Northern Lights behind Kirkjufell, Snæfellsnes, West Iceland

How to survive the winter darkness in Iceland

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Enjoy winters in Iceland despite the long dark days

Living in Iceland, one of the questions I get asked more often is: Is it always dark in the winter? How do you live there when it is so cold and dark all the time?  

Well, I guess it is just normal for people who live here to get used to the winter darkness, even though that is probably not the best quality of winters in Iceland 

Due to Iceland’s high latitude, its summers are long and bright, whereas its winters have short hours of daylight. However, it is not ALWAYS darkDepending on where you are in Iceland, you could have 4 to 5 hours of daylight in December, the darkest month. In the capital city of Reykjavik, sunrise is usually around 11 am and sunset is between 3 pm and 4 pm during the winter.  

Days are short, the weather can be cold and challenging, with storms and blizzards that can make it hard to travel around the country, but winter in Iceland is not all bad, and it is actually a very beautiful season to visit Iceland. 

Punk skies over snow-covered mountains during a winter sunset in Iceland

In another blog, I talked about why you should visit Snæfellsnes in the winter! Have a look if you haven’t read it yet!  

Although the weather is unpredictable, winter transforms Iceland into a magical land, where everything is covered in white snow and the soft lights create a special atmosphere.  

If you dream of winter wonderlands and want to see Iceland covered in snow and ice, but you are worried about the Icelandic winter darkness, here are a few tips to survive the dark and cold Icelandic winters.  

Dark skies over a snow-covered road in Iceland in the winter

Sleep in and take it easy

The sun rises late in Iceland in the winter so there is no need to wake up early and start exploring because well, it is still dark outside and you will not see much!

Have a lazy start of the day, sleep in or enjoy a nice breakfast or a nice Icelandic coffee and read a book while you wait for the sun to rise and for your day exploring Iceland to begin. 

Have flexible travel plans 

Winter weather in Iceland can be challenging and a little crazy. Sometimes, blizzards and strong winds will cause the roads to be closed and you might not be able to reach your next destination.  

It is of course good to have a plan for your winter trip to Iceland but it is a must that those plans are flexible and can be changed, should the weather not be in your favor 

If you are driving around the country, make sure you always check the road conditions. It is important to drive only in good weather conditions and stay safe. It is also good to check for the latest information on traveling safely in Iceland.  

Driving in Iceland in the winter is not for everyone! If you are not used to driving on snow and ice or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, please don’t! Iceland is a beautiful country but its nature can also be dangerous. You are here to enjoy it and not to put yourself and others in danger, that is just not worth it! There are many companies that offer tours pretty much everywhere in the country and there are local buses that can take you from one town to the other (you can check the timetables here). Tours are great for you to enjoy Iceland without worries and in safety in the winter.

Road covered in the winter along Snæfellsnes, Iceland

Hunt for northern lights

Northern lights are a spectacular show of lights dancing in the sky, visible in Iceland, as well as other Nordic countries, during the winter months. Although it can never be guaranteed that you will see the northern lights as they are a natural phenomenon that depends on many factors, including weather conditions, northern lights are visible only if it is darkSo, more hours of darkness mean more chances to see the northern lights! 

Going northern lights hunting is a fantastic experience and will keep you occupied for a few hours, whether you see them or not. Make sure you wear warm clothes and maybe bring some hot tea, coffee or chocolate with you and (why not?) some good Icelandic pastries that will help you go through the cold winter nights as you wait for northern lights to start dancing over your head!  

Northern lights are best seen when you are away from light pollution so it is good to go out of town to have better chances.  

There are often northern lights tours that will take you northern lights hunting, or you can just try your luck by yourself.  

If you are on Snæfellsnes and looking for northern lights, you can find some ideas for where to find them in my other blog but keep in mind that they can be seen everywhere in Iceland, when the conditions are right, and some luck is always involved. You can send Snæfellsnes Excursions an email or write to us on Facebook or Instagram for questions or help to plan your winter trips. 

Northern Lights behind Kirkjufell, Snæfellsnes, West Iceland

Enjoy Iceland's many geothermal pools

Icelanders love bathing in hot pools, which is why almost every town in Iceland has a swimming pool with geothermal water and hot tubs. I have to admit soaking in a hot tub is one of my favorite things to do in Iceland, and it is especially fun in the winter. I love sitting in a hot tub when it is cold and dark outside.  

You can find regular swimming pools everywhere in the country, but there are also some very special ones that have become very famous: a few examples are the luxurious Blue Lagoon not far from Keflkavik airport, the Secret Lagoon, a beautiful natural pool located along the Golden Circle route, or the Mývatn Nature Baths in the north 

My favorite ones are the public swimming pools you find in small towns all over Iceland and IU think they are just a great place to spend some time and relax while it is dark outside.  

CVhristmas cat light decorations to lighten up downtown Reykjavik during the Christmas holidays in Iceland

Enjoy the Christmas lights

If you are visiting Iceland in the winter (especially November, December and January) you will find lights all over Iceland. You will realize Icelanders sure know how to decorate their houses and their towns in the winter, also thanks to the cheap electricity. Christmas lights and decorations are put up in November and are kept well into the new year to light up those dark Icelandic winter days and give them a special charm and atmosphere 

Winter sunset behind the sun voyager sculpture in Reykjavik

If you dream of visiting Iceland in the winter, see the country covered in snow, see some northern lights and enjoy Iceland’s magical winter atmosphere, don’t let the darkness scare you away. People here have gotten used to it and so can youWith the right warm clothes, you can be prepared for the unpredictable Icelandic weather and get ready to enjoy Iceland in the winter 

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for pictures of the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula!

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