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Winter Wonderland: Your Ultimate Guide to Iceland in January

Imagine yourself in the middle of a winter wonderland, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and glaciers. You are standing on a black sand beach with the Northern Lights dancing overhead. This is Iceland in January – an extraordinary place to explore and experience!


Discover thrilling adventures and peaceful relaxation in Iceland during January. Our guide offers packing tips, highlights must-visit locations, and recommends exclusive activities for this magical month. So, read on and get ready for an unforgettable winter voyage to the Land of Ice and Fire.


January in iceland

Is January a Good Time To Go to Iceland?


Visiting Iceland in January can be a remarkable experience, making it one of the best times to visit Iceland. Despite the winter season, the country's pristine snow-covered landscapes create a picturesque and enchanting atmosphere.


The reduced tourist crowds during this time allow for a more intimate exploration of Iceland's natural wonders. Additionally, going to Iceland in January offers an increased chance of witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights, adding an extra magic touch to your trip.


With proper preparation for the colder temperatures, January provides an opportunity to partake in thrilling activities such as:


  • Glacier hiking

  • Ice cave explorations

  • Relaxing in geothermal hot springs

  • Snowmobiling

  • Northern Lights hunting


If you're looking for the best time to visit Iceland for an unforgettable winter escapade, January is the answer!



Visiting Iceland in January

Pros of Traveling to Iceland in January:

  • Incredible experiences such as glacier hikes, ice cave explorations, and Northern Lights viewings

  • Less crowded than in the summer months, allowing for a more intimate and authentic experience

  • Increased chance of witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights

  • Picturesque snow-covered landscapes that provide an enchanting atmosphere

Cons of Traveling to Iceland in January:

  • Potentially colder temperatures and unpredictable weather, so be sure to bring the proper winter attire

  • Reduced daylight hours

  • Limited opening hours for some attractions and activities

Weather in Iceland in January


Iceland's weather in January is cold and unpredictable. While the temperatures vary significantly daily, snowfall is consistent throughout the month.


To better understand what Iceland is like in January, check out our 'Iceland Winter Guide' article for further details on traveling to Iceland in January. Here is a brief overview of the weather in Iceland during this month:



Iceland weather january

How Cold Is Iceland in January?


The average temperature in Iceland during January is typically between -3°C (27°F) and 3°C (37°F). The lowest temperatures occur in the North, while the country's south tends to be slightly warmer.


Sunrise/Sunset Times in Iceland in January


Daylight in Iceland in January is limited, with only 4-5 hours of sunshine daily. The sunrise time in Iceland in January is around 11:20 a.m., with the sunset happening at 3:45 p.m. This can impact your itinerary planning, as some attractions may be inaccessible during these shorter days.


Precipitation in Iceland in January


January in Iceland is one of the wettest months, with an average precipitation level of around 88mm/3.5 inches. Snowfall is common in Iceland in January, so pack the appropriate clothing and gear.



Rain chances in January in Iceland

Reykjavik in January


Reykjavik in January is a great time to explore the city. Reykjavik offers a unique winter experience, though it comes with freezing temperatures and snowfall. The city's cultural attractions are open during the winter months, allowing you to explore Reykjavik's lively art and music scene.


Best Things To Do in Iceland in January


If you're wondering what to do in Iceland in January, you're in luck! Despite the colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours, there are plenty of unique activities to enjoy throughout the month. Here is our list of favorite things to do in Iceland in January:


1. Glacier Hiking


Glacier hiking is an exhilarating adventure that should not be missed when traveling to Iceland in January. Explore Iceland's stunning frozen landscapes and awe-inspiring ice formations in this unique experience.


With the proper equipment and a knowledgeable guide, you can venture onto the icy terrains of glaciers such as Sólheimajökull or Vatnajökull, immersing yourself in the majestic beauty of these icy giants.


As you navigate through crevasses, ice caves, and crystal-clear blue ice, you'll feel a sense of awe and wonder at the raw power and tranquility of these frozen wonders. For an even better experience, we recommend booking a glacier tour with a knowledgeable guide to learn more about the area and glacier conditions.


glacier hiking Iceland

2. Ice Cave Exploration


Regarding what to do in Iceland in January, one activity that stands out is exploring the mesmerizing ice caves. These natural wonders are formed within glaciers, showcasing stunning blue ice formations and intricate ice sculptures.


Ice cave exploration offers a unique opportunity to witness the ethereal beauty of Iceland's frozen landscapes up close. With expert guides leading the way, you can venture into these icy realms and marvel at the magical colors and textures surrounding you.


Don't miss the chance to experience the enchantment of ice caves in Iceland. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will remember.


Ice Cave Exploration

3. Snowmobiling on Glaciers


One of the most exciting things to do in Iceland in January is to take a snowmobile tour of glaciers. This exhilarating activity allows you to experience the icy wilderness of the country's breathtaking glaciers in a unique way.


