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How to stay warm in Iceland this winter!

Tips on how to stay warm in Iceland this winter

So you have booked your trip to Iceland for this winter and are now preparing for your trip? Excellent! Iceland is an amazing country and having been there myself no less than ten times, I can tell you a lot about it. These days, Iceland is overrun by tourists who are on their way from Europe to North America or the other way around. It makes perfect sense because Icelandair offers you a free stopover and this makes it easy for so many travelers to see this beautiful country.
 
[Note: this blog was first published in February 2017 and updated after my most recent visit to Iceland in February 2019]  


 
The one thing I have learned about Iceland over the past years is that it’s cold. Mind me, it’s always cold. It’s either the wind or the rain or the temperature that will prevent from warming up. I’ve learned to handle the cold and can say that by now, I’m used to Icelandic weather. It can be pretty unrelenting and unless you prepare well for the cold, you will be freezing. Here are my tips on how to stay warm in Iceland this winter!
 
Also read: tips for a trip to Iceland in winter – things to know before you go!
 
how to stay warm in iceland this winter
 

Get yourself a decent base layer

As an expert in outdoor travel, the main question I get asked is what to wear in the outdoors and how to keep warm. Unless you plan on spending your whole stay in the Blue Lagoon and Reykjavík’s trendy bars, you will be outdoors a lot. Iceland is beautiful and now that you have come all the way, it would be a waste not to get a little taste of what it has to offer. A decent base layer is the one must-have item for every person going to Iceland. Good base layers are not cheap but trust me, they will stay with you for at least ten years to go.
 
I’ve used Icebreaker a lot over the past however I became quite bored with the design, so I recently switched to Kari Traa. This latest brand is a super trendy Norwegian outdoor brand that offers outdoor gear for women only in amazing colors. Go here to check a part of the collection and buy your gear! Keep in mind when buying that the base layer should be directly on your skin, don’t put anything cotton (never cotton!) underneath. Trust, me, the base layer is the boss!
 

 

Go to the Blue Lagoon or the Secret Lagoon

If you can afford it and want to be amazed by how many people can fit into a milky blue colored pool, then please make your way to the insanely popular Blue Lagoon. The water is amazingly warm, you can put all kinds of substances on your face that promise a better skin and you will love the peace and quiet that comes with a visit to the Blue Lagoon. OK, that last one is not very true because the Blue Lagoon does get super busy and nowadays, you will even have to book your visit in advance. Your best bet is to go straight from the airport of Keflavík but remember that all other tourists will most likely do that, too. Myself, I’m not a big fan of the Blue Lagoon, mostly because it’s too busy and too commercial for my taste. I have been twice and for me it’s basically ‘been there, done that’ … for further reading I recommend you to read my post about why not to visit the Blue Lagoon.
 
Alternatively, there is also the Secret Lagoon about an hours drive away from Reykjavík. It’s a lot smaller yet it wasn’t very secret at all. They don’t have the milky blue water but they have the warm water and about one quarter of the price you pay to get into the Blue Lagoon. Just a thought …
 
blue lagoon iceland
 

Get yourself a nice, warm Icelandic jacket

Icelandic outdoor gear is awesome! I’m a big fan and can never come home without a new item or two. It’s also expensive but trust me, it will keep you warm! Iceland’s prime brands are 66°NORTH, Cintamani and Zo-On Iceland. 66°NORTH is probably the most expensive one but their designs are the funkiest. I own a jacket, gloves and some t-shirts and have worn them on many of my trips all over the world. You will find their gear all over Iceland but if you’re looking for a bargain, go to their outlet store at Faxafen 12 in Reykjavík. In the same area you will also find an Ice Wear store, a brand I haven’t used myself yet. It’s a bit more colorful than 66°NORTH and a bit cheaper, they have an outlet at Austurhraun in Gardabaer, just outside of Reykjavík. My other favorite brand is Zo-On Iceland, which is lesser known. I have their Esja down jacket and have been wearing it all winter last year. Plus it traveled with me to Patagonia, Tasmania and other cool places. It’s totally worth investing in a nice, Icelandic jacket!
 
Alternatively, you may bring your jacket from home. During my last trip I had the Fjällräven Singi winter jacket and it kept me warm all day long. More suggestions for what to wear in Iceland in winter can be found here!
 
How to stay warm in Iceland this winter
 

Jump into a hot spring!

Iceland is filled with hot springs and many of them are free to enter. Sometimes you will have to walk for a bit and/or drive off the beaten path, but the surroundings are generally stunning. Many of the free ones don’t have changing facilities and/or a toilet, so you will be freezing for a few seconds when going in and out of the water, but once you’re in, it’s amazing. Curious about where to find free nature baths? Then read my article about the best free alternatives to the Blue Lagoon! The best one near Reykjavík is definitely the Reykjadalur Hot Spring!
 

Reykjadalur Hot Stream
Reykjadalur Hot Stream
 

Drink Brennívin

Brennivín is Iceland’s unsweetened Schnapps that will knock you off your feet. It’s bottled at about 37.5% or 40% alcohol so once you take a shot, it will warm you up straight away. It tastes a little like vodka so if you’re a fan of that, you will definitely love Brennivín. You will find it in many stores around Iceland, as well as in the giant tax-free shop you will pass through upon entering the country at Keflavík Airport. Did you know the name is derived from the word brandy, which comes from the Dutch word brandewijn? I didn’t until I scanned the Wikipedia page. Being Dutch myself, I was surprised I never realized this earlier because the names sound a little a like. Please keep in mind that this way of staying warm should only be used when you don’t plan on driving as it’s illegal to drink and drive in Iceland.
 
