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Iceland Winter: average weather, what to wear and what to do

What is winter, anyway? What constitutes “winter” is really a matter of definition. Is it winter if it’s snowing? In Iceland, it sometimes won’t snow in the winter. Is it winter if it’s cold? But in Iceland winter doesn’t really get THAT cold.

So, in Iceland, it’s officially “winter” from a specific day in October, officially called “The first day of winter”. In this article, we’ll cover the months roughly from “autumn” until “spring”.

Winter in Iceland is surprisingly mild. In the south, the average temperature is about -2 to 0 degrees Celsius (28-32 F). It can be windy, particularly in January and February when we get occasional storms, though hurricanes are almost unheard of.

But what is the weather like month by month? How should you dress and what should you do with your time here? Read all about it here:

Iceland winter activities:

Most Iceland tours and activities are available year round. The Golden Circle is only snowed out about once every few years, the Blue Lagoon has closed due to weather only once or twice in my three years in the industry, and whale watching is still available in the afternoon, even though the mornings are too dark in the winter.

Some tours and activities, however, are only available in winter:

The Northern Lights: You can only see the northern lights in the winter. The northern lights tours run from late august or early September, until mid-April. Read more about the northern lights.

Ice caves: The Ice caves of Vatnajökull are only approachable in wintertime since they are unsafe in summertime. But the longest man-made ice tunnel in the world is available any time of year.

Dogsledding: Dogsledding is available year-round, but different in the summer and winter. In the winter, you ride on snow in mountainous areas, or even up on a glacier. Contact us for more information about this.

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What to wear during Winter in Iceland:

In the wintertime, you should pack winter clothes, hats, gloves and scarves, thick coats and sturdy footwear, maybe even snow trousers.

You will want to bring a warm under-layer such as thick tights, long-johns or leggings. On top of that you will want a warm middle layer and finally a wind-proof layer such as a jacket or snow suit.

Read our full Iceland packing list.

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One word: "layers"

Iceland Winter Weather:

As I said, the winters are surprisingly mild here, considering the country’s name. But how does the weather change during the course of the winter, and how does that affect your travel plans? Here’s a month-by-month description of the weather in south Iceland. (It can be considerably colder and snowier the farther north you go, so take that into consideration).

Iceland winter temperatures
Iceland winter temperatures
Iceland Winter: Precipitation
Iceland Winter: Precipitation
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September weather in Iceland

Temperature and precipitation

The average daily high in September is 11,7°C and the daily low is 6,5°C. The average precipitation is 95,8 mm.

Sunrise/sunset

Sunrise is between 6 and 7:30 am, later as the month wears on, and sunset is between 8:45 and 7 pm, earlier as the month wears on. The day is therefore between 14,5 hours long at the beginning of the month, and 11 hours at the end of it.

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October weather in Iceland

Temperature and precipitation

The average daily high in October is 7,8°C and the daily low is 2,8°C. The average precipitation is 89,2 mm.

Sunrise/sunset

Sunrise is between 7:30 and 9 am, (later as the month wears on), and sunset is between 7 and 5:45 pm, (earlier as the month wears on). The day is therefore between 11 hours long at the beginning of October, and 8 hours at the end.

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November weather in Iceland

Temperature and precipitation

The average daily high in November is 5,24°C and the daily low is 0,4°C. The average monthly precipitation is 82,8 mm.

Sunrise/sunset

The sun rises between 9:30 and 10:45 am (later as the month wears on), and sets between 5 and 3:45 pm (earlier as the month wears on). The day is therefore between 8 hours long at the beginning of November, and 5 hours at the end.

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December weather in Iceland

Temperature and precipitation

The average daily high in December is 3,4°C and the daily low is -1,8°C. The average precipitation is 98,8 mm.

Sunrise/sunset

The sun rises between 10:45 and 11:20 am (later as the month wears on), and sets between 3:45 and 3:30 pm. This month is different since December 21 is the shortest day of the year, and after that the days start getting longer again. The day is between 5 hours long at the beginning of December, down to 4 hours on the 21st, and back up to 4 hours and 20 minutes at the end of December.

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January weather in Iceland

Temperature and precipitation

The average daily high in January is 3,5°C and the average daily low is -1,2°C. The average precipitation for this month is 87.7 mm.

Sunrise/sunset

The sun rises between 11:20 and 10:15 am (earlier as the month wears on), and sets between 3 and 5 pm (later as the month wears on). The day is therefore between 4 hours long at the beginning of January, and 7 hours at the end.

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February weather in Iceland

Temperature and precipitation

The average daily high in February is 3°C and the daily low is -1°C. The average precipitation is 83.6 mm.

Sunrise/sunset

The sun rises between 10 and 8:40 am (earlier as the month wears on), and sets between 5 and 6:45 pm (later as the month wears on). The day is therefore between 7 hours long at the beginning of February, and 10 hours at the end.

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March weather in Iceland:

Temperature and precipitation

The average daily high in March is 4,7°C and the daily low is -0,7°C. The average precipitation is 84.5 mm.

Sunrise/sunset

The sun rises between 8:30 and 6:45 am (earlier as the month wears on), and sets between 6:45 and 8:20 pm (later as the month wears on). The day is therefore between 10 hours long at the beginning of March, and 13,5 hours at the end.

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