Iceland in January 2020
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 in January
- Natural Hot springs
- Ice caves / Glaciers
- Budget friendly (ier)
- Less travellers around
- And last but definitely not least … More drinking to stay warm!
Northern lights in January
If you’re wondering…
Is January a good time to see the Nothern lights in Iceland?
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:
I get asked a lot ‘Is it possible to see the northern lights from the downtown area?’
Yes, sometimes …
But it’s rather uncommon due to the light polution of the city.
You will definitely want to get out of the city for the highest chance of seeing the lights.
And for that, you’ll have two great options to choose from:
1.GO ON A SELF-DRIVE NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNT
This can be a lot of fun and something I would definitely recommend if you’ve rented a car in Iceland.
It can be a bit tricky to decide on the perfect day of the week, time of night and area to explore.
But no worries,
We’ve written a really in depth guide to seeing the northern lights on your own.
You can find it here :)
2. JOIN A SMALL GROUP NORTHERN LIGHTS TOUR
This can be a great option for travelers 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.
There are many different northern lights tours to chose from.
I have one special tour that I recommend to all my friends visiting Iceland and that is this one here :)
I’ve personally been on this tour a few times throughout the years.
I love 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 chances of seeing the lights.
They also have really fun guides, that provide hot chocolate, biscuits and quick photography lessons on how to best capture the lights on film.
+ if you don’t see the lights you’re able to reschedule as many times as you’d like :)
You can read all about and secure your spot on the tour here.
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.
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 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!
BEST THINGS 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 January:
1. EXPLORE THE GLACIERS OF WINTER WONDERLAND!
You’ll notice when you arrive to Reykjavik – we don’t have any glaciers here in the city.
If you’ve made your way all the way to Iceland – I believe it’s an absolute must to visit the glaciers!
There are many different ways to explore the glaciers.
The only way to experience the glaciers here in Iceland is to do a tour.
That way, you’ll have a professional guide that will take you to an area of the glacier that is safe – but also they provide the transfers to and from the down town area of Reykjavik.
You’ll also see some cool sights along the way to the glacier.
There are many different ‘glacier’ tour to choose from.
My personal favorites are the glacier hike (with the option of ice climbing for the adventure seekers)
I also really enjoy snowmobiling on glaciers.
The snowmobiling tour is pricier then the glacier hike. But it includes both the snowmobiling, glacier guidance and transfers from the city – so it’s definitely worth it in my opinion.
I took my brother on this tour for his birthday last year – and it was a big hit!
I also brought my go pro on this tour. And since the provide helmets with go-pro mounts. I got some really great footage!
Here are a few fun photos!
I usually post only one photo – but these are all so awesome and I couldn’t choose hah!
2. EXPERIENCE THE BEST FOOD OF REYKJAVIK
The food scene in Iceland is simply amazing.
I’ve been involved and working in the restaurant and food scene in Reykjavik for the past 10 years.
I always had a dream of creating a really special food tour in Reykjavik.
A food tour that would show travelers the most amazing cuisines that Iceland has to offer, the best hidden local restaurants.
Basically, a lot of food – and a lot of fun!
5 years ago, that dream came true.
Me and my friends here at Wake Up Reykjavik founded the Reykjavik Food Walk.
It’s a 3 hour walking food tour through the beautiful downtown area of Reykjavik.
And today, it’s the #1 rated must-do experience in Reykjavik on Trip Advisor with over 2.700+ 5 star reviews.
If you get the chance – I highly recommend for you to join us on our delicious tour. I have no doubt that you and your friends and family would have a wonderful time!
You can find more info on tour here: Reykjavik Food Walk.
3. ENJOY A WARM BATH IN THE COLD SNOWY WEATHER
This is without a doubt the most local thing you can do here in Iceland.
I personally 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.
You’ll have many different option to choose from.
You can either:
- Visit the Blue Lagoon
- Visit a Natural Hot Spring
- Check out the swimming pools in downtown Reykjavik
All three options are absolutely amazing.
If you plan on visiting the Blue Lagoon I would definitely keep two things in mind:
- Book your tickets in advance.
- Plan your visit at the beginning or end of your stay in Iceland.
The best way to book tickets to the Blue Lagoon is through their website.
I always recommend booking in advance since they do get fully booked in advance.
I also recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon at the beginning or end of your trip. The reason for this is simply because the Keflavík international airport which is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik – is only about 10 minutes from the Blue Lagoon.
So it can be really convenient to visit the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport or on your last day on your way to the airport.
They also provide luggage storage for your bags.
NATURAL HOT SPRINGS IN ICELAND
Visiting a natural hot spring in Iceland is absolute brilliant if you’re looking for an alternative to the Blue Lagoon.
A lot of locals enjoy these hot springs for a few simple reasons:
- They’re really awesome and unique
- They’re less crowded/touristy then the Blue Lagoon
- They’re usually free or a lot less expensive then the Blue Lagoon
I’ve written a special blog …
For all my fellow Natural Hot Spring seekers with a local guide to my absolute favorite hot springs in Iceland.
You can find it here :)
SWIMMING POOLS IN REYKJAVIK
Like I mentioned earlier, man o’ man do I enjoy relaxing in the swimming pools here in Reykjavik.
They’re all awesome.
But my favorites are:
- Sundhöll Reykjavíkur (located in downtown Reykjavik)
- Árbæjarlaug (my neighborhood pool)
- Seltjarnarneslaug (located a few minutes driving from the downtown area)
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. 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.
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!
6. 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!
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°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!
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 to be on the safe side, It is always recommend renting a four wheel drive if you’re planning on renting a car in Iceland during the winter months.
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, that simply means that you can start seeing the northern lights earlier of the day.
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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