The pursuit of the Northern Lights is an experience unlike anything else. Find out why Iceland is the perfect place!
While there are countless reasons why Iceland is the perfect place to visit during the winter months, the Northern Lights are probably the most anticipated. There are also magical geyser fields, mystical geothermal pools, and magnificent landscapes. Let’s talk about what makes a winter tour of Iceland such an enchanting vacation.
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, offer an entrancing display as they dance about the night sky. Caused by solar winds escaping sunspot regions on the sun, these plasma particles take approximately 40 hours to reach Earth and cause dramatic displays on our planet's polar regions. While they can be seen year-round, the optimal time to see the most vivid colors is during winter months when light pollution is down and the air is crisp and clear. Our time in Iceland offers several opportunities to hopefully witness this dazzling display.
The Golden Circle offers some of Iceland’s most stunning sights and covers approximately 190 miles from Reykjavik to the southern uplands. Brimming with waterfalls, rivers, and geothermal activity, this area is often considered the most popular tourist route in Iceland. A visit in the winter months provides the opportunity to avoid the busiest traffic and more time to take in the majesty that surrounds you and experience all of the best stops.
Gulfoss waterfall thunders 105 feet down two rocky cliffs and offers jaw-dropping sights. As you walk up to the falls it looks as if they disappear deep into the Earth, and it is not until you reach its banks that you see the splendor below. The glacial-fed waterfall was once pursued as a site for a hydroelectric dam. The farmer who owned the land refused the Englishman’s offer to buy, but instead leased it to him. This upset the farmer’s daughter who hired her own lawyer to void the contract and threatened to throw herself into the falls to stop the build. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending and the area was designated as a nature reserve in 1979.
The Geysir Hot Springs area is packed with bubbling mud pits and explosive geysers, including the oldest-known geyser on the planet “Geysir,” which roughly means “to gush” in English. Geysir has been documented to reach heights of over 570 feet in the 19th century, but nowadays sprays water 230 feet high every 8-10 hours. This area is also home to the famous Strokkur geyser. Strokkur runs on a pretty reliable schedule, spurting water approximately 100 feet into the air every few minutes.
þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a storied history. The Alþingi (Icelandic for assembly) is located here and this area is the centerpoint of the oldest ongoing parliament in the world, beginning with an annual assembly established by Norse settlers in 930 AD. Most of Iceland’s major turns in history happened here. The park’s geography is also captivating as you can visibly see rifts created from the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates slowly separating, creating dramatic ravines, lava fields, and crystal clear filtered water.
The Blue Lagoon is easily the most famous hot spring in Iceland. While the pool was not formed naturally, the seawater is, which completely renews itself every 48 hours. The pool uses excess water from a neighboring geothermal power plant but is completely clean and contains only natural minerals that have been proven extraordinarily beneficial for human skin, including the treatment of psoriasis. As with most stops, a winter visit offers far fewer visitors and a more intimate experience. While the winter wind can be a bit cold, the water remains a warm 102 degrees year-round. We recommend you bring a hat to keep your exposed head and ears warm as well. And not to worry, there is an indoor entrance straight into the water so you don’t even have to adventure into the cold!
A winter trip by boat into Breidafjordur Bay offers views of unique and stunning landscapes. With less people you’ll experience a sense of solitude and a deep connection with the quiet surroundings. Winter’s shortened daylight hours, with the sun remaining low on the horizon, offer stunning lighting, creating a soft golden atmosphere - a photographers dream! The bay itself offers innumerable islands, most of which are now uninhabited. Here you will experience an incredibly unique opportunity to try “Viking Sushi.” Sea scallops, urchins, and crab are pulled into the boat from the pristine, cold waters and immediately cracked open for your indulgence.
These highlights are just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to reasons why winter travel in Iceland is so incredible. Holiday Vacations proudly offers two winter dates in Iceland. Discover our Iceland itineraries here!