ICELAND THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE
Iceland is meant to be experienced in deep winter. It’s Iceland. It’s in the name. But it’s about more than just bragging rights of surviving such an intense place in its harshest season. It’s also spectacular winter scenery.
Iceland in winter may sound inhospitable at first, but its magnificence lies in its ruggedness, and if you’re up for it, this country is the perfect place for a frozen adventure.
Here’s why winter is the way the land of fire & ice is meant to be experienced.
The whole landscape sparkles in the sunlight. Every crystalline shard of untouched ice captures the sunlight and shimmers magnificently. The mountains are covered in layers of snow. The waterfalls have massive icicles clinging to their cliffs. Blue rivers are outlined in pristine, untouched snow.
Less than 200 km away from Reykjavík, there is a deep fjord tucked in the snowy mountains where the herring have been gathering for the last several years. Wild orcas follow the herring to their overwinter location to feed. The orcas don’t make appearances in the fjord every single day, but when they do, it’s pure magic.
In the morning, the elder females lead the pod into the bay, and the young whales breach out of the water, leaping with excitement. By midday, if the weather is calm, the orcas float dreamily through the waters, resting before they make their way back out to deep sea in the afternoon.
Orcas are not the only wildlife that thrives in Iceland during winter – the frozen ice sheets provide an opportunity to view other forms of Icelandic wildlife up close. Near the southwest of Iceland, seals lounge on icebergs and swim through glacial lagoons.
Glaciers. Enormous frozen rivers carved out of solid blue, ancient ice.
Glaciers are so mysterious – so epic. Ancient glaciers long melted have shaped the Earth in unfathomable ways. Exploring a glacier today, currently in the process of shaping the landscape, is one of the ways to be awed by nature. With 269 glaciers covering more than 10% of the country, Iceland is the place to explore glaciers.
Hiking on top of a glacier is one way to appreciate their immensity, but it’s an entirely different world when experiencing a glacier from within. Channels of ice caves form within glaciers from melting streams of water and the movement of the glacier, and these crystal caves are constantly changing. When explored from within, the spectacular blue color of the thick ancient ice is enchanting.
Winter is the only time it is safe to enter the ice caves, as the outside temperatures are cold enough to keep the caverns inside the glacier stable.
Conditions are changing constantly; a cave that is magnificent and easily explored one season could be filled with frozen rain and completely inaccessible the next.
During short winter days, the sun hovers close to the horizon, creating prolonged sunrises and sunsets.
The low-hanging sun creates golden light that seems to go on forever, making the brief days dreamy.
Although there are only a few short hours of daylight this far north in the winter, the night has its own magic in Iceland.
There’s nothing quite like setting off into the unknown, knowing that perils may lay ahead, and choosing to adventure anyway.
Sure, you might make the journey out to a remote location just to find out the road to your final destination is buried under feet of snow, but it’s worth it. And sometimes you may have to pull over to help a fellow traveler whose rental car is stuck in the snow. It happens. Sometimes it happens to you. Sometimes it happens to you at 3am in -20c temperatures.
And it’s still worth it.
Iceland is the perfect country for a winter expedition. The island is vast, but filled with so many natural wonders and destinations that a single trip has opportunities for abundant adventure.
What’s your favorite winter adventure? Leave a comment and let us know!