January in Iceland

Esja in January

Quick facts about the weather and daylight in January 

Average temperature: -0.11°C / 31.8°F
Average hours of sunlight: 24.8
Average of lowest and highest recorded temperature in January: Low -10.55°C / 13.01°F – High 8.15°C / 46.67°F
Length of day on January 1st: 4 hours and 24 minutes.

If you are looking for Mai Thais by the pool and tropical weather, Iceland in January is probably not for you. If, however, winter is your jam then pack your bags and head on over.

If you look at averages from the Icelandic Met Office, January is probably the worst month in Iceland weather wise. It‘s the coldest, for one thing, and it‘s also one of the darkest months of the year. It‘s not all bad though and in between storms and precipitation of every kind imaginable we also get perfect sunny days where everything looks like it‘s coming straight from a storybook. Think Anna and Elsa and Olav swooshing and cute furry baby animals (if we had any) fumbling around in the snow.

The weather also depends a lot on where in Iceland you are headed as the winters tend to be tougher and colder in most places outside of the Reykjavík area and the difference can be considerable.

In many ways, January is a great month to experience a more authentic Iceland. As much as I love the summer, it only lasts for about three months and the rest of the year you need to practice weather related serenity and invest in various combinations of weatherproof outdoor clothing. There are also fewer people around and you might have a better chance of connecting with the locals in remoter areas.

Although January is certainly not the high-season it‘s difficult to call it low-season anymore as every month attracts quite a lot of visitors now. A few years ago you could get ridiculously cheap hotel rooms in January and hotels in Reykjavík fought for every guest. This year, on the other hand, there were weekends in January where almost every hotel in Reykjavík was booked out. Things are not quite as busy outside of the city, except for the south coast, and deals can still be made here and there.

One of the things I love about January in Iceland, apart from that whole new year – new opportunities attitude people tend to have, is the fact that despite it being one of the darkest months of the years we also gain about three hours of daylight. I never notice how dark it gets until it starts getting brighter again and around the middle of January I always find the hope within that winter will end at some point. By the end of the month, we‘ve gone from just over four hours of daylight to seven hours, which admittedly is still not a lot. The darkness is not all bad though because more darkness also means more chances of seeing the northern lights.

If you plan on renting a car for your Iceland adventure, it might be good to rent a 4WD, especially if you plan to go around the whole island or anywhere further than just the Golden Circle.TT

Annual events and festivals in January worth checking out.

Dark Music Days: Festival that showcases the best contemporary music Iceland has to offer

Þorri: The first month of the year according to the old Icelandic calendar. During this month we eat our traditional food and many will go to Þorrablót – a feast that is all about eating, drinking and being (very) merry. To go to a real Þorrablót you will have to get an invitation from a local but you can try most of the food on your own.

The Þorri starts on Friday around the 20th of January with Bóndadagur or husbands’ day and ends on a Sunday around the 20th of February with Konudagur or women’s day. These days are like the Icelandic version of Valentine’s day and they are all about doing something special for your better half.

Þrettándinn: Þrettándinn or the thirteenth day of Christmas is celebrated all around Iceland on January 6th. Many towns will have bonfires and firework shows and the yule lads might stop by on their way to the mountains again. In many homes it’s the last big family get-together of the Christmas season although it’s not quite as festive or ambitious as Christmas or the New Year.

Tours you might want to consider in January

Northern Lights Tours: January is a good time for the northern lights since we have a) plenty of darkness and b) it’s often cold and still which sometimes means clear skies. My favorite northern lights tours are the Glacier Walk and Northern Lights and the Super Jeep Northern Lights tour but if you are on a tighter budget the Northern Light Bus Tour and the Nothern Lights Minibus Tour are good options too.

Ice cave tours: January should be good for the ice cave tours since it tends to be quite cold. If you are going to drive around the south coast yourself, I recommend this ice cave tour that starts at Hali in Suðursveit. If you are not renting a car I think this 2-day south shore trip including an ice cave tour is a great option and good value for money. If you are a photographer and you think you need more time in the ice caves you should consider the Blue Ice Cave Adventure, a tour designed with photographers in mind.

