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Winter break

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Winter break

Travelling in winter in Iceland can be one of the greatest experiences you can have. But this beautiful and rugged landscape also contains some difficulties and dangers for the driver. Travellers should prepare well for each trip and know the conditions of the trails and routes. This is the best way to prevent accidents and to ensure a pleasant and a safe journey.

Winter in Iceland is unpredictable. Iceland is located just south of the Arctic Circle, but thanks to the Gulf Stream, temperatures are cool in summer and remarkably mild in winter. (New York’s winter lows are normally lower than in Iceland). You can have all types of weather in one day; sunshine, the heaviest rain and everything in between. The only thing you can really count on is that the daylight will be short.

In this section you will find information about winter driving in Iceland along with information, tips and links so you can make your trip to Iceland as safe as possible. 

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show the travellers everything the area has to offer during winter which is a lot. The participants that took part in this project commit them self to be open in winter. 

KNITTING CIRCLE IN WEST ICELAND

West Iceland is the perfect destination for knitting, because of the long-established knitting tradition in the area. This and along with sightseeing in the beautiful nature of West Iceland, is a perfect combination and shows what West Iceland has to offer which will make this trip an unforgettable experience. On a clear winter evening you might also be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the magnificent northern lights.

 

Itinerary

Day one: Arrival to Iceland – Transfer to Borgarnes

Pick up at Keflavík Airport in the afternoon and transfer to your guesthouse, Borgarnes B&B. Dinner at the guesthouse upon arrival followed by an introduction meeting with our knitting instructor, Ragga.

Day two: Dyeing Workshop

After breakfast we have our first knitting workshop with Ragga. We have lunch, before we take off to Hvanneyri village, where we visit botanist and dyer Guðrún Bjarnadóttir at her shop Hespuhúsið. We learn about the colouring of yarn with dye made of Icelandic plants and lichens during a half day workshop. Before we head back to Borgarnes, we visit the Ullarselið Wool Centre. Dinner is at the Borgarnes B&B. 

Day three:  Wool CentreGoats – Farmer’s Market

We continue knitting with Ragga. After lunch we’ll take a sightseeing tour in the Borgarfjörður fjord area, visiting Ullarselið Wool Centre and the Icelandic Goat Centre at the farm Háafell, where we will enjoy coffee and Icelandic pancakes, made of goat milk. Before returning to our guesthouse we visit the Ljómalind farmers market, where local handicrafts are offered and we have the opportunity to taste some products from local farmers. Dinner at the Borgarnes B&B. 

Day four: Spinning Workshop

Today we have a whole day of knitting at the guesthouse. A good guest, Rita from the farm Grenigerði, will be with us today for a spinning workshop, for those who are interested.
On our last evening together we have dinner at the Settlement Centre in Borgarnes, where we learn about the Icelandic Sagas and settlement of Iceland.

Day five: Departure

Transfer to Keflavík airport for departure OR prolong your stay in Reykjavík - Information upon request.

Book now !

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travelers everything the area has to offer during winter. 

Snæfellsnes Circle

 WONDERLAND CLOSE UP

 

ITINERARY
DAY 1 

Drive from  Reykjavík on Highway 1 through Borgarnes and when your reach the roundabout, take the last exit, the left one. Follow Highway 54 to the Snaefellsnes peninsula. After about 45 minutes you can see the crater, Eldborg, on left hand. If the weather is fine and you want to stretch out your legs, turn left to the farm Snorrastadir – from there you will have a nice view of Eldborg. If there is not too much snow you can walk up to it, which will take about 2 hours. After this stop you should get back on Highway 54 and drive on. After around 30 minutes you’ll arrive at Vegamót/Hotel Rjúkandi. Are you hungry – now is the time to eat something at the small restaurant. When you get back into your car and drive on, you can see the majestic glacier Snaefellsnjökull in front of you. A few kilometers from there you will see on the right side the sign Ölkelda – at this farm you have the possibility to taste the mineral water directly from the earth. Don t´be shy - come and try. Your next stop on the peninsula could be at the farm Ytri – Tunga, which is near the beach. Just walk a few steps on the red sand and feel the fresh sea air and if you are lucky you can feel some eyes following you from the ocean side – seals are often in this area. On you way to your next accomodation you have the chance to experience the wonderful area by horse or by quadbike at the farm Lýsuhóll, also for those who just want to get a little bit closer to the Icelandic horse are always welcome at the farm. There is a  restaurant too where you can get something to drink or eat. Leaving this wonderful experience, you can get back to your trip.

