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Is it Best to Visit Iceland in Winter or Summer?

The honest answer to this question is both. Many of Iceland’s fabulous natural attractions can be visited both in the winter and in the summer. But, you come away with a different experience because of the seasonal differences. If possible, you should visit both during winter and during summer to fully appreciate everything there is to see and do in the Land of Fire and Ice.

There are some unique activities in Iceland you can only enjoy in the winter or in the summer. If you can only visit once, you should choose whether to come in the winter or the summer based on what you most want to see.

The Aurora Borealis

Seeing Mother Nature’s wonderful and surreal skylights is on many people’s bucket list. Because of Iceland’s low population density and close proximity to the Arctic Circle, it is the world’s best location to observe the fantastic Northern Lights.

However, the Aurora Borealis is only visible when the sky is dark. During Iceland’s summer, the night is short and often does not grow dark enough to see the lights. In winter, the nights are long and very dark, providing optimum conditions for admiring the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis is most frequently visible between September and April.

Arctic Landscapes

Iceland is an excellent place to explore icy landscapes. Iceland’s largest national park, Vatnajökull National Park, covers 14% of the island nation. It features Vatnajökull Glacier and active volcanoes. You can visit the park both in winter and summer, though the ice and snow are more impressive in winter.

Whenever you go, you must dress for cold weather conditions. If you want to get the full arctic experience, you should visit an ice cave. The play of light through the ice is out of this world. Unfortunately, these are only accessible during the winter months.

Whenever you do go, don’t go alone. In fact, you should only visit the glacier on a guided tour led by local experts such as those employed by Iceland Go Tours. Arctic landscapes are beautiful, but they can be unforgiving.

Just south of the park is Jökulsarlon Glacial Lake, which has featured in many movies, such as Batman Begins and Die Another Day. Icebergs up to 100 feet high float through the lake’s waters creating a surreal scene.

Powerful Water Displays

Iceland boasts the world’s greatest collection of picturesque waterfalls. It is also the place where you can see several of the world’s most famous geysers. If water at its most wild impresses you, come to Iceland.

Icelandic day-trippers flock to scenic Skogafoss waterfall. Nearby Seljalandsfoss features a path that takes you behind the falls and allows access to a hidden cave. Romantics head for Hjálparfoss, where two rivers meet to create a powerful union symbolising the bond of wedlock.

In the Haukadalur Valley, you can visit the two most famous geysers in Iceland. Geysir Hot Springs is the source of the English word “geyser”. It erupts infrequently, but when it does, it throws water up to 230 feet high. Nearby Strokkur Geyser is more reliable because it erupts every six to ten minutes, and its fountain of steaming water sprays 66 feet into the air.

Any of these fabulous water attractions can be visited year-round. In winter, the icicles surrounding the waterfalls make an impressive sight. However, you may need to don snowshoes to explore the surrounding countryside on snowy days. If you go sightseeing anywhere in winter, you’ll see more and stay safe by joining an organized tour run by a reputable tour operator like Iceland Go Tours.

When the ice is melting in spring and summer, the waterfalls are at their most powerful and impressive. Also, visitors have noted that it is not easy to walk behind Seljalandsfoss in winter because ice covers the path. So, summer is perhaps a better time to visit the waterfalls.

Whale Watching

The waters surrounding Iceland are surprisingly warm due to the underwater volcanoes of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This creates perfect conditions for zooplankton and the fish that feed on it. These abundant fish stocks lure thousands of humpback whales to feast off Iceland’s coastline between April and November.

Whales sometimes swim in and out of the Westfjords and can be spotted from the shore in that area. However, the best way to get close to these marvelous mammals is on a whale-watching boat tour from Reykjavik, Akureyri, and Húsavík.

The whales do not completely disappear during winter. You can join a whale-watching cruise from Reykjavik year-round. However, the chances of spotting whales in winter are low. In contrast, during summer, many boat tour companies offer guarantees that if you don’t spot a whale, you get a second trip for free.

Explore Inside A Volcano

Thrihnukagigur is a dormant volcano in the southwest of Iceland. It hasn’t erupted for over 4,000 years, and today it is possible to visit its perfectly preserved magma chamber. This is the only place in the world where you can explore the innards of a volcano to fully understand how it works and to appreciate the vast scale of this natural phenomenon.

You must hike for 50 minutes to reach the open crater and then descend 400 feet in an open cable lift. The crater itself is a prominent landmark in the Blafjoll Country Park. However, you can only visit Thrihnukagigur during the summer.

Best Time to Visit Iceland: Summer vs. Winter

Best Time to Visit Iceland: Summer vs. Winter

Wondering when is the best time to go to Iceland and what to expect in every season? This guide should give you a better idea of what it’s like to visit Iceland in different seasons and to decide when to travel to Iceland. Find out!

Iceland is one of those places that you can visit all year round. It’s rough and beautiful at the same time, it’s unique, and it will definitely surprise you. First-time travelers often play it safe and travel to Iceland in the summer. However, recently more and more people discover this amazing country in winter. But when to visit Iceland?

