Iceland in the summertime and in the wintertime is not the same country. There are drastic changes that make some of the attractions impossible to explore while others become available. The countryside can change so drastically that if you came in the summer you wouldn’t know you’d already driven the same road before. Driving can be difficult and the roads treacherous, the wind and the slab don’t help out either and to top it all off, you’re always racing against the darkness.
So let me tell you what to expect from the winter in Iceland.
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 that we get snow. Therefore, you have to be prepared to get wet, like really really wet.
Now, the wind doesn’t take a break for the wintertime, if anything, it picks up. So 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.
When driving there are a few things that you need to be aware of.
- Sometimes you can’t see the layer of ice that’s covering the road, or black ice.
- The same rules apply for driving in slab as when driving in heavy rain.
- If you’re driving a large car, be careful for 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.
There, 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 vary.
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 driving unless you have experience driving in difficult conditions.
And finally we have a red warning. That basically means that you should stay inside.
The last thing I want to mention is the darkness, depending on the time you visit, the dark will be a huge factor in your vacation. 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 then 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!