Iceland in December 2023
If you're visiting Iceland in December...
You're most likely asking yourself:
What are the top things to do? Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in December? How is the weather in Iceland in December?
All your questions will be answered below along with my best local tips and recommendations!
This is the ultimate guide to plan your AMAZING Iceland holiday in December.
Let's get started!
WEATHER IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER
December is one of our absolute most beautiful months of the year in Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s hard to beat super cold crispy winter days, with snow everywhere you look and only warm Christmas lights to light up the day. And of course, after the lights go out, you might see the dancing aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) above you to keep the night lit up as well.
One thing you must know:
December is when we have our shortest days.
In other words, December is the darkest month of the year in Iceland. Since our beautiful northern most capital of the world is located so close to the arctic circle, the days get super short in the winter … And of course, it’s the opposite in the mid summer with 24 hours of daylight!
With that being said, the days in December consist of very limited daylight – Normally only a few hours per day. The 21st. of December is our winter solstice. The shortest day of the year – Or the longest night. Normally the amount of daylight is around 4 hours, from around 12 PM – 4 PM. For some people, this long night might sound a little terrifying, but all doubt goes away if you are lucky enough to have the night lit up by snow or the magical Northern lights!
Average temperature in Reykjavik in December
The average temperature in Iceland in December is from -1°C to +4°C.
That is about 30-39° fahrenheit.
In other words = Do bring your warm clothes!
There is not a huge difference in temperature or weather in general between different parts of Iceland but wether you decide to stay in Reykjavik, Akureyri or any other town, you should dress properly.
Your Iceland gear should consist of a parka, wool or fleece sweater, warm under layers, hiking/winter shoes, warm hat, gloves and waterproof pants.
And dress with layers on top of layers! It will be cold but it will also be beautiful. Just make sure to dress warm and it’s better to be able to take layers off than being cold.
If you stay warm, then nothing will stop you from having a blast!
You might also like: Our Most Recommended Northern Lights tour.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER 2023
December is a special time in Reykjavik and all of Iceland. The Christmas season is a huge thing for us locals and that means that almost every single person will be happily filled with that warm Christmas spirit from the end of November and through the whole holiday season.
Here are a few suggestions for awesome things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland that is especially awesome in December:
1. GO ON A SANTA CLAUS HUNT IN DOWNTOWN REYKJAVIK
Wrap yourself in all your layers of clothes, take a romantic walk in down town Reykjavik and try to find all 13 hidden hologram Santa Clauses around the city (they will be hiding in windows and on buildings!).
Icelandic locals will the fill the streets of Laugavegur in downtown Reykjavik every year on the 23rd of December. It's something I recommend everyone visiting Iceland to join in on - the atmosphere is something else!
Why the 23rd? Well, here in Iceland we celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. And the 23rd of December is something we call Þorláksmessa. It's the perfect evening for friends to go downtown to enjoy a few beers before celebrating Christmas with their families. Others will walk the streets to enjoy pastries and hot chocolate.
While some will be stressfully rushing around in search of a last minute Christmas presents for their aunt or uncle that they had forgotten about. I always find this very amusing to see (except for when it's me.)
2 EXPLORE REYKJAVIK & ENJOY THE BEST LOCAL ICELANDIC FOOD
Ask anyone that has travelled to Iceland what they think about Icelandic food … it is amazing!
Every restaurant in Reykjavik will, of course, be serving outstanding food but the seasonal specialty during the cold winter months are warm, hearthy cuisines.
If you are a foodie, you should not hesitate to join our our most popular (and my personal favorite tour) The Reykjavik Food Walk.
It's a 3-hour food tour that takes place in downtown Reykjavik. It's packed with food & fun ... and truly is one of the best way to get to know Reykjavik and it's incredible food scene.
Click here for more info and tickets to Reykjavik Food Walk.
Please note: If you are travelling close to Christmas or New Years Eve, you need to book your tickets far in advance since we will get fully booked.
3. CELEBRATE NYE LIKE A LOCAL, WITH LOCALS!
We are so excited to say that our Wake Up Reykajvík New Years Eve party is back for 2022! This year we partnered up with one of Reykjavíks most popular party spot, The Petersen Suite. The venue is a lounge and rooftop bar most known for its two-floored terrace that offers a spectacular 360° view of the city. Making it an ideal place to witness the famous fireworks display that takes place here every year. This is our favorite event of the year and it sells out every year, so we recommend securing your tickets as soon as possible! We here from the Wake Up Team will be there and we sure hope we get the chance to see you there and party with you.
