How to Survive a Night in an Ice Hotel!

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The city of Kemi is located just south of the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland, because of its position near the Arctic Circle nights are longer than average during the winter months. In addition, temperatures plunge anywhere from 0 to 16 degrees in February. During the weeks leading up to my trip I was asked by friends and family if I was crazy. Finland is freezing! Yes it is but where else can you go to visit the LumiLinna SnowCastle, visit a reindeer farm, snowmobile on a frozen sea, and go Dogsledding?

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The Kemi LumiLinna SnowCastle in Finland is a real hotel and castle made entirely from ice and snow. Each year weeks of preparation go into building the castle from the ground up using blocks of ice and snow made from the nearby Gulf of Bothnia. The Snow Castle grounds include a 21 room SnowHotel, a SnowRestaurant, a SnowChapel and an IceBar. The grounds of the castle sit on the icy coast of the Gulf of Bothnia.  IMG_1006

Construction of the SnowCastle begins yearly in December and continues for about a 6 week period culminating in its grand opening event that takes place in the end of January.  For the 2012 SnowCastle,  approximately 21000 m3 of snow was used in construction, which is roughly the amount of 2100 truck-loads. The SnowCastle area will be 5000 m2, which is the equivalent size of about one-and-a half football fields.  Building the castle is a huge feat for the some 60 builders of this working hotel and restaurant.

The walls and entire structure of the castle and the grounds are constructed with piped snow, blown into various types of molds with a high-powered snow blower. Once the snow has hardened the molds can be removed leaving a very sturdy structure made entirely of snow.  All of the snow, ice and water come from the nearby Gulf of Bothnia. When the season is over at April’s end, the structure is completely demolished and pushed back by tractors into the Gulf, from where it came from.

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Each year the theme of the SnowCastle changes: some of the previous themes were Fire; 2007, the Sea; 2008, Travel, 2009 and on the 15th anniversary, the theme was National Romanticism. The Snowcastle’s theme for 2103 was Fantasy. Images of storybook tales were carefully engraved in the snowy walls and many rooms contained frozen characters sculpted entirely of ice. There was even an Angry Birds room. Spending the night in the castle is an unreal experience especially at nighttime when the lights are shining on the glistening ice ans snow.

Dinner at the Snow Restaurant

We checked in at the Snow Castle at around 5pm, this gave us plenty of time to explore the castle before our dinner, which was scheduled at 7:30 that night.  The hotel has a heated lounge with lockers where guests can store their luggage, purses and cameras. Aside from the lockers, the rustic-looking lounge is a fully-equipped and quite cozy with couches, tables, TVs, a little snack shop and a souvenir shop. The bathrooms are located outside the lounge in a heated facility.  After storing our stuff, we bundled up and excitedly ran out to check out the snow castle grounds. First stop was the SnowChapel, the room was dimly lit with green and white lighting casting a peaceful glow over the little chapel. People can actually get married here and then spend their honeymoon night in the honeymoon sweet equipped with a king size ice- bed.

IMG_1216After we took some photos of us praying in the chapel and checking out the castle we were notified that our dinner was ready early. We headed over to the Snow Restaurant, there are two separate seating areas both filled with tables made entirely of slabs of ice. The chairs are tree stumps covered in reindeer fur.

a4 At this point we were hungry and getting a little cold so we sat down at our reserved table. The meal consisted of  three-courses with a welcome drink served in a cup made from ice.  The food is served in tin foil on wooden plates so that the heat doesn’t melt the tables. We all chose the hot Lingonberry juice to start to warm us up rather than the cold Finlandia vodka and cranberry drink in an ice cup.

