Iceland is such a stunning country. The island is filled with adventure, gorgeous scenery, and rich Viking history you don’t want to miss! Most people are intimidated when they think of traveling to Iceland in the winter due to the cold weather, but honestly if you have ever lived on the East Coast during the winter months, you’ll be just fine in Iceland.
Yes, Iceland is relatively cold, but you only really feel it when the wind picks up. Do not make the same mistake I did and overpack! Minimalism is key when traveling to this country. I stayed in Iceland for five days, and below is a list of everything I believe you’ll truly need in order to be comfortable during your stay.
On days I knew we were simply going to stroll Reykjavík and eat and drink our way through the city, all I needed was a cute sweater and leggings under my snow coat. *Quality sweaters are important!* Make sure if all you’re going to wear is a sweater, for it be thick. I actually think thick sweaters are cuter on. I wore this super warm pullover sweater from Free People, along with chunky turtlenecks. Also loved this Columbia Fleece!
2. Snow Boots
One pair of snow boots is all you need. I LOVED these UGG Else Deco boots because they weren’t too bulky and looked like cute black boots that I could comfortably wear in a nice restaurant. I ordered them in a size up so that they could fit my thick wool socks. Best pair of snow boots I’ve ever owned! I brought a pair of heeled booties incase something super fancy came up, but I never even thought to put them on because I simply wouldn’t be able to walk outside at all.
3. Base Layers
Adventure days call for layers. Whether you’re going hiking to see waterfalls, or ice caving glaciers like we did, you’re going to want to be ultra warm especially when winds pick up. Personally I only needed layering tops not bottoms, but everyone is different. I wore this UA HeatGear base under my Columbia fleece and snow coat when I knew I was going to be outside venturing for a long period of time.
I lived in leggings in Iceland. They’re comfortable, kept me warm, and hello leggings are just the best in general. However, leggings are not waterproof. It does rain a lot in Iceland, luckily we didn’t get too much rain during our stay, but I still needed waterproof snow pants for when we ice caved and walked around in the snow a lot. I bought these Mammut snow pants and thought they were perfect..not as comfortable as leggings of course, but none the less necessary.
5. Socks and Gloves
It’s important to have warm socks! Wool is best for this. My snow boots were lined with fur on the inside for warmth, but I still needed my wool socks everyday. When we went ice caving, I lost feeling in my toes and had to go back to the van because your girl didn’t want to get frost bite. I needed two pairs of socks that day, so it depends. Know your sensitivity level and plan accordingly. For gloves, I brought two pairs: one more thin pair for everyday hanging in the city, and another that were made for outdoor snow activities, like snowboarding gloves etc.
6. Winter Hats
I recommend bringing a beanie and a fur-lined trapper hat to keep ears warm. I bought mine in Iceland, but I suggest you buy in the states because apparel in Iceland is pretty expensive. I wore my beanie almost everyday, and my trapper hat on colder days/nights.
7. Snow Coat
Last and most important is the snow coat. This coat will be your holy grail apparel item. You will wear it everyday, so choosing one that is warm and practical is key. I loved my North Face Arctic Down Parka. It kept me warm even on cold nights outside when we wanted to stargaze, and since it’s a long coat my legs were kept warm too. Snow coats are an investment, so choose one you know you’ll love forever.
These are tips we wish someone told us before we left. It’s always important to be prepared especially when traveling to a country with unpredictable weather. Always have a plan B, and do not get discouraged if plans fall through. There are many activities to do in Iceland and the people are very friendly and accommodating.
Tip 1: Be Mobile
You need to be mobile, whether that means you rent a FOUR WHEEL DRIVE car, or schedule bus pickups–it’s necessary in order to see all the beautiful sights. Also if you do plan to rent a car, make sure you or whoever you are traveling with is comfortable driving in the snow. Luckily Icelanders also drive on the right side of the road.
Tip 2: Northern Lights Sighting
Plan to stay in Iceland at least five days so you have a higher chance in seeing the Northern Lights aka Aurora Borealis! The weather is very unpredictable in Iceland, and you need a clear night to see the lights (although you still may not see them on a clear night). We drove five hours south from Reykjavík to stay the night in a village near the glaciers. It was such a clear and very dark night yet we saw nothing. The next night we drove 40 minutes north of Reykjavík and spotted them! I loved using the Aurora Forecast App because it shows you where the solar winds are highest, along with your probability of finding the lights based on your location. BRING A PROFESSIONAL CAMERA. Your phone will not be able to capture the lights because of how dark outside is. My Sony A5100 sufficed, but I still wish I had a better camera for this.
Believe me you do not want to miss out on seeing the lights, they are truly enchanting!
Tip 3: Buy a GoPro
Oh how I wish I bought one before this trip! GoPros are great to take when going to the lagoons since they are waterproof. I brought my phone in The Blue Lagoon with me but regretted every minute. I wanted pictures, but I also didn’t want my phone to end up at the bottom of the lagoon. Luckily my phone survived, but save yourself the hassle and bring a waterproof camera.
Tip 4: New Year’s Eve
If you’re traveling to Iceland during this time, know that it is Icelandic tradition for EVERYONE to close at around 3:30pm on New Year’s Eve. Stock up on food and drink because there are hardly any places open. I do recommend visiting Iceland during this holiday. The fireworks and bonfires are amazing, and you’ll be amazed to see how many people right next to you are setting off extravagant fireworks. Such a great show!