40 unmissable things to do in Iceland in January

Mountain views with the sunrise in the background on the Sculptures and Shore walk along Reykjavik coastline

Are you planning a trip to Iceland in January? This guide details the best things to do, offers tips on how to prepare for the weather and demonstrates why you should choose to visit the country in this season!

With sunsets and sunrises that seem to take up all the daylight hours, deep frozen waterfalls hanging off the edges of cliffs and geysers exploding from deep snow-covered landscapes, adrenaline-boosting winter sports and watching the city come to life at 10:00 am while walking around, coffee in hand, Iceland in January is truly mesmerising.

In this middle of winter, it’s certainly dark and cold, but you’ll find unique cosy vibes, gorgeous winter light and a contagiously inspiring positive atmosphere, even in the darkest months of the year.

I went on a winter trip to Iceland, taking in all of the best attractions in January. Below are the best activities to enjoy in Iceland in the coldest (and one of the darkest) months of the year; and many of them are unique activities that you can ONLY do when it’s cold and dark!

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Things to do in Iceland in January

With temperatures averaging around or slightly below 0°C (32°F) Iceland in January may be cold, but there are plenty of things to do!

Go whale watching from the Icelandic coast, take a dip in the Blue Lagoon, go aurora chasing, explore glaciers and warm up in Reykjavik’s museums.

Northern lights boat trip

Northern Lights illuminating the sky above the mountains of Reykjavik.

There are few phenomena as iconic to Iceland as the northern lights.

And January is one of the best months to see them!

To see the northern lights in Iceland, we did a boat tour from Reykjavik, which departed from the harbour at 9 pm.

After a short sail out of Reykjavik harbour, we saw the magical aurora borealis, green and pink flashes across the sky, and listened to the commentary from the expert skippers.

This was an amazing way to get up close and personal with nature – and January is one of the best times of year to do it!

Take a look at my full post about seeing the northern lights in Iceland in winter for more information.

A crowd watching the Northern Lights on a boat trip just out of Reykjavik harbour, with green flashes in the sky.

Northern lights bus tour

Of course, you don’t have to do a boat tour to see the northern lights!

The bus tours leave the capital city and drive far away from light pollution, to whatever area has the best forecast for seeing the lights.

You could head to Thingvellir National Park or in the countryside around Vik, depending on where the lights are at their brightest!

The advantage of Northern Lights bus tours is that they are slightly more flexible, so if you can’t see the lights in one area, you can drive to another.

The disadvantage is that the coaches are less comfortable than the boat, which you can move around and buy hot drinks and snacks if desired. 

Golden Circle

Is the Golden Circle feasible in the cold, winter months in Iceland? 

YES, it very much is – take a look at my photos!

We took a tour around this popular route on our Iceland trip and loved seeing the snow-capped mountains in the background, along with taking in the frozen waterfalls and majestic geysirs.

Named so because it incorporates much of the nature that Iceland is well-known for, the Golden Circle is an easy ring route close to Reykjavik city center. 

If you’re experienced in driving in the snow, you could self-drive the route; but if you have any reservations about driving in sub-zero conditions, I’d highly recommend a tour. 

Our tour included bus travel, all entrance fees and a knowledgeable guide, who detailed the culture and history of the surrounding area and provided us with witty tales about the country! 

Check out my full blog post about visiting the Golden Circle in Iceland in January here.

Thingvellir National Park

Girl standing on the North American tectonic plate at Thingveller National Park on the Golden Circle in Iceland, wearing a beige coat, red and black checked scarf and burgundy hat, with the view of "no man's land" in the background before the Eurasian plate.

Technically Thingvellir National Park is on the Golden Circle – it was a stop on our tour – but this natural spot is SO mesmerizing that it’s worth a mention on this top January Iceland attractions list!

The main reason why Iceland’s landscape is so dramatic, with active volcanoes and geothermal waters, is that it straddles two tectonic plates; it’s technically partly in Europe and part in North America. 

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Thingvellir National Park is the only place in the world where you can walk between two tectonic plates.

A trail spans close to the North American plate but in “no man’s land”, before climbing to the top of the plate where you can gaze over the park to the Eurasian plate in the background. 

pathway spanning next to the North American tectonic plate in Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park is also a very historical place in Iceland. It was where the first meeting of the Althing, the first Viking parliament, was held. 

Medieval Iceland was quite a lawless place, and while Viking sailors enjoyed coming here, settlers eventually realized that they needed to establish a government and some laws if they wanted a harmonious society. 

Hence, the Althing was created – and its meeting was Thingvellir National Park! The name “Thingvellir” (which is Þingvellir in Icelandic) literally means “place of the gathering”.

View of the magical thingvellir national park, which has the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates

In January, Thingvellir will be very cold and carpeted by a bright white blanket of snow (it’s usually much colder here than in Reykjavik, which is about 1.5 hour drive away – although snow in Reykjavik is also likely in January).

But the snow enhances Iceland’s rugged, wonderous natural beauty – and if you visit around 4 pm in January, you’ll be graced with a spectacular sunset!

If you have a hire car and are confident in driving, you can visit Thingvellir independently, or partake in a Golden Circle tour – click here to see rates and availability.

Secret Lagoon

Secret Lagoon is a hot spring for bathing located in Iceland’s Golden Circle.

Opening back in 1891, its warm waters have long been rich with beneficial minerals, enabling relaxation and the opportunity to recharge your battery after a long and chilly day exploring! 

While it’s on the Golden Circle, it’s not a stop on all Golden Circle tours – you’ll need to do a special Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon tour or self-drive. 

Langjökull Glacier

The second largest ice cap in the country, Langjökull Glacier measures roughly 950 square kilometers and reaches heights up to 1450 meters high; it’s one of the largest in Europe. 

Many of Iceland’s rivers and waterfalls are fed from the glacier, and it reaches up to 600m in thickness in places.

However, due to global warming, the glacier is at risk.

Doing a guided tour of the natural phenomenon will help you to understand it better and think about some of the small changes you can make to help protect this glacier and others around the world!

The best way to reach the glacier is to take a tour from Gullfoss, where you’ll be transported into an all-terrain van that’ll take you across the glacier. 

There are also snowmobiling tours available – you can book a snowmobiling tour as an add-on to a Golden Circle route. Read more about that here.

Blue Lagoon

Steam rising off the hot water of the blue lagoon in Iceland, near Reykjavik in Iceland.

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a world-renowned geothermal spa.

Located in the southwestern part of Iceland, close to Kevaflik International Airport, the Blue Lagoon is known for its unique milky-blue colored water and warm temperatures that range from 37°C to 39°C (98.6°F – 102.2°F).

Its natural mineral-rich waters are said to have health benefits due to high levels of magnesium, algae and silica.

Here, you can relax in the waters, enjoy a drink at the swim-up bar, or try out their face masks. Most packages include one free drink and face mask, whereas others include dinner or even a treatment at their spa. 

Girl wearing a silica mud mask in the blue lagoon in Iceland.

The area also provides great photo opportunities against the contrastingly stark and dark Icelandic lava fields – I recommend taking a GoPro so you can take photos without worrying about water damage. 

If you aren’t renting a car, you can do a tour from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon that includes transport and entry (on the comfort package, which includes one drink, one face mask and the use of a towel). 

Or, opt for a spa package to make use of the exclusive spa facilities. This is much more expensive, but it’s the perfect place to pamper in solitude! 

If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can partake in a tour that includes round-trip transportation from Reykjavik. Click here to read more about it.

Snorkeling at Silfra

Person snorkelling through two tectonic plates in Iceland, whichi s one of the best diving destinations in the world.

For geology enthusiasts (or anyone who loves the weird and wonderful when they travel), snorkeling at Silfra in the Thingvellir National Park is a bucket list experience.

Here, you can glide between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates; it’s one of the world’s most awe-inspiring experiences where you don’t just observe nature, but are fully immersed in it.

