When I was trying to find a place where to spend my December holidays I encountered by chance some cheap flights to Iceland. After checking just a few winter pictures of Iceland, I realize that the country, which is also known as land of fire and ice, during the cold months of the year can offer me experiences I’ve never had before.
For sure you can’t miss the chance to go to Iceland in winter if your traveling wish list includes at least one of the crazy experiences Iceland can offer. Island in North Atlantic Ocean is a paradise for all those who want to spot the Northern lights, experience cold arctic weather conditions and soak themselves in geothermal baths while the snow is falling in their head.
The best way to move around Iceland is with rental car. Distances are huge and public transport in winter is not really common out of the mayor towns. As we (me and my boyfriend) wanted to be even more flexible we decided to rent a small camper. Sleeping and cooking in a camper saved us a lot of driving, money and gave us the opportunity to be always in the right place at the right time.
First night we drove out from the capital with a big wish to see the NORTHERN LIGHTS.
This meteorological phenomena can be seen in high latitudes in the depths of winter, when the sky is calm and clear. With the help of the web page I found a perfect location to spot the lights, far away from light pollution. Around 9pm the green color appeared from nothing and slowly started to dance above my head. The show went on for almost an hour and seemed unreal. In past, the Intuits and the ancient Scandinavians believed the lights are connected with souls of the dead and spirits. Nowadays it is known that the northern lights are caused by electrons and protons entering the atmosphere from above and causing silent firework above the ARCTIC LANDSCAPE.
The black volcanic landscape covered with snow is marvelous but at the same time look completely human unfriendly. Rocky fields, glacier lagoons and black pebbles made me feel being on another planet. While driving around I got the impression the time stopped and when we drive 80km/h it seemed not more than 40 km/h due to long distances and not much spots to orientate.
The sun in winter comes just few degrees above the horizon and can stay behind the clouds the whole day. That causes million different patterns on the sky from light blue to strong pink.
The sun comes up around 11am and the sunset follows just 5 hours later, around 4pm. Short daylight forced us to plane our day in details. We didn’t cook during the daylight, we never choose hikes which were longer than 10km and when we were driving around, we did not more than 200 km per day. The landscape is vast and in general doesn’t change much but the highlights are hidden and requires a lot of time to enjoy its beauty.
There were also no locals and in many cases no tourist facilities. For us, as we were sleeping in a camper, was easier, but for tourist traveling by normal car is necessary to check the opening times of hotels, hostels and restaurants as many of them runs just from June to September.
Many tourists decide to travel around the Iceland in winter to experience the arctic weather. It is true; weather conditions can hinder a bit the traveling, but at the same time can make it really exciting. While we were driving around the country we survived two really strong snow storms and we experience the power of wind blowing from the glaciers.
It is amazing to experience how the weather is changing. In one day can be snowy, fogy, sunny and extremely windy. It is Important to have good outdoor equipment and be used to drive in extremely hard conditions. Aha…and no worries about the temperatures. It is never cooler than -15°C 🙂 and as air is not humid you don’t feel the cold so much.
Anyway, islanders prefer to stay inside their houses. They have even no time to complain about the weather In December. All they care about is Christmas. They love to decorate their houses, sing Christmas songs and eat typical Christmas food.
They love Christmas so much that they have not just one Santa, they have 13. Traditional “Santas” are descended from trolls, and were originally bogeymen who scared children. Nowadays they are coming to islander’s homes to drink milk from the farmers, to scraps food off the pans, to slam with doors to keep people awake … we didn’t see any but we learn that Jóla means Christmas in Icelandic and that locals love the festive atmosphere almost as much as their geothermal spas around the country which are really worth to visit.
Iceland was the first Nordic country I visited during the winter and I must say that I love it. It gave me a change to gather so many new experiences just in few days and at the same time, due to long nights, I came back home relaxed and rested. I recommend the holidays in Iceland to all crazy travelers who are in a search of new skills and experiences.