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How to Survive Winter in Iceland

Iceland Winter
Esja Winter Iceland

Spending some of your winter in Iceland is becoming more popular every day. Although snow, wind, and cold weather might pop into your head when you think about winter in Iceland, focusing on these aspects doesn’t do this magical season justice. It has a lot to offer for those looking for the perfect winter break. Preparation is key, and when you follow these five tips you’re ready to go!

1. Wear the right clothes

You might have heard the old saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. Before you pack your bags, make sure your winter wardrobe is complete. To stay warm and dry, you have to layer your clothing. Keep the three-layer method in mind: wear an inner layer, a middle layer and an outer layer. The inner layer, preferably polyester, wool, or silk, is worn directly on your skin. These fabrics breathe and manage moisture well. The middle layer usually consists of a jacket or sweater and thermal underwear. These insulate heat and maximize warmth. And lastly, the outer layer protects against wind and rain. Also, shoes! Hiking boots are essential for Iceland’s rugged terrain.

Winter Clothing Iceland

2. Bring your bathing suit

Yes, I know how cold it is. The thing is, locals love going to the pool. It’s the perfect way to warm up in the middle of winter. The thermal pools usually keep a temperature of 30 °C, perfect for swimming. But the best part are the hot tubs, with temperatures ranging between 36 and 44 °C. Icelandic people love soaking in hot tubs while chatting, discussing, or arguing about daily life. The most famous pool is the Blue Lagoon, but Reykjavík also has some great thermal pools.

Pool Iceland

3. Don’t forget your camera

Iceland is a paradise for photographers. The winter sun is weaker than in summer, resulting in a unique light. Combine this with the serene snowy landscape, complete with waterfalls in icy caves, and you have excellent ingredients for a beautiful snapshot. Let’s not forget the northern lights, that’ve lured photographers to Iceland for many, many years. They can be tricky to capture, but with our beginner’s guide to photographing the northern lights you will be sure to succeed!

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4. Know where to go

The weather in Iceland is unpredictable and it’s good to know a couple of cosy places to hide if necessary. Reykjavík is home to lots of interesting museums and expositions. The Glacier Exhibition in Perlan will lead you through a replica of an ice tunnel that ends in an exposition about Icelandic glaciers. After your visit to Perlan you can go downtown for a cup of coffee. The quirky café Babalú and vintage hot spot Stofan should be on your list. It’s also possible to book a bus tour. Bus drivers will take the weather into account and when it’s bad, you can always warm up in between stops. On sunny days, book a glacier walk. With clear sky the view from the glacier is phenomenal.

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5. Keep your plans flexible

The weather in Iceland is fickle and the most important thing is to stay safe. By all means, make plans, but be prepared to change them if the weather is acting up. Check the weather forecast before you set off and don’t risk driving far if the weather is bad! If you’re not used to driving in wintry conditions, or feel uncomfortable, take a guided tour instead.

Have a great winter in Iceland!

Winter Night