Iceland in January: What to do and Everything you need to know!
How is Iceland in January? What is there to do in the winter and most importantly … How crazy is the weather!?
Here is the deal: January is usually the coldest month on planet earth. And Iceland is an isolated small island – in the middle of the huge Atlantic ocean. What I am trying to say here is that it might be a little cold at this time – But it won’t be as cold as you might think! And to be absolutely clear: January is one of our very most favourite months of the year! It is incredibly beautiful, it’s a lot less crowded, it might be significantly cheaper and you can visit the insanely cool Ice caves!
Text by: Egill Fannar Halldórsson
And to begin with, here are a few words of motivation:
- Northern Lights
- Natural Hot springs
- Ice caves / Glaciers
- Budget friendly (ier)
- Less travellers around
- And last but definitely not least … More drinking to stay warm!
WEATHER IN JANUARY
My personal opinion is that January can be one of our absolute most beautiful months of the year. It is almost impossible to beat super cold crispy winter days, where powder-snow lies everywhere you look and only the dancing aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) above you to keep the day lit up.
Average temperature in Reykjavik in January is -1°C – +1°C (30-33 Fahrenheit). But the temperature can dance anywhere from -10°c – +5°C. So, Iceland definitely isn’t as extremely cold as some might imagine! In general, it snows a lot during the winter in Iceland overall but it snows less in Reykjavik. January & February are usually the months when it snows the most. But here is a very funny but true saying that you should remember for your Iceland trip: “If you don’t like the Icelandic weather, just wait five minutes!”.
The message of this is that you should prepare and dress for sun, snow, hail, blizzards, winds, no winds, and rainbow – All in the same day! … And maybe some volcanic eruptions if you have a special dress for that?
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 shortest days! Since our beautiful Iceland 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, we get about 4-6 hours of good daylight each day! Shorter days in the beginning of January but almost 7 hours by the end of the month. For some people, this might sound a little terrifying, but not only does the snow light up the day – But all doubt goes away if you are lucky enough to have the night lit up by the magical Northern lights!
WHAT TO DO IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
January is always wonderful in Reykjavik. But the whole country in general is like two different worlds if you look at it from a summer vs. winter perspective. In January, Iceland will turn into an incredibly beautiful winter wonderland!
Of course, you can do most of the same great things as in any other season, but here are a few suggestions for things to do in Iceland that are especially awesome in December:
1. Explore Winter Wonderland!
This can be by wandering a bit outside of the capital area Reykjavik, to explore anything from majestic ice caves, going on a glacier hike or Ice climb or one of my all time favorites, snowmobiling on huge glaciers or you can simply hop out and make a snowman!
2. Explore the extraordinary nightlife scene in Reykjavik!
Locals probably never go out as much as during the winter. The Icelandic nightlife is absolutely buzzing during our snowy season with our bars and nightclubs open until 4:30 am on weekends.
Join our awesome Reykjavik Bar Crawl for a local insight!
3. Take a warm bath!
It’s up to you if you want to visit hidden natural hot springs, the beautiful Blue Lagoon or one of our amazing local swimming pools! All three options are absolutely amazing.
Many locals (and travelers) choose to check out out geothermal pools located here in the city. But if you’ve rented a car, then I can’t recommend exploring outside of Reykjavik for a few hours to go on an awesome natural hot spring hunt!
Pssst… check out our secret blog on the best natural hot springs found in Iceland
4. Wrap yourself in all your layers of clothes and enjoy a romantic walk in Reykjavik
Down town Reykjavik is so beautiful during this time of the year. But please beware: For having a great time, it will be mandatory to dress warm! Go window shopping in local design shops and grab some nice coffee and/or pastry in some bakeries that you can’t pronounce the name of!
5. Try to see (and if you are lucky) ENJOY the amazing Northern Lights!
January is the darkest time of the year, making it one of the very best months to see the mystical lights! You can either rent a car and embark on your very own Northern Lights Hunt. In this case, I would recommend monitoring the northern lights forecast very carefully during the day before departing on your adventure. And with the forecast, you’ll want to be on the lookout for two things:
1) Clear skies
A big factor in seeing the lights is having a clear sky since clouds tend to block your view/visibility of our awesome lights. The forecast will either have shades of dark green (very cloudy,) green (cloudy) … or white (clear skies) which is exactly what you want to look for!
2) High northern lights activity
There is a Northern Lights activity meter in the top right corner that goes from 1 to 9. To make it super simple, if the meter reads a ‘1’ or a ‘2’, you’ll want to save yourself some time and find something else to do that night (hint: our super fun Reyjavik Bar Crawl.) BUT, if the meter reads ‘3’ or higher AND the skies look clear then you’re in for a treat my friend!
Grab your car, make a quick stop at Vínbúðin (our local liquor store) to stock up on Icelandic beers and ENJOY the lights!
6. Enjoy the seasonal Food Scene in Reykjavik!
Our amazing foodie scene is more interesting than ever in the winter and winter specials would without a doubt be warm soups! You can get a local insight in our delicious Reykjavik Food Walk.
7. Drive around and explore Iceland on your own!
Rental cars are more affordable in January than during the summer high season – And there are less people on the roads and at all the attractions you want to see. And Psst! Here is a small local tip: You won’t need a 4×4 vehicle. There are only a few days a year when our small cars on good tires won’t do the job!
8. Go Extreme!
In January you can ski, snowboard or snow-kite on high mountains. Definitely recommended when the ski resorts are open. Or you can go surfing! Sounds warm, right?
9. Take awesome photos!
The sun won’t rise very high above the horizon so it will provide some extraordinary soft golden lighting for your photos! But the days are short, so plan your time wisely!
TO SUM IT UP …
If you are crazy and adventurous enough to be thinking about visiting Iceland – and doing that in January. Absolutely go for it! It’s a beautiful winter month unlike any other. And you probably won’t find any travel destination more epic than this. Snow, ice, warm soup and Northern Lights! We are looking forward to seeing you!
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