Although summer is the ideal time to travel in Iceland, many people ask if it is also recommended visiting Iceland in winter. Are the popular tourist attraction sites open? What about the hotels? Transportation? Is Iceland ready for tourists in the winter? Here are some ideas in brief about the winter trip to Iceland. The winter visit to Iceland is like visiting another Iceland - the dominant green landscape turns white and it is a good time to take out the snowmobiles and the skis.
"Boston Globe" newspaper included Iceland in their top ten recommended targets for fall- winter season this year. The newspaper mentions the popular belief in Iceland about the hidden people "(Huldufólk) who live in harmony with the nature; erupting hot springs, volcanoes and waterfalls, and other attractions. Especially the northern lights, which can be seen in Iceland at this time of year.
According to the Central Statistical Bureau of Iceland, number of foreign tourists visiting in October and November is continuously increasing during the last decade.
From 40,495 hotel rooms occupied in 2000 to 54,155 in 2008. Still, much less tourists visit Iceland during the autumn-winter than during summer. For example, during the peak season of the summer of 2008, tourists occupied 182,474 hotel rooms during June only.
Iceland At Winter
In Iceland, winter day turns night very quickly. Due to the country's location near the Arctic Circle, it's dark during most of the hours and the day light is precious. Only in winter, the sky is illuminated with the northern lights (Aurora Borealis), a natural phenomenon that is not visible during the long days of summer.
Although in the mountainous center of the island many roads are closed to vehicles, you can still travel to the main tourist sites, if weather conditions allow this, and see frozen waterfalls like Gullfoss, for example.
Iceland winter landscapes are gorgeous, white blanket of snow covering the island decorates it in different shades of white and blue, which become the dominant colors. The tourist sites are less crowded and the accommodation services are usually cheaper than in summer.
Some people argue that it is the more pleasant way to travel across the country when the main tourist sites are less crowded, even though the weather can be cold and unpredictable, and the choice of activities is more limited than in summer. Many travel companies offer their services at a lower cost during the winter than in the peak season.
Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing, which are not possible in the summer, are popular winter activities in Iceland, as well as the tours on snowmobiles. The ski resorts are usually open between January and April. However, if you are lucky, they can be open even earlier. Ice skating and snow sleds are also available.
Heated outdoor swimming pools are fun especially in the winter - to take a dip in the hot tub and watch the steam coming from the breath when everything around is frozen, to feel the contrast between the heat of the fingers and the cold of the tip of the nose, to watch the snow landing slowly on the ground and to relax in peace and quiet, when a feeling of happiness and calmness wraps the body and the soul.
A unique experience is waiting in Iceland for the December visitors. The Islanders are preparing for Christmas and the whole country is wearing a holiday. The smell of fresh- baked cookies spreads in the air and everyone starts to bake the Christmas bread Laufabraud, which you must taste. In Iceland in winter, you will hear the scary stories about 13 Icelandic Santa Clauses.
They are all brothers, their mother is a monster named Grýla - a terrible woman who eats little children who don't behave themselves. Indeed, not the Hollywood version of Christmas.
If you will go through the lava fields of Dimmuborgir from the east to the Lake Mývatn in the North Eastern Iceland, you will meet everyone there, all the 13 Santa Clauses and their mother, you can even bath with them in Mývatn baths.
On New Year's Eve fireworks display in Reykjavik attracts each year thousands of visitors. When every family in Iceland launches firework into the air - it is a wonderful sight.