Winter in Iceland is cold. I’m talking really cold and icy and snowy and slippy. But it’s the absolute best time to visit as the northern lights are in their prime, the snow is magical, and there’s something weirdly enjoyable about waking up and putting on seven layers of thermals before venturing outside. Below are ten top tips for surviving your Icelandic winter break, enjoy!

  1. Double the Gloves. Always pack two pairs of thermal gloves for when your first pair don’t dry off from that slip in the snow. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to put your hands into wet gloves because you forgot to hang them out on a radiator overnight. Nothing ruins your day more than frostbite! Take the same approach with socks. Lots and lots of toasty dry socks.


  1. Crampons. The winter season in Iceland brings with it plenty of ice, and you’re going to need crampons if you’ve got any hope of staying upright when wandering off-piste. Even the main footpaths are iced over, particularly around all the many, many, waterfalls. Strap some organised nails to your boots and you’ll be fine, don’t splash out on the pro-mountaineering crampons, just grab some £5 supermarket crampons.


  1. Pack light. Every day you’ll be wearing salopettes (or a good pair of waterproof walking trousers) and a raincoat (or down jacket). As taking your coat off outside is not advised, everything you’re wearing underneath won’t be caught on camera and, as such, you can get away with repeating the same outfit daily. Just pack a couple of different thermal tops in case you sweat into them.


  1. Plan ahead. Daylight hours in winter are short with as little as 5 hours in January. In November you’ll find the sun rises at around 9.30am and sets around 16.30 so your seven hours of daylight need to be curated carefully to avoid disappointment. Plan your day well ahead of time to make the most of the light. Getting up at 8am in the pitch black might give you harrowing flashbacks of waking up for school in the winter, but it’s okay, Iceland is waiting, not first-period maths.


  1. Beat the crowds. Rising early is vital to beat the crowds as you’ll quickly realise every attraction is a tourist trap. Though getting up at early and driving in the pitch black to your destination may seem tiring at the time, it’s totally worth it to watch the morning light break in solitude.


  1. Hire a 4×4. Iceland’s ring road provides a great road trip across extraordinary landscapes with the bonus of being able to pull over and jump out whenever you see fit. Though it might be tempting to travel around the island by bus tours, it’s nowhere near as fun as having your own little vehicle for a bit of privacy and a lot of freedom. Get snow tires.


  1. Petrol. Fill up whenever you can as stations can be few and far between when you get out into the sticks, and you really don’t want to be doing a ten hour round trip on foot to the garage to pick up a canister of petrol. Trust me.


  1. Reign it in. Don’t think you can drive around the entire island in a week, reign it in, there’s so much to see, and there’s no fun in feeling rushed. With the weather conditions being unpredictable there’s no telling whether the roads will be open 24/7, a snowstorm could cut off one section of the ring road and then you’re screwed. Ideally, Iceland should be discovered in quarters. Remember, you can always come back!


  1. Reykjavik. As quaint and glistening as Reykjavik is you don’t need to spend any more than a day here. This small capital city has a lot of charm, but it’s really just a pretty gateway into a far better territory: the vast snow-covered countryside!


  1. The Northern Lights look better in pictures. The northern lights aren’t always green to the eye, but they’re incredibly green on camera. Apparently, our eyes at night engage different cells to view, and these cells struggle to pick up colour, instead of seeing green lights we see a grey colour with a tint of green. However, our cameras are pro at picking up the green light (hence why you’ve seen so many cool pictures of them before) so make sure you’ve practiced setting your camera up to take star pictures beforehand. Don’t be disheartened if the sky’s don’t look bright green to the eye; the lights could be there, let your camera find them!