What to wear in Iceland in winter. Iceland packing list for winter months September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and May

Iceland Winter Packing Essentials: Bring a Waterproof Jacket and a Swimsuit

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Traveling to Iceland soon and wondering what kind of weather to expect, what to wear and what to pack for Iceland in winter?  This Iceland winter packing list (more than just clothing) will help you truly enjoy your Icelandic winter adventure.

Just to make it clear, by winter I don’t just mean November, December, January and February. This Iceland winter packing list is meant for all colder months from end of September to May. For the rest of the year – check this Iceland packing list for summer.

What kind of weather can you expect in Iceland in winter?

I have been to Iceland twice, once in summer and once in winter. While this may not be common, we had a big snow storm in June, and beautiful cold dry weather with no rain or snow for seven days in a row in November. So when traveling to Iceland, you have to be prepared for all kinds of weather in any season. This is especially the case if you cover Northern and Southern parts of the island in one trip, as the weather conditions may vary tremendously.

Iceland enjoys a cool temperate maritime climate and it’s warmer in winter than you would expect. But the wind can be really hard in Iceland in winter, so it feels much colder than it actually is! Average temperatures in Reykjavik are around 0°C (31°F) in January, but don’t let that fool you – the wind makes it feel much colder. On top of that, the weather is known to change quickly and often.

Iceland is not all covered by ice and snow in winter, but you should check the road conditions and expect the unexpected. Usually, you will get more rain than snow and cold northerly winds which can be very strong.

What to wear in Iceland in winter and what else to pack when traveling to the Arctic in cold season


What to wear in Iceland in winter

There is no bad weather, just bad clothing. But what kind of clothes to pack for Iceland in winter? Packing for Iceland is tricky because you can expect so many different weather conditions in any season. Don’t despair. With some good preparation and consideration you can easily travel light.

My best advice on what to wear in Iceland in winter is this: dress in layers with a WATERPROOF outer layer. Dressing in layers gives you a lot of flexibility for any weather conditions.

Waterproof winter jacket

You do need an insulated waterproof and windproof winter jacket in Iceland. It’s an absolute must. If you don’t have a very warm jacket, it’s not a problem to wear a thiner waterproof jacket. Just make sure to wear several layers of fleece and/or woollen sweaters underneath.

Thermal underwear

Thermal underwear is a must in Iceland in winter. Ideally wear thermal base layers in merino wool. If you are planning to go chasing the Northern Lights, consider merino wool leggings too.

Woollen or fleece sweaters

Layering is they key to dressing right for cold and ever-changing climate as in Iceland. Pack a couple of warm lightweight sweaters in wool. Fleece sweaters will do the job too, but if you can, wear at least one layer of real wool.

Waterproof hiking boots

Comfortable sturdy waterproof walking shoes with good traction are a must. Like these waterproof insulated women’s boots or men’s boots.

You may also want to read our guide to the best winter boots for travel.

STABILIcers for walking on ice

Iceland is really icy in winter, and sometimes it’s really difficult to walk around, even if you have good winter boots. There is one thing that I missed in Iceland in winter and that is stabilicers – a sort of an extra shoe sole with steal cleats to prevent you from slipping. We could have definitely used these by the waterfalls!

Waterproof or water-resistant pants

I didn’t buy any special winter pants for Iceland, but packed my waterproof skiing pants and they were ideal during the cold days and perfect for waiting for the Northern Lights outside at night.

Woollen socks

Pack several pairs of really warm socks (wool is best) for Iceland in winter, especially if you are planning on spending a lot of time outdoors.

Gloves, scarf, and winter hat

Gloves, scarf or buff, and a winter hat are an absolute must. Consider wearing warm waterproof gloves together with thin inner gloves which you can keep on while taking pictures. I packed two warm hats with me as well: a fleece hat and a winter hat with ear flaps that I wore when the wind was really strong, or at night when hunting for the Northern Lights.

Swimsuit and a quick-drying towel

Remember to always carry a swimsuit and a quick-drying towel (although you may be able to rent one). Iceland is known for its many outdoor thermal pools and hot tubs which are popular all year round. Flip-flops can be useful as well.

