Top 5 Things to See On A Winter Visit To Iceland
Iceland. This small arctic-like island country conjures up images of ice, snow, cold temperatures and of course Bjork. World renowned for its breathtaking winter views most travelers head to this destination just for that. If you’re a nature lover this is the perfect spot to take in unique scenery. But what would be the best time to visit this winter wonderland? Just how cold does it get? What are the top 5 must-see places and activities? Read on to find out and get some great tips for your next visit.
First thing on everyone’s mind is the weather. It’s true most people visit Iceland during the summer from June to August, which makes sense as the temperatures are more moderate and there is plenty of daylight for activities. Surprisingly though and thanks to the warm air from the Gulf Stream winters are generally mild with the coldest month being January having average temperatures in the capital of Reykjavik (-0.5°C/31°F) on par with that of New York. The best thing about visiting in the wintertime is reduced airfare and lodging rates along with less crowding. Savvy travelers will try to score a deal during springtime from April to May and beat the summer crowds. Fall can also be a good time with the beginning of the Northern Lights Season, still offering plenty of daylight and cheaper rates than the summer season.
Regardless of the time that is best for your schedule and budget make sure to be prepared with layers of warm clothing, good hiking boots and rain gear. The Gulf Stream mixes warm Atlantic with cold Artic air which results in quickly changing weather conditions, you may get all four seasons within a few hours so be prepared.
Now that you have your holiday time set and gear ready at the top of your list of natural wonders to see will be Gullfoss. This is a beautiful and stunning waterfall, the Niagara Falls of Iceland. It is about an hour and a half drive from Reykjavik on the south-western area of the island and there are many tours to choose from that will include this spectacular location in their itinerary.
The second must-see natural attraction is Jökulsár Lagoon . It is a large glacial lake in south-eastern Iceland on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Here you will see the true beauty of the island with many luminous blue icebergs. This amazing location has been a setting for a few Hollywood films including Batman Begins.
The third natural wonder to see is black sand beach, called Hornstrandir . It is located close to Vik which is the southernmost village in Iceland with fewer than 300 inhabitants. Islands Magazine rated it as one of the ten most beautiful beaches on earth in 1991. The beach is a large stretch of eye-catching volcanic black basalt sand where you will find the interesting puffins birds roaming freely. You will also see Reynisfjall Mountain which is a tuff mountain arising from a volcanic eruption characterized by geometric rectangular pillars.
- See all locations on your own terms by renting a car here
Fourth on our list is Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Reykjavik. The design was to reflect the basalt lava flows of the landscape. Construction was extensive taking 41 years to complete. Inside the church is a massive pipe organ that is 15 meters tall, weighing 25 tons and sporting 5275 pipes. There is also an observation tower where you can take a lift up to a viewing deck for a view of the city and surrounding mountains.
Last but not least on things to see is the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre located right within the capital. This impressive structure consists of a steel framework adorned with geometric shaped glass panels of different colors. Take in the culture of Iceland as the building hosts the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Icelandic Opera.
Not making the list but an honorable mention is the aurora borealis or stunning northern lights. They can be very unpredictable as you will need a clear sky which can be difficult with Iceland’s volatile climate. The longer your stay the more opportunity you will have to see this natural wonder.
In conclusion selecting the best time of year to visit Iceland will depend on your budget, winter being the cheapest and not nearly as cold as some might assume. Spring and fall are great options for a lower price and to beat the tourist crowds. Take in nature with three beautiful sights; amazing Gullfoss waterfalls, iceberg-laden Jokulsarlon Lagoon and the striking black sand beach. Right within Reykjavik make sure to visit the large Hallgrímskirkja church and the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre. With many tours and sights available in Iceland make sure you pencil in these top 5 for your next trip.