Our trip planning for Iceland began the usual way—I went online to look up a banana bread recipe, and soon found myself scouring the Internet for flight deals to Nordic nations.
I knew exactly two things about Iceland at that point: It’s Bjork’s homeland and it’s cold.
Actually, I don’t think I knew that detail about Bjork until later.
Within a week of tossing around the idea of visiting Iceland, we booked our flights and made our hotel reservation…for the first week of March.
“You’re going where??” My dad asked. “In MARCH??!” Had I told him I was about to birth twin llamas I don’t think he could have been more concerned.
Our friends’ reactions were similar. A mix of horror and confusion. I might as well have said we were going to paddle to Antarctica in a leaky canoe.
While the weeks leading up to our trip were full of mini-panic attacks that the critics were right and we’d end up stranded in a blizzard and die of hypothermia, Sam and I stuck by our decision.
In the end, visiting Iceland in winter turned out to be the perfect decision for us.
Winter is the offseason in Iceland. Therefore, the price of airfare and accommodations drops significantly. We were able to find a great flight/hotel package through Icelandair for half of what it would cost to visit in summer. An added benefit of cheap airfare was that we had more room in our budget for fun activities, such as visiting the Blue Lagoon and horseback riding.
2. Less crowded.
While this seems to be changing somewhat, the vast majority of tourists visit Iceland from June-August. Visiting the country outside these months means you won’t have to worry about big crowds at even the most popular sites.
3. Beautiful Snowy Landscapes.
Iceland is actually Narnia. Enough said.
4. Winter Activities.
Though Iceland offers great activities year-round, visiting in winter allows for some truly incredible experiences, such as glacier walking, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and exploring ice caves.
5. Northern Lights.
Seeing the dancing, colorful lights is said to be an unbelievable experience, which is why the Northern Lights are among Iceland’s main winter draws. Because the days are so short, the odds of seeing the phenomenon in winter is much higher.
Although, I have to make an embarrassing confession here. I’ve never seen the Northern Lights, despite growing up in Canada. Somehow I was never in the right place at the right time. For seventeen years.
I thought our trip to Iceland might finally be my chance. We even drove to a lighthouse our hotel receptionist insisted was a good viewing location. Sadly, the faint glimpses of green we’d seen in the sky earlier was the Northern Lights flirting with us like a tenth grade cheerleader. Shortly after midnight we called it a night and went home.
But despite missing out on seeing the Northern Lights, our winter trip to Iceland was one of the greatest travel experiences we’ve ever had.
Though I’m sure it is a wonderful destination year-round, there was something truly magical about Iceland in winter.