Winter jacket and a swimsuit? Yes, this is your packing list for Iceland in winter!

Looking for specific advice on what to wear in Iceland in winter?

Here are some examples of the clothing I wore on my trip to Iceland in November. We had very cold weather, with temperatures dropping to -10°C (14°F) and winds up to 100km/h (62 mph) on several occasions. We asked Icelanders what they thought the wind chill factor would be, and they said there was no number to describe it; when it comes to Icelandic winter weather – they told us – you can only divide it into two categories: cold or bloody cold, and it was the latter.

So here are some examples of the clothes I wore which allowed me to actually enjoy my Icelandic winter trip.

What else to pack for Iceland in winter


There are few things in life which make you feel better than a sip of hot drink after a walk in the cold. And even though there are many more cafes and restaurants in Iceland now than there used to be when we visited ten years ago, finding one while on the road can be trickier than you think. Packing a thermos flask (and a picnic lunch for that matter) gives you complete flexibility during the day. You can fill it up with coffee or tea at breakfast in your hotel or at a petrol station or a restaurant (when you find one). Find a beautiful spot, sit down on a rock with a warm cup of tea in your hands and a magnificent view in front of you – it’s as good as it gets.

Reusable water bottle

Icelandic tap water is pure, it’s tasty, and it’s safe to drink. Take a reusable water bottle and fill it up whenever you can.


Having a small powerful flashlight in your pocket can be very useful on many occasions as it gets dark very early in Iceland in winter. We used flashlights all the time when looking for a good spot to photograph Northern Lights or when trying to choose the right camera settings or to focus in the dark. Headlight keeps your hands free, so it’s ideal for night photography.


Lip balm, hand cream, face cream for cold weather, and body moisturiser should be in everybody’s bag when traveling to Iceland in winter. You will enjoy your Iceland winter trip more when you will not have cracked lips, dried out hands, or an itching body.

Weather-resistant camera gear and a tripod

You should not forget to bring your camera gear – consider a weather-resistant camera for Iceland. A good tripod is a must for night photography. Here you can find more tips for finding and photographing the Northern Lights.

Power bank

Batteries drain very fast in cold climate. I advise to carry extra batteries for your camera in any case. And don’t forget a power bank. It allows you to charge your smartphone or any other devises during the day. It has quickly become my essential packing item for all the trips.


Don’t forget travel adaptors (Iceland uses European plugs), sun glasses (yes, also in winter as the sun is very low and you’ll definitely need sunglasses if driving on a sunny winter day), medicine, and a smaller backpack for day trips. Don’t forget a rain cover for your backpack! You can leave your umbrella at home – strong winds make it completely useless. Whether or not you need smart clothing depends on where you are staying. You may want to pack one set of casual smart clothing to wear for dinner or to go out in Reykjavik.

If you forget something…

You will be able to find anything you might need in Reykjavik and some bigger towns, but it may be more difficult in rural areas. However, the prices are much higher in Iceland than on Amazon :), so prepare in advance, pack smart, and enjoy the trip of a lifetime!


Traveling to Iceland in winter? Don’t forget to get a good travel insurance!

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What to wear in Iceland in winter and what to pack when traveling to Iceland in cold months

What to pack for #Iceland in #winter. Clothing, shoes, and other items that will make your winter trip more enjoyable. #packing

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  1. I’m leaving for Iceland in just a few weeks, which will be early/mid March. With all the wind in winter, combined with rain and snow, are sunglasses sufficient during glacier hikes? I would not like to get wind and rain in my eyes, plus my glasses often fog up from my breath. Would you recommend using ski goggles instead?
    Also, I’ll be renting a car, I assume that the rental SUV will already be equipped for the winter for driving on the ring road, notably winter/snow tires. Is that a safe assumption or do I need to request it from the rental agency?