Our New Years eve party is an exclusive event only for ticket holders. The party starts at 22:00 pm on December 31st, since most bars downtown won't open until 01:00 am on NYE, this gives you a chance to celebrate the new year here like us locals do! See our NYE Party event page for a more detailed description of the event and what's included.
Tip: If you are looking to go all out this year pre-book your bottle service since we can't guarantee there will be any tables left on New Years Eve. To do so send us a line at [email protected].
4. SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
December is a great month of seeing the Northern lights!
Going on a Northern Lights tour is my first recommendation for Northern Lights as you’ll have an expert scouting out the best areas in Iceland to give you the absolute highest chances of seeing the lights.
The tour also teaches you the best tricks to be able to photograph the Northern Lights which adds a lot of fun to the experience. Regardless of which option you’ll go with – I wish you the best of luck on your northern lights hunting adventure!
5. GO ON A GLACIER ADVENTURE
To make the absolute most of your winter wonderland trip to Iceland, do something awesome in the snow!
My two personal favorites are:
- Exploring the Golden Circle via Super Jeep & Snowmobiling on Glaciers.
- Glaciers & Waterfalls: Explore the South Coast of Iceland and then hike on a glacier!
An adrenaline adventure mixed in with glacier sightseeing.
How cool does that sound?
6. BATH IN AMAZING HOT WATER IN THE COLD
You won’t find any more local thing to do in Iceland.
You can either bath in our awesome local swimming pools that are all around Reykjavik or visit a natural hot spring in the countryside!
The local pools in town are easy to reach and affordable.
There are tons of absolutely amazing natural hot springs, hidden – and scattered around Iceland.
However, most of them are very hard to reach during winter and some roads might be closed (Here is our blog on Natural Hot Spring).
But we also offer one kick-ass tour that will in one day take you around some of the most breathtaking sights of Iceland and end at one of my favourite natural hot springs in the country.
You can view the Golden Circle and Hot Spring tour here.
7. VISIT THE MUSEUMS
Visit some of the many great museums in Reykjavik.
My favourites are The National Museum of Iceland for history and what it means to be an Icelander (allow 1-2 hours here), The Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871+-2 (yes, the name is this long haha) but this is an super interesting place that will take you back to the viking age & the museum is built on top of one of the oldest man-made structures found in Iceland.
Two more interesting museums to visit are RAM (The Reykjavik Art museum) and of course, the Penis museum (… The Icelandic Phallological Museum).
Yes, you read that correctly …
TOP / BEST TOURS IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER
There are two things you should definitely keep in mind for planning your tours in Iceland during December.
1) The last two weeks in December are very popular dates to visit Iceland and everything get’s booked up really early.
Therefore, I recommend you to book your tours & hotels as far in advance as possible.
2) Since daylight hours are limited in December (4-5 hours)
You need to plan your trip carefully and I recommend tours rather than self-drive during the darkest winter months to ensure both your safety and that your excursions are planned for the best daylight-hours.
Here are my best local recommendations for tours to do from Reykjavik, Iceland in December:
This tour is for everyone that wants to make the absolute most of their stay in the city and experience Reykjavik like a local.
And isn’t that everyone?
In a small group, you will make a new local friend that will show you all about Reykjavik, visit 5-6 unique Icelandic restaurants, introduce you to the most authentic cuisines at each venue and take you on a short tour around Reykjavik – so you will experience all the best of the city in just one day.
The Reykjavik Food Walk is currently rated the #1 tour of over 350 tours available in Reykjavik on Trip Advisor, with 3000+ 5 star reviews.
If you are in Iceland for just a few days, this is the best ‘see it all, do it all’ tour of Icelandic nature and natural wonders!
What I’m trying to say is that if you should do just one nature-exploring tour, it should be this one.
See Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir erupting geothermal area, the beautiful Thingvellir national park and more.
The beauty about doing this tour in December is that it departs early from Reykjavik (8:30-9:00am) which means you'll be driving out of Reykjavik in darkness. You'll be arriving to enjoy the sightseeing spots in daylight and then heading back to Reykjavik as it starts to get dark again.
Same as the recommendation above – another of what I would call the two “must visit” (and most popular) Icelandic nature tours available from Reykjavik.
If you have enough days to take both Golden Circle and South Coast, that would be perfect and I know you would go home with a very big smile, eager to visit again to see more!
This tour will take you to the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland (Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss), the infamous Black Sand beach, the small coastal town of Vík and Sólheimajökull glacier among other things.
Of course, the Northern Lights.
I’ve talked about this tour quite a lot in my other blog posts and already mentioned it above.
Why? It’s the best.
