There is a ridiculous range of activities and tours you can experience in Iceland in winter. Let me narrow it down to the very best you can find.
If you haven’t really looked into all the winter tours you can get up to in Iceland then I assure you, this list will blow your mind. Visitors to Iceland are blessed with a mindboggling array of incredible activities all over the country, especially in the winter months.
If you have already got a pretty good idea of what you want to get up to then don’t click away too soon! I have taken all of the tours that Iceland has to offer in the winter and narrowed them down to the very best, the #1, the creme of the crop!
So, have a read, check out my recommendations and find out how to really maximise your Iceland vacation.
The Best Iceland Winter Tours
Golden Circle Tour
I had to start with the most popular activity in the whole of Iceland. The Golden Circle is literally the path most trodden by any and all tourists that visit Iceland, and for good reason. The route consists of three of the most spectacular sights in the south: Thingvellir national park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.
What makes this route so incredibly popular is its outstanding national beauty that really encompasses all that is incredible about Iceland and it’s relatively close proximity to Reykjavik. This means that tour costs stay reasonable as transport costs are kept down.
In my opinion, this is the perfect 1st-day activity for anyone looking for a winter tour from Reykjavik and is visiting Iceland in winter. AND if you want to make your first day as memorable as it can possibly be then I highly recommend coupling your Golden Circle tour with a visit to the Secret Lagoon. It isn’t significantly more money and you get to end the day in one of the best geothermal baths in the whole of Iceland.
Silfra Fissure Snorkelling & Diving Tour
This is one incredible tour that is often overlooked by many people visiting Thingvellir National Park. You may end up going to Thingvellir, seeing the Silfra fissure (it looks like a clear narrow stream from above) and leaving without ever knowing what actually lurks beneath those crystal blue waters.
I’ll tell you – 100m of perfectly clear underwater visibility in between two tectonic plates that are actively drifting apart. This is the only place in the world that you can dive or snorkel between two continents. Not only that, the fissure is said to contain the clearest natural water and visibility anywhere in the world.
I have recommended a tour that uses dry suits which means that you really don’t have to worry about the very low water temperature. Also, if you are already planning a Golden Circle tour and you are thinking about snorkelling the Silfra fissure then I recommend combining the two to save money.
If you are thinking about diving the Silfra fissure then there are certain diving qualifications you will need to have. Have a look here for more information about whether you qualify.
The Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is one of the things that is just a given. You could potentially pass on snowmobiling on a glacier or grabbing a helicopter tour into the mountains if you were on an incredibly strict budget, but you can’t pass on an opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis. This is one of the easiest and best places to see it in the whole world and is one of the best tours you can do in Iceland in the winter.
There is a good argument that you could see the Northern Lights without having to pay the money for a tour, however, the tour companies know exactly where to go to get the minimum amount of light pollution and the best chance of seeing them.
Furthermore, if you are a photographer and you are looking to get some stunning images of the Northern Lights then the tour guides will take you to the best spots for great composition, including some incredible backdrops and landscapes.
For the best Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik click here.
Snowmobiling On A Glacier
This is one of the most fun things we did on our Iceland holiday and it is well worth it, especially for couples and small groups. It’s also a fantastic tour to get on in the winter as nearly all of the routes and glaciers are open, so your choices are a lot higher.
Zooming along over a massive never-ending sheet of ice, high up in the mountains is an experience you will never forget, trust me. It is one of the best ways to experience the true remoteness of some of Iceland’s terrain and have a serious amount of fun at the same time!
The best news of all is that one of the best glaciers to snowmobile on is very accessible from Reykjavik, so you don’t even need to travel that far to get there. They actually pick up from Gullfoss waterfall as well, so if you are just finishing a tour of the Golden Circle then you save quite a lot of money going snowmobiling from Gulfoss, rather than being picked up in Reykjavik.
I have written a complete guide to snowmobiling in Iceland so if you want more information on age requirements, difficulty levels and all of your best options then check it out.
Whale Watching Tour
The best place to go whale watching in Iceland has to be in Husavik in the north, a small yet incredibly beautiful fishing town. However, this is where the choice becomes a little difficult. Tours from Husavik do not run all the way through the winter, as the roads to the North get cut off when the weather gets too bad.
If this is the case then your only option would be Reykjavik in the south. However, there are a lot fewer species of whale to see in south Iceland so you have to accept that it will not be as fruitful as in the north. Saying that, the weather can get very choppy in the north in the winter so you could end up travelling all the way there to have your whale watching tour cancelled.
Firstly you have to decide whether whale watching is up there in your must do’s for Iceland. If it is then I recommend making the journey to Husavik to maximise your chances of seeing the best whale watching sights that Iceland has to offer. If you are 50-50 then I would not recommend taking a whale watching tour in the winter.
Glacier Hiking & Climbing Tour
There are a number of different winter glacier tours in Iceland that do not involve the actual climbing up the ice. However, I really feel that if you are fit and adventurous enough to be considering a glacier hiking tour then I know you’ll love the idea of doing some ice climbing. It’ll allow you to experience extreme Iceland and not just be sitting in a heated coach looking through the window.
In this tour, you’ll grab a shuttle up to the glacier after being fitted with all of your specialist ice climbing gear. Then you’ll have a quick lesson on the best techniques for climbing the ice and then you’ll be off.
Not many people will be able to say they have climbed up walls of ice and if you are already the adventurous type or an avid climber then this is a great option to make your trip to Iceland a little more physical.