    1. Author

      Hi Isabelle, I really don’t know about the glasses. For me, sunglasses were more than enough and I haven’t seen anyone with ski googles. But if your eyes are very sensitive, then you probably know best what you need. Maybe consider sports sunglasses?
      As for the car, I also think that they will be equipped with winter tires in this period, not sure about stud tires though. You could always give them a call and ask, it never hurts.

  2. We are planning a trip to Iceland I. November this year and I have been reading all your comments and advise, they are very helpful and giving us a great idea of what to expect, thank you so much
    We are renting a car and already have a place to stay, all we need us plan our itinerary for one week, there are so many things to do, choosing the best is the trick here!! Again Thsnks..

    1. Author

      It’s more the wind, David. The temperatures are also not warm in Iceland in winter, but nothing compared to Canada or Alaska. But the windchill factor can be so bad as nowhere else I ever been to.

  3. Hi! I wondered which brand the yellow jacket you’re wearing in the photos above? I love it!

    1. Author

      Hi Belle, it’s Jack Wolfskin Nova Scotia jacket, but I really don’t know if you still find the same color. 🙂 You know how these brands are – changing collections multiple times every year. 🙂 But yes, it was a great choice for Iceland in winter as it brightened up all the pictures :). I found something similar for you here, not sure how warm it is, and the yellow is maybe too yellow :).

  4. Hello, there will be four of us traveling right after Christmas to Iceland. After reading the blogs, I see what needs to be packed for this trip. Regarding weather and activity, are all the tours still open at this time or are they cancelled due to weather? How is transportation there? I heard buses are best to get from to to fro . I also heard about expensive food and drink. We are from north jersey so we are used to more expensive meals but how much would a meal for two with several drinks cost approximately? As far as currency it looks like ten krona to one US dollar. Is that correct? I was told tipping is not necessary as gratuities are included. Is this correct? Any goo tips for us at this particular time of travel we should know? ThAnkyou

    1. Author

      Hi Mike, I will have to refer you to some of my other blog posts for winter travel. Check our winter itinerary for ideas of what you can do. Check this if you rather stay in Reykjavik and do day tours. Normally, all the tours that I mention in my posts run in winter. Some may not go daily, but you can see it in the calendar when you book. Yes, it sometimes happens that they get cancelled due to the weather, but not often. If you want to do any tours, book ASAP – Iceland is very popular and definitely around Christmas/ New Year. Lots of things (tours, hotels, car rental) get fully booked, so if you still need any of that, book now.
      As for transportation, do not count on public transport as it will really not get you anywhere in terms of sightseeing outside the city. You have to either rent a car or do tours. If you don’t have a car and have to get to the city from the airport, make sure to book an airport transfer in advance. It only costs around 25USD. I just saw someone complain on Facebook that they took a taxi to Reykjavik and paid almost 200 USD.
      As for the meals, it depends on where you are. In Reykjavik and some other towns you will have more choice in terms of restaurants, but even then it’s difficult to find any good meal under 20-30 USD. often, you will pay 35-50USD for a main course at dinner, especially in remote areas. Alcohol is very expensive too (10-12 USD for a beer in the restaurant isn’t uncommon). 3-5 USD for a soft drink. Don’t worry about tipping – it’s not needed. They won’t say no of course, but it’s not a must at all.
      1000 ISK is (roughly) about 10 USD at the moment, so divide all the prices by a hundred and it will give you a good idea how much everything costs.
      Hope this helps. You can find more information on our Iceland page.

  5. Hi Jurga,
    I’m glad that I found your blog, its such in details and helpful, My trip to Iceland shall be Next year Feb 16th
    May I know is Reykjavik Windy Winter or Dry Winter? I’ve been to Rovaniemi , the winter there is Dry and not as cold as we predicted, Is Iceland winter colder than other part of Europe in Feb?

    1. Author

      Hi, temperatures in Iceland in winter are not as cold as you would expect. I think it hardly ever gets below -10°C, usually around 0°C. However, it is indeed very windy and therefore feels much colder than the temperatures would make you think.
      Also, it doesn’t snow that much, but you can get lots of winterly rain and ice. Add the wind to that and it’s as cold as it gets.
      That’s why you need waterproof clothing and waterproof shoes. Layering is the best way to make sure that you are prepared for the ever-changing weather.