We each had different options that had to be ordered well in advance. I had the Castle´s Vegetarian Menu; which consisted of Cream of vegetable soup, a Vegetable bake made from broccoli, peppers and potatoes with a lemon sauce and for dessert a warm blueberry pie served with vanilla custard. My Friends had the Feast a’la Snowcastle; cold smoked salmon soup, fried fillet of chicken served with rice, onion and pepper with a smoked reindeer-cheese sauce. Then for dessert warm apple pie with vanilla custard. The food was delicious and hot but we actually ate quickly as the cold was starting to set in just sitting at the table. Luckily the service was good and the food came out fast!

What to do for the Night in an Ice Hotel

After dinner in the restaurant, there are a number of fun things to do to occupy your time. There is the Icebar where even the menus and cups are made from ice. Some of the drinks that are typical of Finland are Finlandia Vodka, or Cloudberry Liquor, but because it was so cold we opted for a Hot Chocolate. ???????????????????????????????

Even dressed in complete Arctic wear staying warm is an issue. The temperature in the castle is a steady 23 degrees regardless of the outside temperature. We could not sit in the bar area very long and drink.  We kept busy taking photos of each other and the bar. Afterwards we headed over to the room with the Ice Slide and took turns making silly videos of us going down it. This served the dual purpose of having fun while keeping warm.

After making a few silly videos we headed outside to slide down the sledding hill, by now it was dark outside. Sledding down the hill was fun but we decided to warm up in the lounge before turning in for the night. We found a comfy couch to sit on and we each got a hot chocolate spiked with Rum. The rum did actually help warm us up!  The cheerful hotel clerk informed us that a presentation on how to use the sleeping bags would be starting soon. Probably not a good idea to skip this informational piece!

How to Survive the Night in the LumiLinna SnowCastle

A couple of key pieces of information we made careful mental notes of; each bed in the castle is covered in animal fur that you sleep on top of. Each guest gets a survival grade sleeping bag with a warm insert both pieces need to be zipped up to keep the warmth in.

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First put the inner sleeping bag inside the heavier one. Unzip both of them partially so you can get in but easily zip it up when you are inside. After getting the bags organized-here is the fun part! You need to take off your outerwear and clothing; basically stripping down to your baselayers. According to the presenter this is absolutely necessary and the sleeping bags will not work as well if you leave your outerwear or too many layers on.  Once you take everything off you need to put your clothing between the animal fur and the sleeping bag. The point of this is so your clothes do not freeze, or at least stay somewhat unfrozen for when you have to get dressed in the morning. The boots just stay out and there is no way of getting around sticking your feet into a frozen boot in the morning.

The demonstration looked easy enough and off we were to bed, by now it was about 11pm and we were tired from our dogsledding excursion earlier in the day. One word of warning! Go to the bathroom before turning in for the night! The bathroom is outside in an adjacent heated building but it is still very cold getting in and out of your clothes and bag. Also the lights are dimmed in the hotel at night, my friend had to go to the bathroom and none of us would go with her. So it was a little scary although totally safe walking around in the dark to go to the bathroom. I had to go early in the morning and decided to just wait till breakfast.

IMG_1354 Once inside the first bag we all felt pretty good about the process but zippering up both bags and having them lined up correctly proved a little difficult once the cold started setting in. Once we were all securely zipped up it was quite warm. I had to sleep with the bag over my face though as there is no other protection for your head and face.  A hat definitely is not enough to keep the cold at bay.

We actually slept until the hotel staff woke us up in the morning-we survived no frostbite or frozen body parts! The breakfast was laid out in the lounge by the time we woke up around 7:30am. Our night in the SnowCastle was an unforgettable experience. I don’t particularly like cold weather but with careful planning and the right clothing, the amazing experience certainly outweighed the cold.    IMG_1361

LumiLinna SnowCastle Hours of Operation and Rates

Visitors can visit just the castle during the hours of 10am-7pm daily. An entrance ticket just for the day is 8 Euro / adult, and children from 4 – 11 years 4 Eur. A hotel room can be booked from 27th of January to 6th of April. Price for a double room is 115-175 Euros per person depending on the day of the week. The price includes breakfast in the lounge and the room. I highly suggest using Nordic Visitor though, they arranged an amazing tour that was totally organized which included a dogsledding excursion, overnight in the SnowCastle, a trip on The Sampo Arctic Icebreaker, a visit to a Reindeer farm, snowmobiling for the entire trip including a night ride to the Finnish forest to see the Northern Lights, and various snacks.

