In the summer, Iceland’s isolated interior is home to roughly 35,000 Icelandic horses and some 8,000 tourists, horse ranchers, and tour operators. But come winter, the central Highlands’ combination of uninhabitable volcanic desert, imposing mineral-streaked mountains, and deadly winter squalls, forces horses and tourists alike to retreat to the island’s milder coastlines, leaving the interior seemingly lifeless—until this winter.
For the first time ever, Kerlingarfjöll Resort will pick you up in a super Jeep to take you from the island’s southwestern coast to its inhospitable interior. The drive, depending on conditions, can take upwards of 10 hours. To get there, you’ll cross multiple rivers and navigate the vast snowy, treeless terrain, guided predominately by GPS, to Kerlingarfjöll’s picturesque outpost of A-frame cabins.
Once there, your guides dig out your snowdrift-buried accommodations. Fuel up on barbecued lamb and salt fish before blazing cross-country ski and snowshoe trails on the surrounding untracked hillsides. Kerlingarföll may be surrounded by thermal hot springs, but, at more than 212 degrees F, the nearest swimmable option is a must-hit at a 20-minute super Jeep ride away.
With only four hours of daylight in the heart of Iceland’s winters and zero light pollution, the Northern Lights are brighter in the Highlands than anywhere else in the country. Turn off your cabin’s lights and wait for the dark sky to awaken. Packages begin at $1,200, all-inclusive; kerlingarfjoll.is.