The best time to travel to Iceland depends on what you expect from your trip. Below in this article, we cover the main advantages and disadvantages of visiting Iceland in summer vs winter.

If you are worried about the weather in Iceland, all I can say is don’t be, because there is simply nothing you can do about it. Of course, statistically speaking, you will have warmer and drier weather in summer than in winter, but it doesn’t mean that it will actually be that way. It wasn’t when we traveled…

My personal experience in Iceland in summer, in autumn, and in winter

I visited Iceland several times: in May – June, in July, in August, in September, and in November. Below, you can read about my experience on each of these visits.

Further below, you can find a comparison of experiences and things that you can do in Iceland in summer versus winter. Based on what you want to see and do, this should help you to decide on when to visit Iceland. Read on!

Iceland in May – June

The day we arrived in Akureyri on the 31st of May 2006, we found ourselves in the middle of a terrible snowstorm. Our plane had difficulties landing, the roads were icy and some sections of the main road around the island were closed, the streets were covered with snow, and practically everything was closed.

The rental car agency upgraded us to an SUV as they didn’t think it was safe to drive with a regular car. Despite this, our car ended up in a ditch on the second day of the trip…

Luckily, nobody got hurt and there was no damage to the car. We were also lucky that a friendly Icelander happened to be passing by within just a few minutes on a completely deserted road, and that he had all the equipment to pull our car back on the road with his monster-size 4×4.

Just two days later all the snow was gone and we even had one sunny day with temperatures reaching 20°C (68°F) for just a short moment. By the end of our vacation, we were wearing our winter jackets again.

Snow in northern Iceland in June

Northern Iceland in June 2006

Iceland in November

So when I booked my winter trip to Iceland in November many years later, I was prepared for everything.

It was cold, much colder than expected, but it was dry! There was some ice on the roads near Reykjavik on the first day, but we haven’t seen snow or rain for the rest of the week.

We were told that it was highly unusual to have 7 dry days in a row in November. Just as it was highly unusual to have knee-high snow in June…

Beautiful winter landscape in Skaftafell National Park in Iceland

Beautiful winter landscape of Skaftafell National Park – November

Iceland in September

My third time in Iceland was in September, for an amazing Icelandic highlands trip. We had beautiful sunny days, but also some rain and wind. One moment we would be walking around in sweaters and an hour later we would need a winter jacket… But in general, it was sunny – the best weather you could hope for in Iceland.

We were told by the locals that they didn’t have as much sun during the whole summer this year as we did in September…

Walking in a moss field in Iceland

September weather is often as good as in summer in Iceland

Iceland in July

Recently I also had a chance to quickly visit Iceland in July. It was just a short stopover when traveling to and also back from Greenland. This was in the summer of 2019, which was probably one of the nicest, sunniest, and warmest summers Iceland ever had.

The weather was amazing in Iceland in July and we were walking around Reykjavik in t-shirts. I even saw some people wearing shorts and sandals – an exceptionally rare sight in Iceland.

Our Icelandic friends invited us for dinner at their house where a lot of their friends were gathered for a garden party. This was in the middle of the week and most people came straight from work. They told us that the weather is so exceptional that you have to take advantage of it while it lasts. ‘Use the weather’ they told us. Who cares that you have to go back to work the next morning…

That being said, even this exceptionally sunny and warm Icelandic summer meant that maximum temperatures were around 15-18°C (59-64 F), with just a few days of temperatures over 20°C (68 F).

Perlan Observation Deck - best views in Reykjavik Iceland

Reykjavik in July

Iceland in August

Our most recent trip to Iceland dates from the second half of August. This was the same exceptionally dry and warm summer of 2019. This time we were traveling around West and North Iceland for 10 days.

We started with incredibly beautiful weather on Snaefellsnes Peninsula and had amazing sunny weather in the Westfjords and Hvitserkur and Siglufjordur in the North of Iceland. By the time we got to the Myvatn area, the sun was gone, but it was still dry and warm enough with just a sweater.

However, a week later, the weather changed and by the time we visited the highlands, it was freezing and we were experiencing some of the worst wind and horizontal rain. We could hardly get out of the car and had to also change our travel plans one day – we visited Haifoss instead of Landmannalaugar.

By the time we got back to the Reykjanes Peninsula at the end of the trip, we had typical Icelandic weather with sun, rain, and everything in between on the same day.

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Best time to travel to Iceland - Reykjanes coast in August

Reykjanes Peninsula on a rainy day in August

If there is one conclusion to be made from my experience visiting Iceland in various seasons, is that the weather is always unpredictable in Iceland. On top of that, it changes quickly so you should expect the worst and hope for the best, and be flexible in case you need to change your plans.

Here you can find our packing tips for Iceland for the winter months and here – Iceland packing tips for the summer. Travel well prepared and you will love Iceland in any season and any weather!

Of course, traveling in summer or in winter will in principle give you completely different experiences. Some things you will be able to see and do all year long, some others are season-specific. Below, you can read a summary of the main benefits of visiting Iceland in each season to help you decide when is the best time for you to travel to Iceland.

Just to be clear, by summer I mean June through August, winter – October through April. May and September can be a bit of both. Remember that you can have summer AND winter in one day in any season in Iceland.

