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Traveling in Iceland in Winter

Ask IR

Traveling in Iceland in Winter

Bakkafjörður
From Bakkafjörður, Northeast Iceland. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Q: I’ll be in Iceland February 26-March 9. What are the best places to visit during that time? My friends and I are going to rent a car to take a round trip. Would that be a good idea?

Felipe, Brazil

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A: Although there are no festivals planned at the time of year you’re planning to come, this is still a great time to take the Ring Road around the country. We recommend renting a small 4x4, because the roads will still be snow-covered or icy. Make sure the car has studded tires.

There are three websites you need to check before you start driving. One of them is road.is, which tells you all about road conditions; the second is the website of the Icelandic Met Office, en.vedur.is; and the third is safetravel.is. The weather changes rapidly in Iceland, making the weather forecast website indispensable. Look at the bright side: there is no need to despair if you wake up in bad weather; just wait a few minutes and it will no doubt be better.

The south part of the country is generally the most visited region, mainly due to its proximity to the capital. The other regions are no less beautiful, though, so driving the Ring Road will be well worth while. If you love skiing, Akureyri, North Iceland, is a skier’s paradise, always packed with snow. The East Fjords, with their high mountains, are the least crowded, but full of majestic beauty. For complete privacy, visit Bakkafjörður, in the northeast, population 72―our photographer Páll Stefánsson’s favorite place.

Six days is generally recommended for a trip around the country on the Ring Road, so if you have 12 days you will have plenty of time to explore. Some people travel around the country in just 48 hours (or 80 hours as in this story) but for most people, that’s way too fast. However, keep in mind that during the winter, the days are much shorter, giving you little time to explore. Roads are also often icy or snow-covered, and poor weather conditions may prevent you from traveling on certain days. It is also important to keep in mind that the maximum speed limit in Iceland is 90 km/h (56 mph), less in many areas and poor conditions.

I’m not aware of any webpage which deals specifically with accommodation that is open in winter so you will need to contact hotels and guesthouses one by one or using a booking website like Airbnb or booking.com.

Here is a link to information about an important app, intended to ensure your safety while traveling.

VH

NOTE: The above text has been edited to take into account reader comments and questions regarding winter travel.