Iceland in winter

My husband has booked a trip for us to visit Iceland in December of this year to see the northern lights. How do we pack? What warm clothes do I need? Will there be northern lights to view? What do we do with the 8 hours of daylight to make the most of the trip?

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9108 posts

"Will there be northern lights to view?" Look up "University of Alaska Fairbanks Aurora forecast" on Google and check the forecast daily while you're there. My experience in Alaska was that you have to make a considerable effort to see them, you're unlikely to just look up in the sky and randomly catch a glimpse. You need clear skies on a night with a forecast of high activity in your area. Then, bundle up in warm clothes, and find a location with relatively unobscured horizons and low ambient light. Look up in the sky and wait. Overall, your chances of seeing the lights are lower in Iceland and Scandinavia than in Alaska or Canada, mainly because the weather is more damp. Clouds are more likely to obscure the night sky.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

As Tom mentioned, even paid tours can't guarantee that you'll experience the Northern Lights...too many weather-related dependencies. Still, here's a link with suggestions on tours...a tour will probably be your best bet in terms of seeing much with limited time. Plus, they'll know where to go in search of the Northern Lights. http://www.icelandtouristboard.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=144&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01returnid=58 Also, take a look at the packages/tours section on Icelandair's website. Even if you don't buy a tour through them, you should get a few good ideas on things to do/see/experience. Oh, and unless you're really into the spa thing, don't pay to visit the Blue Lagoon...you can walk right up to the lagoon and hang out around the decks/patio areas for free (good if you just want to see it). It's okay, but the natural beauty is why you're really there. Go to your library or local book store and get a guidebook on Iceland (Lonely Planet or other). BTW, Icelandair is a great airline...just flew with them again in September...it's a winner. As for winter attire, you'll have highs in the mid-30s and lows in the mid-20s. Not sure about fog when it's that chilly, but you could have rain for sure and maybe even some snow. You won't need to dress like Shackleton or Amundsen, but you'll need layers, a good coat, hat, gloves/mittens, and probably boots in order to be outside much. In summer, most days were partly cloudy/partly sunny. In early September, it was nasty outside...high 30s to 42 or so, rain, and strong winds.

Posted by FELICIA
CHARLOTTE
2 posts

Thanks! Your info is very helpful. My husband has booked a tour that will take us to see the lights a second time if they are not visible on the first trip.
You mentioned to dress warmly. I lived in Germany for many years and also ski. How cold should I expect it to be?