The Ultimate Guide to Iceland in December

The Ultimate Guide to Iceland in December

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Northern lights in December over Jökulsárlón glacker lagoonDiscover the best things to do in Iceland in December. December is one of the best times to visit Iceland due to the excellent conditions for viewing the northern lights and the festive spirit of the Christmas holidays. Learn about the weather, the best places to visit, fun things to do, and what tours to embark on. All this and more in our ultimate guide to visiting Iceland in December.

December is one of Iceland's coldest and darkest months. Snow is piling up around the country, and the sun only makes an appearance in the sky for four to five hours a day. While this may seem a little bleak, the high festive spirits around the country at Christmas time combat any seasonal blues.

Most well-known sites and many tours are still accessible in Iceland in December, and some activities, like ice-caving tours and northern lights hunting, are at their peak. Check out all the best tours in Iceland in December, and for your convenience, you can find all the top winter tours and packages here. If you prefer to drive yourself, check out the best winter self-drive tours in Iceland!

Snowy scenes by Reykjavík City Pond in December

While the climate is cold, the snow and ice transform the island into something new, something ethereal. That said, there are a few things to note to make your trip as safe as possible. Continue reading for all you need to know about Iceland in December!

December Holidays in Iceland

Celebrating new years in Reykjavik is one of the best things to do in Iceland in December!

Christmas in Iceland

As a primarily Lutheran country, Iceland has developed unique and wonderful traditions around Christmas time. December is widely considered to be the second-best time to visit Iceland because of the explosion of Yuletide joy.

In Icelandic and related Scandinavian languages, the holiday is called 'Jol,' which echoes English's yule. Christmas in Iceland is a celebration of light, as the days start getting longer after the winter solstice. "Gledileg jol!" echoes down the streets of Reykjavik, a warm greeting to passersby.

Bright and snowy day in December at Reykjavík's botanical garden

Iceland formally converted to Christianity in 1000 AD at a session of the Althingi. Still, heathen practices persisted even after its formal adoption—and were sanctioned by the law if "practiced in secret." Even today, many are interested in the Old Norse Gods, and members of the Asatru religion make up around 1% of the religious population. 

The Christmas celebrations in Iceland take place during Advent, and they weave together both Lutheranism and Paganism. The festival officially starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Eve, when the Christmas trees are lit across the country.

In the capital, the great Oslo Christmas Tree (yes, it's a gift from Norway) is lit at Austurvollur square to signal the start of the Christmas season, and the event is very popular.

Snowy views of the southern coast of Iceland in DecemberAs it gets closer to Christmas, you might see some of the Yule Lads walking around town, cheering and scaring children alike. In Iceland, there is no jolly Santa Clause that goes around handing out presents with the help of his reindeer. Instead, we have the Yule Lads! 13 brothers that travel from the mountains to the cities and towns to give children presents in their shoe, which they keep on the window shelf during December.

The first Yule Lad arrives on December 11, and then they come to town, one by one, day by day. So when Christmas Eve rolls around, Icelandic children will have already gotten 13 small presents in their shoe! However, if children behave badly, they just get a measly potato.

The Yule Lads are not always on their best behavior, as they are quite sneaky and mischievous. Each one has a name that is derived from their personality. There is "Door Slammer," who's very brash and loud. "Skyr-Gobbler" who loves nothing more than eating skyr and doesn't hesitate to steal it if he's really hungry. "Doorway-Sniffer" has a large nose and acute sense of smell, which he uses to locate laufabraud ("leaf bread"), a type of fried bread, commonly baked during Christmas.

Gryla and Leppaludi figures in Akureyri

Photo by David Stanley, from Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Other Yule Lads include "Spoon-Licker", "Pot-Scraper", "Bowl-Licker", "Candle-Stealer" and the diminutive "Stubby". Before the Yule Lads got more modernized in the early 20th century, the brothers were more like trolls that parents would tell their children horror stories about if they did not behave. Today, the Yule Lads are considered much more benevolent and can even sometimes be spotted wearing Santa-like red and white clothes in downtown Reykjavik.