Activities you can do and places you can visit in Iceland all year

The following places and activities in Iceland are easy to visit the whole year round:

    (don’t miss Perlan), Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, Geysir), and the Southern coast of Iceland, all the way up to Jökulsárlón, can be visited all year. You can also easily visit all these places with organized tours from Reykjavik in any season.
  • Natural baths such as Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, and many others, as well as countless swimming pools, are all accessible all year round.
    , some snowmobile tours, horseback riding – these and some other activities you can do in all seasons. There is even a natural ice cave – Katla – that you can visit the whole year-round (all others – only in winter).
  • Iceland is also a real photographer’s paradise in any season. If you love travel photography, Iceland will give you so many unique opportunities for great pictures.

Glacier hiking in Iceland

Glacier hiking in Iceland can be done in any season

Advantages of visiting Iceland in summer

Here are a couple of main advantages of visiting Iceland in summer:

  • The days are long in Iceland in summer. In fact, they are endless, so you can do much more sightseeing.
  • It is warmer and drier.
  • You can see some wildlife. Theoretically speaking, you can see whales in any season, but the chances are much higher in summer. Puffins and most other birds can only be seen in summer months.
  • Roadsare better accessible and you may get to places that are completely out of reach in winter.
  • Fully exploring the highlands in Iceland is only possible in summer.
  • Many waterfalls are better accessible in summer. In winter you often have to admire them from a safe distance as it’s just too slippery to get closer.
  • The northern part of the island can be visited easier in summer months than in winter. The same counts for the Westfjords; places like Dynjandi or Raudisandur are best visited in the summer months.
  • You can do the complete Ring Road of Iceland without having to worry about driving conditions.
  • Camping is certainly more pleasant in summer. Here you can find more information about camping in Iceland.
  • Some hiking can be done all year, but you will have many more possibilities in summer.
  • Most museums outside of Reykjavík are only open during the high season.

Here you can find a few examples of activities, excursions, and day trips you can do in Iceland in summer.

Puffin on a cliff at a coast in Southern Iceland

Southern coast of Iceland is the best place to see puffins in summer

Advantages of visiting Iceland in winter

Here are the main advantages of traveling to Iceland in winter:

  • Winter has the most beautiful light for photography. The days are shorter and your sightseeing time is limited, but the light is just amazing as the sun is so low on the horizon that it looks like sunset all day long.
  • Northern lights. The best time to see Aurora Borealis in Iceland is from September through the beginning of April. In fact, there are only three factors that determine if you get to see the auroras: it has to be dark, the sky has to be clear, and it helps if aurora activity is high. Make sure you check aurora forecast websites to help you ‘hunt’ Northern lights. Even if the activity is low, you can usually see some auroras on a clear night, and a level 4 or 5 aurora display can be just dazzling. Take a look at our beginners’ guide to Northern Lights photography.
  • You may witness the most beautiful frozen nature creations in winter. Frozen waterfalls are just incredible!
  • The most impressive natural ice caves (around Skaftafell or near Jokulsarlon) can only be visited in the coldest winter months. They are under the water for the rest of the year. Here you can find more inspiration: bucket list-worthy winter experiences in Iceland.
  • Skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing are extremely popular in the winter months. Although, as already mentioned, some snowmobile tours run the whole year-round.
  • There are fewer tourists in winter so it is less busy at the attractions.
  • Prices of accommodation and car rental are lower as well.

TIP: If you are thinking of visiting Iceland in winter, take a look at our winter itinerary for Iceland. If you don’t feel like driving in Iceland in winter, check this hand-picked selection of the best tours and winter day trips in Iceland departing from Reykjavik.

Multicolored aurora borealis display in Iceland

Northern Lights Display in November. Aurora activity level 5.

Jokulsarlon beach Southern Iceland in winter

Jokulsarlon Diamond beach in November

TIP: If you are still not sure when is the best time to visit Iceland, I might just have a perfect answer for you. I recommend visiting Iceland in September, especially if it’s your first trip. Why? You can read more about it here: good reasons to travel to Iceland in September.

One thing I know for sure – no matter which season you choose, you will love Iceland!

More tips for your trip to Iceland:

  • Airport transfers:How to Get to Reykjavik from KEF Airport
  • Budget:How Expensive is Iceland (& How to Save Money)
  • Packing:What to Wear in Iceland in Winter and What to Pack for Iceland in Summer
  • Tours:Best Tours and Day Trips in Iceland
  • Accommodation:Where to Stay in Iceland and Where to Stay in Reykjavik
  • Reykjavik:Best Half Day Tours from Reykjavik and Perlan Museum
  • Check our Iceland travel guide for even more inspiration and tips

How to plan a road trip in Iceland:

  • Itinerary:Iceland Itinerary
  • South Coast:4 Days in Iceland – Best South Coast Itinerary
  • South & West:Iceland 7 Days Trip Itinerary
  • West, North & the Highlands:Iceland 10 Days Itinerary
  • Ring Road:Iceland Ring Road Itinerary

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

When to visit Iceland

Best time to travel to Iceland - summer versus winter

Posted on Last updated: September 6, 2021

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Wednesday 24th of February 2021

Thank you Jurga, We are hopeful we will be allowed to travel soon but understand the virus is everywhere.

