I started and finished my Runaway Europe project in Iceland. The route has been completed clean and nice. The face of Iceland in August and November were quite different – well, it was summer and winter, and I liked them both. Somehow it felt right to be surrounded by tour buses and tourists in the Golden Circle in summer, and loved the serene atmosphere in winter. If I’m coming back to Iceland, and there’s a good chance, I would rather go back in the winter. Why? Here are the reasons.
Winter in Iceland is an ideal place for us photographers. Our friend Tim Vollmer from Tim Voller Photography told us when we were on the photography tour that “winter in Iceland is better for the photography.” Because of the “softer light”. As the sunlight is a very important factor in photography, there is a right timing for the sunlight, and it will never come back if you missed it. Also, we know that you can only photography the half of the horizon when the sun was high up in the sky; it burns the objects in the light or hides them in the shade. Under the Icelandic sun in winter, you don’t have to worry about it. The sun rises at 9:30 and sets at 3:30. It dangles around the horizon the whole afternoon and creates the longest sunrise and sunset. The sky is constantly orange-red-blue due to the low sunlight. It allows us to take the photos of the landscape with the soft touch of orange colored light.
‘Winter in Iceland is warmer than NYC!’
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, winter in Iceland is remarkably warm even though it is located right below the Arctic Circle. For the 66° latitude, 0 °C in winter is not bad at all. They were right; Iceland is warmer than NYC in winter. The name ‘Ice’land gives us the wrong idea. The name ‘Iceland’ was given by Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson, an angry guy who tried to settle in one of the fjords in the west Iceland and wasn’t ready to spend a winter on the glacier.
Icelanders are actually thinking of changing the name of the country. In August, it was around 13°C most of the days but it felt as cold as the winter days because of the heavy rain we had. In fact, sunny days in November felt much warmer than rainy days in August.
In Iceland, no one would nudge you to take a short shower to concern about the energy. No one would turn off the heat in the room while you are out. Jump in the shower to heat the body when you are too cold. Thanks to the geothermal energy around the country, electricity is next to nothing. Heat the room as much as you want, and take the hot shower as long as you want, guilty-free! They generate the electricity using the natural geothermal energy source. It’s the country of the green-energy. The hot spring is the source of heating the homes around the country – no need to burn the fossil fuel in Iceland. And the water is full of mineral. What a great country to be in!
Bathing in the hot springs was one of the ignitions why I decided to visit Iceland, twice, and possibly much more. Hiking and hot spring-ing is an ordinary combination in Iceland. Especially in winter, picture this – dip yourself in the steamy hot mineral water that is surrounded by snow and ice. On the top of that, the mineral water will improve the skin condition: smooth and moist!
If you are not into hiking, there is a great alternative – hot pools. There are 16 swimming pools in Reykjavik alone. Entrance fee is 500 ISK (4 USD), usually, they have more than two hot pools with different temperatures indoor and outdoor, steam bath and some pools even have water slides. No need to take a cold shower after the steam bath; simply walking between one pool to another would do the job. It was the best five dollars I’ve ever spent.
Just like any other destinations, Iceland has its peak and low. Thanks to its name, again, Iceland is not a popular destination in winter. Cheaper hotels, cheaper tour programs and car rental prices; you don’t have to puncture your wallet. Don’t get me wrong, Iceland is an expensive destination but winter prices will only puncture a small hole. Enjoy budget-friendly Iceland and don’t forget to eat the same-price-all-year-round hotdogs!
The movie ‘Lord of the rings’ should have filmed in Iceland, Gunnar said. Even though I think New Zealand was the perfect location for the movie, I understood what he meant. Iceland offered one of the most dramatic landscapes I’ve ever seen. The black sand beaches, lava bed cliffs, black, green and brown hills, basalt formation, 200 ft. waterfall and so on. Now, imagine the same landscapes with ice and snow around them.
The night I saw the northern lights in Iceland was the highlight of my travel history. I dreamt about it since I was little, and I literally dreamt about it for the several days before I actually saw them. It was a magical night. Photos will show more than my words. See my photos of the northern lights here. I know you’re putting Iceland up on your travel list.
Even if it’s not as cold as NYC like they said, still the Icelandic winter can be harsh. The weather changes every five minutes and the temperature drops big time when it’s windy. To fulfill the adventurous desire of going off-the-beaten-path, Icelandic winter is a perfect reason to go north in winter. Everything I said in this post is true; I enjoyed every part of the country but also I like the fact I traveled to 66° latitude in winter. It sounds badass. Don’t you want to be a badass adventure traveler?