Are you planning a trip to Iceland? You probably heard that is rather cold there. But how cold, how rainy, how windy is it? Do you know how Iceland weather changes by season? The country’s beauty is extraordinary and so is its climate. You will be outside a lot, mostly hiking. Therefore, packing for Iceland requires a detailing planning. What do you need to pack for your Iceland trip? What are good clothes for Iceland? How is Iceland weather throughout the year? Credit Card TravelingMom answers all these questions below.
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What to Pack for a Trip to Iceland: A 4 Season Guide
I have to admit, packing for Iceland was challenging. In general, when going on vacation, I am pretty educated about my destination. That was not the case with the trip to Iceland. Even though the country is easy to reach from the USA and Europe, it remains rather unknown because of its isolated location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I knew it would be cold there, but when it came to packing and picking clothes for Iceland, I needed more details.
What I learned during my trip to Iceland, is that its weather is unpredictable there. The joke goes, if you don’t like the Icelandic weather, just wait five minutes. It is a cold country any season due to the high latitude. It can receive cold winds from the North Pole, but that is tempered by the ocean and mild Gulf Stream that flows in it. The result is a perpetually unstable climate, with sudden changes in weather and temperature, but with a limited temperature range, both between day and night and between winter and summer. Calm and sunny periods are rare. The northern coastal area is colder than the southern one, because it is not reached by the Gulf Stream.
Trip to Iceland – A 4 season guide:
Winter Trip to Iceland
Iceland Weather in the Winter
The most important advantage of planning your trip to Iceland for winter is that the chances of seeing Northern Light are the greatest. Why? It is because for the show to take place the sky has to be dark. That is guaranteed during Icelandic winter, day or night, but the other factor, the clear sky, is not.
One misconception about Iceland in the winter is that it is very cold. The island lies in the path of the North Atlantic Current, which makes its climate more temperate than would be expected for its latitude, just south of the Arctic Circle. The south of the island averages around 32 F in winter, while the north tends to average around 14 F. Only in the far north parts do the lowest temperatures range from around −13 to −22 F.
Packing for Iceland in the Winter
When planning your trip to Iceland, keep in mind that even though winters are not extremely cold, they are far from pleasant. It is the most unpredictable season in the country. Just in one day, you can experience rain, hail, blizzard, howling winds, sun patches and everything in between. Roads are generally passable, but you can get caught by blizzard too, so be prepared!
Clothes for Iceland in the Winter:
When packing for Iceland, put a waterproof backpack, or regular backpack along with a rain cover, on the top of your list. You will need it to carry food, water, and extra cloth. Use the layer system that allows you to modify your clothing to meet a range of temperatures without needing to pack too much.
You will be mostly hiking in Iceland. But when packing, think more about skiing: high tech fast drying but breathable cloths and for outer layer everything waterproof. If you tend to lose things, have extras!
These are your essentials for a winter trip to Iceland: warm winter coat, wind and waterproof jacket, rain suit, fleeces, sweaters, hoodies, t-shirts, waterproof hiking pants, ski or hunting underwear, swimwear for those toasty thermal Icelandic pools, ski/hunting socks, warm waterproof gloves – 2 pairs, warm hats, scarfs, waterproof shoes and boots – two pairs. Do not forget hand and feet warmers!
Include on your packing for Iceland at least one going-out outfit. Nothing fancy, but if at the end of the day you still have enough energy to party, you will find places to do it, especially in Reykjavik. In nightclubs, you will be expected you to look decent, not marching in there straight from your Icelandic muddy hiking.
Trip to Iceland in the Spring
Iceland Weather in the Spring
During spring, Iceland weather is warmer and brings longer days but it is not sunny. More museums and hotels are open, but roads in the central highlands are still closed. Again, Iceland weather is unpredictable, so always be ready for cold and rain. Earlier in spring, the temperatures hang around freezing and later in the season, days are warmer and dryer, with highs reaching 50 F.
Packing for Iceland in the Spring
When picking clothes for Iceland in the spring, remember that is not the cold that will make your trip to Iceland most difficult. It is the mix of weather elements that may jump on you unexpectedly. Just like during the Icelandic winter, in spring, you need a backpack, especially to carry things that would keep you warm and dry.
Hiking in Iceland is the main activity. You need waterproof boots even if it does not rain. Everywhere you go, it will be wet, muddy, slippery or still icy. In some areas when it gets warmer, like a beach for example, rain boots may do a better job than just than regular hiking shoes.
