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.
Question: Does it snow a lot in Reykjavík?
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.
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.
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.