Winter in Iceland

Hey everyone!  It's been a while.  Francois and I have been working on some exciting travel projects with various media outlets but sadly, it means that we've had less time for our blog.

We're very happy to tell you about our trip to Iceland this winter.  It was Francois' surprise 30th birthday gift to me.  I'm so blessed. I love the married life. Cheesiness aside, I thought I would share some of the reasons why we decided to go to Iceland in the winter.

1. Less tourists

Iceland is booming in popularity, especially since you can get cheap flights.  We paid $800 for two, round trip tickets from Montreal. According to the Icelandic Tourist Board, the number of tourists visiting Iceland went from approximately 500 000 in 2010 to over a million in 2015. But only 30% of them visited in winter.  That means, if you travel off the beaten path, you'll experience amazing beauty like this, all to yourself.

 Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

 Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

  Svínafellsjökull glacier

 Svínafellsjökull glacier

 Svínafellsjökull glacier

Svínafellsjökull glacier

Feeling motivated yet?

2. It's less expensive

We traveled with a camper van from Rent.is because we wanted the freedom to go off the beaten path. Full disclosure, it was a sponsorship (that we requested), and we're absolutely thrilled with it. Everything we needed to sleep and cook, cooler to keep food cold, heater to keep us warm and WiFi! The price for a week in the winter is $1000, but in July that jumps to $1500. If you're someone who needs to be comfortable all the time, van life is not for you because it rains a lot in Iceland and you'll unavoidably get wet (even with the right clothes). If you want to stay in a hotel you'll find rates cheaper in the winter as well.

 Our home for the week!

Our home for the week!

3. It's less cold than Montreal

Let's get back to the weather. It's unpredictable. We experienced the most intense winds of our lives and it rained every single day. But most days the sun came out and it wasn't that cold. January is the coldest month of the year. In Reykjavik the average temperature is 2 degrees Celsius during the day and -3 at night.  The good news is there are thermal baths everywhere to warm up.  Either natural ones, such as the famous Blue Lagoon, or the one below. There are also community baths that you can access for about $5.  Even the small communities have them. This is also how we met a bunch of locals which is how we like to really get to know a place.

 This one was on an abandoned farm on the West Coast. Locals guided us to it.

This one was on an abandoned farm on the West Coast. Locals guided us to it.

Best for last...The Northern Lights

It was our dream to see the Northern Lights and we got lucky because we saw them on our first night. It blew our minds. There's no guarantees that you'll see the Northern Lights but in the winter there's only 4 hours of daylight, so your chances are higher. The van also helps because it's easy to drive out of town to be in complete darkness. Light pollution lowers your chances of seeing them. We saw some at Kirkjufellsfoss, Snaefellsnes Peninsula on the West Coast. We followed this web site which tells you where it's possible to see them. We actually drove there for that purpose and as you can see, it was worth it.

If you dream of going to Iceland go any time of year but go quick. Right now, the infrastructure hasn't been built to keep up so it's possible to experience the untouched beauty, but that may change with the number of tourists going up every year. There's also talks of making changes to limit the number of tourists coming in.

An important thing to keep in mind when traveling in the winter is driving.  Be safe and don't attempt to drive where there's lots of snow. Locals told us tourists need to be rescued regularly. You should also know that the centre of the island is not accessible in the winter because of the weather but that could happen in the summer too. It's uninhabited.

Here's a French video we produced for Évasion, Quebec's travel channel.