Category: North Iceland

Travel in Wintertime in Iceland

Wintertime is once again upon us, and it is this time of year that I am reminded of my trip to Iceland. Winter is a great time to visit Iceland, the beauty of the Northern Lights in a crisp, clear starlit sky is something to behold. The snow capped mountains and frozen waterfalls give the place a truly unique and magical feel.

travel winter iceland

I also remembered a few practical points to keep in mind when travelling in Iceland in the winter. Here are my top five tips:

Don’t give up on the Northern Lights

If you are travelling in Iceland in the winter months then you are sure to have more than a passing interest in the Northern Lights. Your chances of seeing them are good, but bear in mind that they are an unpredictable natural phenomenon. You may get unlucky and not see them at all. You can increase your chances by heading out of urban areas (light pollution can seriously hinder your view) and by being diligent. Sightings are possible from early evening through to the early hours – so be prepared to stay up late and you just never know!

northern-lights-iceland

Remember the weather can change

The weather is notoriously changeable in Iceland. If you are heading out for the day check the weather reports – and be prepared for the exact opposite conditions to prevail. The good news is that Iceland is surprisngly mild in the Winter thanks to the warm air from the Gulf Stream. Temperatures in the capital area usually hover around 0 degrees.

Drive carefully

If you do hire a car in Iceland over winter then it goes without saying that you need to drive carefully, observing the speed limits and road signs, and keeping a close eye on the (possibly changing) road conditions. Driving within the capital area should present no problems, but when you venture further afield you are strongly advised to check the road conditions, (vegagerdin.is gives you a comprehensive overview of the state of the roads in Iceland in English) and take extra special care. Your vehicle should be provided with studded tires which will make it much easier to handle in slippy conditions.

winter road iceland

Make use of the hot springs

There is something really special about bathing in warm water whilst sat outside. Especially in winter. Geothermally heated hot pots are plentiful, both of the natural and man made variety. It is a wonderful way to relax after a long day, and no trip to Iceland would be compete without visiting one.

hot spring iceland winter

Pack warm layers

This one is important! Good quality clothes that you can wear in layers as oppose to thicker clothes is the key here. The oxygen between the layers helps keep you insulated and you can add or remove layers as the weather dictates. A warm waterproof coat and good quality boots are essential in winter. It is worth mentioning that the pavements of downtown Reykjavík are heated in winter, so walking about can be done in whatever footwear you desire!

travel winter iceland

Travel Guide Iceland Team – Reykjavík (Iceland)

Lofthellir Ice Cave

The North of Iceland is an incredible place. From giant volcanic craters to huge majestic waterfalls there is a myriad of natural phenomena for the intrepid traveller to choose from. However, none can be said to be as beautiful and mysterious as Lofthellir, a 3500 year old ice cave that is the most spectacular in Iceland.

Lofthellir Ice Cave

Lofthellir has the most incredible ice structures and lava formations. To be able to see it you have to go on a tour with a professional guide as the cave is on private grounds and is closed to visitors who do not have permission.

You will be provided with all the necessary gear, including good quality rubber boots and a helmet with a flashlight. The cave system is cold and damp, so make sure you wear warm clothes. Entrance to the cave is by a sturdy metal ladder. The surface of the  first smaller chamber is dotted with all kinds of weird and wonderful ice sculptures.

To reach the larger and even more spectacular larger chamber you have to negotiate an ice ramp with the aid of a rope. However the challenge is well worth it as the larger chamber is without doubt the most spectacular part of the cave.

lofthellir iceland

At some point I recommend that everyone switches their flashlights off and sit in the dark – the silence punctuated only by the water dropping off the ice crystals. You will feel an overwhelming sensation of calmness and serenity, until you realise you now have to negotiate your way out!

The way out is the same as the way in only in reverse. Those of a childlike disposition can slide back down the ice ramp (whilst holding the rope of course!) before heading back up the ladder.

Lofthellir is not recommended for young children, people with claustrophobia or who are not in reasonable physical condition. Bear in mind that there is ice and water on the surface of the cave and the temperature is pretty much a constant 0 ° C.

Lofthellir Cave

A tour operator called Visit Askja offers tours to Lofthellir. You can find out more by writing to info@visitaskja.com. The cave can be visited from May to November and the tour takes around 4 or 5 hours. (including travel to and from Myvatn). Tours depart from Mývatn at around 9:30 am and the cost is about € 115 per person (children get a 50% discount ). It is also possible to commence this tour from Akureyri.

Travel Guide Iceland – Reykjavík

Ásbyrgi – Fascinating Place in North Iceland

The original explanation for Ásbyrgi’s existence is that Sleipnir put a hoof down there and left a giant footprint (Sleipnir was the god Óðinn’s giant eight-legged horse). However, at about three-by-one kilometres in size, that would be a pretty big foot. So we’re going to assume that’s quite unlikely.

Ásbyrgi

The more modern explanation is that a catastrophic glacial flood in the Jökulsá Fjöllum river started washing away rocks and soil and stuff some 8-10,000 years ago and that another similarly epic flooding event completed the job 3,000 years ago. When you go there and consider that this 3 x 1 km canyon surrounded by hundred metre tall cliffs could have been carved by nothing more than water, during just two floods. Well, that’s what we mean by it being one of Iceland’s most remarkable features.

Ásbyrgi

Ásbyrgi is part of the Vatnajökull National Park, but is managed by the national forestry service. It is an excellent place to camp in tent or caravan; but also a great place to stop off for an hour or three’s exploration. The canyon has a shop and a restaurant.

You will find Ásbyrgi on Route 85, east of Húsavík in Northeast Iceland, just before the junction with Route 864.

Travel Guide Iceland – Reykjavík (Iceland)

Grettislaug – Fantastic place in the middle of nowhere!

Enjoy a hot bath with a view over the fjord

If you visit northern Iceland we recommend you to try this natural hot bath. The road to get there is not the best, but you can enjoy the beautiful valley driving to the destination.

Grettislaug

Gettislaug (named after Grettir the strong) is considered to be on private land and the entrance fee (a whopping $4 a person) was more than reasonable. The temperature in the pools is around 39°, this can vary dependent on weather. Showers and changing facilities are located near the pools.

Grettislaug

Beautiful scenery with the mountains on the other side and sea on the other, the tub is just on the sea-shore. If you are in the area, and need to refresh please take the 15 min detour to this place, you can even camp right next to the thermal pool, which would be an added bonus.

Travel Guide Iceland Team – Reykjavík