We recently told you about how to take an Iceland road trip in any season, but now we'd like you to consider taking one in winter. It may seem like the wrong time for a road trip in Iceland, but it’s arguably one of the best times to experience the country’s stunning waterfalls, glaciers, and beaches. It’s also the best time of year to find great deals on rental cars and lodging. To top it all off, winter is ideal for viewing the Northern Lights.
If you think a winter road trip is your kind of adventure, take a look at these four tips that will help you plan ahead and stay safe on the road.
Take advantage of the daylight -- there isn’t much of it.
On average, the sun will rise between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and set between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., giving you five to seven hours of light to explore. You can work around this limitation by making the most of it. Wake up and get ready in the dark so you can be on the road by daybreak. Plan ahead so you aren’t in the wrong place when the sun starts to set. Visit destinations that are farthest from your home bast first, so you can cover the longest drives while there's still light. This is especially important for long day trips, like when you're traveling along the Golden Circle -- one of the country's most popular drives. And don’t forget that the Northern Lights, one of Iceland's most spectacular winter sights, appears only after the dark.
Have all-weather gear handy; conditions can change in a snap.
Let’s be honest. Visiting a country just outside the Arctic Circle requires some serious winter gear. Pack waterproof shoes with treads, a warm coat, and a hat, for starters. However, you should be prepared for a variety of weather. It may be windy and icy one day, then warm and foggy the next. To be safe, be prepared for the coldest cold, rain and fog, and even for some sunshine. As such, layers are your friends. Not only is this the easiest way to pack, but it will also give you options if the afternoon brings a surprise patch of sunshine or an unexpected windstorm.
Use maps and online tools to check out conditions before you head out.
Icelandic weather is unpredictable, so make use of a few tools to help you monitor road conditions around the island. First things first: Don’t rent a car if you aren’t sure you can handle driving in adverse weather. If you feel confident and you're planning to drive, bookmark the Icelandic Meteorological Office to monitor the weather, and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration to check road conditions. If you need help figuring out what the conditions mean for your route, ask someone. It’s better to plan ahead than to get stuck, or worse, caught in a dangerous situation because of closed roads.
Rent a 4-wheel drive car if you can.
Driving on snowy or icy roads will feel a lot safer if you’ve got wheels that can handle the conditions. Check out SADcars for a great value on a 4-wheel drive rental. Rental prices drop significantly in winter, Iceland's off-season. They stock plenty of options, including tried-and-true Subaru Foresters that handle windy and icy conditions well. It will put your mind at ease to know your car is made for whatever the weather throws at you.