5 Practical Tips for Travelling to Iceland in the Winter
Our Nordic Travel Specialist, Eric, heads to Iceland to give us some top practical tips on travelling to this enchanting country during the crisp winter months.
Having taken a trip to Iceland in midwinter last year, as winter comes around again I’m reminded of a few of my favourite Icelandic things: the beauty of the northern lights in a starry sky, the striking sight of a geothermal steam plume rising from a crack in the ground, and glimpses of far-off volcanoes with snowdrifts billowing off their distant peaks.
Here are my five top tips to keep in mind when planning your winter escape:
Visiting Iceland in winder is a wonderful experience and offers amazing landscapes and activities for a holiday like no other. Whilst there are fewer people visiting during this time, flights and accommodation do get booked up. You also need to consider when activities and attractions are open, they don’t operate as frequently in the winter and close early as it becomes darker.
Be Flexible! The weather can change
In Iceland, if you don’t like the weather – you only need to wait a minute! The weather can easily go from a cold, foggy morning to a brilliant sunny afternoon or a day full of snow landing on the ground at a startling speed. Make sure you’re prepared for both and don’t despair if the day doesn’t start off too well, you will need to be flexible on your itinerary.
Pack warm layers
This one is important! It’s far better to pack a number of thinner layers than just one or two thicker ones, as not only does the oxygen between the layers help keep you insulated, but you can also take off or add on layers as appropriate for the weather that day. A good waterproof coat and walking boots are also essential in Iceland in the winter. Whatever you do, don’t wear jeans and remember to bring your gloves and a hat!
If you are driving a hire car in Iceland in the winter, it goes without saying that you need to drive carefully, observing the speed limits and road signs, and keeping a close eye on the (possibly changing) road conditions. The roads are kept clear of snow and ice by snowploughs from early in the morning, and your car will be a four wheel drive (4WD) with studded tyres, so you shouldn’t run into any problems, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t experienced with driving in the snow, we can also advice some escorted or privately guided options so you can still explore
Don’t give up on the northern lights!
If you are travelling in Iceland in the winter months, chances are that you are at least a little interested in seeing the northern lights. While it is important to remember that they are a natural phenomenon, and therefore you may be unlucky and not see them, it is equally important not to assume the worst. They can be seen from early evening to the middle of the night, so make sure you don’t give up hope of a sighting and keep an eye out on the forecast for predictions.
Afraid of the dark? Don’t be. Remember that the days are shorter in the winter months, with the sun-setting around 3pm in December and January.
Make use of the hot springs
It can be cold in the winter in Iceland, but this land of natural contrasts has an answer to that: the geothermally heated water that is so readily accessible. You are never too far from warm water to defrost in, whether one of the many hot swimming pools you will find in almost every village in Iceland, the hot tubs that most hotels offer, or even one of the country’s natural hot springs. And most of them are outside, too, so you can enjoy the fresh air and stunning scenery while you have a soak!