But this is the winter season in Iceland – won’t it be too cold to snorkel?

Well, the water is very cold, but you’ll be kitted out with a full dry suit so you won’t (really) feel it! Enjoy a visibility of up to 250 feet and gaze at the rocky terrain of each plate.

You don’t need any certifications to do the snorkeling tour (you just need to be able to swim) as you’ll stay close to the surface at all times and breathe out of your snorkel. It’s best closer to the surface, which is why snorkeling, rather than scuba diving, is the way to see these plates!

However, your guide will be well-experienced and scuba diving certified, so you can be sure that you’re in safe hands when exploring this natural phenomenon. 

Sky lagoon

A paradise looking out over the North Atlantic Ocean, Sky Lagoon is a new attraction as far as Iceland’s geothermal pools are concerned.

Like Blue Lagoon, it’s a geothermal pool, offering visitors the chance to step into the warm, crystal-clear waters and lose all their stresses as they unwind and recharge.

Famous for its seven-step spa routine which includes visiting saunas and steam rooms, this stunning lagoon is perfect for pampering, or you can just chill out, enjoy the views over the ocean and have a few drinks. 

Sky Lagoon is much closer to Reykjavik than Blue Lagoon; it takes only around 15 minutes to drive there from the city center. You can access it by a tour or by self-driving. 

Whale watching tour

Whale tail flipping out of the water in Iceland.

While January isn’t the height of whale watching season in Iceland (they generally tend to favour the warmer months of the year), you certainly can see the marine creatures in this month of the year.

In fact, the waters around Reykjavik harbour are generally active with marine life all year round! 

This is largely because the water around the country is rich in nutrients, and many whales can deal with Arctic sea conditions. 

When I did a northern lights tour, they told me how they’d found orcas and humpback whales on a whale-watching tour that very same day!

As the tours leave from Reykjavik harbour, which is close to the downtown area of the city, it’s an easy and worthwhile activity to check off your Iceland winter bucket list. 

Click here to check rates and availability for whale-watching tours in Iceland.

Reykjavik free walking tour

Street art in central Reykjavik in the darkness

Iceland is renowned for its beautiful scenery – but downtown Reykjavik has an abundance of culture that’s definitely worth tapping into while you’re in the capital! 

Reykjavik Free Walking Tour is a great way to explore the city and get an overview of the rich culture, history and modern life.

The tour begins at the world’s oldest Parliament building and takes you through the streets, enjoying quirky street art and incredible mountain scenery.

You’ll learn about Icelandic traditions, and legends and take in its spectacular architecture while getting some fresh air and enjoying the capital’s charms. 

The tour is free to go on, but you are expected to tip whatever you think it’s worth at the end. 

Climb to the top of the Hallgrimskirkja

View of the buildings of Reykjavik spanning from the top of Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

Take in one of the best views of the capital by climbing to the top of Hallgrimskirkja.

Visitors can enjoy panoramic views from the church tower, including sights such as Mount Esja, Faxafloi bay and the colorful buildings of the city center.

Sunrise behind Hallgrimskirkja in Iceland

You’ll take a lift to near the top of the building; although there are some well-maintained stairs to reach the very top.

You can also enter the interior of the church. The church itself is quite bare, but there is an impressive organ. 

Sunrise at sculptures and shore walk

Girl standing infront of the coastline, with mountains in the background. She is wearing a thick, long coat, scarf and gloves in Reykjavik in winter

If all of my days started with sunrise at the sculptures and shore walk, I’d be very happy!

This route traverses from the Harpa Concert Hall across Reykjavik’s coastline.

You’ll bypass statues like the Sun Voyager, which is a ship that looks a little like a Viking vessel but was actually built as a homage to the sun in Iceland. 

The Sea Voyager sculpture on the Reykjavik coastline. It looks like a viking ship but is actually a monument to the sun.

In January, the sun rises at around 10:30 am, so you don’t need to get up early at all to enjoy the start of the day here! 

