Iceland is a stunning arctic wonderland. But when should one visit - in the summer or the winter? That really dependents on what one wants to see and do. While one can do a lot more in the summer months, the winter months have their own rewards up their sleeves.

Iceland is bursting with extraordinary adventures - while there take a tour of Thrihnukagigur ("Þríhnúkagígur") it is the only volcano one can go down into its magma chambers. Iceland may be a tiny country, but Iceland is full of things to do one probably didn't know of.


Long Nights, Photography And The Northern Lights

Iceland is entirely different in the winter, even if one has already visited in the summer, come again in the winter and see a whole other world. One can find snow-covered waterfalls just about around every corner.

One thing that one needs to be mentally prepared for is the long nights and short periods of sunlight. If going there in the depth of winter there are only around 4-5 hours of daylight - around the winter solstice sunrise is at around 11.20 am and sunset 3.00 pm.

  • Sunlight: Around 4-5 Hours Daily
  • Solstice Sunrise and Sunset: 11.20 am Sunrise, 3.00 pm Sunset

The upshot is that these hours are the perfect lighting for photography. The light of the low winter sun is soft and provides a golden glow - this is a place where even amateur photographers will appear professional.

  • Photography: The Low Sun Makes The Perfect Light For Photography

As the sun is low in the sky, this time makes for long and majestic sunrises and sunsets, the sun baths the snow-covered land in pinks and oranges. This is the time one feels like one is in fairy-tale land.

Perhaps the biggest single draw to Iceland in the winter is the famed northern lights. For the locals, the northern lights are normal and just a part of their life.

Related: Visiting Iceland? Here Are Some Places You Need To See

Winter Temperatures Are Relatively Mild

Even though the country is close to the Arctic Circle, it's not actually all that cold (or at least around the southern coast around the capital Reykjavík. While it's certainly not warm by any measure, but by wearing layers one can stay snug and warm. The weather is often hovering around 0 degrees Celsius or 32 °F.

  • Reykjavík Average Temperature: 32 °F or 0 Celsius In The Depth Of Winter

Often the winter temperatures in Iceland are warmer than in New York or London, this is because of the warming effect of its location in the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic. The record low temperature for New York City is actually lower than Reykjavík - the capital of Iceland.

In fact, the temperature in Reykjavík doesn't change all that much between summer and winter. In summer the average high temperature is in July and is only 14.6 Celsius or 58.3 °F while the average high in January is 3.1 Celsius or 37.6 °F. That's a swing of only around 11.5 degrees.

  • Icelandic Weather: Is Like a Box of Chocolates

If one is planning to visit in the winter, then it is good to be patient with the weather. During the winter months, the weather is very unpredictable. The Icelandics have a saying "If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes" and this holds doubly true for the winter months. The weather is very changeable and unpredictable - one can have sunny weather to heavy rain or a snowstorm in minutes.

Tip: Check The Weather Before Going Out Iceland

Related: These Are The Best Times To Visit Iceland, Depending On What You Want To Experience

Its Off-Peak Season


Iceland is only a small but popular country with around 400,000 people. Vacations here can be very expensive, but winter is well off-peak season. During the winter one can get great hotels and other things at much lower rates than during the summer months.

  • Discounts: Get Bargain Hotel Deals In The Winter Months

In their winter months, one will feel like one has the island to oneself while having the whole trip much lighter on one's wallet.

Iceland's peak tourist season runs from June to August, come in these months and one will be waving through groups of bustling tourists at the popular spots. In the winter, once one's out of Reykjavík there may not be a soul in sight.

The hot springs are one of the country's most popular draws. Imagine sitting in the hot spring on a dark and frosty night while feeling the snowflakes land on one's nose. And is just you and your significant-other soaking in the pool without crowds of noisy tourists.

In winter one will really see the Arctic island for what it is - a true Arctic island. One will see snowy landscapes and much longer hours to be fizzled by the breathtaking Northern Lights displays. Get more insider ideas for Iceland from Guide to Iceland.

Next: You Need A Tour To See Iceland's Stunning Ice Caves, And Here's What You Should Know Before Going