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ICELAND IN JANUARY

You must be here because you would like to know how Iceland is in January, right?

Well, I can help you with that!

January is usually the coldest month on planet earth. Iceland is an isolated small island – in the middle of the huge Atlantic ocean - so no exception there.

To put it in simpler terms, it might be a little cold at this time – but it might not be as cold as you think!

Despite a little cold (or perhaps because of it), Iceland is incredibly beautiful and I'll show you exactly why January is one of my favourite months of the year!

Keep reading for the best tours and activities, some local tips, average temperature and more for January in Iceland!

Egill Fannar
Egill Fannar
Last updated: April 13, 2022
Arial shot of Iceland in January

ICELAND IN JANURY quick facts:

My opinion is that January can absolutely be our most beautiful month of the year. It's almost impossible to beat the super cold crispy winter days in January.

  • Average temperature: 30-33 Fahrenheit
  • Sunrise 10:30am / Sunset 4:30pm
  • Less crowded / touristy: More availability on tours, hotels etc.
  • Good time for Northern Lights: Yes! (Great time actually)
  • Best things to do: View our local recommendations of activities below!

January is always wonderful in Reykjavik. If you look at it from a summer vs. winter perspective, the whole country is like two different worlds. In June we have green grass and sun during the night. In January, Iceland turns into an incredibly beautiful winter-wonderland!

Picture this: You're standing outside in the clean, cold winter air and when you look up you see, illuminating the night, the dancing Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights.

How amazing does that sound?

But now I've made it sound a bit cold, haven't I. How cold is it actually? Let's take a closer look.

WEATHER IN JANUARY

Average temperatures in Iceland

Average temperature in Reykjavik in January ranges from -1 to +1°C (30-33 Fahrenheit).

The temperature might fluctuate anywhere from -10 to +5°C. So, Iceland is definitely not as extremely cold as you might have imagined! Generally in the winter it does snow a lot here, especially in January and February. In Reykjavik however, it snows much less than in the country or especially up north. Sometimes we have almost no snow at all during the winter in the city!

Here is another thing I think you should know: December and January are when we have our shortest days.

In other words... These are our darkest days!

Since our beautiful Iceland is located so close to the arctic circle, the days get super short during the winter … And of course, it’s the opposite during midsummer with 24 hours of daylight!

With that being said, we get somehwere around 4-6 hours of good daylight each day in January! The shortest days are in the beginning of January but by the end of the month day days are almost 7 hours long.

For some people, this might sound a little terrifying, but not only does the snow light up the day – all uncertainty about the daylight flees if you are lucky enough to have the night lit up by the magical northern lights above you!

BEST THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND IN JANUARY

There are so many things that you can do in January, some things that you wouldn't be able to do during other times of the year. At least they might be a bit different. You can do almost all of the same great things in January as you would do during the summer too.

Here are a few suggestions for things to do in Iceland that are especially awesome in January!

1.NORTHERN LIGHTS IN JANUARY

If you’re wondering, "is January a good time to see the Nothern lights in Iceland?" Well, then the answer is YES! Due to the very early sunset, January is one of the best months of the year to see the northern lights!

Here is a little northern lights motivation before reading any further:

To go hunting for the northern lights, you’ll have two great options to choose from:

OPTION 1: GO ON A NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNT DRIVE YOURSELF

This can be a lot of fun and something I would definitely recommend if you’ve rented a car in Iceland.

I get asked a lot whether it's possible to see the northern lights from the downtown area. Yes, sometimes … But it’s rather uncommon due to the light pollution from the city. You will definitely want to get out of the city for the highest chance of seeing the lights.

It can be a bit tricky to decide on the perfect day of the week, time of night and area to explore. But not to worry! We’ve written a really informational, in-depth guide on how find and see the best northern lights on your own.

You can find the guide here :)

OPTION 2: JOIN A SMALL GROUP NORTHERN LIGHTS TOUR

The northern lights illuminating landscape in January

This is a great option for travellers that really want to see the northern lights without the hassle of renting a car, driving on icy winter roads and tracking down the lights themselves.

There are many different northern lights tours to choose from and it can be confusing. I found this one special tour that I always recommend to my friends visiting Iceland - it's this one here!

I’ve been on this tour a few times throughout the years myself. One of the things I love most about it is the fact that the tour consists of local experts that monitor the weather and decide on the best spot each particular night with the highest chance of seeing the lights.

They also have really awesome guides that provide hot chocolate, biscuits and blankets if you're cold!+ if you don’t see the lights you’re able to reschedule as many times as you’d like :)

Click here to read all about it and to secure your spots!​

2. EXPLORE THE GLACIERS OF WINTER-WONDERLAND!

Snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier

You’ll notice when you arrive to Reykjavik – we don’t have any glaciers here in the city.

However, if you’ve made your way all the way to Iceland – I believe it’s an absolute must to visit the glaciers! If you want to experience the awesome glaciers you have book a tour - this is for your own safety!

That way, you’ll have a professional guide that takes you to a safe area of the glacier (so you won't fall down a crevice!) – they will also provide the transfer to and from the glacier.

By the way, you’ll also see some cool sights along the way to the glacier!

There are many different ‘glacier’ tours to choose from which might leave you confused. My personal favorite is the Glacier Hike & Waterfall tour,​ since it combines hiking on the beautiful Sólheimajökull glacier but also visits the highlights sightseeing areas of the South Coast of Iceland.

