Winter Adventures in Iceland

Snowshoeing, Hiking, and Sky Gazing

Trip Level

This trip is Level 3+, Moderate to Strenuous. It features daily hiking and snowshoeing (3-7 hours a day) and hotel accommodations throughout.

Due to its location in the path of the North Atlantic Current, Iceland’s winter weather is not as severe as the latitude might suggest, but is also wildly variable on a daily basis. As snow cover comes and goes throughout the winter months, we have designed the trip to include either hiking or snowshoeing depending on current conditions. While your Trip Leaders will make every effort to do all of the activities described in the itinerary, they have the group’s safety as their highest priority and may alter the itinerary to make the best of weather conditions during your trip.

Snowshoeing & Hiking
No previous experience is required for snowshoeing; it is just like hiking. Snowshoes will be provided, and they strap right onto your hiking boots. Our snowshoe-hikes can be strenuous as we will be traveling across snowfields with varying conditions, from soft powder to snow with a light crust of ice. If there is no snow, we will be hiking on varied terrain, from packed dirt to lava fields. There is no extreme elevation change in our daily outings, but we will be ascending up to ridges—and descending back down! The conditions will dictate our exact route each day, as we choose the best route for views and an experience of the Icelandic landscape.

Gear
Sturdy, well-broken-in hiking boots are essential, and they must be full hiking boots that support your ankles (no running shoes or below-ankle hiking shoes). Gaiters are great for protecting your pant legs from getting wet, and hiking poles are highly recommended. A Gore-Tex jacket (with a hood) and rain pants are essential, as well as fleece and Capilene layers to keep you warm. A full packing list will be sent with your sign-up packet.

Northern Lights
The aurora borealis appear intermittently in the night skies from October through March. Seeing the aurora is contingent on many factors including solar storms, Earth’s shifting magnetic field, cloud cover, and precipitation. We have timed the trip carefully, and designed it to get you to the places in the country with the very best possibility of seeing the northern lights. Our final base at Hotel Húsafell, in particular, is considered one of the best spots in Iceland for watching the northern lights. It is important to remember that the northern lights are a natural phenomenon dependent on natural forces outside of our control and are not guaranteed. We are, however, pleased to say that the majority of our groups have managed to see the aurora in some form. Additionally, we have packed the trip with great winter activities—this trip is much more than a northern lights trip!

Getting in Shape
For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition. Daily brisk walking and/or regular hiking (or using a stair-climbing machine at your gym) are excellent preparatory exercises.

Life on the Trip
We drive to a starting point for our hiking and snowshoeing, and our vehicle picks us up at the end of the hike to drive us to our night’s lodging. Some days combine sightseeing at waterfalls and cultural sites with hiking/snowshoeing. Our longest drive will be to Húsafell on Day 5 and back on Day 7, approximately 3 hours each way, but road conditions can change that timing. The weather has the final say in Iceland! On other days we have as little as 10 minutes to our trailhead, and even hike right out from our hotel on Day 4.

Accommodations and Meals
Our nights will be spent at comfortable hotels and inns. Please keep in mind that on this trip we are crossing rural Iceland. The rooms in our hotels and inns will not always conform to international hotel standards and sizes, and décor can be ‘Scandinavian spare’. Our lunches will most often be packed lunches that we bring along with us on the trail, with one lunch inside a greenhouse as we head to Nesvellir.  Please note that in Europe, the dinner hour is considerably later than what it is in the U.S. We do our best to secure early reservations for our groups, but most often the evening meal will be at 7:30 pm.

Weather

Iceland’s weather is windy, wet, and changeable: it’s said that you can encounter four seasons in a day here. The conditions will dictate our exact schedule each day, as we choose the best route for views and an experience of the Icelandic landscape—you should be prepared to be flexible, as weather has the final say in determining our itinerary. Though it is located just below the Arctic Circle, Iceland is usually warmer than other places at this latitude due to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream. These ocean currents interact with cold air from the north and often bring precipitation. Snow cover comes and goes throughout the winter months.

We have designed the trip to include either hiking or snowshoeing, depending on whether there is snow cover. Your Trip Leaders have the group’s safety as their highest priority, and will alter the itinerary as needed depending on weather conditions. They will make every effort to do all of the activities described in the itinerary, however you may be on snowshoes or in hiking boots, and the order of the trip may be changed in order to make the best of the weather conditions.

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.