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Winter in Iceland: Weather + Driving

Okay, guys. Today, we have to talk about winter in Iceland because honestly, that @%#& can be terrifying.

Hey, Team Iceland. My name is Jeannie and I am your tour guide for all things Iceland planning. Today, we’re talking about winter in Iceland, specifically weather and driving.

Now, these are some hot topics that go on in my Facebook group. I am so excited to get into this topic today. I think it’s really, really important because although a lot of people usually travel to Iceland in the peak times, meaning May to September, winter is becoming a really popular time in Iceland with good reason. There are some beautiful things that happen in Iceland in the winter, specifically those northern lights.

If you’ve been wondering about how to prepare for your winter trip in Iceland, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. Let’s get into it.

Now, when I talk about winter in Iceland, I’m referring to any time between November and March/April. That is your true winter in Iceland. One thing that I do want to say about winter is to not be afraid of it. Unless you’re coming from like a very tropical area where you’re not used to being cold, Iceland in the winter is so beautiful. I just love it. It’s unbelievable. You have these beautiful golden hour sunsets casting the most picturesque glow on the sky. It makes for great photo taking and then also, the landscape is incredibly beautiful at this time. Everything is just covered in this beautiful blanket of snow and everything just looks amazing, so don’t be afraid to come to Iceland in the winter.

Winter Weather in Iceland

First up, let’s talk about the weather. A lot of people are thinking because you’re going to Iceland and it’s covered in ice and it’s near the Arctic Circle that it’s going to be really, really cold but you might be a little bit surprised to know that Iceland doesn’t actually get that cold. The temperature around the main areas stays between 28 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or for you non-Americans -2 up to four degrees Centigrade. I don’t really think that that’s cold and I grew up in Wisconsin and we used to have like -30 degree temperatures so that’s cold.

Of course, during these times, you’re going to expect snow. Reykjavik, being right on the coast, doesn’t always get a lot of snow so if you’re staying more in the city, you don’t need to plan for big snow boots or snow that comes up to the rooftops or anything like that. Sometimes, you can be in Reykjavik and there’s not much snow around at all. As you get interior a little bit more, and that includes the Golden Circle, you’re going to expect to see a lot more snow and then, it can even get a little bit colder.

Another place that doesn’t always get a lot of snow is actually Vik and the black sand beach in South Iceland and this is for the same reason. It’s right on the coast and so a lot of times, if there is a snowfall, it’ll be semi-melted the next day so you won’t get such heavy snow but in general, of course, you still do want to be prepared for snowy conditions during winter. Now, if you are heading to Iceland in the winter, then get super excited because next week, I have a video coming out all about packing tips for your winter travel. This is going to include what to pack for your trip, what to wear when you’re exploring, what to wear when you’re going out in Reykjavik and all of the helpful things so make sure to come back next week for that video.

Now, pro tip. Really, really be prepared for ice. I’m talking about icy, icy walkways around those waterfalls. So important to you guys to have a pair of crampons for your feet. Yaktrax are a really, really minimal investment. You’re talking around 20, $25 dollars on Amazon and I’ll include a link in the description below so you can get to my favorite pair but you want to be prepared for icy conditions especially around those waterfalls. It’s crazy, you guys, and I’m talking especially around Seljalandsfoss. I’ve seen people like sliding down on their butt just to get back safely without falling and like breaking a limb. The spray from that waterfall can get really, really intense and make it really dangerous around those areas. Do yourself a favor and make a little bit of investment for some crampons.

Next up, the Icelandic WIND, everyone’s favorite topic. You guys, honestly, the temperatures in the snow is not going to be what gets you in Iceland. It’s the wind. Now, the wind applies to any time of year. It can be so intense, and I’m talking like hurricane-force winds. Especially, the wind comes into play in winter for a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s already cold, cold, cold, right, so adding the wind on top of is going to add a wind chill factor and make it feel so much colder. I mean like cuts right through you, chill you to the bone, really cold winds.

The other thing that’s really, really important is the wind is going to cause snowdrifts on the road especially if there’s been a recent snowfall and then heavy wind picks up, that snow is just going to be blowing across the road and it makes it so hard to see and it makes it really, really challenging driving conditions. I recommend checking the website vedur.is to check for these things like temperature, if snow is in the forecast and then especially for the winds. You really, really want to know if the wind is going to play a factor in your day because that might force you to change your plans just enough.

Winter Driving in Iceland

Next up, let’s talk about driving. If the weather doesn’t get you nervous about travel to Iceland, usually, driving makes people really nervous. This is for a couple of reasons, number one, because you’re going to be driving more during dark hours. You don’t get a lot of sunlight in the winter months so a lot of people are getting a little nervous about driving in the dark but then also, they’re worried about the road conditions. They’re worried about the snow we just talked about and the ice and the visibility and all of these crazy factors that play into planning up road trip in a safe manner. I want to ease your mind a bit about road tripping in Iceland during the winter because it can still be really safe and amazingly fun if you’re prepared.

