Contrary to popular belief, late winter is an excellent time to visit. By early March, the short dark December days are receding fast, leaving 10 hours of usable light. What’s more, given Iceland’s proximity to the Arctic Circle, you’ll also have a chance to dance under the magical aurora borealis.
While Reykjavík has become famous for its ‘dance till dawn’ nightclubs, it’s far more than just a partygoer’s paradise. With a backdrop of snow-capped peaks, the city’s collection of brightly painted boutiques and trendy cafés combine to create one of the most picturesque winter settings. Furthermore, it’s an ideal launch pad from which to explore some spectacular Arctic scenery.
Commonly referred to as the ‘land of fire and ice’, Iceland’s mere existence is based on extremes. To only come here in summer is to miss the point — it would be like joining a guided tour of a famous theatre only to miss the live performance. And if it’s drama you’re after, now is definitely the time to visit.
If the cold and ferocious wind becomes too much, seek refuge in one of Reykjavík’s geothermal pools. Icelanders believe the steamy volcanic waters are Mother Nature’s compensation for the harsh winter climate.
The Blue Lagoon is the undisputed champion, some 50km south-west of Reykjavík near Keflavík airport. The milky blue lagoon, which ranges from 37˚C-42˚C, is a worthy eighth addition to the seven wonders of the world. Make sure the lagoon is near the top of your to-do list.
The top spot should, however, be reserved for the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, 70km east of the capital. In winter, this immense double tiered waterfall thunders through a narrow ice-encrusted ravine.
Be quick, though. The big thaw could arrive as quickly as Iceland’s liquid assets were frozen — and if the pound continues to weaken, we’re not just talking about the ice.
See more of Iceland
Iceland’s south coast is home to some of the most impressive scenery in the world. If you’re able to extend your trip for at least three days, hire a car and drive east from Reykjavík along Route 1.
Iceland’s youth hostels provide excellent accommodation close to the country’s finest wilderness attractions. Consider staying a night at the superb Laugarvatn hostel midway between the tourist hotspots of Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir.
From Laugarvatn to Hvoll hostel (270 km from Reykjavík), stop at the Seljalandfoss waterfall and take the small footpath leading you behind the cascading water. A little further along Route 1, climb the steps at the Skógar waterfall and peer over the precipice.
Use Hvoll as your base to explore the stunning Svínafellsjökull glacier, the eerie Svartifoss waterfall and the wider Skaftafell National Park.
For many, the icebergs at the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon will be the highlight of the trip.
Return flights are currently available for £150.