rural church during snow in Iceland

Thinking about jetting off to Iceland in January? Well, let me give you the scoop. It’s like stepping right into a postcard, I kid you not.

Those ice caves? They’re straight out of a storybook. And glacier walking – it’s like being on another planet! Chasing those northern lights is something else, truly a bucket list kind of thing. Yeah, it’s a bit nippy and the sun’s pretty shy, but the snow, oh boy, it turns everything magical.

The roads are a bit slick, so watch your step, but it’s all part of the adventure. Trust me, it’s a whole different kind of winter wonderland!

You know, January in Iceland is kind of special. Christmas just wrapped up, and it’s like everyone takes a collective breath. The crowds thin out, making it one of those rare quiet times there. For folks who head over in January, it’s like having the place to themselves.

Picture this: landscapes looking like frosted cake, longer nights perfect for northern lights hunting, and those famous spots? You’ve got them almost crowd-free.

It’s like Iceland rolls out the white carpet just for you. A real peaceful, snowy paradise!

Top Activities To Do in Iceland in January

man standing on top of glacier

There’s heaps to do. Ice cave trips? Unreal. Northern lights? Stunning. Just pack your days right and you’ll have a blast. It’s like a winter fairytale over there – totally worth it!

Dive into Iceland's Geothermal Pool Adventure

blue lagoon geothermal spa in Iceland

Thinking about Iceland in January? You’ve got to try the geothermal pools. Seriously, they’re a slice of heaven. It’s a big thing in Iceland, like a national pastime. No matter where you’re at in the country, you’re never far from one of these warm, cozy pools. Perfect for a chilly day.

The feeling of hopping into a warm pool when it’s freezing outside? Can’t beat it. Most places have both indoor and outdoor pools, so you can swim or just chill out. It’s like stepping into a warm bath on a cold morning – absolutely amazing. And don’t get me started on the Blue Lagoon – it’s famous for a reason and open all year round. There’s also this new spot, the Sky Lagoon. Infinity pool, ocean views, right near Reykjavik – it’s a must-see.

Whether it’s a local pool or something more touristy like the Blue Lagoon, it’s a top winter activity. In Reykjavik, check out the pools in Kopavogur. Easy to get to and top-notch. And the Blue Lagoon? Perfect spot to hit on your way to or from the airport. It’s a real treat!

Check out Iceland's January Ice Caves

ice caving in january in Iceland

Did you know January’s smack in the middle of ice-cave season in Iceland? It kicks off around mid-October or November and goes on until March. Those freezing temperatures make sure the caves are sturdy and safe to explore, except when they’re flooded, of course.

And let me tell you about these ice caves under the Vatnajokull glacier – they’re becoming a must-see in winter. The coolest (literally!) tours start from the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. It’s an experience you can’t miss.

The thing about these ice caves is they’re always changing, thanks to the glaciers moving around. So, every time you visit, it’s a whole new world. Sometimes, you might even get to see more than one cave on a tour – talk about luck!

If you’re up for it, there are these two or three-day tours starting from Reykjavik. They’re perfect because you get to check out the ice caves, plus all the amazing stuff around the area and the South Coast. It’s a package deal full of wonders.

Tour Iceland's Glaciers

glacier hiking

Glacier hiking? It’s a thing in Iceland all year round, but January? That’s when it’s really something else. The glaciers get this fresh coat of electric blue ice – looks like something from another planet.

Solheimajokull is the go-to for an easy glacier hike. It’s just a few hours’ drive along the South Coast, and there’s a tour that heads out from Reykjavik every day. Super convenient.

If you’re hanging around southeast Iceland, check out the tours from Skaftafell Nature Reserve. They’ll take you up Svinafellsjokull glacier. Another cool spot is the Vatnajokull glacier. You can hike up Breidamerkurjokull, one of its outlets.

Each of these places has its own unique charm – you can’t go wrong!

Iceland Snowmobile Tours

snowmobile tour in Iceland

Not much of a hiker but still want to check out Iceland’s glaciers? There’s a quicker way – and it’s a blast! Snowmobiling. Picture yourself zipping across Iceland’s snowy glacier plains. It’s as fun as it sounds.