Now, the first thing that I would suggest is to simply plan your itinerary by sticking to the main routes. This includes places around Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, South Iceland, and into the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Even if there was a big snowstorm or there’s a lot of ice on the roads, these are the areas that the road service will attend to first. You’re not going to want to plan like those little hidden gem places or trying to take some back road that might look like a shortcut because those roads will not be maintained and oftentimes, those roads will be completely shut down.

My second piece of advice for driving in the winter in Iceland is to make sure that your car has winter tires. Now, this could be anything from tires that have just extra grip on them, better for ice, better for snow, or some companies might put studded tires on. You just want to make sure with your rental car company that they do have winter tires just for added protection. Now, a lot of people are asking me whether they should rent a two-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive vehicle. This is, of course, up to personal preference but I have to tell you, I had a really, really scary situation happened to me. Well, I mean I’ve put myself into this situation but that’s beside the point, where I travel to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula one day in February by myself in a two-wheel drive vehicle and it was the scariest driving situation I’ve ever been. The weather was great, the sky was blue and I really thought it was going to be okay but the roads were so icy. It was unbelievable. There came a point where the winds really picked up and I honestly felt like the car was going to blow off the road.

Since that situation happened to me, I always urge people to be on the safe side and rent a four-wheel drive vehicle. My next tip, rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Please. I know they’re more expensive but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? These vehicles are heavier, so you’re going to feel more confident and comfortable when you’re driving a four-wheel drive vehicle. You come across a snowdrift. Then, a four-wheel drive is really, really going to come in handy. I really, really think that it’s worth the extra investment.

Now, I know what you guys are thinking. “Jeannie, it’s expensive to rent a car in Iceland,” but you get a very, very exciting special just from knowing me. You’re welcome. That is that I have partnered up with Blue Car Company to help you guys save a bunch of money on your car rental! I know. I know. I know it’s amazing, so let me tell you all about it. If you’re coming to Iceland and you’re renting a car, doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, all you have to do is head to Blue Car Rentals website and select the vehicle that you’re interested in and at the checkout page, enter #BlueView in the coupon discount box.

Yes, it does all have to be capital letters and yes, it has to have the hashtag but this will save you 7% on your car rental! I mean, you’re talking about a couple hundred dollars of savings, you guys. This is amazing. Definitely, definitely take advantage of that a deal. As you guys know, I only partner up with the Icelandic companies that I truly believe in. I’ve hand-selected Blue Car to suggest to my audience because they are a local Icelandic company. I really trust them they offer an amazing product and they have such great customer service.

All right. Next up, something that’s the super important is having a plan B. Now, I’m all for making plans about your own trips especially when it comes to winter and you cannot wing it in the winter but having a plan B is so important because of the things that we just talked about. You could have a big snow storm that rolls in, or you could have some high winds that block off the roads, and this does happen. I know it would be such a bummer if you can’t get to Jökulsárlón. I understand but trust me, they only will close off the roads or advise you not to travel if it’s serious, so if they say that, listen because it’s for your own safety. Having a plan B allows you to say, “Okay, well, we get to do this or we get to see this thing instead.” Always, always have a back-up plan. It’s super important for winter travel.

You’re going to want to head to the website road.is to check these road conditions. My advice is to, first thing in the morning before you make your plans for the day or head out on the road, check out the driving conditions from that day. Their website is really easy to use. It’s broken up by region and each road will have a color on it and that color indicates whether it’s extra slippery, or it’s covered in snow, or in some cases, it’s closed. You always want to check this website before you head out for your travels.

Last but not least, emergency situations happen. Things happen when you travel. The thing that you need to remember as you can call 112 in the case of an emergency, so whether you have a flat tire or you get stuck in a snowdrift or you get lost or any of those situations, you’re going to want to call 112. Let them know of your position and then they can send someone out to help you. There’s an app that’s called the 112 app that you can download before your trip and that’s really, really nice because you can ping the location that you’re at before you even start your travels so that in the case of a big emergency, then they know where you are.

That’s all for today, Team Iceland. If you found this video helpful, make sure to give it a thumbs up and hit the subscribe button because there are so many more helpful videos coming your way soon and you do not want to miss them. Also, if you guys are not yet on the Team Iceland newsletter, make sure to head to the link in the description below and sign up for that. My newsletter is packed full of extra tips and tricks for you guys in planning your travels and it’s where I also offer exclusive discounts and giveaways that no one else has access to. If you have a topic that you want me to talk about in a future video, don’t be afraid. Leave it in the comments below and I would love to make a video just for you. I’ll see you guys next week and as always, happy planning.

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  • Matt
    January 21, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Great info, thanks! Can you put the link for the crampons up? We are coming in early March and need these!