Monday 22nd of February 2021

Aloha Jurga, I appreciate all your helpful information and really enjoy your photos! Much Gratitude.

We live on the Big Island of Hawaii and very much want to visit Iceland. We are both already vaccinated but it does not look like we can enter the country due to our American passports. Do you know if or when we will be able to enter?

Tuesday 23rd of February 2021

Hi Aimee, the rules change all the time, and you can find all the latest updates on the official website. Also Icelandair does a good job at keeping their website up-to-date with any new developments. From what I see, people who have been vaccinated and can present an official certificate, are already exempt from quarantine. This has literally just changed a few days ago (Feb 19, 2021). However, since Schengen borders are still closed to Americans, this only applies to people traveling from within Europe. So Americans aren’t allowed to visit just yet, no matter if vaccinated. Nobody knows when this will change and it will probably be a decision of the Schengen zone and not Iceland alone. If you are not sure, it never harms to simply contact the embassy and ask. However – once again – the rules change all the time, so even if it’s not allowed today, it’s very likely it will be possible a few months later. I know that Iceland is very eager to reopen to tourists so they won’t keep the borders shut any longer than necessary. In general, Europe is hoping to ease things up by May and, hopefully, we’ll be able to travel a bit more this summer. But nobody is giving any certainty about summer travel within Europe, let alone about trans-Atlantic travel for leisure yet. So if you already start planning, I wouldn’t plan anything for the first months, but rather for the fall/ winter, maybe late summer. But nobody will be able to give you 100% certainty about the reopening at this moment.

Monday 28th of October 2019

Nice blog. I think summer is the best time to visit Iceland. Because in winter months we can face several problems like, Driving in winter can be a little tricky, snow falls around them so, and it could be difficult to drive. I have visited many times in Iceland. But in September is the best time to visit Iceland. Last September I had visited Iceland with my sister to see the mesmerizing view of northern light.

Friday 1st of November 2019

Thanks for sharing your experience, Sara. Indeed, driving in Iceland in winter is not for everyone and you never really know how it will be. I have to agree with you that September is an amazing time to visit Iceland (as you can read in my Iceland in September article), but every season has something different and unique. Thus this article – to let people decide when to visit Iceland, based on their interests and expectations.

Thursday 18th of October 2018

Firstly, I would like to thank you for writing such an elaborate blog. It really helped in planning our trip. We are going there in January 2019. Is it absolutely necessary to get a 4×4 Car if we are planning a self drive 9 day road trip.

Thursday 18th of October 2018

Hello, in principle it’s not necessary to rent a 4WD for Iceland if you stay on the Ring Road. However, in winter, I would at least rent an SUV – a car that is higher from the ground and more stable on the roads. However, sometimes a big SUV costs more to rent than a 4WD, so it really depends on your personal preferences as well. You never know how the roads or the driving conditions will be, in any case don’t rent the smallest car in Iceland winter. Here you can find some real-life stories about driving in Iceland in winter – you’ll see that it’s impossible to predict. We use this search engine to check and compare car rental prices between different companies. Take a look.

Tuesday 28th of August 2018

I have visited this beautiful and heart touching place in winter. Now I am planning to go there in summer. I am so excited. Thanks for the post, it gave me a better idea what to expect.

Wednesday 29th of August 2018

If you liked Iceland in winter, you’ll love it in summer as well. Just prepare for the ever-changing weather ;).

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Hi, and thanks for stopping by!

I’m Jurga, a traveler with a camera, a mom of three boys, and the founder of Full Suitcase, one of the world’s leading family travel blogs.

On this blog, I share our family’s travel experiences from all over the world, coupled with lots of practical information and useful tips for your trips.

The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Iceland In Winter

Thinking of visiting Iceland in winter? You will not be disappointed. Winter in Iceland is an adventure you will never forget. While Iceland is a beautiful country whatever time of year, winter in Iceland is magical.

Rather than the landscape being buried under snow it somehow seems to be enhanced by it. Waterfalls are cloaked with icicles, a golden light seems to always be present and the snow and ice make this prehistoric land looked even more mystical.

There is no need to be worried about visiting Iceland in the winter; as long as you are flexible with your plans and check the weather forecast before you travel anywhere you will have a safe and enjoyable trip. In fact, winter is one of the Best Times To Go To Iceland!

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In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about spending winter in Iceland, things to do in Iceland in the winter, and what things you need to put on your Iceland winter Itinerary.

white buildings amongst a snow covered landscape in Iceland

Table of Contents

Is Winter A Good Time To Visit Iceland?

In our opinion, there is no bad time to visit Iceland and it really depends on what you want to do while in Iceland and the type of holiday you prefer. If you decide to spend the winter in Iceland you are likely to find it cheaper and less crowded, which is a great advantage.

However, the real advantage of spending winter in Iceland is you have a greater chance of seeing the northern lights. You might even find yourself snow hiking, visiting ice caves, or bathing in warm geothermal pools.

