Iceland, often referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice, has a stunning landscape that alters significantly in summer and winter. In winter it is covered with ice, from frozen waterfalls to spectacular ice caves and immense glaciers, yet the volcanic activity provides sites that correspond more with fire. Black sand beaches, naturally heated geothermal pools and sea stack from cooling lava are all ‘fire’ aspects of the terrain. In the summer, you will be equally enchanted; the luscious green scenery stretches out for miles, a beautiful canvas for the cascading waterfalls and breathtaking fjords. Whatever the season, Iceland is an adventure that can only be truly appreciated outdoors, so enjoy a front row seat at nature’s wonders but be prepared to spend the majority of your trip outside. And dress accordingly!
In summer it is smart to bring layers, as temperature ranges from 41°F (5°C) lows to potential highs of around 77°F (25°C). Be equipped to adapt to changeable weather; you’ll need a top, a sweater and light windproof rain coat. In the winter, layers will be essential just to stay warm! Temperatures can dip to below freezing, especially in the Icelandic highlands, but what makes it feel especially cold are the gale force winds. No matter what time of year you go, Iceland has notoriously unpredictable weather, as the saying goes ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’. Follow our guide for what to pack.
Travelling in the winter you’ll need to invest in waterproof hiking boots or snow boots. Make sure they are properly broken in and have a good tread as (shockingly) it can get very icy! Additionally, it’s a good idea to get some ice cleats (also known a grips), to prevent slipping.
Granted, it is easy to forget in winter, but you will regret not bringing a pair. Snow and ice can be very bright, and you do not want to be squinting the entire time. What is more, Iceland is exceptionally windy and you’ll be grateful for the extra protection!
Thermal Base Layers
We would recommend a pair of top and bottoms in merino wool, but if you’re looking for a cheaper option, fleece lined thermals are an excellent alternative.
To be precise, ski gloves! Windproof, warm and waterproof (the three W’s you will swear by on your Iceland trip).
Ensure you pick a warm, waterproof and windproof hat (there’s a theme here). Trapper hats are great as they cover and protect your ears particularly well.
In midwinter there is only 5 hours of effective sunlight, so bringing a head torch will be important to make effective (and safe) use of your time. Alternatively a simple handheld torch would suffice, it’s just more convenient to have both hands free.
It’ll need to be windproof and warm as well. Alongside shoes, this is the most vital item of clothing you’ll have with you, so invest in a good quality coat. If you’re on a budget, now is the time to capitalize on January sales!
Thick Wool Socks
It is crucial to keep your feet warm, dry and blister free, otherwise you’ll spend the trip uncomfortable and distracted.
Weatherproof insulated trousers (such as ski trousers) will be imperative in winter if you want to stay dry and warm. Of course if you’d rather bring jeans you can, but just bare in mind how uncomfortable they get when wet!
Or some form of thick mid-layer. Aim for a style that covers your neck.
Glove Heat Pads
For those of you that feel the cold, consider packing glove warmers, as often you feel the cold in your fingertips first.
A pair of sturdy lace up boots with a strong tread are still essential. Prioritise quality footwear brands, for instance Timberland, Sorel or Caterpillar, but for the more adventurous explorers proper hiking boots are recommended.
You’ll need a waterproof coat, although ideally a lightweight jacket that you can put away in your bag, if necessary.
A thin layer for when you’re blessed with a warm, sunny day.
A mid-layer for cooler days, that you can easily slip into your rucksack if the weather changes.
For the days when you’re lucky enough to see sun. Particularly important for those driving, you wouldn’t want your sight impaired! Don’t worry, most service stations in Iceland sell sunglasses, so if you forget they’re easily accessible (although expensive).
Or whatever pair of trousers you’d like, if you’re feeling optimistic and the weather forecast is favourable you can always brave a pair of shorts!
The midnight sun is spectacular, but if you’re dependent on darkness to get some sleep, you’ll be glad to have a sleep mask handy.
Also don’t forget..
If you’re going to Iceland, you’re probably not going to miss a trip to the Blue Lagoon or one of their other geothermal baths! Bring your own towel to avoid renting one.
Whatever style suits you. An expedition to Iceland is very active, so take a moment to relax in the turquoise waters, tend to those aching muscles and rejuvenate!
Reusable Bottle of Water
Stay hydrated as you hike, a lot of the locations are isolated. Local tap water is clean, although not chemically purified, so it is clear of the chloride that we are accustomed to in our tap water. If you’re worried you can always bring a filtered water bottle, for peace of mind.
You’ll want to remember everything you witnessed, a camera is essential so that you capture the spectacular landscapes and memories that will last a lifetime. Zoom lenses as versatile, therefore perfect for holiday photos. Don’t forget to bring along the battery chargers, and an SD card! If you have an iPhone, buy an Apple Lightning to SD Card Reader (available on Amazon), this will enable you to upload photos directly to your phone for you to edit and post on social media promptly (this will also save you bringing your laptop). There are also versions available for Android users.
Iceland plugs will require a European adapter, which has two prongs. Please check your electrical appliances, as Iceland outlets have double the U.S. output. Also notable, due the power conversion it is not advisable to bring your own hair dryer, instead check if your hotel provides their own. For more info, see this link.
A bag of any basics you usually need: deodorant, body wash, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick (particularly in winter, the cold can seriously impact your lips, you’ll want to moisturize).
An important addition no matter what season you’re travelling, sunlight in winter is stronger than you think as it is reflected by the snow and ice.
Exceptionally useful to carry around your daily necessities, like camera, water bottle, snacks, and sun protection. Rucksacks spread the weight over both shoulders so it feels less heavy. Leave extra space in the summer to pack layers you’ve removed.
A Dry Bag
You’ll find this practical if you have to pack any clothes that haven’t dried yet!
Passport & Any Necessary Visas
Phone and Charger