This post is part of a series about the best time to visit Iceland where we go through things to consider before visiting Iceland for each month of the year. All the weather related statistics come from the Icelandic Met Office but the rest is based on our feelings and experience. 

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60 thoughts on “January in Iceland”

  1. Aileen says:

    It sounds lovely, actually. My favorite thing about January anywhere is the slow return of daylight. I also love how snow changes the quality of the light.

  2. Natasa says:

    So excited to be coming to Iceland in January. I booked the trip as a birthday gift for my husband and we cannot wait to visit! A little unsure of what to pack clothing wise, how bad does it really get?

    1. Gennie says:

      Now that you’ve been to Iceland, any tips on what to wear for a trip in January? We’re going in 2018.

  3. Michele K. says:

    When you say “Average hours of sunlight: 24.8,” do you mean as in when it’s not raining or overcast? So on average, you get 1.25 hours of sunshine per day?

    1. mm Auður says:

      I called the met office a while ago and asked what this means and they have some kind of meter on their roof that measures sunlight. So the hours of sunlight are the number of hours this meter measured sunlight.

      This is would be the average but for example for the last two weeks we have basically not seen the sun except for about 15 minutes a few days ago when it broke through the clouds. Then we might get two days where it’s sunny all day. There has been a lot of rain this fall and winter here in Reykjavík, which means lots of thick clouds, and we’ve hardly seen the sun. Kind of depressing when I think about it, actually 🙂

  4. Damon says:

    I’m about the head to Iceland for the the first time next week for 5 days with my girlfriend and your site has been so informative in helping me plan our visit. Iceland has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years and reading all the wonderful stories and watching all the vlogs has made me so excited. Thanks again for taking out your time to write this wonderful site ❤️

  5. Thomas says:

    We had a fantastic time in Iceland during January ’17, it was cold, around -9 degrees C at times, but when the sun was out it was really lovely. Made a little film of our time out there –

    , and can’t wait to go back and shoot something properly in your wonderful country!

    1. Lucero Ramirez says:

      I’m going this January. Where you able to see the northern lights?

  6. Gelske Huyer says:

    Hi. I am taking my wife to Iceland for her birthday in Jan’18. Am wondering if it is best to rent one specific place for the whole week or different places every night/2 nights? We want to your around and do to the lack of light and weather wonder if it may give us mor opportunity to explore if we hire different places as we go along. That’s for your help!

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Depends completely on where you are going – if you plan to drive the south coast I would, for example, recommend you stay somewhere along the way.

  7. Mary says:

    Hi Auður! Thank you so much for writing this post! I’m reading everything on your website as we are planning a trip this Dec 27-Jan 10. It sounds like this time of the year will be a mixed bag between the beautiful, snowy landscapes but unpredictable driving conditions. Do you think it is possible to try to drive to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Vestrahorn mountain in this time period (Dec 27-Jan10)? Is Jökulsárlón generally accessible by road in this time, if the weather permits? Or do roads sometimes get closed off completely, in the winter? I’m having trouble finding this info online!

    Also, do you have any recommendations for towns we can try to lodge at in Eastern Iceland/near Jökulsárlón? Our hopes are to try and see some of the Eastern beauties, but it sounds like we may need to lodge nearby in order to make the driving feasible in the winter.

    Thank you so much for your help! Your blog is incredible, and we will definitely be booking our car and the ice cave tour through here. 🙂

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Mary,

      Generally it would be possible to drive there in January, but if there are heave storms, the roads can be closed – and we never know what is going to happen with the weather. I of course recommend a 4×4 for the drive, just to be sure. There are not many towns in the area. There is Vík (which I really like) and Kirkjubæjarklaustur, but also lots of country hotels and guesthouses, such as Hali and surrounding area. And yes, I would say that you need to stay overnights, there is not much daylight at this time of year.

