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Everything You Need to Know About Winter in Iceland

If you’re travelling to Iceland this winter, you might have some questions. In fact, you SHOULD have questions.

How cold does is get? How dark does it get? What should I pack? Will my igloo have curtains?

The answers? Not that cold, not that dark, layers, and c’mon.

Winter in Iceland is a magical experience, snow crackling beneath your feet, northern lights fluttering over your head and new and exciting views, activities and places to explore at every bend in the road. If you want to be prepared and get the most out of your trip to Iceland, read on!

Weather


Despite what you might think, Iceland actually doesn’t get all that icy. I won’t get into the science behind ocean currents and weather patterns but what you need to know is that even during winter, the weather rarely gets much colder than -1 or -2°C (26-28°F). That’s the good news, the bad news is that despite the relatively stable temperatures, the weather is unpredictable and liable to change quickly. In order to get the most out of your trip to Iceland, watch the weather forecast.

Packing


You don’t have to pack for a polar expedition but it’s always better to have more warm clothes than you need than to suffer in the cold. Think warm layers, and definitely bring a hat and some mittens. If you’re going out of the city, (which you should!) some good shoes are in order to keep you safe on slippery paths and to keep your toes nice and toasty. One surprise thing to add to your suitcase is a bathing suit. Iceland has a plethora of spa-like swimming pools and bathing spots, heated with geothermal water.

What to do


The number one reason for visiting Iceland during winter are the northern lights. The magical sight of the green ribbons of light twirling across the night sky is a sight you won’t soon forget. Getting out of the city lights is a must if you want to enjoy the lights to the fullest and getting a guided tour will maximise your chances of seeing the lights. Once you’ve seen the northern lights, it’s time to see all the other natural beauty Iceland has to offer, the south coast and the Snæfellsnes peninsula are great places to start. Also, don’t forget: don't leave before you see the northern lights!

The aurora are a natural phenomenon, so they’re not a reliable attraction but taking a guided tour and watching the forecast closely will maximise your chances of seeing the lights. Also, you can’t leave Iceland without having an icy adventure – try hiking on a glacier, going snowmobiling or visiting an ice cave!

Classic Tours

If we let the winter weather stop us, we wouldn’t do much of anything! Most tours run the whole year round and seeing Iceland in winter is just a mind-blowing as seeing it in the summertime, if not more! Visit Iceland’s south coast and its many natural wonders, or go the Golden Circle to see some of the highlights of the country and still be back in the city by the afternoon. Go horse back riding on the sturdy and loyal Icelandic horse, or, if you prefer to watch animals from afar, go whale watching!
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Jeep tours

If the weather is acting up, you might want to book a jeep tour instead. Superjeeps won’t let a little bit of snow stop them and can take you to places that coaches simply can’t. As an added bonus, you’re travelling in a smaller group and get to explore nature in greater intimacy.
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Northern Lights

Ah, the aurora borealis. Gently shifting ribbons of light stretching across the starry night skies is a sight you won’t forget in a while. Taking a guided tour maximises your chances of seeing the lghts, as they take you out of reach of the city lights that obscure the delicate natural phenomenon. Take a bus, a minibus, a superjeep or even a boat! If you don’t see any lights, most tour operators let you go again the next night for free!
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Over The Holidays

Over Christmas, Iceland becomes a bone fide winter wonderland! Take a Christmas walking tour in the city and let your inner Christmas joy shine through. If you feel like getting out of the city, experiencing Iceland’s nature and the quiet stillness of the Icelandic winter will fill your heart with peace for the holidays. Visit the wonders of the south coast or take a tour around the Snæfellsnes pensinsula!
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Ice Caves

If you want to get a real winter experience, (and also that perfect Instagram content), you have to visit an ice cave! The ice isn’t simply white, it ranges from completely clear to dark blue, hitting every hue in between! There are the natural ice caves, of course, but you can also visit a man-made ice cave in the oldest part of Langjökull glacier!
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