However, their mother Gryla has not been modernized to the same extent as her sons. She is a frightening troll that controls her family with an iron fist alongside her doofus of a husband, Leppaludi, who is several centuries older than her. Gryla is definitely the evilest of the family, as she descends from the mountains every Christmas to kidnap and eat naughty children (and, possibly, grown adults). In the above picture, you can see figures of Gryla and Leppaludi in Akureyri

Gryla has an enormous black cat, the Yule Cat, who also eats children, but only those who don't receive any new clothes for Christmas. That way, kids can't complain if they get "boring" soft presents on Christmas, like socks or shirts. Below you can see a large lit-up statue of the Yule Cat, which is placed in Laekjartorg square in Reykjavik's city center every year during the Christmas season.

Yule Cat

Restaurants in Iceland serve wildly popular "Christmas buffets" in December, which families and co-workers flock to. Shops stay open until 10 PM from December 15 until December 23. Even bars host Christmas concerts and shows.

Note that some shops, restaurants, and tours may be closed or have limited opening hours during the height of the Christmas season. Closures mainly occur between December 24 to December 26 and December 31 and January 1. Icelanders hold the biggest Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve and traditionally exchange gifts after dinner.

Those who want to enjoy the season outside the capital region could head to Obyggdasetrid, the Wilderness Center. They host 'Nostalgia of Christmas' tours throughout December, where you can learn about the festival's history in Iceland while enjoying homemade Icelandic Christmas food. 

New Year's Eve in Iceland

Similarly, New Year's Eve in Iceland is a huge event. In Reykjavik, it's arguably the city's most lively and exciting night of the year.

At the turn of the year, thousands upon thousands of people take to the streets to watch the largest fireworks show in Iceland. Locals buy fireworks in bulk from the Icelandic Search and Rescue organization (to fund them!) and set them off pretty much wherever they want to throughout the evening and into the night.

Winter Solstice in Iceland

The Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey IslandPhoto from Evening 2 Hour Tour of the Imagine Peace Tower with Transfer from Reykjavik

Besides Christmas and New Year, visitors coming to Iceland may be interested in the Winter Solstice in the December darkness. Every year on the Winter Solstice (December 21), the Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Island is relit until December 31. It's possible to take a ferry over to the island to watch this ceremony.

This ceremony is sometimes attended by Yoko Ono, who conceived the idea in memory of her late husband John Lennon. The tower base has 'Peace' written on it in 24 languages, and the pillar of light can appear up to 2.5 miles (four kilometers) in the air on clear nights. The light can even be seen from all over Faxafloi bay and the capital area.

Best Things to Do in Iceland in December

Northern lights over lake Myvatn covered in snow in IcelandIt may be cold out, and many of the roads are closed, but there are still plenty of things to do in Iceland in December.

Things to Do in Reykjavik in December

There are plenty of things to do in Reykjavik, with the Christmas season in December. Also, many tours still run, meaning there's still quite a lot to do inside and outside the city.

Christmas in Reykjavik

Christmas in Reykjavik is one of the biggest highlights of December in Iceland. To make the most of your vacation, check the Visit Reykjavik website for Christmas opening hours of various shops, restaurants, and other venues in Iceland from November onward.

To fully immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, you should head to the charming town of Hafnarfjordur, which is in the greater capital area and only a 15-minute drive from the city center. This town has deep ties to Icelandic folklore and tradition, and its residents go all out. The hip town center turns into a fairytale Christmas village during the season with a fun market on the weekends, and the beautiful Hellisgerdi park turns into a Christmas light fairytale.

A traditional Icelandic turf church in winter.Photo by Regina Hronn Ragnarsdottir

However, the best place to feel the Christmas spirit is at the Arbaejarsafn Open Air Museum, which is on the edge of Reykjavik. This museum is usually open only during summer, but it's also open on weekends in December, from 1 PM to 5 PM.