  8. Jen says:

    Hi Auour, My girlfriends and I are thinking of taking advantage of cheap airfare in mid January to Reykjavik. If we were to only have 4 nights there, what would you recommend? I’d love to do a glacier hike! Maybe even ski? Are there must sees and would 3 full days be worth it?
    Thanks for the article!
    Jen

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Jen,

      This calls for a bit of a longer answer, so I have sent you an email!

      1. Sabrina says:

        Hi Asta,
        In having je same question. Could you perhaps resent the email to me too?

        Thank you!

        1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

          Will do!

          1. Jacek says:

            Hey Asta,

            Great blog! Could you possibly sent me an email with your comments as well.

            Thanks in advance!

          2. Jacek says:

            Oh thanks,

            that’s all I need 😀

          3. Nilly says:

            Hi jen can you shoot me an email of a short trip as well lol.

          4. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

            Hi Nilly,

            Will do!

      2. Veronica says:

        Can you send that email to me as well!?

        1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

          Hi Veronica,

          Please read through the comments that are already here – all the info Ásta was sending is already there 🙂

      3. Emma says:

        Hi,

        I am also travelling to Reykjavík in January 4 for nights. We want to do the golden circle tour, blue lagoon, maybe a glacier walk or visit an ice cave. Is there anything else you would recommend doing in the 4 days? Also, we can’t decide if we should hire a car or book the tour buses? We have never been to iceland before and aren’t sure which would be the best option for us.

        1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

          Hi Emma,

          The first thing would be to decide if you are ready to drive yourselves, or if you would prefer tours. If you are used to ice and snow and winter driving conditions, you could rent a car – but I would always recommend a 4×4 a that time of year. Your ideas would pretty much fill 4 days. The ice caves are in the south east of Iceland, so you could do a Golden Circle one day, south coast with glacier walk and an ice cave tour for 2 days, and then our walking tour of Reykjavík and a Blue Lagoon visit one day. If you would suggestions of tours to cover this, just send us an email to hello at iheartreykjavik.net and we’ll send you some suggestions!

  9. Vickie says:

    Hi I am going with my father on 25 th Jan 2018 for 3 nights. We have booked the northern lights and golden circle. We are staying in Rekyavik and have a day to fill. Any suggestions would be great. No boats or anything too strenuous as he is 71 years old.

    Many thanks
    Vickie

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Vickie,

      I’ll send you an email with suggestions!

  10. Fraser says:

    Hi Asta,
    My wife and I are planning a similar 4 day trip in Jan18, could you please forward your email to me as well?

    Loving all your tips!

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Done!

  11. LB says:

    A very helpful blog. Can you email me those comments, also please? I plan to visit in January with my young adult family in January for five days.

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Already sent!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Any suggestions for a wedding proposal please

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi,

      That depends on what is meaningful to you, and where you are going to be. A black sandy beach, under the northern lights, in the midnight sun, on a glacier hike, in the tower of Hallgrímskirkja church, in the Einar Jónsson sculpture garden, on a walk by Tjörnin lake in the center of Reykjavík, by the sea at Grótta lighthouse. I don’t know where in Iceland you will be, but maybe those ideas would help.
      Good luck!

  13. Thomas Thies says:

    Can you also send me your recommendations for a 4 day and 3 night visit? My wife and I will be travelling in January 18.

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Done!

  14. Rebecca Fletcher says:

    Hi Asta,

    Looks like January 2018 is going to be busy. Any chance you could send your recommendations for a short trip (4 days) onto me too please?

    Thank you for such an informative blog!

    Becs

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Done!

  15. Gill says:

    Hi Asta 🙂

    My boyfriend and I are also visiting Reykjavik for 5 days from 4th Jan, really grateful if our could forward the email on to me also!

