Imagine this: Dressed in ski pants and a warm parka, you’re trekking in powder snow towards Dimmuborgir, a lava field filled with eerie rock formations near Lake Mývatn in Northeast Iceland.
Published in the 2012 issue of Issues and Images ICELAND. By Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photo courtesy of Visit Vatnajökull.
The lake is stunning in its frozen state at this time of year and popular for ice fishing. Above, millions of stars twinkle in the dark winter sky and, if you’re lucky, dancing green and purple northern lights add to the magic. Suddenly you hear rough singing and know that you’re about to reach your destination. A curious chap clad in woolen clothing welcomes you to his home. He’s one of the 13 ogre brothers, the Icelandic Yule Lads, who live in Dimmuborgir and greet visitors throughout December. Enjoy the performance and warm up by the open fire. Perhaps you will get a taste of the Yule Lads’ special hangikjöt, smoked lamb, a traditional Icelandic Christmas delicacy for which the Mývatn region is famous. Afterwards, you are immune to the frost outside as you enjoy a relaxing soak in the steamy, comfortably warm geothermal water of the open-air Mývatn Nature Baths.
Keen for more action? How about gliding through snow-covered landscapes in south or west Iceland, pulled by cute furry Greenlandic sleigh dogs with Dogsledding Iceland? Visit one of the country’s many ski resorts or, for the adrenaline kick of a lifetime, try heliskiing with Bergmenn on Tröllaskagi peninsula in the north. In collaboration with North Sailing in Húsavík, Bergmenn offers a combination of sailing and skiing in a desolate area with peaks up to 1,000 meters high and plenty of snow, just waiting to be explored. They might also tempt you to climb frozen waterfalls. Nearby, in Grenivík, Kaldbaksferðir invites travelers to ride on a snowmobile up Mt. Kaldbakur, enjoy the view from the top, and then slide back down the 1,174-meter slope—the longest slope in Iceland—on skis or a custom-made toboggan (or hitch a ride back down with the snowmobile). The ultimate winter adventure is perhaps building your own snow house and sleeping in it, as travelers with Borea Adventures in the West Fjords have experienced.
In East Iceland, tour operators organize trips to the highlands (which are inaccessible to regular vehicles at this time of year), including sightseeing of the mighty volcanoes Kverkfjöll, Snæfell, and Askja; exploration of ice caves; and bathing in natural geothermal pools in the middle of nowhere.
You can read the remainder of this article in the 2012 issue of Issues and Images ICELAND. Click here to download your free copy.