Passionate nature lover, traveler, adventurer. Viktoria has traveled halfway around the globe with a single backpack and a tent. Finally, she landed in Iceland and decided to make a new home for herself in Reykjavik.
Iceland is the ideal place to spend the winter holidays! There is a great variety of options waiting for travelers to choose how they want to soak up the Icelandic winter!
In this article, we listed the very best activities that are available this time of the year. The selection is vast but availability is limited due to popular demand. Book your trip as soon as you can!
Christmas time in Reykjavík
The end ofDecemberis the darkest period of the year in the Arctic region, so Icelanders start to decorate their houses with bright Christmas lights as early as November.
The houses and the streets in downtown Reykjavík are all lit up. Shops, cafés, and restaurants put up Christmas trees, play festive music, and decorate their tables with candles, even putting them on the street outside of the entrance!
TinyChristmas marketsand ice skating rinks along with countless concerts, choirs, and cultural events create a high-spirited atmosphere throughout the city as the air becomes filled with festive feelings.
Elizabeth Ellis – Reykjavik in winter
Christmas time in the Countryside
Iceland’s winter wonderland landscapes and the magicalNorthern Lightswill enchant the mind of every traveler. Reindeer wander down from the mountains, the fur of the Arctic foxes changes into its winter white, and the Icelandic horses put on their soft, thick winter coats as well.
Under the white blanket of snow, which is painted by the surreal colors of the low-lying winter sun, the colorful Icelandic houses, oceanside hamlets, and fabulous landscapes look like a festive postcard or a scene from a fairytale.
Wintry Icelandic landscape in December
Explore the Very Best of the Icelandic Winter
There is a great variety of tours and things to do during the holiday season in Iceland. Life doesn’t stop because of the holidays. On the contrary, there are dozens of options waiting for travelers to choose how they want to soak up theIcelandic winter!
Northern Lights Tours
Naturally, witnessing the Northern Lights is at the top of everyone’s bucket list – especially those who decide to visit Iceland in December. This is truly the very best month of the year to see the aurora! The daylight periods are as short as 4–5 hours, which means that you have 19–20 hours of darkness during which the Northern Lights can appear at any time. Even at 9:00 in the morning or 5:00 in the afternoon, the Northern Lights could make a surprise appearance.
Even though if they’re strong enough, you’ll have a good chance of seeing the lights even in the city, a guided Northern Lights tour offers more than you might think.
Beautiful scene from dowtown Reykjavik with aurora borealis in the sky above – Reykjavik City hall is the building on the far left and to the right of city hall is Althingi
First, the same light show will be much more intense if you watch it from a dark place where there’s no light pollution. Often, the auroras aren’t strong enough to outshine the city lights. This same aurora will look spectacular if you watch it from a dark place.
Also, clouds often cover the sky. If this happens, you won’t be able to see the lights at all, no matter how strong they are. Guided tours, however, can take you out of the cloudy area and drive you to a place where the clouds have cleared or where there’s a big opening in the cloud cover so that you can see what’s going on behind them.
Northern Lights in a Super Jeep
GuidedNorthern Lights tourscome in many different forms such as minibus tours, adventurous Superjeep tours, boat tours, and so on. Here are some of the best options that we highly recommend trying:
Come explore the matchless beauty of the Icelandic countryside! If you’d like to see as much of the country as you can, we highly recommend going onsightseeing road tripsand seeing the natural attractions that make Iceland so incredibly famous.
Skogafoss waterfall in winter
Even if you’ve been to Iceland before and have seen some places in the summertime, you’ll be surprised by how different they look in their winter outfits. The light conditions are completely different as the sun paints the skies and the snow pastel-pink through the entire daylight period. The waterfalls are frozen, the black beaches are partly covered with white snow, and the wintry landscape, in general, is just miraculous.
Don’t bother with the difficulties of driving on winter roads. Join a guided tour and enjoy the views to the fullest! Your tour guide will tell you stories and anecdotes about Icelandic Christmas traditions and all the interesting aspects of Iceland.
The Golden Circle
Iceland’s most epic tour route, theGolden Circle,awaits visitors all year round. The route covers 185 mi. (300 km) and circumnavigates three of Iceland’s most famous natural attractions:
Thingvellir National Park: The location where the continental plates drift apart and where the world’s first democratic parliament was founded a millennium ago.
Gullfoss Waterfall: One of the most powerful cascades in Iceland, this is a giant and highly impressive waterfall.
Geysir Geothermal Area: This legendary area is filled with fierce hot springs and frequently erupting geysers.
These sights look truly spectacular in wintertime and the landscape between the stops is simply stunning!
The rift valley in Thingvellir in winter
You can complete this trip in various ways. For the most fun, choose a Superjeep and opt for an extra stop to go snowmobiling on Iceland’s second-largest glacier,Langjökull. You might even see a natural ice cave!
Or you can choose a much warmer option. Why not go swimming in a geothermal hot spring after your amazing road trip?
The Secret Lagoon, Iceland’s largest geothermal pool from an aerial view in the wintertime
The South Coast
Many say that the South Coast has the most picturesque landscapes in all of Iceland by far. It’s hard to disagree! This scenic area offers thrilling sights at every kilometer. In fact, Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and black volcanic beaches are all located here. They coexist with the crown jewels of all the natural attractions: the beautiful Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon and the Diamond beach!