    I don’t really want to drive there, but am not sure how easy it is to get around on public transport at that time of year, if you have any insight that would be great. We would also quite like to go skiing and to the blue lagoon and other swimming pools. Just wondering if the slopes near Reykjavik are lit, and if the tourist attractions are open by 4th Jan?

    Thank you so much for your help – your site is wonderful!

    Gill

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Gill,

      I will send you an email with ideas for your days here. You could do tours to see places, and use buses in the city (to the pools for example) and buses to and from the airport and to the Blue Lagoon. So things are entirely possible without a car.
      The ski slopes close to Reykjavík are lit up, since the daylight hours are quite limited in January in Iceland. There are also buses to get to the slopes, so if there’s enough snow and you want to go skiing, that’s also doable without a car.
      Places will be open like usual by January 4.

  16. Thom says:

    Hi, I will be visiting in January 2018 for 4-5 days, can you send me the same suggested tours, thanks!

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Done!

  17. Terry Jackson says:

    Hello Asta,
    I plan to be in Iceland Jan 10 – 14, 2018. Could you please email your recommendations to me as well? Thank you so much for the information,

    Terry

  18. Simon says:

    Hi,

    Great blog – really useful.

    So, I’ve got a similar query to many others – planning on a 4/5 day trip in January 18 and wondered if you could send me the email with some ideas/suggestions.

    Also hoping to see the northern lights and wondered if you knew of/could recommend and accommodation with glass/perspex ceilings which I’ve heard about. We wouldn’t mind being in the middle of nowhere…

    Thanks

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Simon,

      Many people see the Golden Circle and the South coast as highlights of visiting Iceland, is might be good spots for a first visit. 4-5 days is not long, but with that, you could visit both areas and more.
      A good option would to do these tours:
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/the-tours/partner-tours/golden-circle-tours/hot-golden-circle-including-the-secret-lagoon/
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/the-tours/partner-tours/2-days-south-coast-ice-cave-skaftafell-and-jokulsarlon-glacier-lagoon/
      On your first day, I would suggest starting by having a day in Reykjavík, do our walking tour and enjoy the city: https://iheartreykjavik.net/the-tours/our-tours/the-iheart-reykjavik-walking-tour/

      We have already put together some itineraries which might be useful for you:
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2015/12/how-to-spend-4-days-in-iceland-in-winter-without-renting-a-car/
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2016/08/how-to-spend-5-days-in-iceland-in-fall-or-winter-solo-without-breaking-the-bank/
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2016/11/seven-days-in-winter-in-iceland-for-adventure-lovers-that-dont-want-to-rent-a-car/

      The only accommodation I am aware of with a glass ceiling is called Buubble, and is in the South of Iceland, so this is not common in Iceland.

  19. John says:

    Hi Asta – I myself am headed to Reykjavik for 4 days in January. If you could send me a few suggestions for best use of our time, that would be fantastic! We have a group of 5 gentlemen in late twenties.

    Thank you!
    John

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Will do!

  20. Miao says:

    Hi Asta, thanks for running an awesome blog! I’ve just booked my trip to Reykjavik for 4 days in January. I’m traveling with my ten-year-old son and 6 adults friends. If you could send me a few suggestions for best use of our time, that would be so helpful!

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Please check out some of the other answers in this comment thread – there are a lot of links there that would be helpful to you.

  21. Terri says:

    Hi Asta! Your information will come in very handy as we are traveling to Iceland for 3 days in Jan. Could you send me the 3 day itinerary you have put together. Should we book these before we get there.
    We are really excited about traveling to Iceland!

    Thans in advance!
    Terri S

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      OK guys, I’m stepping in before this goes out of hand 🙂

      Ásta doesn’t have an itinerary ready, she is only sending people links to things that are already here on the blog.

      If you are planning on staying in Reykjavík and doing day tours I would suggest you look at these posts:
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2015/12/how-to-spend-4-days-in-iceland-in-winter-without-renting-a-car/
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2016/08/how-to-spend-5-days-in-iceland-in-fall-or-winter-solo-without-breaking-the-bank/
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2016/11/seven-days-in-winter-in-iceland-for-adventure-lovers-that-dont-want-to-rent-a-car/

      These itineraries are for 4,5 and 7 days but you can adjust them at will for a number of days you have. They’ve all been designed with maximizing your time in Iceland in mind and tours that we believe are good value for money.

