If you're planning a trip during winter, you may wonder - is January a good month to visit Iceland? If you're looking for smaller crowds and great flight deals, January is a month to go. This period after the holidays is usually calmer with fewer tourists, so the prices also go down.
January is also the best time for winter activities. It is cold enough to enjoy glacier adventures and explore magical ice caves. It is also an excellent time to catch the mesmerizing northern lights in the night's sky.
THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
Horseback Riding in Iceland in January
Horseback riding in Iceland in January
Want to add to unique experiences in Iceland, horseback riding on Icelandic horses in the middle of winter? No problem. This is a great way to take in the sights of mountains and landscapes in a very authentic way. Plus it's winter, so these adorable horses are all the more fluffy! In the coldness of the weather, this is one activity sure to melt your heart.
Being a year-round activity, it is always an option for whenever you travel. However, will your winter wonderland adventure be complete if you don't go snowmobiling in the crisp January snow? I don't think so! Being the first person to drive over fresh snow is a thrilling feeling you won't want to miss out.
Most of our tours depart from Reykjavik, so getting to the destination is made a lot easier for you. Langjökull glacier is a favorite to drive across and the miles of snowy mountain views will blow you away.
Of course, you should make sure you get all the sights and experiences on your holiday. But what are holidays for, chilling out and relaxing. Reykjavik is home to some amazing bars and pubs. The English pub is a place to go if you want a shot of winning free beer (which we all know is beyond expensive in Iceland). Spin the roulette wheel and be in the chance of winning 2, 3, or even more pints of beer.
There is a huge range of places to go in downtown Reykjavik. Whether you want to enjoy a quiet drink or a lively night out, this is a part of Icelandic culture that you do not want to miss out on.
Snorkeling in Iceland in January
Snorkeling in Iceland at Silfra Fissure
Snorkeling? In January? In Iceland? In freezing glacier water? The temperature remains at a constant temperature of 2-4° throughout the year, so it doesn't matter when you choose to go, it's going to be cold. But, the power of modern drysuit equipment has come to save you. Only your hands and face will get wet, and you'll be so mesmerized by what you're looking at you won't even notice.
I can tell you from personal experience that it is one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. The visibility in the water is crazy! Looking 100 meters down, knowing that you are in the crack of a tectonic plate is just unreal. The experience doesn't end there, as when you return to the surface, snow-capped mountains and glistening ice sculptures surround you. It doesn't sound so crazy anymore, does it?
Check out these Snorkeling tours to have one of the most unforgettable experiences in your lifetime!
Can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in January?
Bright Northern Lights in Iceland
Those short days that we spoke about earlier are why you're going to be glad you visited in January. The increased amount of darkness makes it easier to see the colorful marvel in the sky. In some cases, the Northern Lights can be seen from Reykjavik when the sky is clear, but in most cases, you need to travel to a place with low light pollution. The further into nature you get, the better the chance of seeing dancing lights.
As previously mentioned, there are different ways to watch the Northern Lights. Boats are a great way to sail into the ocean and engross yourself in the dark waters to be greeted by a stunning spectacle. Jeeps and minibusses are another great way as it means you can reach terrain that may not be accessible in a regular car.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
New Year’s Eve
New Year's Eve in Iceland
Yes, New Year's Eve starts in December, but a minute later, and it's January. Explosive bursts of light fill the sky above Reykjavik. With no planning or harmonization, Icelanders light fireworks from all parts of the city, so expect your senses to be tantalized. Colors fill your eyes, the smell of fireworks waft in the air, and adrenaline and excitement flow through your body—what a great way to start your year!
Reykjavik International Games
If you're a big sports fan, this event is perfect for you. Some of the best athletes that Iceland has to offer! Everyone has something, from dancing, skiing, figure skating to martial arts and fencing. Attending Reykjavik International Games is an exciting way to spend your day watching the impressive sports people of Iceland.
Dark Music Days Festival
Dark Days Music Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland
In the beautiful architecture of the Harpa, the Dark Days Music Festival is hosted by the Icelandic Composers Society to showcase up-and-coming new artists, both national and international.
Þrettándinn is the perfect way to end the festive Christmas season. January 6th is the thirteenth day of Christmas in Iceland. Towns roar with bonfires and firework displays. The famous 'Yule Lads' leave the town and head back to the mountains to hide away for another year. One last celebration and a great way to submerge yourself in another culture at Christmas time.
WHAT TO SEE IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
Ice Caves in Iceland in January
Ice Cave tour in Iceland
If you come to Iceland during winter, you are in for a treat! Your adventurous streak will not be disappointed with the beautiful glaciers Iceland has to offer. The low temperatures ensure that the structure of the caves is kept in good shape for you to go inside. Europe's largest ice cap, named Vatnajökull, is a fantastic spot to hike, tour, and explore. Mýrdalsjökull is an ice cave under a volcano known to be very blue. You'll thank me that you packed your camera for this one.
Here is everything you need to know about Iceland's ice caves and more!
Golden Circle in Iceland in January
Golden Circle's sightseeing place in January
Getting to see the Golden Circle in the winter is entirely different than the summer. Seeing a 32-meter high waterfall frozen over is one of the best things to do in Iceland in January! Witnessing a national park covered in snow is fantastic! Snorkeling between tectonic plates, I'm not sure what more you could personally ask for on a winter adventure.