It can be chilly, so make sure that you wrap up with plenty of layers, including thermals and waterproof outer layers and sturdy hiking boots.

Museum hop in Reykjavik

A shot of the outside of the maritime museum of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Reykjavik is home to countless museums, perfect for people who want to experience Icelandic culture.

Some of the most popular are:

See the wonders of Iceland at Perlan

If you want to get to know Iceland’s unique nature on a deeper level, head to Perlan. 

This exhibition space combines Iceland’s different elements to offer an immersive experience for guests. 

Visitors can see the projections of the northern lights (sightings are guaranteed here!), walk through a man-made ice tunnel, learn about whales at the aquarium and take in views of Reykjavik from the observation deck. 

Perlan is the perfect attraction if you’re visiting in January and the weather’s not too kind – you can see all of Iceland’s best nature without stepping outdoors.

You can pre-book your tickets on Get Your Guide by clicking here.

FlyOver Iceland experience

Fly Over Iceland is a flight simulator experience where you'll see the beautiful landscapes of Iceland unfurl beneath you.

Another ideal attraction for if you want to see Iceland’s unique landscapes without getting too cold, FlyOver Iceland takes visitors on an aerial tour of some of Iceland’s most famous and stunning destinations.

With immersive 4K resolution images, full motion seats and incredible special effects, this experience makes you feel like you are actually flying over the sites!

Guests have the chance to (virtually) witness some of the largest waterfalls in Europe, active volcanoes, glaciers and majestic lagoons; some areas that are even inaccessible in the summer season. 

In fact, Icelandic locals have visited FlyOver Iceland and have come out crying because they didn’t know that their country was this beautiful!

It’s recommended to book your FlyOver Iceland tickets before visiting to ensure that you get the viewing that you want. You can prebook on Get Your Guide.


Sitting a mere 15 minute walk from Reykjavik city center, Laugardalslaug is a local spa complex with a heated swimming pool with hot tubs alongside, a sauna and a steam room. 

It’s a lot quieter than the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon and has a much more local feel.

I visited it on a dark morning, doing a few lengths of the outdoor swimming pool and then warming up in one of the hot tubs alongside. 

There were lots of local people here getting their morning exercise, and I enjoyed partaking in a traditional Icelandic ritual! 

Check out Reykjavik’s street art

A quirky street art mural showing hands holding a globe in downtown Reykjavik

Reykjavik’s street art is unique and vibrant, thanks to the fact that many artists moved here after being inspired by Iceland’s unique natural scenes!

Walk around the city center (ideally with a steaming hot cup of coffee as the sun comes up!) and enjoy giant murals like Ode to Mother on the corner of Laugavegur, which took the name from a song by local band Ylja. 

Many of the murals come and go; so even if you’ve visited Iceland previously, you’ll probably find something new in this outdoor art gallery! 

Dill Restaurant in Reykjavik

Dill Restaurant in Reykjavik offers a unique dining experience, with modern Nordic cuisine fused with Icelandic ingredients. 

With chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason at the helm, Dill serves up delicious dishes that are both classical and quirky yet always fresh and delectable.

The restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere matches the freshness of its food; it’s decorated in neutral tones and organic textures and has an airy open layout.

Dill serves up fresh fish and meat dishes and a few Icelandic vegetarian mains; unfortunately, they cannot accommodate vegan or dairy-free diets due to cross-contamination. 

Reynisfjara black sand beach

One of Iceland's dramatic black sand beaches with a craggy rock outcrop in the foreground.

Reynisfjara black sand beach is a majestic and unique destination located on the south coast of Iceland.

Reynisfjara is a stunning, unspoiled natural landscape, with huge cliffs towering over the crashing waves, basalt rocks protruding through the black sand beach, and sea stacks just offshore.

You can visit it independently or as part of a tour around the highlights of South Iceland.

Plus, if you visit in winter, you might be lucky enough to see the contrast of black sand with white snow. 

Seljalandsfoss waterfall

One of the best waterfalls in Iceland, which freezes over in winter with snowy cliffs and snow.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of the best-known waterfalls in the country; this is largely due to its position next to the Ring Road in southern Iceland.

