Of all of the nations that I’ve visited, Iceland is one which I hold returning to time and again. There’s something concerning the open, rugged panorama that speaks to my soul. Now that I’ve visited Iceland in each summer time and winter, I positively have some ideas on which I preferred higher. And whereas Iceland is a rugged and lovely place whether or not it’s draped in snow or a shining inexperienced jewel, the experiences had been actually fairly totally different.
The nation solely acknowledges two seasons, summer time and winter — making Iceland’s winter lengthy and notoriously unpredictable. It is very important be ready, so I’ve put collectively the following tips for visiting Iceland in winter. However first, let’s discuss why you must contemplate taking a winter journey to Iceland.
Not Positive About Iceland in Winter? 8 Causes it Rocks
Observe: This put up was written in collaboration with Ryan Connolly from Hidden Iceland, my most popular Iceland tour companion. In the event you guide a tour utilizing my promo code, I’ll obtain a small fee for free of charge to you.
An Iceland winter journey offers you a possibility for really once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Positive will probably be colder, and darker, however should you comply with these winter packing recommendations, you’ll be ready. Given the unpredictability of the climate and street situations, I extremely advocate reserving excursions in case you are visiting Iceland within the winter, versus planning to self-drive.
My beneficial tour companion is Hidden Iceland. I’ve traveled with them personally and have additionally gotten nice suggestions from readers who’ve booked via them. In the event you guide one in every of their scheduled group excursions (not non-public excursions) via Hidden Iceland, use my companion promo code WE3TRAVEL to obtain 10 % off your tour.
1. Uncover Blue Ice Caves
Glacier hikes are doable year-round and at all times secure in case you are with the fitting information. However in summer time the glaciers are transferring and melting so shortly that it’s not secure to go ‘into’ the glacier so to talk. It’s solely when the common temperature drops from November to March that any ice caves that had been fashioned from all of the melting, erosion, and motion of the glacier in summer time will briefly freeze in place.
You may be a part of Hidden Iceland’s 2-day Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Ice Cave Discovery tour 12 months after 12 months and by no means repeat the identical cave tour.
2. Hunt for Northern Lights
Visiting Iceland in winter means you might have an opportunity of seeing the Northern Lights. On any given night time you might have the prospect to see something from a uninteresting grayish-white streak, all the best way as much as a shimmering inexperienced or purple dancing curtain throughout the sky. The latter is way much less frequent, however really breathtaking after they do happen.
If Northern Lights are your precedence, I’d recommend becoming a member of a multi-day tour that spends the night time in a secluded visitor home or lodge as a way to ‘hunt’ proper out of your window. Or keep at a lodge like Resort Ranga on the south coast, which provides Northern Lights wake-up calls and even has its personal observatory!
3. Hike on Blue Glacier Ice
In the event you additionally need to do a glacier hike and get the blood pumping then the glacier ice transforms into an exquisite blue glass when not engulfed by snow. That is very totally different from the crunchy and infrequently soiled summer time crust of the glacier. This phenomenon happens in winter as a result of the solar just isn’t robust sufficient to soften and refreeze the floor of the ice permitting it to stay in its strong blue type at floor stage.
It’s just a little slippier than the summer time model, however with the proper spikes to your ft (crampons) and a passionate information preserving you secure, it’s a spectacular expertise. (Don’t fear, the information supplies the crampons and different mandatory tools. Simply be sure you put on heat, waterproof boots.)
4. Expertise a Winter Wonderland
Snow just isn’t assured in Iceland, however snow-capped mountains and lava fields caked in ice and snow rework the surroundings. The elusive reindeer and Arctic fox generally make appearances right now of 12 months. In case you are visiting throughout Christmas, it’s also possible to participate in some Icelandic vacation traditions or get pleasure from fireworks in Reykjavik on New Yr’s Eve.
5. Take pleasure in Fewer Crowds
Winter is far quieter than summer time, except Christmas week. The one downside right here is that regardless of there being fewer vacationers, there’s additionally much less time within the day to unfold out the actions so some spots could appear artificially ‘busy’ as a consequence of time restrictions.
However typically, all over the place you go, should you do it correctly, will probably be quieter. Availability of motels and restaurant reservations additionally turns into much less of an issue right now of 12 months.
6. Take Photographs at Noon Golden Hour
Photographers know the magic of the “golden hour” proper after dawn or proper earlier than sundown. However few locations can supply a noon golden hour. Within the darkest days of winter, if the sky is obvious, the solar barely rises above ‘pre-sunset’ section within the sky. It is a photographer’s dream with principally all the day being full of excellent mild for getting the perfect shot.
