You don't have to go far to find true winter wilderness, where reality matches the fantasy.
Snowshoeing in Iceland
We come from the land of the ice and snow, From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
- Led Zeppelin, Immigrant Song
Icelandic culture holds international acclaim, from the legendary Sagas to a vibrant musical scene, both classical and modern, and the thriving arts scene in the capital Reykjavik. But let’s be honest, the main reason that most people travel to this remote and entirely unique island is the scenery. Temperamental volcanoes surrounded by jagged fields of black molten rock; sulphur springs and threshing geysers; frozen lakes and waterfalls; and always the chance of bumping into a fearsome troll – if this all sounds very Game of Thrones-y, that may be why northern Iceland was used as a filming location for the hit show.
And it is the northern reaches where snowshoeing holidays in Iceland tend to focus, around Lake Myvatn, a highlight of the Diamond Circle sightseeing route; the Tolkien-esque Dimmuborgir lava fields; and Eyjafjörður, one of the longest fjords in Iceland. Snowshoeing enables you to get to places that most travellers will miss, to see lesser-known but no less spectacular scenery, and to experience the raw power and ethereal beauty of Mother Nature in an ambience of blissful stillness.
Whales & waterfallsYou’ll spend some time on Eyjafjörður, 70km long and lined with mountains and tranquil fishing villages. At its end is Akureyri, the capital of the north. The wildlife here is spectacular: puffins, dolphins and porpoises all frequent the deep fjord, and you may even see blue whales. You’ll also trek out to Hverfell, a vast, symmetrical explosion crater thought to have been caused by volcanic eruption and with a very lunar-like feel to it. Other natural highlights include the dramatic Dimmuborgir lava fields, volcanic caves and rock formations that make for stunning photography, and waterfalls. Dettifoss is reckoned to be the most powerful cascade in Europe, while Goðafoss – the waterfall of the Gods – is just a real breathtaker.
Then, of course, there is the mesmerising natural phenomenon Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. Iceland in winter is one of the best places in the world to witness a vibrant lightshow dancing through the night sky, and when conditions are right you’ll strap on your snowshoes in the evenings to head out a little further into the wilderness for the best views.
PracticalitiesIceland snowshoe holidays are typically around a week in length, and involve daily walks of around five hours, with the possibility of a little cross-country skiing, too. Experience is not essential (you’re taught the basics at the start), so long as you have a reasonable degree of fitness, but you can expect to come across the occasional steep or icy section. It’s also great for active families looking for a different way to experience Iceland, with a minimum age of 12. All the equipment you’ll need is provided, but you will want to bring warm layers, as temperatures can fall as low as -3°C in January, the middle of the snowshoe season. You may also want to bring your own poles.
You’ll stay in a locally owned guesthouse on the shore of Lake Myvatn, dining on traditional Icelandic cuisine with a vegetarian leaning, though the local fish is exceptional. And every evening you can warm up, soaking tired muscles in a wonderfully relaxing open-air thermal bath, with temperatures between 37°C and 42°C, beneath the dark skies.
“Don't expect a tight schedule to maximize the amount done in a day. Our guide was laid back – having us enjoy a slow and stress free trip seemed as important to him as experiencing Iceland’s nature.” – Mark Heron in a review of his Iceland snowshoeing holiday
“Bring ‘layers’ as suggested for packing. It can be really cold in the morning as you start out snowshoeing or after stopping for breaks and lunch, but you need to shed clothes as you gain momentum during the various treks.” – Kathy Misunas on an Iceland Northern Lights & snowshoeing holiday
If you'd like to chat about Snowshoeing or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Emmanuelle Bluman from our travel specialist Alkemia on snowshoeing in Iceland:
Getting around“Generally speaking you’ll be walking for between five and six hours each day, but everything is planned according to the weather forecast of course. The ground in this area doesn’t have a great deal of elevation, so apart from being in relatively good physical condition there you don’t need to worry about the hikes being too challenging.”
“Because of the amount of volcanic activity going around, and the fact you have the American and European tectonic plates here slowly spreading apart here, we think the landscapes around Lake Myvatn are some of the most beautiful and fascinating on Earth. It’s a place where you can easily imagine trolls, elves and fairies inhabiting the scenery – a little bit magical.”
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