5 Reasons to Visit Snæfellsnes in the Winter
Winter seems to have arrived in Iceland, with the first snow of the year gently falling over many parts of the country, including Reykjavik and my beloved Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Winter is certainly a magical season that turns the already beautiful Icelandic landscapes into a winter wonderland covered in pure white snow. Winter in Iceland goes from November to April, months during which Icelandic nature can become extremely fascinating but also dangerous, as the weather can be very challenging, with strong winds and ice that often cause roads to be closed around the country.
Nevertheless, it is a great time to visit Iceland and Snæfellsnes, if you don’t mind wearing a few layers of clothes and you can cope with the Icelandic winter darkness. Snæfellsnes can be a pretty amazing place to visit in the winter, but before I tell you why, let’s get a couple of common questions out of the way...
Is it really cold in Iceland in the winter?
Well, no, it is not, especially if compared with other destinations in the North of the world such as Canada, some parts of the US, or other Scandinavian countries. Winter temperatures in Iceland are usually between 5 and -10 degrees Celsius according to the where you are. It can of course get lower than that, and it usually does, in the highlands, but you don’t normally visit those places in the wintertime as the roads are usually impassable.
Along the coast of Snæfellsnes, the winter temperatures rarely go below -2/-3 degrees Celsius, which is really not that bad. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that is very often windy in Iceland, so it might feel colder than what it really is. For this reason, it is good to wear many layers of clothes to make sure you keep yourself warm when you travel around Iceland in the winter.
Another thing to keep in mind about winters in Iceland is that, because of storms, strong winds and ice, roads can be temporarily closed, and you might get to stay in a place longer than you had planned. For this reason, I recommend having flexible plans if you travel to Iceland in the winter, that way you can take it easy and just enjoy the ride, whatever happens... Of course, also keep in mind that the weather in Iceland is always a bit unpredictable, especially in the wintertime.
Is it always dark in Iceland during winter?
No, it is not ALWAYS dark, but we do have quite a lot of darkness in Iceland during the winter months, especially in December and January. In the peak of winter in Iceland, there are around 4 to 5 hours of daylight per day, with sunrise around 11 am and sunset around 3 or 4 pm, of course depending on where you are in the country. Days are shorter in the North than in the South of Iceland in during the winter. I kind of like the darkness but it is probably not the best companion for travelers as, when visiting Iceland in the winter, you have a reduced amount of daylight and therefore you have less time in one day to explore this beautiful country. On the positive side though, you have more chances to see the Northern Lights so, like with most things, there are pros and cons.
Ok, now that we got those questions of coldness and darkness out of the way, let me tell you why I think visiting Snæfellsnes in the winter is a great idea.
Enjoy the Northern Lights in unique locations around Snæfellsnes in the winter
Northern Lights can be seen on Snæfellsnes and the rest of Iceland during the winter months, when the skies get dark enough. This spectacular show of lights is best visible if you are away from sources of lights pollution, and Snæfellsnes offers a great number of perfect spots for seeing the Northern Lights. If you visit Snæfellsnes in the winter, you might get the chance to admire the Northern Lights as they dance behind Kirkjufell Mountain, above the black church in Buðir, by the cliffs of Arnarstapi, behind Snæfellsjökull or over the harbor of Stykkishólmur, for example.
Keep in mind that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and sightings can never be guaranteed, unfortunately. You need to have the right weather conditions, clear skies, and a lot of patience, as they could really start dancing in the skies anytime of the day. With the right conditions and some luck, more hours of darkness certainly increase your chances to see the Northern Lights. Make sure you wear warm clothes, be prepared to endure some wintry weather, maybe some wind and get ready to be impressed by the magic of the Northern Lights.
Explore Snæfellsnes’ most popular locations with fewer tourists than in the summer
This has been quite a strange year for everybody, and many of us have not been able to travel as we would have liked because of covid-related restrictions. For Iceland, this has meant a drop in the number of foreign visitors, which has not been good for the tourism industry. At the same time, however, it has meant less crowded attractions and emptier places, thus making Iceland more special for those who were able to visit.