How to Get to Kemi, Finland????????????????????????????????

Even booking this trip through Nordic Visitor or a similar company, you will be responsible for booking your own flights. The nearest and only airport is Kemi-Tornio, flights can be arranged through Flybe from Helsinki, Finland. Before booking your package to the SnowCastle check the flights from Helsinki as there are limited travel times.

 

How Not to Freeze in Finland!

Temperatures in Northern Finland above the Arctic Circle can range anywhere from 0 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit during December through March. Prolonged periods of darkness where the sun does not rise is also a factor to consider when packing for this cold region.”

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LummiLinna Snow Hotel; Finland

But don’t let cold weather deter you from taking a trip to Finland or any Nordic country for that matter during the winter months! There are so many adventurous activities such as dogsledding, snowmobiling, seeing the Northern Lights, skiing and visiting an Ice Hotel that one can only engage in during the winter months but Temperatures can vary depending on what city you plan to visit and during what month.  According to the World Atlas, temperatures in Northern Finland above the Arctic Circle can range anywhere from 0 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit during December through March. Prolonged periods of darkness where the sun does not rise is also a factor to consider when packing in this cold region. In slight contrast Southern Finland near Helsinki averages 10 to 27 degrees during the same period. But don’t worry with careful packing and planning the cold conditions of the north need not be a concern.

What Types of Base Layers to Purchase for Winter

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C’Mon Let’s go!

A good base layer is absolutely an essential staple to pack for your trip. First thing you need to know is that base layers are rated by numbers and/or weight. Item labeled lightweight or micro weight refers to lighter tops and bottoms that are good for strenuous sports like skiing, trail running or snowboarding. These items are designed to wick away moisture from your body and are breathable.  Some products use different rating systems, for example Patagonia rates their lightweight products with a level 1 or 2 and Wool products from Smart Wool or Icebreaker label them with a number like 150. Midweight base layers should be worn for moderately cold to cold conditions and can be used when you engaged in lighter sports or when you will get heated easy. Midweight can also be identified as level 3 or 200 in wool.  For extremely cold conditions as in Finland especially north of the arctic circle or if you will be outside for prolonged period of time a heavy weight item is recommended, which are indicated by level 4 or 250-260 in wool products.

The suggested base layers for cold weather are usually made from Merino wool or synthetic materials like polyester or microfiber.  My favorites are expedition weight Patagonia Capilene, which is made from polyester and is usually a little cheaper and just as efficient as wool. I think the highest quality tops and bottoms are available from Icebreaker. Their Merino wool is the highest quality and the wool is sourced from sheep in the New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Their products are breathable and do not smell even after wearing for many days. One fun feature of Icebreaker products is that you can trace where the wool comes from by entering the baa code on the tag inside the product. Icebreaker is also committed to environmental ethics and treating animals fairly.

Another factor to keep in mind is if the conditions will be windy and frigid you might want top with a higher neck line to keep the wind out, and also with a zipper to help regulate your body temperature if you are getting too hot.  Also look for a tight fit and sleeves with the thumb holes in it-which not only looks cool but also keep your hands warm.

What Types of Outwear to Purchase for Finland

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Snow Castle; Kemi Finland

A jacket or parka is the most important piece to consider if you will be spending any amount of time outside.  On the trip I booked to Finland we have 4 days in Kemi Finland where the temperatures range from 0 to 10 degrees. First thing to look at what types of activities you will be participating in. Being outside for long periods of time for walking, sightseeing or passive sports like dogsledding you should probably go with a parka or a medium length jacket. I really like The North Face Arctic Parka or the Brooklyn Jacket both are water resistant and insulated with 550 down.  Both have faux-fur hoods and inner hand cuffs to help guard against the cold arctic winds.  For the trip to Kemi I chose the Brooklyn Jacket because it is super warm and I do not need to layer many sweater and jackets underneath it.  This coat was amazing and stood up to freezing arctic winds during my entire trip.

