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

Coping with Winter Darkness in Iceland

Elisa Maccagnoni Blog Leave a Comment

For those who have not experienced it before, winter in Iceland can be quite tough, with its darkness and challenging weather. 

Days are short, the weather can be harsh and severe, with storms and blizzards that can make it hard or even impossible to move across the country, but winter in Iceland is not all awful, and it is actually a very lovely season to visit Iceland.

The question "How can you survive in Iceland during the winter when it is so cold and gloomy all the time?" is one we hear frequently. Winters in Iceland are dark and cold, but they can also be fun, and there are many things to do to make the most of them. Despite the fact that winter darkness is not Iceland's greatest characteristic, there are many ways you can enjoy it.

First of all, is it truly constantly dark in Iceland in the winter? The answer to that is no. 
Due to Iceland’s high latitude, its summers are long and bright, whilst its winters have few hours of daylight. The sky isn't always dark, of course. Depending on where you are in Iceland, you could experience three to four hours of daylight in December, the darkest month. For example, Reykjavik experiences sunrise at approximately 11:20 and sunset at approximately 15:30 p.m. on the darkest day of the year. Sfellsnesnes is a lot like Reykjavik whilst a little further north, in Akureyri, the sun rises around 11:40 and sets at 14:30.

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

We have already written about the benefits of visiting Snæfellsnes in the dead of winter. If you haven't already read it, have a peek at our other post.   

Although the weather is unpredictable, winter transforms Iceland into a wonderful realm, where everything is blanketed in white snow and the soothing lights create a particular atmosphere.

If you dream of winter wonderlands and want to visit Iceland covered in snow and ice, but you are frightened about the Icelandic winter darkness, we want to provide you with a few tips that might help you cope with the dark and cold Icelandic winters.

Dark skies over a snow-covered road in Iceland in the winter Enjoy a lazy morning and don't get up too early

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

Have a slow start to the day, sleep in or enjoy coffee and some delicious Icelandic pastries in a café, and read a book while you wait for the sun to rise and for your day of Iceland to begin.

If you want to travel to some remote destinations and attractions, you might want to make use of the dark morning hours to drive to places far away, so that you can be there by sunrise and make the most of daytime hours.

Have flexible travel plans 

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

Planning your Iceland winter vacation is important, but you must also be adaptable in case the weather doesn't cooperate with your hopes, to still make sure you can have an enjoyable trip.

If you are driving around the country, make sure you carefully check the road conditions. It is crucial to drive only in favorable weather conditions and stay safe. Also, keep an eye on safetravel.is for up-to-date advice on how to travel 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 safe doing it, please don’t! Iceland is a beautiful country yet its nature can also be dangerous and deadly. You are here to enjoy it and not to put yourself and others at risk, it is just not worth it! There are several companies that give excursions pretty much everywhere in the country and there are local buses that can take you from one town to the next (you can check the timetables here).  Tours are ideal for you to see Iceland without hassles and in safety all year round, but especially in the winter.

Snæfellsnes Excursions can arrange private tours around Snæfellsnes ad Iceland. Please get in touch if you are interested in a hassle-free private tour this winter.

Road covered in the winter along Snæfellsnes, Iceland

Chase the northern lights

Northern lights are a stunning exhibition of lights dancing in the sky, seen 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 can be seen only if it is dark. Therefore, a longer period of darkness means more opportunities to witness the beautiful aurora borealis!

Going northern lights hunting is a terrific experience that will keep you engaged 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 Icelandic pastries that will help you go through the chilly winter nights while you wait for northern lights to start dancing above your head!

When looking for northern lights in Iceland in the winter, keep in mind that light pollution makes it difficult to observe the northern lights, thus leaving town increases your chances. There are often northern lights tours that will take you northern lights hunting, or you can just try your luck by yourself. No matter where you go in Iceland, you can catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights if the conditions are ideal; nevertheless, you will almost always need a little bit of luck.

Northern Lights behind Kirkjufell, Snæfellsnes, West Iceland

Enjoy Iceland's numerous geothermal pools

Icelanders love bathing in hot pools, which is why practically every town in Iceland has a swimming pool with geothermal water and hot tubs. Bathing in a hot tub is one of the best things to do in Iceland, and it is especially fun in the winter when you can relax in a hot tub when it is chilly and dark outside.

There are numerous public swimming pools in Iceland, but a few stand out for their uniqueness and beauty, such as the luxurious Blue Lagoon not far from Keflavik International Airport, the stunning Secret Lagoon on the Golden Circle road, and the enchanting Mývatn Nature Baths in the north.

Our favorite ones are the public swimming pools you find in little villages all across Iceland. They are just a terrific spot to spend some time and relax surrounded by darkness and, often, snow. With some luck, you might be able to admire the northern lights while you are soaking in a hot tub and that really is a fantastic experience. 

Enjoy the Christmas lights

You'll see lights all throughout Iceland if you visit Iceland in the winter (particularly in November, December, and January).

Icelanders really know how to decorate their houses and their towns in the winter, also thanks to the cheap electricity... one of the very few cheap things in Iceland!

Christmas lights and decorations are set up as early as November and are kept well into the new year to light up those dark Icelandic winter days and give them a distinct charm and atmosphere.

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

If you've always wanted to see Iceland covered in snow, admire the northern lights, and soak up the country's ethereal winter atmosphere, don't let the prospect of winter darkness deter you. People here have gotten used to it and so can you. Get ready for the Icelandic weather's unpredictability by packing appropriately warm clothing and prepare to enjoy Iceland in the winter!

Winter sunset behind the sun voyager sculpture in Reykjavik

If you have any questions or need assistance planning your winter vacation in Iceland, please contact Snfellsnes Excursions via email, Facebook, or Instagram

Also, make sure you follow us on  Facebook and Instagram for pictures of the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula!

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