For those who want to experience Iceland in the winter, there is much to enjoy. Find out more in our blog.
Many people choose to visit Iceland in the summer when the weather is milder, making it easier to take part in a variety of activities. Boat tours and many roads are shut during the winter months due to either inaccessibility or unfavourable weather conditions. However, winter in Iceland provides many other opportunities to experience some of the best of what the country has to offer. The Northern Lights can only be seen from October through to May, and glacial ice caves are only open during the winter months.
For those who want to experience Iceland in the winter, there is much to enjoy. Seeing the winter landscape of the island provides many glimpses of cold, ethereal beauty. But if you’re planning to visit Iceland in the winter, there are some things about the weather and conditions that you’ll need to know in order to make the most of your trip.
What to expect
One of the first things you should be aware of when visiting Iceland in the winter is the length of the days. During winter, you’re likely to only get between 5 and 6 hours of daylight, meaning you’ll want to plan your day and activities around this carefully. This lower number of daylight hours means that you’ll have less time to do your sightseeing and adventure activities. It does, mean, however, that you’ll have a great chance of glimpsing the northern lights!
The types of weather you’re likely to encounter during an Icelandic winter can also vary. Iceland is famous for its changing weather conditions, where it is said that in a single day you can experience each season! This could mean sunshine in the morning, rain in the afternoon and snow in the evening. The best rule of thumb for visiting Iceland in the winter is to be prepared for all types of weather.
Average temperature and weather conditions
Contrary to popular belief, Iceland’s ground is not always covered in snow (even in the winter) and it’s not as cold as many people think it is. Our typical winter temperates range from heights of 3.4C (38.1F) and lows of -2.8C (27F) to 1C (33F) highs and -5.5C (22.1F) lows.
The lowest temperatures you’re likely to experience in the south of Iceland hover around -10C (14F), while in the north it is known to get as cold as -30C (-22F). The coldest temperature ever recorded in Iceland was -39C (-39F).
This will all depend on what month you visit and the part of Iceland you’re visiting. For example, January is colder than November, and Akuyreri in the north is likely to be colder than Reykjavik in the south.
Winds can also be very high and strong, and in particular during the winter. The wind speeds can reach up to 40mph (65km/h), which can be a danger to some outdoor activities and especially driving. When the wind reaches speeds like this, it’s imperative that you check the weather warnings and take the advice of the news.
What to pack for Iceland in the winter
So with all these varied weather conditions, how are you supposed to know what to pack for your winter trip to Iceland? The rule of thumb for clothing in Iceland is a simple one: wear layers. The preferred fabrics for inner layers are wool and fleece, while any shells or jackets should be made of a reliable waterproof fabric.
Your packing list for Iceland in the winter should include:
-Fleece jacket or a sweater
-Waterproof and windproof jacket
-Solid shoes that are also waterproof
-Hat, gloves and a scarf
-And a swimsuit for any geothermal pools!
Driving in winter
If you’re planning to explore beyond Reykjavik during your winter holiday in Iceland, you’ll want to plan ahead. Many roads, including the highland roads, are closed at this time of year. The Ring Road is maintained throughout the winter, but the conditions can still be very harsh and dangerous to drive if the weather is not favourable. Always plan ahead, pack warm clothes and extra food and water in case you get stuck anywhere. For more information, read our post, How to Drive in Winter in Iceland.