Clear sunny skies, crisp maritime air and crunchy snow underfoot—when winter finally takes off in Iceland, it’s truly a treat. Sure, you can sit there in your ankle socks and windbreaker bemoaning the frigid temperatures and glacial winds, but if you bundle up and psych yourself up for a good time, you will want to stay outside until your pinkie toes fall off! (Note: please do not ignore first signs of frostbite.) Here are some fun suggestions for open-air activities, as well as a few for those very occasional lousy-weather days we get. Ahem.
IN AND AROUND REYKJAVÍK
Just because the water is colder doesn’t mean these marine mammals are gone! Some have migrated south for the winter but there are still plenty of baleen beasts to spot from the comfort of an Elding boat—yes, you can stay inside on the lower deck! Departures are daily at 13:00 from the Old Harbour. For more information, go to www.whalewatching.is.
If you can lay your paws on a pair of skates, or even if you just have some nice smooth-soled shoes lying around, take a stroll over to the pond, Tjörnin, and join in the frozen revelry. If there’s been a thaw though and you’re not too confident about the ice holding up, head to Skautahöllin (Múlavegur 1, 104 Reykjavík). You can also rent skates there if you don’t have your own. See www.skautaholl.is.
After all this outdoorsy activity, you might want to enjoy your evening warming back up in a nice geothermal pool. Whatever the weather, it’s always great to enjoy the hot tubs at the pools in town (Sundhöll in 101 Reykjavík, Vestubæjarlaug in 107 Reykjavík and Laugardalslaug in 105 Reykjavík). For opening hours and prices go to www.reykjavik.is.
OUT AND ABOUT THE COUNTRYSIDE
It can be a bother battling the roads in this country with such unpredictable weather, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a day or night out of town. There are a handful of tour operators with a whole range of fun trips for you to just sit back enjoy. If you’re around for New Year’s Eve, you may want to hop on Reykjavík Excursion’s Bonfire Tour for an unforgettably Icelandic experience. See for instance www.re.is and www.adventures.is.
For those of you who live for the slopes, run to the hills on Iceland’s south coast and swish your way down. Only 25 minutes out of town, the Bláfjöll and Skálafell skiing areas are easily accessible by car or public transport and the view alone is worth the trip. Go to www.skidasvaedi.is for opening hours, slope fees, gear rental prices and transportation information.
Let’s get real though, staying inside in the winter is bloody awesome. You might as well take it up a notch and stay inside out of town at a cosy wood cabin. Grab a few cases of beer, some blankets, some firewood and all your favourite holiday movies and squirrel away in a winterhut with your loved one(s). To find listings for fully equipped cabin rentals in all regions, check out www.farmholidays.is, www.volcanohuts.com, or www.visiticeland.com.