Before 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 locals 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 or Airbnb 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 to have a meeting with over-whelming 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 this trip.
Make your crampons ready and let’s get off on the road!
We wake up and start our trip early at 6 am 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 not funny jokes like: “you don’t have to be an early bird to experience sunrise in Iceland. You can just wake up at 11 am”.
Driving the Ringroad 1 is always an adventure, but it is exceptionally impressive near Vatnajökull National Park where it seems the glaciers descent from the mountain slopes to nearly reaching the road.
We arrive at Skaftafell 1 hour before the hike and still have some time to observe ravens and mountain peaks covered in snow.
Finally, we jump into a jeep that takes us until the calving face of the Svínafelljökull glacier, we take our crampons, ice axes, helmets and we are ready for the hike.
We get to know from the local guide that svína means a pig, fell means a mountain and jökull means a glacier.
It is actually really fun to hike near death threatening crevasses in a very exceptional winter light, but only with an experienced guide!
Finally, we reached the dark ice cave fulfilled with frozen volcanic ash. We are so amazed that we make the only a couple of photos as we prefer to admire this unique place in silence.
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.
The specific shape of the entrance is created by wind. 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, so we attach a 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 ambiance even more interesting 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 greasy 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 – Vatnajokull.
Later, we stop at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon called the diamond in the Icelandic crown.
While waiting at Glacier Lagoon cafe we observe some tourists sliding on the icy slope next to Jökulsárlón.
Here we change the mean of transport as the only way to get so close to the head of Vantajökull is by a super-jeep.
While driving we observe a dramatic change of landscape. We realize that we are surrounded by the vastness of ice.
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 in the cave on the long exposure photos resemble ghosts.
Again, we planned to chase the Northern Lights tonight with the view on Vestrahorn – one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland as per its iconic shape. 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 tomorrow.
This time we wake up early while its still dark, as there is a long way to drive back to Reykjavik and the road is very icy.
The best experiences are these unplanned and unexpected. While driving we spot a group of reindeers wandering near the road number 1 with the great view on the back of Vestrahorn mountain in the background.
There are no better places to be at golden hour than Jökursárlón and Diamond Black Beach.
On our way back we stop at Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon – less known but as breathtaking as Jökursárlón.
As always we make a stop for the best soup on the South Coast at the fuel station in Kirkjubaerklaustur.
Next stop is Vik for a refuel and a cup of coffee with the view on Reynisdrangar sea stacks.
While passing through Hveragerði – the geothermal city located approx 40 km from Reykjavik we 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 unusual atmosphere.
When drove nearly 600km South and didn’t see any Northern Lights to finally see them dancing above our house when we come back.