Iceland in December
What to know?
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!
Wondering how Iceland will celebrate New Year's Eve in 2024? In this guide, uncover the unique traditions, experience the local festivities, and pinpoint the top places to welcome the new year.
Decided to spend the New Years in Iceland? You’re in luck! The enchanting city of Reykjavík, nestled on the Arctic's edge, comes alive with grand celebrations. Witness the sky illuminate with a dazzling firework display as you call in the New Year. During the day, traverse the mesmerizing winter landscapes and embark on thrilling adventures. Choose between the fireworks' brilliance and the Northern Lights' ethereal dance as night falls.
So, if you find yourself in Iceland during this time, eat early, wrap up warm, and prepare to participate in a celebration like no other!
New Year celebration in Iceland is a deeply cherished tradition rooted in family and community celebrations. The essence of the festivities revolves around togetherness, warmth, and a reflection on the year gone by.
At its core, New Year in Iceland is all about family. Homes come alive with the sounds of laughter, chatter, and the aroma of traditional Icelandic dishes. Families gather to celebrate, eat, and immerse themselves in the cozy ambiance of the evening. An integral part of this gathering is the sharing of local and family stories, with elders recounting tales of yesteryears, ensuring that the younger generation remains connected to their roots.
The celebrations typically begin with an early dinner, setting the tone for the evening's events. As the clock strikes 20:30, many Icelanders head out to participate in the communal New Year bonfires, known as "Áramótabrennur." These bonfires symbolize the burning away of the old year and the welcoming of the new. The atmosphere is easy and friendly, with strangers and new friends coming together, celebrating as the fire's glow envelops them in its warmth. The only rule during these bonfires? No fireworks allowed!
After the bonfire, families return home in anticipation of the much-awaited Áramótaskaup, which starts at 22:30. This satirical end-of-year show, broadcasted by RÚV, the state broadcaster, is a highlight of the evening. The entire nation tunes in to watch as the past year's news stories and events are humorously ridiculed. While the show is in Icelandic, its humor transcends language barriers, ensuring that even those unfamiliar with the language catch some of its wit.
As 22:35 approaches, Icelanders prepare for what can only be described as a sensational fireworks show. The sky is set ablaze with bright colors, outshining even the most magnificent northern lights. As the fireworks light up the night, many raise a glass to the New Year, toasting new beginnings and memories yet to be made. As the clock strikes midnight, join the locals in exclaiming, "Gleðilegt nýtt ár!" which means “Happy New Year!” in Icelandic. The celebrations continue well into the night, with parties, gatherings, and festivities.
The lively and vibrant celebrations of New Year's Eve in Iceland give way to a calm New Year's Day. Icelandic communities are notably quiet, with most residents sleeping in late. The day is marked by relaxation and recovery, with no elaborate meals being prepared. Leftovers from the previous night's feast are often the order of the day.
New Year celebrations take on a local flavor in smaller towns across the country, like Akureyri. These towns organize their firework displays and bonfires, ensuring that the spirit of the New Year is felt throughout the country.
Many travelers and locals consider Reykjavik the best place in Iceland for New Years Eve, offering a unique blend of traditional festivities and modern celebrations. To truly immerse yourself in the festive spirit of Reykjavik, consider joining the Festive Reykjavik Walk, a guided tour that showcases the city's holiday highlights and traditions.
Celebrating New Year's Eve in Reykjavik is an experience like no other. The city comes alive with vibrant festivities, and the sky is painted with a spectacular light show of fireworks on December 31, New Year’s Eve. One of the prime spots to witness this dazzling display is the Hallgrímskirkja Church. However, if you're looking for a more panoramic view, the hill at Öskjuhlið by Perlan offers a grandstand view of the entire city.
Reykjavik lights up with numerous bonfires for those seeking a more traditional experience. These are not just ordinary fires but a symbol of the city's rich history and culture. While there are 10 main bonfires scattered around the city, some of the notable ones are near Ægisíða by the ocean and the Valbjarnarvöllur sports area. As the New Year approaches, you can find a detailed map and list of all bonfire locations with a quick online search.
On New Year's Eve, bus services in Reykjavik wrap up by 15:00, resuming with a Sunday service pattern the next day. Check more information about the bus schedule on their official website.
Most shops and supermarkets in the city close early on New Year's Eve, around 14:00, with many remaining closed on New Year's Day. For those planning to indulge in festive spirits, it's essential to note that alcohol is exclusively available at state-run liquor stores - Vínbúðin. These outlets will be closed on New Year's Eve and Day, so ensure you get your supplies in advance. For specific opening times of Vínbúðin stores, it's best to check their official website.
Traditionally, Icelanders celebrated New Year with close friends and family at home, so few restaurants were open. However, with the influx of winter tourists, this trend has shifted. Nowadays, many restaurants are open, though some close early or remain shut all day. Due to the high demand, making reservations ahead of time is highly recommended.