The area features the turf houses and churches of old Iceland, with staged areas showing how Icelanders of various economic backgrounds traditionally celebrated. Christmas in Iceland has always been an important holiday, and the festivities in Arnaejarsafn will help you learn about Iceland's past while enjoying a hot cup of cocoa. 

You can see how tallow candles are made in the stable, which are excellent gifts because they let people have their own personal light throughout winter—but let's not forget, they were also stolen by the Yule Lad "Candle-Sneaker". And when you get hungry, you can try the Christmas dinner staples: smoked lamb (hangikjot) and leaf bread (laufabraud), which is a type of fried bread that derives its name from its eloborate leafy patterns (not because it's made from leaves!). 

The Christmas shop is full of confectionary, and staffed by women in traditional regalia.Photo by Regina Hronn Ragnarsdottir

There are guided museum tours at 1 PM and a Christmas service in the turf church at 2 PM. The Icelandic Yule Lads arrive to entertain guests from 2-4 PM. At 3 PM, there's a celebration of dancing in the square of the reconstructed town.

You can buy tickets to the museum on location or through the purchase of the convenient Reykjavik City Card, which gives you access to museums and galleries across the capital. The museum presents an excellent opportunity to enjoy the high spirits of Iceland in December.

If you are interested in getting a deeper look into Icelandic culture and fairytales, you could try your hand at creating your own monster at a wool workshop. Wool has been an essential part of Icelandic culture since settlement, and you'll have no shortage of monstrous inspiration to draw from after witnessing the otherworldly landscapes Iceland has to offer.

New Year's Eve in Reykjavik

Fireworks over Reykjavik on New Years Eve seen from Perlan on OskjuhlidOne of the biggest events on New Year's Eve is the fireworks set off around the capital. The most popular spots are Hallgrimskirkja church and Perlan.

The best vantage point is, without a doubt, Hallgrimskirkja church, the iconic church that overlooks the city. Though no matter where you are in the city, you're sure to get a decent show. If you want to be on the safe side, protective glasses are sold around the city in the lead-up to the night.

Reykjavik also hosts a 6.2-mile (10-kilometer) run on New Year's Eve. The event is hugely popular among locals, and participants often dress up in costumes to win prizes. The race starts and finishes at Harpa Concert Hall.

After the run (or some pre-partying), there's also the famous Reykjavik nightlife for you to enjoy!

Ice Caving in December

Ice caves are spectacular, rare features, that only appear under certain conditions.

However, the festivities are not the only reason to come to Iceland in December. Many great activities are still running, and ice caving is one of the most renowned and spectacular in which you can participate.

Water running underneath the glaciers opens up tunnels within them, allowing visitors to explore the fantastical world inside an ice cap. Every December, three glaciers experience tunneling, which opens up an opportunity to learn about these natural phenomena.

The ice caves can be vast spaces, but none are permanent.

Photo from Katla Volcano Ice Caving & Glacier Hiking Tour with Transfer from Vik

Iceland's ice caves are unique places to visit, and ice cave tours are one of the most popular activities among travelers. However, they are natural formations that don't always cater to travelers' desires. After heavy rains, they often flood, which can compromise their structural integrity, and if that happens, the tour will only be conducted if it's safe.

Because of the risks associated with entering an ice cave without knowing how stable it is, ice caving should only be done with an experienced glacier guide on an official tour.

Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe, is the most common destination because of the incredible sites surrounding it, which are accessible throughout the winter. You can start your journey at the Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon and go ice-caving in the Vatnajokull glacier.

Another place is the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. In December, the glaciers have changed from a mix of white snow and black ash to vivid blue ice, and they advance into the reserve, making a hike there short and easy. You can try this small group ice cave tour that includes glacier equipment for an intimate and fun adventure. We also recommend this ice-caving and glacier hiking tour at Katla Volcano in Myrdalsjokull, which has a transfer from Vik.

