From Iceland — Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland

Published September 23, 2009

Rex Beckett
Photo by
Jói Kjartans

The equinox is almost upon us, and a big ol’ nine-month night will soon overtake our days. Temperatures are rapidly dropping and the snow will soon fall. Alas, all-night adventures, hiking through the mountains and impromptu 4 AM road trips, will soon be off the menu.

But don’t let the ice scare you! This country is a marvel all year round, and there is still fun to be had in the wilderness. Pull on some long-johns, layer up your shirts, put on a pair of sheep’s wool mittens and go frolic about in the crisp, magical darkness. Here are a few nice ways to spend the upcoming days and nights of darkness.

Out and About

Ice-walking on Sólhjeimajökull glacier

Since hiking isn’t an option, clamp on some crampons and climb up a gigantic mound of thousand-year old ice. On this tour, offered by the good people at Icelandic Mountain Guides, you will be taken up onto the Sólheimajökull tongue of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and crunch your way across stunning blue ice surrounded by black lava fields. The skilled guides provide equipment and teach you how to properly use it, so nobody needs to be a pro. Remember to wear clothing for all conditions because this tour only gets called off in the worst possible weather. The tour costs 17.900ISK (less if you bring your own car).

Jeep tours

These tours offered by Iceland Rovers are pretty deluxe. Not only will you experience about five different landscapes and natural wonders, but you will do so in the rugged comfort of a swanky four-by-four. The tour I recommend takes you to Þingvellir National Park, the enormous Langjökull glacier, down in a lava cave, and with all sorts of waterfalls and one of the biggest natural hot springs in the world. Additionally, at 26.900ISK, the exchange rate with most countries makes this the most bang for your buck right now. If you’re gonna treat yourself, treat yourself right.

Hunting the Aurora Borealis

On a clear, cold winter night, crane your neck up to the sky and see sheets of flowing colour rippling through the darkness. This can happen in the city if you are lucky enough, but you have a much better shot at catching them out in the wilderness, away from all the street-lights. From September to April, Reykjavík Excursions goes on nightly adventures to catch these elusive wonders for just 4.700 ISK. The destination varies each night because they drive to where the conditions are most suitable. Even if you don’t find your cosmic prey, the dark Icelandic countryside is breathtaking and oh-so-romantic. Bring snacks!

A City Winter

Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey

If you don’t have much time and don’t feel like straying too far, a close and powerful experience awaits you only seven minutes away on the island of Viðey off the coast of Reykjavík. The endless tower of light is a memorial to John Lennon conceived by Yoko Ono and is lit every year from October 9th to December 8th, over the winter solstice and in the first week of March. The ferry goes on weekends and costs only 1.000 ISK for adults and 500 for children.

Hot tubbing in a snowstorm

Honestly, the absolute best time to hit the pools in Iceland is in the dark winter when snow is coming down. It’s totally hilarious, surreal and soothing. The warm water on your body and crisp clean air around your head will balance out your heart rate and relax your muscles. Not to mention the bragging rights you’ll earn back home. All pools in Reykjavík are 360 ISK a pop, but the Vestubær pool comes especially recommended for this purpose.

Skating and snowman building on Tjörnin

When the big pond next to City Hall freezes over, grab your family, grab your friends, call the subject of your desires and release your inner child on the ice. Have an epic snowball fight. Make snowmen effigies of the Central Bankers and smash ‘em down. Buy a cheap pair of skates at Kolaportið and learn to do a triple Lutz. Have your first kiss under the moonlight! Winter is just wonderful!

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