What's the weather in Reykjavik like? Well, there is a saying in Iceland: “If you don’t like the weather right now, stick around for five minutes”. This is a clear indication of a changeable climate, and more often than not, travelers will experience the four annual seasons in the span of a day.
Actually, the weather in Reykjavik is milder than its close proximity to the Arctic would imply. The weather is mostly cool with a temperate climate.
This is due to the moderating effect of a branch of the Gulf Stream that flows along the southern and western coast of the country. Sea temperatures can rise as high as 10 degrees Celsius at both the south and west coast. There are a few deviations in the climate in different parts of Iceland. As a rule of thumb, the south coast is warmer, but also windier and wetter than the north. Heavy snowfall is common in the northern regions.
Reykjavik is located in the southwest, and the coastline is literally dotted with coves, islands and peninsulas. It is a large, spread-out city, with suburbs stretching far out into the south and east. Reykjavik’s climate is considered to be sub-polar oceanic. Even if the temperature hardly drops below –15 degrees Celsius in winter, thanks once again to the moderating effect of The Gulf, the city is prone to gusts of wind, and gales are not uncommon in the winter months.
The city offers little protection against the ocean winds, and even if Reykjavik is a beautiful travel destination with considerably milder temperatures than expected, tourists from sunnier locations will consider it cold.
Summer in Reykjavik lasts from June to September. As opposed to the northern regions that belong to the Arctic climate zone, the temperature in Reykjavik is more pleasant.
You can expect average highs of 14 degrees, but temperatures over 20 degrees are not unheard of. The city is not particularly wet, but still manages an average of 148 days of rainfall a year.
The height of the cold months lasts from November through to April, with average daily temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius. The coldest period is typically towards the end of January, with highs of around freezing point. The winter climate is actually very bearable, as long as the wind keeps a low profile.
Iceland is one of the Lands of the Midnight Sun. As you would rightfully assume, this means that there are virtually no periods of darkness during the midsummer months. To counter the almost perpetual sunlight, the winter sees a period of Polar Nights. In summer the sun rises around 3.00 am, setting again around midnight. In winter, on the other hand, the sun sleeps in. It will make an appearance just in time for lunch, only to disappear again late in the afternoon.
If you wish to enjoy your trip to the fullest, and at the best rate, take advantage of the months just before and immediately after the high tourist season in summer. In addition to relatively good weather, the daylight hours are long, with distinguishable sunsets.
Winter can be gloomy to the uninitiated, but discovering and exploring this unique country will be well worth the initial discomfort. For the more cold-blooded among us, a sturdy heavy jacket or coat along with all the winter trimmings will be sufficient to keep you snug.
At the risk of sounding contradictory, remember to bring your swimsuits. Swimsuits? In winter? In the Arctic? That’s right. Reykjavik is famous for its natural year-round hot springs. Regardless of what time of year you are traveling, the hot springs are an absolute must. On a cautionary note, consider the possibility of volcano activities in Reykjavik and surrounding areas. Eyjafjallajokull, located 200 kilometers from the capital, erupted in all its glory in 2010.
Many of us will not forget the impact the eruption had on a global scale.
The massive ash cloud that was emitted in the atmosphere saw airspaces closing for days. In addition, the eruption led to melting ice, and Iceland was subject to massive floods right after the initial disaster. However, Iceland has been touched by many, many natural disasters in her existence, and authorities have managed the situations successfully and efficiently. Areas in the danger zone will be evacuated at the first sign of activity, so do not let the slight possibility put a damper on your trip.
Overall, the weather in Reykjavik is generally pleasant, aside from a few bad spells. In the country of four seasons in a day, come armed with enough T-Shirts, rain gear and heavy duty windbreakers.