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Is Iceland worth visiting in December? Iceland in December is a magical place, filled with lights, laughter and thrilling activities. Don’t let the cold scare you!
Is it worth going to Iceland in December? Even though December is one of the coldest months in Iceland, and you don't get much daylight, visiting it during this time is completely worth it! Iceland caves, snowmobiling, snorkeling, and other fun activities await you, not to mention Christmas and New Years' festivities! Check out all things to know about visiting Iceland in December.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER
Here are some ideas on what to do in Iceland in December:
ICE CAVES IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER
Mesmerizing Katla ice cave in Iceland
Ice caving is one of the most exhilarating activities you can partake in Iceland during the first winter month. Winter is the time when Iceland's glaciers are experiencing "tunneling," allowing us the unique opportunity to explore the inside of the majestic glacier.
The most common way to visit an ice cave is by booking an ice caving tour. The professional guide will introduce you to some of the most important safety measures and walk you through the history of ice caves. Since ice caves are a natural formation and are at times unpredictable, the experienced guide will ensure that you would only enter when it is safe.
Northern Lights pver Kirkjufell Mountain in Iceland
Only a few hours of daylight provide a lot of opportunity for catching the Northern Lights. The two conditions for them to be visible are that it has to be dark, and the sky should be clear. December weather is perfect for that.
Where can you see the northern lights? If you're staying in Reykjavik, you can try to catch them in the darker parts of the city with good visibility, such as Grotta Lighthouse or Klambratun Park. If they are intensive enough, you can spot them even with light pollution from the city.
Of course, all of that is a gamble. You can book a Northern Lights tour to have the best chance of seeing this incredible phenomenon. These guided tours include a knowledgeable guide who knows the best spots for seeing the Northern Lights. They also have an extendable knowledge about Aurora Borealis and can tell you all about them.
Lava caving is one of the most popular activities throughout the year, but visiting it in winter is exceptional. Along with incredible frozen lava formations, you'll see the ice stalactites and stalagmites attached to the walls of the cave.
The most accessible caves all year round are Raufarholshellir, Leidarendi, and Vidgelmir caves. Raufarholshellir is the most spacious cave, which is perfect for people who don't like tight spaces. Raufarholshellir is located just outside Reykjavik and is easily accessible by road. It also has designated walking paths and is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Leidarendi cave is a bit more challenging. There are no constructed walking paths inside and it requires a bit of climbing. Vilgelmir cave is the largest lava cave in Iceland and is definitely worth visiting.
Lava cave tours are the most popular way to visit the lava tubes. Even though lava caving is not as dangerous as, for example, ice caving, having the right equipment and a professional lava caving guide helps a lot.
Even though the idea of snorkeling in Iceland during December may seem crazy at first, it is actually one of the most unique experiences you can have. Silfra, located within the historic Thingvellir National Park, is a go-to place for snorkelers and divers all year round. It is the place in the world where you can actually swim between the two tectonic plates! You can check out how snorkeling in Silfra feels like by reading this blog post.
Check out the snorkeling tours to have the best experience ever. The tours include all the necessary snorkeling gear, including a drysuit and thermal undersuit and a certified snorkeling guide to look after you.
There are a lot of events going on in Iceland and its capital Reykjavik in December. The most important of them are, of course, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Check out what you can experience in Iceland during the Christmas season.
Christmas in Iceland
Is Christmas a big thing in Iceland? Definitely. Being mainly Lutheran, Iceland has developed its own unique traditions during Christmas time. So, what does Christmas look like in Iceland? First of all, you hear the phrase "Gledileg jol!" all around you while passing a street in Reykjavik. A work "Jol" means Christmas in Icelandic, and "Gledileg jol" is just a way of saying "Merry Christmas."
One of the most important events taking place during this time is when the Christmas tree is lit at Austurvollur. If you're lucky enough, you might even be one of the first ones to spot the Icelandic Yule Lads, which are essentially trolls dressed as Santas.
Christmas festivities are happening all around. Restaurants serve the popular "Christmas buffets," and bars host Christmas concerts and shows. Christmas is definitely a magical time to visit Iceland.
Fireworks in Reykjavik during New Years' eve, Iceland
New Year's Eve in Iceland
It goes without saying that New Year's Eve in Iceland is a huge deal as well. Every year for this occasion, people flood the streets to watch the amazing fireworks.
Every New Year's Eve, there is also a 10-kilometer run organized in Reykjavik. The participants usually dress in costumes and participants with the best ones can win a prize. After the run, everyone gathers in Harpa to warm up and have refreshments.
Winter Solstice in Iceland
Every 21st of December, there's an event to mark the darkest day of the year. For this occasion, the Imagine Peace Tower is being relit until the 31st of December. The idea was first introduced by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lenon. The Imagine Peace Tower stands on Videy Island with the word "Peace" written on its base in 24 languages.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING ICELAND IN DECEMBER
Arnarstapi village in West Iceland
Daylight is extremely limited, so make plans around it.
Most of the shops are open until at least 10 pm until the 24th.
On the 23rd of December is Þorláksmessa, then everyone walks down Laugavegur street, finishes Christmas presents and have a drink. You simply must join!
The weird smell you will find on the 23rd of December is of the fish Skate that we cook in a very old-fashioned way and it smells A LOT.
The Liquor store is closed on the 25th of December and the 1st of January.
WEATHER IN ICELAND IN DECEMBER
Now enter full winter month. December is one of our coldest months in Iceland, and the 21st of December is the darkest day of the year. The sunrise takes place around 11:30 am, and the sunset is around 3:30 pm. In the Westfjords, many say no light is seen as the high mountains cover the little light trying to shine through, and the sun never reached high enough in the sky to go over them. To me, this is the coziest time, and I welcome any snow since it adds light to the scenery.
Prepare for cooooold but amazingly beautiful settings. Like they used to sing, “it’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid” enjoy the snow and enjoy Iceland in its true nature!
View point at Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland
Daylight and Temperature in Iceland in December
Daylight doesn’t change a lot during December, on the 1st of November you will have about 5 hours of daylight but the 30th about 4 hours. This is very important to keep in mind in all travel plans in December in Iceland.
Temperatures in December in Iceland are usually very cold but like everything having to do with the weather in Iceland it’s quite hard to predict. The average low is about -2°c or about 28 F and the average high is about 4°c or 49 F. It’s important to note though that these are numbers for Reykjavík and anything out of the city will be colder and windier. Even though these numbers might not sound freezing don’t be fooled, when the constant breeze is added to it, it feels a lot colder!
CAN YOU SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN DECEMBER IN ICELAND?
Yes, December is the darkest month in Iceland, with only a few hours of daylight. This means that you have a very good chance of seeing the Northern Lights during your holiday visit. Join a Northern Lights tour for the best chance of spotting them!
Bright Green Northern Lights in Iceland
Where can you see the Northern Lights in December?