Winter in Iceland is a unique, unforgettable experience.

Make sure to check out our Detailed Winter In Iceland Travel Itinerary!

snow covered Kirjufell mountain in Iceland in winter

Average Winter Weather In Iceland

When most people think of Iceland in the winter they think of freezing temperatures and bitterly cold conditions. In reality, winter in Iceland is pretty mild due to being located on the Gulfstream.

The average winter temperature in Iceland is just about freezing 20-35*F [0 to -5C] and while it can get colder and warmer in general the temperature hovers around the freezing mark.

The weather can be unpredictable and there can be quite a bit of snowfall. Some places can get snowed in but this is not the norm. Be prepared for the wind which can feel bitter and make it feel colder than it is.

We recommend you pay close attention to the weather forecast and only travel when it is totally safe to do so.

To give you some perspective, a Reykjavik winter can hover between -10 and +10 (14-15*F) New York and Chicago regularly experience colder winters.

2 people in red jackets standing at Kleifarvatn lake with snow on the ground

Average Sunlight In Iceland During Winter

In October there are roughly 8 ½ hours of sunlight from approximately 9 until 5.30. The days then continue to get shorter until the shortest daylight day of the year, 21 st December, where there are 4 hours of daylight from approximately 11.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.

The days then tend to get longer from there, gradually up until March where the days tend to be longer than the rest of Europe.

We have visited Iceland many times during winter and the shorter days are actually really crazy to experience! It is like the sunset lasts the entire day. There is nothing like it!

winter in Iceland Seljalandsfoss waterfall at sunset

How to Drive In Iceland In Winter

If you are thinking of visiting Iceland in winter you may be nervous about driving during the winter months. If you are renting a car in Iceland during the winter, then this section is for you!

Being worried about driving in Iceland in the snow is understandable as most of us don’t have a lot of experience of driving in snow and icy conditions. However, if we as Floridians had no problem with it I’m sure you will be fine too.

When spending winter in Iceland it’s important that you drive carefully and slowly. Not all roads are cleared and there could be black ice patches so take it easy. It can be tempting to speed as the roads are often clear but don’t; it’s illegal and dangerous.

All rentals cars come equipped with snow tires during the winter months so you will not need a 4×4 vehicle unless you choose to have one.

Since it is unsafe to drive the whole Iceland Ring Road during winter, we don’t recommend spending extra on a 4×4 unless you really want to. All of the Best Stops In South Iceland do not require a 4×4 to see!

Before any trip just be prepared. Make sure you have looked at the forecast, have a full tank of gas, and always pack some food, water, and blankets just in case you get stranded. If the forecast says don’t drive, don’t even if it is just a wind warning, the wind can get pretty bad and cars can get blown off the road.

Some roads will be closed but the ring road that circumnavigates the entire island is always open unless otherwise specified so check online before you travel. When we say “always open” take that with a grain of salt. The roads in the Eastfjords are often closed in winter for weather and the north may be closed as well.

If you stay away from the F or H roads, and The Highlands and the North when the weather forecast is bad, you are unlikely to come across any really dangerous conditions. Generally, if you stick to the South you will be fine.

We also recommend you always use your headlights as it is dark a lot and even the daylight hours can seem gloomy.

If you do get into trouble the emergency number in Iceland is “112.” Or call the roadside assistance number that comes with your rental car if it is not an emergency.

a single red car driving on a paved road with snow mountains in the background

Cost Of Travel To Iceland in Winter

Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world so visiting Iceland in winter means you are going at the cheapest time.

Rental cars, hotels, and tours will all be less than they are if you visit in the warmer months.

However, gas will not be cheaper, and filling an economy car will cost between $80-$100 so make sure you factor in that cost.

Some restaurants may drop their food prices but don’t expect this. A simple meal like a burger and chips can cost around $30-$40, a gas station meal will likely be around $15-$20. It’s expensive and if you want to drink alcohol buy it at duty-free, you will pay about $8 for a glass of beer and $10 for a glass of wine.

You can save money by buying food at the grocery store and making your own but these stores do not sell alcohol.

When planning your winter in Iceland make sure you have a healthy budget for food or be prepared to cook for yourself.

a Geysir blasting water into the sky in Iceland in the winter

What To Wear During Winter In Iceland

When packing for winter in Iceland you do need to give what you are taking a bit of thought. We have found you often need more than you think because things get wet and may take some time drying. Having good sturdy winter boots is essential and you will need a coat/jacket that is wind and rainproof.

If visiting Iceland in winter think about layering, an inner layer that is worn directly on the skin that breathes and has moisture-wicking, a middle layer that will insulate and heat, and an outer layer that will protect against the wind and rain.

The best investment for your Icelandic winter trip is a waterproof and windproof jacket, waterproof trousers, and waterproof snow boots. If money is tight concentrate on these three items and buys second-hand if you need to.

The objective is to stay warm and dry so anything that helps in those terms is well worth the investment.

A few things to also think about is that due to snow you may not be able to wheel your suitcase very far so either go with a backpack or make sure you can carry your case.

Here are the things we recommend for your winter in Iceland packing list.