For the night you have a nice choice between these accomodations on the south side of the peninsula

Alll these accomodations are offering also dinner & lunch.

DAY 2

Today we will send you to the center of the Earth but before you do that, there are some worthwhile places to visit on the way. Take a short drive to the cliffs from the small villages Arnastapi and Hellnar. The birdcliffs are fantastic natural formations and you can really feel how rough the sea can be here in the North. After that you just follow the road west and see you are coming more closer to the glacier. After about 20 min you can see on the right side a small sign for „Vatnshellir Cave“ – this is your next adventure. A guide will show you the way down to the middle of the earth. The entrance to the cave is at the foot of the glacier. The cave is about 200 meters long and 35 meters under the surface. Just bring good shoes and a jacket with you. Your lunchpack was prepared before from Hotel Búdir, just remember to ask for it. After this activity ist is short to the next point. Just a few meters drive, then turn to the left towards the sea. There is Djupalónsandur, a wonderful beach with black stones. Here you will see old parts of a shipwreck and also have an amazing view to the glacier itself. The Highway 54 goes around the glacier along the coast through the villages Hellissandur (if you want to stay more than 4 days the Hotel Hellissandur is a nice oppurtiunity for the night). The next towns are Ríf, Ólafsvík and Grundarfjordur on foot of the beautiful mountain Kirkjufell. Hotel Framnes is your next stay for the night. If there is still time left you can go with Láki Tours on a whale watching trip to see the killer whales. Enjoy your dinner at the hotel restaurant or after a short walk aorund the fishing village at the Restaurant Rúben in the middle of the town.

 DAY 3

Enjoy your breakfast at the hotel, and drive on for about 30 minutes then you will arrive at the next town, Stykkishólmur. On the way is a must-see destination for everyone, so take be sure to sneak a peak at the Shark Museum at Bjarnarhöfn – the farmers will show you around and you can taste the traditional Icelandic shark. Stykkishólmur is a nice fishing village with all the services you should need. It is famous for its old houses, that have been newly renovated at the heart of the town. If you are here at Tuesday or Sunday you will get the chance to join a boattour with Seatours („VikingSushi tour“) to sail around the thousand of the small islands of the Breidafjordur Bay and taste the freshest scallops and sea urchin roe. (please check for other departures directly in our office). Other must-see destinations in Stykkishólmur are the nice museums - the Library of Water, The Norwegian house or the Volcano Museum.

 A few possiblities of accommodation in Stykkisholmur

Accommodation in double rooms with bathroom or at the Harbour Hostel without private bathroom.

 

DAY 4

After having breakfast at your accommodation,or at the bakery Nesbrauð on the main road, you can drive back to Reykjavík or Keflavík airport.

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travelers everything the area has to offer during winter.

Akranes - Hvalfjörður Circle

Hvalfjörður tunnel was built 1998 and now it is really a short drive to Akranes. With the tunnel you can drive circle and go Hvalfjörð on good road and enjoy the beautiful landscape. The fishing town of Akranes offers a beach, a beautiful park and a nice museum, as well as being home to the nation´s famous football team ÍA. Settled by the Celtic in the year 880, it is now a blossoming industrial town with a focus on fishing and fish production. In Hvalfjörður the visitor will have the opportunity to enjoy Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur. The mountains in Hvalfjörður for example Þyrill, Botnssúlur, Vatnaleið,  Síldarmannagötur and more are trails particularly challenging to hikers.