If you are going to be skiing or snowboarding or highly active you might want to go with something a little shorter and lighter such as the North Face Kira Triclimate Jacket which is also waterproof and offer wind resistance and insulation. You should not overheat while exerting yourself in this jacket. There are some many great jackets to choose from though. I also liked the Marmot Gramercy jacket which is 650 down which has a detachable fur hood, it is surprising warm, light and easily packable.

The best thing to do is go try on a lot of jackets to see what is the best fit and style for your needs. Ski shops, REI and Moosejaw are good places to go because the employees can offer expert advice tailored to your needs.  Moosejaw, REI and The North face offer lifetime warranties on most of their products too. A couple guidelines to follow; look for wind and water resistance, high level of insulation, and brands that are specifically designed for performance wear as opposed to just fashion.

Cold Weather Boots

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Sampo Ice Breaker Cruise: Finland

Keeping your feet dry and warm is crucial to staying warm in winter especially with wet and snowy conditions.  Warm furry boots like classic Uggs or Bear Paw are perfect for cold conditions as long as there is no snow or rain. If you will be outside walking around in wet or snowy conditions look into waterproof winter boots that have a weather rating such as Sorel Joan of Artic boot that is rated for -25 degrees F and is fully water proof with a removable inner boot. This boot is both a fashionable and practical choice. For my trip to Finland I packed a warm pair of cute wedge Bear Paw boots for going out at night and a pair of practical Sorel Tofino boot for daytime and outwear use.  Ugg does make a number of waterproof winter boots as well as Columbia, The North Face and BearPaw.

Don’t Forget the Accessories

Aside from all the major items needed for your trip to Finland or any cold weather destination it is essential to pack items like gloves, hats, scarves and socks designed for extreme cold weather. Look for wool scarves and hats from Columbia or The North Face that are heavy enough to provide warmth and coverage.  Look for the hats that also have an inner lining like a micro-fleece ear band for added warmth.  Scarves do not need to be big and bulky-check out the Icebreaker Neck Chute that you can pull up or down to provide ultimate warmth. No matter what type of boot you go with you should purchase merino wool socks to wear under them. Go with a heavyweight or midweight sock to keep your feet toasty and warm. The wool wicks away moisture whereas cotton is the worst choice because it gets soggy and wet and is impossible to dry off while wearing. I like the long wool socks that you can pull up over your pants.  Lastly but still very important is gloves. I like wind and waterproof mittens that have an inner glove liner such as Swany Toaster Arctic Mittens or the Burton Gore-Tex Mittens both are rated for extreme cold temperatures.  Fleece mittens and gloves will not provide enough wind and waterproofing to be effective in such cold temperatures.

Make sure to purchase clothes and items that you will wear again once your trip is over. There is nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars on winter gear that you won’t wear again.

Being prepared for cold weather will make your trip to Finland much more enjoyable. With careful planning and packing you won’t even notice that it is winter.

Copyright Christine Zenino

A Village at the End of the World

   “Sheltered by a horseshoe of snow-capped mountains and ice-cut fjords the tiny village of Tasiilaq defines isolation. In previous years, travel routes to this remote region have been limited, making Tasiilaq feel cut off from the rest of the world. But with more flights and travel packages added yearly this area is now more accessible than ever”
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Most tourists don’t immediately think of Greenland as their next travel destination but Greenland promises the adventure of a lifetime. Tasiilaq Greenland is an icy wonderland inhabited by teams of sled dogs, colossal glaciers, and home to the world’s second largest ice sheet. Despite its remote location, Tasiilaq is considered one of the most scenic and populated towns in Greenland. Just 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle, this traditional hunting and fishing village is characterized by it’s brightly colored Monopoly-style houses.

