The Best Winter Tours and Activities in Iceland

Sightseeing is just one of the popular activities during winter in Iceland

There are many fantastic activities during winter in Iceland, be it glacier hiking, ice caving, or snowmobiling. So, put on your woolly hat, drape your shoulders in a scarf, and let’s explore the many exciting options that an Icelandic winter has in store. 

The winter season in Iceland lasts between November and March. During that time, this otherwise green and pleasant land becomes blanketed with ice and snow, and the nights become so long as to cast each day in perpetual twilight.

A woman skiing in Reykjavík
Photo: Golli. Winter in Iceland presents all kinds of fun activity options.

It should be understood from the outset that there are many activities in Iceland that can be done in both the winter and summer. Great examples are visiting a lava cave, snorkelling or scuba diving in Silfra Fissure, sightseeing on the Golden Circle route, and many more.

Nevertheless, some activities are far better suited to the winter, and these should be prioritised during your visit. Most activities can be taken part in as single tours, but it is often the case that many will be included as part of a full itinerary, such as this Golden Circle Super Jeep tour with Snowmobiling

What glacier tours are available during the winter in Iceland?  

A man inside an Icelandic ice cave
Photo: Skaftafell Blue Ice Cave & Glacier Hike

They don’t call Iceland “the land of ice and fire” for no reason. While it may be true that the country’s fearsome volcanoes have dominated global headlines in recent years, its glaciers remain as impressive and domineering as ever. 

There are 269 glaciers in Iceland, the largest among them being Vatnajökull, which covers around one-tenth of the entire country. With that in mind, it should come as little surprise that this mighty ice cap in southeastern Iceland is a popular choice for glacier tours.

Other tours take place at Langjökull – located in the western Highlands – as well as Mýrdalsjökull, and its outlet glacier Sólheimajökull, which are just north of the quaint coastal village, Vík í Mýrdal. There are also opportunities to explore Snæfellsjökull glacier, on the western promontory of Iceland.

Go hiking up a glacier 

Hiking a glacier is one of many great activities during winter in Iceland
Photo: Skaftafell 5-Hours Adventure Glacier Hike

Equipped with spiky crampons, walking poles, and the gumption to experience new heights, hiking Iceland’s glaciers remains a beloved activity amongst winter travellers. 

Like true mountain men, hikers will revel in the crevasses, moulins, and natural ice sculptures that characterise the pristine glacial landscape. Besides, such dizzying heights allow for breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding countryside.  

Experience the thrill of snowmobiling 

A man rides a snowmobile across a glacier in Iceland
Photo: Unforgettable Golden Circle & snowmobiling – A Private Tour

Die-hard adrenaline junkies may want to take their exploration of Iceland’s glaciers to the next level. Well, in such a case, there is no better option than taking to the ice on a snowmobile.

With the wind in their hair and the throttle at their thumbs, snowmobiling tours allow guests to cover far more ground (or ice, strictly speaking,) in a way that is both intensely memorable and incredibly fun.

Groups are led by certified guides who will be sure to provide their guests not only with clear leadership and instructions but also with the necessary equipment, including a protective helmet and outerwear.  

Snowmobilers in Iceland pose in front of the Northern Lights
Photo: Private South Coast with Snowmobiling on Eyjafjallajökull volcano

Both beginner and experienced riders alike are quite capable of taking part in a snowmobile tour. Anyone 18 years old or beyond, with a regular driving licence, is free to operate their own machine. Those without a licence can perch a ride as a passenger. 

The best places to take a snowmobiling tour during the winter in Iceland are at the glaciers Langjökull, Mýrdalsjökull, Vatnajökull, and the Tröllaskagi Peninsula. 

Discover crystal blue ice caves  

Tourists in the Sapphire Ice Cave.
Photo: Golli. Tourists in the Sapphire Ice Cave

Beneath Iceland’s mighty ice caps, glittering caverns of sapphire entice visitors to behold their glory each winter season. Ice-caving tours are far easier than they sound, with many having accessible walkways that let you revel in the natural splendour of these frozen environments.