7. Take pleasure in Winter Heat (Critically)
it’s not practically as chilly as individuals assume. Positive, it’s chilly in comparison with summer time and it’s definitely going to really feel chilly should you come from a heat local weather. However would you consider me if I instructed you that the common winter temperature is definitely hotter than New York Metropolis?
It’s because the Gulf Stream sends up heat water all 12 months spherical that spirals across the coast of Iceland. The common temperature in January hovers round 32-34 Fahrenheit. Some days you’ll be able to expertise a balmy 45 with the odd day fluctuating as excessive as 50.
Be warned although, the chilly wind and the sporadic drops in temperature may also provide you with a “actual really feel” temperature near 0 Farenheit on the odd day, so be ready for all eventualities. Carrying layers with a completely waterproof outer shell is vital to happiness ranges in winter.
8. Benefit from Winter “Bargains”
Iceland might be costly and should you actually need to see financial savings, then going to Iceland exterior of peak season is vital. Some lodge costs drop by half and lots of eating places will flirt with promotional provides to entice vacationers via their doorways.
Ideas for Visiting Iceland in Winter
Observe: This put up incorporates affiliate hyperlinks. In the event you click on and make a purchase order, I could obtain a small fee. All opinions are my very own.
Have we satisfied you to go to Iceland within the winter? In that case, make sure you learn these Iceland winter ideas earlier than you go!
1. Plan forward
Winter or summer time, tourism in Iceland continues to be robust. And whereas it’s busier in the summertime, should you don’t plan forward you’ll nonetheless discover it onerous to get a lodge room within the winter, at the least through the vacation season or in Reykjavik.
2. Be versatile
There are numerous locations that declare that should you “don’t just like the climate, wait a minute,” however in Iceland, that is notably true. This brings to thoughts one other favourite quote of mine…” the best-laid plans of mice and males, typically go awry.” With quickly altering climate, you have to be versatile along with your itinerary.
Once we had been simply there in November, the plan was to go for a helicopter trip at some point and snowmobile on a glacier the following. Neither of these occurred. However did it break the journey? No. We had been capable of prolong our tremendous jeep tour to a full day with stops at a black sand seaside.
And as a substitute of snowmobiling as a result of the wind was too robust, we went for an ATV tour as a substitute. That is when it’s actually useful to work with a neighborhood tour operator that may not solely accommodate such adjustments, they’ll recommend acceptable substitutes. I extremely advocate reserving excursions with Hidden Iceland (obtain 10% off scheduled group excursions with my promo code WE3TRAVEL.)
3. COnsider a Tour vs. Self-Driving within the Winter
In case you are visiting in the summertime and need to self-drive round Iceland I say go for it. Driving in Iceland is fairly easy should you follow the Ring Highway. Nonetheless, driving within the winter generally is a totally different story. Roads shut steadily and it’s not uncommon to expertise white-out situations and I didn’t discover any salt or sand vehicles out and about.
Remember that the climate is consistently altering in Iceland, so chances are you’ll arrive in winter to fantastic climate situations, however you have to plan for the worst-case state of affairs. Googling native climate for Iceland is solely not sufficient.
Adjustments in wind velocity, precipitation, and temperature can come collectively in a crescendo of turbulence relying on the topography and route of the wind. What would possibly seem as a reasonably reasonable day on the forecast might end in a ‘storm in a teacup’ impact on one facet of a mountain. On the opposite facet, it could possibly be calm and clear.
With Iceland’s volcanic, mountainous panorama this truly occurs way over you assume. Skilled guides have native contacts that assist them make an knowledgeable choice each time. A neighborhood information will know what spots to keep away from, but in addition what you’ll be able to go and revel in in its place.
To make a winter go to much less tense and safer, I’d advocate both staying in Reykjavik and taking day excursions or taking a multi-day tour (with a driver) with a gaggle like Hidden Iceland.
4. Know earlier than you go!
Because the climate can fluctuate drastically from place to position, you really want to test for street closures and situations earlier than you permit your lodging. Once we had been heading as much as the Golden Circle on our latest go to, we might go to Thingvellir however the street as much as Gulfoss was closed so we needed to skip it. We additionally needed to take an alternate route from Reykjavik to get there.
Icelanders depend on the street.is web site for up-to-date info. You may also obtain the 112 Iceland App (112 is the emergency quantity in Iceland) in case you need assistance on the street. In case you are heading off-road in any respect, make sure you register your plans on safetravel.is.
