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Iceland is synonymous with winter. The winter in Iceland can be challenging, especially for those visiting from warmer climes. While winter does come with the magical Aurora Borealis to keep you mesmerised in the dark, winter nights, here are some other tips to help you cope with the cold.
After generations of coping with cold winters – which last from roughly October to April, with a hazy period of autumn and spring at either end– Icelanders have some expert tips to ensure your survival.
The public geothermal swimming pools dotted around Reykjavik are your best friend during the long, winter months. Open from very early in the morning until late in the evening, giving you ample time before and after work, a daily routine of hot and cold hydrotherapy will help your skin feel fresh, your muscles relaxed, and your mind calm. An added benefit is the communal bonding with friends and neighbours – a very important part of surviving the sometimes monotonous days of winter. If you can manage to get out of the city and visit a natural hotpot, even better. Some of the swimming pools offer a sunlamp in the common area, which can be great for battling winter depression. Alternatively, try winter swimming in the sea.
With so much experience in learning how to cope with the winter, Icelanders know that one way to avoid complete hermitism (that can sometimes set in when it starts to get dark earlier) is to immerse yourself in cultural activities and keep an active social life. Aside for the many cosy bars and cafés, there are also many music festivals taking place throughout the winter, from Iceland Airwaves in November to Dark Music Days in January and Sonar Reykjavik in March. Keep your eye on the local newspaper, The Reykjavik Grapevine, for listings on activities like art openings and other cultural and creative meet-ups.
With the climate in constant flux during winter, sometimes a blizzard can bring a metre of snow, followed by rain the next day, followed by another blizzard. This can create very tedious sidewalk conditions that public transportation crew can’t always keep up with. To help navigate the urban outdoors, invest in a pair of slip-on crampons to slide over your regular walking shoes to keep your footing steady. Always keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading out, even for a walk around the city, as the weather can change drastically throughout the day. Having correct footwear and warm, waterproof clothing to withstand all kinds of weather can make or break your stay.