Explorig Iceland in January: Weather, Activities & The Northern Lights


Explorig Iceland in January: Weather, Activities & The Northern Lights

Explorig Iceland in January: Weather, Activities & The Northern Lights

By: Hulda Dís - Our CEO
Fri, 5 Jan 2024
Reading time: 5 min

In January, Iceland transforms into a mystical realm where the snow blankets the rugged landscape, and the aurora borealis dances in the night sky. Winter in Iceland is not just a season; it's a spectacle of nature's true splendor, where the days are short, but the experiences are rich and plentiful. 

This is a time when the fierce winter beauty of this island in the North Atlantic is on full display, beckoning the bold and the adventurous. As you plan your adventure in this magnificent country, here is some useful information and tips to know so you can have a fun, safe, and unforgettable journey.

Iceland’s Weather Conditions in January

Brace yourself for a true winter experience as you step into Iceland in January. The air is crisp, often filled with the soft touch of snowflakes. Temperatures generally hover around the freezing point, making it chilly but bearable with the right clothing. These frosty conditions create a wonderland of frozen waterfalls, snow-draped mountains, and crystalline landscapes. 

However, Icelandic weather is renowned for its unpredictability. Within a day, you might witness a serene snowfall, a sudden windstorm, or even an unexpected burst of sunlight piercing through the clouds. It's this dynamic weather that adds an element of surprise and awe to your Icelandic journey. It’s essential for you to check the weather before heading out, and we recommend doing that on Iceland’s Meteorological website vedur.is.


Daylight Hours in January

The daylight in Iceland during January is a precious commodity. With just about five hours of light per day, the sun graces the sky briefly, rising around 11:00 AM and setting near 4:00 PM. This limited daylight adds a sense of urgency and excitement to your explorations, making every moment count.

It also creates a gorgeous atmosphere where the golden hues of sunrise and sunset blend seamlessly, casting a magical light over the landscape. It’s a unique opportunity to witness the beauty of twilight linger, where the low-hanging sun paints the snow-clad terrain in warm, glowing colors. This extraordinary light is not just beautiful for photography; it also adds a sense of calm and introspection to your travels. 

Packing Essentials for Icelandic Winter

To fully embrace the Icelandic winter, packing appropriately is key. 

  • Start with thermal base layers; they are essential for retaining body heat. 
  • Over these, add insulating layers like fleece or wool. 
  • Your outermost layer should be a waterproof and windproof jacket and pants to protect against snow and wind. 
  • Footwear is critical – insulated, waterproof boots with a good grip will keep your feet warm and stable on icy surfaces. 
  • Don’t forget accessories like a warm hat, gloves, and a scarf to protect exposed skin.

Equally important is your safety gear. A headlamp is invaluable during the short days, especially if you plan to explore the wilderness or if you find yourself out after dark. Reflective clothing is also recommended, increasing visibility on shorter, darker days. For photography enthusiasts, bring equipment suited for low-light conditions to capture the stunning winter landscapes and the aurora borealis. And always have a sturdy, waterproof bag to protect your gear from the elements.


Road Conditions and Driving Tips for January in Iceland

The Icelandic roads in January can be as beautiful as they are challenging. Snow and ice often cover the roads, and conditions can change rapidly with the weather. It’s crucial to stay informed about the weather and road conditions. Checking sites like safetravel.is and road.is for weather warnings, road closures, and road conditions will keep you informed about where it is safe to drive in the country.

When driving in these conditions, patience and caution are your best allies. Keep your speed moderate and allow extra time to reach your destinations. All Nordic Car vehicles are equipped with winter studded tires, providing better traction on icy roads. Additionally, it's important to be aware of less obvious hazards like black ice, particularly on bridges and in shaded areas.

Remember, in Iceland, it's not just about the destination; it's about the journey. Embrace the slower pace and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way.

The Charm of Visiting Iceland in January

January in Iceland offers a distinct charm, quite different from the bustling tourist season. It’s a time when the country returns to its serene state, allowing for more authentic interactions and experiences. The landscapes are pristine, covered in a blanket of snow, offering a tranquil and otherworldly beauty.

It’s also a time when you can immerse yourself in the Icelandic way of life. With fewer tourists, local events and festivals become more prominent, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of this Nordic nation. You’ll find the locals more relaxed and engaging, providing an opportunity to forge genuine connections and learn about the Icelandic traditions and customs firsthand.

Top Activities to Do in January

The activities available in Iceland during January are as diverse as they are thrilling. A must-do is chasing the Northern Lights, a natural phenomenon that turns the night sky into a canvas of green, purple, and pink lights. The best viewing spots are away from the city lights, so venturing into the countryside for an unobstructed view of this celestial display is highly recommended.

For those seeking adventure, glacier hiking, and ice cave tours offer an up-close experience with Iceland's stunning frozen landscapes. Equipped with crampons and ice axes, and led by expert guides, you can safely explore these icy wonders.

Snowmobiling on a glacier is another exhilarating activity. Feel the rush of gliding over the snow as you explore the expansive white wilderness


The geothermal pools and hot springs are a quintessential Icelandic experience, especially in winter. The contrast of the chilly air with the warm, mineral-rich waters is not only relaxing but also a balm for the soul. From the world-famous Blue Lagoon to hidden hot springs in the countryside, there's a soaking experience for every preference.

All of these activities are easily accessible if you drive yourself in the country. One area where you can find all of these activities is along the famous south coast.

January Events and Holidays in Iceland

Embrace the local culture by participating in January events like Þorrablót, a traditional mid-winter feast, or enjoy the lingering festive spirit from New Year's celebrations. Keep an eye out for music and art festivals that often pop up, offering a glimpse into Iceland's vibrant cultural scene.

Start Planning Your January Adventure in Iceland 

Exploring Iceland in January is an adventure of a lifetime. The serene beauty of its winter landscape, coupled with the thrill of unique activities and cultural events, makes for an unforgettable experience. And with Nordic Car, you have a reliable, comfortable, and safe means to explore this winter paradise at your own pace. Book your vehicle today and get ready to embark on an extraordinary journey through Iceland's majestic winter landscape.

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Reykjavik Tourist Info

We recommend booking tours and activities with our friends at Reykjavík Tourist Info. They offer all the most popular things to do, and their prices are always great. Here are a few of our favorite tours. 
On their site you can see everything they have to offer: www.RTI.is

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