For the best glacier hike and climb in Iceland click here.
The Blue Lagoon is by far the most famous of all of the geothermal hot springs and lagoons in Iceland. Its huge blue pools and incredible facilities make it an absolute dream of a place to visit. There is a bar, facial counter, sauna, tables and steam rooms all of which you can swim to so don’t worry about going in the winter as the only time you’ll be cold is when you get out for good!
You will get the option to get a bathrobe with your entry for an additional fee. I recommend doing so as it is much nicer to walk around in something warm, especially in the winter months.
If you don’t have your own vehicle then grab a bus ticket here and sort out entry tickets here. I don’t recommend finding a tour with entry included as you’ll just be paying more than going direct with the Blue Lagoon website.
You can also pair the Blue Lagoon up with a Golden Circle tour just like the Secret Lagoon. If you are going to be going to the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle then why not save some money and pair them up.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
Diamond Beach is roughly 5 hours by car from Reykjavik so if you are going for a short trip then you might not think it is worth it. However, there is a reason why so many people make the long journey through the south-east. Diamond Beach is a one of kind experience that really takes your breath away.
Huge chunks of ice fall off of the glacier in the huge Jokulsarlon lagoon and slowly break up into smaller pieces. These pieces then make their way out to sea and wash up on the jet black sand of Diamond Beach. The thousands of sparkling ice diamonds in contrast to the black of the sand is truly mesmerising.
I recommend going to Diamond Beach by hire car as it is much cheaper. However, if you do not have access to this then there is a fantastic day tour to the area. The south-east coast has some of the most famous and most beautiful coastal landscapes and waterfalls in the whole of Iceland so if you’re thinking about exploring more of the south-east then definitely check out the multi-day tour that encompasses the whole lot.
Ice Cave Tour
Every year, when the temperature rises slightly in the summer, the glaciers melt a little. This creates brand new magical caverns and caves underneath the majestic sheets of ice. This means when it comes to the winter, experts go out and try to find these new and incredible caves for people to walk in.
I highly recommend jumping on a natural ice cave tour and not one that is permanent. The natural caves are just that little more magical I think. One of the best multi-tour experiences you can do is to snowmobile on a glacier, visit a remote ice cave and then finish in the Secret Lagoon. I actually think it’s the best 1-day tour I have ever seen in the whole of Iceland.
Don’t scroll past because you think that it will be entirely unaffordable. Compared to the other Iceland tours in this list, a budget helicopter tour is actually on the same sort of price point. There are obviously some very long whole day helicopter tours that will run into the thousands of dollars but there is one that flies from Reykjavik and lands in the mountains to give you an incredible panoramic view of the south coast.
I have written an entire guide to helicopter tours in Iceland if you want to check it out. However, if you are wanting to have a look at the best and cheapest helicopter tour you can get your mitts on then have a look here.
Reykjavik Food & Beer Tours
If you’re like me then maybe you want to try real authentic food and beer from every country you visit. It can be difficult to do this on your own as you don’t know the best places in town or there’s a language barrier that prevents you from asking that you want something a bit more local. That’s where these 2 little gems come in!
If you are already planning to visit Reykjavik in winter then why not spend 4 hours walking the streets and visiting restaurants and shops to try 13 different local dishes from the best places in town. If you are a culinary enthusiast then this is the tour for you.
Or if you’re more into the beer then jump into the old harbour district and taste the unique beers of Iceland.
Saving Money On Iceland Winter Tours
We all know that Iceland tours can cost a pretty penny, therefore saving money whilst planning them is a must. Luckily there are a few things you can do to keep the cost down straight away. Try planning out exactly what winter tours you want to arrange in Iceland before you start booking.
Combining tours in Iceland is a great start to saving money. You will be amazed at the number of strange combinations of tours you can get in Iceland, there is even one where you can go white water rafting and beer tasting on the same tour…
This will end up saving you considerable money as a large percentage of the tour cost is transport. If you can visit multiple places and do multiple activities in the same rough area then the transport fees will be kept at a minimum.
Consider renting a hire vehicle as many of the tours have multiple pickup zones. For example, the snowmobile tours pick up from either Reykjavik or Gullfoss. It is around an additional $50 each to be picked up from Reykjavik. If there is more than one of you travelling then it is much cheaper to hire a vehicle and make your way to a cheaper pickup point. And you get the added benefit of being able to arrange an epic road trip if you want!
Many of these tours stop for lunch breaks or snacks throughout the tours. They will always stop outside a restaurant or cafe for convenience. However, Iceland is not the cheapest place in the world for eating out so save yourself some money by preparing a packed lunch before your outing. Anywhere else in the world I might not recommend this due to the hassle but you will be amazed at the money you will save.
Tipping is not expected at all in Iceland so do not feel like you have to shell out at the end of the tour to your friendly guide. It isn’t considered rude to tip in Iceland so if you really want to then feel free but you could save yourself some money with no guilt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There A Good Selection Of Iceland Winter Tours?
Yes, the only activities that are not as good in winter are puffin watching (considering they are not there in the winter) and whale watching, due to the weather and whale migrations.
What Are The Best Iceland Winter Tours?
Are Iceland Winter Tours Quieter Than In The Summer?
The winter in Iceland is much quieter than the summer however this can mean that tour operators just run fewer tours and they are as crowded. What is definitely true is that the locations will be considerably less busy in the winter than in summer.
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