Tasiilaq Hotels and Attractions

Visitors will enjoy a stay at Hotel Angmassalik, one of the three hotel options in town. This arctic style inn sits on a craggy rock at the highest point of the village. Both the rooms and the restaurant boast a stunning panoramic view of the town and marina. The restaurant specializes in traditional Greenlandic fare, making this a popular dining destination for both tourists and locals. The hotel provides shuttle service, tour arrangements, full service bar and satellite.

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Best View in Tasiilaq; Hotel Angmassalik

Tour the Ammassalik museum to see how villagers lived in the not so distant past. Located in the town’s historic church, the museum houses a variety of authentic hunting and fishing relics. Learn about the traditional Inuit way of life and view a replica of a real turf house.

Visit the Stunk workshop where Inuit artisans demonstrate and sell their craft. The workshop is the best place to find handcrafted Tupilaks; Traditional carved statues made from antler or bone. Bargaining over prices is frowned upon as expert skill is required to produce these intricately carved masks and statues. Souvenirs made of antler or bone are fine to bring home, but most countries will not allow items made of fur or sea mammals to be taken through customs.

Dog Sledding Tours and Excursions

Dog sledding is the preferred mode of transport in Greenland during the colder months. It not unusual to see large white wooden sleds scattered randomly throughout town. The husky dog population actually outnumbers that of people in some areas of Greenland. Although cute and furry, the Greenlandic Huskies are tough working dogs. Their heavy coat and enduring temperament helps them survive life outside during the harsh winter months when there are up to 24 hours of darkness and the temperatures plummet.

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Dog Sledding Greenland

A number of dog sledding tours and excursions draw visitors outside the confines of the village. One exciting mushing adventure is a day trip is to visit Ikateq; an outlying settlement West of Tasiilaq. Another option is to become certified as a licensed dog musher. During a two day instructional tour, students will learn the basics of dog sledding and get certified to drive their very own team of six to eight huskies. Tours arrangements can be made through Destination East Greenland.

Remote Wilderness Hiking

Nature lovers can set out on a variety of remote wilderness hikes. Experience the pure solitude and stillness that characterizes Greenland on a hike to the Valley of the Flowers. This single track trail is easily accessible from the far end of the village past the town’s cemetery. Following a pristine river, the trail meanders through a number of small hills and valleys. Tiny pink and purple arctic flowers dot the landscape. At the trails end, hikers are rewarded with a sweeping panoramic view of the surrounding snow-capped mountains shrouded in an icy curtain of fog.  Visiting the viilage during the summer solstice when the sun remains bright nearly around the clock will allow more time for a hike in the midnight sun.

One concern in arctic climates is the possibility of encountering a polar bear. Although Tasiilaq is inhabited by a large polar bear population, chances are unlikely that you will see one. During the summer months the bears tend to follow the drifting ice and coastlines. Hikers are more likely to see the white arctic foxes that frequently roam the countryside foraging for food.

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Valley of the Flowers Hike; Midnight

Greenland’s Melting Ice Sheet and Global Warming

Greenland’s melting ice sheet has been making global warming news as measurements show it’s melting rapidly. Greenland has the second largest ice cap in the world, covering about 80% of its land mass, making it particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Studies report losses up to 47 cubic miles of ice per year, with significant losses in the southeastern region. Putting the tiny village of Angmassalik in the center of thye global warming controversy.

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Helicopter Ride Back to Kulusuk

The highlight of any trip to Greenland is a cruise or helicopter ride to view the magnificent glaciers or the ice cap.

One option is to take an iceberg cruise, which weaves through a surreal maze of massive floating icebergs, while a Minke or Humpback whale sometimes surfaces and spouts. Another option is a full day cruise to view the ice filled Sermilik fjord with a stop over at Ikateq village. Most tours provide the shelter of a heated cabin and the comfort of a hot chocolate, as the arctic winds out on the open waters can get a bit rough.