Clothes for Iceland in the Spring:
Pretty much the same stuff you would bring for winter: warm winter coat, wind and waterproof jacket, rain suit, fleeces, sweaters, hoodies, t-shirts, waterproof hiking pants, ski or hunting underwear just in case, swimwear, ski/hunting socks or regular socks, waterproof gloves – 2 pairs, hats, scarfs, waterproof shoes and boots – two pairs.
Trip to Iceland in the summer
Ok, this is the ugly truth – summer as you know it, practically does not exists in Iceland. When I visited, at the beginning of September, it was still typical summer Icelandic weather, meaning that it was not very cold but every day packing for hiking was the same: being ready for anything!
Iceland Weather in the Summer
Summer is cool throughout Iceland. It virtually never gets warm: the temperature rises very rarely. The average July temperature in the southern part of the island is 50–55 F. Maximum temperatures exceed 50 F only on occasion in the months of June, July and August.
Packing for Iceland in the Summer
Temperature wise, summer in Iceland is not dramatically different than the other seasons. What is different is the amount of light. Summer days are long while in winter they practically do not exists. When planning a trip to Iceland, do not think summer, think mild winter (no snow) with a good possibility of rain, strong winds, and lack of sunshine.
Clothes for Iceland in the Summer
Guess what! Same stuff again: warm winter coat, wind and waterproof jacket, rain suit, fleeces, sweaters, hoodies, t-shirts, waterproof hiking pants, winter underwear just in case, swimwear for thermal Icelandic pools, waterproof gloves – two pairs, hats, scarfs, waterproof shoes and boots – two pairs. It is always best to have too much clothing rather than too little.
Summer or not, Iceland weather is unpredictable. It could be sunny and beautiful in one place and then a few kilometers away the ground would be boiling. Yet the air temperature and wind would want you to look for shelter. Again, backpack with the extra clothes to take on and off when the weather changes is essential.
Trip to Iceland in the Fall
Iceland Weather in the Fall
In September, the Northern Lights make their first appearance. At the beginning of the month you’ll still have some nice, partially sunny days with highs around 50 F and lows around 40 F. October sees the most rain and temps begin to dip further, with averages ranging from 35-44 F. By November, winter has surely arrived, with temperatures ranging from 30-44 F and snow beginning to blanket many areas.
Packing for Iceland in the Fall
I am sure you know by now, packing for Iceland is practically the same all year long. You need typical winter clothes: warm and water resistant. In order to enjoy your trip to Iceland, you have to keep yourself dry. Bring extras of everything since many major Icelandic attractions are located in rather remote areas and there is no Walmart around the corner.
Clothes for Iceland in the Fall
Here we go again, these are your essentials for a fall trip to Iceland: warm winter coat, wind and waterproof jacket, rain suit, fleeces, sweaters, hoodies, t-shirts, waterproof hiking pants, ski or hunting underwear, swimwear for thermal pools, ski/hunting socks, warm waterproof gloves – two pairs, warm hats, scarfs, waterproof shoes and boots – two pairs.
TravelingMom Tips: Packing for an Iceland Trip:
If you are flying Icelandair or Wow airlines, resist a temptation to save on your check-in luggage.
You cannot go to Iceland with just your carry-on. Not only will you need winter clothes all year round, but you will also require extras of everything. Unless you are visiting only Reykjavik, you will be traveling to the areas where shopping is not available. To make it clear, in some areas: any kind of shopping, including gas! Plus, Iceland is not the place to shop unless you want a beautiful but expensive wool sweater.
Think the worse possible scenario, meaning it is not only cold but wet and windy!
Carry garbage bags and zip lock bags to protect your backpack, camera equipment, or even to pack away wet items. Have a change of clothes and extra shoes handy, so you do not have to unpack your car to look for a pair of dry socks.
Have your swimwear, flip-flops, and a towel ready.
Soaking in warm water while enjoying Iceland’s natural beauty is most likely the reasons why Icelanders are one of the happiest nations in the world. And that is despite the fact that their country is practically winter all year long and it does not see a daylight for three months in the row. Be ready to jump in when an opportunity arrives!
Be ready to rock!
I was told that people of Iceland, Reykjavik in particular, like to party, often long into the night. If you like nightlife and have enough energy left at the end of the day, join in but make sure to have a proper dressier outfit, something more than muddy hiking boots!
Keep your electronics going with lightweight portable chargers.
Bring good long lasting charges, like this, that you can carry with you. Remember in a cold weather, batteries do not last long. Because you will be spending a good chunk of your days on the road, make sure to have a car charger too.
Travel adaptor plugs.
Iceland has European style two pin plugs, so if you’re traveling from the UK, the USA, or anywhere else with a different power socket, you’ll need a travel adaptor.
Here is the Complete Guide to Planning an Iceland Road Trip