January’s perfect for snowmobiling. You can even mix it up with the Golden Circle tour, with a transfer right from Reykjavik. Or, if you’re up for it, there’s this 2.5-hour snowmobiling adventure on Myrdalsjokull glacier. You can meet up there and just dive in.

With about 11% of Iceland covered in glaciers, you’ve got options galore for snowmobiling. Whatever your style, there’s a tour that’ll get your heart racing. It’s an exhilarating way to experience the icy landscape!

Snorkel & Dive in Iceland this January!

scuba diving in Silfra iceland

Think snorkeling or diving in Iceland during January sounds a bit wild? It’s actually an amazing experience, thanks to modern drysuit gear.

Most of the action happens at Silfra, a natural spring in a fissure that’s open all year. It doesn’t even freeze! It’s known as one of the top diving spots globally. And here’s why: Silfra’s in Thingvellir National Park, nestled right between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, surrounded by jaw-dropping natural sights.

In January, it’s even more stunning. Imagine diving or snorkeling with snow and ice sculptures lining the ravine – the scenery’s just unreal, perfect for photographers.

And get this – Silfra’s a spring, right? So the water’s been filtering through lava rock for decades, which means you get insane visibility – we’re talking over 328 feet! It’s like having super clear underwater glasses on. Definitely a unique way to see Iceland’s underwater world.

Essential Safety Guidelines for Snorkeling

two person snorkeling

Diving or snorkeling in Silfra during January is pretty safe, but there are a few boxes you need to tick first.

For the drysuit snorkel, here’s what you need: you’ve got to be at least 12 but under 60, taller than 4 feet 7 inches, and over 99 pounds. And yep, you need to know how to swim.

If you’re thinking about the wetsuit snorkel, the rules are a bit different. You should be 14 to 60 years old, over 4 feet 9 inches tall, and weigh at least 110 pounds. Swimming skills are a must here too.

Now, for the drysuit dive, the requirements are a bit more specific. You need to be 17 to 60 years old, at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, and over 99 pounds. Plus, you should have at least 10 logged drysuit dives under your belt, or be a certified drysuit diver. Safety first, always!

Horseback Adventures in Iceland

icelandic horses trekking

Riding through those winter landscapes is something else. Plus, you get to meet the Icelandic horse – a real charmer. These horses are like the off-road vehicles of the equine world. They’ve been trekking through black sands, rivers, and lava fields for over a thousand years. Super sure-footed!

And they’re not your average horse. They’ve got five gaits – yeah, five! While most horses have three or four. The coolest one is the ‘tolt’ – it’s this smooth, ground-covering stride.

Also, these horses are famous for being curious and smart, more so than their cousins on the mainland. Ask any Icelandic horse owner, and they’ll go on and on about them. In January, they’re all fluffy with their winter coats – just adorable.

Looking for horseback riding tours? There’s a bunch to pick from, many right out of Reykjavik. Some even pair it up with trips to the Golden Circle or whale-watching. How cool is that?

Witness the Magic: Northern Lights in January's Iceland

exploring iceland northern lights while riding a car

January in Iceland means prime time for the jaw-dropping northern lights!

This time of year, chances are high to catch these elusive beauties. And, with fewer daylight hours, it’s like their own spotlight’s on.
Here’s the deal with sunrise and sunset:
Picture January 1st – sunrise at 11:19 AM and sunset at 3:44 PM, giving you a mere 4 hours and 24 minutes of daylight for soaking up Iceland’s mesmerizing vibe!

By January 31st, the day kicks off around 10:10 AM and bids farewell at 5:10 PM, giving you a solid 7 hours and 2 minutes of daylight to explore Iceland’s wonderland!

Now, let’s talk northern lights: Reykjavik might give you a taste, but the real show? It’s beyond the city lights.

Time to ditch the urban scene and embrace nature! Thingvellir National Park, just a hop from Reykjavik, amps up your chances for an incredible light spectacle!

So, let’s talk about how to track down those incredible northern lights!

For a budget-friendly option, jump on a bus tour—it’s easy on the pocket. Or, if you’re up for it, amp up the adventure with a super jeep, getting you to places other vehicles can’t reach.

In Reykjavik, there’s the option for a northern lights cruise—imagine seeing those auroras in the sky and then mirrored in the water below. It’s like a double delight!

