4 Things Travelers Should Know About Iceland Winter Travel

Last updated on December 19th, 2023 at 03:24 pm

Iceland winter travel has become a hot commodity in the world of adventurers. Close to 1.7 million visitors flock to the land of fire and ice each year to get a glimpse of Mother Nature’s finest work.

Those seeking breathtaking landscapes and solace have chosen the right place. A floating paradise between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, the small Nordic country is magical year round.

While the summer months offer the midnight sun, festivals, and warmer weather, there’s something to be said about winter in Iceland.

iceland winter travel views

Those courageous enough to brave the unpredictable weather will find a slew of adventurous activities to do during this time of year.

After visiting Iceland 5 times myself, I often get asked about Iceland winter travel quite often. What do I pack? What can I do? Are there specific safety tips?

While there is certainly something mysterious and intriguing about spending a winter in Iceland, there’s also specific tips travelers should keep in mind before planning a trip to Iceland in December (or any of the winter months: December-March).

iceland winter travel and where to stay

Cozy Hotels To Spend The Winter In Iceland

Iceland Winter Travel 101: Pack Appropriately

Throwing items in your suitcase nonchalantly won’t fly if you’re planning to visit Iceland in the winter. The weather here is susceptible to change at any given moment- so it’s best to be overly prepared.

After my 1st time visiting, I definitely learned my lesson with this one. Icelanders live by the layers rule. Though the weather never typically falls below zero, if you’re venturing around the country, expect to feel an intense chill thanks to the northerly winds. 

Follow as the Icelanders do and layer up! IcelandAir recommends a base layer, middle layer, and outer shell. Prepare yourself for fluctuating temperatures (especially if you’re hiking). It’s better to wear more, so you can adjust as needed throughout the day.

Keep in mind, Iceland winter travel is so popular thanks to the country’s offering of adventurous activities. Nordic Visitor says, “to take part in these snowy excursions, such as snowmobiling and ice caving, bring winter trousers and snow boots.”

It can be overwhelming shopping for a trip to Iceland: when is enough enough?! Always keep an eye out for Gortex and Merino Wool (especially at stores like REI). They WILL be your best friends while traveling, and make it easy on cold, rainy days.

warning road signs in iceland

The Signs Are There To Help

Safety precautions and signages can be found almost everywhere in the world, and while tourists often feel invincible, it’s important in Iceland to actually follow them.

After backpacking to over 32 countries, I’ve never seen such power within nature as I’ve seen in Iceland. From cascading waterfalls to active volcanoes, taking a risk and stepping a ‘little closer’ to the edge isn’t suggested here.

“Reykjavik Excursions claims there have been “5 deaths at Reynisfjara black-sand beach in the last decade alone.” While this is a well-known spot for the dreaded ‘sneaker-waves,’ this is only one dangerous spot in the entire country!

A pristine work of art, Iceland is a natural phenomena deserving of respect from its visitors. Signs are often placed in certain spots around the country as a result of something deadly happening there in the past. Follow the signs and stay vigilant, and all should be okay.

blue lagoon iceland

Day Trips From Reykjavik To Enjoy

Winter Travel In Iceland: Yes, It’s Cold And Dark

Travelers have been known to visit Iceland in the winter looking for the midnight sun or expecting brighter days. Unfortunately, Iceland winter travel also comes with colder temperatures and 3-5 hours of daylight- if you’re lucky.

To my surprise, I found the sun rising at 10:30am and setting around 4pm some days: and this was in September! Cold and dark aren’t a great combination for most people, so it’s paramount to prepare mentally for this sudden change. 

car stuck in snow storm iceland

Safe Driving Is Key

Winter travel in Iceland can be hardcore. We’ve all seen the fascinating images of frozen cars in Iceland, but does it actually happen?

Yes! Iceland winter’s are no joke, and locals often advise those renting cars to open the doors carefully as the wintry winds can take the door right off its hinges!

What Can I Do To Drive Safe?

If you’re on a hunt for the elusive Northern Lights or a frozen waterfall, plan ahead first. According to Nordic Visitor, these are some of the main precautions to take before you set off on a winter road trip around Iceland.

  • Check weather and road conditions frequently
  • Download the 112 Iceland app connected to emergency responders
  • Save the emergency services number: 112
  • Don’t just depend on your phone GPS- use old-school marked maps 
emergency numbers iceland

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