Iceland in the Winter (Do’s and Don’ts) – Part 2

Here it is: Part 2 of my Iceland Adventures.

Iceland remains one of the most adventurous places I’ve been to. Its natural beauty is so unique and completely untamed. Head ten miles out of town, and you will find yourself completely alone to explore all that it has to offer. And it has A LOT to offer. So without further ado, here are my Do’s and Don’ts (part 2)…

#1. DO rent a super truck. We decided to book this at the last minute before we headed out to Iceland, and I’m glad we did! First of all, it’s important to note that Icelandic roads are known for being sketchy. There is one

Our super truck in the Snæfellsnes peninsula
Our super truck in the Snæfellsnes peninsula

main highway (Highway 1) that wraps all around the island. This road is mostly clear and very passable most of the time throughout the year, even in the tiny, affordable European car we rented. But if you want to do some real exploring, get off the main road, and maybe end up in some snow – you will NEED a super truck in the winter. We decided we wanted to spend a day exploring the Snæfellsnes peninsula, booked the jeep for the day and never looked back. (Tip: We rented through ISAK 4×4 in Reykjavik and had a great experience! The guys there are very laid back, and the service was excellent.) And on that note…

#2. DON’T miss the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. These views. This experience. I will never forget it. It’s a bit of a drive (3 hours to the end of it?) from Reykjavik, so you’ll probably want to spend most of the day exploring.

Volcanic mountains in the Snæfellsnes peninsula
Volcanic mountains in the Snæfellsnes peninsula

Pack a lunch, bring your camera, and just go. You can enjoy the scenery from your car or stop and hike around (in between the 5 minute snow storms). And for my photography lovers: I’ve honestly never seen better photo opportunities anywhere in my life, with these skies of never-ending dusk and giant snow covered mountains. If you get sick of looking at the mountains, look the opposite way and enjoy the views of the Atlantic Ocean on the other side.

#3. DO expect the weather to change every 5 minutes. People will tell you about how weather changes in the mountains very rapidly. And they are right. But Iceland is seriously in a league

One of the many 5 minute snow storms moving in on us
One of the many 5 minute snow storms moving in on us

of its own, and I’ve never seen anything like it. One minute it is sunny with no wind. And 5 minutes later you are in a massive snow storm, being blinded from the road. It doesn’t sound at all appealing, I know. But Iceland has a way of making everything so beautiful. I am in love with those skies. Just be prepared for the changing weather and go with the flow.

#4. DON’T expect everything to go according to plan. If you had your heart set on that glacier tour, make sure you are flexible. They will cancel the tour on you with little notice if the wind is too intense on the glacier. This happened to us twice, and we didn’t end up getting to go ice climbing like we had planned. Luckily, we found that there was so much to do and explore on the island, and this didn’t bother us at all.

#5. DO search far and wide for the northern lights. It’s worth the drive to find them! While we were

One of our shots of the Aurora (I'm horrible at night photography)
One of our shots of the Aurora (I’m horrible at night photography)

there, every night was cloudy and the forecast showed a low chance for the aurora. But we kept checking the forecast! Finally, one night we saw that there was a place two hours out of town with a break in the clouds. We went for it (low forecasted chance and all). We drove out, looked around for about an hour, and didn’t see anything but stars. Starting to lose hope, we pulled over one last time on our way back to town. And that’s when it happened: Eight fingers of dim light started appearing in the sky like a UFO. The light quickly got brighter, took on a greenish hue, and starting dancing around. I can’t describe to you how magical that felt. At that moment, I was sure I could die happy.

#6. DO go ice caving. Book a tour and drive the 3-4 hours to get out to Vatnajokull glacier on the south

The black sand beaches of Vik
The black sand beaches of Vik

eastern side of the island. On the way there from Reykjavik, you will pass the black sand beaches of Vik (a MUST see), amazing volcanic formations that tower over you, and many impressive waterfalls just loaded with eager tourists. Once you get to Vatnajokull National Park, you will see the bright blue ice of the largest European glacier up close – right from the highway. You’ll likely meet your guide at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, an impressive area where giant chunks of the glacier have broken off and are now floating in the lake below. Your guide will drive you out on a “road” (it’s not really even a road… More like a path of extremely uneven volcanic rock, complete with

Ice caving under Vatnajökull glacier
Ice caving under Vatnajökull glacier

river crossings) to the new caves they’ve found that season. Each cave is unique and you will be one of the few on earth that will ever see that particular one, since the caves all melt off in the summer and new ones form in the winter. This is a once in a lifetime experience that is simply surreal, and you will feel like you are on a different planet at times… But no… You are just hanging out under a giant glacier the size of Connecticut. No big deal.

All in all, I would completely recommend Iceland. Heck, I’d even move there in a heartbeat. Go if you ever get the chance. And if you go, consider going during its magical winter. I promise you will experience amazing things.

Snæfellsnes peninsula
Snæfellsnes peninsula
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