It's worth noting that some restaurants also close on New Year's Day, but several operate on both days. Apart from these, there are alternative dining options available. Many larger hotels offer special events or menus, and their vibrant hotel bars provide a festive atmosphere to ring in the new year, even until the early hours.
For those interested in cultural experiences, some museums in Reykjavik adjust their opening hours, with a few remaining open on New Year's Day. It's always a good idea to check directly with the museums for the most up-to-date information, as schedules can vary from year to year.
Lastly, for those looking to relax and rejuvenate, taking a dip in one of Reykjavik's outdoor swimming pools is a must. Despite the chilly weather, these pools, like the popular Laugardalslaug, remain open, offering a unique way to ring in the New Year. Swimming amidst the steam and snow is an experience that encapsulates the magic of winter in Iceland.
Most pools around the capital are open on New Year's Eve in the morning. For specific opening times during the holiday season, you can check the official website of the pools or contact them directly. The Reykjavík pools will be open from 9 AM to 1 PM on December 31st and from 12 PM to 6 PM on January 1st, with Laugardalslaug and Sundhöllin starting their operations an hour earlier at 8 AM.
If you want to explore more rejuvenating experiences in the country, discover more places to swim in Iceland.
Experience the magic of the season with our New Year's tours in Iceland, designed to offer you a memorable celebration amidst the breathtaking landscapes of this winter wonderland. Dive into adventures like small-group snowmobiling trips, snorkeling in the pristine Silfra Fissure at Thingvellir, or exploring glaciers, volcanoes, and waterfalls. These day tours are perfect for those looking to pack their New Year's celebrations with a variety of experiences in a short span of time.
A special highlight during the winter season is the opportunity to explore the mesmerizing ice caves, like the Blue Ice Cave (newly discovered!) and the famous Crystal Ice Cave. These caves are winter's special treat, giving you a magical peek into Iceland's frozen heart. Trust us, this is a winter adventure you won't want to miss, making your holiday truly one for the books.
For those looking to immerse themselves deeper into Iceland's beauty, our multi-day packages offer a more extensive exploration. Experience the mesmerizing Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon, the enchanting Northern Lights at Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and the famous South Coast and Golden Circle. These packages are designed to give you a comprehensive experience of Iceland's natural wonders over a few days, making your New Year's celebration truly unforgettable.
And if you're keen on greeting the first day of the year with an adventure, our New Year’s Day tours range from the iconic Golden Circle to the ethereal Northern Lights. With tours selling out quickly due to high demand, it's not just about the destination but the unique experiences, unparalleled views, and the advantage of expert guidance that make our tours stand out.
So, whether you're an early riser or a night owl, we have the perfect New Year's adventure waiting for you. Check out our full selection and book your spot here.
You can create some New Year magic with the flexibility to set your own agenda. Demand for accommodation is high, and some small guest houses take a well-earned break themselves. Therefore, planning ahead is good, although last-minute booking can create some incredible opportunities, too.
White Christmases and New Year's are common in Iceland, imbuing everything with a very special Arctic winter magic. Plan an itinerary, but stay flexible. The winter weather is part of your adventure; slow down whenever the road is icy or challenging, and your tour will be amazing. Always check out road conditions and weather alerts frequently and weather forecasts. If you are an inexperienced driver unused to ice, snow, and poor visibility, there are better options than winter driving in Iceland. Stay safe!
There's a saying that how you greet the New Year sets the tone for the months ahead. If that's the case, celebrating New Year's Eve in Iceland promises a year of wonder and adventure. From the heartwarming traditions of Icelandic families to the vibrant festivities in Reykjavik and the adventurous tours across the country's breathtaking landscapes, there's no place quite like it to usher in a new chapter. If you've ever considered making the journey, let this be the year you immerse yourself in Iceland's winter magic.
Skál to new beginnings and a prosperous year ahead!
Iceland is a fantastic destination for New Year's with its unique celebrations, fireworks, and winter landscapes.
Icelanders celebrate with family gatherings, bonfires, fireworks, and watching the Áramótaskaup comedy show.
Absolutely, Reykjavik is known for its grand fireworks displays and numerous bonfires.
Popular spots include Hallgrímskirkja Church and the various bonfire locations around the city.
ICE-SAR sells most fireworks, and the search and rescue service as a fundraiser.
Some pools are open with restricted holiday hours, such as Laugardalslaug in Reykjavík.
Many restaurants are open, but it's recommended to book in advance.
Yes, December offers winter landscapes, Northern Lights, and festive celebrations. Learn more about December in Iceland.
This is subjective, but Iceland is certainly one of the top destinations with its unique celebrations!
Warm clothing, including thermal layers, waterproof outer layers, gloves, scarves, and hats, is essential due to the cold Arctic weather.