Reykjavik in January
Hallgrimskirkja's church in Reykjavik
Taking the time to stroll around the capital city on a quiet month, with sparkling frost covering all corners of the town, is breathtaking. The frozen pond, the glowing lights from shops, and the smell of fresh food from restaurants and bakeries is excellent way to end your holiday. After an action-packed holiday, finding a cozy place to have a hot chocolate and get your last glimpses of Reykjavik is the perfect chance to unwind.
TOURS TO DO IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
Of course, all the activities in 'Things to do and see' are available on tours. It is well worth booking tours for many reasons, and some have already been spoken about. Due to the weather, special equipment may be required, and the guides are ready with everything you need. It is the safest option, so if you want your time in Iceland to be as stress-free as possible, then this is the best option.
Northern Lights Tour in Iceland in January
Northern Lights Super Jeep Tour
Everyone wants to see this natural phenomenon when they come to Iceland. Booking onto a tour is a much easier way to successfully see the northern lights than wandering around aimlessly on your own, not knowing what to look for. The only thing you need to decide is how to see them. Boat? Super jeep?
Glaciers, volcanoes, and waterfalls all in one trip? These glacier tours are the best ways to ensure that you see some of the most insane natural sights in one go. Feeling on top of the world standing on a glacier or feeling tiny hidden in a crevasse, either one with leave you in admiration of what our wonderful planet has to offer.
Diamond Beach in Iceland in January
The Black Sand Diamond Beach in Iceland
You can keep thinking that Iceland can't get any better, but it can. A tour to the south coast is an absolute must! A black sand beach with dazzling ice diamonds! It's okay, and I know that thought must be overwhelming. But then imagine this Diamond Beach filled with snow because it is January. The advantage of going in this month is that the ice is there to stay, bigger and more beautiful than it would be in the summer.
TEMPERATURES IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
As you would expect, Iceland's weather in January is cold. The average temperature in Reykjavik in January is between 1°C and -1°C (between 30°F and 33°F). The coldest temperature ever recorded in Reykjavik was -10°C (14°F). I think it's safe to say that no one wants this to be on holiday in Iceland when the weather decides it wants to beat its record.
Enjoying sunlight in cold frosty day in Iceland
Dig out your waterproof clothes as January is a wet month. Whether that means snow, sleet, hail, or rain, expect it all. Another thing to be aware of is the wind. At least one time, you will likely become highly windswept. Probably without warning. Just make sure you’re wearing a hat so no one can see the state it left your hair in. On a serious note, check the weather for any storms as it may limit what tours or activities you can do. Trying to drive around the Ring Road in wind and ice will not be the highlight of your holiday.
As much as you can hope and pray for good weather, you’re in Iceland, and in Iceland, the weather can’t make up its mind. So pack for every occasion. Check out for more information about the Iceland weather.
DAYLIGHT IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
There isn't much sunlight in January, which may seem like the downfall of traveling at this time of the year. But, it does mean more time to chase the Northern Lights.
Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland
On January 1st in 2018, there were only 4 hours and 20 minutes of daylight. With the sun rising at 11:21 and setting again at 15:41. However, by the end of the month, there was a total of 6 hours and 53 minutes of sunlight. It was rising slightly earlier at 10:15 and setting at 17:08. So if you want more daylight to explore but still want to visit in winter, then plan your travels later on in the month.
In the north of the country in Akureyri, for example, the sunlight hours are even more limited. The sun rises at 11:32 and sets at 15:00. So make sure you get all your exploring done in these times.
DRIVING IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
Driving in Iceland during winter
Without a lot of experience driving in icy, snowy unpredictable weather or a four-wheel drive, you have my permission to skip this section. It's honestly for your safety. If you meet these criteria and want to hire a car, then do your research on the best cars and the best equipment to get with the cars. This may have to be requested ahead of time, so make sure everything you need is available.
Another thing to consider is the closure of roads this month. Floods, snow, and other things can cause the closing of a road. You don't want to be the tourists that have to come and get rescued because you didn't listen to the safety warnings, so make sure you're well aware of the journey ahead of you. Besides the stress of having to be rescued, there may also be towing fees or fines, and these are just additional factors to make your time in Iceland less enjoyable (stick to the tours if you ask me).
WHAT TO WEAR IN ICELAND IN JANUARY
Couple hiking by the glacier in Iceland
If you're one for reading blogs and have read a few at this point, you will already know what this section will say. You need to layer! It is the only way to stay cozy on the long days ahead of you. In your suitcase should be the following:
Fleeces and jumpers (as many as your luggage allowance will allow you)
Hat, scarves, and gloves
Walking boots – make sure you break these in before your first hike
Swimming costume or trunks (these are a must if you want to swim in any of the natural geothermal pools)
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING ICELAND IN JANUARY
Couple planning a journey to Iceland
Make sure to plan ahead – as already mentioned, the weather is not predictable, and the window of daylight is small, so make sure you are well organized and always have a plan B.
Understand the dangers of driving – if you're not an experienced driver in harsh weather conditions, don't make Iceland your first attempt. It's more than likely to end badly, and Iceland is full of professional guides to drive you around.
Book all your tours in advance – spaces fill up very quickly, and you will miss out on seeing the most incredible sights.
Bring a camera – don't follow in my footsteps and move to Iceland, forgetting her camera. Photo's don't do any justice to nature here anyway, but even less so on your phone camera. Trust me on this one!
So there it is, everything you need to know about Iceland in January.
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