Things To Do in Iceland in December

Discover the ultimate guide to things to do in Iceland in December. As the land of fire and ice transforms into a magical winter wonderland, Iceland boasts snow-covered landscapes and the potential for spotting the Northern Lights. December is my favourite time to visit Iceland, and in this post, I delve into all the reasons why.

Things to do in Iceland in December

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1. Hunt for the Northern Lights

To increase your chances of witnessing the Aurora Borealis, head away from any light pollution. Popular spots include Thingvellir National Park and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. For the best experience, join a guided Northern Lights tour. Local experts know the optimal locations and times for viewing. Remember to bundle up warmly, as you’ll be spending hours outside in very cold conditions!

Iceland in December Northern Lights

December is a good time to hunt for the Northern Lights in Iceland, as the nights are dark. Iceland’s location in the North means it gets frequent Aurora throughout the Winter. In my experience, you’ll have the best chance of seeing the Aurora if you stay in Iceland for a week or longer. Sometimes the activity in Space will be high, but the low cloud cover over Iceland means at best you can see a green tinge in the sky. Staying longer maximises your chances of both things lining up and you getting to see the incredible show.

I recommend downloading the My Aurora Forecast & Alerts app. It has Aurora activity and cloud reports which can be used to forecast your chances. As well as a map of user-reported sightings, which is handy when choosing where best to go.

Many of Iceland’s hotels offer an Aurora wake up call. Often the Aurora can come out to play in the early hours, so this is a great way to ensure you don’t miss out. And why not consider booking somewhere with a hot tub? Watching the Aurora dance across the sky, from the warmth of a hot tub is an unforgettable experience.

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2. Hike on a Glacier or Explore an Ice Cave

If you love adventure travel, you won’t run out of things to do in Iceland in December! Winter is an excellent time to hike on these massive ice formations or venture into the stunning blue ice caves formed by melting water and refreezing.

Glacier Hiking

Guided glacier hikes are safe and suitable for most fitness levels. You’ll get to see breathtaking ice formations, deep crevasses, and possibly even frozen waterfalls along the way. Popular glaciers to explore include Vatnajökull and Langjökull.

Ice Cave Exploration

Ice caves are natural wonders that vary in size and shape each year. The most well known is the Crystal Ice Cave in Vatnajökull National Park. These caves are only accessible in winter, making December the perfect time for this adventure. Always go with a guide, as the caves can be dangerous without proper knowledge and equipment.

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Laugarvatn Fontana
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3. Warm up in a Geothermal Pool

Geothermal pools and spas

One of my favourite things to do in Iceland in December is to bathe in a geothermal pool. After a day of icy adventures, there’s nothing quite like it! These naturally heated pools offer relaxation and rejuvenation amid stunning landscapes.

Geothermal hot tubs

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa. Its milky blue waters and luxurious facilities make it a must-visit. Other notable spots include the Secret Lagoon and Myvatn Nature Baths. Laugarvatn Fontana is one of my favourite spots and just a short drive from Selfoss.

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The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Geothermal Hot Tubs

For a cosier experience, seek out geothermal hot tubs scattered around the countryside. These smaller pools offer a cosy soak with fewer crowds. The Landbrotalaug and Hellulaug thermal baths are popular choices.

Iceland in December Hot Springs

Natural hot springs like Reykjadalur provide a more rugged experience. After a short hike, you can relax in a warm river surrounded by snow-covered hills. It’s an unforgettable way to connect with nature.

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Frozen waterfall Öxarárfoss

4. Marvel at Frozen Waterfalls

Iceland is home to numerous waterfalls, and in December, many of them freeze partially, creating a magical winter scene. The combination of flowing water and ice formations is truly mesmerising.

Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skogafoss are some of the most stunning waterfalls to visit in winter. And whilst they may not freeze entirely, the huge icicles which form on their sides are an incredible sight.

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5. Hike Through the Snow

Hiking through Iceland’s snowy landscapes is a serene experience. The crisp air, quiet surroundings, and untouched beauty make it feel like a scene from a winter postcard. If like me, you’re travelling with kids, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the form of snowball fights, building snowmen and sledding down hills. Families won’t be stuck for things to do in Iceland in December, with a little imagination (and some good layers).