Akranes

Akranes is the largest town in the west of Iceland. Grate outdoor area is the small forest at Garðalundur and facilities improved for outdoor activities. There is a playground for kids, a beach volleyball court and a grill area. Thermal Pool, Golf Course and the two kinds of beaches, black sand beach and white. Langisandur is white sand beaches which is rare in Iceland. Langisandur is a nice place to take a walk and if you are brave you can go for a swim. Akranes Lighthouse is open for people in summer and you can go up to the top and enjoy the view. Akranes museum area exhibits from former times, bearing witness to farming, housekeeping and social conditions in and around Akranes. Akranes offers good restaurants and accommodation.

Hvalfjörður

In Hvaljörður or "Whale Fjord” you will find spectacular nature and historic sites. The main attraction is in the end of the fjord the highest waterfall in Iceland Glymur. It takes about 4 hours to get to Glymur and back down. Hallgrímskirkja church at Saurbær іs dedicated to Hallgrímur Pétursson most famous poet of Iceland which lived in Hvalfjörður. During World War II, a naval base of the British and American navies could be found in this fjord. One of the piers built by the United States Navy is used today by Hvalur whaling company.

 

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travelers everything the area has to offer during winter.

The Classic Circle - Ice and Lava

The Classical Circle has all of the best Icelandic nature has to offer; lava fields, glaciers, hot springs, volcanoes, waterfalls, rivers and much more. In a single trip you can enjoy the beauty of Þingvellir National Park, have a taste of the barren expanses of the Icelandic interior on Kaldidalur road, get up close and personal with a glacier on Langjökull Glacier and see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country like Glymur in Hvalfjörður and Hraunfossar in Borgarfjörður. Two of the biggest lava caves in Iceland, Surtshellir and Víðgelmir are in the area and so is the most powerful hot spring in Europe, Deildartunguhver. The area is also the setting of many of the best known Icelandic Sagas, like Egils Saga, and the great poet and scholar Snorri Sturluson wrote his most famous work in Reykholt.

The Classical Circle can be travelled all year round except for Kaldidalur road which is closed during winter. An alternative to Kaldidalur is the Uxahryggir road.

Nature Highlights

Borgarfjörður

Borgarnes

Akranes

Hvalfjörður

The itinerary

Þingvellir national park

Drive from Reykjavík on road nr.36 to Þingvellir national park. The ,,Althing“ at Þingvellir was Iceland's supreme legislative and judicial authority from its establishment in 930 until 1262. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders. At Þingvellir you will find the waterfall Öxarárfoss. After you stop at Þingvellir you take road 52, Uxahryggir if open.

Borgarfjörður

Some of Iceland´s most beautiful nature wonders can be found in Borgarfjörður, Hraunfossar waterfalls “lava falls”, are unique and picturesque waterfalls that come from underneath the edge of a lava field and spill into the glacial river Hvítá. Deildartunguhver is Europe's most powerful hotspring. It provides at the moment 200 l/sec of 100°C hot water. There are two famous caves in Borgarfjörður Víðgelmir and Surtshellir. Much has been written about Surtshellir and it is told that in earlier centuries a group of outlaws lived in the lava tube. Viðgelmir lava tube is the largest of all lava tubes in Iceland. If you are looking for hikes it is nice to take a short hike to the Glanni waterfall and explore the Grábrók Volcanic Crater. Hafnarfjall Mountain is 804 meters and it takes 4 hours to hike up and down. From Hafnarfjall Mountain you have great view over Borgarnes and Borgarfjörður.

Reykholt

Reykholt is one of Iceland's most notable historical sites. It houses a cultural centre and a church. Reykholt is most famous for being the home of Iceland's best-known author Snorri Sturluson during the years 1206-1241. An ancient geothermally-heated pool, Snorralaug, is named after him. It is one of the few things preserved whole from Iceland´s medieval period. Snorrastofa is a cultural centre and institute for research in medieval studies. Snorrastofa offers historical exhibitions and guided tours and lectures. Music recitals are held in the church of Reykholt.

Hvanneyri

For centuries Hvanneyri has been a church centre and a small community of 250 inhabitants formed around agricultural organizations. The main one is the Agricultural University which traces its roots back to 1889. The Agricultural  Museum exhibits antique tractors and farming tools and Ullarselid is a wool and handicrafts workshop.

