Iceland has been my dream destination for more than 10 years. For one reason or another, I didn’t get the opportunity to travel to this marvelous land. However, this January I finally was able to live this dream for 8 days! A winter in Iceland may seem like a bad idea, but for others it may be the adventure of a lifetime.
After more than a week in this beautiful land, I have come up with a list of pros and cons about a winter trip to Iceland.
A chance but not a guarantee of season the Aurora Borealis
The winter season is the best time to get a glimpse at this amazing natural phenomenon, but even though there may be activity, there is a chance that it may not happen within your trip. In the 8 days that we spent there, there were 2 days of activity but we still managed to miss it.
The reason? Clouds, lots and lots of clouds.
To be able to see the Aurora Borealis the sky must be clear enough so there is a chance that when there is activity, due to it being winter, it just may be cloudy. So if you are planning your whole trip around seeing the Aurora, you may be disappointed. You can check the aurora forecast to see if it is showing during your stay.
It isn’t that cold!
Compared to living in the Netherlands, I expected Iceland to be bitterly cold and almost unbearable. However, this couldn’t be more false. I did wear thermals and thick socks but everything else I was wearing was part of my basic everyday winter wardrobe.
Short days but perfect lighting.
January has the shortest days of the year with a minimal 4:25 hours to maximum of 7 hours. This adds a little stress to try and squeeze in as many sights as possible and it can cut the day short but there are ways to making the trip worthwhile.
Since the sun doesn’t fully rise in the sky, it gives this filter look over everything. The snow on the mountains were lavender, the clouds glowed orange, pink, purples and the sky, rich blues. The sunsets and sunrises are spectacular. You don’t even need to wake up early to see a breathe-taking sunrise!
You are not going to be able to see everything.
The weather can cause road closing or not the safest conditions at some of the attractions. Planning ahead doesn’t always work when the weather in this country changes so quickly. Also icy or heavy winds can make it take longer to travel. We ended up having to stay inside for one of the days due to a storm, but it wasn’t so bad since we booked the most amazing and affordable suite with a stunning view of the black sand beach. Booking the right accommodation is really important in winter since there is the chance that you may be staying a day or two indoors.
Since it is off-peak season, the crowds are gone and you can truly enjoy the sights. No waiting lines, no over-crowded waterfalls, and no traffic! I’m a truly introverted traveler so this was heaven to me.
For the first night, we stayed in a hostel in Reykjavik and we only shared the whole place with about 5 other people. Also, private accommodation is cheaper so you can get amazing suites for around €120 p/n.
It’s cheaper and more budget friendly.
The car rentals, flights and accommodation can be cheaper. If you are on a budget and don’t want to spend that much on accommodation, its possible to stay in guest houses for €50-€70 a night.
Also the price of renting a car can be cheaper (€300-€500 for 8 days) but I don’t recommend going cheap on a car since you will be spending a lot of time driving and with a car that is light, the wind can make the travel time increase. Don’t skip on the 4WD or winter tires! These are a must for winter.
For flights, we flew with WOW air and it was just fine. The tickets were very affordable (€200 return from Schiphol).
Overall, if you only want to visit Iceland once then maybe winter isn’t for you if you want to squeeze everything in, but if you don’t mind missing out on some attractions then winter is an amazing time to visit!