Best Winter Hiking Trails

Explore trails in Thingvellir National Park or the Snaefellsnes Peninsula for some of the best winter hikes. These areas offer a mix of easy walks and more challenging treks, catering to all fitness levels.

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6. Watch the Sunset, Four Hours After Sunrise!

Winter in Iceland is a photographer’s dream. The snow-covered landscapes often bask in a magical glow as the sun sets and rises. With deep blues, pinks, and purples painting the scenery. Whilst Iceland experiences the Midnight Sun, it doesn’t have a Polar Night period (where the sun never rises above the horizon) like places above the Arctic Circle.

Iceland in December Daylight

In December, Iceland experiences only a few hours of daylight, with the sun rising around 11 am and setting around 3 pm. This unique phenomenon creates extended twilight hours, perfect for capturing stunning sunrise and sunset photos. Photographers will struggle to fit in all of the things to do in Iceland in December, which is why I go back every year.

One of my favourite spots to watch the sunset in December in Iceland is Vík í Mýrdal and Reynisfjara beach. The sea stacks and black sand look so striking against a dramatic sunset.

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Seltún

7. Heat Things Up at a Geothermal Area

Iceland’s geothermal areas are fascinating places to explore, especially in winter when the steam contrasts with the snow-covered ground. These areas are home to bubbling mud pots, steaming vents, and vibrant mineral deposits.

Visit the Geysir Geothermal Area to see the famous Strokkur geyser erupt every few minutes. Hverir, near Lake Myvatn, is another geothermal hotspot with colourful mineral deposits and steaming hot springs. And Seltún in the Krýsuvík geothermal area allows you to look at the Mars-like landscape from a boardwalk.

I love smelling the sulphur and listening to the steam roaring out of the fumaroles. If volcanoes are your thing, you will be spoiled for things to do in Iceland in December. I highly recommend checking out the Lava Show, where you can see real molten lava safely. And also the interactive Lava Centre in Hella, which showcases Iceland’s volcanic history.

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Thingvellir lake

8. Take in the Frozen Lakes of Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit destination in Iceland. In December, the park’s lakes and rivers freeze over, creating a stunning winter landscape.

Explore the park’s geological wonders, including the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The frozen lakes and rivers add an extra layer of beauty to this already impressive site.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try snorkelling or diving in the Silfra Fissure, where the water remains clear and cold year-round. We did this back in 2014 when it was -2°C outside and the water froze on our drysuits as we were climbing out of the water.

If you’re in the South of Iceland, a visit to Thingvellir is a must. It’s one of my top things to do in Iceland in December and is free (besides the parking, which you can pay using Iceland’s Parka app) and suitable for all ages.

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9. Spend the Day Exploring Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is a charming city with a vibrant cultural scene. Spending a day exploring its streets, museums, shops and cafes is a great way to experience Icelandic life.

Must-See Attractions

Visit Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic church with its stunning architecture and panoramic views of the city. The Harpa Concert Hall and the Sun Voyager sculpture are also worth a visit. My daughter loves Perlan, Iceland’s interactive nature museum.

Local Cuisine

Warm up with a bowl of traditional Icelandic soup at a local cafe or indulge in fresh seafood at one of the city’s many restaurants. Don’t forget to try a classic Icelandic hot dog from a drive-thru. If like me, you’re a vegetarian, don’t worry. There’s always a good vegetarian or vegan option in Reykjavik eateries.

Yule Lads at Christmas in Reykjavik

During the Christmas season, Reykjavik becomes a magical place filled with festive cheer and one of its most unique traditions involves the Yule Lads. These thirteen mischievous characters, who descend from the mountains one by one in the days leading up to Christmas, delight children and adults alike with their playful antics. Each Yule Lad has a unique personality and way of causing trouble, and spotting them in the city becomes a fun activity for locals and visitors. Keep an eye out for these creepy figures as you stroll through Reykjavik’s decorated streets, where you might find them hiding in public spaces, peeking into shops, or engaging with festive displays.

Unlike our Christmas traditions in the UK, the Yule Lads are brilliantly twisted. As with all Icelandic folklore, they’re quite dark and strange. Take the Yule Cat, who is said to lurk around the countryside eating people who haven’t received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve … So you had better get those festive PJs on quickly!