  6. I plan to travel to Iceland from October 29th to the 5th of November.
    1. Curious of the road conditions from Reykjavik to Hofn ?? If we would have time to travel to Egilisstadir or not and still drive back to Reykjavik by Saturday?
    2. Any advice on domestic flights in order to cut down on car time? We thought of trying to visit Lake Myvan and fly back from Akureyri ?
    3. How much time to allow for the Golden Circle?
    4. Travel from Airport (Kef) to Reykjavik cost if bus/shuttle?
    5. As another couple will be renting a car coming in a day after me.

    1. Author

      Hi Laurie, I really have no time to look into your itinerary, but here are some answers:
      1. Road conditions – you won’t know till you get there. I would think that in that period it should generally be ok. For driving times it’s best to use Google maps – they are usually pretty accurate.
      2. The best way to get to/from Akureyri in winter is indeed by flying from Reykjavik.
      3. Golden Circle – you’ll need half a day + the time to get there and back.
      4. You can book your airport shuttle here.

  7. Great post thanks so much for the tips, I was having a bit of a stress packing… as always!! A couple of questions, I have walking boots or walking trainers – do you think I boots are a better option? Also any tips on what food to take I heard it was pretty expensive so was thinking of taking my own. Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Becky, whether you need hiking boots will depend on your itinerary. If you plan on doing some serious hiking, then yes. Otherwise you will be ok in walking shoes, just make sure they are waterproof and somewhat anti-slip, even if you only do short walks to the main highlights.
      I have no experience with taking food into Iceland. I think I took a package of cookies and never ate it :). There are quite some shops/ petrol stations/ small cafes along the Ring Road now, especially in the South, and the prices are generally ok. Dinner in remote areas is quite expensive though, as there is not much choice or alternatives.
      Enjoy your trip!

  8. Hi Jurga, I’m reading your tips and wondering what to pack when you’re sharing one suitcase with four people. We’re flying WOW Airline and WOW suits this carrier in so many different ways. The airfare was amazing even after paying for seat selection and one carry on for our family trip with two tall adult children. But that is what’s stressing me out. How do we get enough clothes for the four of us into one checked bag. They even charge for a second personal carry on now…. WOW! So what do you think is most important to bring? We get about 10lbs each in the checked bag.

    1. Author

      Wow! 🙂 I think you can always still book an extra bag after you already booked the tickets. Most low-cost companies allow it. So check that first.
      But anyway. Back to packing. I actually think it’s possible (we travelled to Australia for 5 weeks with 2 suitcases for the 5 of us, with temperatures ranging from 50°F to way over 100°F in different regions we covered). Take just one pair of shoes – wear them. Pack a waterproof jacket – wear it as well. One sweater (fleece = light and warm) per person – wear it. Pack one extra fleece sweater, maybe an extra pair of pants. For the rest it’s just some underwear and t-shirts really (which can be washed in the hotel in the evening if need be), swimsuit (but leave the towels and even flip-flops at home). A buff, gloves, toiletries (as little as possible – you can use hotel amenities or buy what you need upon arrival)… It’s not easy, but feasible even with 10lbs. Don’t take anything that is not 100% necessary. Make sure that all your clothes match (so no pants that only fit with that sweater and situations like that ;)) and that you can layer the sweaters/jacket if necessary. You’ll be surprised how little you actually need. Hope this helps! Curious to see how you manage it! 😉

  9. I am returning from Iceland today. Winter had just arrived about the middle of my trip. Jurga’s packing tips really saved my life.

    Jillian, I flew with Icelandair from Chicago O’hare to Keflavik. They allow you 2 free checked bags, one carry-on and a personal item. The carry on bag I chose was an Osprey Transporter 40 duffle/backpack. It fit perfectly in the overhead compartment, and I had it packed full. I would say the type of luggage you would need may also depend on what type of vehicle you will be travelling in and if your travelling companions will need space for their luggage also. These were the big deciding factors for me. The large roller suitcases can take up a lot of room in the back of your car and could make it difficult to situate other luggage.