Most glacier snowmobiling tours begin with an introduction to the basics of operating a snowmobile. Once you've mastered the controls, you'll be able to ride through the stunning glaciers and snow-covered landscapes of Iceland.


This is a great way to explore the icy wonders of the country and experience a sense of freedom as you soar across the snow-covered terrain. If you're seeking an unforgettable winter experience, don't miss the chance to snowmobile in Iceland.


Snowmobiling on Glaciers

4. Northern Lights Hunting


Chasing the northern lights in Iceland in January is a must! This natural phenomenon is a spectacular light show that is best seen in the night sky during the winter months.


The chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland in January are pretty high, as long as you have clear sky conditions. To increase your chances of seeing the spectacle, we recommend booking a Northern Lights tour with an experienced guide.


These tours will provide you with insider tips on the best places to watch the show, as well as ensure that you get an up-close look at this mesmerizing natural phenomenon.


Northern lights Iceland january

5. Relaxing in Geothermal Hot Springs


Going to Iceland in January also means you'll have plenty of hot springs to choose from! Iceland is known for its geothermal waters, with natural hot springs scattered across the country.


The best hot springs in Iceland in January are located throughout the south and west of the island, including:



Each of these hot springs offers a unique experience, with some featuring mud or steam baths as well.


steam baths in winter

6. Exploring Reykjavik's Cultural Attractions


Reykjavik in January is a great time to explore the city's cultural attractions. With shorter days and cooler temperatures, this is the perfect month to wander through Reykjavik's museums, galleries, and music venues.


The city is home to many renowned galleries, such as the Hafnarhús (Reykjavik Art Museum), the Ásmundarsafn (sculpture museum), and the Saga Museum, offering a variety of exhibitions and events to explore.


You can also go and see a live show at one of Reykjavik's many music venues, such as Harpa, which hosts both international and local acts throughout the year.


Reykjavik's Cultural Attractions

7. Sightseeing at Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir Hot Spring Area


When it comes to things to do in Iceland in January, no list would be complete without mentioning the Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir Hot Spring Area. This incredible natural area is home to the iconic Gullfoss waterfall and the famous Geysir hot spring, as well as several other hot springs and stunning landscapes.


The snow-covered scenery of Gullfoss in January must be seen to be believed. With its stunning turquoise waterfalls and breathtaking panoramas, this is a magical place to explore in the winter months.


We recommend taking a Golden Circle Classic Tour to get the most out of your visit. The tour will take you through some of Iceland's iconic sights, including Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss.


 things to do in iceland in january

8. Whale Watching Tours


While visiting Iceland in January, you should add a whale-watching tour to your itinerary. This is an incredible opportunity to witness some of Iceland's majestic wildlife in its natural habitat.


Most whale-watching tours depart from Reykjavik, allowing you to explore the open sea and search for whales, dolphins, and other marine life. You'll have a chance to witness these magnificent creatures up close, making for an unforgettable experience.


Whale-watching tours are a great way to see the beauty of Iceland and its wildlife in action. With the proper gear and guidance, you can make the most of this incredible experience and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Whale watching in Iceland

9. Seeing Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon


If you're going to Iceland in January, you must see Jokulsarlon (the famous glacier lagoon). This breathtaking natural wonder is home to vast chunks of glacial ice, as well as the rare sight of seals playing in these icy waters.


The glacier lagoon is a great place to spend an afternoon, as you can take a boat ride through the lagoon and get up close to the glaciers. You can also explore the surrounding area and admire its majestic beauty.


Jokulsarlon is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Iceland in January and is definitely not to be missed.


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

10. Snap Photos of Waterfalls and Volcanic Landscapes


Iceland in January offers a captivating opportunity for photography enthusiasts to capture the dramatic landscapes of waterfalls and volcanic scenery. With snow-covered landscapes and potentially icy conditions, the waterfalls take on an ethereal beauty, creating stunning compositions.


Whether it's capturing the mighty cascade of Gullfoss or the delicate flow of Seljalandsfoss, these iconic waterfalls provide mesmerizing subjects. Additionally, the volcanic landscapes in Iceland offer a unique contrast with their rugged textures and otherworldly formations.


From the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara to the volcanic craters of the Reykjanes Peninsula, there are endless photographic opportunities to explore. Don't forget your camera and tripod, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Iceland's natural wonders with Iceland photography.


Icelandic Volcanic Landscapes

11. Trekking to Thingvellir National Park


There are plenty of national parks in Iceland, but nothing compares to Thingvellir National Park in January. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the oldest parliament in the world, as well as majestic landscapes that will take your breath away.


At Thingvellir National Park, you can explore snow-covered trails while also taking in the incredible views of the surrounding landscape. Along with its iconic volcanic scenery, you'll also find many historic sites, such as the Thingvellir church and a Viking village.


