Iceland in December: Weather, Tips & Hot Springs

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Iceland’s weather in December is icy cold, with temperatures staying well below the freezing point for most of the month, and days are very short. You will be lucky to get a few hours of sunlight during this time — after all, this country is very close to the Arctic Circle.

Despite the cold weather, December is one of the ideal times to tour Iceland and engage in activities like chasing the magical Northern Lights, participating in exciting winter sports, and exploring parts of the great outdoors. Iceland in December transforms into a snowy fairyland, clad in white, with the capital Reykjavik making for a beautiful Christmas and New Year experience.

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Iceland weather in December

Iceland - Man standing in the glacier lagoon
While December is a cold month for Iceland, it does not feel the same cold as other European countries in the same period

Although most people think that Iceland’s weather in December is unimaginably cold, the fact is that while temperatures in the country are indeed quite low, it is not necessarily colder than some other north European capitals. That being said, days are really short — the average length of a day is between four and five hours. As far as Iceland’s temperature in December is concerned, the average low temperature is -2°C, while the average high is approximately 4°C. No matter when you come to Iceland in December, you are almost certainly going to experience snowfall, rain, or sleet.

For more detailed information on Iceland’s seasonal variations, make sure to check our travel guide on the best time to visit Iceland.

Weather in Iceland in December - Rainfall and Temperatures

Nov Dec Jan
Avg Daily (°C) 5 4 3
Avg Nightly (°C) 0 -1 -3
Avg Daily (°F) 41 40 38
Avg Nightly (°F) 32 31 27
Avg Rainfall (mm) 30 40 50

Why visit Iceland in December

Woman enjoying natural spa, Blue Lagoon
Drive the cold away with a dip in the warm geothermal pools of Iceland
Aurora borealis with silhouette love romantic couple on the mountain
Capture the beauty of the Northern Lights in the comfortable temperatures of December in Iceland

An Iceland trip in December is bound to be a new experience. A visit outside of the tourist season means more opportunities to interact with locals and visit places that would normally be very packed during peak season. Here are the top reasons why you should consider a trip to Iceland in December.

  • Off-season rates: It is possible to get some exciting discounts on hotels and other services in Iceland in December since this is off-season.
  • Fewer crowds: The number of tourists visiting Iceland annually surpasses the country’s population, leading to crowded highlights during the peak season. However, since December is a low tourist season, you can have museums, waterfalls, glaciers, and auroras all for yourself.
  • Northern Lights: December is one of the best times to embark on an Iceland Northern Lights tour given it is peak winter, the daylight hours are at the minimum, and light pollution is low. The auroras are best seen in the countryside, away from Reykjavik and other major cities.
  • Cool capital: The festive season breathes life into Reykjavik in December. Indulge in some high-quality Christmas shopping (especially in cutting-edge jewelry, fashion, and design), participate in new year celebrations with locals, and have fun on ice-skating rinks that are open to the public. Soak up the capital’s arts and crafts scene and go bar hopping in the city. Reykjavik has a vibrant nightlife even on the coldest days.
  • Warm swim: Iceland hot springs tours in major cities like Reykjavik allow you to experience the convenience of geothermal energy. It is almost criminal not to dip in these hot springs during Iceland’s freezing winter.
  • Museum time: You always have an option to enter museums if you start shivering outside. Iceland’s excellent museums, like the National Museum of Iceland and the Reykjavik Art Museum, make for a great escape from the cold.
  • Great outdoors: From glacier hiking to whale-watching, there are some cool things to do in the great outdoors in Iceland in December.

Where to go and what to do

Setting sun along the path between large rock walls in Thingvellir National
Iceland's Thingvellir National Park is well-known not just for its natural beauty but also for its historical roots

The season of festivals in Iceland — called ‘Jólin’ — starts in November and continues through December and January. Be part of Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations in Reykjavík as you explore its local markets decorated with colorful lights and mingle with the locals.

Drive out of the city to capture surreal views of the Northern Lights dancing in the midnight sky and visit the famous glacial volcano of Eyjafjallajökull. Be amazed by the sheer scale and majesty of Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier. Seljalandsfoss, one of the most famous natural landmarks in the country, looks stunning at this time of year, with blankets of snow all around and water turned into icicles. Discover the world inside a glacier as you explore the icy tunnels on your Langjökull tour. You can even ride a snowmobile over the glacier surface if you wish to.

Since this is the off-season, you have all the landmarks along Iceland’s Golden Circle to yourself. A trip to Thingvellir National Park is a must not just for the fans of the hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ (parts of this series were filmed here) but also for those into history, as it was in this location that the world’s first democratic parliament met. Dyrholaey, a dramatic cliff located on the southernmost point of the country, is yet another destination that could be part of your itinerary. Although you cannot spot whales, puffins, and seals from Dyrholaey in winter, the expansive views will surely steal your heart. Lastly, do not forget to take a dip in the warm, healing waters of the Blue Lagoon before it is time to head home.

For more ideas on the length of your stay and the activities to take part in, make sure to check out our travel guides on how long to stay in Iceland and things to do in Iceland

What to bring

Tourists stand on the massive icebergs in lake Jokulsar
Make sure that you carry the proper attire so that you are well prepared for the Icelandic winter

Since you will encounter sub-zero temperatures in Iceland in December, make sure that you carry warm jackets along with sweaters and mufflers with you. A pair of sturdy snow boots are a must for outdoor activities along with a waterproof winter jacket. We recommend at least a week in the Iceland if you want to witness all the must-see highlights in the country. However, if you have fewer days on your hands, spending at least 3 days in Iceland would give you a satisfying glimpse of those highlights.

Despite the cold weather and short days, you can squeeze in a lot of exciting activities during your Iceland tour in December. Get in touch with our travel experts in the country to help you craft the perfect tailor-made itinerary for Greece.

Make sure to check out our tours to Iceland in January to plan your trip right away!

Our related travel guide articles:

Iceland in November
Iceland in January

Published by Lucas Toft, updated on August 8, 2023

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