Waterproof and Windproof Coat

The right jacket in Iceland can make your winter holiday a great one or a cold miserable one. You want a solid jacket that is both waterproof and windproof. For winter in Iceland, we recommend a jacket with an Omni-tech base layer and a waterproof shell. A good jacket is worth the investment. And if you are thinking of taking pictures yellow or red looks great against the winter Iceland backdrop. We like the Columbia Women’s Superpipe Slope 3 in 1 Interchange Winter Omni Heat 650 Down Ski Jacket. Terrence wears this Columbia Men’s Action Jacket.

Waterproof trousers

Waterproof trousers or snow pants are a great idea for your winter in Iceland. Snow Pants tend to be thicker and padded like the ones you would wear skiing and waterproof trousers are generally trousers you can slip on over say hiking trousers or jeans so they don’t get wet. It depends on what you intend to do so think about your Iceland winter itinerary and choose accordingly. We love these Columbia Storm Surge Pant and the Columbia Women’s Arctic Air Omni-Tech Ski Snowboard Pants. Terrence loves the Columbia Men’s Snow Gun Pants.

Winter Boots/Snow boots or waterproof shoes.

When traveling in Iceland in winter a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots are essential. There is nothing worse than walking around with cold feet. There are so many different types and styles so choose what suits you and your Iceland winter itinerary. Make sure the soles are certified to keep your feet warm to temperatures below 0*F to ensure you are purchasing a good pair. Victoria wears the Columbia Minx Mid II Omni-Heat Winter Boot and Terrence wears the Columbia Bugaboot Plus Omni-Heat Michelin Snow Boot.

A Balaclava

The perfect winter in Iceland accessory. Cheap doesn’t take up a lot of space and won’t be blown off your head like hats can be. They will also keep the cold wind off your face, which you will thank us for. We find Balaclavas like this work well.

Waterproof Gloves.

Like everything else in Iceland in the winter packing list make sure your gloves are waterproof if not your hands may spend most of the day wet, there may be snow and ice everywhere. You don’t have to get snow gloves unless you want to; just make sure whichever you get are waterproof and are padded enough to keep you warm. Victoria loves these Touch Screen Waterproof Warm Gloves and Carhartt Women’s Quilts Insulated Breathable Glove with Waterproof Wicking Insert gloves. Terrence tends to ear something like this Snow gloves like these HighLoong Men Ski Snowboard Gloves Waterproof Thinsulate Cold Winter-Black.

Thermal Tights or Fleeced leggings and a long sleeved top.

Investing in some good thermal tights, leggings, long johns, or leggings are a must, and paired with a long sleeve top these will keep you toasty warm. If you will be wearing them directly on your skin make sure they are breathable and moisture-wicking as you will sweat. Thermal underwear or an equivalent that covers you from head to toe while not necessarily attractive is required to combat the wind.

Victoria loves these Premium Women’s Fleece Lined Leggings and these 32 Degrees Women’s Heat Scoop Neck Thermal Tops. This is also one of your favorites Hanes Women’s V-Notch Pullover Fleece Sweatshirt. We tend to pack Pack at least 3-4 good long sleeve shirts each. Terrence wears a thermal top and thermal leggings.

Light Thermal Jacket

You probably won’t need to wrap up for an arctic adventure every day and some days it may be warmer. On these warmer days, you may want to ditch the heaver study coast in favor of a lighter thermal one. Having a light thermal jacket with Omni-heat technology is a great idea and your larger coat can be put over the top if needed. We love this light thermal jacket with Omni-heat technology.

Hiking Pants/Trousers

You can of course if you want to wear jeans or any other trousers but we find hiking pants more comfortable in particular if they are ones which have a bit of stretch in them. Hiking pants tend to be on the thin side so you will need something warmer under them. Whatever you wear though is liking to get muddy so make sure you’re not wearing your best trousers as they will get ruined. These Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Straight Leg Pant are Victoria’s favorites and Terrence likes this pair of hiking pants.

Knit Hat

For the days when a balaclava is not necessary a wool hat may do just the job. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something that you can pull over your ears and is functional. Victoria wears a Tough Headwear Cable Knit Beanie.

Wool Socks

Do not spend winter in Iceland without a pack of wool socks. Wool is the single best fabric for keeping you warm and you won’t want to do the trip without them, believe me, we tried.

Things you might not think you will need but you will.

A Swimsuit or swim trunks

The hot springs will be warm when you are traveling to Iceland in winter so you will want to make the most out of it by taking a dip. In our minds, this is totally essential on your winter trip to Iceland.

Polarized Sunglasses.

If you have been skilling you will know why you need polarized sunglasses during a winter trip to Iceland. Sun reflecting off snow and ice can be very harmful to your eyes. It’s also impossible to keep your eyes open if this is happening and believe us you will want to see the amazing scenery. Polarized sunglasses offer more protection but normal sunglasses will do if you don’t have polarized ones.

Filtered Water Bottle

You can drink water straight from the tap and we have even seen some people drinking straight out of the streams in Iceland. However, everyone reacts to bacteria differently so we suggest a filtered water bottle or something like a life straw just to be on the safe side.

