If you will ever have an idea to visit Iceland in winter, you have to know how to make the most of your stay and take advantage of only 4 hours of daylight.
Of course, some folks will tell you the summer is better, but it is winter time when you can chase the Northern Lights and explore ice caves in the biggest glacier in Europe Vatnajökull.
You can always decide to stay in your hotel, airbnb, tent or whatever and drink Jóla Bjór all the time, but we encourage you to escape from already overcrowded and overpriced Reykjavik and get off on the road and meet overwhelming Icelandic nature.
Driving on the Ring Road in winter is also an excellent opportunity to see all the main, photographed-already-thousands-times-touristic attractions in a different, more icy way.
We just came back from our winter trip to South Iceland and we invite you to relive the best moments of the trip.
So, make your crampons ready and let’s get off on the road!
We wake up and start our trip early at 6 am in order to be on time for the hiking that starts at 12:00 in Skaftafell National Park. The Svínafelljökull glacier that we are about to hike is located approximately 320 km from Reykjavik and it takes approx. 4 hours to drive there with good road conditions.
While driving we are experiencing the sunrise at approx. 11 am and enjoy the view of lava fields covered in snow.
We are still a little sleepy and start to make the groaner jokes like : “you don’t have to be an early bird to experience sunrise in Iceland”.
Driving on the Road nr 1 is always an adventure, but it is especially impressive near Vatnajökull National Park where it seems that the glaciers nearly come down to the road.
We arrive to Skaftafell 1 hour before the hike and have still time to observe ravens and mountain peaks covered in snow.
Finally we jump into a jeep that take us until the calving face of the Svínafelljökull glacier, we take our crampons, ice axes and helmets and we are ready for the hike!
We get to know that svína means a pig, fell means a mountain and jökull means a glacier.
It is actually real fun to hike near death threatening crevasses in a very strange winter light.
Finally we make it to the dark ice cave fulfilled with volcanic ash. We are so amazed that we make only couple of photos as we prefer to admire this unique place in silence.
The specific shape of the entrance is created by wind. The blocks of ice that felt down from the ceiling resemble icy diamonds.
I really enjoy visiting new places where I can have this feeling that I’m the first person that explored it. Even if it is not true.
The ice cave is quite wide at the entrance but to get out we have to make it through a narrow icy corridor fulfilled with glacier water. We attach our climbing harness to the rope and make it smoothly to the exit.
When we get out of the ice cave the Sun is already very low above the horizon. It’s getting dark very fast and our Guide to make the ambience thicker tells us stories about the hikers that encountered snowstorm on the glacier, but finally made it home safely.
We have no luck with Northern Lights forecast tonight as there is no activity at all, but we hope for the best tomorrow as the best place to see the Northern Lights is in the wilderness far from the pollution of the city lights.
On our days off we like to be a little lazy so we sleep until 12:00. We get our fatty breakfast in order to have a lot of energy as another hike is before us.
Today we are going to explore another ice cave in the biggest glacier in Europe.
There is a reason why Jökursárlón is called a diamond in Icelandic crown.
While waiting at Glacier Lagoon cafe we observe some folks sliding on the slop next to Jökursárlón.
We will be changing today a mean of transport. The only way to get so close to the head of Vantajökull is by super-jeep.
We observe dramatic change of landscape through the windows of the super jeep. We are surrounded by the vastness of ice.
We are very excited about what will happen next. When the super jeeps stops we have to hike approx. 5 min in crampons to get to the ice cave.
The interior the Blue Ice Cave looks like a blue heart of the glacier. It’s so beautiful that we want to freeze the moment on the photo.
Other people who are with us in the cave on the long exposure photos looks like ghosts.
A perfect place to put on a tent that you will ever find.
We planned to chase Northern Lights again today with the view of Vestrahorn – one of the most famous mountains in Iceland. But apparently we started living the nightmare of every tourist in Reykjavik – no activity at all. Moreover, it started snowing when we were coming back from the hike and visibility turned close to zero. Hopefully, we’ll have more luck next time.
This time it is still dark when we wake up as there is long way to drive back to Reykjavik and the road is very icy.
The best attractions are these unplanned and unexpected. While driving we spot a group of reindeers wandering near the road number 1 with the great view on Vestrahorn mountain in the background.
There are no better places to be at golden hour than Jökursárlón and Diamond Black Beach.
Another stop is at Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon – less known but as breath taking as Jökursárlón.
Strolling between covered in snow Laki lava fields and enjoying the sun reflection on the ice capes – we come to a conclusion that in winter in Iceland the golden our is every our.
As always we come by for the best soup on the South Coast and we are as always surprised that here in the middle of nowhere they have a vegetarian soup.
And a refuel and coffee stop in one of the most famous towns on the South Coast. We’ve been here so many times we don’t feel like getting out of the car.
While passing through Hveragerði – geothermal city located approx 40 km from Reykjavik we spontaneously decide to make some photos of greenhouses. The light of the greenhouses, steam coming out of the wells and smell of sulfur give to this place a little strange ambience.
If you will stick to road number 1, there is no need to rent 4×4 car. We rented a standard economic car and it was really enough. Our car still need to be fixed after our last travel to East Fjords and driving on gravel roads. We recommend to watch out on one lane bridged as there are many in the Southern Iceland.
When we finally made it home we saw the Northern Lights above the house.