Despite what you might think, Iceland actually doesn’t get all that icy. I won’t get into the science behind ocean currents and weather patterns but what you need to know is that even during winter, the weather rarely gets much colder than -1 or -2°C (26-28°F). That’s the good news, the bad news is that despite the relatively stable temperatures, the weather is unpredictable and liable to change quickly. In order to get the most out of your trip to Iceland, watch the weather forecast.
You don’t have to pack for a polar expedition but it’s always better to have more warm clothes than you need than to suffer in the cold. Think warm layers, and definitely bring a hat and some mittens. If you’re going out of the city, (which you should!) some good shoes are in order to keep you safe on slippery paths and to keep your toes nice and toasty. One surprise thing to add to your suitcase is a bathing suit. Iceland has a plethora of spa-like swimming pools and bathing spots
, heated with geothermal water.
What to do
The number one reason for visiting Iceland during winter are the northern lights. The magical sight of the green ribbons of light twirling across the night sky is a sight you won’t soon forget. Getting out of the city lights is a must if you want to enjoy the lights to the fullest and getting a guided tour will maximise your chances of seeing the lights. Once you’ve seen the northern lights, it’s time to see all the other natural beauty Iceland has to offer, the south coast and the Snæfellsnes peninsula are great places to start. Also, don’t forget: don't leave before you see the northern lights!
The aurora are a natural phenomenon, so they’re not a reliable attraction but taking a guided tour and watching the forecast closely will maximise your chances of seeing the lights. Also, you can’t leave Iceland without having an icy adventure – try hiking on a glacier, going snowmobiling or visiting an ice cave!