Will Iceland Be Too Cold for You?

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Dark Days and Snow Still Lure Tourists

 

Hat, down coat. and good boots are vital for cold days in Iceland. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Hat, down coat. and good boots are vital for cold days in Iceland. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Opting to visit Iceland on a whim, in December when the days are dark and cold, I fret that maybe the weather will be so miserable I won’t have a good time. Snow, cold, darkness. . .what am I thinking?

To prepare, I buy a long down coat with a hood, something that I would be unlikely to be seen in around my own home absent a need to walk a dog on a day when New York’s own weather turns subzero. It looks like a sleeping bag. Having gotten frostbite as a fickle teen while skiing, I learned to take chilliness seriously, mostly by vacationing in warm places. When the weather is going to be bitter, I no longer have any fashion pride. For Iceland, I pack silk long underwear, multiple pairs of thick cotton socks, duck boots, cotton sweaters, turtle necks, and knitted hat, gloves and scarf. To swim, I bring a shorty wetsuit.

It is cold and dark and snowy in Iceland, and I love it. I end up swimming here more than I do when I vacation in Florida. Floating in outdoor geothermal pools while watching falling stars and meteor showers is heavenly. The water is very warm. The air is not.

It takes a while to get used to taking a bus to downtown Reykjavik at 9 a.m. while it is pitch black, but the streets are well lit. Unlike many restaurants back home, those in Iceland tend to have coat racks loaded with the expectation that patrons will use them, and diners do. People wear coats from place to place here; you really cannot go without them.

Don't let the weather deter you; dress appropriately when visiting Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Don’t let the weather deter you; dress appropriately when visiting Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

With so much darkness at this time of year, visitors begin to appreciate much more the light. Natives are out and about during the day, as are the tourists. I am enthused when I spot a junior Icelander dressed much as I am.

The only time I am cold on this trip is when with visit the Gullfoss waterfall. I am bundled up and wearing glasses, but the spray from the falls turns into billions of tiny ice pellets shooting at what little skin on my face is still exposed. The falls are still worth the icy visit, though.

Is Iceland too cold in winter? Not at all. It’s the time of year I want to go back.

—Lori Tripoli

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