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Ultimate Guide to Winter in Iceland For Travelers

Updated: 6 days ago

The perfect time of year to get stuck into exploring all of Iceland’s icy marvels, winter in Iceland is a breathtakingly beautiful season. There are many amazing sights to discover during winter in Iceland. From incredible ice caves to expansive glaciers, to the unforgettable Northern Lights!


Discover our top tips for visiting Iceland during winter. We'll include what to bring in your suitcase, the temperature, and the weather you can expect at this time of year. And, of course, the best winter activities in this comprehensive Iceland winter travel guide.


Winter in Iceland

Visiting Iceland in Winter


Visiting Iceland during this special season will give you a unique opportunity to see the island in all of its snowy glory. Discover Iceland’s hidden gems as you traverse icy landscapes and (hopefully!) witness the magical spectacle that is the Northern Lights.


Although Iceland may be colder during winter, you can still enjoy the great outdoors – just make sure to wrap up warm! You’ll also have the chance to witness the spectacular festive and New Year celebrations in Reykjavík if you visit Iceland around this time of year, of course.


Why go to Iceland in winter?


Wondering whether an Iceland winter vacation is right for you? Let’s discover some pros and cons of visiting Iceland during winter to help you make up your mind.


Pros of Visiting Iceland in Winter


  • Exclusive winter sights - There are some stunning sights in Iceland that you’ll only be able to see during winter. Among those sights are the ice caves, which form each winter. It’s worth a trip just to see these awe-inspiring ice formations!

  • Northern Lights - Perhaps the most convincing item on this list, the Northern Lights are only visible in Iceland between October and March. Within this timeframe, the winter months are the best time to see this dancing light show. These cold, dark winter nights provide the perfect opportunity to spot the Northern Lights in Iceland.

  • Beautiful, snowy landscapes - Who wouldn’t want to enjoy the beauty of Iceland covered in a blanket of snow? Discover mountains, canyons and even volcanoes topped with snow during winter in Iceland!

  • Fewer tourists - You’ll find fewer tourists in Iceland during winter. That will give you a brilliant chance to visit Iceland’s natural wonders without the crowds.

  • Cheaper prices - In the low tourist season, prices for flights and accommodation also tend to be a little cheaper.

  • Enjoy the festivities - With an Iceland winter trip in December, you’ll be able to soak in the festive sights of Iceland around Christmas and New Year.


Iceland winter trip: Northern Lights

Cons of Visiting Iceland in Winter


  • Cold weather - Iceland during winter is pretty cold, although perhaps not as cold as you’d expect. The more popular South Coast of Iceland actually averages about 0 °C, which is 32 °F. Temperatures in the sparsely populated North Coast of Iceland drop to -20°C or -4°F, though.

  • Road closures - Roads can get icy during winter in Iceland. The most popular roads are kept clear and safe each day. There will be some roads that have to be closed during winter, though, particularly, the mountainous F-roads in Iceland. This means you need to be prepared to rearrange travel plans depending on the weather and road conditions each day.

  • Inaccessible attractions - Some sights may be inaccessible or closed in the winter. The most famous one is Landmannalaugar in the Highlands of Iceland.

  • Short daylight hours - An important factor to consider for your Iceland winter vacation is daylight. There are around five hours of daylight in the winter months, from 10-11am to around 3-4pm, depending on the month you visit. This gives you less time for sightseeing, which is quite a big disadvantage of visiting Iceland in winter. It’s definitely doable if you plan ahead, though!

Outdoor Conditions During Winter in Iceland


Although the weather in Iceland is famously changeable, the winter season normally sees cold temperatures, snowfall, and strong winds as well. Iceland’s climate is influenced by milder Atlantic air mixing with colder Arctic air. This mixture creates somewhat unpredictable weather.


Reykjavík, the island’s capital, sees average temperatures of around 1 to 2 °C during winter. This might be warmer than you expect, which is partly due to Iceland’s high level of geothermal activity. Thanks to geothermal energy, the island warms up naturally from the Earth’s heat.


Situated in the southwestern area of Iceland, the city of Reykjavík is usually warmer than Northern Iceland. This region sees average temperatures of -10 °C (14 °F) and more consistent snowfall. The remote Westfjords clock an average of -5 °C (23 °F), depending on which part you visit.


Iceland during winter

What to Bring For Your Iceland Winter Trip


Wondering what to pack for your trip to Iceland during winter? For the chilly winter weather, you’ll definitely need to bring layers. Layering is the best way to protect yourself from the cold and retain your body heat. Here’s a quick rundown of what we recommend bringing along for your Iceland winter vacation:


  • Waterproof and windproof jacket – This protective outer layer will shield you from the elements. It is a must when out and about exploring the ice-covered beauty of Iceland.

  • Puffy insulated coat – If your waterproof jacket isn’t insulated, you can layer your coats. This way, you are warm enough and also protected from the wind and rain.

  • Thermal tops and pants – Thermals are necessary for a warm under layer.

  • Thermal underwear – You might also want to bring some thermal underwear if you know you tend to feel the cold easily.

  • Jumpers – Fluffy jumpers will keep you cozy and warm in the harsh winter weather.

  • Waterproof hiking boots – These are a must to keep your feet warm and dry during winter in Iceland.