Borgarnes

Borgarnes is the centre for trade and services in the Borgarfjörður area and has been so since the late 19th century when the town began to be built. In Borgarnes there are two museums The Settlement center and Borgarfjörður museumBorgarnes thermal pool is a nice place to visit all year. In Borgarnes there is an old fashioned playground “Bjössaróló” built by a man that lived in Borgarnes. Bjössaróló is a great place for kids to visit. Borgarnes has good accommodation options and great places to grab a bite.

Hvalfjörður

In Hvaljörður or ,,whale fjord” you will find spectacular nature and history sites. The main attraction is at the bottom of the fjord, the tallest waterfall in Iceland, Glymur. It takes about 4 hours to get to Glymur and back down.  Hallgrímskirkja church at Saurbær іs dedicated to Hallgrímur Pétursson, the most famous poet of Iceland which lived in Hvalfjörður. He is even on the 10.000 krona bill. During World War II, a naval base of the British and American navies could be found in this fjord. One of the piers built by the United States Navy was later used by the Hvalur whaling company.

Akranes

Akranes is the largest town in the west of Iceland. Great outdoor area is the small forest at Garðalundur and facilities improved for outdoor activities. There is a playground for kids, a beach volleyball court and a BBQ area. Thermal Pool, Golf Course and two kinds of beaches, black sand beach and white. Langisandur is a white sand beach which is rear in Iceland. Langisandur is a nice place to take a walk and if you are brave you can go for a swim. Akranes Lighthouse is open for people the whole year round and you can go up to the top and enjoy the view. Akranes Museum area exhibits from former times, bearing witness to farming, housekeeping and social conditions in and around Akranes. Akranes offers good restaurants and accommodation.

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travellers everything the area has to offer during winter.

The Waterfall Circle

One of Iceland’s most popular attractions are waterfalls.

The Waterfall Circle leads you to waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, and some of them are among the best known in the country. Here you can see Iceland’s tallest waterfall Glymur, the unique Hraunfossar (Lava Waterfalls), the legendary Barnafoss (Children´s Waterfall) and many more. The Waterfall Circle also leads you to many of the most beautiful sites of West Iceland, like The Hvalfjörður (Whale Bay), Skorradalur Valley and The Borgarfjörður district.

Hvalfjörður-Borgarfjörður-Borgarnes-Akranes

Waterfalls on this route

The Itinerary

You can follow the itinerary below to visit the most significant waterfalls in the area.

Þingvellir National Park

Drive from Reykjavík on road nr.36 to Þingvellir national park. The ,,Althing“ at Þingvellir was Iceland’s supreme legislative and judicial authority from its establishment in 930 until 1262. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders. At Þingvellir you will find the waterfall Öxarárfoss.

Hvalfjörður

If the weather is nice you can take road nr. 48 to Hvalfjörður. If there is snow and ice it is better to go back to road nr. 1 and take road nr. 47 to Hvalfjörður. During World War II, a naval base of the British and American navies could be found in this fjord. One of the piers built by the United States Navy was later used by the Hvalur, a whaling company. At the bottom of the fjord you can find the tallest waterfall in Iceland, Glymur. It takes approximately 4 hours to hike to Glymur and back to the parkinglot.

Borgarfjörður

When going to Borgarfjörður, take road nr. 50. Some of Iceland´s most beautiful nature wonders can be found in Borgarfjörður. Hraunfossar waterfalls “lava falls”, are unique and picturesque waterfalls that come from underneath the edge of a lava field and spill into the glacial river Hvítá. Deildartunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hotspring. It provides at the moment 200 l/sec of 100°C hot water. There are two famous caves in Borgarfjörður, Víðgelmir and Surtshellir. Much has been written about Surtshellir and it is told that in earlier centuries a group of outlaws lived in the lava tube. Víðgelmir lava tube is the largest of all lava tubes in Iceland. If you are looking for hikes, it is nice to take a short hike to the Glanni waterfall and explore the Grábrók Volcanic Crater. Hafnarfjall Mountain is 804 meters and it takes 4 hours to hike up and down. From Hafnarfjall Mountain you have great view over Borgarnes and Borgarfjörður.

