Iceland in January— The Ultimate Guide

Discover the Best Things to Do in Iceland in January

|December 13, 2019
Milda is a content writer with a particular interest in philosophy and nature. She is passionate about wildlife and all the nitty-gritty details of travel.

Iceland in January — the holiday hoopla has died down and the most popular attractions are quieter than usual. This can only mean one thing: you’ll have Iceland all to yourself!


If you ask us, January is the best month to escape the crowds and warm yourself up with Iceland’s burning wine, Brennivín. There are also a lot of cool winter activities to do like ice caving, snowmobiling, and hunting the Northern Lights.

Read on and find out more about the best things to do in Iceland for January 2020.

Is It Worth Going to Iceland in January?

Man Exploring Crystal Ice Cave

Iceland in January is the best time for mind-bending ice cave adventures.

  • Fewer Tourists — January is Iceland’s calmest month. This may be because most people plan their winter holidays for December. Thus not many people travel to Iceland in January. This month is a great time to take advantage of normally crowded attractions like the Blue Lagoon.
  • Best Time of Year for Winter Activities — January is cold, which means excellent conditions for glacier adventures. Also, it’s one of the best months to chase the Northern Lights.
  • Best Time to Taste Traditional Icelandic Foods —  In January, Icelanders celebrate the midwinter feast Thorrablot. The celebration is marked with unusual Icelandic delicacies such as fermented shark and pickled ram testicles. You won’t find these on most menus!
  • Great Flight Deals — Flight prices in January are quite cheap. And if you book well in advance you might get a great deal! The same holds for accommodation prices.

Iceland Temperature in January

The average temperature in Iceland in January is  -1°C (31°F). So, Iceland in January is not as cold as you might think. In fact, New York’s winter temperatures are normally lower than Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. Thanks to the Gulf Stream’s warm waters Iceland in winter is surprisingly mild.

Girl Hiking On Snowy Mountain

Iceland in January is snowy but the weather is milder compared to winter in New York.

Temperatures in Iceland in January rarely drop below -10°C (14°F). 

  • Average high: 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Average low: -3 degrees Celsius (27 degrees Fahrenheit)

Iceland’s winds in January can get very strong, however. Keep in mind that it can feel a lot colder when the wind is blowing. So pack everything you need to keep yourself warm.

January receives a lot of snow. There is no experience quite like bathing in Iceland's famous hot springs while it snows. However, you can also experience sleet, hail or rain. Your waterproof clothes will be your best friends! 

Always check the weather forecast for storms as it might affect driving conditions. Don’t let strong winds and icy roads to ruin your dream trip!

Top Things to Do in Iceland in January

Visit a Natural Ice Cave

Man Touching Crystal Ice Cave Wall

A visitor explores the brilliant blue ice cave in Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier.

Want to explore the world’s most wonderful ice caves? No problem. Iceland in winter is perfect for ice caving adventures. And low January temperatures ensure that the structure of the ice caves remains intact. So what are you waiting for?  

Take a Crystal Ice Cave tour and delve into a shimmering ice cave buried beneath Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull.

Oh, and bring your best camera — Iceland’s crystal ice caves are a photographer’s dream.

Go on a Thrilling Snowmobile Tour

Iceland in January is covered with a thick layer of fresh glistening snow, which means it’s the perfect time to conquer snowy terrain. Snowmobiling is the best way to explore Iceland’s largest glaciers. Most snowmobiling tours take place on the mighty Langjokull, the closest glacier to Reykjavik.

Thanks to Iceland’s glaciers, snowmobiling is a year-round activity. But, boy oh boy, nothing compares to the fresh powder in January. So hop on a snowmobile and prepare for the ultimate thrill!

Trek Across Europe’s Largest Glaciers

Group Of People Hiking On Solheimajokull Glacier

Glacier hiking expedition on the majestic Sólheimajökull Glacier in South Iceland

Have you always wanted to hike an ancient glacier? This is your chance to conquer the world’s best. Iceland is home to Europe’s largest glaciers and you can visit them year-round. 

So why trek them in January? Well, Iceland’s glaciers are covered with fresh blue ice in January. You’ll see these white giants glittering at their best.

Combine glacier hiking and sightseeing along Iceland’s South Coast on our Sólheimajökull Glacier & South Coast Tour. We’ll pick you up from Reykjavik, so forget about maps.

Snorkel Between Two Tectonic Plates at Silfra

That’s right, snorkeling in Iceland in January is a thing. Thanks to modern dry suit gear, you can enjoy the wonderful ice-cold underwater world with ease. The most popular snorkeling place in Iceland is Silfra, a deep crack between the North American and Eurasian continents.

Person Snorkeling In Silfra Fissure

Snorkeling in Iceland in January is one of the most extraordinary experiences you can have.