Greenland Travel and Flight Arrangements

A good time to visit is during the warmer months of March through September. The highlight of the summer solstice is in mid-June with almost around the clock sunshine and moderate temperatures up to 60 F. Keep in mind, routes to this village are limited, one must fly via helicopter from Kulusuk airport, for this reason purchasing a tour package is highly recommended.

The easiest option is to use a travel agent; Nordic visitor offers the most affordable and organized travel packages to Tasillaq from; listed as Ammassalik. A tour package from Reykjavik includes all flights, helicopter transport and accommodations at Hotel Angmassalik. Air Iceland offers stand alone daily flights from Reykjavik airport to Kulusuk during the summer months. From there arrangements must be made through Air Greenland for the helicopter ride to the village. There are not many other options as roads do not connect the town to other cities and a ship would take too long.

Tasiilaq is an unspoiled artic refuge filled with colossal icebergs, towering ice-cut fjords, and the unique culture of the Inuit. A trip to this remote village is an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.

Copyright Christine Zenino

Don’t Freeze! How to Pack for a Winter Vacation in Iceland

“For most people, the thought of Iceland conjures up images of extreme snowy conditions and sub-zero temperatures, but actually the climate in Iceland is quite mild. Temperatures during the winter months range anywhere from 25 to 35 degrees, much warmer than that of Chicago or New York in the winter! Even so a lot of the activities and excursions in Iceland are outdoors-so packing correctly is critical to making your stay enjoyable.”

What is Winter Like in Iceland?

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A Christmastime holiday or winter vacation is the best time to experience what Iceland has to offer. Can you imagine how amazing it is to look up and see the Northern lights shining brightly in the night sky  or how much fun dogsledding with a team of huskies on a glacier can be?
So I suggest-brave the cold and head out to Iceland to explore some amazing adventures firsthand.

Winter Jackets and Outer Layers

Tour operators in Iceland offer a number of exciting outdoor activities such as glacier hiking, dogsledding, and whale watching or snowmobiling. Even for those not this adventurous you may spend a great deal of time outside visiting Iceland’s magnificent waterfalls, geysirs or just walking around shopping. Although the climate may be a little milder in Iceland, weather conditions may change rapidly; you may be exposed to rain, snow, sun and extreme cold all in one day. Because of this wearing wind and water resistance outer layers is the key to comfort. Look for a good winter jacket that is water and winter resistant but also has some insulation like fleece or down to provide warmth. Some coats have a weather rating that lists the range of temperatures you will be protected from. The weather rating is important-don’t assume one that provides a colder rating is necessarily better. You might actually get too hot! Keep in mind that a lot of the tours like snowmobiling or whale watching will provide a heavier outer layer for you to put on over your jacket. So if your jacket is too long or puffy it may not fit under your jumpsuit or you might get too hot. If you plan on going skiing or snowboarding you may need more of a ski type jacket which features a waterproof and windproof shell that you will need to add a base layer of insulation too.

Next it is important to purchase heavy mittens or gloves, hat and scarf designed specifically for cold weather. Wearing a stylish hat may look cute but you need to make sure these items are not just fashionable but actually designed for cold weather. Purchasing products made from wool is a safe choice for winter conditions.  Many Iceland shops sell high-quality woolen mittens, hats and scarves at reasonable rates so don’t worry if you have to buy additional ones on vacation. Tours typically will do not provide these types of items.

Winter Boots or Hiking Boots?

Depending on what types of activities you will be doing I would opt for a winter style hiking boot as opposed to a heavy duty snow boot. Most of the tours and activities in Iceland requires one to walk over rugged terrain and wet or rocky conditions. Recently on a visit to Iceland I went glacier hiking and ice climbing, for this tour snow boots or furry boots would not have been a good selection as we used crampons over the hiking boot to walk on the ice. If you do not want to purchase a pair of hiking shoes for just one day-ask the tour provider.   Most of the tour companies do rent equipment for either free or a very small price.

