Is it a bad idea to visit Iceland in the winter?

It’s officially winter now on this side of the globe. In Europe we have moved the clock. In Iceland, the clock has stayed out, but the weather is starting to get tricky in some areas of the country.

Time to relax and stay inside

To survive the winter where you are… Or…?

Have you ever thought about Iceland as a winter destination?

Svartifoss waterfall, Skaftafell, Iceland
The magical black waterfall on the South Coast of Iceland – Photo by Claudia, a client from The Netherlands

Why visit Iceland in winter?

Iceland is a fabulous possibility in the winter. But you need to know what you are doing to enjoy it to the fullest.

Here are some common questions and statements I get from my clients regarding traveling in Iceland during winter.

Is it unbearably cold in Iceland during winter. It is after all “Iceland”…?

That is a very interesting question. I have now lived for almost 20 years abroad. Partly in Brazil, Denmark, Austria, Portugal and now The Netherlands. In Iceland I have never experienced the cold I experienced in Austria and Denmark. You certainly need at least a jacket, hat and mittens in Iceland’s winter. And for sure you have wind and occasional blizzards. But the cold is not as uncomfortable as I have experienced in other places. The cold is not a reason to not go to Iceland in winter.

Icelandic horses in winter
The winter horses in Iceland in their beautiful winter coats – Photo by Helga Stina

Winter weather in Iceland

Weather on the other hand could be a reason for those who don´t like being stuck for an extra night somewhere due to a storm. I see it as an opportunity. You might have time to enjoy your cup of coffee longer, read a book, stay for hours in a geothermal pool or just to sleep in a warm room. In the silence of this environment while you hear the blizzard going on outside your window. I feel recharged just by thinking about this.

Coastal view in winter, north Iceland
There are many tunnels around Iceland, making winter travel easier. This is a view when exiting one of the tunnels in the north – Photo by Helga Stina

Is it impossible to drive in Iceland during winter?

Another question is about driving in Iceland. Many of my clients are coming from warmer areas of the world and are not used to or comfortable to drive themselves in weather conditions they are not used to. I respect that choice and think that it is very personal what people are comfortable with. The weather in Iceland is not horrible all the time in winter. There are areas like the highlands, that are closed during winter. But other areas of Iceland, especially the national ring road, are salted or sanded all year round as they are the lifeline of people living around Iceland.

Safe travel in Iceland in winter

I always give information to my clients on safe travel, how to drive in Iceland and where to get information to make your trip as safe as possible. Furthermore I stay in contact with my clients while they are in Iceland in case of any questions or doubts. And yes, I am following the weather forecasts and the road conditions while my clients are there, just to make sure people are well informed.

Reykjavík winter sunset, Iceland
Reykjavik in beautiful winter sunset – Photo by Helga Stina

Guided winter tours

If you are not comfortable with driving yourself I can provide you with fantastic driver guides who are experienced driving in the different weather conditions of Iceland. I can make a travel plan for you where you can make use of the guides at some points in your trip. You can do jeep tours on other days and stay in for some days and walk around the areas you visit. There are always exciting solutions to the challenges of weather in Iceland for people choosing to visit the place during winter.

Winter sunset, Vík í Myrdalur, Iceland
Vík in Myrdalur is a very popular destination and the sunset on a winters day is unforgettable – Photo by Gerda, a client from the US

When can we see the Northern Lights?

I get a lot of questions about  the Northern Lights. The Northern lights season is from September to March in Iceland. As with the weather, it is impossible to promise anything. There are ways to see if the Northern lights are visible during the nights. However, that is normally only on the day it happens, or maximum a couple of days before it happens. There are ways to figure this out, and I am always on the hunt for those possibilities for my clients, and for myself. Because there is absolutely nothing like sitting outside in a geothermal hot tub on a cold winter night in Iceland with a glass of wine and watching the Aurora dancing in the sky.

Northern lights, Reykjavík, Iceland
The magical Northern Lights in the Reykjavik area – Photo by Grétar Már Axelsson

Weather is hard to predict and so are the Northern Lights. My experience is that people find their Winter Iceland trips such an extraordinary experience that can’t be ruined, even if the elusive lights don’t show up.

Hunting the northern lights takes time and patience. But seeing them is an unforgettable experience. It makes you want to come back for more. Here you can read the story of an ‘Ïslandsvinur’ (friend of Iceland) who came back multiple times to hunt the northern lights in Iceland.

Explore Iceland on your winter adventure

Do you want to plan your trip to Iceland at this magical time of year? For more information on winter travel to Iceland, contact Iceland Unwrapped, and I will work with you to find the best possible travel plan for you and  those you travel with. Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina is a personal travel planning company with focus on personal approach, hidden gems and connecting with the Icelanders, Icelandic culture and nature.

We are also on Facebook and Instagram.


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Advent in Iceland

Winter – Iceland style

Red and white Christmas


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