Borgarnes

Borgarnes is the centre for trade and services in the Borgarfjörður area and has been so since the late 19th century when the town began to be built. In Borgarnes, there are two museums; The Settlement Center and Borgarfjörður museum.
Borgarnes thermal pool is a nice place to visit all year round. In Borgarnes there is an old fashioned playground, “Bjössaróló”, built by a man that lived in Borgarnes. Bjössaróló is a great place for kids to visit. Borgarnes has good accommodations and great places to grab a bite.

Akranes

Akranes is the largest town in the west of Iceland. Grate outdoor area is the small forest at Garðalundur and facilities improved for outdoor activities. There is a playground for kids, a beach volleyball court and a grill area. Thermal Pool, Golf Course and the two kinds of beaches, black sand beach and white. Langisandur is white sand beaches which is rear in Iceland. Langisandur is a nice place to take a walk and if you are brave, you can go for a swim. The Lighthouse in Akranes is open for people in summer and you can go up to the top and enjoy the view. Akranes Museum area exhibits from former times, bearing witness to farming, housekeeping and social conditions in and around Akranes. Akranes offers good resturants and accommodation.

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travellers everything the area has to offer during winter. 

 

Top winter activities in West Iceland

4x4 bike tours
What is more fun than driving ATV/Quad in the snow. At Þórisstöðum you can take a trip on ATV/Quad. Drive up to the mountains and enjoy beautiful view over Hvalfjörður.

Bjarnarhöfn
At Bjarnarhöfn is a Shark museum. There you will get to know how the shark is handled and you can taste it. If you bring with you Icelandic Brennivín and Icelandic tobacco you have the Icelandic tequila.

Boat tour

In the beautiful town Stykkishólmur you can take boat trip around the Breiðarfjörður islands.
Breiðarfjörður has around 3,000 islands, islets and skerries one of them is Flatey island witch is really worth visiting. Several geothermal sites can be found like beautiful basalt columns.

History circle in Borgarnes

Borgarnes has a lot of history and is offend called history town. Tree museums are in Borgarnes the Settlement center, the Eddaveröld and the Borgarnes Museum. These museums mark a circle so it is fun to walk between them

Horseback riding in winter

The Icelandic horse is fair particularly in winter because of their coat of hair which grows quite long during the winter months. This long hair makes them look like mammut. Only thing you need to worry about is not get cold yourself when horseback riding in winter in Iceland.

Jeep tours
Many travel companies specialize in different kinds of jeep exhibitions.
A jeep tour on a glacier with breathtaking views is an unforgettable experience.

Knitting Circle
West Iceland is the perfect destination for knitting, because of the long-established knitting tradition in the area. This, in combination with sightseeing in the beautiful nature West Iceland has to offer will make this trip an unforgettable experience

Langjökull
Langjökull is the second largest Ice cap in Iceland many companies offer super jeep tour to the glacier. The view from the glacier is amazing. In the year 2015 the ice cave will be opened for public then you can travel in to the glacier in a man made tunnel.  

Swimming
In West Iceland we have many swimming pools. NO you won’t get cold! They are all heated so it is really nice to take a dive in the winter.

Vatnshellir Cave
Vatnshellir the 8.000 years old cave located in Snæfellsjökull National Park.
Follow the path of the lava flow, about 200 meters into the cave and 35 meters below the surface to see amazing colors and lava formations. Open all year.

Visit a Farm
Couple of farms in the West Iceland open there farm for visitors but it depends when you come what they have to offer. At Háafell you can pet the goats, Bjarteyjasandur you can hug the lambs, at Erpsstaðir you can get ice-cream from the farm and see how the cows are doing.

Whale watching
The winter in Grundafjörður is one of the best times to see whales. Whales are the giants of the ocean but even so, they can be very difficult to find.  However, Orca trips in Grundarfjörður have had a great success rate of seeing these beautiful creatures.

Driving in Iceland during the Winter

When driving between regions you will often have to drive through mountain passages or heaths. These are usually the most dangerous part of your way since the weather in the mountains can be much worse than down by the seaside. When you do get into a heavy snow or a snowstorm, try to follow the sticks on the sides of the roads, they will keep you on the road until you get to better driving conditions. If you are caught in an Icelandic storm, the rule number one is never to leave your vehicle.