5. Layer up
Whereas winter just isn’t at all times that chilly in Iceland, it does get very windy. You’ll have to layer up towards that wind. Begin with a base layer, add a fleece and a few waterproof/windproof outer layers and you’re good to go. Simply don’t neglect a extremely heat hat and gloves (particularly ones with touchscreen-friendly fingertips so that you don’t freeze your fingers off taking photos.)
No matter you do, don’t put on denims, these will get moist and also you’ll freeze your tush off. Oh, and chances are you’ll need to skip the Blue Lagoon on a windy day — it isn’t enjoyable to be in your bathing go well with and get pelted with hail.
Don’t miss my Iceland Winter Packing Record for extra concepts!
6. Don’t be afraid of the darkish
The benefit of all that darkness is that you could be get to see the Northern Lights. The draw back is that you simply don’t get a lot daylight to sightsee. In November the solar rose round 10 am and set by 4 pm. In January, it will get even shorter, with the dawn after 11 am and sundown round 3 pm.
If you’re going to get to see something, you’re going to have to go out at the hours of darkness. Plan on getting up and having breakfast at 8 am and hitting the street round 9 am so you’ll be able to arrive at your vacation spot by first mild. The excellent news is that you’ll be handled to some superb sunrises and sunsets. In the event you aren’t comfy driving at the hours of darkness, that may be another excuse to base out of Reykjavik and take some excursions.
7. Be ready
The chilly can sap the life out of you…and your batteries. It appeared like each time I stepped exterior my telephone went lifeless, even when I had a reasonably good cost. My answer was to convey alongside backup energy packs. Turning on that cost introduced my telephone again to life. If solely it had been really easy to convey life again to my frozen fingers.
And it isn’t simply telephones that go lifeless shortly, digicam batteries get used up shortly too. Ensure you convey backups with you all through the day and contemplate a weatherproof digicam or a superb journey digicam.
8. Be secure!
Within the U.S., we’re so used to having sanitized vacationer experiences. Our waterfalls have good security rails, upkeep crews are diligent about placing salt and sand on slippery ice, and we warn those who peanut butter might comprise peanuts. Not so in Iceland.
First off, if there’s a warning signal, it’s for a superb cause. Possible there was an accident that occurred there so don’t blow it off, take warning. When you find yourself strolling as much as the waterfalls, the mist from the falls makes it actually icy.
You’ll be finest off you probably have heat, waterproof mountaineering boots with spikes or get some clip-on crampons. Lastly, when visiting the seashores, particularly these round Vík, don’t get too near the water’s edge, particularly should you flip your again to the waves. They’re identified to expertise rogue waves that may sweep you in and tough undercurrents that may pull you out shortly. And at all times hold a detailed eye (and/or hand) on any younger children.
9. Take into consideration your actions
It’s straightforward to get enthusiastic about all there’s to do in Iceland, however not every part is accessible year-round. So do your analysis upfront earlier than reserving your journey. You don’t need to be disillusioned that you would be able to’t go whale watching as a result of it isn’t the fitting season.
10. Don’t pin all of your hopes on the Northern Lights
It was my best want to see the Northern Lights once we visited in November, however alas, it was not meant to be. Whereas I used to be disillusioned, we nonetheless had some superb experiences and I loved each minute. (Fortunately I used to be capable of lastly see them after I visited in September at one other time.)
There are some things you’ll be able to bear in mind when choosing your dates which will enhance your probabilities of seeing the Aurora Borealis. First, September – April is the Northern Lights “season” however you should have the best probabilities in late November via March.
Since mild air pollution interferes with seeing the aurora, you should have a greater likelihood of seeing them should you keep exterior of the town. We cherished our keep at Resort Ranga, the place not solely have they got their very own observatory and an astronomer that is available in on clear nights, however it’s also possible to elect to have them wake you must the aurora make an look.
Since we visited proper after the Supermoon, we had been disillusioned to be taught that the aurora borealis normally doesn’t seem on or close to a full moon. If you wish to test the forecast for predictions, go to the Icelandic Met workplace web site.
In the event that they do seem, it would be best to be ready. Sleep along with your heat garments on the prepared. Hold your digicam tools at your fingertips. Ensure you convey a wide-angle lens, tripod, a distant/shutter launch (to keep away from shaking your digicam), and further batteries (due to that chilly.) In case you are renting a cabin, contemplate leaving the digicam exterior set on the tripod so you’re able to go and it doesn’t fog up going from heat to chilly.
Whether or not you go to Iceland in winter or benefit from the longer days of midnight solar in the summertime, I hope you fall in love with Iceland the best way that I’ve.
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