Updated: Jan 26
If you have heard anything about the weather in Iceland then you will know that the keyword is changeable. Wild seas and stormy weather buffet this little island on the edge of the Arctic Circle. And things change quickly almost from one hour to the next. Along with these Arctic, storms come full force winds.
Often times the general temperature might be reasonably mild. Then the wind chill factor kicks in and you are feeling the icy chill of the North Pole ice fields. But how strong does the wind really get? And how wary of it should you be? In this article, we will blow away any confusion and tell you which way the wind really blows. Read on to find out just how windy it is in Iceland.
Wind speed and wind gusts in Iceland
A quick look at any weather forecast for Iceland will show you that it varies greatly. It also changes quickly so you should always keep a sharp eye on the forecasts when planning a trip.
On a regular day, wind speeds could be about 10-15 mph or 16-24 km/ph. Quite often though the wind speeds creep up to 20-40 mph and above. In stormy weather, there can be strong gusts of more than 70mph. In fact, wind speeds of a staggering 141 mph were recorded on the south coast back in 2015. These gale force winds equal some seriously dangerous weather so do take heed of the wind forecast.
When it comes to temperature during the summer months it will usually be well above freezing. Then anything up to around 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit is perfectly normal. In winter it drops significantly but it is the wind chill factor that really takes it sub-zero.
When is it too windy to drive in Iceland?
Driving in Iceland’s wind is not to be taken lightly. There are very few trees and wooded areas on the island. In most countries these act as an effective windbreak. In the south, there are also wide-open plains. In this flatter area, there are no mountains to shelter you either. This means that roads are buffeted by the wind’s full force. This is especially true on the Iceland Ring Road and around coastal areas.
At what point the wind becomes too dangerous to drive depends on a couple of factors. If you are in a small lighter vehicle then you will be more susceptible to a strong gust of wind. Likewise, if you are in a high vehicle such as a motorhome you will have a larger area to catch the wind. Hiring a small campervan is probably the most practical choice for high winds.
But if the wind is gusting at over 40 mph you would be wise to keep driving to a minimum. Anything over 50 mph and you should refrain from driving at all. It is not uncommon for tourists to be blown off the road. At the very least you might struggle to keep the steering straight. This is both dangerous and does not make for a pleasant drive.
How to stay safe when driving in Iceland
If you are hiring a campervan then the single most important thing to do is regularly check the weather forecast. You must then adjust your travel plans accordingly. The websites for the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Road and Coastal Administration are the ones to bookmark. There are also several useful road and weather travel apps for tourists in Iceland. If there are weather warnings issued then you should unfailingly take heed. As well as wind, rain, and snow there are phenomena like dust and ash storms to contend with too. So do act on the official travel advice.
Other wind-based precautions
Here is one more important fact to keep in mind if you are hiring a camper van or car rental. One of the most frequent insurance claims on rental vehicles in Iceland is for wind-damaged doors.
It is an easy one to fall foul of. Especially if your mind is on the natural wonder you are about to see. You might hop out enthusiastically only to have the door roughly snatched away from you by the wind. In most countries, we don’t need to think about it too often but in Iceland, it’s a common occurrence. The wind can easily snatch the door away and you’ll be left with a hefty insurance bill in return.
So do make sure everyone in your party knows to keep doors closed at all times. When you are opening the door keep two hands there to steady it. If you are the driver then you can also try and select a sheltered parking spot or face into the wind.
Tent camping in Iceland and the wind
Tent camping in Iceland is easy and great fun to do in summer. In fact, for many Icelandic travelers in Iceland, it is a family tradition. Because of this the campsites around the country are really well set up to receive guests. They will often have more sheltered areas available for tent campers.
Even so, though there are times when the force of the wind makes tent camping unrealistic. And it’s not just the possibility of your tent blowing away. Have you ever tried putting up or taking down a tent in a gale? Believe us it can get tricky. If you do decide to brave it then make sure the tents stakes are well anchored in the ground. Otherwise, you might be chasing the flying canvas across the parking lot!
In a larger group, you might choose to hire a camper van and also take a tent with you. This way you’ll have some extra personal space to stretch out in. If the weather is calm you can enjoy sleeping al fresco. Then if things are a little too wild you can retreat to the safety of your rental camper van. If the wind isn’t too changeable then you might also use the bulk of your motorhome to shield your tent.
The wind can certainly make its presence felt in Iceland. But thousands of people can and do enjoy camping out around the country every year. So when it comes to deciding whether to we say throw caution to the wind and go for it.