• Don’t be afraid of the dark. The good thing about all that darkness is that you may get to see the Northern Lights. The downside is that you don’t get much daylight to sightsee. In November the sun rose around 10 am and set by 4pm. In January, it gets even shorter, with sunrise after 11 am and sunset around 3pm. If you are going to get to see anything, you are going to have to head out in the dark. Plan on getting up and having breakfast at 8am and hitting the road around 9am so you can arrive at your destination by first light. The good news is that you will be treated to some amazing sunrises and sunsets. If you aren’t comfortable driving in the dark, that would be another reason to base out of Reykjavik and take some tours.Sunset in Iceland in the winter
  • Be prepared. The cold can sap the life out of you…and your batteries. It seemed like every time I stepped outside my phone went dead, even if I had a pretty good charge. My solution, back up power packs. Turning on that charge brought my phone back to life. If only it was so easy to bring the life back to my frozen hands. And it isn’t just phones that go dead quickly, camera batteries get used up quickly too. Make sure you bring back ups with you throughout the day and consider a weatherproof camera or a good travel camera.
  • Be safe! In the U.S., we are so used to having sanitized tourist experiences. Our waterfalls have nice safety rails, maintenance crews are diligent about putting salt and sand on slippery ice, and we warn people that peanut butter may contain peanuts. Not so in Iceland. First off, if there is a warning sign, it is for a good reason. Likely there was an accident that happened there so don’t blow it off, take caution. When you are walking up to the waterfalls, the mist off the falls makes it really icy. You will be best off if you have warm, waterproof hiking boots with spikes or get some clip on crampons. Lastly, when visiting the beaches, especially those around Vík, don’t get to close to the water’s edge, especially if you turn your back to the waves. They are known to experience rogue waves that can sweep you in and rough undercurrents that can pull you out quickly. And always keep a close eye (and/or hand) on any young kids. Reynisfjara sea stacks in Iceland
  • Think about your activities. It is easy to get excited about about all there is to do in Iceland, but not everything is available year round. So do your research in advance before booking your trip. You don’t want to be disappointed that you can’t whale watch, ATV, horseback ride, etc. because it isn’t the right season.Super jeep tour in Iceland winter
  • Don’t pin all your hopes on the Northern Lights. It was my greatest wish to see the Northern Lights when we visited in November, but alas, it was not meant to be. While I was disappointed, we still had some amazing experiences and I enjoyed every minute. There are a few things you can keep in mind when picking your dates that may increase your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis. First, September – April is Northern Lights “season” but you will have the greatest chances in late November through March. Since light pollution interferes with seeing the aurora, you will have a better chance of seeing them if you stay outside of the city. We loved our stay at Hotel Ranga, where not only do they have their own observatory and an astronomer that comes in on clear nights, but you can also elect to have them wake you should the aurora make an appearance.

You can also take a Northern Lights sightseeing tour, as the guides keep a close eye on the sky and can take you to the places where the aurora is most likely to make an appearance. Since we visited right after the Supermoon, we were disappointed to learn that the aurora borealis usually doesn’t appear on or near a full moon. If you want to check the forecast for predictions, visit the Icelandic Met office website. If they do appear, you will want to be prepared. Sleep with your warm clothes at the ready. Keep your camera equipment at your fingertips. Make sure you bring a wide angle lens, tripod, a remote/shutter release (to avoid shaking your camera) and extra batteries (because of that cold.) The Visit Iceland website has some good tips for shooting the Northern Lights. If you are renting a cabin, consider leaving the camera outside set on the tripod so you are ready to go and it doesn’t fog up going from warm to cold.

 These tips are specific to visiting Iceland in the winter, but be sure to also check out my general Iceland travel tips too!

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