Iceland in Winter

Iceland in February? Are you crazy?

Yup! That’s what a lot of people said when we told them we are going in February. But you know what, snow doesn’t scare us. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it snows in Upstate New York for almost half a year (OK that’s an exaggeration, but it sure feels like that), so we are very well prepared to dare the snow and the cold. As a matter of (painful) fact, after keeping an eye on the weather in Iceland throughout winter (because why not!), I noticed that Iceland is actually warmer than New York in the winters. Sigh!

A word of caution though – since Iceland has a lot of open roads and long stretch highways, and being the third windiest country in the world, the snow drifts are pretty bad. Forget F-roads, even major highways are inaccessible during snow storms. So therefore, it is very important to take winter weather advisories seriously, so you don’t get stuck like these guys.

This was actually our second trip to Iceland within a year (Check out our 9 day summer itinerary here), but it was a short one – 2 days only. So we decided to go around the Golden Circle again. But this time it was a lot different.

So now for the question everyone asks. What’s the best season to go to Iceland – Summer or Winter?

I had mentioned in my previous post that one of my favorite things about Iceland was to see the changing landscape – it goes from lava beds, to open fields with lush greenery and moss, to snow capped mountains, to fjords – every few minutes. Although, if you went in winter, you’d never know Iceland had all that to offer. You pretty much just see white – EVERYWHERE.

Also, a lot (and I mean A LOT) of areas are blocked off for tourists in winter. One quick example is Gulfoss waterfall. In the summertime, we were able to go just a few feet away from the waterfall and can appreciate it a lot more. In winter, you are not even allowed on the trail that takes you close to the waterfall. I had also read in some posts that Iceland is less touristy in off-seasons/winter, and things are way cheaper. Well that maybe true a few years ago, not anymore. It felt like there were more people in February, than in August. How is that possible?

Winter is not all that bad though – it all depends on what you’re looking for. Ice caving, snow mobiling on glaciers, dog sledding are some of the popular things to do during winter. Not to mention there are great opportunities to see the aurora borealis. And yes! we were finally able to check it off of our bucket list this time (YAY!). We actually didn’t have the most favorable conditions for aurora hunting. The app said aurora was at 1.2 KP and entire Reykjavik was covered with clouds, but that wasn’t going to stop us. POA – load the cloud map, drop a pin to a nearby area with no clouds, and start driving. After about 40 minutes of driving, we were finally face to face with one of nature’s most spectacular sights. I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was an experience I can never forget.

Even though Iceland is beautiful in any season, summer definitely has advantages over winter in my opinion. Winter doesn’t paint the best picture of everything Iceland has to offer. October is the best in between month, where the days are short enough to still see the aurora, and warm enough to still enjoy the outdoors and hiking.

Until next time,

Esha

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