Weather in Iceland – how to tame a beast

It is wild, it is rough, it is unpredictable – the weather in Iceland.  Sometimes 4 seasons in 10 minutes –  rain, wind, hail, sun, rainbow, snow repeat.

Yes, weather in Iceland can be harsh.  But it is also beautiful, mystical, challenging and ads extra wow factor to already spectacular landscapes. Believe me, Iceland would not be so awesome without its harsh conditions.

So don’t be afraid of the wild beast. Sometimes it bites, but you can easily tame it.

Rough weather in Arnastrapi

Seasons in Iceland

There are officially 2 seasons: summer and winter.

The first day of summer in Iceland is on first Thursday after 18th of April and last until the end of August. It is so important in Icelandic culture it becomes a bank holiday! The first day of summer usually is pretty cold. Temperatures at night can still fell below 0 degrees Celcius (or 32 Fahrenheit).

I found this short video of the first day of summer celebrations in Iceland. I think it can give you the best idea for how it is here in April

So, what to expect and how to prepare for Summer in Iceland?

Days in April are already pretty long but it doesn’t get dark at all In June and July! It is a brilliant period for traveling and exploring Iceland.

Summers in Iceland are recently rather cold and wet. For instance, the official Weather Bureau said, that it rained in Reykjavik every single day in May. June wasn’t much better, and July is shaping pretty much the same way.

But do not worry. Usually, it doesn’t rain the whole day and if it rains in Reykjavik, it could be a beautiful day in the South or West! Make sure to check this website www.vedur.is,  plan your trips accordingly and wear the right clothes.

Quick tip

There is no mobile version of this website. They do have an app though. Just search for Vedur on Apple or Google Store. The app doesn’t have as many information as the website but you can easily check the forecast for coming days.

Also, don’t trust the forecast for more than 1 day in advance 🙂

It is windy as often as it is rainy. Winds in summer could come suddenly and can be pretty strong. They are not as cold as in winter, but still can make you feel cold if you are not prepared.

From time to time we have sun 🙂 Boy oh boy. How beautiful it is than… The bad weather is gone, but heavy clouds are still rolling over the sky. The sun is shyly coming out from behind mountains and adds beautiful vibrant colors to the whole picture!

Now imagine all this happening sometimes in a matter of one hour. Like a spectacular show of light and elements. Simply stunning!

Haeavy clouds after rain and sun shinning through

Rainbow after the rain

So what should you wear?

A great rule of thumb: wear layers. Period. Makes sure to pack a warm layer: some windproof fleece, good hiking trousers (although most of the time jeans would do fine). Add waterproof layer: jacket and some waterproof trousers and some hat if it’s really windy. Wear waterproof, comfortable shoes that are adequate for the temperatures. If you travel with expensive electronic gear, like cameras, drones please make sure to have them well protected from the elements. It hardly ever happens that it is so warm that you would need shorts…

That’s it. You should be fine if you have clothes like that.

In our buses, we always keep some extra Icelandic sweater to keep you warm and ponchos to keep you dry.

You can watch those 2 videos that we filmed in summer during our tours:

Winter in Iceland

September and October are really nice months. You can still feel the fading presence of summer as it is steadily getting colder every day. There is a short period where vegetation will start to change colors. It is a very fast process (2 – 3 weeks) and depends on when the cold nights are starting to come. This is THE most beautiful period in Iceland.

PErson standing among colorful moss field in Iceland in autumn with blues sky

Hraunfoss and autumn colors

Winter in Iceland is loooooong. The wind starts to blow heavily at the end of November and only let go only at the end of March. Ther are days where we do not go out from homes. Expect the roads being closed periodically for a couple of hours. Wind is the biggest enemy of the travel industry in Iceland. In winter 2017 / 2018 we had periods of few days where all roads from Reykjavik were closed. But this doesn’t happen that often.

We never go out on our tours if the road conditions are bad and you will get information about that from us – and full refund.

Winters can be snowy and calm and then Iceland feels like a completely different country. Frost turns waterfalls into places straight from fairy tales.

Quick tip

Be careful when walking in Reykjavik (and everywhere else) as Icelanders hardly ever make the pathways passable. You can purchase cheaply special spikes that you can put on your shoes. Buy them only in Kronan or Bonus, they will cost you around 1500 kr. Everywhere else you will pay 5 times this price.

Winter is the time of short days. In December and January, we have around 4 hours of daylight. It is getting bright between 11 and 12 and getting dark before 16. After January days are getting longer pretty fast.

Northern lights – the highlights of the winter season. The reason why so many people are coming here. You can learn more about the northern lights in our post.

We offer daily northern light tours to places where you can truly enjoy them.

Warm geothermal pools

Are you cold? Does the weather suck? You can still make the best of it. Go to the local swimming pool. Sit in warm water outside when the storm is rolling over the land. You do not need to go to famous SPAS like Blue Lagoon, just visit a local swimming pool. It is much cheaper and you can stay as long as you want. I can guarantee you that you will have a blast even in a bad weather.

So how to prepare for Winter in Iceland

Wear layers. Although now make sure you have a proper winter jacket, trousers, warm shoes, hats, and gloves. Good idea is to have some kind of scarf to cover your face when it is really windy. NEVER leave home without them. You never know if you won’t be stuck somewhere.

Stay in your accommodation if there are weather warnings advising to do so. Do not venture alone into mountains.

Driving in winter…

… is extremely challenging. If you do not have harsh winter driving conditions in your country do NOT attempt to drive here in winter. Slippery roads, strong wind, snow blocking everything, zero visibility, clouds can ruin your vacations. Leave the driving for us, you should enjoy the ride through arctic landscapes with a professional driver who knows how to handle such conditions.

You can watch those 2 videos that we filmed in winter during our tours:

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