Text by: Samantha Bazely
As the busy summer months wind down, it doesn’t take long for us locals to realize the signs that winter is coming. The days are getting shorter, the mountains are getting their snowy caps, and of the wind is blowing colder. While winter in Iceland can be incredibly beautiful with its pristine white snow and northern lights displays, there are some definite hazards to be cautious of.
Driving in the winter
I have spent parts of my life living in Canada and the United States in the Midwest. Both places known for their harsh winters. Neither one adequately prepared me for winter driving in Iceland. When I say the conditions can change in minutes, I mean literal minutes. I have been driving on a clear cold winter day with beautiful bright blue skies and within 10 minutes I could barely see the hood of my car. Driving in the winter means you must be in tune to the various platforms Iceland offers to keep you informed of road and weather conditions. Pay close attention to any travel alerts and if there is a no travel day, don’t travel.
Hiking in the winter
Hiking is one of my favourite activities all year round. It can be a great form of exercise, lets us fully experience this amazing country and all it has to offer, and it’s free! Hiking in the winter months is not for the faint of heart. Whether you are a novice hiker or someone who is more experienced it is important to make sure you have the right gear with you for the conditions. We always dress in layers (with usually something wool and waterproof included), we pack a lot of water and a few snacks.
It is best to have a plan for your hike and let someone know where you are planning on going. There are so many beautiful spots to hike here in Iceland, whether to a waterfall or through a lava field. No matter the location the weather is still something to consider, as is your safety. Keep an eye to the forecast and be sure to stay honest with yourself regarding your own capabilities so you don’t end up putting yourself in harm’s way. If you aren’t quite confident enough for a solo winter hike, Fjallhalla is a company with guided hikes and tours that operates year-round.
When people find out you live in Iceland, you always get the same question “But how do you survive the cold winters?” While the winter months do bring cold weather, it’s not actually the cold that can hinder travel plans. Rather you need to be aware of the wind, the snow, the rain, and the dark. While some winter days are blue skies without a cloud in the sky, more often than not the winter brings on stiff winds, blowing snow, heavy rain, and of course only a few hours of sunlight a day. This website offers information on road conditions, as well on tips for driving safely in Iceland. It is important to take into consideration the warnings regarding road conditions and to not try to drive or travel if the conditions are poor. This website is a great way to keep an eye on the weather forecast in order to better plan your trip. Keeping in mind to check back regularly because the forecast can change quickly.
The bottom line
Iceland is an incredible place to visit, any time of year. Don’t let the name scare you off during the winter months. Those chillier months bring so much unique beauty that you have to see for yourself. While the weather can bring on some new challenges when it comes to travel, it shouldn’t keep you away. There are so many amazing things to see during the winter in Iceland, and while it can be unpredictable, there are a lot of resources available to keep you and your family safe. So, what are you waiting for? The northern lights, the pristine snow-capped mountains, it’s all here waiting for you!