This spectacular waterfall majestically plummets off the edge of the towering cliffs, giving the image of giant icicles sitting in the midst of fresh white snow. 

In warmer seasons, you can walk behind this waterfall, but you can’t during winter due to the risk of falling ice. 

It’s possible to visit Seljandsfoss independently or as part of a South Iceland tour – click here to read more about one.

Skoagfoss waterfall

Skogafoss is one of Iceland’s most impressive waterfalls, plummeting down the cliffs between two headlands. 

In winter, the whole area is frosty, offering a picture-perfect backdrop for your January photos!

This spectacular waterfall cascades over sixty feet (20 meters) into its pools.

Visitors can follow the wooden stairway from the waterfall’s base to view this magnificent landscape from above!

This is also part of this South Iceland tour.

Day trip to Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufell, the most famous peak on snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland, one of the best day trips from Reykjavik in winter in the snow.

Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a unique and breathtaking slice of Icelandic nature, frequently known as “Iceland in miniature”. It’s also one of the best day trips from Reykjavik in winter!

Its dramatic landscape boasts glaciers, lava fields, black sand beaches and hundreds of adorable Icelandic ponies! 

The most famous is Kirkjufell, which is otherwise called “church mountain” and is a distinctly-shaped peak with a waterfall in front. This is one of the most photographed destinations in Iceland, and it’s beautiful throughout the seasons!

You can take an all-day tour from Reykjavik, where you’ll hike through the glacial valleys, explore some of the local historical sites and bask in the magnificent views all around this part of Iceland.

Celebrate New Year’s in Reykjavik

If you’re visiting Iceland at the end of December into January, you’re here for new year’s! 

The end of the festive season sees a massive party in Reykjavik. Icelanders generally go for dinner in the early evening, then head out to a bonfire, before going back inside and watching New Year’s shows (it’s a little cold to stay outside for too long!).

They then grace the streets again at midnight for fireworks. Wherever you are in Reykjavik, you’ll see the glorious fireworks in the sky!

Dark Days Music Festival

A musical extravaganza taking place annually in Reykjavik at the end of January, Dark Days Music Festival is one of the most atmospheric music events on the continent – despite the minimal hours of sunlight!

The festival, which began in the 1980s, brings together some of the world’s most talented electronic, house, techno and urban music producers from across Europe and North America.

Dark Days Music Festival, which is set mainly in the Harpa Concert Hall in downtown Reykjavik, is dedicated to showcasing fresh underground artists, whilst also featuring well-known DJs for its devoted followers.

As the name suggests, most of the festival takes place in the dark (and cold!), but you’ll be instantly warmed by the festive cheer and atmosphere! 


Þorrablot is a midwinter celebration that began as a sacrifice to the Norse god, Þorri (pronouched Thorri).

Historically, people would gather and eat traditional food, sacrificing some to Þorri with the hope that it would bring them luck in subsequent years.

The festival was abolished when Christianity took over Iceland, but it was resurrected after WW2. People wanted to gather to celebrate the month and eat foods that were going out of fashion in an increasingly cosmopolitan Reykjavik. 

So what are these food? Things like rotten shark, sour ram’s testicles and boiled sheep’s head all make their way onto a Þorrablot menu!

That being said, if you do secure an invite to a Þorrablot party and don’t fancy the aforementioned dishes, don’t worry – nowadays plainer dishes like mashed potato are usually also on the menu. 

This festival takes place from January 20th to February 18th so if you’re visiting Iceland in the latter part of the month you should have plenty of time to find an invite… if you dare! 

If you don’t get invited to a party, you can find Þorrablot-inspired menus in restaurants around the country – one is Þrír Frakkar hjá Úlfari in central Reykjavik.


Þrettándinn is the ultimate festive season closing party!

It falls on 6th January and marks the halfway point of winter and the end of the Christmas season. 