Traveling along the South Coast comes highly recommended all year round. In wintertime, however, this area is an entirely different world. A beautiful snow blanket covers the land and the frozen waterfalls sparkle like crystals under the winter sun. The whole landscape seems like a scene taken from a movie! Find the selection of thebest South Coast tourshere. These are what we recommend the most:
Iceland’s wintry wilderness offers unlimited options for exciting outdoor activities and snowmobiling is one of the best you can choose! Gliding through the endless snowfields with a roaring engine between your legs could easily be the most amazing adventure you have ever had!
Snowmobiling on the surface of a glacier that is thousands of years old and hundreds of meters thick is something that you’ll never forget for sure. Moreover, midway through your adventure, you can visit a majestic natural ice cave! This will allow you to get a whole new perspective on glaciers and is, of course, a great chance to snap a couple of photos.
There are plenty of excitingsnowmobiling toursthat you can choose from. Here are our favorites
If you’re already in Iceland, why not celebrate the end of the year by doing something totally crazy and memorable? Treat yourself to the most amazing adventure you’ve ever had and gosnorkeling between the tectonic plates!
Don’t worry! This adventure only sounds crazy. In reality, it isn’t extreme at all. Even though you can expect the water to be very cold, you’ll be wearing a safe, floatable dry suit. This means that your body won’t feel anything from the cold and, apart from your hands and your face, you’ll stay completely dry and warm.
Snorkeling in the world’s clearest freshwater along a rift between the tectonic plates in the deepest Arctic winter is something that not many people can say that they’ve done. This is the experience of a lifetime!
You can even combine your snorkeling tour with other activities. Here are the best tips:
The visibility under the water exceeds 328 ft (100 m)
As you probably know, Iceland is a glacier paradise. Eleven percent of its total land area is covered by glaciers and the largest ice cap in Europe is located here. These amazingly picturesque glaciers offer truly spectacular landscapes. Their surface is rugged and beautifully blue, decorated with hair-raising ice sculptures, deep crevasses, and massive icefalls. Walking on a glacier is a completely surreal experience!
There are safe and easyguided glacier hikingtours that will take you up to these ancient ice formations. In wintertime, some of these tours even take you into hidden ice caves!
The Best Glacier Hikes on Sólheimajökull Glacier (Near Vík)
Hikers on Falljokull, an outlet glacier of Vatnajokull
Ice Cave Tours
December is the most ideal time for ice cave explorations in Iceland! These astonishing blue glacial ice caves are found inside the glaciers and are almost always inaccessible during the spring, summer, and autumn periods.
Ice caves are formed during the warm season by the power of meltwater as it travels through the crevasse channels of a glacier. When the cold season comes, the caves that the water left behind freeze completely, becoming stable and safe enough to visit.
Thanks to the special physical characteristics of glacial ice, these ice caves are colored insanely blue. They are so clear and transparent that you can see meters into the body of the ice. In many cases, you can even see the layers of ash from ancient volcanic eruptions trapped in the crystal-clear ice. Icelandic ice caves offer a surreal atmosphere that simply can’t be experienced anywhere else in the world!
Church at the man-made ice cave on Langjökull glacier in Iceland
Icelandic horses are adorably short, good-tempered, and intelligent – but they’re not ponies! They’ve become really popular on the international scene for being easy-going and are considered one of the friendliest horse breeds in the world. Therefore, anyone can easily ride an Icelandic horse without having had any previous experience.
Riding a horse is a very authentic way to explore the Icelandic landscape. In wintertime, these cuties are very furry and love to play in the snow. If you love animals and pretty views, then this the ideal activity for you!
There are plenty of excitinghorseriding touroptions. Here are some we recommend:
The land of fire and ice not only offers ice caves but also offers spectacular lava caves! These subterranean geological wonders were formed during volcanic eruptions and remain stable and safe enough to visit. Expect vivid colors, fascinating rock sculptures, beautiful lava flow formations, and a host of other things that will inspire awe and wonder in equal measure.
In wintertime, sparkling icicles grow from the ceiling while ice sculptures rise from the ground like natural festive decorations!
There are plenty oflava caves in Iceland, some of them quite close to Reykjavík. You can also combine this activity with other tours such as horse riding, snorkeling, or a Golden Circle tour.
Due to the shortage of daylight hours during the Christmas season, we highly recommend giving yourself plenty of time in Iceland. If you’d like to make the most of your stay, the best thing to do is to join a multi-day tour.
You can save both time and money as you won’t have to plan everything out for yourself. Multi-day tours with accommodation included are often cheaper than doing day tours while staying in Reykjavík.
The best winter multi-day offers include the South Coast, the Golden Circle, and, of course, the Northern Lights! For those who prefer more off-the-beaten-track destinations, we’d recommend a Snaefellsnes Peninsula road trip or an adventurous Superjeep ride to the snowy Icelandic Highlands where you can even soak in a natural hot spring while admiring the Northern Lights!
Snowy Icelandic landscape in December
For those who have plenty of time in Iceland and would like to see as much of the country as possible, the Around Iceland or the Ring Road tours may be the best option.
With sucha great selection available, we’re sure you’ll find what you’re looking for! These are the most popular options: