One of the things that surprise first-time travelers to Iceland is how windy it can be. If you haven’t read any of the travel boards or talked to someone who has visited, the Nordic island’s stronger than average gusts might catch you off-guard. People planning a trip to Iceland often research what the weather is like, average temperatures, rainfall, and climate. These are all important things to know. The wind is also something to keep in mind in order to ensure driving safety during your trip. So just how windy does it get in Iceland? And what precautions do you need to exercise when traveling here? In the country where wind speeds can reach up to those of a Category 4 hurricane, it’s important to know what to expect and how to prepare.
A Small, Stormy Island
Iceland is notorious for its weather. Sure, there are definitely nice days when the sun is shining, and everything seems right with the world. But to focus only on these days would paint an incredibly false picture. When talking about the weather in Iceland, I would be remiss if I didn’t also bring up the snow storms, hail storms, the sandstorms, the ash storms…you get the picture. Everyone is prepared for a little bit of rain when they step foot on the island, but I think some of the more extreme events weatherwise can catch people off guard. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Iceland’s weather is unpredictable. We’ve been known to experience all four seasons in one day and even snowstorms in June. So, of course, a place of this meteorologically volatile is going to have a bit of wind. Probably more than you’re used to.
Iceland’s Wind Can Be a Bit Scary
Now I don’t want to frighten you, but I am going to be real with you. There are instances when winds will reach 30-40 mph (48-64 km/h) or when you might have to cling to objects such as fences or signposts to keep from being blown away or down to the ground. This is the worst-case scenario of course. That being said, there are some ways to avoid this dramatic fate. Diligently check the weather forecast and strongly heed Icelanders’ warnings when they say “It’s going to be really windy today”. Trust me; we know what we’re talking about. The last thing you need is wind lashing you in the face or not being able to stand up. And course you know to stay inside if there is a storm expected.
Severe weather warnings are issued by both the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Road and Coastal Authority. Check their websites daily (or even multiple times a day) to be sure that the area where you’re traveling doesn’t have any warnings or weather advisories. During the big storm that hit Vik in 2015, winds reached 141 mph (226 km/h). Despite being warned, many tourists decided to drive in this weather, and as a result, their cars got blown off the road or otherwise stuck. Read up on forums like TripAdvisor about Iceland’s weather.
Weather Resources for Iceland
Now all of this isn’t to say that it’s super windy in Iceland all the time. We just want to prepare you for what could happen, especially if you are traveling along the South Coast or during winter. This week’s forecast for Reykjavik shows wind speeds ranging from 10-15 mph (16-24 kph), which is relatively mild.
Driving in Iceland’s Wind
Driving in Iceland presents its own particular set of challenges. Not only will you sometimes be dealing with icy or not very well paved roads, but you also have the wind to deal with. When gusts are particularly strong, you will find yourself struggling with the wheel in order to not get blown off the road. The smaller the vehicle, the more likely this is to happen. Please don’t drive if you know they are supposed to be high winds that day. Also, give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. You may get caught in a windstorm or other unexpected severe meteorological event and need to pull over until it subsides.
A tip I want to give you when driving in Iceland has to do with taking care of your car rental. No matter how gently the wind is blowing, never ever leave your doors ajar. Not even for a second. In the time it takes you to step out of the vehicle and snap a gorgeous photo, a sudden gust of wind can come either bend your door back to cause dents (or other serious damage that you’ll have to pay the rental company for) or in extreme cases, blow it off completely. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so don’t leave your doors open.
Another tip is to open the car door using both hands. Use one to steady the door and the other to actually open it.
Camping in Iceland – Is It Too Windy To Use a Tent?
We’ve had people ask us if it’s safe to go tent camping in Iceland due to the wind. While strong wind conditions are not ideal, we do want to say that in general, it’s not so windy that your tents stakes will be pulled up out of the ground and whisked away á la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. There are two big takeaways that I want to stress, however. First, the weather is more gentle in the summer. If you’re planning on tent camping in Iceland, it’s best to do it then. On a related note, even though it’s summer, you’ll still want to bring an all season tent. These tents are designed to withstand high winds and low temperatures. They usually have a frame made out of a sturdy material like aluminum.
The second caveat is that if you’re going tent camping, be sure to have a backup plan (like sleeping in your car) if the winds do happen to get really strong during your trip. You could also choose to rent a campervan and have the best of both worlds. You’ll travel in a vehicle that has overnight heating and protects you from the elements. During times when the weather is nice, you can set up camp with your tent and sleep in the Great Outdoors.
How Windy Does It Really Get In Iceland?
Like many things in life, the answer is: it depends. If you’re spending a week in Iceland in the middle of August, you may never encounter extreme weather. If you’ve decided to travel in the winter and you arrive in the middle of a storm, you may have to wait a few days to drive anywhere or turn back when you see conditions worsening. Just use common sense along with the resources at your disposal to travel safely and arrive at your destination in one piece.