Katla Ice Cave, which is only accessible until the end of December.Photo from Unique 11-Hour Glacier Hiking and Ice Cave Tour Under Katla Volcano from Reykjavik

Northern Lights in Iceland in December

The Northern Lights over Budir, on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. December in Iceland is breathtaking!

With just four hours of sunlight in the weeks around the winter equinox, you'll be traveling during the best time to see the northern lights, with 20 hours of darkness each day. Two conditions make for a perfect view: high solar activity and minimal cloud cover.

You can check for both on the aurora forecast of the Icelandic Meteorological Office website. As long as both of these circumstances look promising, you have a good chance of spotting the auroras.

The Northern Lights over a lake in Iceland.

There are three different ways to see the northern lights in Iceland. First, you can stay in Reykjavik and try to spot them in its darkest places, such as Grotta lighthouse or Klambratun Park. If they are particularly strong, you'll even be able to see them in areas with some light pollution, like a dimly lit city street.

However, the main problem with this approach is that light pollution limits the auroras' intensity, and you can't maneuver away from cloud cover with the same ease you'd have in a vehicle.

The auroras over Grotta Lighthouse, in Reykjavík.

A second option is to take your rental car and go out to hunt them yourself, using the aurora forecast to find the best areas. By renting a car, you'll avoid the city's light pollution by going to the countryside on your own. To sweeten the deal, you'll be able to find vantage points with no one else around.

Of course, this option should only be taken by confident drivers, and you should have a good knowledge of the potential routes you are planning to take so you don't end up in a dangerous situation.

Seeing the Northern Lights is on most people's bucket list.

The final option is the most comfortable and most reliable: taking a northern lights tour. These excursions are led by experienced guides who know Iceland's road conditions well and are also very knowledgeable about the aurora borealis and where to find them. They can explain the phenomenon to you, answering all your aurora-related questions while helping you with your camera settings. 

To top it off, if the tour is canceled due to unfavorable conditions, or the forecast was wrong, and the lights didn't appear, you can retake the tour free of charge until you see them. 

Many northern lights tours are very affordable, like this audio-guided northern lights tour, which you can take in one of ten languages. It's conducted on a larger bus and takes you to the best-known vantage points for the conditions.

Many private tour options are also available if you seek a more personal experience. Some of these are conducted in a super jeep, which allows you to reach places that cannot be accessed by larger buses, ensuring that there are no crowds at the places you'll stop. You can also take a northern lights boat cruise from Reykjavik.

Lava Caving in December

Lofthellir cave is a wonderful place to explore in December.Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir 

You can tour lava caves throughout the year, but these excursions are exceptional during winter because of the ice sculptures that form within them. Since lava rock is very porous, the water that seeps through them freezes into stalactites and stalagmites.

Throughout the year, the three most accessible caves are the Leidarendi cave on the Reykjanes peninsula, Vidgelmir cave in the Hallmundarhraun lava field, and Raufarholshellir cave near Hveragerdi.

Taking a classic tour of the Raufarholshellir lava tubes is a magical experience as you enter a beautiful, hidden world under the ground. There you can walk along the path that was created when the lava of an eruption flowed through the area 5,200 years ago.

Leidarendi is a lava cave on the Reykjanes Peninsula of Iceland.Photo from Leidarendi Cave on the Reykjanes Peninsula | Half-Day Tour from Reykjavik

People anxious about tight spaces might look into taking the family-friendly lava cave tour of Vidgelmir cave or a guided lava tunnel exploration of Raufarholshellir cave. The entrances to both caves are vast, with steps that lead to wooden pathways. The routes are well-lit, and the caves' height means that you don't even need to crouch to move through them.

Lava caving is not a particularly dangerous activity, but having the right equipment (most importantly, a torch, helmet, and crampons) and an experienced guide are essential.

Snorkeling in Iceland in December

Snorkelling is possible in December in Iceland

Like lava caving, snorkeling is available throughout the year but is particularly unique during winter. The main location is Silfra fissure, located in the Thingvellir National Park.

