Iceland in winter: what to keep in mind

Iceland is a relatively small island: the ring, or the road 1 or even ring road, in just 1,339 kilometers makes the full tour of the country.

Iceland is also a destination suitable for any type of traveler who is well married to any travel idea. For example, if you are looking for a route that is a little easier and more convenient, just take the ring road and a thousand attractions at the doorstep. Who, instead, looks for something more adventurous, will have to have fun following the various dirt in the hinterland and will be able to engage in many extreme activities.

Despite the small size, you may want to plan a trip to Iceland for several weeks as well as a long weekend and return home however fully satisfied. If you have a few days, my advice is absolutely not to abandon the idea of leaving, but to focus on a particular area, dedicating to the discovery of the main highlights and avoiding to include in the itinerary too many stages.

In my opinion, the true watershed, the variable that will affect in a consistent way what our trip to Iceland is the season in which we decide to leave.

I am certain to 100% that Iceland is beautiful at any time of year, that the surreal atmosphere of the snow and the ease of seeing the Northern Lights are already two reasons enough to visit it in the colder period, to which one adds the most practical one – not to be underestimated – of the prices considerably more content. That said, I must add though that I was there in the summer and, if I were to return again, I would do it anyway in the same period.

If on the occasion of my first time in Iceland the choice of the period is only dependent on the most bearable temperatures, the reason for a possible return always in summer lies in the measures that I should take during the planning of a winter trip on which I found myself to reflect thanks to your emails.

The pros and cons of a trip to Iceland in winter

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• Reduced costs, especially for hotels                                      • A few hours of light

• Aurora Borealis Frequent                                                        • Closed roads and limited itineraries

• Less crowd                                                                                  • Landscape monotony

The streets

I happened to receive requests for more information about some areas I visited during my trip to Iceland, such as Landmannalaugar, and later discovered that the reader in question was thinking of visiting Iceland in the winter, neglecting the whole question of the closure of the streets. Incidentally, the Landmannalaugar area can be reached in autonomy only in summer: In winter you have to participate in a tour organized in super-Jeep.

Some areas can be reached exclusively through the F Road, often unpaved roads that are opened exclusively during the summer season, from June to the beginning of September.

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Itineraries such as those that have led us to discover the beautiful colours of the hinterland, the desolate lands around the lake Þórisvatn and the oldest lighthouse in Iceland in the eastern fjord of Mjóifjörður, unfortunately, must be completely set aside in favor of paths decidedly more comfortable and safe, but still equally valid.

Useful resources: web site Irca For the map of the road network with indication of the roads closed in real time, the entire island and by zones.

Hours of Light

In Iceland the weather is extremely variable throughout the year and, especially the strong gusts of wind in which you can hit while driving can slow down a lot of our roadmap. In winter it is also very likely to meet snow and ice on the roads and it is important, therefore, not to predict the rhythms too tight and to leave time to manage unexpected and slowdown.

In addition to the weather and the kilometers, for a winter trip, in determining the movements and the stops, it is necessary to take into account the few hours of light.

From the end of November to the middle of January, in fact, only 3 to 5 hours of light per day: It is evident that this factor strongly affects the scheduling of trips and excursions.

During our trip, the availability of endless days and the possibility to visit a place even in the late afternoon and to drive with daylight until 11 in the evening we were able to face with serenity even the longest movements and the most intense programs.

On the other hand the Midnight sun is certainly not the best friend of the beautiful Northern Lights that the winter darkness welcomes almost every night, though – with a nice pinch of luck and staying awake until late – in the sky something magical and heavenly might look the same on a late August night.

Useful resources: web site Icelandic Meteorological Office For precipitation, wind and temperature throughout the island and for a single area, but also for The forecasts of the aurora Borealis (The white areas show no clouds and, therefore, more likely to see the Aurora). 

The contrasts

I believe that no snowy scenery can exceed the colors and, above all, the contrasts between the white of the snow, the green of the moss and the black of the lava fields of those that remain the most surreal landscapes I have ever seen and that, in my opinion, represent the most representative image on this wonderful island.

But at the same time I saw a lot of fantastic photos and I read enthusiastic tales of travel in Iceland made in winter to believe firmly that, even this season, it is worthwhile to go there: the important thing is to have clearly what you want from your trip. There are activities, for example, that can only be done during the winter, such as excursions to the ice caves of the Vatnajökull.

Winter Iceland: Itineraries suitable for the period

In general, you can decide to base in Reykjavik and visit with day trips to the Golden Circle, the Blue Lagoon and the Snæfellsnes peninsula, but it is equally feasible to draw an itinerary to spend a few nights outside the capital. For trips up to a week, rule the hypothesis of completing the circumnavigation of the island and I would suggest, instead, to concentrate on an area in particular, perhaps favoring the south with the spectacular lagoon of Jökulsárlón.

This could be an idea to see The best in a short itinerary.

The South remains the most accessible part of the winter period, but this does not mean that it is not possible to reach Akureyri or Mývatn on the north.

A few cuts or deviations in the case of inaccessible roads as indicated in the relevant posts, From Reykjavík to Akureyri and North Iceland: The Diamond Tips There are two routes that can also be travelled from September to May.

Francesca

Francesca

She loves coffee in each and every form, but it has to be rigorously without sugar. Serial expat, she is in love with the world in every tone and latitude, has lost the heart in Africa, but she ends up look for it in other places. She talks less about, but she has a weakness for London and the Middle East.

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