Depending on where you are coming from it can feel like winter when you travel to Iceland in the summer. While it is light almost all the time it remains quite cold, windy and often rainy. However, when you travel to Iceland in the winter, you understand how big the difference between the seasons really is.
In January, when it is still dark for most of the day you can easily imagine how hard life must have been not even a century ago, when the amenities of modern life like electricity and central heating were not available yet to all parts of the country. The landscape appears to be even more unwelcoming and harsh and life seems to slow down, which is surprisingly relaxing despite the dark and cold surrounding you night and day.
If you expect dire cold when travelling to Iceland in winter, you will be surprised that it is actually not that bad – there are many places in central Europe and Northern America that get far more cold in the winter. This is due to the Gulfstream, which Iceland is located right by. Don’t get me wrong, it can get cold and especially the wind can be icy, but the temperatures rarely fall under -5°C – so compared to Alaska, for example, this is still reasonably warm.
At the same time, the chances to see the Northern Lights are much bigger in winter – the longer the darkness lasts the more easier they are to spot. That was also one of the main reasons for us to visit Iceland in winter – but let me tell you, there is no guarantee you will see Northern Lights. In fact, we have not been so lucky as to see this spectacle of nature (but it is good to have a reason to go back sometime soon, right?). However, the Northern Lights are not the only reason for exploring Iceland in wintertime. To me, the snow and darkness even accentuated the Icelandic landscape, and some places looked even more magical to me compared to the summer. Depending on the weather conditions some roads may be closed so you may sometimes have to reschedule or adapt your plans, but as long as you are well-prepared (Remember to take your warmest, waterproof clothes for your outdoor adventures!) and stay a little flexible regarding your itinerary, Iceland is just as magical in winter as it is in summer! And on the plus side, most popular sights are far less crowded and a hot cup of tea in a cosy café tastes even better in winter.
Fact: Climate Change is also affecting Iceland. The winters get warmer and warmer which also means that there are less snow and ice each year. In August 2019, so just 6 months ago, Iceland held a funeral to mourn the first-ever loss of one of their glaciers and to warn that more will follow soon if do not take action against climate change immediately.