FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VISITING ICELAND IN JANUARY
Is January a good time to visit Iceland? Yes! What should I pack for a trip in January? What are the best things to do at that time of year? We’ve got you covered. Read on for the answers from our local travel experts to your most commonly asked questions.
How is Iceland in January?
January is a quiet month to visit Iceland as it falls after the festive season. It is an ideal time if you want to experience the Icelandic winter, take part in snow-based activities like snowmobiling, or even hunt for the northern lights.
Though the weather is colder at this time of year, you will also enjoy smaller crowds at top attractions.
What are the best things to do in Iceland in January?
Whether you want to enjoy an activity-filled break in Reykjavík or a cosy winter getaway in the countryside, a trip to Iceland in January is a fantastic experience. Despite falling during the off-peak season, there are still plenty of things you can do and visit during your Nordic journey.
Here are 10 of the best things to do in Iceland in January:
Drive along the Ring Road
Discover the famous Golden Circle
Marvel at frozen waterfalls
Hunt for the northern lights
Dip in hot springs and pools
Venture along the Snæfellsnes peninsula
See geothermal wonders and volcanoes
Go horse riding or on a whale watching tour
Walk along unusual beaches
Admire glacier lagoons
One of the coolest things to do in Iceland in winter is ice caving in Vatnajökull – the largest glacier in Europe. The caves are naturally formed every year as the glacial meltwater freezes, creating tunnels of ice that you can walk through safely with a guide.
There are more ways to enjoy the snow and ice in winter. You could go snowmobiling on the Langjökull glacier, or try snowshoeing through white landscapes and skiing down powdery slopes.
What are the best places to visit in Iceland in January?
To keep occupied whilst in the capital, you may want to explore some of these fun indoor attractions too:
Learn about volcanoes at the Lava Centre
Try a flight simulation experience with FlyOver Iceland
Experience earthquakes and visit the planetarium at Perlan
What is the weather like in Iceland in January?
When you travel to Iceland in January, you can expect average temperatures below freezing. The winter weather is likely to bring some snow. Thanks to this, you may be able to admire the enchanting snow-covered peaks and countryside.
You may also expect some rain and strong northerly winds. For this reason, we recommend an insulated or down jacket for winter visits.
Iceland’s climate is unpredictable, so prepare for snow, wind and rain if you’re planning a trip for January.
What is the temperature in January?
In the capital, the average temperature is -1°C (30°F) in January. In Akureyri, in the north, it is -2°C (28°F).
Does it snow in Iceland in January?
In January, because of the colder temperatures, it is likely to snow. However, outside of the higher altitudes or parts of North Iceland, snowfall rarely stays on the ground longer than a few days. Depending on the weather, you may instead expect some rain at this time of year.
How are the driving conditions in Iceland in January?
Driving in Iceland is likely to be different than what you’re used to back home, especially in winter. Even if you’ve experienced snowy, icy conditions before, it’s best to be ready when taking on an Icelandic January road trip.
Winter storms can bring high winds, poor visibility and slippery surfaces. Driving over mountain passes can also require extra caution at this time of year. It’s best to slow down and be careful.
As Icelandic weather is known to change rapidly, it's vital you monitor weather conditions regularly over the course of the day. It’s also good to check on road conditions before setting off each day.
For road trips in January, we would strongly suggest renting a 4-wheel drive as these vehicles handle the wintry conditions better.
What to pack for a trip to Iceland in January?
Iceland is famous for its ever-changing weather, so we advise that you be as prepared as possible. As January falls in the middle of winter, you should bring warm layers to be ready for the cooler temperatures. That way you can enjoy the natural beauty of the country regardless of the weather.
Here is a list of packing essentials for your Iceland trip in January:
An insulated or warm down jacket (it’s best if it is also waterproof)
Lightweight wool underlayers
Waterproof or winter trousers
Thermal underwear and socks
As well as these essentials, be sure to bring good sturdy walking or hiking boots depending on what activities you may want to enjoy. Also, if you’re keen to experience the famous Blue Lagoon, remember to pack your swimwear and sandals.