According to tradition, the day is believed to bring luck and fertility, so many people celebrate by lighting bonfires and hosting parties with traditional foods like fermented shark, porridge, and hot pots with sheep heads.

As part of the celebration, singles will search for their perfect mate at the Þrettándinn dances.

Celebrating this unique holiday also carries deep symbolism—it reminds people that even on bitterly cold winter days, hope always remains that spring will soon come again.

Hike in Katla ice cave

Katla Ice Cave in Iceland - a gaping hole going through the cliffs close to the glacier.

Hiking in Katla ice cave is perhaps the best winter activity in Iceland; so it’s something that you absolutely MUST do if you’re here in January!

Located in South Iceland (day trip-able from Reykjavik or Vik), Katla is a natural structure (although it looks completely out of this world!) on the Kötlujökull Glacier. 

Created from fire and ice, the cave extends through the glacier and is lined with ash, which has been collected over years of volcanic eruptions. 

Taking a step into this cave is a quintessential Icelandic experience, and you’ll also get a valuable geology lesson from your guide! 

See Diamond Beach with sand and ice!

Diamond Beach, a black sand beach on the south coast of Iceland which is famous for its glimmering bright icicles that look like crystals

Diamond Beach in winter is absolutely breathtaking. 

Located on the south coast of Iceland, this beach draws tourists throughout the year for its black sand and sparkling ice – in fact, its jewel-like appearance is how the beach got its name! 

Surrounded by towering glaciers and ice formations, Diamond Beach truly comes alive during winter when snow blankets the landscape and there are countless ice structures on the coastline. 

It’s rare to see snow and beach together – this is something that we marveled at while we were here – but at Diamond Beach, snow completely enhances the coastline. 

Hang out in the fun village of Vik

A church with a red roof in the snowy landscape of Vik

The southernmost village in Iceland, Vik is renowned for its atmospheric charm and stunning natural beauty, incorporating rugged and sweeping coastlines, glaciers, volcanoes, lava fields and black sand beaches. 

Vik is known as one of the best spots for whale watching off the Icelandic coast – even in January – and travelers can explore nearby glaciers, caves, and waterfalls among other attractions here.

Foodie adventure walking tour in Reykjavik

Reykjavik’s a premier destination for foodies from around the world, with Icelandic specials including fresh fish and lamb – most of Iceland’s cuisine is meat or fish-based due to the lack of land for farming. 

Take a foodie adventure walking tour to try out these delicious cuisines, with stops at some of the country’s best eateries.

Fagradalsfjall volcano

If you fancy hiking in Iceland, head to Fagradalsfjall volcano on a hiking tour.

The view from the top of the volcano is spectacular and the route is both easy and safe, with no technical skills required.

You’ll probably experience some snow in January, but if you go with a tour guide you’ll tackle the paths in a safe and effective way.  

From the summit, you can see over half of Reykjavik, including its snowy mountains as well as stunning geothermal areas.

The hike itself is about two miles long, making it relatively short but still doable for anyone looking for a challenging day tour!

The Meradalir volcano hiking tour

The Meradalir volcano hiking tour allows adventurers to experience the breathtaking views of Iceland’s bubbling craters and stair-stepped valley walls.

Located in the majestic northwestern Valley, this hike takes you and your group through a landscape of raw and untouched nature.

The tour provides education on volcanic geology and includes plenty of chances to learn about Icelandic folklore.

Have a drink in Reykjavik’s magic ice bar

Reykjavik’s Magic Ice Bar is one of the best places to visit in the city centre.

Sitting close to the Hallgrimskirkja church, the ice bar is in the heart of the city; there are also branches in other Nordic countries.

Inside, you can enjoy drinks served in authentic Icelandic glacially-sourced glasses at sub-arctic temperatures.

It’s called the “Magic Ice Bar” and it boasts a variety of sculptures made from blocks of clear crystal ice, underlit with calm blue lighting. 

From delicious cocktails and craft beers to an atmosphere so unique it just has to be experienced to be believed, Reykjavik’s Magic Ice Bar is the perfect way to take in the charm that is Iceland in January! 

