6 unexpected must-visit places in Iceland to visit this winter

By Ása Steinars

The black beach in Iceland. Photo: Ása Steinars

Visiting Iceland in winter is a feat for the brave. But if you’re up for the adventure, an experience of a lifetime awaits

Iceland is a truly spectacular destination in any season, but in the wintertime, this is a country that is brimming with 'pinch-me' moments like no other. Don't be deterred by the cold and dark, as overcoming these conditions gives visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience of mesmerising beauty, with snow-blanketed landscapes, gorgeous pale wintry light, and the kind of uncanny natural beauty that needs to be seen to be believed.


From wandering amongst icebergs to getting up close to frozen waterfalls, this is a round-up of the 6 best winter experiences in Iceland that will favour the brave.


Wander along the striking black beaches

A beach trip may not be at the forefront of your mind, but the black beaches of Iceland are truly magical – especially in winter. After a snowstorm, the contrast between black and white across the landscape is spectacular; on top of this, and the ocean is truly an impressive sight. There will be plenty of Instagrammable moments during a visit to a black beach, but be sure to keep at a safe distance from the shoreline and wear suitable footwear. Vik is known for sneaker waves, which can quickly turn a leisurely stroll into something quite dangerous.

Photo: Ása Steinars


Watch the sunrise

Dyrhólaey Peninsula in Vik is a 120 metre promenade famous for its views of Iceland's South Coast, the presence of cute puffins, and winds strong enough to knock over a grown adult. During winter, the viewpoint is the perfect spot to witness colourful but chilly sunrises. As the sun rises, you’ll have uninterrupted views over black volcanic sand and cliffs. The puffins generally only call Dyrhólaey home during the summer months, but there is fascinating birdlife resident in the area all year round. Be sure to make a stop a the lighthouse and arch, too.

Photo: Ása Steinars


Walk amongst frozen glacier lagoons

Some of Iceland's glacier lagoons contain fresh water, and therefore will freeze over entirely in the winter. One of these is Heinabergslón, a little-known glacial lagoon inside Vatnajökull National Park in the south that is breathtaking to visit. By the time the winter months arrive, the icebergs that were floating around in summer have frozen, creating a unique opportunity to go walking amongst them. The scenery is truly spectacular and it's not uncommon to see a cave – but only enter these in the company of a local guide who knows the area, and with the right safety equipment such as helmets, ice axes, and ropes. But it's not necessary to enter the caves to enjoy the beauty – they are just as impressive to take in from a distance.

Photo: Ása Steinars


Visit a geothermal spa

Vök Baths is a geothermal spa located on Lake Urriðavatn in East Iceland, and it is the region’s largest (in a spa-loving country, this is a pretty big deal). Built on a lake, the baths allow you to soak in one of the two geothermal pools, then jump into the freezing lake, for the perfect hot-cold-water experience. To thaw out, head for a hot pool or heat up in the sauna. It's an experience similar to the unique onsen in Japan, and this particular site caters to everything you could possibly need, including a bar in one of the pools, a more traditional restaurant inside, plus no sulphur or silica has been added to the baths to eliminate eggy smells.

Photo: Ása Steinars


Witness the frozen waterfalls

A waterfall is spectacular to watch in any season, but there is something otherwordly about one that is effectively frozen in time. After a few weeks of cold weather, icicles start to form all around the stream which is truly amazing to see. Eventually, the waterfalls can ice over with just a small amount of waterflow, meaning you can get up close without getting completely soaked (just be sure to act with caution if doing so, and make sure you wear the correct shoes). Some of the best vantage points for a frozen waterfall can be found at Seljalandsfoss in souther Iceland – you can even walk behind it. Or, if you're in the north, a must-see is Goðafoss, located between Akureyri and Lake Myvatn. 'waterfall of the gods' is shaped like a horseshoe and is approachable from both sides.

Photo: Ása Steinars


Experience a hot spring shower

Iceland is no stranger to a hot spring, and one of the most unusual to experience in the country is actually a shower located in the middle of nowhere (M6JF+FW5, 660 Reykjahlíð, more precisely). It’s not your average hot shower though; it runs every day, all day, year-round. The surrounding scenery is second-to-none, blanketing you in white, almost the like the snow-covered landscape is hugging you.

Photo: Ása Steinars