The Silfra fissure is located between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Glacial meltwater from Langjokull glacier fills the water as the tectonic plates drift apart.

Because of the filtration process that the water undergoes as it moves through the lava fields, the water that emerges is crystal clear and incredibly clean. It maintains a constant temperature of two degrees underground, so it doesn't freeze until it reaches lake Thingvallavatn.

Silfra fissure under the Northern Lights during December in Iceland

These conditions make for an extraordinary snorkeling site. Visitors marvel at the vast, cathedral-like spaces and vividly-blue water. In winter, its appeal only increases. How many people can say they swam in Iceland in the middle of winter? 

During your dive, dry suits keep you dry, while thick undersuits will stave off the cold. Wetsuit hoods and gloves, if used, let the water in, but it warms quickly. Your guides are professional scuba instructors with a wealth of experience in cold water, and they'll provide you with the appropriate equipment.

Snorkelling is possible all year round in Iceland

Picture from Meet on Location 30 Minute Snorkeling Tour in the Crystal Waters of Silfra

Of course, no activity is without risks, and snorkeling in the Silfra fissure is no exception. Therefore, to take a Silfra diving tour or snorkeling tour, you must be over 16, at least 110 pounds (50 kilograms), and four foot nine inches (150 centimeters). 

Whale Watching in Iceland in December

A humpback whale breaching in Faxafloi Bay. Whale-watching is a popular December activity in Iceland.

Photo from The Reykjavik Whale Watching Tour

Whale watching in December is a rewarding experience. While the larger baleen whales that come to Iceland to feed in summer have largely migrated south to their mating grounds (although there are always stragglers who stay year-round), there are still several other whales.

The best place for winter whale-watching tours in Iceland is Faxafloi Bay in Reykjavik. Tours for whale watching in Reykjavik in December leave from the Old Harbour like the rest of the year and last between two and three hours.

The most common species is the white-beaked dolphin. This acrobatic animal travels in pods and exhibits behaviors like breaching and bow riding. You may also see the elusive harbor porpoise and perhaps even a group of great orcas.

An orca, pictured off the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in Iceland during December

Picture by Tómas Freyr Kristjánsson, Whale watching in Grundarfjordur

If you're traveling in the north of Iceland, a great option to spot the whales is on a 2-hour whale watching & sea fishing boat trip, which departs from an authentic fishing village north of Akureyri. This is a fantastic way of getting in touch with Iceland's maritime roots with guidance from a local expert and getting acquainted with the whale population in the fjord. 

Glacier Tours in Iceland in December

Glacier hiking in Iceland is also an obvious choice if you visit in December. The Solheimajokull glacier and Skaftafellsjokull glacier are relatively easy to hike at this time of year.

The former is located on the south coast between Skogafoss waterfall and Vik, and you can take a Solheimajokull glacier hiking tour. Some of these tours also include an ice climb for some added adventure. 

The dramatic landscape atop Skaftafellsjökull during December in Iceland

Photo from Stunning 4 Hour Super Jeep & 3 Hour Glacier Hiking Tour at Falljokull by Skaftafell

The Skaftafellsjokull glacier is on the far side of the South Coast, located within the Skaftafell Nature Reserve. The views from this glacier are spectacular.

In December, most tours of this area are on-location, like this Skaftafell glacier hike (medium difficulty), so you'll have to meet your group at the park. You could also choose a two-day package and three-day package that include guided glacier hikes and tours of nearby sites, like the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon or Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

Glacier hikes are excellent because of the view, but it's so much more than that. They tickle your sense of adventure and are safely conducted by experienced glacier guides who can teach you all about their formation.

Snowmobiling in Iceland in December

Snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier is one of the best things to do in Iceland in December

Photo from Snowmobile Tour on Langjokull Glacier with Transfer from Gullfoss Waterfall

You can also take a snowmobiling tour. There is a snowmobiling day tour from Reykjavik to the Langjokull glacier, which includes a trip to the Golden Circle. You can also get a transfer from Gullfoss waterfall for a 1-hour snowmobiling adventure on Langjokull glacier.

