Embrace the Winter Chill in Iceland

Skógafoss, Iceland, Dunheger travel Blog

 

Long winter nights got you down? A brief jaunt to Iceland is easier than ever thanks to budget airfare options.

If you’re from the U.S., “budget airfare” might sound like a bit of an oxymoron but Iceland’s WOW Air is ready to get East Coast dwellers across the Atlantic for rock bottom prices. A round-trip flight from Boston or the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area to Reykjavik can cost as little as $300. With that much money freed from your budget, you can get the most out of a trip to the land of fire and ice.

Almannagjá, Flickr © Scott Ableman

Outdoorsy types will want to start with the famous Golden Circle, which covers 300 km from Reykjavik into central Iceland and back. Marvel at the 30-meter eruption of the Strokku geyser, or the perennially popular Gullfoss waterfall. Finally, few sites represent Iceland more than Thingvellir National Park. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was the birthplace of the world’s first parliament, and is home to unique geological features like the Almannagja canyon, where visitors can see continental drift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Sólfar, Reykjavik, Iceland, Dunheger Travel Blog
Sólfar, The Sun Voyager, Reykjavik, Flickr © Kris Williams

Culture vultures should stick to the capital city and its blend of Viking heritage and cosmopolitan flair. The Harpa Conference and Concert Center is a beacon of modern architecture and hosts the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Icelandic Opera and the Reykjavik Big Band. Less than a ten-minute walk away, the Old Harbour is brimming with museums and restaurants, while whale watching and puffin viewing trips depart from the nearby pier.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland, Dunheger Travel Blog
Blue Lagoon, Flickr © Audrey

In the market for some R&R? Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is less than an hour’s drive from Reykjavik and attracts spa-goers from around the world. Formed in 1976 by a nearby power plant, the geothermal spa boasts mineral-rich waters averaging 37-39 °C (98–102 °F).

Summer visitors will get to bask in the rays of the midnight sun – a natural phenomenon common to all countries this close to the Earth’s poles where the sun shines for a full 24 hours. The opposite season, filled with long nights and teeth-chattering temperatures may not seem like the best time to venture inside the Arctic Circle, but December is the best month to try and catch a glimpse of the famed Northern Lights.

Northern Lights, Iceland, Dunheger Travel Blog
Northern Lights over Reykjanes Peninsula Sea Stack, Flickr © Diana Robinson

Scientifically known as Aurora Borealis, these constantly varied, colorful nighttime displays are caused by complex atmospheric disturbances. As solar winds disrupt the magnetosphere, supercharged particles cast a glowing green curtain over the horizon, sometimes bright enough to read by. Whatever your level of interest in the science behind the phenomenon, viewing the Northern Lights is a true bucket list item.

Completely sea-bound on every side, it should be no surprise that Icelandic cuisine is heavy on the fish. Fishing has been popular in Iceland for centuries and began on an industrial scale prior to WWI, making it a huge staple of locals’ diet. Fill up on haddock, halibut, or even hákarl – Icelandic for shark – at Ϸorramatur, a traditional mid-winter feast, often centered around cured meats, dark rye bread, and brennivín, Iceland’s signature liquor.