  • Wool socks – Make sure your toes are warm through the day by wearing a pair of wool socks.

  • Scarf, gloves, and hat – Protect your head and hands from the winter chill with a warm scarf, beanie hat, and waterproof gloves.

  • Sunglasses – Yes, you may still need sunglasses during winter in Iceland! If there’s a sunny day, the snow and ice can be dazzlingly bright – that’s where your sunglasses will come in very handy.

  • Swimwear and a quick-dry towel – Bathing suits are a must for taking a dip in Iceland's natural geothermally-heated pools.

  • Camera – You’ll definitely want a camera to capture the magic of Iceland in the snow, from glaciers to snowy canyons and ice lagoons!


Clothes for winter in Iceland

Traveling By Campervan During Your Iceland Winter Trip


Renting a campervan is a brilliant option for traveling around Iceland, whatever the season! The advantages of driving a camper in Iceland include having the freedom and flexibility to explore wherever your heart desires. You can also take longer trips as you’re bringing your home with you, and the ability to reach some of Iceland’s more remote and untouched landscapes.


Camping


You can explore Iceland by campervan in winter and stop at a range of Iceland’s well-equipped campsites along the way. Most campgrounds in Iceland have a special area for campervans. There you can pay to use facilities, such as showers, hot water, WiFi, and more, depending on where you’re staying and what you need.


Driving


Although road conditions may be a bit more icy than you’re used to at home, driving a campervan around Iceland in winter is definitely doable. You’ll need a 4x4 camper rental in Iceland for the winter season to make sure your vehicle stays stable on the snow-covered roads.


We recommend checking road conditions in Iceland before you set off for your day’s adventure. Do make sure all the roads to your destination are open and safe for traveling.


Iceland winter travel

Winter Activities in Iceland


You won’t be short of things to do in Iceland in winter!, there’s plenty to get stuck into during the winter months. From exploring the island’s incredible natural wonders to discovering some of Iceland’s amazing museums and attractions. Check out our suggestions for top things to do on your vacation for each month of the winter season.


November


Enjoy Iceland’s awe-inspiring mountains covered in snow by spending a day or two skiing during your Iceland winter vacation. Skiing in Iceland is quite popular, but less crowded than resorts in the Alps, so you can enjoy the snowy landscapes in peace.


November in Iceland is also the time when Iceland Airwaves music festival is held in the capital of Reykjavík. While you’re near the capital, make sure to take a short trip to the Blue Lagoon to soak away the winter blues in this natural geothermal pool.


December


A December trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without exploring the magical city of Reykjavík. Christmas markets and admiring the picturesque festive lights illuminate the city.


To continue the Christmas spirit, you can visit the Akureyri Christmas House in North Iceland. Open all year round, this Christmas House is a winter wonderland full of festive treasures! It will make the perfect Christmas gifts for your loved ones.


Christmas in Iceland during winter

January


With dark skies and long nights, January in Iceland is a brilliant month to hunt the Northern Lights. Hop in your camper and take a trip away from the city lights to get the best view of this spectacular light show.


Make the most of your Iceland winter trip by exploring Iceland’s incredible ice caves while they are accessible. Enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk through a stunning blue cave made of ice. Luckily, you can take a guided tour to these breathtaking natural wonders.


February


A trip to Iceland’s incredible ice lagoons is a must during February in Iceland. Jokulsarlon is a paradise waiting to be discovered! Here, you can go on a glacier hike, see giant icebergs floating across the water and take a trip across the road to visit Diamond Beach.


Take a trip to the award-winning Perlan museum in Reykjavík to explore the world’s first indoor ice cave. You can also enjoy a road trip around Iceland’s Golden Circle. Head to visit sites like Thingvellir National Park and the Geysir geothermal area – perfect to warm up in the winter chill!


Top Tips for Your Iceland Winter Vacation


  • Plan your itinerary beforehand. With shorter daylight hours, it’s important to plan your daily schedule ahead of time. It is essential if you want to make the most of the sunlight hours. Luckily for sightseeing, there are no true polar nights in Iceland. That means there is always a period of sunlight each day when you can get out and about exploring all that Iceland has to offer!

  • Book any guided tours or self-drive tours in advance. Even though Iceland is considerably less full of tourists in winter, there are still some visitors and guided tours are very popular. We recommend booking these ahead of time, as well as tickets for any attractions and places you’d like to go.

  • Check road conditions before setting out. As mentioned above, some roads can potentially close during winter in Iceland, so we advise checking that your route is driveable on the day.

  • Bring extra layers when you go exploring – Even if it seems relatively mild earlier in the day, the weather could turn icier as the day goes on. Bring along another jacket or jumper to save yourself from getting cold.


Iceland winter tours

Get Set for Your Iceland Winter Travel Adventure!


Inspired to explore the winter wonderland that is Iceland during winter? Now you know the best activities, you can then check the must-visit places in Iceland for further inspiration. Make your Iceland winter travel dream a reality by getting started with planning your adventure now.


Take the first steps by finding your flights. Then, secure your accommodation and reserve your Iceland campervan rental, ready for the trip of a lifetime! We look forward to welcoming you to this snowy paradise island to enjoy your perfect Iceland winter vacation.

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