Explore the Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel

Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, a peninsula sitting out from the side of Iceland, the Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel is a geological wonder. 

The majestic tunnel was created by an ice-covered lava flow that traveled from the volcanoes many thousands of years ago. Nowadays, it is home to one of Iceland’s largest lava tubes.

When you visit this beautiful site on a tour like this one, you’ll experience the mesmerizing magnificence of this natural beauty firsthand, particularly the enormous sculpted rocks and exhilarating hallways filled with unique stalactites.

Hike on Skaftafell glacier

If you’re visiting south Iceland in the winter, don’t miss exploring the Skaftafell glacier!

From walking along towering ice columns and rugged crevasses to gazing in awe at massive glacial walls, exploring the glacier means you’ll venture into a world of multiple colorful and unique fragments of nature.

You can do a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide; which will offer an educational experience about how geology has created this dramatic environment.

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is an iconic landmark in Iceland renowned for its beauty and prime location.

Situated near the edge of Vatnajökull National Park, it is one the best places to visit in Iceland in January because was created by melting glacial ice from Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, which towers some 8,100 feet above sea level.

A few decades ago Jokulsarlon was home to just a few floating icebergs but today more than 200 icebergs float on the lagoon. 

This gives visitors an amazing view of turquoise water and spectacular blocks of ice!

This is a constantly changing landscape, largely due to the fact that glaciers are sadly disappearing. However, it remains one of the best places to visit in the Icelandic winter!

Click here to read more about a tour of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Skiing and snowboarding in Iceland

While Iceland isn’t one of the most famous skiing destinations in Europe (it certainly has the weather for it, but it doesn’t have enough towering mountains!), there are a few slopes where you can try out the sport!

Bláfjöll is one of the most accessible places to ski in Iceland; it’s only 25 minutes away from the city centre. With 14 lifts, it has a variety of slopes for both downhill and cross-country skiing.

It’s not able to open every day (it depends on the amount of snow and wind) but as it’s so easy to access from Reykjavik, it’s definitely worth checking the opening times and status if you’re a keen skier! 

There are also a few skiing areas in North Iceland, which see colder weather than the Reykjavik area. These ski slopes are open from November to May! You can see more information about the resorts here.

What’s Iceland like in January?

View of the quaint yellow lighthouse on the shore of Reykjavik harbour

January in Iceland is often snowy and windswept, but its beauty is remarkable.

There are up to 20 hours of darkness each day, but with sunrises and sunsets stretching over 90 minutes each and the bright moonlight dancing off the snow, it feels like a true winter wonderland. 

January is an ideal time to see the Northern Lights, with long hours of darkness making them more visible.

Plus, you can take a stroll around Reykjavik’s city center, enjoying the charm of the city as it gradually wakes up before you.

Weather in Iceland in January

Girl standing by one of the hot pools on the golden circle; this is a hot pool that local bakery owners actually bake bread in!

Even though this is the middle of winter, temperatures remain quite mild due to its coastal location.

In Reykjavik in winter, temperatures usually hover around 5°C – -5°C (32°F-37°F) – although, when I was there, the temperatures plummeted to -10°C/ 14°F!

In Thingviller National Park, the temperatures reached as low as -18°C; although we did have sunny weather for most of the time. 

It can be sunny and brisk, but you might also experience light snow, snowstorms, drizzle (if the weather’s above freezing) or torrential rain!

So expect it to be cold, but otherwise, expect the unexpected.

If you’re planning on driving, there will likely be icy roads and maybe even some road closures. If you aren’t comfortable driving in icy conditions, I highly recommend doing guided tours instead

Make sure that you check the weather forecast before heading to Iceland so you can pack adequately! 

FAQs about visiting Iceland in January

Selfie with the landscape of Gullfoss Falls in the background

Is Iceland cold in January?

Yes, Iceland is very cold in January.

Temperatures range from 5°C to -20°C; it’s usually milder in the city, but can be colder in the interior.