Feeling like a solo explorer? Grab a rental car and hit the road into nature, on a mission to find those mesmerizing lights. Driving yourself gives you the freedom to chase the auroras wherever they appear!

Let’s dive into the game plan for chasing those stunning northern lights:
First things first, keep an eye on that aurora forecast—aim for a rating above three—and scout out the clearest skies by checking the cloud cover. That’s where the magic unfolds!

Now, when it comes to wheels, go for the tough stuff—think four-wheel-drive rides like jeeps or SUVs. And don’t forget to ask for those studded tires! They’re your ticket to conquering those snowy roads like a pro.

But hey, renting a car in Iceland during January isn’t for the faint-hearted—it’s a gig for confident drivers who’ve aced those icy country roads!

Winter Wonders: Iceland's January Festivals and Events

Winter in Iceland kicks off with a bang! Here’s the lowdown on January’s hot events:

things to do in iceland

Iceland goes all out for the start of January.
On December 31st, the party starts! Locals gather around bonfires, known as ‘brenna’, across the Capital Area to symbolize bidding farewell to the past year’s challenges.

And fireworks? They’re a big deal! Thousands of Icelanders light up the sky at midnight, turning the city into a kaleidoscope of colors that keep going all night long.

For the ultimate view, hit up spots like Hallgrimskirkja—you’ll catch fireworks in every direction! Reykjavik’s New Year’s Eve is hard to beat—it’s a total blast and hands down one of the year’s best party nights!

The Thirteenth Yule Lad in Icelandic Tradition

christmas season in iceland

Wrapping up the Icelandic Christmas season is January 6th, aka “the thirteenth day of Christmas” or “Þrettándinn” in Icelandic. It’s a day loaded with folklore—like cows supposedly chatting and hidden folks relocating, while the last of the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads heads back to the mountains.

The scene? Think bonfires lighting up Reykjavik and the countryside. Plus, those leftover New Year’s Eve fireworks get their second round. It’s a day buzzing with cultural events to keep the festive spirit alive!

Dark Music Days

harpa concert hall

If you’re into music scenes, there’s this cool thing called the Dark Music Days festival. It kicks off early January, hitting up Harpa Concert Hall and a bunch of other spots, all thanks to the Icelandic Composers’ Society.

Why is it rad? Well, you get to groove to national and global talents, checking out some cutting-edge contemporary beats and fresh Icelandic compositions. Started back in 1980, this fest has premiered more new tunes than any other Icelandic gig—it’s a real game-changer in the music scene!

Reykjavik International Games

Late January is all about the Reykjavik International Games, hitting up Laugardalur stadium. This showdown covers a whopping 20 different sports, from karate, athletics, swimming to cross-fit. And guess what? They’ve even added some e-sports to the mix in recent years.

This gig’s a record-setter, no joke! World records? Yep, they’ve happened here, and Icelandic sports often notch up national records during the showdown. It’s a two-weekend affair, offering a smorgasbord of sports and games for everyone to dig into!


cultural festival

Thorrablot is this cool cultural gig that goes down in the lunar month of Thorri on the old Icelandic calendar. In 2023, it kicks off on January 20th. The first day, Bondadagur (Man’s Day), is all about honoring the head honcho of the house. Then, it wraps up in mid-February with Konudagur (Woman’s Day), celebrating the incredible women of Iceland.

What’s the vibe? Well, during this fest, Icelanders pay tribute to their ancestors by chowing down on foods that have been chomped on for centuries here.

Iceland’s history has seen a lot of tough times, especially during those long, dark winters. Folks had to get creative to make food last when nothing was growing. They used every bit of an animal, making sure nada went to waste ’cause hey, every bite counted!

So, here’s the scoop on the grub during Thorri—it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was Iceland’s survival pack for over a thousand years. You’ve got stuff like svid (boiled sheep’s head), hakarl (fermented shark), or hrutspungar (ram’s testicles)—a bit out there, but hey, it got the job done!

Not everything’s that intense though! You’ve also got some crowd-pleasers like tasty smoked lamb (hangikjot) or super-nutritious stockfish (hardfiskur). And get this: during January and February, supermarkets stock up on these local treats, in case you’re feeling adventurous.

