There’s no such thing as the low season in Iceland anymore, but there are lots of reasons to visit Iceland in winter, and not just because there are fewer tourists (though with visitor numbers expected to reach 3 million in the next few years it’s a good place to start!).
1. You can see the Aurora Borealis
Ok the skies are not on fire every single night but one of the things you need to see the aurora (one of the main reasons to visit Iceland in winter) are dark skies and there is an abundance of that in wintertime. You also need clear skies so check Vedur to see what areas don’t have cloud cover. For some great tips on northern lights photography check out my blog. The short days don’t actually last that long and by February you’ll already have almost equal darkness and light.
2. Accommodation is more plentiful
There’s a real shortage of tourist accommodation in Iceland and while hotels are shooting up all over Reykjavík, it’s a lot easier to get a room during the winter months (apart from Christmas and New Year’s Eve), especially if you prefer to be a little spontaneous and not book in advance. Plus it’s slightly cheaper, which is a big bonus in such an expensive country.
3. Snow, ice and beautiful light
Well for a start, ice is in the name and some places, like Þingvellir are actually so much nicer in the winter. I just love how the landscape changes with just a sprinkling of snow. You don’t have to get up early or stay up too late for that magical arctic light either, and the skies are the most beautiful pastels. And then there are all those winter activities like ice caving, skiing, and snowmobiling.
4. But it’s not that cold
So it might be -30ºC in the Highlands but it’s just about impossible to get there without specialised vehicles if you visit Iceland in winter. The coldest I experienced this winter was -14ºC and the average winter temperature is 0ºC. So put on some good winter clothes and get out. You can relax in the hot geothermal water in the evenings to warm up. And having snowball fights while relaxing in the hot pot is an excellent way to spend the evening.
5. You can have the waterfalls all to yourself (or volcanos, or geysers or beaches or…)
Some places are always going to be busy, especially during the day. It’s almost impossible to have a place like Gullfoss or Kerið to yourself in the summer, but in winter I’ve sat there all alone looking at the northern lights play next to the falls and the snow dusting the rocks and it’s been magical and peaceful.