The vast majority of ice caves are naturally formed, with the most popular located beneath Katla and Vatnajökull. There is one notable exception however – the man-made ice tunnels built beneath Iceland’s largest ice cap, Langjökull, best enjoyed as part of the Into The Glacier experience. 


In certain locations around the country, it is even possible for guests to try their hand at ice climbing. While not for the faint of the heart, scaling a wall of frozen water is an experience without comparison. 

Experienced, certified guides will equip new climbers with ice axes and a harness, before relaying all the necessary steps to hone their skills on the ice. Two of the best places to try ice climbing in Iceland are Sólheimajökull glacier and Skaftafell Nature Reserve

Experience the Northern Lights in Iceland 

People observing the Northern Lights in Iceland
Photo: Golli. There is no greater show than seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland’s winter

One of the greatest reasons for visiting Iceland in the winter is the chance to witness an astonishing dance – the Northern Lights! Otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, Iceland’s skies will, from time to time, erupt in a flurry of colours. Green ribbons. Pink waves. Yellow crests, and dashes of red. 

Ancient Icelanders once treated these solar patterns with wary suspicion. They considered them omens of events to come. Today, they are widely appreciated as synonymous with just how magical winter in Iceland can be. 


As with any natural phenomena, there can be no guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights. But our ability to predict when and where they might appear is better than it ever has been before. There are many dedicated tour operators who will escort you to the best stops, as well as offer handy tips on how best to photograph them. 

If you’re planning to seek out this phenomenon for yourself, be sure to keep an eye on the Aurora Forecasts. That way, you will know when solar activity is at its strongest. Also, plan to seek them out on nights devoid of cloud cover, in locations with little light pollution. 

What wildlife tours are available during the winter in Iceland? 

It might seem too cold for them, but many animals live in Iceland during the winter. With that said, many of the migratory birds that make Iceland their summer home leave during the winter, but that does not mean there are no opportunities to find wildlife. So what are some of the more popular wildlife tours available during this season? 

Whale-watching in the winter in Iceland 

Whales of Iceland
Photo: Golli. Whale Watching in Reykjavík

Whale-watching tours are available in both the winter and summer in Iceland, but the colder season does present some unique opportunities. For one thing, playing witness to the snowy Icelandic landscape from the deck of a seafaring vessel feels strangely fitting for a country so intertwined with the ocean.

There are many whales and dolphins that can be seen in Icelandic coastal waters. Some of the most common species include Minke whales, Humpbacks, and Harbour porpoises. In some areas, it may also be possible to spot Sperm whales, Orcas, and even our planet’s largest living mammal, the mighty Blue whale.


There are also a variety of departure points for your whale-watching adventure. Reykjavik, of course, provides the chance to see these majestic animals in the waters of Faxaflói Bay. Other popular places include northern towns like Akureyri and Húsavík. To the west, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Ólafsvík and Grundarfjörður also provide fantastic sea tours. 

Before embarking on your whale-watching trip, make sure to wear warm layers, a woolly hat, and gloves. To help you stay warm, operators will provide you with outer thermal wear. But winter accessories are still crucial to avoid the sharpness that comes with brisk sea winds. 

Ride Icelandic Horses in winter 

Icelandic horses are a unique breed, bred in isolation in Iceland since settlement times.
Photo: Golli. Riding Icelandic horses is a brilliant winter activity in Iceland.

It is possible to ride Iceland’s majestic, yet stumpy horses in summer and winter, but the latter offers such a fantastic perspective of the landscape, it would seem careless not to give it a special mention. 

Taking to the saddle, your guide will lead you down hidden trails, passing through twisted lava fields and farmland meadows nestled beneath a glittering coat of snow. As your appreciation of Iceland’s rural terrain grows, so too will your love of this special horse breed. 

Horse riding tours are open to both beginner and experienced riders, and your guide will set the pace not only to your ability level, but also your confidence riding. 

With that said, working in close proximity to animals can be nerve-wracking for some people. But if it’s any consolation, Icelandic horses are considered a highly intelligent and patient breed, so have no fear saddling up upon these miniature mounts.   

