The reason to visit Iceland in winter

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.

Better light for photography

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.

Iceland Sunset in Winter
Iceland Sunset in Winter

‘Ice’land is warmer than you thought

‘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.

Take a guilty-free long and hot shower

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!

Iceland swimming pool
Hot swimming pool in Reykjavik


Hot springs and hot pools

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.

Iceland can be budget friendly

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!

To see more dramatic landscape

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.

Reykjavik in Winter
The view of Reykjavik in winter


Catch the Northern Lights

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.

The Northern Lights


It’s badass!

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?

33 thoughts on “Why Iceland is Better in Winter”

  1. Now I was actually wondering last night what Iceland would be like in winter, and you’ve answered my question here, Juno! The several-hour sunrises and sunsets sound amazing (love the first pic!), as does the idea of taking a guilt-free shower. Can’t do that in Korea (even if I do indulge often haha!)

  2. Nico @ ATravellersJourney

    The photo of Reykjavik looks amazing. In fact Iceland sounds great as well, after all there’s nothing quite as great as a hot shower on a cold winters day.

  3. I was in Iceland at the beginning of May and they still had winter prices which was pretty amazing and made Iceland pretty affordable. It’s insane how much they charge for everything in the top season, I don’t think I could go there in summer

  4. Suzzane from Travel Universally

    Iceland seems so beautiful and an attention drawing place for spending the winter vacations. The hot water bath and spa, I love them. I have always dreamed about seeing the Northern lights . Those pics of Northern Lights are magnificent. Thanks Juno

  5. I went during the summer, but I would love to return during the winter to see the Northern Lights. That shot of the mountainscape in Reykjavik is STUNNING!!!

  6. Interesting perspective Juno. I visited Iceland in the late summer last year. I really enjoyed it and found the weather to be somewhat mild (although chilly). I do regret not getting to see the northern lights, which would be good reason to go back in the winter!

  7. I would love to visit Iceland at any time of the year though you do make some compelling arguments for winter. t’s the one time of the year when you see cheap fares. I think it would be a really fun pre Christmas trip. Your photos are great!

    1. YES! I’m excited more and more travelers are having the same idea because of me! 🙂 You’d love it. It’s really good for outdoor adventures; glacier hiking, hiking to the hot spring, and so on.

  8. Oh, oh…I’m in trouble 🙂 You’ve done it now, made me REALLY want to go to Iceland!! Lovely photo of the sunset and the northern lights too 🙂

  9. I was so glad I visited during the summer, but you make a compelling argument to return in the winter! But really, you could skip all the other reasons and just say NORTHERN LIGHTS!!!! 🙂

  10. Your pictures are fantastic!! I won’t get to go to Iceland this winter, but I am hoping I might be able to go in the late-spring (late April or early May). After seeing your pictures, I’m excited about it now!! One of the things I’m looking forward to most is those hot swimming pools! 😀

    1. Thanks Kaylin 🙂 Late April would be beautiful! The landscape is just fantastic. You’ll love it! And there’s a lot of good connections from all over Europe.

  11. I completely agree! I went there in Feb/Mar and absolutely loved it. Also, when you are walking around Reykjavik, there are always plenty of small coffee shops to stop by and warm up with some excellent cuppas .

  12. You are right, Iceland in winter is great. The outdoor pools are brilliant with snow around and its even better if you can find some hot stream in the middle of nowhere that you can bathe in when its below zero (Celsius) outside. I found one of those over near Myvatn that a local showed me, best experience of my trip. My big disappointment was not seeing the northern lights as it was cloudy. As you say I can now claim to be a badass traveller!

  13. Hi Juno,

    in what town were you located when you observed the northern lights? Also, was it spontaneous, or did you witness it as part of a tour? I am planning to head to Iceland in March.


  14. Hey Juno,
    I came across your website when I was searching up short day hikes. Your comment about hiking to the hot springs caught my eye – what’s the name of the hike/trail/area(s) that you hiked and found hot springs?
    I’m heading to Iceland in March and was hesitant about going in the winter, but your post here reassured me!

  15. Fire and Ice road Trip

    An interesting blog, and winter in Iceland is a definite for us. We did a road trip to the Westfjordlands and northern locales and loved it. As to winter, the light is certainly in that permanent sunrise – sunset mode although the sun actually rises around 11:20am (not 09:30am) and simply runs across the horizon at mountain-top level (see: The worst part is the constant wind, that together with minus 1 to minus 7 degrees Celcius temperatures can be challenging we were told. Yet this is still out favourite country so far in our travels and we intend visiting in all seasons.

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