      If you plan to self-drive, you only have time to explore the area closest to Reykjavík and we’ve covered them in our self-drive guides:
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2015/04/drive-it-yourself-the-snaefellsnes-peninsula/
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2015/01/drive-it-yourself-a-south-coast-adventure/
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2014/12/drive-it-yourself-the-golden-circle/

      If you have any more questions after reading through that, please feel free to use the contact option here on the blog and send us an e-mail.

  22. Katie says:

    Hello, looking to visit in January with my two and five year old. Anything particular that you would recommend for families please? A guide to fun kids indoor play centres and activities as well as the main sites would be thoroughly appreciated.

    Thanks

    Katie

  23. Jim and Mary says:

    Is it too late to plan a trip to Iceland in January of 2018? What would you recommend for a 5-6 day itinerary? Very interested in the aurora borealis

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Jim and Mary,

      It’s not too late – as long as you’re not planning on arriving on January 1st 🙂

      If you read through the comments here on this post there are a lot of links there, some of them to 5-6 day itineraries, that should give you a good idea about what’s possible in this time frame.

      When you’ve read through them and you’re ready to start planning, you’re welcome to shoot us an e-mail and we can help you with booking tours and such 🙂

  24. Martina Rizzo says:

    Hi – we are going to do a 4 day stopover in Iceland on our trip to Europe (January 10-14 2018). It will be the first visit for both my husband and I and we would love your ideas on the places to not miss while we are there. We have not decided if we should rent a car or rely on tours and public transportation.
    Thank you.
    Martina

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Martina,

      Perhaps these posts would be useful for you:
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/2015/12/how-to-spend-4-days-in-iceland-in-winter-without-renting-a-car/https://iheartreykjavik.net/2016/08/how-to-spend-5-days-in-iceland-in-fall-or-winter-solo-without-breaking-the-bank/

      Many people see the Golden Circle and the South coast as highlights of their short trip to Iceland. Both are also conveniently close to Reykjavík, so doable on a short visit – and lovely places. Snæfellsnes is also a beautiful area.

      The drive-it-yourself guides might be useful, but keep in mind that winter driving in Iceland can be challenging if you are not used to icy and snowy conditions.
      https://iheartreykjavik.net/?s=drive+it+yourself

  25. Natalie H. says:

    Hello!
    I’m loving this blog! There is so much information!
    My husband and I are traveling to Iceland the first week of January 2018. We have a Golden Circle tour booked as well as a half day to the blue Lagoon but we will have a couple days on our own. We have a hotel in Reykjavik booked for the week. My husband and I want to rent a car for a day or two. We are feeling ambitious and are interested in driving some of the Ring Road.

    I was hoping for some advice on destinations we could drive to from Reykjavik and back in one day to be back at our home base hotel for the night. I have read about some places but I’m feeling overwhelmed and unsure of the reality of what’s really a day trip from Reykjavik and what isn’t.

    Thank you!

    Natalie

    1. mm Ásta - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Hi Natalie,

      For a day tour, you do visit some of the South Coast, and perhaps all the way to Vík and back, but keep in mind that a part of the day will be driving in darkness, since the days are so short at that time of year. Snæfellsnes is also a lovely area, but that is also a long day tour. You can also just visit some of the places on the peninsula, to make it not quite as long. Reykjanes peninsula is closer to Reykjavík, and shorter and more doable day tour. Borgarfjörður area, Borgarnes town and Hvalfjörður are also nice. It might be a good idea to read up on all of those, and then decide depending on weather for the day or two you have for this.
      Perhaps our drive-it-yourself posts might be useful for you: https://iheartreykjavik.net/?s=drive+it+yourself

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