely be back during the warmer seasons the next chance we get! What's your number one reason for visiting Iceland?