Iceland in January? Absolutely!

Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, IcelandWe’ve all heard the story: Greenland is really covered in ice, while Iceland is really green, named such by Vikings to ward off potential settlers. Well, that’s a myth—in more ways than one. Iceland truly is icy, at least if you visit in winter. But that’s no reason to avoid this country in colder months, as Nicole and I learned during our stay last year during the dead of January.

Iceland had long been on my travel bucket list, and I must admit that I’d always envisioned visiting in spring or summer, when the landscape would be verdant and daylight would last well into the night.

Skógarfoss waterfall.

Iceland’s Skógarfoss waterfall.

But when I came across a package deal for Iceland last winter, I knew I couldn’t resist. Sure, some friends—who know of my hatred of cold weather, snow, and ice—expressed shock and mild horror that I would willingly seek it out. After some research, though, Nic and I realized that Iceland’s winters aren’t any worse than Boston’s. And despite a predicted 5 hours of daylight in January, we were willing to take a chance on Iceland.

Harbor in Reykjavik in January

The harbor in Reykjavik.

I’m so glad we did. As it turns out, January is a fine time to visit Iceland. It even has some perks:

1) Bigger savings. While you can find package deals from both Boston and New York to Iceland, some of the best discounts may be found in winter. We scored our flight, 4 nights in a five-star hotel in Reykjvaik, and a 12+-hour excursion that included a glacier hike, lobster stew dinner, and Northern Lights tour for just $600 per person.

lobster soup at the Sea Baron

A steaming bowl of lobster soup at the Sea Baron in Reykjavik.

2) Northern lights. With the odds of seeing this natural wonder highest between October and March, winter is perfect for a visit to Iceland. (We didn’t see them on our tour—but we heard that they were very clear the following night.)

Gulfoss waterfall

The icy Gulfoss waterfall in January

Hiking Sólheimajökull Glacier

Hiking the Sólheimajökull Glacier in January!

3) Ice, ice, baby. Okay. I hate ice. I might go so far as to say I’m scared of it—or at least scared of falling on it. I’m like a little old lady. And the streets of Reykjavik are icy in winter! They don’t sand or salt, so bring sturdy boots. The upside? January is a great time to hike a glacier, if you want the full, icy experience. Iceland’s waterfalls are still stunning to visit, and you don’t need to worry about driving: Tour companies will pick you up from and drop you off right at your hotel.

Sólheimajökull Glacier

Iceland’s Sólheimajökull Glacier.

4) Hot springs. You’ll want to bring boots, hats, gloves, and other warm clothing to Iceland in winter. But there’s one place where you can shed all that gear and still feel toasty: the Blue Lagoon. We hit up this geothermal spa on the way to the airport, and I’ll never forget the experience of soaking in the hot mineral waters while watching snowflakes fall.

Morning at Iceland's Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon: Hot and cold all at once.

What are some of your favorite off-season spots? Share them in a comment!

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5 thoughts on “Iceland in January? Absolutely!

  1. Thank you so much for posting this followup to your Blue Lagoon post..!! Talk to me about clothes to bring. I know you mention boots, hat, scarf, gloves, but are ski pants too much for tours and such? I imagine thermals won’t be a bad idea? You really think it’s similar/same as Boston winters? I’m honing in on booking a trip there in February.. I’m so excited..!!

    • It was slightly colder there than here last January, but that’s because Boston had a mild winter. Generally it’s about the same. I brought thermal underwear AND ski pants/jacket, although that was mostly because we did the glacier hike. If you’re staying in the city, you could get away with regular layered warm winter clothing (sweaters, cords or jeans, boots, etc.) If you’re doing anything outdoors or active, though, I’d definitely bring ski-type gear—and bring good footwear, because the sidewalks will be super slippery if there’s any snow or ice on the ground. Good luck—I think you’ll really love it!

  2. Pingback: Chocolate From The Land Of Fjords? « A Chocolate Life

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