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Would it be worthwhile to visit Iceland in the winter?

There are some great sales on airfare to Iceland for November thru March. I know that is the beginning of winter weather there. We are thinking of going in early November for 8-10 days or so. Would we be able to see enough of the natural wonders or would they be covered too deeply with snow? We will be using Rick Steves' guidebook for our itinerary and staying in AirBNB's. We are hoping to get suggestions and advice from people who have been there during winter months. In 2015 we went on the fantastic 2 week RS Tour of Italy and we are saving up for the RS Germany tour in a couple of years. But this airfare to Iceland sounds great to a brand new retiree and Iceland seems a manageable place to do on our own.

Posted by Jazz+Travels
3665 posts

I've never been but constantly here that the expense of being a tourist there may undermine the low cost of the airfare

Posted by S Jackson
Vancouver, Canada
555 posts

I was in Reykjavik for four nights last December, and loved it.
It wasn't too cold, but occasionally very windy; and of course is only light from 10:00 until 16:00.
I packed a lot in: Golden Circle tour, Northern Lights tour, walked miles around town, went to Museums, did a walking tour, etc.
Bundle up, and get good boots that are slip-proof, and warm to minus 15 or so, and you're good.

Posted by sharon75roses OP
18 posts

Thank you all for your replies. We have booked a trip for November 1-9, 2018. We are doing several 1- day tours and and following lot of the advice that RS offers in his Iceland book. Now I need to find the right boots for safety and so our feet don't freeze! I still value any feedback that anyone has to offer.

Posted by dharvey1238
6 posts

The southern Ring Road area of the island will be much more livable than the colder/winder northern section that time of year. Not much happens after dark, so be up and ready to run while the sun is up! Enjoy! We just returned - it's SO beautiful!

Posted by mreynolds
Boston, MA
1629 posts

In November the entirety of the ring road will likely not be passable, the Highlands area (for which 4x4 is needed in summer, will definitely not be passable) but the West fjord area will be and all of the Southern Coast will be which is where most tourists stay anyway at all times of year.
There are some famous waterfalls on the northern part of the ring road, but otherwise all of the tourists sites are in the area that should on most days be fine.
I would opt for a heavy, decent size car even more so than a 4x4 ; all cars should come with studded tires so your biggest concern is wind. Those tall camper vans and 4x4 Jimmy's can flip over in a strong enough gust.
Obviously watch the weather daily for any storms and the current wind conditions.
If going this time of year definitely start watching for the Aurora forecasts, that hopefully will be a highlight of the trip for you. Decide if you want to take a tour group for that or do it yourself. If doing a group tour I would wait for a clear night forecast and not book one now. For the most part I would hold off on most all tours to see the weather a day or so prior ; they are not going to sell out. The exception being...
the Ice Cave Glacier tours are quite popular. A little dangerous... access is limited to guided tours only and these can sell out in advance so something you should plan in beforehand.

From what I hear when snow does come or ice ; the biggest issue is not driving itself assuming you are cautious with speed but pulling over as there will be no side of the road and turnoff/parking lots may be unmanaged and therefore a place you could get stuck.

You likely will get a couple of days where you should stay at your base and not venture out and then other days where driving around and seeing the sites will be perfectly fine.
Venturing out each day without checking the forecast and wind forecasts would be very dangerous and should not be taken lightly.
You should be able to easily find lodging and rental cars even last minute.
If you like to eat out restaurants outside of the capital could be hard to find so would plan on groceries and cooking some of my own meals if I were going in November.