customers often ask us what the weather will be during their stay in Iceland and what kind of clothing they should bring. Truth be told, it's going to vary depending on when you visit Iceland.
The weather in Iceland is actually milder on average than most people think, but can be extremely unpredictable, ranging from sunny to blizzard within minutes! So it is impossible to predict weeks or months in advance, but here are some guidelines on what to pack and how best to dress to get the most out of your Iceland trip.
Staying comfortable: Layering is key
The most important thing is to dress in layers that you can pile on or strip off as needed. It‘s a good idea to bring a small day pack with you, to store extra layers in together with your camera etc. when out exploring.
What to wear on a trip to Iceland in summer (June-August)
- Base layer – normal underwear and short or long-sleeve t-shirts are usually fine
- Warm sweater – wool or fleece
- Lightweight outdoor trousers/pants – believe us, soggy jeans are no fun! Zip-off pants that change into shorts can be a good idea especially if you plan to hike
- Lightweight weatherproof jacket with hood - rain – and windproof shell
- Sturdy hiking boots - water-resistant with ankle support, especially if you plan on hiking. If not, then lighter trekking shoes are enough. Plain sneakers are a no-no if you plan to travel outside Reykjavik
- Hat, scarf and gloves/mittens – particularly if you plan to go on boat tours etc.
Special note for camping or travelling in the highlands: Bring woollen underwear (‘long johns’, matching t-shirt, socks) and a warmer jacket, hat, scarf and gloves/mittens.
We like Icelandic design label Farmers Market's woollen underwear and sweaters.
What to wear on a trip to Iceland in winter (September-May)
- Base layer – woollen underwear i.e. ‘long johns’, thermal long-sleeve t-shirt, socks
- Warm sweater – wool or fleece
- Outdoor trousers/pants – thin waterproof pants over thermals or thicker waterproof outdoor pants on their own, both work
- Warm weather-proof jacket with hood – down is the warmest, if not down then take extra care to bring a warm sweater and base layer with you to wear underneath
- Sturdy hiking boots – as in summer, see above
- Warm hat, scarf and gloves/mittens - Icelandic winters can be cold and windy to these simple items are an absolute must
Our friend Vid from Bruised Passports chose a cosy parka for his travels in Iceland.
We also recommend
Swimwear – if you want to make use of the countless swimming pools, spas and natural hot springs all around Iceland. Many of our accommodations have on-site hot tubs as well that are perfect for relaxing in after a busy day‘s sightseeing! You might also want to bring a fast-dry towel for hot spring pools out in nature where there are often no changing facilities.
Sunglasses and sunscreen – especially in summer but also autumn/spring when the sun lingers low on the horizon (can be dangerous when driving). Also if you plan to head out onto a glacier where the sun will be strongly reflected at any time of the year.
Forget the umbrella - horizontal winds make the use of an umbrella difficult! It‘s better to bring a good jacket with a hood.
Sleep mask – you may find it difficult to sleep under the midnight sun in summer. Most accommodations have sun-blocking blinds but if you are sensitive then you may want to bring your own sleep mask just in case.
Your camera and tripod – Iceland offers countless amazing photo opportunities at every corner, so bringing your camera is a no-brainer. A tripod is also a good option when you want to take good pictures of yourself in the Icelandic nature.
Bring a backpack – A small backpack or bag for your camera, snacks and extra layers of clothing, especially if you are foing on tours or will be spending a good time outdoors.
If you forget to bring any of the above items then there are plenty of shops in Reykjavík, major towns and petrol/gas stations around the country that stock the essentials.
A note on Icelandic fashion
Icelanders are a hip and fashionable bunch of people. Outside of the capital, Iceland is a very casual place, and your outdoor gear will fit in just fine. When in Reykjavík, however, you can expect to see some very fashion and design conscious Reykjavíkers. They tend to dress smartly as people do in any cosmopolitan city, though with a stylish Nordic twist. If you aim to blend in, do as the locals do and swap your brightly coloured weather-proof jacket and hiking boots for a nice pair of jeans, a smart jacket and sneakers or other city shoes. This is even more important if you plan to sample the nightlife as the locals do like to dress up before going out. Some bars and clubs have dress codes where the general rule is no hoodies, sporty t-shirts or sneakers.
Last piece of advice...
Choose wisely what to pack and keep in mind that sometimes less is more. What you wear is your choice, but don't let fashion ruin your day! Being ill prepared and not dressed appropriately for the weather can make you very uncomfortable, so be wise.
As we say here in Iceland, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
Top photo: Carlos Amo, who travelled with Hey Iceland in 2014