Traveling in Iceland during winter can be dangerous, but if you’re careful, you don’t have to let the weather get in your way.
Our little island is not the same country in the wintertime as it is in summer. There are drastic changes that make some of the attractions impossible to explore while others become available.
The countryside can transform to such an extent that if you come back in summer, you wouldn’t know you’d already driven the same road before.
In the wintertime, driving can be difficult and the roads treacherous.
The wind, rain, and snow don’t help out either, and to top it all off, you’re always racing against the darkness.
So the goal of this quick blog is to inform you what to expect from the winter weather in Iceland.
Let’s start with clothing
Contrary to what some might think, Iceland is honestly not that cold.
It doesn’t work in the extremes and you won’t have to worry about being in the middle of nowhere in -30°Celsius (-22°Fahrenheit).
That would actually make things a lot simpler, you see, the average temperature on the south coast is around -1C (30F). Because of that, we can get much more rain than we get snow.
Therefore, you have to be prepared to get wet, like, really really wet. That makes clothing that repels water extremely important.
Our parka will do the job in the middle of winter and the fitted raincoat for Spring and Autumn.
The wind doesn’t take a break in the wintertime, if anything, it picks up.
You can expect wind mixed with lots of rain, so don’t be fooled when you see that the temperature is only at 0°C (32°F), I can assure you that it doesn’t feel like it.
Now let’s move on to driving in Iceland
When driving, there are a few things that you need to be aware of.
- Black ice.
- The same rules apply to driving in thick snow as when driving in heavy rain.
- Drive slow
- If you’re driving a large car, be careful of gusts of wind.
- Small cars don’t have to worry too much about it, but always be careful.
It is vital if you plan on driving in Iceland during the wintertime that you stay up to date on the weather before you drive. Vedur.is is an Icelandic website that will have alerts if the weather is extremely bad.
On the website, it will show where in the country the bad weather is and the severity of it.
Green is nothing serious.
Yellow is quite common and you should just be careful and respectful, but don’t be afraid to go out.
Once they start showing orange that’s when you either need to reconsider if you really need to drive there or just be extremely careful. I would not recommend going unless you have experience driving in difficult conditions.
And finally, we have a red warning. That basically means that you should stay inside. Unless you need to get to a hospital, get cozy wherever you are, and make a warm cup of cocoa.
Another website that’s full of useful information is safetravel.is, they also have a driving section if you’d like to go more in-depth.
The last thing I want to mention is the darkness.
Depending on the time you visit, darkness will be a huge factor in your adventure.
In December you can expect 5 hours of daylight.
We highly recommend that you start the journey before the sun rises. You don’t want to waste precious daylight on driving and when you finally get to your destination, it’s too dark to see anything!
But that is the gist of it.
If you’re careful you’ll find driving Iceland in the wintertime to be an amazing experience and a great memory.