Soak in Iceland’s Spas and Hot Springs in winter 

A woman and her child relaxing at the Blue Lagoon
Photo: Reykjavík – Blue Lagoon round-trip transfer. Relaxing at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

There are countless ways of staying active during the winter in Iceland, but on vacation, a more appealing option can be to simply slow down, relax, and unwind. 

In such circumstances, the nation’s luxury geothermal spas and steamy hot springs provide the perfect antidote. Note that hot springs describe pools that are found naturally within the landscape; the former are specific attractions that will often require pre-booking. 

Feel the heat in Luxury Spas across Iceland 

There are many fantastic mineral-rich spas to choose from. As Iceland’s most famous luxury retreat,
the Blue Lagoon is an obvious choice. With its milky blue waters and silica-rich mud masks, it is little wonder that this geothermal bath has become one of Iceland’s best-known attractions. 

Surrounded by the dark volcanic fields of the Reykjavik Peninsula, many guests choose to stop by the Blue Lagoon either at the beginning or the end of their vacation. This is for the simple fact that Keflavík Airport is only a short distance away. 


But there are many other great spas to choose from. One of the newest to the scene is the Sky Lagoon, only a five-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik and boasting a stunning infinity pool. 

This horizon edge on the water allows for great views of the ocean. More than that – the President of Iceland’s iconic residence. Guests can also take part in their healing wellness ritual. It includes a warm sauna inside a reconstructed turfhouse, a mist shower, a refreshing cold plunge. 

There are many other spas located elsewhere across the country. In Reykholt, for instance, Krauma Baths offer serenity and comfort through warm waters fed by Europe’s most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver. 

Not far away, in the village of Flúðir, the Secret Lagoon adds a sense of authenticity to your experience. It is built beside the steaming hot pockets of the Hverahólmi geothermal area. The Secret Lagoon is well known as the oldest outdoor geothermal pool in Iceland. 

In the north, Myvatn Nature Baths has delighted guests since first opening in 2004 with its placid blue waters and lakeside views. 

Embrace nature with Iceland’s hot springs 

Enjoying Reykjadalur hot river in Iceland's winter
Photo: Reykjadalur Steam Valley Hike & Geothermal Baths Private Tour

For anyone hoping to avoid the inevitable artificiality that comes with Iceland’s luxury spas, the nation’s naturally-formed hot springs might be a better bet. 

But first, a word of warning – temperatures can vary greatly between hot springs, so make sure not to hurt yourself by jumping in without checking their heat levels first. 

Hrunalaug is one of the more isolated, yet widely beloved hot springs. This small, but local-favourite is closeby to Flúðir village. You will need to venture off the beaten track to find it. Whilst not built-up by any means, Hrunalaug does have a small and rustic changing hut on-site. It provides some level of shelter when changing in and out of your swimsuit. 

Another popular hot spring – or should we say, river – can be discovered amidst the sloping hillsides of Reykjadalur Valley. Nearby to Hveragerði town, the hot river can be visited after a beautiful 3 km [1.8 mi] hike. Please be vigilant that some parts of the river are much hotter than others. So do be sure to, at least, dip a toe in before jumping in with abandon. 

In Summary 

Posing at an ice berg during winter in Iceland
Photo: Golli. A traveller posing at Diamon Beach in South Iceland.

For those who can handle the cold weather, Iceland’s winter season promises a variety of experiences like nowhere else can. 

Be you an adventure-seeker or a travelling homebody, you’re promised memories sure to stick with you for years to come. 

Ice in His Veins

the ash-streaked ice walls of the Sapphire Ice Cave.

Upon entering the cave, I become immediately wary of its integrity. It would be a rather foolish way to go. This apprehension endures for all of two minutes, however,
as the mind, seemingly bored by its own alarm, begins to wander. Few profound thoughts emerge, aside from the somewhat flaccid observation that being inside an ice cave is vaguely like standing inside an Iittala glass. After another two minutes, the unease has dissipated completely, and later, I find myself following our guide deeper and deeper into the darkness, utterly devoid of any reservations.

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