Iceland in December: What to expect?
Iceland in December: 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? Where to see the Northern Lights and all about Christmas and New Years Eve in Iceland.
Are you thinking about visiting Iceland in December?
If so, from the bottom of my heart, I recommend you to GO for it! Book your ticket now and don’t look back. Then, continue reading this Iceland in December post to learn everything that you need to know about our cold, harsh but most beautiful month of the year.
This is the ultimate guide to plan your AMAZING Iceland holiday in December 2019.
Text by: Egill Fannar Halldórsson
Last Updated: 14/10/’19
First, here is what you should expect from this Iceland in December blog:
- Iceland Weather in December
- Northern Lights in Iceland December – Where & when to see them
- Top Things to do in Iceland in December
- The best restaurants in Reykjavik – We’ll help you with reservations for NYE
- Best tours to do in December (with prices & availability)
- Christmas in Iceland, all you need to know!
- New Years Eve in Reykjavik, Iceland with it’s endless amount of fireworks
- And lastly, the ultimate New Years Eve Party in Reykjavik
Make sure you check out: The Best Day tours from Reykjavik in December!
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 2019
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!).
You must stop to enjoy warm coffee/hot chocolate and Icelandic pastries at some local shop that you can’t pronounce the name of!
2. SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
December is one of the best months of the year and has the highest chance 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!
3. GO ON A GLACIER ADVENTURE
To make the absolute most of your winter wonderland trip to Iceland, do something awesome in the snow!
My personal favorite is Snowmobiling on top of glaciers!
An adrenaline adventure mixed in with glacier sightseeing.
How cool does that sound?
Other fantastic recommendations is going on a glacier hiking/ice climbing adventure, to visit ice caves or simply go out and play in the snow!
4. 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 – Here you can read about my personal favourite swimming pool in down town Reykjavik.
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.
5. EAT THE BEST LOCAL ICELANDIC FOOD IN DECEMBER
Ask anyone that has travelled to Iceland what they think about Icelandic food … it is amazing!
And Reykjavik is the foodie capital!
Every restaurant in Reykjavik will, of course, be serving outstanding food but the seasonal specialty during the cold winter months are warm, hearthy cuisines and If you are a foodie, you should not hesitate to join our Reykjavik Food Walk!
But please note that 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.
6. 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 6 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 also currently rated the #1 tour of over 350 tours available in Reykjavik on Trip Advisor, with 2700+ 5 star reviews.
You can find more information on the Reykjavik Food Tour here.
– Update (written 20th of November)
Almost all departures/tickets for the Reykjavik Food Walk in December are sold out. We just added a few more departures.
We highly recommend booking as soon as possible for those looking to join the Reykjavik Food Walk.
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.
This tour in particular is furthermore the highest rated Golden Circle in Iceland and costs only 10.900 ISK.
So when planning, This small group Golden Circle tour is not only a great tour to choose but the absolute best and highest rated experience by other travellers :)
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.
Last but not least, I also mentioned this awesome experience earlier in this blog post and I’ll definitely stick to it.
Get your own powerful snowmobile, head to Langjökull glacier and race through the icy desert like there is no tomorrow!
I believe for travellers that are not used to snow … or glaciers – this might just be the most adventurous thing to do.
You can find all the snowmobiling details here.
You might already have heard about the Reykjavik nightlife scene – with over 80 bars in only one street, all open until 04.30am and Icelanders that are very, very committed to their drinking (hah!).
We believe the Reykjavik Nightlife is absolutely awesome and very unique – and that makes it definitely worth experiencing for travellers on their way to Iceland.
The first ever – the original – Wake Up Reykjavik experience is the Reykjavik Bar Crawl and it takes you in and around the Reykjavik nightlife scene – to our most favourite local bars to experience a night on the town and our most favourite drinks we think you just must try while in Iceland!
More about the Reykjavik Bar Crawl here.
New Years Eve in Reykjavik 2019
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. It’s a must and we always get fully booked far in advance for our 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.
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 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! If you plan on joining us, make sure to secure your spot in advance since it always get’s fully booked really early.
- 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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