What to wear in Iceland in January?
Icelanders have a saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
In January, you can expect colder weather, northerly winds and even snow. For that reason, you should dress with warm layers to be ready for anything. That way you can enjoy the beautiful sights without worrying about the temperatures and conditions.
Make sure to be dressed with an insulated winter jacket and warm under layers, as well as good sturdy boots.
It’s good to know that some outdoor excursions will provide the necessary winter clothing, such as warm overalls. But if you’d like to go snowmobiling, hiking or ice caving, make sure you’ve brought the clothing essentials with you, such as snow boots.
What are the daylight hours in Iceland in January?
By the end of December, the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year in Iceland. By January, days are starting to grow longer, but you can still expect short daylight hours.
In Reykjavík, the sun rises around 11:20 AM and sets by 3:40 PM. In the north, in Akureyri, it is even shorter with daylight hours between 11:30 AM and 3 PM on average.
Can I see the northern lights in Iceland in January?
The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is between the months of October and March, so January is ideal.
However, for the best visibility, you’ll need the right solar activity, a clear, dark night with few or no clouds, and low light pollution. You can check the Iceland Met Office’s aurora forecast page.
In January, you can book one of the many dedicated northern lights tours available in Iceland. These allow you to go to quieter and more remote areas to (hopefully) enjoy the spectacle. Or, you can always add a guided northern lights excursion to the first night of another winter package.
How to tour Iceland in January?
There are various ways to travel on your Iceland tour in January. Depending on your personal preferences, you could either go for a guided or self-guided vacation.
Small group tours in January
In January, you can choose from two small group tours specifically aimed at giving you the best chances to see the northern lights.
With a local guide, you could discover the south coast on a 5-day winter highlights package. Or you could explore the country on an epic northern lights circle tour.
Privately guided tours in January
On the other hand, you might prefer to be accompanied by your own local expert throughout your Iceland experience.
A privately guided tour is one of the most exclusive ways to see Iceland. With these packages, you’ll enjoy the undivided attention of your own guide. They’ll also act as your personal driver and give you their insight into Icelandic culture and history. Sit back, relax and take in the view.
You could discover the highlights of the south coast, take a northern lights adventure, or head on a tour of the country along the Ring Road. You can also add fun excursions along the way, such as an ice cave tour or a glacier walk.
Road trips in January
Take on a January self-drive tour around Iceland to start the year in an epic manner. At this time of the season, you can still travel to some of the most famous sites of the country. Pick up your rental car and follow an itinerary tailored to your tastes.
For shorter stays, we recommend driving the Golden Circle or discovering South Iceland. If you have a week or more to spend in Iceland, drive around the Ring Road for a full loop of the country. This way you can visit virtually all the stunning corners of Iceland in one trip!
If you book with Nordic Visitor, you’ll benefit from collision damage waiver, a GPS, unlimited in-car Wi-Fi, and a 24/7 helpline for emergencies. You also get two named drivers on the insurance policy so you can share the driving with a travel companion.
Multi-day tours in January
Another way to see Iceland on an independent tour is to base yourself in one or two locations, such as Reykjavík and Akureyri. You can then explore Iceland’s highlights on day trips with expert guides.
For your time in Iceland’s capital, we recommend that you:
Go to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church
Take a dip at a local swimming pool
Walk along the coast
Visit the Einar Jónsson Art Museum
If you come in late December, during the festive season, you could join in a day of Christmas with the locals. Or, you could celebrate New Year’s Eve in style in the capital, with bonfires and fireworks galore.
Good to know: Most of our itineraries aren’t set in stone. Our Reykjavík-based Iceland experts know the country inside out and put their knowledge into planning your trip so it fits you. They’ll help you see Iceland your way, tailoring your itinerary and adding the best excursions to suit you.
Scroll down to learn more about Nordic Visitor’s services.