But what to do when driving on ice/snow and you lose control of the car? As soon as you feel you do not have control of the car, take your foot of the gas pedal. Be sure, whatever you do, not to hit the brakes because it would increase your sliding.

Always check the road conditions

The weather is not always the same and can vary in different regions of Iceland. The west Iceland is usually milder while the north and western fjords get more snow. Here below are good websites to use when travelling in Iceland in the winter. Vedur.is is the official website for weather in Iceland. But it doesn’t always give the right picture. Road.is, is the website for the Icelandic Road Administration,  it is the best website to use if you use it correctly.

How to use Road.is

 

The web page road.is presents overview maps showing road conditions and the current situation for all main roads at a given point. The pages also provide information about the weather and the local traffic and show real-time Webcam images of road conditions. If you are unsure then you can call 1777 and ask for the conditions (open 06:30-22:00) or 1778 an automatic telephone service open all day.

Weather signs 

 

If coming across a weather sign, please read the information given carefully.
Óveður means storm. On the road ahead the weather is very bad and you should avoid driving further if possible. Find a place to rest until the weather clears unless there is an emergency
On the signs you can see the temperature, average wind and the strongest wind.
Lokað means closed. The road ahead is closed and you should not continue. Find a place to rest until the weather clears.
 

If the average wind goes over 20 you should take special precautions.

 

Equipment for winter trips in Iceland

Cars must be fitted with good winter tires. Take along appropriate protective clothing in case your have to wait in the car due to weather or road condition. And of course your phone can be your best friend if you get in to trouble. The emergency number is 112. You should also check out the 112 Emergency App.

F-roads / Mountain roads in Iceland

F-roads are mountain roads in the highland of Iceland. The roads can be closed any time of year, depending on road conditions. We do not recommend driving on F-roads over the wintertime and most of them are closed. Some superjeep companies offer tours over F-Roads in winter but those tours are operated in specialized vehicles by expert guides.

Gas stations in Iceland

Gas stations are all over the country, so no worries. Many of the gas stations around the country are self-service so bring your debit or credit card and make sure you remember the pin number to be able to use it. The website GSM bensín tells you the price of fuel in gas stations around the country.

Speed limits in Iceland.

The general speed limit is 30-50 km/hour in populated areas, 80 km/hour on gravel roads in rural areas and 90 km/hour on paved roads. Drivers and all passengers are required by law to wear seatbelts. Older children must wear seatbelts and younger children and infants must be seated in car-safety seats. If you are caught speeding in Iceland you can expect hefty fines so our advice is to follow the law.

Off road driving is illegal in Iceland!

For more information about traveling safely in Iceland, visit safetravel.is

Winter holidays in Iceland

The winter season can be a great time to visit Iceland for children and adults alike. Not only can you experience Icelandic Christmas and New Year but you can also celebrate lesser known holidays as the Þorri or Beer day.

Christmas in Iceland.

The Icelandic Christmas period is really traditional for most Icelanders, they stay with their family and friends. Christmas season starts on 23 December and ends on 6 January. But the main days are 24-26. You need to keep in mind that some companies close over the Christmas especially 24-26 of December. One of the best things about Iceland Christmas traditions, particularly for Icelandic kids is the shoe in-the window tradition. This gets underway 13 days before Christmas, when the Icelandic Yule Lads, who live in the mountains, start coming to town, one by one. Before they go to sleep, kids take one of their shoes and leave near a window and they get gifts in the morning. However, this only works if the child has been good – if he or she has been bad, they will only get potato.

On New Year’s Eve Iceland explodes

The New Year’s Eve in Iceland is a one of a lifetime celebration. The locals have a family dinner at home, and later family, friends and neighbors gather around bonfires (brenna) to enjoy the warm fire and celebrate. Majority of Icelanders watch the annual Icelandic television comedy called Áramótaskaupið. And at midnight the craziness begins with a display of fireworks in the sky.

