A little over a year ago, Mathieu and I traveled to our favorite place yet, Iceland!! And even though you’ve probably heard some buzz these last six months, (thanks Kardashians), when we decided to go we didn’t even know anyone that had traveled there, let alone find a good round up of pins to make a decent Pinterest board. Not expecting too much, you can imagine how absolutely blown away we were from the second we landed to the moment we left.
Since then, a lot of people have asked me about our trip to Iceland during the winter time and really the only way I could describe it is that it felt like Greece: if there was a ever a winter there. Because we planned our trip for January, we were still in the perfect white winter season, and honestly, I think that played such a big part in what made this trip so absolutely breathtaking. So here are 5 major reasons why visiting Iceland in the winter months is the best (and prettiest) way to go!
1. THE SUNRISE
For many of you who don’t know, Iceland is one of those countries that has a very bizarre sunrise and sunset schedule. In the summer months, your days can last well over 15 hours, and in the winter months, you can end up with only two hours of light. When we went in mid-January, the sun was rising at 10:15am most mornings and setting around 4:00pm. Now, I don’t know what kind of person you are, but I’ll be honest, we don’t ever get out of bed before 10 in the morning, let alone early enough to watch the sunrise. I mean, I can literally count on my hands how many times I remember watching the sunrise in my entire life. So, when people say “Oh that’s way too late, why would you travel somewhere you can’t even enjoy the day?” I usually just show them a picture of the sunrises we got to witness every single morning, and that usually shuts them up.
The best place we found to watch the sun come up or go down was at the top of a hill in Reykjavik, where the beautiful church Igreja de Hallgrimur stands.
Whether you go inside and make your way up, or spend the morning on the hill, you will witness complete darkness turn into a perfectly paint brushed sky. I can easily say one of my favorite things about this trip was just that; waking up to a (huge) Icelandic breakfast, walking up the cobbled street, and getting to see this view every morning.
2. THE BLUE LAGOON If that wasn’t enough to convince you that Iceland in the winter has so much beauty to offer maybe a trip to the Blue Lagoon is.
I’m sure I’m not the only spa junky around, and really eastern Canada has a lot to offer in this category, but if you want a once in a lifetime experience, this is just one of those places you have to travel to. With temperatures ranging from 27-37 degrees F in January, it’s the perfect time to be at an outdoors spa.
Now, going to an outdoor spa can be the best or worst experience of your life. Best, if it’s in the middle of winter and you can enjoy that perfectly cool breeze on your face and neck while the rest of your body is submerged in warm water. Worst- if you decided to take a trip to Blue Mountain mid July and have to cut it 8 hours shorter than expected because you are physically (and mentally) boiling to death in and out of the water. Now, I’m not saying that you’ll have a horrible experience if you visit the Blue Lagoon in the summer, I’m just saying that there’s nothing more enjoyable than being able to spend all day and night at a spa, going in and out of cool to warm temperatures, and being able to really relax all your muscles with this change in temperature. This, plus the natural lagoon mud mask area, swim up bar, massage options, gorgeous restaurant, and breathtaking views, is a bucket list experience that will leave you wanting to plan your next trip before even getting out of the water.
3. THE FALLS Another cool reason to visit Iceland in the cooler months is being able to see the incredible falls half frozen. While the whole country is extremely beautiful when covered in it’s white snowy coat, the falls have an extra bit of magic this time of year. A backdrop of only white for miles sets the most picturesque view of the chilling blue falls. If you make it there at dusk or dawn, you’ll see the multicolored sky reflect off the white snow surrounding the falls, which will absolutely take your breath away.
And don’t forget to enjoy your drive to the falls and try to take the famous “Golden Circle” route so you can see it all. The views are so good, you’ll want to stop the car everywhere for pictures. (And make sure to plan that extra time in your schedule, we forgot and had to miss a couple spots we were excited for.)
4. THE NORTHERN LIGHTS One thing that many people talk about and have on their bucket list is the famous Northern Lights (aurora borealis). A moment in time when charged particles emitted from the sun during a solar flare penetrate the earth’s magnetic shield and collide with atoms and molecules in our atmosphere. These collisions result in countless little bursts of light, called photons, which make up the beautiful aurora. In Iceland, from October to late January, you can get in your car (or tourist bus) and drive around at midnight to chase these beautiful green and purple lights.
The first time we went, we decided to opt for the tour bus and met in the city centre at midnight where we hopped and started our journey to find them. We spent about an hour just roaming around, going outside the city enough to find complete darkness. After a little while, when we finally called it quits and were on the way back home, a passenger screamed out “The lights! The lights!” Our bus driver pulled over, and sure enough, the magical moment everyone was talking about was happening right before our eyes. Everyone was outside with their cameras, hot cocoa, watching these lights dance around the sky like they were putting on a show just for us. The colors changed from white to yellow to green to purple and no camera seemed to capture what we saw in real life.
After spending an hour outside just enjoying the sky, we headed back to the hotel so happy with what we just got to witness. The next couple nights, we decided to just take the car we rented around and see if we could see them again, and of course, we found them every time. And to be honest, it really doesn’t matter how many times you see them, the moment is always so surreal and magical that you don’t want it to end. I can’t imagine going all the way to this beautiful country and not being able to see that, which is such a big reason why Iceland in the winter is just really (really) better.
5.IT’S NOT CROWDED And finally, the last and most important reason to visit Iceland in the winter time: Lack of tourists. There’s nothing worst than finally arriving at the place you’ve spent months waiting and planning for and then getting hit with the tourist wave. Every restaurant has a line, the hotels are all packed, and sightseeing is not only extra expensive, but also unenjoyable When we went, we never had to wait for a table, spend hours in excursion lines, or be shoulder to shoulder in a crowd of strangers, and this alone made the trip so much more romantic and relaxing. We were able to enjoy all the beautiful cities and sightseeing spots without feeling rushed or intruded on. We even got to spend time walking around the cities, experiencing things and going into places where the locals were (which I’m sure is just not the same during the peak months).
Being on both ends of this situation while traveling in the past, I can confidently say that it makes such a big difference on how you experience and remember a city when you travel during their tourist off months.
So that’s it, the top five reasons I think planning a trip to Iceland next winter is the best move you’ll make all year!