The wind can make the temperatures feel even colder, and you might experience snow blizzards, drizzle or even torrential rain in January!

If you’re wondering “when does it snow in Iceland?” – you’re very likely to encounter it in January, although if it’s particularly warm in Reykjavik the city itself might be snow-free.

What clothes should I wear in Iceland in January?

If you’re visiting Iceland in January, bring heavy, warm clothing. It’s best to pack layered outfits such as thermals, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, scarves, gloves, waterproof pants, and a good warm coat or ski jacket. Wear insulated shoes with good traction for walking and hiking on icy trails.

How much daylight does Iceland get in January?

Iceland gets around for hours of daylight at the start of January. This increases dramatically throughout the month, with up to seven hours of daylight at the end of the month. It’s worth visiting even in the darkest days, due to the spectacular sunsets and darkness-themed activities!

Can you see whales in Iceland in January?

You can see whales in Iceland in January; some humpback whales stay in the waters all year round, and you might also find minke whales and killer whales. You can see them on a whale-watching tour that departs from Reykjavik harbor.

Whale tail flipping out of the water in Iceland.

Is it dark in Iceland in January?

Yes, it’s dark for much of the day in Iceland in January – although you’ll experience more light toward the end of the month. However, the festive lights are very atmospheric, and if you devote your hours of daylight to seeing Iceland’s natural attractions, you’ll have a very worthwhile trip!

What is Iceland like in January?

Iceland in January is synonymous with cold weather and dark days, but it’s worth visiting to experience this unique phenomenon and observe local life! The country is one of the happiest in the world, and when visiting Iceland in January you’ll experience how to be content even in the darkest times.

Does it get light in Iceland in January?

Yes, it gets light in Iceland for around four hours at the start of January, and seven hours at the end. There is usually still enough daylight to enjoy Iceland’s best attractions, especially as it stays quite light after the sun sets.

Is it worth going to Iceland in January?

It’s definitely worth visiting Iceland in January! You’ll experience a true winter wonderland, with snow spanning the city center and surroundings, dark skies where you can spot the northern lights and have the chance to explore glaciers and ice caves. Iceland in winter is a whole other world!

How cold is Iceland in January?

Icelandic weather can be quite unpredictable in January. It usually snows (if not in Reykjavik then definitely in the inland areas!), and temperatures can plummet to -10°C (14°F) on the coldest days in Reykjavik, although it’s usually around 0°C (32°F). Inland, it’s usually much colder.

Can you see northern lights in Iceland in January?

Yes, January is one of the best times of year to see the northern lights in Iceland; the lights are at their most vivid when the sky is completely dark. You can see them on a boat tour from Reykjavik or in many other locations.

Is Iceland snowy in January?

Iceland can be very snowy in January; it was when I was there! Temperatures are usually below freezing, although snowfall doesn’t happen too frequently. In warmer years, there might be no snow in Reykjavik, but you’ll always find it in the country’s interior.

Where should I stay in Iceland in January?

In the winter months, I’d recommend basing in Reykjavik, so you’re close to the city’s many all-season attractions and can do day trips from the capital. You could book an Iceland Air package holiday (see my full review here) or reserve flights and accommodation independently – we stayed at Reykjavik Lights, here’s my full review of the hotel.

What should I pack for Iceland in January?

Here are a few suggested things to pack for Iceland in January

  • thermals
  • heavy ski jacket and salopettes
  • thick socks
  • waterproof hiking boots
  • waterproof gloves
  • warm hat and scarf
  • good camera
  • power banks
  • a thermal flask
  • lip balm and moisturizer
  • a reusable water bottle

Are you ready to visit Iceland in January?

Birds eye view of the buildings of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, from the top of Hallgrimskirkja

If you don’t let cold temperatures put you off, all of these things to do in Iceland in January can be incredibly rewarding.

Take in the natural wonders of the Golden Circle, look out for solar activity on a northern lights tour or even partake in a glacier hike to take in one of the true wonders of Icelandic nature; all of these and more are waiting for you on a January trip to Iceland! 

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