The airfare is cheap, the photos are breathtaking, everyone's talking about it...why wouldn't you hop on a plane to Iceland? This dreamy, rugged island is guaranteed to blow you away with its beauty— but during the winter months, it can also blow you away with hurricane-force winds.
Airlines like WOW Airlines and Norwegian Airlines offer discounted flights to Iceland during the winter months (typically October through March). If your travel time is flexible, it’s easy to find tickets out of major cities for less than half of standard summer prices. If possible, sit by a window on the left side of the plane for your flight in and on the right side for your way out; many flights to and from Iceland are red-eye flights, and it’s entirely possible to catch the northern lights out your window!
Lots of hotels and hostels have off-season rates, so definitely do your research here. HI Hostels are all over Iceland and have winter rates. Plus, if you’re staying at a hostel for more than three nights, getting an annual membership ($16 USD) saves you money. HI has a worldwide hostel network, so you might want to do this anyway. And there’s always Couchsurfing or AirBnb, which are great options—Icelandic people tend to be very cool and accommodating. Camping in winter isn’t the greatest idea due to the cold and powerful winds.
This is where planning gets tricky. During the summer it is easy to rent a car, make your way around the island, and get into the interior highlands. During winter, however, many roads close. Even the Ring Road, which is Iceland’s main highway, can be dangerous to drive on. Blizzards in Iceland are not to be taken lightly. They can produce hurricane-force winds and whiteout conditions. Combine this with icy roads and a remote countryside, and suddenly the travel is a lot less relaxing. Weather is only predictable to an extent, and for that reason it’s not recommended to rent a car during winter unless you have experience driving in these conditions. Alternatively, book a longer stay in Iceland so you have the leisure time to sit out winter storms between driving days. If you do choose to rent a car, do yourself a (possibly life-saving) favor and get one with four-wheel drive and winter tires. Two awesome resources to check weather and road conditions are road.is and vedur.is. The latter has an aurora prediction feature too! If you have the time or confidence to do so, renting a car really is the best way to see Iceland. Tour buses (especially in winter) are great resources, but they limit your freedom considerably.
Don’t let stormy weather discourage you from heading to Iceland. Even if you do experience winter in full force, it’s an incredible part of mother nature to witness. Blanketed in snow, the landscape is arguably even more whimsical than it is during summer.
Also, NORTHERN LIGHTS— enough said. So what are you waiting for?