Visiting Iceland in March: 5 Things You Need to Know
Updated: May 8, 2019
Visiting Iceland in March (and during the rest of the winter season) has a lot of advantages but it can also present some unique challenges that you need to be aware of before your trip. Here's our top 5 list of both pros and cons of planning your winter Iceland trip:
This is the first and the most obvious thing on the list. While you may see temperatures in the forecast that don't look too intimidating (like 1°C - 4°C, for example), keep in mind that the wind gusts in Iceland could be like nothing you've experienced before. Coming from Canada, after 3 long months of cold, wet, snowy winter, we were still blown away (literally) by ferocious Icelandic winds. While the temperature might be a balmy 1°C , it can actually feel more like -10°C when you factor in the windchill. Bring functional layers of clothing, a big scarf to cover your face, a warm hat, gloves that would allow you to use your camera, and waterproof winter boots.
Weather also changes quickly. One minute it might be calm and sunny only to change to hail, snow or rain the next. Keep that in mind when planning your hikes.
2. Road Conditions and Closures
Driving in Iceland in winter is not as scary as some people think. If you stay on main roads, you should not encounter any issues. If you are driving and the visibility becomes poor due to a snow storm, just pull over safely and wait it out. It will most likely clear within minutes. But do keep in mind that some roads close in the winter due to weather conditions and may remain closed for hours or even days. Therefore, plan your trip in advance and always check the weather before heading off in the morning.
One major advantage of traveling to Iceland in the off-season is that you will find far cheaper accommodations and car rentals than you would in the summer or even in the shoulder season (May and September). It is also a lot easier to book a car or a hotel at a short notice. For example, we booked our campervan only 4 weeks in advance when we traveled in March. For our September trip, on the other hand, we booked 3 months in advance and even then there were not a lot of campervans left to choose from. We were also able to book accommodations in March for $80-100 CAD/night the day before since our plan to sleep in the campervan fell through due to weather conditions.
There are a lot of campsites in Iceland but the majority are only open from May to September. If you are planning on sleeping in your campervan, you will have to stay at a campground (wild camping is no longer legal in Iceland). There are a few websites that list campsites open in the winter, such as this one, or this one (campgrounds open in winter are in blue). Since there is only a handful of year-round campsites scattered around the country, you will need to plan your itinerary carefully.
5. Northern lights
If you dream of seeing the Northern Lights, then going to Iceland in the winter will give you the best chances of scratching this item off your bucket list. Northern Lights season in Iceland runs from September to April when the nights are the longest. Observing the spectacle of aurora depends on several factors, such as dark and clear skies and aurora's activity level (KP index).The periods of darkness are longer in the winter (as long as 20 hours in December!) which allows for better aurora visibility. Remember to check the Northern Lights' forecast and keep your eyes peeled on the sky!