Visiting Reykjavik in winter you'll witness ethereal lighting and an incredible atmosphere.
The winter months in Iceland often offer ethereal lighting and an incredible atmosphere, and we’re not just talking about the amazing northern lights. The sun, moon and clouds all cast mystical tones on the surroundings, sometimes with deep blue or even highly pink colors. Catching that breathtaking moment is priceless for travelers and Reykjavik offers plenty of places to experience this both in the downtown area, as well as on the outskirts of the capital. But you need to act quickly as this perfect light comes and goes; so get your camera fully ready before booting up for a picturesque walk around Iceland’s capital.
In the downtown area you can find plenty of pigeons during the winter. They hide on roofs and fly in flocks to keep warm while searching for something to eat on the streets below; some are even fed by experts. This group keeps a close watch by the old harbor, where a pigeon keeper feeds them. With so many white ones, they are almost like a sign of peace, which is much needed in today’s world.
Ingólfur Arnarsson is considered the first settler in Iceland. He was outlawed from Norway and came here with a group of people that settled in 874. This statue of him overlooks the harbor area from afar and is a venue for many gatherings, snow sled rides in winter and lots of concerts in summer. It is just off the main shopping streets Bankastræti and Laugavegur.
There are numerous places to experience true nature in the capital, on all sides of the city. The area around Elliðaárdalur Valley is beautiful in winter and summer. These swans are bathed in the pinkish color that the sun casts from the Blue Mountains, Reykjavik’s main skiing area.
Snow, rock, ice and the sea; very Icelandic: This is the view towards Mt. Esja, taken close to the Harpa Concert Hall, where you can begin a walk around the harbor area or go in the other direction to see the coastline and Viðey, where the Lennon/Ono Peace Tower beams into the dark night sky from 9 October to 8 December every year. Mt. Esja is a popular hiking destination during the summer, just keep in mind that it’s not as close as it appears, you’ll have to drive there.
The houses in Reykjavik are very colorful and many are different from anything you see elsewhere in the world. Houses at the Árbæjarsafn Open Air Museum show how people in Iceland lived in the past, exhibiting an extensive showcase of how things once were. It wasn’t so long ago that people in Iceland lived in houses made of wood and turf. To make it through the cold winter months some houses were warmed with the body heat of sheep, cows and other livestock
Many modern buildings in the capital have glass windows, not least in the business districts. This glass tower in Kopavogur stands grand in the light of the winter moon, as the sun has just set on the horizon. This kind of light catches the eye of photographers who visit Iceland.
When walking around Reykjavik during the winter, it’s smart to dress accordingly, and this tourist has the right stuff. Photographing in the winter light is magical but it also poses a challenge. The number one rule, before going on any adventure is to dress warm.
Text and photos: Gunnlaugur Rögnvaldsson