In normal circumstances though, summer is an extremely popular time of the year to visit Iceland, and you really find a lot of tourists traveling around the country, which might contrast with the idea you have of Iceland as a place of solitude and freedom, with empty landscapes and uncontaminated wilderness. Winter is a great season to visit Snæfellsnes if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy some of Iceland’s most popular locations with fewer visitors. Another bonus of the winter is that prices of accommodation are usually cheaper as well, unless you come around Christmas and New Year's.
Admire the magical landscapes of Snæfellsnes covered in snow
Snæfellsnes, or Iceland in a nutshell as it is often called, is a special place all year round, as it offers some of the most spectacular scenery you can find in Iceland. Snæfellsnes is beautiful all year-round but it becomes even more magical in the winter. Because of the many hours of darkness, you might want to give yourself a couple of days to explore Snæfellsnes in the wintertime.
There are many places that are worth seeing around Snæfellsnes as you travel around in the winter. One of my favorites is certainly Kirkjufell. This mountain has become an extremely popular attraction in Iceland, with its iconic shape and the nearby waterfalls that always appear in every picture. Kirkjufell really is a beautiful mountain and seeing it covered in snow is spectacular.
Another place I love in the winter is Arnarstapi with its sea cliffs that turn white and create a great contrast with the blue water of the ocean.
What I love the most about Snæfellsnes in the winter though is to drive around and get lost... well, not really lost but I am sure you get what I mean... I love seeing mountains and lava fields covered in snow and taking in all the magical views and landscapes. As I mentioned earlier, weather conditions in the winter can be quite challenging and dangerous, especially if you are not used to driving on snowy and icy roads. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, you can contact Snæfellsnes Excursions by email, Facebook and Instagram to organize an unforgettable private tour around Snæfellsnes.
Relax in one of the many swimming pools located around Snæfellsnes
You probably already know Iceland has a lot of geothermal water and Icelander are not afraid to use it. Geothermal pools are a very popular place for Icelanders and tourists alike, great if you want to socialize and meet people, if you want to go for a swim, but also if you just want to relax in a hot tub. There is not much I like more than sitting in a hot tub in Iceland in the winter, especially if there is snow and it is super cold outside.
There are many geothermal pools in the towns around Snæfellsnes that are usually open from early morning to late evening, so you can either start your day with a swim or end your day soaking in hot water... or why not both? Most pools also have a sauna or steam baths, and they are usually cheap. If you want to feel like a local, make sure to visit at least one swimming pool on Snæfellsens. My favorite one? I like them all, but if I had to choose, I would say the one in Stykkishólmur.
Relax, take it easy and forget the world
Snæfellsnes is dotted with lovely fishing towns where time seems not to matter, especially in the wintertime. Stykkishólmur is the biggest town of the peninsula and will charm you with its lovely harbor and old colorful houses. Stykkishólmur and the other small towns of Grundarfjörður, Ólafsvík, Hellissandur, Ríf and Arnarstapi are perfect places to recharge your batteries as you enjoy a quiet and relaxing stay, immersed in the beauty of Icelandic nature. These places are perfect if you want to enjoy Snæfellsnes at a slow pace and fully embrace the winter quietness of the Icelandic countryside.
It might be a little difficult for many people to travel this winter due to the pandemic that is still going on and to the many limitations but hopefully some of you will be able to come to Iceland and to enjoy the special jewel that Snæfellsnes is. And if it is not this winter, it will be next.
Just stay safe and let’s hope things will get better soon.
If there are things you would like to know about any place on Snæfellsnes or if you need help to plan your next trip, do not hesitate to contact Snæfellsnes Excursions. You can send us an email or write to us on Facebook and Instagram.
We hope to see you in Iceland soon!
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