Some other useful tips are to always bring a hat, gloves and a scarf. Wear sturdy hiking boots or snow boots, your All Stars will not protect you from the cold. Bring a thermos so you can drink hot tea along the way, go for a coffee and cake when you find a spot and of course never forget to take a few pair of Handwarmers, my number one favorite item to keep warm when it’s cold!
 
I’m sure that with these tips you will find it much easier to stay warm in Iceland this winter. And summer. Because it’s almost always cold in Iceland. It’s called Iceland for a reason after all …
 

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Anto is a 30-something outdoor fan who travels the world about 100 days a year, combined with a full-time office job. She loves to go hiking, enjoys a good class of wine and can usually be found with an iPhone in her hand. Favorite destinations: New Zealand, Patagonia, Austria and Alaska.

32 Comments

  • Megan Indoe

    I have been dying to go to Iceland, but what I haven’t thought about is how freaking cold it would be! I am a bit of a baby when it comes to chilly weather these days, although I think I could suck it up for Iceland! These are nice tips, I think I would soak all day in the Blue Lagoon if they’d let me!

  • Tamara

    Great tips, especially about layering! This post would pretty much apply to my homeland of Canada as well- feels like it’s always cold! lol

    • mary davis

      I have visited Iceland in July and November. July was very enjoyable. November was chilly and windy, but certainly tolerable for a gal from Buffalo, NY.

      • anto

        Ahhh yes I think you get some quite cold winters in your region in the US. Somehow July is usually quite cold for me in Iceland too, but then again, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing 😉

  • Anne

    I personally feel a trip to Iceland without visiting the Blue Lagoon would be sacrilege but I know what you mean about the commerciality. I love those funky base layers – I just need to figure out how much they are on the uk store as mine are long overdue for replacing

    • anto

      Haha, I’m not a fan of the Blue Lagoon but I’m heading back to Iceland soon and then again, I wouldn’t mind taking another plunge!

  • Erika Bisbocci

    I’ve been to iceland in the summer and it was cold then, so I can’t even imagine how cold it must be in winter! It is a good thing the country has so much geothermal activity though, because I can’t imagine a better way to keep warm. I actually liked the blue lagoon, but I understand why you recommend visiting a more remote hot springs.

  • melody pittman

    The Blue Lagoon looks so inviting! I would love to take a dip in it. I wouldn’t mind seeing Iceland but certainly not in the winter. Florida gals can’t layer that much. LOL

  • Lydia@LifeUntraveled

    A dip in a hot spring sounds perfect on a cold day! I love that you can find one just by driving around and it’s free. I don’t like vodka so I would skip the Brennivin – it sounds lethal…lol.

  • Karla

    I come from a tropical country and I will probably freeze to death in Iceland but nonetheless it’s always been a dream to get there. Hopefully, this year I can see all the wonderful places that keep on popping up on my feed. Love your photos and thanks for the tips!

    P.S. Brennivín sounds like a total killer! Hahaha will i survive it?

    • anto

      Thanks! I’m sure it will be even harder for you as you’re from a tropical place but I am sure you can do it, too! I hope you can make it to Iceland one day!

  • Janelle

    Hi, travelling to Iceland, Norway and Finland in January 2019. I’m hoping to buy the 66 North Jokla parka before I go but can’t get it in Australia?? Any ideas? Thanks Janelle

    • anto

      I’d just buy it upon arrival in Iceland. That way you can be sure whether it is what you want and how it fits, because their sizes are a bit off at times (from my experience). In downtown Reykjavik are plenty of shops that sell 66 North. Is Iceland your first destination?

  • David

    I know I sound insane but want to come over in October with a 16month old baby boy. Do you have any advise or tips on keeping him warm whilst still being able to enjoy the excursions etc.

    • anto

      Ehm I’m not sure about traveling with a baby to be honest and I guess it also depends on the season. I’d say just do the regular things you’d do when you’d go outside in the fall, bring warm clothes etc. There are plenty of places where you can go inside to warm up, so generally you don’t need to be outside all day long. Sorry I can’t be of any more help, enjoy your trip!

  • Annelies

    Hi!
    Do you have any thoughts on wearing army boots to Iceland? Combined with good socks obviously, but do you think they’ll keep my feet warm enough in februari or are hiking boots better in this regard?

    • anto

      Hi! I don’t think that should be much of a problem. Are they waterproof? The weather in Iceland is unpredictble so it can be around zero or way less. I’d say waterproof is the most important. Enjoy your trip!

      • Annelies

        Yeah, the boots should be waterproof. The other good thing about them, is the toes have lots of space, so the blood can keep on flowing. I am however gonna get some better socks.
        Thank for your reply. 🙂

    • anto

      Not really … just bathing suit or bikinis. I’d suggest brining flip flops and a towel to wrap yourself in when walking from the dressing room to the pool but other than that, I can’t recall any specifics. Have fun on your trip!

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