5 Things to Know About Traveling Iceland in Winter
It's been just over 6 months since our return from our wintery, Christmas escape to Iceland. I've finally come to peace with the terror I endured (5-8" of snow per day and 60 mph winds) and have been able to now see and focus on the positives of the trip. It was a definite learning experience, and a test of endurance and patience, and personalities among my new family.
Here's the top 5 lessons we learned as a whole and wanted to share with anyone preparing to make the cold, yet absolutely beautiful trek to Iceland during the winter months.
The Weather is Unpredictable. Sure, you're knowingly traveling to an arctic nation during winter, but the weather in Iceland truly is unpredictable. During our weeklong stay we were bombarded with heavy snowstorms (5inches overnight!), 50-60mph winds, and sometimes our visibility on the roads was as low as two feet. I had friends go other times in winter and be treated to days of clear skies and views of the northern lights. Even checking the weather apps, be prepared for the unpredictable.
A fur hooded jacket is your best friend. It protects against the grueling wind and snow more than you could ever know. Make sure it's waterproof, wind proof, and warm down too! The temperatures when we went hovered around 30°F (0°c) but with the windchill was much colder.
Listen to the locals. Icelanders are notoriously laissez faire about situations in which the average American would be freaked out by. That being said, if they are concerned for you, or warn you to stay off of a certain road, listen to them. Failing to do so could result in an annoyed Icelander calling a tow truck for you.
The Northern Lights are not guaranteed. Everyone thinks that you head north and see this magical mystical light show of dancing colors and it's as easy as that. In truth, it's a very complicated equation of clear skies, minimal but not non-existent wind, and a specific range on the magnetic fields. We used this website to track our possibility of seeing the northern lights, but as mentioned we had rough weather and weren't able to catch our glimpse.
Don't have a too cool for school attitude. Take the rules of the road and the culture seriously; they're there for a reason. For example, the rental car company will tell you not to go off the road. I can't tell you how many cars we passed who scoffed at the rules and needed a tow out of a snowpile.