Top 10 Iceland Winter Activities

people hiking on a glacier
Gréta S. Guðjónsdóttir

So you’re planning a trip to Iceland during the winter months and you’re wondering what activities will be available. This blog post will provide you with 10 of the the most popular options.
Before we dig in, here are a few things that you should know about Iceland:

  • It is located just below the Arctic Circle, which lies at and above 66.5 degrees north. This means that the winter is rather long and daylight will be limited.

  • Iceland’s weather is capricious i.e., it changes often. Just because its “winter” doesn’t mean that there will be snow on the ground.

  • Bring lots of layers. This will give you the most number of options to enjoy the outdoors - whatever the weather throws at you. Try and make one of them waterproof.

  • Be Safe! Know your limits and know who to call if you get in trouble. The national emergency number is 112.

Ok, now that we got the safety stuff out of the way, here’s our list of top winter activities in Iceland:

1    Northern lights - Though not really an activity, Iceland’s Northern Lights are one of the countries most popular winter draws and they are only visible during the “winter” months. By “winter,” we mean roughly from September - March.  The reason being is that there needs to be sufficient darkness to actually see them.  Please note that seeing the Northern lights is subject to cloud cover, so there’s no guarantee that you will see them.  See our selection of Northern lights tours. If you want to learn more about how the Northern Lights form, check out this blog post wrote wrote up a while ago (even though it’s about Greenland, which it totally epic for Northern Lights, by the way) and if you want to photograph the Northern Lights, check out last week’s blog post with all the technical details.

2    Glacier walks and hikes - Strictly speaking, these are not exclusively winter activities, it’s not like the glaciers care if it’s winter.  But, walking or hiking on a glacier is a must-do activity in Iceland.  There’s something magical about being near or on one of these behemoths.  Iceland has many glaciers and there are numerous glacier tours (our tours) available for just about any level.

3    Alpine skiing & snowboarding - Iceland may not exactly spring to mind as a skiing destination but it actually has two ski areas in the country and skiing is a popular activity. Near Reykjavik, there is the Bláfjöll ski area and in the North, right above the city of Akureyri is the best ski area in the country, called Hlídarfjall.  Here, you are skiing in the mountains with sweeping view of a fjord. We suggest this epic ski tour of the north over 6 days


A couple skiing on Hlíðarfjall ski area on a sunny day under the blue sky
Guenter Kast
Skiing on Hlíðarfjall

4    Cross country skiing - Another popular activity in Iceland.  Many go to the Bláfjöll ski area to cross-country ski and there are numerous other great locations around the country including guided tours across the Ice cap that covers 10% of the country!  Wow, talk about an adventure!

5    Dog sledding - Somewhat of a newcomer to Iceland is dog sledding.  Again, you’ll find people doing this - mostly as tours - in the Bláfjöll ski area.  If this is your cup of tea, Iceland is an accessible country in which to go on a dog sledding tour.

6    Ice climbing - For the more adventurous, Iceland has loads of ice climbing locations. From glaciers to frozen waterfalls.  We would go so far as to say, Iceland is an ice climbing paradise! Combine it with a glacier walk for the full experience.

Woman Ice climbing a glacier using an ice axe
Björgvin Hilmarsson

7    Snowmobiling - Another popular activity in Iceland. many Icelanders own snowmobiles and there are literally hundreds of world-class snowmobiling destinations. The most epic are in the mountains above Akureyri and on Mýrdalsjökull in south Iceland. Seriously, words can’t describe the views here, couple with he utterly unspoiled nature.

8    Surfing - Say again?!  That’s right people surf in Iceland. People come to Iceland to surf.  And, the best time to do so is in the winter months.

9    Swimming - Iceland is one of the best countries in the world in which to swim, there are pools literally everywhere. Iceland has a plethora of wonderful, geothermal-heated pools and spas - including the world-famous Blue Lagoon. They are all open year-round and offer a great way to relax or, exercise. We like to relax, take a few lengths and then relax again. Its called a relax sandwich. 

10   Alpine touring, Ski mountaineering & hiking combo - For the real outdoor adventure enthusiast, Iceland has many, many remote locations for alpine ski touring, ski mountaineering and hiking.  For some, these would be heaven; we included this for you - you know who you are!

We could keep going on, but 10 is a good number. Wanna go? We’ll take you there! Check out our selection of tours, we are pretty sure that you will find something great, and then we’ll make sure you have the time of your life. Live for the adventure, and see you soon!

About the Author

IMG Staff Writer

IMG Staff Writer

An anonymous but well informed member of our team that enjoys sharing their knowledge of Iceland & Greenland’s stunning nature.

Reader’s Comments