There are multiple way to see the Northern Lights (IF they are active on that particular night) but this tour is really adventurous & has the best ‘chance to see the Northern Lights’ rate I’ve seen so far.
So, it’s my recommended Northern Lights tour.
NEW YEARS EVE IN REYKJAVIK
Alright! Just to get honest with you…
This night is CRAZY in Reykjavik as Icelanders really celebrate New Year’s Eve like no other.
For just more than a week, the ban for fireworks (yes, any kind of fireworks!) is lifted so every single person in Iceland is allowed to spend their entire month salary on explosives to light up the sky.
And of course, we do so!
This is also the biggest party night of the whole year (I know what you are thinking, alcohol & explosives go great together!).
This will without a doubt be the biggest party of the year & is perfect to make your NYE in Iceland absolutely unforgettable.
I also wrote a big and awesome blog just entirely about New Years Eve so if you are visiting for this huge night, I would definitely recommend you to read this: Everything you need to know about New Years Eve in Reykjavik.
CHRISTMAS IN REYKJAVIK
Who doesn’t love Christmas?
I think I can honestly say that during your Iceland trip in December you won’t come across a single person that doesn’t love this beautiful season.
These are the effects that the holidays will have on Reykjavik:
- Everybody should be in an even better mood that normal. WARNING: This might actually result in friendly Icelandic people become even more friendly!
- The whole city will be lit up with Christmas lights – Very useful during these dark days!
- There will be hidden Icelandic Santa Clauses all around the city!
- Everyone hopes for a white Christmas. It isn’t unlikely that Reykjavik will be covered in snow in December.
- The streets might smell like cinnamon! We use that a lot for our Christmas baking.
- There will be even more locals on the Laugavegur main shopping street than usual to buy presents.
- Almost all tours and restaurants get fully booked!
** Book early and contact us if you’d like us to help you with restaurant recommendations and reservations!
ICE SKATING PLAZA IN DOWNTOWN REYKJAVIK
On the 1st of December, one of the largest mobile companies in Iceland (NOVA) sets up a “Christmas Ice Skating plaza” in downtown Reykjavik located on Ingólfstorg.
This is really starting to settle in as one of our must do things on Christmas as the plaza really sets the Christmas tone in Reykjavik!
If you are in Iceland in December, make sure to pay the plaza a nice visit to get your Christmas vibes flowing!
CAN YOU SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER?
Yes! December is the darkest time of year with the earliest sunset, which is around 3:30pm. Which makes December one of the best times of year to see the Northern Lights.
IS DECEMBER A GOOD TIME TO VISIT ICELAND?
December is a terrific time to be in Iceland. Reykjavik is covered in both snow and christmas decorations making it an beautiful winter wonderland. Icelanders also go all out with fireworks and celebrations for NYE. In addition, It’s also one of the best times of year to see the northern lights.
HOW COLD IS IT IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER?
The weather in December in Iceland ranges from 30-39 fahrenheit. Which is warmer then a lot of travelers expect. But it is recommended to pack a few extra layers since the cold arctic wind can get chilly.
IS IT DARK IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER?
December is our darkest month of the year. The 21st of December is our ‘shortest day of the year. The sun set will be around 3:30pm in December.
IS THERE SNOW IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER?
December is usually the month where Iceland has it’s first snowfall. Although it can vary from year to year.
CAN YOU SEE PUFFINS / WHALES IN DECEMBER?
It’s possible to see Whales in Iceland all year round. It is not possible to see the Puffins (The puffin season is from May-August.) But Iceland makes up for it in Northern Lights during the winter season.
CAN YOU DRIVE IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER?
Absolutely. Just to be sure, It is always recommend renting a four wheel drive if you’re planning on renting a car in Iceland during the winter months. But it’s usually not until January-March when Iceland experiences large snow storms.
CAN YOU GO TO THE BLUE LAGOON IN DECEMBER?
Yes, Absolutely. The December season is an extremely cosy time to visit the Blue Lagoon. It is however, always recommended to book in advance with as much notice as possible to ensure availability.
WHAT TIME IS SUNSET IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER?
Th shortest day of the year in Iceland is the 21st of December. Sun sets throughout December is at 3:30pm.
TO SUM IT UP …
If you are crazy enough to be thinking about visiting Iceland – and doing that during the darkest month of the year.
Absolutely go for it! You are going to love it.
It’s a beautiful season unlike any other. And you probably won’t find any travel destination more epic than this. Snow, Blizzards, Northern Lights and the city will be more alive than ever.
We are looking forward to seeing you!
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