    Be sure to take Jurga’s advice about what to pack. The most useful things I had on the trip were my waterproof pants and my rain/wind shell jacket. You don’t want to have to buy the expensive stuff in Iceland’s gift stores. My husband did not take my advice and found out the hard way that he needed waterproof instead of water resistant clothes.

    1. Author

      Thanks a lot for your feedback, DeAnna. Glad to hear that my tips made your trip more enjoyable. How was the trip itself?
      Sorry to hear about your husband though. I saw so many people in wet jeans during our trip, I don’t know how they handled it. It’s so much easier and cheaper to buy the right clothing (and shoes!) before you leave – prices are really high in Iceland and even more so in tourist areas.

      1. It really was everything I hoped it would be! The weather was about as nice as you can expect it to be in November. Some sunshine, some rain, snow and cold strong wind. The northern lights were not very strong while I was visiting though. We saw them very faintly one night while staying in Kirkjubæjarklaustur. My favorite memory of the trip was climbing the cliff behind the town in the dark to get a better view of the lights. We were completely alone up there, the moon was full, and we could see everything for miles in all directions bathed in moonlight. Simply the most incredible view even without the northern lights.

  10. Does anyone have recommendations about the type of luggage that is best? I am torn between my standard large roller suitcase or a large camping type backpack.

    1. Author

      Hi Jillian, I think that DeAnna is right – you should consider what means of transport you will be using in Iceland before deciding what type of luggage to take with you. I took a large duffel bag with wheels to Iceland, but it’s the same luggage we use for most of our trips. We’ve abandoned hard shell suitcases years ago, because duffel bags are just easier to stack in the trunk of the car when doing road trips, and especially now that we travel with 5 people. But if trunk space is not an issue, then it really doesn’t matter.

    1. Author

      Any excuse is good to to update your wardrobe, isn’t it? 😉 Same here – I buy most clothes when preparing for trips. Advice for Iceland – buy bright colours. Landscape can be really b&w in winter if the weather is less good and your bright jacket will improve all your pictures! Or at least that’s what everyone keeps telling me about my yellow jacket in Iceland…

  11. Thanks for the advice, Jurga. I found your article very useful. Myself and a group of friends are travelling south Iceland for a week this coming November, and I’m already so anxious about the trip. My entire suitcase will just be coats I’m afraid. I’ve already got the thermals and rain gear checked off the list, but I’ve got to get something heavier to help fight the wind and keep me from blowing away.

    1. Author

      Glad you found my tips useful, DeAnna. You made me laugh ‘entire suitcase will be just coats’. 🙂 Pick right and one is enough. And don’t forget at least 2-3 layers underneath. You can click on the yellow jacket picture to see what I wore in Iceland in November – to give you an idea. What you are looking for is a lightweight wind- and waterproof jacket with winter insulation. Have fun in Iceland (and don’t blow away)!

  12. We visited last February and wore jeans in Reykjavik, but the wind was very strong and cold. I should have packed the thermic undies.

    1. Author

      I’m with you on this one, Tatjana. I also wore jeans in Reykjavik, in combination with thermic underpants and three layers of shirts/sweaters + windproof winter jacket (we visited in November). It was still cold, but in town you can always find a place to warm up. Outside of town I wore my winter pants (kind of skiing pants actually) with thermic underwear and it was bearable. People with jeans were really suffering, especially at the waterfalls where they got wet. And we didn’t even have rain – can’t imagine how cold it would be if the jeans would get wet in the rain in such temperatures.

  13. We are going in 3 weeks time for 2 weeks, I have found this absolutely invaluable advise.

  14. My friend and I are leaving for Iceland next week and your tips have helped tremendously. I feel that I am well prepared now and ready for Icelandic winter. We knew we needed warm clothing, but some of your tips have been especially helpful.

    1. Author

      Have a good trip. You will love Iceland! And thanks for reading and for your feedback – highly appreciated!

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