I have always been fond of winter. There’s just something magical about the setting sun, crisp blue sky, bright winter constellations, and of course, the snow. Winter is three months long where I’m from, just like any other season. When the calendar turns over to November, it’s the signal for us to change our wardrobe to something more fluffy and warm. We stuff our closet with winter coats, hats, gloves, and thick socks to prepare for the cold weather. The ondol, or traditional Korean central floor heating system, makes winter much more pleasant. Without the heated floor, the winter would be much too cold to bear.
No matter how cold it was outside, we always went snow and ice sledding, and ice skating, and we made lots and lots of snowmen. The temperatures were low, and the skies looked bluer, and I always felt good when the sun hit my cheek.
Winter getaways are more challenging than summer holidays, but they have their own unique perks. The most significant winter I’ve spent in recent years was in Iceland. This isolated island felt like a whole other world for so many reasons, but winter there was surprisingly pleasant.
Iceland, at 66° north latitude, has almost no daylight and creates a dramatic sky in the wintertime. I woke up in the darkness, and said goodbye to the sun sometime after lunch. People say winter in the Arctic countries is gloomy. Yes, I don’t think I could handle this darkness for the whole winter, but it was a special treat for a short-time visitor like me.
Iceland in winter is, in fact, the best condition for photographers. The sun dangles on the horizon, making the sunrise-sunset continuum for five hours. We don’t have to hurry to make the sunset photo-shoot. There’s no light and shade contrast, only glowing orange landscape.
Iceland’s winter also has an additional extraordinary feature: the Aurora Borealis. From November to April, the night sky gets busy. The field of light comes and goes so fast, changing colour from red to green to purple and everything in between. There are only so many places to see the wonderful natural phenomenon that most people know as the Northern Lights. What a wonderful season the winter is.
Another amazing thing about Icelandic winter is that you get to experience the beautiful winter landscape in a warm temperature. You’d think the combination of no daylight and high latitude would create the harshest winter, but that’s not true. Thanks to the Gulf Stream and the geothermal energy around the island, the temperature hardly goes below freezing. It is an amazing condition for an Arctic country.
An added benefit to Iceland’s free geothermal energy is that you don’t have to worry about wasting energy heating your house or having a long hot shower. There’s no energy shortage on the island. On the top of that, the heated swimming pools and hot spring facilities are all around the country, offering affordable entrance fees.
Winter around the world is remarkably diverse. The outdoor activities, heart-warming winter foods, hot heated floor and a nice cup of tea all go together really nicely. This winter, why don’t you think about your favourite winter memories?