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Does it snow a lot in Reykjavík?

winter1
A bunch of happy guests in the snow last winter – they didn’t need to ask whether it ever snows in Reykjavík

One of the most common questions that I get on my walking tours, especially in the summer, is whether it snows a lot in Reykjavík. The first summer I said no it doesn’t because at the time it didn’t feel like it snowed that much normally but this summer I was a bit unsure because last winter we had so many consecutive days with snow that I was starting to think I would have to send everyone from the previous summer an e-mail to tell them I was wrong.

I have a pretty positive weather memory, meaning that I remember the good days more than the bad. When I think of the Icelandic summer I always see mild summer nights with midnight sun and a gentle breeze when the reality is that some summers it seems like it never stops raining. Last summer, for example, I think we had three days in June where it didn’t rain at all. I think that was an unusual summer though but it might just be my positive weather outlook again.

So I decided to do some detective work and find out once and for all whether it snows a lot or not.

 

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Question: Does it snow a lot in Reykjavík?

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So as it turns out, it doesn’t snow a lot in Reykjavík but it does snow a bit. I found these numbers at the Icelandic met office and to make them easier to digest I made this chart.

snow chart
Numbers from The Icelandic Met Office. I made the chart myself though so don’t send them hate mail if I did something faux pas statistically

According to this, it snows most December, January, February and March and the month where we have most days, on average, where it’s all white is January with 13,6 days. You will also notice that it snows the most in March but it doesn’t seem like the snow sticks as much then.

On average we have about 61,3 days  a year where it’s what the Met Office calls completely white but we have snowfall (that sticks or doesn’t stick) 80,2 days a year. In Akureyri, in the north of the country, they have 100,3 all white days and 97,1 days with snowfall.

To compare, according to this, New York gets about 11,1 days of snowfall a year. The UK gets 23,7 days of snowfall or sleet a year but most of their snow is on higher grounds where temperatures are lower. Or so says the UK Met office. Minneapolis gets 37.3 days of snowfall and days with fresh snow.

It’s also interesting to see that snow is only about 7% of the annual precipitation in Reykjavík while sleet is 35%.

So to answer your question: Yes Reykjavík gets a lot of snow compared to places in warmer climates (which shouldn’t come as a big surprise) but it doesn’t get a lot of snow compared to Akureyri for example. For you as a traveler this means that if you are coming to Iceland for snow you’ll probably have better luck in the north of the country.

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Disclaimer: These are averages so one year we might have a lot of snow while the next there’s next to none. Please don’t blame me if you book a trip to Iceland based on this information and you get more or less snow than you bargained for. Also, just so you know what we are talking about: According to the Icelandic Met office snow days is when it only snows in a 24 hour period, rain days is when it only rains and sleet is any other combination of the two. If it rains in the morning and snows at night, that is counted as sleet. 

 

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  1. I have a question about working in Reykjavik for the summer. Me and my friend (we’re both Swedish) would love to do that this summer. Do you have any tips?

    1. While Auður could answer this infinitely better than I, one idea that comes to mind would be the tourism and hospitality industry. Iceland’s peak tourism season is June through August, so hotels and restaurants are busier then and need seasonal help. If I were hiring staff, I’d give preference to those who could commit until the end of the season, so I would keep that in mind when applying for positions.

      Lycka till!

  2. I would love to visit Iceland but have heard that it is very expensive, is that true? Also as I am predominately an english speaking individual will I have difficulty visiting.

    1. I was there a few years ago… camping in a van. Everyone basically speaks English. The first day I thought I was being PC asking “pardon Do you speak English” – but apparently its insulting. So I stopped. The camper van was VERY expensive for what it was. Camp sites are not expensive.. most (? many at least) towns have non expensive campgrounds. A warning they PACK them in, late. So you go to sleep an appropriate but still very close distance from the van next to you and wake up with 2 or three tents between vehicles. Feel bad starting the engine but … have to say those setting up their tents right next to me never woke me up. Considerate people. Ok restaurant food is not too cheap but there are cheap options. Campgrounds have kitchens often and you cook your own often. Many towns have hot spring public pools – we liked that the best about Iceland. They really like hot dogs and now I do too… uniquely served. Hotels are very expensive in the summer if you ask me. $200 or $300 easy .. for clean but not luxurious. There are lots of waterfalls that means lots of rain but it comes and goes.. raining hard then sun then rain then clouds then sun or rain. Constantly changing. Bring layers. Reykjavik was fine but we really didn’t give it a chance… we like being out in the country.

  3. I will be visiting Iceland next week – Sept 7 -11. We would like to go snowmobiling Landgjokull but are not sure what the snow conditions will be this time of the year.

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      Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      There probably won’t be any snow anywhere but there’s always plenty of snow and ice on the glaciers and you can do this activity year round.

      This tour is probably the most economical option when it comes to snowmobiling in Langjökull because you basically get the Golden Circle as an added bonus: https://iheartreykjavik.net/the-tours/golden-circle-and-snowmobiling-small-group/

      If you are driving yourself I would recommend this tour: https://iheartreykjavik.net/the-tours/glacier-snowmobiling-from-gullfoss/