If you’re up for it, dive into a fun food tour. There’s this cool 3-hour ride in Reykjavik all about traditional Icelandic eats or a fantastic 3-hour food lovers’ walking tour with a guide to show you the ropes.

In Iceland, they throw these awesome Thorrablot parties during this lunar month to honor the old Norse feasts with a spread of classic Icelandic grub. And what’s the drink of choice? Brennivin, Iceland’s signature distilled spirit, known as “Black Death” by some English speakers.

Once the feast wraps up, the real party begins—locals dive into storytelling and singing, going strong till the sun comes up. Getting invited to these feasts? It’s a pretty big deal!

If you’re curious about this scene, dig into traditional Icelandic food and hit up a drink tour. Wanna give it a shot? Try brennivin, Icelandic whiskey, and gin on this cool 1-hour Eimverk distillery tour, where they’ll even let you taste. Or join a guided walking tour in Reykjavik, sipping on Icelandic beer and schnapps. Cheers!

Must See Spots in Iceland in January

person in the shoreline in Snaefellsnes peninsula

Hey, January in Iceland’s pretty much mid-winter, and it comes with a heads-up: some places might be a bit tricky to get to. Like, the roads in the Highlands? Totally snowed in. Parts of the Westfjords? Might be off-limits. And the East Fjords? A bit tricky to navigate.

But, here’s the silver lining! Your go-to spots like the Golden Circle, South Coast, and Snaefellsnes peninsula? They’re still open for business and look absolutely stunning draped in that winter snow.

The cool part? Loads of top spots in Iceland are open year-round, and honestly, they’re even more magical in the winter!

The Golden Circle in Iceland in January

winter in Þingvellir in Iceland

When it comes to must-see spots in Iceland, the Golden Circle attractions top the list.

First stop? Thingvellir, just a hop from Reykjavik. Situated smack between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, this place is something else. Think deep gorges, mossy lava fields, and waterfalls cascading off cliffs.

Fun fact: Back in 930 AD, this was the spot where Iceland’s earliest settlers formed the longest-running parliament globally. Plus, it’s where they ceremoniously signed Iceland’s declaration of independence in 1944. Pretty cool, right?

Next up on your Golden Circle road trip is the Geysir Geothermal Area in Haukadalur Valley.
Imagine this: steamy fumaroles and streams slicing through the snowy ground, painting the soil with these wild and vivid hues. And the highlight? The geyser Strokkur puts on a show, erupting every five to ten minutes. It’s a photographer’s dream!

Finally, the showstopper: Gullfoss waterfall. This baby is one of Iceland’s showstoppers, tumbling down in two layers into a breathtaking gorge.

Come January, the rocks around it are dressed in ice, adding an extra dose of magic—it’s like stepping into a winter fairy tale.

You’ve got options galore for Golden Circle tours—pick from buses, minibusses, or even jeeps. And here’s the cool part: pair it up with horseback riding, a dip in the Blue Lagoon, or swing by an ice cream farm for a sweet treat!

Iceland's South Coast in January

The South Coast is right up there with the Golden Circle as one of Iceland’s iconic routes. The Ring Road stretch from southeast of Reykjavik to Hofn packs in some seriously jaw-dropping features that you don’t want to miss.

First up, you’ve got a duo of waterfalls—Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Seljalandsfoss does this cool thing where it cascades off a curved cliff, making it quite a sight! Meanwhile, Skogafoss is wider and packs a powerful punch.

As you keep cruising, you’ll spot numerous glaciers along the way—Myrdalsjokull covering Katla volcano, the infamous Eyjafjallajokull volcano, Solheimajokull glacier, and Solheimasandur, all before rolling into the village of Vik.

Around Vik, you’ve got some seriously stunning coastal sights. Take in the Dyrholaey cliffs and rock arch, Reynisfjara’s black sand beach, and those striking Reynisdrangar sea-stacks.

Quick tip: Waves around Vik can get pretty intense, so keep an eye out. Once you’ve taken in the views, gear up for a drive through vast lava fields until you reach the Skaftafell Nature Reserve.

Skaftafell’s got it all—think lava fields, forests, glacier tongues, lagoons, and waterfalls.

