Iceland in January: Hot Springs in Cold Weather


Visiting Iceland in January means experiencing a very cold winter along with days that are barely four to six hours long. That is why few people plan a trip to Iceland in January. But if you are familiar with winter temperatures in other northern European capitals, the weather in Iceland in January will not seem particularly harsh. Besides, there are some exciting things to do in Iceland in January — from chasing the magical Northern Lights and visiting nature reserves like Skaftafell to enjoying the bars and museums of Reykjavik, the capital city.

Iceland Weather in January

Cottage on a background of mountains in the moonlight. South Iceland.
The Icelandic winter can get pretty chilly, with temperatures ranging between -3°C and 3 °C at a few places

The weather in Iceland in January is cold and the sky cloudy. The county is, after all, quite close to the Arctic Circle. Because of the snow and unpredictable weather, some regular summer tourist activities are suspended, and many mountain roads are closed. In addition to this, the number of hours of daylight is also limited. The average low temperature in Iceland in January is about -3°C, while the average highs are around 3 °C. This is despite the fact that the Gulf Stream has a warming effect on Iceland’s climate. Had it not been for this, the country would have been much colder during this time of year. Also, expect frequent snowfall, rain, and sleet at this time of year.

For a seasonal overview, go through our travel guide on the best time to visit Iceland.

Weather in Iceland in January - Rainfall and Temperatures

Avg Daily (°C)322591113139654
Avg Nightly (°C)-3-2-203798520-1
Avg Daily (°F)37.435.635.64148.251.855.455.448.242.84139.2
Avg Nightly (°F)26.628.428.43237.444.648.246.44135.63230.2
Avg Rainfall (mm)504040204020203040303040

Why Visit Iceland in January

Geysir sometimes known as The Great Geysir, is a geyser in southwestern Ice
Iceland's hot geothermal springs are the perfect remedy to warm yourselves up during cold January mornings
Aerial view of famous Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral and the city of Reykjavik
The cities like Reykjavik have enough activities to keep you occupied during your Iceland tour in January

A trip to Iceland in January makes for a truly unique experience. Be it trips to frozen waterfalls or a snowmobile ride through glaciers enveloped in snow, you will not run short of things to do in Iceland in winter. Below are some reasons why you should consider visiting Iceland in January:

  • Thin crowds: Iceland is flooded with tourists during the peak tourist season. But in January you can take a deep dive into Reykjavik’s art scene, delve into its cuisine culture and tick off the sights on Iceland's Golden Circle without swarms of people around you.
  • Great deals: Since most tourists tend to give January a miss, you can bag cool deals on hotels, airfare, and activities during your Iceland trip.
  • Northern Lights: The Northern Lights are one of Iceland’s major attractions. Luckily, January is one of those months when they are easily visible in the night sky. However, you may have to drive a few kilometers away from city limits to get the best view.
  • Elf bonfires: Icelanders mark the end of the Christmas season with a joyous pagan twist. This unique event, on January 6, is called Þrettándinn (the Thirteenth) and is celebrated with fireworks, bonfires, family dinners, and elf dances.
  • Urban adventure: Reykjavik has a lovely buzz about it in January, and the cold and dark weather does little to dampen its holiday spirit. Indulge in some retail therapy in the capital — the city is famous for its high-quality jewelry and designs. Spend an afternoon on a skating rink and go bar hopping in the evening. Cold and dark certainly do not mean dull and boring in Reykjavik!
  • Hot-dip: Swimming pools in many parts of the country stay open in January, thanks to the power of geothermal energy. Nothing beats a warm dip in one of Iceland’s many hot springs on a cold day.
  • Great outdoors: From glacier tours and whale-watching trips to exploring some truly breathtaking landscapes through hiking tours—there are numerous activities that you can experience in Iceland in January.
  • Museum-hopping: There are some excellent museums in Reykjavik that are worth discovering. Make the most of the gloomy weather by browsing through their collections.

Where to go and what to do

Aurora borealis and silhouette of standing man and woman
Marvel at the majesty of the Northern Lights as they provide a psychedelic view of the Icelandic sky

You can go on a thrilling jeep ride while on a tour of Thorsmork, a valley named after the god of thunder in Norse mythology, during your stay in Iceland in January. But, given inclement weather conditions, please make sure that you have an experienced tour guide along with you. Not far away from this valley is the famous glacial volcano of Eyjafjallajökull, yet another highlight that you would not want to miss out on. See the psychedelic Northern Lights dance in the midnight sky and 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. Explore Thingvellir National Park and discover why the spectacular setting was chosen as a shooting spot for "Game of Thrones". While there, visit the beautiful Thingvellir World Heritage Area, the site where the world’s first democratic parliament met. Although you might not be able to spot whales, puffins, and seals from Dyrholaey, a dramatic cliff located on the southernmost point of the country, you can definitely enjoy expansive views from there during winter (take care while driving to this area in January since some sections are steep). Learn more about old cod-fishing methods practiced by locals on a Snaefellsnes Peninsula tour and try spotting mysterious shipwrecks off its coast. Cover the highlights of Reykjavik, including Hallgrimskirkja Church and Alþingi (Iceland’s national parliament).

If you are wondering how many days you’ll need to wrap all of the above things in one trip, check out our guide on how long to stay in Iceland. We recommend at least a week in the country 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.   

What to bring

Woman in the snow in Iceland during winter
Temperatures dip below freezing during January in Iceland so make sure that you have proper attire to go with the weather

Since Iceland’s temperature in January is below the freezing point most of the time, you will have to pack accordingly. Woolen sweaters, gloves, and layers of warm fabric are a must. Also, do not forget to pack a sturdy pair of snow boots along with a waterproof winter jacket.

Navigating the cold, unpredictable weather of Iceland in January can be a little challenging, but it is also a wonderful time to explore this extraordinary country and its white, snowy landscape. Feel free to get in touch with our travel experts if you are interested in customizing a trip to Iceland.

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

Our related travel guide articles:

Iceland in December

Iceland in February

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  • Harpa Groiss
    Harpa Groiss
    Travel Expert in Iceland
  • Harpa Groiss
    Harpa Groiss
    Travel Expert in Iceland
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