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Obviously, you will also need your sleepwear and outfits for days you decide not to venture out and cozy up inside.

a person standing and looking at Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland in winter

Where To Plan Your Iceland Winter Itinerary

If you are spending winter in Iceland it’s best to focus on the south coast of Iceland. You are less likely to come across road closures and inclement weather.

We love the south coast of Iceland and it is the safest place for a winter trip.

The south coast has lots of natural wonders to keep you busy, from dramatic waterfalls to black beaches you are unlikely to miss out on anything a visitor in warmer weather can get a glimpse at.

As with any winter Iceland itinerary makes sure you make allowances for the few daylight areas, only climb stairs and areas around waterfalls if it is safe to do so, and stick to the main highway.

Places you can visit in the south include Reykjavik, Skogass waterfall, Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, The Blue Lagoon, and much more. As you can see winter in Iceland means you miss out on none of the usual tourist spots.

Winter in Iceland allows you to see most of the places that Iceland has become known for at a time when they are likely to be less busy.

a church in Iceland with snowy mountains in the background

Visiting The Blue Lagoon During Winter In Iceland

The blue lagoon in Iceland in the winter is well worth the time, in our opinion.

Visiting the blue lagoon in winter can be somewhat of an extraordinary experience. If you are lucky you may catch the northern lights or be there when the snow starts to fall. We’ve visited during the winter on several occasions year-round

The Lagoons water is naturally heated by mineral-rich thermal springs and stays toast all year round (37-40°C/98-104°F). It’s a great treat for your skin and a fantastic way for you to relax and just enjoy the experience.

The lagoon is about 45 minutes away from Reykjavik and if you don’t have a car you can get bus transfer or book a tour. You will need to pre-book and there are various offers with added extras. We recommended going as early as you can as by noon the place will be buzzing with people.

There are places to store luggage and lockers to keep belongings. All purchases are charged to your smart wristband so no need to worry about your wallet while enjoying the lagoon.

Please note before entering you are required to shower naked and while a lot go for the communal showers there are private shower stalls.

The Lagoon is large and the water temperature varies so you can always find a spot that is perfect for you.

Before you go in protect your hair and jewelry as the minerals in the water can play havoc with them. We recommend using the conditioner in the shower and leaving it in your hair and taking off all your jewelry and storing it safely in your locker.

There is a restaurant on-site and you can go in your bathrobe and slippers (provided in some entry levels). It is one of the best places to see on your Iceland Itinerary!

It’s definitely worth a visit if you are spending Iceland in the winter or any month.

an empty Blue Lagoon in Iceland in the winter

Best Winter Tours In Iceland

If you want to go to Iceland in the winter and don’t want to drive, no worries. There are some great ours available most starting in Reykjavik.

Here are some of our favorite winter in Iceland tours.

Magnificent Iceland Winter: Aurora Borealis & Golden Circle

This day trip allows you to see many breathtaking sights and if the Gods are looking down on you, the northern lights.

The tour starts in Reykjavik and then you get to experience Thingvellir Park, Geysir, Gulfoss waterfall, and the Kerid volcanic crater.

Then weather permitting after a short rest you get set for your Northern Lights Tour and if the conditions are just right you will be in for a jaw-dropping experience.

This tour lasts for 9 hours and starts at 10 am. Pre-booking is required. The tour also picks up from most hotels where access is available.

The northern lights dancing over Reykjavik

Vatnajökull Glacier: Ice Cave Tour

You can’t come to Iceland in the winter without visiting some ice caves. On this tour, you will explore the blue ice caves in Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. The tour begins from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Southeast Iceland and is relatively easy going. The 4×4 Superjeep gets close to the cave entrance without much effort.

There is nothing as spectacular as the stunning blue ice and the beautiful views for which Vatnajökull is famous.

The 2½ hour tour begins from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon; there you meet your professional glacier guide and a 4×4 Superjeep takes you to and from the glacier.

person standing in ice cave in Vatnajokull Iceland

From Reykjavik: Blue Lagoon and Northern Lights Tour

If our description of the Blue lagoon had you wanting to jump into the warm waters right away then this is the tour for you. You spend the afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, entrance fee included, then you have some free time to relax before setting off on The Northern Lights Tour.

You are always taken to the best locations to see the northern lights at that moment but of course, nothing is guaranteed, and if you don’t see anything you are welcome to join the tour again, free of charge.

The tour is an 8-hour experience beginning at 1 p.m. and the pickup is from the bus terminal in Reykjavik.

people relaxing at The Blue Lagoon at sunset

From Reykjavik: Langjökull Glacier Snowmobiling Tour

For those that like their winter in Iceland with a few thrills then this 1-hour snowmobile ride in the vast snowfields of Langjökull Glacier might be right up your street. Experience the landscape like a local and see how breathtaking this country really is.

This tour lasts 8 hours and includes a return transfer to and from Reykjavik, snowsuit, helmet, and gloves are provided.

People riding snowmobiles on Langjökull Glacier in iceland

Best Things To Do In Iceland In Winter

There is so much to do in Iceland in the winter from ice skating to ice caving from hot geezers to snuggling up in front of the fire. Winter in Iceland has something for everyone.