And if you’re up for a hike, this place is a dream! Trails cater to every level, but make sure to hit Svartifoss waterfall. It’s famous for its incredible hexagonal basalt columns. Trust me, it’s a hiker’s paradise!

The last stop on the South Coast is Jokulsarlon, the renowned glacier lagoon.

It’s mind-blowing watching those icebergs glide across the lake toward the sea—some are even the size of multi-story buildings.

As they hit the ocean, these icebergs wash up on the black-sand shore, aptly named ‘the Diamond Beach’ because of how they sparkle in the surf.

There are tons of South Coast tours to pick from, like a cool 11-hour sightseeing tour or adventurous activities such as glacier hiking, ice caving, or snowmobiling.

Feel like hiking? There’s a top-rated glacier hiking tour in the Skaftafell Nature Reserve or this epic ice cave tour of Vatnajokull, starting right from the stunning Jokulsarlon.

And for some serious thrills, try out the 3-hour super jeep tour with snowmobiling on Vatnajokull—an experience you won’t forget!

North Iceland in January

Goðafoss Waterfall in northcoast of Iceland

Northern Iceland is a gem and stays open during winter. You can drive there or catch a flight from Reykjavik’s domestic airport to Akureyri, weather permitting.
Akureyri, draped in snow and still decked out in festive lights, is a total charmer. Trust me, it’s got loads of boutiques, restaurants, and bars that keep the vibe alive year-round. And, hey, if you’re into skiing, it’s got some of Iceland’s best slopes!
From Akureyri, there are loads of tours that promise an epic adventure. Take a short drive outside the town, and you’ll discover stunning waterfalls like Godafoss and maybe even Dettifoss—just keep an eye on those road conditions!

Up in North Iceland, Lake Myvatn is the place to be year-round.

This spot is a treasure trove of diverse sights—you’ve got the otherworldly lava formations at Dimmuborgir, the bubbling geothermal magic of Namafjall, the grand Viti crater, and the ancient Skutustadagigar craters.

Here’s a cool secret: Lake Myvatn’s a big deal for Game of Thrones fans! Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen strutted their stuff around here. Want to step into their world? Take a Game of Thrones tour for the full Westeros experience!

Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula in January

mount Kirkjufell during winter in Iceland

Exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland during January is like embarking on a mini Icelandic adventure.

They call it “Iceland in Miniature,” and for good reason. This 56-mile (90-kilometer) coastline packs in a whole mix of landscapes that mirror the essence of Iceland itself.

The star attraction? That’d be Mount Kirkjufell, just a quick 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer) drive from Grundarfjordur, and yep, it had a stint in Game of Thrones! Then there’s Snaefellsjokull glacier and volcano, famous as the gateway to the ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ in Jules Verne’s epic novel.

But that’s not all, folks! Take a spin around the peninsula and discover a seal colony at Ytri Tunga and charming fishing villages like Arnarstapi, Hellnar, and Stykkisholmur.

And don’t forget the natural wonders—Djupalonssandur beach, the Budahraun lava fields, and the awe-inspiring Londrangar basalt towers.

Want to dive into this Icelandic gem? You can hop on a day tour from Reykjavik or truly soak it all in over a couple of days.

January’s a neat time to explore Iceland, but the chilly weather can give you pause. Wondering just how nippy it gets? Hang tight for that and more info below!

Reykjavik’s Weather in January

In Reykjavik, January hovers between 30°F and 33°F (1°C and -1°C). But once you step out of Reykjavik, it’s a smart move to check the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s website for the scoop on your destination’s weather.

How is Iceland's January weather?

Iceland's weather in January

It’s a mixed bag. Plan for around 3.5 inches (88 millimeters) of precipitation—expect rain, snow, hail, gusty winds, and even a peek of sunshine during your stay.

Heads up, storms roll through quite often during winter, bringing along potent winds. Keep an eye on weather alerts, especially if you’re cruising around Iceland on a winter self-drive.

January's Average Temp in Iceland

iceland temperature during winter

January’s Average Temp in Iceland hits around 31°F (-1°C). But remember, different areas might sway windier or wetter. Southern spots might feel a tad toastier than the north.

Can’t change the weather, right? No sweat! If Iceland’s January weather plays spoilsport, there’s a whole bunch of things to keep you occupied.