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10. Help Blow Up 500 Tonnes of Fireworks For an Unforgettable New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve in Iceland is a spectacular event, with locals and visitors coming together to celebrate with fireworks, bonfires, and parties. The tradition of setting off fireworks is taken to the next level in Reykjavik, where an estimated 500 tonnes of fireworks light up the sky. All the profit from the sale of fireworks goes to the ICESAR, Iceland’s volunteer-run search and result organisation.

One of the most unforgettable things to do in Iceland in December is to go into the centre of Reykjavik and witness this spectacle for yourself. This is an activity better suited to adults and older kids, as there will be things blowing up all over the place.

Visiting Iceland in December

Winter is a magical time to visit, with its festive atmosphere and numerous things to do in Iceland in December. The start of the month will give you more of a chance to experience Icelandic Christmas folklore like the Yule Lads. Where as visiting during the festive period means you can take part in traditions like New Year’s Eve. Be sure to check the opening hours of things over the festive period.

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Iceland was particularly cold when we visited in 2022, with temperatures as low as -21 °C.

How Cold is Iceland in December?

Temperatures in December typically range from -1°C to 4°C. While it can be chilly, proper clothing and preparation ensure you stay warm and comfortable. Most years when I have visited in December the temperature has been within this range, but we have had far colder visits, such as 2022, when the temperature was as low as low as -21 °C. Waterproof outer layers and good hiking boots are essential in Iceland, whenever you visit.

Iceland in December What to Wear

Dress in layers, with a thermal base layer, insulating mid-layer, and waterproof outer layer. Don’t forget warm accessories like hats, gloves, scarves and neckwarmers to protect against the cold wind.

As long as you’re properly dressed for the elements, the weather won’t hold you back from enjoying all the things to do in Iceland in December.

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Thermal drinkware is useful to keep your water cold and coffee hot.

What to Pack for Iceland in December

In addition to warm clothing, pack waterproof boots, a sturdy backpack, and a reusable bottle. Bring a camera to capture the stunning winter landscapes and a power bank to keep your devices charged. One downside to the cold is that batteries will drain a lot faster.

Iceland in December with Kids

Iceland is a family-friendly destination, with numerous activities suitable for children. From exploring Reykjavik to hunting for the Northern Lights, there’s plenty to keep kids entertained and engaged. The cold temperatures and icy surfaces can present a challenge for little ones, but as long as you come prepared, they’ll be able to get involved in all the great things to do in Iceland in December.

Iceland in December and January

Both December and January offer unique experiences in Iceland. While December is festive and filled with holiday traditions, January offers quieter landscapes and fewer tourists.

I’d say that if you’re coming for the first time, it is lovely to visit during the busy season and you may find a wider range of available tours and things to do in Iceland in December. However, January will be cheaper and quieter, so for the seasoned visitor, consider pushing your visit back by a few weeks.

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Can you Drive in Iceland in December?

Driving in Iceland in December is possible but requires caution. Roads can be icy and weather conditions unpredictable. Renting a 4×4 vehicle and checking road conditions regularly ensures a safe and enjoyable trip. Safe.is is a great website with lots of information about staying safe in Iceland, including road conditions in English.

Can you fly to Iceland in December?

Yes, you can fly to Iceland in December. Keflavik International Airport operates year-round, with numerous flights from major cities around the world. The only difference you may experience is the plane being deiced on the runway. And if you’re really lucky, you might get your first glimpse of the Northern Lights from the plane window.

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How Many Days in Iceland in December

A week-long trip allows you to experience all the things to do in Iceland in December. This duration provides ample time to explore and gives you the best chance of seeing the Aurora during your stay.

When visiting in winter, I always put a bit more effort into choosing our accommodation. This is so that if the weather turns, you can spend the day at home and wait for the worst to pass (perhaps from a geothermal hot tub!).

Why December is the Best Time to Visit Iceland

December offers the perfect blend of winter activities and breathtaking natural beauty. The long nights create ideal conditions for viewing the Northern Lights, while the snow-covered landscapes provide a magical backdrop for your adventures.



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