Silfra was voted one of the top five things to do in the world by Trip Advisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice. The water temperature in Silfra remains 2-4°C (35-37°F) year-round. Picture yourself snorkeling between two tectonic plates in the middle of winter. Pretty incredible, right?

Check out our top-rated Silfra Snorkeling Tour and get your ticket to the depths of the sea today!

Looking for an out of the ordinary adventure? Find our Silfra Snorkeling & Horseback Riding Tour. With an expert guide, you’ll snorkel between two tectonic plates, then explore Iceland on an Icelandic horse. It’s the winter adventure of a lifetime!

Girls On Horseback Riding Tour In Winter

Horseback riders travel on the black sand beach in the peaceful village of Vik.

Iceland in January: What to See

The Northern Lights in January

Northern Lights And  Plane Wreck On Black Sand Beach

Aurora Borealis shines over the plane wreck of a US Navy airplane on Sólheimasandur black sand beach in South Iceland.

The chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland in January are incredibly high. This is because January has just a few hours of daylight. With longer nights, it’s easier to catch the lights. For the best views of the dancing lights, you’ll want to get away from the city lights.

Feeling inspired? Wrap up warm in plenty of layers and chase the great aurora on the exclusive Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik!

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle in January becomes a true winter wonderland. This world-famous sightseeing route connects Iceland's most impressive sites. 

Visit Thingvellir National Park, where you’ll witness the tearing apart of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Iceland’s Althing — the oldest parliament still in existence today — was founded at the site in 930 AD. Thingvellir looks even prettier under a sheet of snow.

Thingvellir National Park River In Winter

UNESCO Site Thingvellir National Park looks even more beautiful in winter.

Beat the winter chill at the Geysir Geothermal Area, the site of spouting hot springs and bubbling pools. The site is home to Strokkur, Iceland’s most active geyser. Strokkur sends vast jets of steaming water up to 100 ft (30 m) high every ten minutes! 

Winter Geysir In Golden Circle

Strokkur in winter is a sight to behold. The geyser hurls boiling water up to 100 feet in the air.

All the Christmas presents are opened. But one is still waiting for you in Iceland in January. It's the spectacular cascade of Gullfoss Waterfall, the final stop on the Golden Circle. In January, Gullfoss is partly frozen. To see these falls glistening with ice is an unmissable experience!

Gullfoss Waterfall In Winter

A fresh blanket of snow gives Gullfoss Waterfall that fairytale look.

Golden Circle tours are easily done in one afternoon. So it’s a great option during short days. If you’re intrigued by Iceland’s natural wonders, check out our Golden Circle, Glacier Snowmobile & Northern Lights Day Tour from Reykjavik.

Reykjavik in January

Reykjavik doesn’t suffer from a post-holiday drop-off. There are plenty of fun and interesting things to do in Reykjavik in Iceland in January. Iceland’s capital bustles with modern museums and lively bars. Cafes here are perfect for escaping the bitter cold. The snowy streets of Reykjavik in January could prove to be a big Instagram hit.

Reykjavik City View In Winter

With snow-capped roofs, Reykjavik bustles with trendy cafes and lively bars in winter.

After a day spent outdoors, you can warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or Brennivín, Iceland’s signature drink. Brennivín is made from fermented potatoes and spiced with caraway seeds. It has the nickname “Black Death” and is a must-try, especially in winter!

Local Insider Tip: Dress in layers to handle temperature changes as you go from cold streets to heated museums and cafes.

Iceland in January: Events To Look Out For

Iceland in January doesn’t sleep. It offers plenty of entertaining events and festivals for visitors to enjoy. Let’s take a look!

Prettándinn (January 6)

Bonfire In Reykjavik

Icelanders love to celebrate the thirteenth day of Christmas with spectacular bonfires.

Prettándinn marks the end of Icelandic Christmas season. Prettándinn is known as the thirteenth day of Christmas and is celebrated on January 6th. On this day, the lines between our world and the supernatural realm are blurred. It’s a time of talking animals and clairvoyant dreams. Icelanders love to mark Prettándinn with bonfires and fireworks.

Thorrablot (late January to mid-February)

Lamb Soup

Traditional Icelandic delicacies await you in Iceland in January. Hungry?

Thorrablot (Þorrablót) is an Icelandic midwinter festival that has roots in the Viking Age. If you want to try traditional Icelandic food, late January is a great time to pig out. During Thorrablot, Icelanders gather to eat old-fashioned Icelandic delicacies such as fermented shark, lamb heads, and pickled ram's testicles. Bon Appétit!

Dark Music Days (late January)

Harpa Hall In Reykjavik Night

Reykjavik’s sparkling Harpa concert hall with different colors every day.

