Skip to content

Or try searching by Category and/or Location

Winter highlights in Austurland

If you harbor a dream to experience all the magic of an Icelandic winter, few places rival Austurland.
From a snowboarding trip to Súlur. Photographer: Þráinn Kolbeinsson
From a snowboarding trip to Súlur. Photographer: Þráinn Kolbeinsson

Iceland’s eastern region is a winter wonderland that combines snowy peaks, cozy cafes, fantastic fjords, and fine local flavors. There’s the added bonus of clear skies for nightly aurora gazing, and hot pools for warms soaks with snow-capped views.

Rug up and get ready! We look forward to giving you a warm welcome.

Planning tips

First things first: a little homework pays dividends. Below are some handy websites for checking the weather, times for sunrise and sunset, road conditions and more.

Once you’ve checked the details you’ll know whether you’re facing a good day for road tripping, outdoor exploration, soaking in a hot pool, hunting the northern lights, or getting cozy indoors, and you can plan your time accordingly.

  • Weather forecast for the country.
  • Aurora forecast for the coming 3 days, giving information about cloud cover and aurora activity.
  • Road conditions for real-time information on whether roads are easily passable, slippery, difficult, or closed. The definitions are explained when you click on the i at the bottom of the screen.
  • Time and date is an invaluable resource that details sunrise, sunset, and the number of daylight hours you can expect (in winter, it might only be a few hours). In mid-January there’s around 5 hours of daylight (from approximately 10:30am to 3:30pm), in mid-February there’s 8.5 hours of daylight, and in mid-March it’s getting close to 12 hours between sunrise and sunset.

Ladies enjoying the view from Grænafell in ReyðarfjörðurThe view from Grænafell. Photographer: Ingvi Örn

Winter hikes

Austurland’s landscapes transform into a snow-dusted wonderland during the winter months. One of the most exhilarating ways to immerse yourself in the natural beauty is through winter hiking. The crisp, clean air fills your lungs, and the silence of your snow-covered surrounds can create a sense of supreme serenity.

Rug up, pack tasty snacks, then strap on study boots – and maybe crampons (to help navigate icy paths) or snowshoes – then embark on an adventure that will take you through a quiet valley or forest, along a black beach shoreline, or to a lookout to admire a frozen waterfall or icy panorama.

Visit stunning Stuðlagil canyon (check the road conditions before you set off), tackle the uphill trail to Hengifoss waterfall, or breathe in fresh salty air on a black beach like Stapavík or Meleyri.

A great place for a winter stroll is Hallormsstaðaskógur, the largest forest in Iceland. Follow one of the trails and explore the arboretum, the moors, the lakeshore and more (and do keep an eye open for Lagarfljót’s resident lake monster).

Snow business

Seeking the thrill of speeding down snow-covered slopes? Austurland offers two areas for skiing and snowboarding: Oddsskarð and Stafdalur. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a novice, these areas provide fantastic opportunities to enjoy the winter season to the fullest. Both areas provide equipment rental options, making it convenient for visitors to access the slopes.

Image of people on the ski lift at Oddsskarð ski areaOddsskarð ski area. Photographer: Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson

Oddsskarð is reached from Eskifjörður and is known for its challenging runs and views of the surrounding mountains and fjords. It’s also the home of the annual Austurland Freeride Festival, celebrating the best of backcountry ski touring each February.

Man skiing in a slope called Austurríki (Switzerland) at Stafdalur ski areaStafalur ski area. Photographer: Ingvi Örn

Stafdalur, outside the town of Seyðisfjörður, offers a more family-friendly atmosphere with slopes suitable for all skill levels.

For those looking for slower-paced winter adventure, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are ideal. Snowshoeing is accessible for most ages and fitness levels, offering a unique perspective on the region’s natural beauty. The tranquility of crunching through snowy forests and valleys is a meditative experience you won’t want to miss.

Man hiking on snowshoes with his dog in Vestdalur in SeyðisfjörðurSnowshoeing in Seyðisfjörður. Photographer: Ingvi Örn

In Seyðisfjörður, a local company offers guided winter snowshoeing tours in a scenic valley named Vestdalur. When conditions are right, viewing the northern lights dancing overhead also features on the tour itinerary.

Hot soaks

After a day of outdoor adventure, nothing beats unwinding in warm water, and Austurland’s swimming pools have you covered. These geothermal gems are perfect for thawing out and rejuvenating your body after a day in frigid temperatures.

Woman enjoying a soak at Vök BathsVök Baths. Photographer: Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson

Vök Baths offer a deluxe bathing experience, with designer pools floating atop beautiful Urriðavatn lake, with ore pools on the lakeshore. The combination of warm water and stunning views is magical, and the on-site bistro is welcoming.

You can also explore public swimming pools at most Austurland towns. Stop somewhere like Egilsstaðir, Neskaupstaður or Eskifjörður to savor a cozy outdoor atmosphere where you can relax and chat with the locals. Or head off the beaten path to Selárdalur pool, by a river outside Vopnafjörður.

Everywhere you go, you’ll get an insight into just how Icelanders derive so much joy and well-being from their warm-water bathing.

Local cuisine at Skaftfell Bistro
Skaftfell Bistro. Photographer: Michael Novotny

Comfort food in cozy corners

Winter adventures in Austurland wouldn’t be complete without refueling on hearty food. Cafes and restaurants act as a refuge when you’re craving some cozy indoor time, and local flavors will warm you and set you up for further exploring.

Need comforting carbs? Stop by Sesam Brauðhús bakery in Reyðarfjörður to stock up on delicious bread and sweet treats, or sample pizzas topped with local ingredients (reindeer or wild goose, for example) at Askur Pizzeria in Egilsstaðir (also with plenty of vegan options).

Soup is something of a national obsession in Iceland, and you won’t need to travel far to find kjötsúpa, or meat soup (made with lamb and root vegetables) to warm your heart. Vegetarians and vegans don’t have to miss out – stop at Tehúsið in Egilsstaðir for a vegan harira soup (a Moroccan recipe of lentils and tomatoes). Head to Fjalladýrð at Möðrudalur highland farm to try the farm-fresh lamb soup, vegan soup, or even the unique moss soup, made with sweetened milk and hand-picked lichen from the farm.

Local restaurants will introduce you to seasonal flavors. If you’re looking for a gourmet experience, book a table somewhere like Eldhúsið in Egilsstaðir, where food miles are low thanks to the farm-raised beef, and the skyr and goat cheese produced just next door.

Coffee and hot cocoa are favorite pit-stop warmers (perfect with a slice of cake or waffle) but consider trying out other liquids with a local focus: the Tea Bar at Vök Baths offers a selection of organic and locally sourced herbal teas, made using the hot water from Urriðavatn lake (certified drinkable).

Austurland also has some great craft breweries to try out. You might like to spice things up with landi (Icelandic moonshine), crafted by KHB Brugghús in Borgarfjörður eystri.

Words: Carolyn Bain