If you’re planning on visiting Iceland in January, you’re in for a treat. The country is blanketed in snow, making it a winter wonderland. But is it the best time to visit Iceland? In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of traveling to Iceland in January, including tips on how to make the most of your trip.
We’ll cover everything from the weather and the northern lights to the activities and festivals you can expect to encounter. So, if you’re considering a trip to Iceland in January, keep reading to learn more.
About Iceland in the Winter
Iceland is a land of contrasts, known for its dramatic landscapes, otherworldly natural phenomena, and unique culture. Winter in Iceland brings shorter days, colder temperatures, and the possibility of snow and ice.
While visiting Iceland in the winter may not be for everyone, it can be a magical experience for those willing to brave the elements. In this guide, we’ll explore what to expect during the winter months of December, January, and February in Iceland, as well as some tips to make the most of your trip.
One of the main reasons to visit Iceland in the winter is to witness the stunning Northern Lights, which are most visible from September to April. December, January, and February offer some of the longest nights of the year, making them prime time to try and catch this natural phenomenon.
However, the weather in Iceland in the winter can be unpredictable and challenging, with snowstorms and icy conditions potentially disrupting travel plans. Despite these challenges, winter in Iceland also brings the possibility of unique experiences such as soaking in hot springs under a blanket of snow, exploring ice caves, and seeing frozen waterfalls.
With proper planning and preparation, Iceland in the winter can be a rewarding and unforgettable adventure.
For a deeper dive into the best time to visit Iceland, please see our comprehensive guide to the best time to visit Iceland.
Pros and Cons of Iceland in January
As with any month of the year, there are going to be advantages and potential disadvantages to exploring Iceland in January. Keep in mind, every month is wildly different for Icelandic adventures. January is no exception. Below are some of the pros and potential cons of Iceland in January.
Iceland in January: Pros
Visiting Iceland in January offers a unique experience that is unmatched during other times of the year. One of the most significant advantages of traveling to Iceland in January is the chance to see the Northern Lights, which are visible almost every night during this time of year.
Additionally, January offers a winter wonderland landscape that is truly breathtaking, with frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and snow-covered landscapes.
Visiting Iceland in January also offers the opportunity to participate in unique winter activities such as glacier hiking, ice caving, snowmobiling, and dog sledding. This is the time of year when the ice caves are at their most stunning and accessible, offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Plus, you can enjoy the hot springs and geothermal pools, which are even more enjoyable in the cold winter months. Finally, January is one of the least crowded times of the year in Iceland, allowing for a more peaceful and intimate experience with the natural beauty of the country.
Overall, visiting Iceland in January offers a unique and unforgettable winter wonderland experience with plenty of opportunities for adventure and relaxation.
Iceland in January: Cons
One of the main disadvantages of visiting Iceland in January is the extreme cold weather. The average temperature in Reykjavik, the capital city, during January is around -1°C (30°F), but it can often drop to -10°C (14°F) or lower, particularly at night. This can make outdoor activities, such as hiking, sightseeing or even walking around the city, extremely uncomfortable.
Additionally, the shorter days in January mean there are fewer hours of daylight, with sunrise typically occurring around 11 am and sunset around 3:30 pm, which can limit the amount of time you have to explore Iceland’s beautiful landscapes.
Another con of visiting Iceland in January is the potential for hazardous road conditions. The roads in Iceland can be icy and snowy during the winter months, particularly outside of Reykjavik. It is essential to check the weather forecast and road conditions before embarking on a journey, and it is recommended to hire a four-wheel-drive car to ensure safety on the roads.
The weather in January can also be unpredictable, with frequent snowstorms and blizzards, which can disrupt travel plans and cause delays or cancellations in flights or tours.
Events in Iceland in January
There are plenty of events taking place throughout Iceland in the month of January. Here are just a few of the events in Iceland in January:
- Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival – This festival celebrates the winter season and takes place over several days. It includes music performances, art installations, and light displays around the city.
- Dark Music Days – This music festival features contemporary classical music and takes place at Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik.
- Thorrablot – This traditional Icelandic festival celebrates the midwinter season with traditional food and drink, including fermented shark and sheep’s head.
- Reykjavik International Games – This event brings together athletes from around the world to compete in various winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding.
- Northern Lights tours – January is a great time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, and there are many tour operators that offer Northern Lights tours throughout the month.
- Winter hiking and skiing – Many hiking trails and ski resorts are open during the winter season, providing opportunities for outdoor activities and adventure.
- New Year’s celebrations – Icelanders celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks and parties, and the festivities continue into January with parades and concerts.
Tips for Visiting Iceland in January
Visiting Iceland in January can be an incredible experience, but it’s important to be well-prepared for the unique challenges that come with the winter season. One of the most important things to keep in mind is the weather. Winter in Iceland can bring extreme conditions, with heavy snowfall, strong winds, and low temperatures. Dressing in warm, waterproof layers is essential, as is investing in sturdy, slip-resistant footwear.
Another important consideration is daylight hours. In January, Iceland has just a few hours of daylight each day, so planning activities accordingly is crucial. This can also mean that driving can be challenging, as roads can be icy and visibility can be limited. It’s important to have experience driving in winter conditions or to hire a local driver.
Despite the challenges, visiting Iceland in January can also offer unique opportunities, such as the chance to see the incredible Northern Lights or to take part in winter activities like ice skating, skiing, and snowmobiling.
To make the most of your trip, it’s important to research and plan ahead, book tours and accommodations well in advance, and be flexible with your itinerary to account for weather conditions. By taking these precautions and preparing accordingly, you can have a safe and unforgettable winter adventure in Iceland.
As always, if you’re looking to get up-to-date information on the unpredictable weather in Iceland, there is one primary source. That source is Vedur.is.
Visiting in December Instead
While January may be a popular time to visit Iceland, those looking to experience a winter wonderland may want to consider visiting in December instead. Not only will you get to enjoy Iceland’s stunning winter landscapes, but you’ll also have a chance to experience the country’s festive holiday season.
December is also a great time to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, as the longer nights increase your chances of seeing the colorful auroras dancing in the sky.
For a deeper dive, please see our full article on Iceland in December.
Visiting in February Instead
For those looking for a bit more daylight and milder weather, visiting Iceland in February may be a better option than January. While still considered the winter season, February brings longer days and slightly warmer temperatures, making it a great time to explore Iceland’s outdoors.
Plus, with fewer crowds than in January, you may have more opportunities to take in the stunning natural scenery without the hustle and bustle of peak tourist season.
For a deeper dive, please see our full article on Iceland in February.
Our Final Thoughts
Whether you choose to visit Iceland in January or opt for another month, there are plenty of pros and cons to consider. January may offer prime Northern Lights viewing and unique winter activities, but the shorter days and colder temperatures can be challenging.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Iceland depends on your personal preferences and travel style. No matter when you go, be sure to come prepared with warm clothing, a sense of adventure, and an open mind to experience all that this beautiful country has to offer.