Iceland in December: What to expect?
How is the weather in Iceland during winter? What to do in Iceland in December? How is the temperature, where to see the Northern Lights and how to spend Christmas and New Years Eve in Iceland?
Are you thinking about visiting Iceland in December? If so, I would from the bottom of my heart recommend you to GO for it! Book your ticket now and don’t look back. Then, continue reading this blog post for more info on what to expect in our cold, the harsh but most beautiful month of the year.
Text by: Egill Fannar Halldórsson
First a few words of motivation for what to expect on this article!
- Northern Lights in December & where to see them
- Things to do in Iceland in December
- Christmas in Iceland
- New Years Eve in Iceland with it’s endless amount of fireworks
- And lastly, the ultimate New Years Eve Party in Reykjavik
Weather in Iceland in December
December is one of our absolute most beautiful months of the year. 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 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 December
The average temperature in Iceland in December is from -1°C to +4°C. That is about 30-39°F. In other words = Do bring your warm clothes! Your winter clothes, parka’s, wool sweaters 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 then nothing will stop you from having a blast!
You might also like: Our most recommended Northern lights tour
Things to do in Iceland in December
December is a special time in 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 Iceland that is especially awesome in December:
- Wrap yourself in all your layers of clothes, take a romantic walk in down town Reykjavik and try to find all 13 hidden Santa Clauses around the city (they will be hiding in windows and on buildings!). Also, you must stop to enjoy warm coffee/hot chocolate and Icelandic pastries at some local shop that you can’t pronounce the name of!
- Try to see the Northern Lights! December is one of the best months of the year and has the highest chance of seeing the Northern lights. I would recommend either renting a car to search for them yourself or going on a guided northern lights tour. Both have their pro’s and cons.Renting your own car can be a lot of fun since you’ll be able to take it at your own pace which is always nice. But maybe it could be nice to have 4×4 all-wheel drive car since the roads can get slippery during winter. Going on a Northern Lights tour can be really awesome as well. Since 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 takes place in a huge super jeep truck which always 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!
- Enjoy some winter activity! My personal favorite is Snowmobiling on top of glaciers! An adrenaline adventure mixed in with some awesome glacier sightseeing. How cool does that sound? Other awesome recommendations are going on a glacier hiking/ice climbing adventure, to visit ice caves or simply go out and play in the snow!
- Bath in our amazing local swimming pools! Of course, the natural hot springs will still be at it’s place, warm and cozy. But most of us locals use our public swimming pools almost daily during the winter. They are spread all around Reykjavik, it’s super affordable and there is just something so nice about bathing in a warm hot tub when it’s cold outside!
- Eat AWESOME local (and warm) food in December. Every restaurant in Reykjavik will, of course, be serving outstanding food but the seasonal specialty during winter are warm cuisines like soups! If you are a foodie, you should join our Reykjavik Food Walk!
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 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.
- We always host a very special Christmas Reykjavik Bar Crawl with an ugly Christmas Sweater theme on the 23rd. of December! This year it will be on a Saturday so it will be extra big. If you plan on joining us, make sure to secure your spot in advance since it always get’s fully booked really early.
Ingólfssvell (Ice skating plaza in the Heart of Reykjavik)
On the 1st of December, one of the largest mobile companies in Iceland (Nova) sets up a “Christmas Ice Skating plaza” right in the Heart of Reykjavik! 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!
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!). And if you are in Reykjavik for NYE, I must recommend you to join our awesome New Years events. This year we will host our awesome Reykjavik Bar Crawls to warm up for New Years Eve on the 28th, 29th. and the 30th. of December. But for the 31st. of December, we have collaborated with Austur, the largest nigthclub in Iceland to host the Ultimate New Years Eve Party in Reykjavik! This will without a doubt be the biggest party of the year & is perfect to make your NYE in Iceland absolutely unforgettable. Click the link for more info!
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.
Restaurants for Christmas & New Years Eve
Hey! This is a new post update for the holidays in 2017!
For the past two years we have helped most of our wonderful guests to make restaurant reservations for their vacation in Iceland. I just wanted to update this little blog to let you know that most of the best restaurants in Reykjavik get fully booked for the holidays months in advance. And then, every single other restaurant get’s fully booked weeks in advance.
Therefore, if you are visiting Iceland for Christmas or New Years Eve, feel free to get in touch and we are happy to help you with great local restaurant recommendations and it is no problem to call and make a reservation for you. However, we encourage everyone to do this as soon as possible before everything get’s fully booked, so that you will be able to have a wonderful evening at a place that we can proudly recommend :)
You can get in touch with us here.
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! 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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