By far the most popular tour is the Golden Circle, which highlights three main attractions: the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, Þingvellir National Park and the massive waterfall known as Gulfoss. Although you will be traveling by bus you may be exposed to different conditions while walking around the parks. When I took this tour, the day started out sunny and mild but within a couple hours the temperature dropped and an unpleasant icy rain started, my furry boots, while good for walking around Reykjavik, got soaked as they were not water resistant. They also provided little traction on the gravel that most of the trails were made from. A good waterproof hiking boot would have been a better choice.

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Layers, Layers, Layers

One of the best items I purchased for trip was a warm long underwear base layer from Columbia. Look for a mid-weight base layer that will help you generate or keep in your own heat. It is also important if you are going to be active that the material wicks away moisture to avoid sweating-which is why cotton leggings would not work well.  Many other brands carry a similar base layer like North Face or Koppen. This additional layer underneath leggings or jeans kept me warm the entire trip. During my ten day stay in Iceland, I also visited the Northern capital of Akureyri, which is a little colder than Reykjavik by a few degrees. But there was a noticeable difference in temperature when we traveled further north to go whale watching in Husavik.  Onboard the ship, the crew provided us with warm heavy jump suits to put on over our clothes. Once we got out near the Arctic Circle the temperature plummeted and the wind increased sharply. I was happy I not only had on my windproof jumpsuit but also warm base layers to keep my core body temperature high.Akureyri

If you will be out for extended periods of time beyond a short tour you might want to purchase performance style pants with a wind and water resistant soft shell designed specifically for winter sports. These pants are lighter and less bulky than snow pants but will provide more protection than just hiking pants. The pants paired with a base layer should provide you with the comfort and warmth needed for longer activities like glacier hiking or other outdoor adventures.  Most pants carry a weather or wind rating as well, it is crucial that they are wind resistant. REI, North face and Columbia are good products to look into and their sales associates can help you pick the appropriate pants.

Wear a wool sweater! While in Iceland I bought my first wool sweater. I cannot describe how warm these wool products are. There are a number of shops selling high quality Icelandic wool products and I encourage you to wait to buy your wool sweater there.

Bathing Suit in Iceland?

Don’t forget your bathing suit. Yes seriously, Iceland is known for its hot geothermal spas such as the Blue Lagoon. The luxury outdoor geothermal spa is a destination you cannot miss and it is open year round. The pool is heated by underground geothermal springs the heat of the water rises so you will not be cold while floating around this pool for hours. Plus there are a number of public spas located in the city center and sometimes in the hotel.

Blue LagoonRemember to pack some nicer clothing as well. No matter what the weather conditions are in Iceland people tend to dress stylish when going to bars, restaurants and nightclubs. There a number of popular restaurants in the city center where dressing in hiking clothes would not be appropriate.

 Shopping in Iceland

You may also want to leave some room in your luggage to go shopping in Iceland. For all your winter or outdoor gear needs shop at Cintamani. There is a large shop located conveniently in Reykjavik’s city center. Cintimani sells functional and stylish outdoor wear designed specifically for Icelandic weather conditions.  I bought the stylish Jóna zip-up which can be worn alone or under a jacket-It is warm and looks cool. You can even purchase the items online to ensure you will have the highest quality gear designed for Icelandic conditions before you even get there!

Iceland is easily one of my favorite destinations. I would go anytime during the year. But if you need some coaxing check out the tempting travel packages offered by Icelandair. I suggest the affordable Experience the Arctic North package which includes round-trip airfare to Iceland and lodging in both Reykjavik and Akureyri. So do not let the weather deter you from visiting Iceland this winter. With some careful packing you will have a blast and stay warm!