What to wear in Iceland in winter

WHAT TO WEAR IN ICELAND IN WINTER

Iceland in winter is a magical time – a real Winter Wonderland.The scenery is one of world’s most extraordinary at any time of the year – and the snow-capped mountains and hills, plus frozen waterfalls, make this country even more beautiful.

Winter weather in Iceland is – surprisingly – not as cold as many might think. Yes, there is a lot of snow and ice. But it isn’t the coldest country in Europe and especially in Reykjavik or the South Coast have a quite mild climate.

Iceland actually enjoys a much milder climate than other Nordic countries. This is partly because of the Gulf Stream which flows along the West and South of Iceland, and that brings warmth all the way from the Caribbean.

But the mild Atlantic air gets mixed with the cold Arctic air coming from the north – this leads to sudden and frequent changes in the weather.

But this also means, that there is a lot of wind and stormy weather in the country and that the south part of the country gets more rainfall than the north. The north, however, is much colder and heavy snowfalls might traveling to the north or Icelandic Westfjords difficult.

While I do not want to tell you to pack light skirts and dresses, I just want to say, that it is not necessarily freezing.

In winter, the average temperature in Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, is around 1-2°C (33-35°F) during the day – with quite a lot of rain.

For travel tips in summer, read this post.

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Places to visit in Iceland in winter - and what to wear
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WHAT TO WEAR IN ICELAND IN WINTER

If you’re planning to travel to Iceland during the winter months, the key is dressing in layers.

The temperature can reach freezing levels. Dressing in layers allows you to keep warm without compromising on comfort. 

But your items should be versatile in function. For example, pack a jacket that is both waterproof and warm. In addition, comfortable walking shoes are essential.

So, read on to find out what to wear in Iceland in winter.

Skógafoss Waterfall in winter in Iceland
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Everyday Attire Essentials For Iceland In Winter

Here are a few items that you should pack – whether you visit Iceland in winter or summer.

  • Tops: If you dress in layers, tops are essential. If you do day trips from Reykjavik, buses can be really hot and thus you do not want to wear to warm clothes.
  • Cardigans: Perfect if you want to dress in layers – tops and cardigans are my way to go whenever weather conditions change during the day.
  • Warm Pullovers – Iceland is famous for its sweaters made 100% from Icelandic´s wool sheep. Personally, I avoid products from wool and recommend bringing your own warm pullovers. The Icelandic´s pullovers are very expensive but they are popular and they might keep you warm.
  • I brought some jeans with me and did not regret it. There were not the only pants I wore but they were the best option on a cold day, when I wanted to “dress up”.
  • Sweatpants – for longs days in the bus, plane etc. – and yes, you can look great in sweatpants.
  • Footwear: Flip flops are a must – yes, even in Iceland in winter. You will need them for the days in the geothermal pools.
  • Bikini: Iceland in winter is the perfect time to visit geothermal pools – so bring at least one.

So, after some more general things to pack for Iceland, here are items to wear in Iceland in winter.

At the top of your packing list should be the following versatile, essential items. Using these items to dress in layers will keep you both stylish and warm. 

  • Coat – warm And waterproof: A warm, waterproof jacket should be one of the very first items that you think to pack. I brought my super warm Wellensteyn jacket – bulky but warm and with many pockets. I did not need an extra scarf for most of the time. However, if you have a lightweight, trench raincoat that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable better bring that because a bulky jacket can make you feel uncomfortable when you have layers underneath.
  • Hat: Apparently, we lose up to 10% of our body heat through our heads, meaning that it’s essential to keep this area warm. A knitted beanie will keep you toasty warm whether you’re outdoors sipping coffee, or exploring the sights. 
  • Gloves: Have you ever tried to use your phone with frozen fingers? Yes, it isn’t that easy. A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. This makes it one of the most important items on your Iceland winter packing list. When selecting your options, it’s worth investing in a pair that can dry quickly and are touch-screen compatible.
  • Scarf: A warm scarf and/or turtleneck sweater are key items for keeping your neck covered. Not only do these items keep you warm, but they also prevent you from getting ill (and thereby ruining the fun). While my jacket was very warm and kept my neck warm, I still brought my scarf – especially on the bus or plane.
  • Turtleneck: A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily. 
  • Leggings: Leggings are perfect to wear underneath your jeans as an extra layer of warmth. Unless you really like cold, I do not recommend wearing them without any jeans or ski pants though. They are both comfortable and snug. Leggings are an essential item to pack as you can dress them up or down. You can even wear them underneath your denims as an extra layer of warmth. 
  • Socks: When it comes to packing socks for your Iceland winter trip – the thicker the better. Chances are that you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow and cold, and you’ll want your feet to be warm and cozy. I bought myself some pairs of ski socks and they were a great investment.
  • Thermals: BEST. INVENTION. EVER. A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. They provide the extra layer of heat that will allow you to spend an extra hour outside instead of excess clothing. If you asked me for my top 5 items to wear in Iceland in winter, then surely thermals are among them.
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: If you can only pack one pair of shoes, then make sure that they are a trusty pair of waterproof snowshoes. Break them in before you visit Iceland for the first time. If you will do a lot of hiking and and snowshoe walking, then consider buying snowshoes that allow you to enjoy a variety of activities while keeping your feet warm and dry. 
  • Crampers: I wore my hiking boots – and bought some crampers for them while I was in Iceland. It will almost be impossible to stroll some sights without the crampers because it is very icy in the winter months.
Crampers - What to wear in Iceland in winter, crampers
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Winter Sportswear for Iceland in Winter

While Iceland is a winter wonderland, it is not known for offering the best winter sports opportunities. However, you can do some winter sports + winter sport clothes are just amazing to keep you warm while allowing you to be comfortable.

  • Ski Jacket: When choosing the perfect ski jacket, you need to consider warmth, level of waterproofing, and freedom of movement. A jacket that is adjustable in fit, seals effectively, and dries quickly is the perfect apparel for snowboarding, skiing, and other winter outdoor sports.
  • Ski Pants: My best friend, next to my thermals, were my ski pants. They cost a fortune but a trusty pair of insulated ski pants are the next essential item to keep you warm. Make sure that your choice of pants is breathable, warm, and waterproof. These details will keep you dry, warm, and comfortable – whenever the weather forecast wasn’t too bad, I didnt even wear thermals and just my beloved ski pants and they kept me more than war,  
  • Umbrella: Iceland in winter tends to be very rainy. Especially Reykjavik was very rainy – so pack a foldable umbrella. It can be the difference between a leisurely stroll in the city streets and getting caught in a flu-inspired downpour. 
  • Sunglasses: Sunglasses aren’t really an essential in Iceland in winter – daylight and thus sun is not “a big thing”. But I still packed a pair of polarized sunglasses – you never know!

So, if you dress appropriately and if you know what to wear in Iceland in winter, you can enjoy a fantastic trip to this unique country.

Stay safe and enjoy!

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