Dark Music Days, or Myrkir Músíkdagar, is a contemporary music festival, which takes place at Reykjavik’s cutting-edge Harpa concert hall. The festival brings together national and international performers. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get acquainted with the latest music trends.

The Reykjavik International Games (late January)

Skiing In Iceland

The Reykjavik International Games makes Reykjavik a prime spot for sports fans.

Interested in sports? You'll go wild for the Reykjavik International Games. It’s a big multi-sport event, which takes place in the Laugardalur Park in Reykjavik. During the games, Iceland’s elite athletes compete in various fields, from fencing and martial arts to skiing and dancing. You’re sure to find your favorite sport to watch!

Things to Know Before Visiting Iceland in January

Daylight Hours in Iceland in January

When planning a trip to Iceland in January, keep in mind that January only experience 4-7 hours of daylight each day. So it’s better to start your day early!

In early January there is about 4 hours of daylight. On the 1st of January, the sun rises at around 11:19 and sets at around 15:43.

However, the days are getting significantly longer throughout the month.

In late January there is about 7 hours of daylight. On the 31st of January, the sun rises at around 10:12 and sets at around 17:11.

What Clothes to Wear in Iceland in January?

Person Hiking In Snowy Weather

Iceland’s weather in January can bite but there is nothing a good clothing can’t solve.

Dress warmly as January is one of Iceland’s coldest months. Always plan your outfit according to the forecast. On the coldest days, a heavy winter coat and sturdy hiking shoes are key!

Here is a handy list of what to bring to Iceland in January:

  • Thermal underwear
  • A good waterproof jacket
  • Sturdy hiking shoes  
  • Wool socks
  • Warm hat
  • Warm scarf
  • Good gloves
  • Bathing suit for hot springs or snorkeling at Silfra 

If you don’t have what you need, we can loan it to you. You can always rent sturdy hiking shoes and waterproof clothing during the booking process.

Driving Conditions in Iceland in January

January is a wonderful time to visit Iceland. But all drivers should keep in mind that roads in Iceland in winter can be rough and require a 4x4 vehicle. Strong winds, ice, and storms might dramatically affect driving conditions.

Snow Road With Cars And Mountain

Driving in Iceland in winter requires special preparation but promises unforgettable adventures.

In January, snow can cause many roads to close. Always check road and weather conditions on en.vendur.is and www.road.is.

If you’re not experienced driver, don’t attempt to drive in winter for safety. If you decide to drive in winter, make sure your car is fitted with snow tyres. Also, don’t forget to pack shovels, food and water. 

The safest way to explore Iceland in winter is to join a tour with an experienced guide who will take you to your favorite destinations.

Tips to Visit Iceland in January

  • It gets dark at around 15:00 in January, so start your day early to make the most of it. 
  • Visit in late January, if you want to have more hours of daylight. 
  • If you visit early in January, you can still catch a glimpse of festive Christmas decorations and celebrate the thirteenth day of Icelandic Christmas.
  • If you’re renting a car, always make sure to check weather and road conditions. Keep in mind that mountain roads are closed in winter. 
  • January is a quiet month. However, booking your tours in advance is always recommended. Seats tend to sell out quickly!

Best Trips to Iceland in January 2020

To get the very best of your visit to Iceland, check out our hand-picked itineraries packed with top Iceland experiences.

On this exciting day tour, enjoy Iceland’s true winter ⁠— January ⁠— to the fullest! Ride a snowmobile on the majestic Langjokull Glacier and step into the ethereal blue ice cave. No experience is necessary for this adventure and we provide you with everything you need ⁠— top-notch snowmobile, safety equipment, and expert guides to help you step-by-step.

Best for Aurora-Seekers: Northern Lights Tour From Reykjavik

People Watching Northern Lights

A stargazer gazes in wonder at the Northern Lights on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

If you’re visiting Iceland in January, you’ll want to go chasing the Northern Lights. On this tour, head into the Icelandic countryside and see the great aurora in all its glory! Your guide will take pictures of you under glowing skies —  so you can bring a keepsake home!

Man Standing In Ice Cave Vatnajokull

An explorer marvels at the glistening ice cave within Vatnajökull Glacier.

Prepare yourself for the most amazing 3 days in Iceland in January. Explore the Golden Circle covered in a blanket of snow. Be wowed by Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon filled with giant icebergs. Step into a natural ice cave and gaze at astonishing ice formations. Your entire trip will be unforgettable!

Diamond Beach With Icebergs In Iceland

Diamond Beach on the South Coast of Iceland is a magical place to be in the winter.

Choose 6, 7, or 8-day itinerary and discover the best of Iceland. Circle the whole country and embark on a number of thrilling adventures. Go glacier hiking, ice caving, and chase the Northern Lights. Winter in Iceland can’t get any better!

What have you planned for your trip in Iceland in January? Tell us in the comments below!