Þorri – the stinky months

In the midwinter Icelanders celebrate Þorri festival offered to the gods in pagan Iceland of the past. It was abolished during the Christianization of Iceland, but resurrected in the 19th century as a midwinter celebration that continues to be celebrated to this day. The timing for the festival coincides with the month of Thorri, according to the old Icelandic calendar, which begins on the first Friday after January 19th.

Icelandic old food tradition

The eating habits of the Icelandic nation have changed a lot in the last hundred years. And it is only during Þorri that people will eat many of the old traditional foods. As this feast takes place in the middle of winter, it is no surprise that most of the food served at the feasts is preserved in some way: by pickling in whey, salting, smoking, drying or fermenting.

These will include rotten shark’s meat (hákarl), boiled sheep’s head, (svið) and congealed sheep’s blood wrapped in a sheep’s stomach (blóðmör)! This is traditionally washed down with some Brennivin – also known as Black Death schnapps made from potato and caraway.

Beer day

Beer was banned in Iceland from 1915 to 1989 (yes, you read that right: 1989!). In the beginning all alcohol was banned but in 1922 the ban on wine was lifted after Spain threatened to stop buying Iceland’s fish if Iceland wouldn’t buy their wine. For some strange reason it took another 67 years for Iceland to legalize beer and on March 1st 1989 beer-thirsty Icelanders could finally order a pint of beer at their favorite drinking holes. Since then Icelanders have celebrated beer day on March 1st every year.

PARTICIPANTS

Iceland Winter Break, Winter in West Iceland, is a cooperative project in West Iceland, spearheaded by the West Iceland Marketing Office, that aims to show travelers everything the area has to offer during winter which is a lot. The companies that took part in this project commit them self to be open in winter. 

Northern lights

NORTHERN LIGHTS

Watch the Aurora dance in the sky
West Iceland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights and the Japanese have done researches on Northern Lights in West Iceland since 1983.

The bright dancing Northern Lights are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern hemispheres. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported. The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

When to see the Northern Lights in West Iceland?
The best time is between 21:00-03:00 although they can often be seen early evening or during the night. The official Northern Lights season in Iceland is from October till March. The more activity the more likely it is that you will see the northern lights but that is not all. There is never a guarantee of spotting the northern lights, but northern lights forecast by vedur.is are good. Clear skies are necessary, when we have clear skies in Iceland, it is usually cold. So be sure to wear the right clothing.

 

How to capture the Northern Lights on camera?
It’s not rocket science, but you have to have the right kind of equipment, an eye for framing your shots, and some patience for the Northern Lights. Some of the most beautiful photos of auroras are set where foreground objects such as Icelandic houses or mountains like Kirkjufell are in view. You should have a digital camera with a wide-angle lens, 55mm or less, to capture as much of the sky and landscape as possible. Mounting your camera on a tripod is a must so that you have a stable platform that doesn’t shake if a sudden wind blows as you take long photos.

Your camera settings for photographing the Aurora
Your camera should have a manual (M) setting where you can set the exposure rates at up to 20 to 30 seconds. Boost the sensitivity of your camera sensor to 400 ISO or higher. Both long exposures and higher ISOs will allow you to pick up hidden details and colours of auroras that you can’t see with the naked eye. And keep that in mind when looking at beautiful photos of the Northern lights they are taken on time that’s way they look this amazing.

OPEN DURING WINTER IN WEST ICELAND

 

Here are listed accommodations, restaurants, museums, galleries and activities you can experience during this winter in West Iceland.

Open during Winter in West Iceland 2014-2015 (download pdf)

West Iceland

Towns & Villages

The population centres in West Iceland are as varied as they are many. Ten places have over 50 residents and Akranes is the most densely populated with 6,500 inhabitants. 

All of the larger communities put ever-increasing emphasis on dynamic tourism where a wide selection of recreation and services are offered.   

Explore map by categories

Map Hellissandur, Rif Grundarfjörður Stykkishólmur Búðardalur Dalir Arnarstapi Hellnar Snæfellsnes Bifröst Húsafell Reykholt Borgarfjörður Hvanneyri Borgarnes Hvalfjörður Akranes Ólafsvík