What to Wear in Iceland

Are you planning a winter trip and wondering what to wear in Iceland? All too often, people plan the trip of a lifetime and fail to think about the clothes they will need to keep warm and comfortable. If you plan a holiday in the sun, you will, no doubt, stock up on new shorts, swimwear and flip flops. But investing in the right clothes on a trip to a cold country like Iceland is vital; being really cold is incredibly unpleasant and could ruin the Northern Lights, spectacular scenery or that much-anticipated trip to see Santa.

Don’t put off shopping for your trip until the Autumn; start looking now and you might just grab yourself an end of season bargain!

Thermal lagoon under deep blue sky outdoors

Temperatures in Iceland

If you thought the British weather was changeable, wait until you get to Iceland! Planning what to wear in Iceland is a challenge because temperatures can vary so wildly from one moment to the next. During summer, temperatures average 10°C but can reach up to 25°C on exceptionally warm days, while in winter the average temperature is freezing (0°C), but can get as low as -25°C in the highlands. With added wind chill, Iceland can be pleasantly warm or cold in summer, and very cold or extremely cold in winter!

A beautiful green and red aurora dancing over the Jokulsarlon lagoon, Iceland

The Kit List

So, what to wear in Iceland? The key is layering.

Thermals – let’s start from the bottom layer and work our way up! If you are going to Iceland in the summer, you may not need thermals, unless you are usually very sensitive to the cold (if you wear thermals in the UK winter/late autumn, pack them just in case). If you are planning a winter trip, particularly if you plan on doing any walking, pack long-sleeved and full leg wool or thermal underwear. Thermal socks are a must (get a few pairs) and wool tights add an extra layer of warmth under trousers in the spring, too.

T-shirts – For a summer trip, t-shirts are a great base layer, on your winter Iceland trip, a t-shirt can go straight over your thermals for added warmth.

Jumpers – Thin knitted jumpers can fit snugly under your outer layers and trap warmth in. Wool is idea, but can be costly – anything that you can layer and easily take off when it gets warm will be fine. Luckily, Nordic jumpers are very much in fashion; invest in at least one chunky-knit jumper to keep you warm on those cooler, and outright cold, days. Thanks to the resurgence of knitwear there are plenty of styles for the fashion-conscious to choose from. Just make sure you don’t pick one that is too short – belly tops may be in fashion, but they won’t keep your back warm.

Trousers – Jeans are fine if you plan on wearing water proof trousers over the top, but remember: there are few things more uncomfortable than cold, wet jeans.  Leggings or hiking trousers are preferable (just remember they may have to fit over thermals). If you are going in the summer, bring a few pairs of shorts – you never know, you might just need them. They may not be this year’s must-have trend, but active wear trousers that zip off to become shorts may come in handy (don’t worry, you don’t have to wear them in England).

Fleeces – If you thought that fleeces had been left in the ‘90s, you were sorely mistaken; they have been in cold countries all along! Fleeces may not be the height of fashion but they are a saviour for anyone living in a cold country, or anyone who enjoys outdoor pursuits. Lightweight, quick-drying and warm, a fleece will be invaluable on your trip to Iceland. In fact, if you find reasonably priced ones, pack two.  During the winter, a fleece will add an extra layer, whilst on warmer summer days, your fleece makes a perfect lightweight jacket.

hiking in rocky canyon, backpacker walking in the nature, Iceland

Outerwear – Waterproof trousers may not be the most flattering garment you ever wear, but they will keep you dry and help to protect you from the cold wind. Remember that you will be layering, so you may need to go up a size; the style you choose depends on your budget, but you can choose from proper ski trousers, sleeker, soft-shell trousers or good, old-fashioned waterproofs.

If you don’t own a warm winter jacket, and you can’t borrow one from a friend, it is definitely worth looking early to see if you can pick one up in the sale. You are looking for a ski jacket or equivalent with taped seams and high water resistance. As this may be your most expensive purchase, it is worth getting a jacket that you like and would wear in the UK, too. Goose down jackets are great (but not necessarily waterproof, so check before you buy), as are two-layer jackets, which come with a waterproof shell and thick fleece lining. While you can compromise by using layers without buying too much specialist clothing, a waterproof coat (and trousers) really will make your trip more pleasurable, so get shopping!

Accessories are key to keeping you warm and dry, too – so don’t forget to invest in good quality hats, gloves and scarves to keep you warm on even the coldest days.

Footwear – When you are planning what to wear in Iceland, wellies with an extra pair of socks won’t cut it. Having cold feet is a deeply unpleasant experience, and can ruin your day. If you’re going on a city break to Iceland, practical shoes with relatively thick soles and a pair of thermal socks (or two) will probably be fine, but if you’re planning on venturing out into the snow, proper, water-proof hiking boots or even snow boots are a must.

Relaxing time during an outdoor trekking in mountains, Iceland

Swimwear – No, we haven’t gone mad! One of the most spectacular experiences in Iceland is bathing in a warm, even hot, geothermal pool when the ambient temperature is freezing or below. The pools are fantastic all year round, so unless you fancy taking a dip au naturel, it is worth packing your swimming gear and a lightweight travel towel.

Beautiful girl in a hot spring.

Sunglasses – Sunglasses may not be top of your list but the glare of the sun on snow can be blinding in winter.

Backpack – bearing in mind your “layering” technique, you will need somewhere to pack extra clothes, or to stash surplus clothes once you have removed them. You may be able to tie your fleece around your waist, but a jacket, two fleeces and a jumper may be a bit much! Invest in a hardy, reasonable- sized backpack that is big enough to fit your coat and a couple of jumpers, but not so big that you can overload it.

hikers on the trail in the Islandic mountains. Trek in National Park Landmannalaugar, Iceland

Evening attire – If you are worrying about what to wear in Iceland in the evenings, pack a few smarter outfits. By night, fashion takes priority over function and nothing screams “tourist” like walking into a club or nice restaurant clad in fleece and hiking boots.


Did you find our kit list of what to wear in Iceland useful? Or do you have something we should add? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+. Alternatively, click here to find cheap flights to Iceland.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here