Whether you hike along the famous Golden Circle route or explore one of the many trails in Thingvellir, this is an unforgettable experience.


Thingvellir National Park

12. Take a Food Tour in Reykjavik


Exploring the culinary delights of Reykjavik in January is a delightful way to experience the city's vibrant food scene. Despite the winter season, Reykjavik's restaurants and cafes continue to offer a variety of delicious Icelandic dishes and international cuisine.


A food tour allows you to sample traditional Icelandic delicacies such as smoked lamb, fresh seafood, and unique dairy products like skyr. You can also indulge in warm comfort foods like hearty stews and Icelandic pastries.


The tour provides an opportunity to learn about the country's culinary traditions, interact with local chefs, and discover hidden gems in the city's food landscape. Embark on an Iceland food adventure in Reykjavik in January and savor the flavors that make Icelandic cuisine exceptional.


Food Tour in Reykjavik

Driving in Iceland in January


Driving in Iceland in January requires careful planning and consideration of various factors. Here are the essential points to keep in mind:


  • Road conditions: Be prepared for varying road conditions in Iceland during January. While the main Ring Road is usually well-maintained, secondary roads may be icy or snow-covered.

  • Ring Road: The Ring Road, or Route 1, encircles the entire country. It is a popular route for exploring Iceland's diverse landscapes.

  • F-roads: F-roads are mountainous gravel roads that require special consideration. They are often closed in winter due to hazardous conditions. Check the road conditions and closures before attempting to drive on F-roads.

  • 4x4 Vehicles: Consider renting a 4x4 vehicle for added stability and control in snowy or icy conditions. They provide better traction and are well-suited for traversing challenging terrains.

  • Driving in snow: Familiarize yourself with safe driving techniques in snow, such as maintaining a safe distance, using headlights, and reducing speed. Read our article on how to drive in snow for more tips.

  • Snow tires: It is highly recommended to have appropriate snow tires on your vehicle for better traction on slippery surfaces. This improves safety and maneuverability, especially in winter conditions.


For more comprehensive advice and tips on driving in Iceland, consult our detailed guide on driving in Iceland.


Driving in Iceland in January

Icelandic Festivals and Events in January


Celebrate the start of the new year in Iceland by attending one of its many festivals and events in January. Here are some popular Icelandic festivals to consider:


Dark Music Days


Dark Music Days is an annual music festival that takes place in Reykjavik during 24-29 January. This event celebrates contemporary and experimental music, showcasing the creativity and talent of Icelandic and international composers and performers.


The festival features a diverse range of concerts, recitals, and workshops, offering a unique opportunity to experience avant-garde music in a captivating atmosphere. Dark Music Days attract music enthusiasts, composers, and artists worldwide, fostering a vibrant and dynamic cultural exchange.


Whether you're a seasoned music lover or curious about innovative sounds, Dark Music Days offer a captivating exploration of the Icelandic music scene.


Festivals and Events in January

The Icelandic Midwinter Festival


The Icelandic Midwinter Festival, known as Þorrablót, is a traditional celebration that takes place in Iceland during January and February. This festival harkens back to ancient pagan traditions and is an integral part of Icelandic culture.


Þorrablót is characterized by feasting, singing, and storytelling, offering a unique glimpse into the country's rich heritage. During the festival, Icelanders come together to enjoy traditional Icelandic cuisine, including special delicacies such as fermented shark, smoked lamb, and pickled ram's testicles.


These traditional dishes are served alongside live music, folk dances, and other cultural performances. Þorrablót is a time when traditional customs and rituals are cherished, fostering a sense of cultural identity and pride.


What To Pack and Wear When Visiting Iceland in January


Knowing what to wear in Iceland in January can be challenging due to the country's unpredictable weather. Here's what to pack for Iceland in January:


  • Clothing: Clothes for Iceland in January should be layered, as temperatures can range from mild to cold. Bring woolen sweaters, thermal tops, bottoms, warm winter jackets, waterproof and windproof outerwear, scarves, hats, mittens/gloves, and warm socks.

  • Footwear: Sturdy shoes with a thick sole and good grip are essential for traversing slippery surfaces. Bring sturdy hiking boots, waterproof snow boots, or insulated winter shoes.

  • Accessories: Sunglasses, balaclavas, and a neck gaiter are optional but recommended. Also, bring a rain poncho and a waterproof backpack cover.


What to pack for iceland in january

Embrace the Winter Magic of Iceland


Exploring Iceland in January is an unforgettable experience. Between the breathtaking landscapes, vibrant food scenes, and unique festivals and events, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Renting a car can make your Icelandic adventure even more enjoyable, as it allows you to access remote areas that are not accessible by public transportation.


Whether you plan on visiting Reykjavik or embarking on a self-drive tour around the Ring Road, renting a car will give you the freedom to discover all that this magical country has to offer in wintertime. So don't wait - rent a car today and start planning your dream Icelandic getaway!


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