Here is a list of 5 things to do in Iceland in the winter that we think you will enjoy.

A view over Reykjavik in the winter

Experience a Frozen Waterfall

No trip to Iceland would be complete without a trip to a waterfall and in winter these waterfalls truly are spectacular. While the waterfalls take your breath away in a warmer month, in winter they take on a more mysterious and otherworldly quality. They really are a sight to behold.

Svartifoss Waterfall, situated in Vatnajokull National Park at Skaftafell, is overrun with visitors in the summer, but in winter you may be one of only a few people there.

Seeing these black falls draped in ice really is a sight to see. The unique black volcanic rock stands tall competing with long icicles hanging overhead as the high falls partially freeze. It’s a sight to behold.

You will have to hike 1.5km to get there and the terrain will be snowy and icy and the path can get slippery. Don’t attempt this unless you have crampons or microspikes to put on your shoes. The hike is uphill and will take about 45 minutes each way.

Make sure you are entirely comfortable hiking in these conditions before you set off. When you arrive grab a map from the visitors center. You will pass two other waterfalls on your way, Magnusarfoss and Hundafoss. They are far less impressive but worth a short stop never the less.

If this waterfall feels a little too adventurous for you Skogafoss Waterfall, one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, is easily accessible, just next to the Ring Road. Just like the rest of Iceland, Skogafoss is spectacular whenever you visit. Seeing this waterfall cascade from snow-covered hills is a sight you will never forget.

Waterfall surrounded by basalt rocks in Iceland in the winter

Explore a plane wreck

When most people think of things to do in Iceland in the winter I bet the plane wreck pops into most heads. The famous plane wreck at Solheimasandur Beach is, you be pleased to know accessible in winter. However, bear in mind that you will have a 4 km round trip from the car park so be prepared.

The plane has stood in this spot since Saturday, Nov 24, 1973, when a forced landing was required by the pilot due to icing. This really is a unique thing to do in Iceland in winter and the photos you can get will be phenomenal.

The walk is relatively easy on a flat rocky beach and be aware you won’t be able to see the plane until you come over the hill and almost upon it. If you are visiting Iceland in the winter this is a great thing to add to your itinerary because it isn’t as busy as the warmer months and you may be able to get a picture easier.

The famous plane wreck at Solheimasandur Beach in Iceland at sunset with snow on the ground

Visit a Glacier Lagoon

No visit to Iceland would be complete without a trip to Jokulsarlon. We believe it is one of the most beautiful sights in Iceland and it has lots of contenders so that is really saying something.

Formed by meltwater for the nearby Vatnajokull glacier it really is a sight to behold. Huge chunks of ice break off the glacier and float into the lake before being swept into the sea. These icebergs are speckled with black and turquoise and some are thousands of years old.

The zodiac and amphibian boat tours won’t be running in the winter but you can still get an amazing view of the lagoon from the lakeshore.

Across the road you can visit Diamond Beach, so-called because the icebergs wash onto the black sand beach and some chinks of ice glisten like diamonds. And when snow covers the beach the spectacular looks even more awe-inspiring.

It’s free and you are guaranteed that no two visits will look the same due to the ever-changing nature of the lagoon.

massive glaciers at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Icleand at sunset

Chase down the northern lights.

The number one reason to visit Iceland in the winter is to see the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis.

This is the one thing that really sways a visit to Iceland in the winter over the summer months. The dark skies and the right conditions make for one of nature’s most impressive shows. Seeing the sky dancing with green, purple, and orange-red hues is an experience we will never forget.

If you want to chase down the Northern lights you have two options. You can take a tour or self-drive to the location. The tours are affordable and the tour guides are more knowledgeable about where the best locations on that particular evening will be. If you self-drive you will have more time to stay at the location but you might not be in the best area that particular evening.

December through March tends to be the times when the lights are more visible but you can see them September through April if you are lucky. And like everything in nature, there is no guarantee and your visit may be an unsuccessful one. The weather changes quickly and the conditions have to be right to see this spectacular so count seeing them as a blessing rather than a has to happen thing.

The Northern Lights dancing in the sky over snowy landscape

Walk on a Black Sand Beach

One of the best things to do in Iceland in the winter is to visit Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. We guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Near the fishing village, Vik in southern Iceland visiting this place in winter gives it a whole different perspective. Even if you have seen this beach in the warmer months please go visit in winter it’s special.

Prepare yourself it will be cold and most likely very windy so dress as warm as you can. We stopped on the way back to the car to get a hot chocolate at a little touristy café, it was much needed.

What makes this place so special in the winter is how white little balls of snow and ice mix with the back sand, couple this with crashing high waves against the step-like rock formations and you are standing in one of the most atmospheric locations we have ever experienced, it looks out of this world.

people walking on Reynisfjara black sand beach in Iceland in the winter at sunrise with snow on the ground

I hope we have convinced you that visiting Iceland in the winter is well worth it. There is so much to see and do and the sights really are magical with the added touch of winter. Please let us know how your winter in Iceland goes and whatever you decide to do we know you will have an amazing time.




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