I mean, who would not want to hike here?!

Hiking on Langjökull glacier

But... I also REALLY enjoy snowmobiling on glaciers.

I took my brother on the snowmobiling tour for his birthday last year – and it was a big hit! I also brought my go pro on that tour. Since they provide helmets with go-pro mounts, I got some really great footage!

For glacier snowmobiling, we have two options to choose from:

1) Golden Circle Sightseeing & Glacier Snowmobile combo tour.

2) Glacier Snowmobiling & Ice Cave tour (only available during the winter months)

After all of this activity and snow, you must be getting hungry. What to do?

3. EXPERIENCE THE BEST FOOD OF REYKJAVIK

Arctic char

The food scene in Iceland is simply put, amazing.

I’ve been working in restaurants and involved in the food scene in Reykjavik for the past 10 years. During that time, I always had a dream of creating a really special food tour in Reykjavik.

A food tour that would show travellers the most amazing cuisine that Iceland has to offer, the best hidden local restaurants. Basically, a lot of food – and a lot of fun!

Finally, 6 years ago, that dream came true. Me and my friends here at Wake Up Reykjavik founded the Reykjavik Food Walk - a 3 hour walking food tour through the beautiful central Reykjavik area.

Today, the Food Walk it’s the #1 rated food tour in the world on Trip Advisor with 4000+ 5-star reviews.

If you get the chance – I highly recommend joining us on our delicious tour. If you like food, I have no doubt that you, your friends and family, would have a wonderful time!

You can find more info on tour here: The Reykjavík Food Tour!

Now we've taken care of the hunger. What about the cold?

4. ENJOY A WARM BATH IN THE COLD SNOWY WEATHER

Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin)

Hot springs:

Now you want to warm yourself in our naturally hot water. One option would be the hot springs, such as The Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin, which literally translates to the Old Pool) which is in the picture above.

For all my fellow natural hot spring seekers, I have written a specific guide to my absolute favorite hot springs in Iceland.

You can find it here :)

Swimming pools:

If the hot springs are not your scene then I would recommend checking out one (or more) of our local swimming pools. That is without a doubt the most local thing you can do here in Iceland.

Laugardalslaug swimming pool, central Reykjavík

I often say that the English have their pubs, the Italians have their cafés, we have the swimming pools. People gather in the hot tubs and chat about everything and nothing with complete strangers. These swimming pools are situated are all around Iceland and I don't even have count for how many we have just in Reykjavík nowadays!

Personally, I visit the hot tubs and swimming pools here in Reykjavik 5 days a week. It’s simply awesome to relax in warm water while in the cold wintery weather.

My favorites swimming pools in the capital area are:

  • Laugardalslaug (located in downtown Reykjavik)
  • Árbæjarlaug (my neighborhood pool)
  • Seltjarnarneslaug (located a few minutes driving from the downtown area)

Explore the Golden Circle and/or South Coast

Skógafoss waterfall, South Coast.

Now, like I mentioned before January has some of the shortest days here in Iceland with a late sunrise and early sunset.

Which is why you'll have to time your sightseeing adventures carefully, since you don't want to arrive at an amazing waterfall during pitch black darkness.

That's why I wouldn't recommend any long, 14-16 hour sightseeing tours during January.

The South Coast & Golden Circle tours work really well in these 'short day' conditions.

The reason being that the tours depart early from Reykjavik (8:30-9:00am), while it's still dark out. The sightseeing spots are outside of the city.

So you'll simply be driving out of the city and towards that sightseeing spots during darkness, enjoying them in the daylight. And then driving back home once it starts to get dark again.

How perfect?

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, South Coast.

All right!

I think that's enough information for now. You should definitely find something awesome to do in January!

If you are still wondering what to do, feel free to drop us a line or view our full selection of activities here!

FAQ

CAN YOU SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ICELAND IN JANUARY?

Yes! January is one of the darkest months of the year with a very early sunset. Which makes January one of the best times of year to see the Northern Lights.

IS JANUARY A GOOD TIME TO GO TO ICELAND?

January is a fantastic time to visit Iceland. It is one of Iceland’s coldest months and usually the time of year were we experience the most amount of snow. But it also is one of the best months for northern lights.

January tends to be slightly less expensive then the summer high-season for accommodation, flights and sometimes even tours and activities.

HOW COLD IS IT IN ICELAND IN JANUARY?

The Average temperature in Reykjavik in January is -1 to +1°C (30-33 Fahrenheit). But the temperature can dance anywhere from -10 to +5°C. So, Iceland definitely isn’t as extremely cold as some might think!

IS THERE SNOW IN ICELAND IN JANUARY?

Yes. Although it can vary from year to year. January tends to have a bit of snow.

CAN YOU DRIVE IN ICELAND IN JANUARY?

Of course! Just be carfeul of the slippery roads and dark days!

WHAT TIME IS SUNSET IN ICELAND IN JANUARY?

January is known for having short days. The sunset in January is around 3:40pm during the beginning of the month. Towards the end of the month the sun sets at 5:00pm. But don’t let that stop you. It simply means that you could catch the earlier in the day.

TO SUM IT UP …

If you are crazy and adventurous enough to be thinking about visiting Iceland – and in January no less - go for it!

It’s a beautiful winter month unlike any other. You probably won’t find any destination more epic than this.

Snow, ice, warm soup and northern lights!

We are looking forward to seeing you!

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