What to Pack for a  trip to Iceland in January?

winter clothes

Getting ready for Iceland in January is like prepping for a chilly adventure. Here’s what you’ll need:

Layer Up: Start with thermal base layers; they’re the secret to keeping cozy. Look for fabrics like merino wool or synthetic blends that wick moisture away. Then, top it off with a fleece or a snug down-filled vest. It’s like your outfit’s thermostat—easy to add or shed layers as needed.

Weather Warrior: A must-have? A jacket that’s waterproof, windproof, and insulated for that extra warmth. And don’t skip out on water-resistant pants—especially handy if you’re planning outdoor escapades.

Stay Warm: You’ll want those cozy wool socks, a snug hat, and a scarf for sure – gotta stay warm against those chilly winds. Don’t forget waterproof gloves; they’re lifesavers! Oh, and if you’re after those Northern Lights, grab some touch-sensitive gloves for easy camera clicks.

Swimwear: Yep, even in January! Iceland’s geothermal pools and the famous Blue Lagoon are total gems. Who’d pass up a dip in those, right?

Sunglasses : Your best buds for shielding your eyes from that bright snow glare when you’re driving around. It’s like giving your eyes their own little vacation!

Skincare: Hey, when it’s chilly outside, our skin’s like, “Whoa, hold up!” So, don’t forget your skin buddies – hand cream, lip balm, and moisturizer. They’re like the superheroes of skincare in winter.

Oh, and a quick tip: always keep an eye on the weather forecast. Iceland’s weather is kind of like a box of surprises, so being ready keeps your adventure smooth and stress-free!

driving in winter in Iceland

If you’re thinking of grabbing a car in Iceland during January, go for a four-wheel drive and, hey, make sure you’re a pro at handling those icy roads.

Most rental guys have rides with studded tires, but to be safe, shoot them a message a few days beforehand to lock in one.

And let me tell ya, Iceland’s road rules are kinda unique, especially with all the different terrains. Best to get the lowdown on that.

Before you hit the road, always check the conditions. It’s not just about the weather; avalanches and floods can shut things down too.

Oh, and if a road’s closed, no go! Seriously, don’t risk it. Besides, getting stuck could mean dishing out for fines and hefty towing costs. And no insurance covers that hassle

How to plan an Itinerary for a trip to Iceland in January

person holding a map in iceland

In January, Iceland’s got tons to offer, and you can really tweak your plans to match your crew’s vibe, pockets, and clock. But here’s a rough sketch.

Driving solo might not be everyone’s jam, especially when it’s dark and icy out there.

That’s why most folks lean towards guided tours – less worry about the weather playing tricks while on the road.

Now, if you’re aiming to dodge all sorts of stress, those package deals are golden. They cover everything: stays, transfers, and all the tours you’re itching to take.

Those packages? They’re the ultimate Iceland sampler. Some cover the whole deal, like the elusive East Fjords, which are tricky to crack solo.

For a full country lap, you’d need at least eight days. But hey, stretch it to twelve, and you’ll score extra stops, like the Snaefellsnes peninsula – it’s all about how deep you wanna dive.

In these tours, you’ll get your dose of adventure – think ice caves, glacier hikes, the whole shebang.

Plus, the northern lights? You’ll have front-row seats, no hassle, thanks to those neat northern lights tours.

Got a tight schedule? Shorter packages got your back. Five days for Myvatn or four days soaking in the South, ice cave included.

In the end, January’s Iceland? It’s a full-blown winter dream. Think Northern Lights, unique winter-only spots – the whole enchilada.

Plus, fewer tourists mean you’re in for a real deal Icelandic adventure. A January trip here? Memorable stuff that’ll stick with you for ages.

So whether you’re setting up camp in Reykjavik or gearing up for an Iceland-wide winter escapade, hope our tips set you up nicely for the ride.

Robert Robertsson

Hey, I'm the founder of Airmango. My love affair with travel and entrepreneurship kicked off in 1994 in Iceland. Fast forward through two decades, and I've been lucky enough to weave my career through five different countries. Each place has left its mark on me, not just in my personal life, but in how I approach business too. With Airmango, I'm bringing all those global insights and experiences to the table – it's like seeing the world through a business lens.