This thrilling experience usually lasts an hour, during which you are free to blast across the fresh snow. The tour operator provides everything you'll need to stay warm and safe out on the trail, but you'll still need appropriate winter wear underneath your equipment and a valid driver's license if you're driving the snowmobile.

On the Langjokull glacier, you can also visit human-made tunnels that have been carved in the most stable part of the glacier—an ice castle inlaid with ice sculptures and individual rooms.

While this easy "into the glacier" ice tunnel day tour at Langjokull glacier is open throughout the year, natural ice caves are only around for a short season. However, the advantage of an ice tunnel tour is that it's less likely to be canceled because of hazardous conditions.

Best Places to Visit in Iceland in December

What to see in Iceland in December? There are plenty of locations where you can simply go sightseeing throughout December. The famous Golden Circle, Iceland's South Coast to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, the Snaefellsnes peninsula, and the Reykjanes peninsula are mostly accessible. Choose between a wide range of tours, or rent a four-wheel drive car and drive yourself (more on this below). If you're staying within city limits, you can also rent a small car.

Explore South Iceland in December

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Southeast Iceland is one of the most amazing destinations in Iceland, characterized by floating icebergs in a crystal clear lagoon. It is also the most accessible seal-watching location in Iceland during winter.

Most of the South Coast tours will leave from the village of Vik and include a visit to the Reynisfjara black sand beach, the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, and the Dyrholaey rock arch.

This place is incredibly dramatic. The waves that crash against the rocks and along the shore are enormous and unpredictable. Admire them, by all means, but keep over 100 feet (30 meters) away from the water's edge because of the notorious sneaker waves along this stretch. These can be very dangerous.

The drive to the South Coast will also take you past some of Iceland's notable sites, like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, which might be frozen! If you want to truly immerse yourself in the beauty of the south, make sure to book a hotel in South Iceland now!

North and East Iceland in December

Driving into the highlands isn't possible unless you join this exciting day tour of Landmannalaugar in a super jeep. The thick snow covers the roads and may even cover the road signs entirely.

Vestrahorn mountain in southeast Iceland

The weather and road conditions may limit access to North Iceland, East Iceland, and especially the Westfjords.

However, this epic seven-day winter self-drive tour of the Golden Circle and North Iceland makes for an amazing road trip. The itineraries are flexible because the weather in Iceland in December is a force to be reckoned with. 

Relaxing in Iceland's Blue Lagoon is a wonderful winter activity.

Hot Spring Spas in December

Is the Blue Lagoon open in December? You'll be happy to hear that it's a yes! But it's still as popular as ever, so if you can't book tickets to the Blue Lagoon, consider hitting out one of the best swimming pools in Reykjavik. You can also experience a soothing bath adventure by booking a ticket to Hvammsvik Hot Springs

Within the Greater Reykjavik Area, you can find the incredible Sky Lagoon, with its beautiful infinity pool which overlooks the ocean. While in North Iceland, be sure to book admission for Myvatn Nature Baths, which offers an unmissable geothermal spa experience located in an amazing natural setting.

A nice soak in warm geothermal water after your winter adventures is sure to be a soothing outing—and rather exciting if a snowstorm rages while you're kicking back in hot water.

Visiting Iceland in December

While Christmas and New Year events are the main draw of Iceland in December, there are many activities you should not overlook, it's essential to know how to prepare for a winter trip to Iceland. The two areas you need to consider more than anything else are the weather and the roads.

Is December a Good Time to Visit Iceland?

Absolutely! Iceland in December is one of the most festive times of the year, with the Christmas season in full swing, topped off by the incredible New Year's Eve celebration. The winter solstice also means you get the longest hours of nighttime throughout the year, which is perfect for northern lights hunting.

As we've covered, all the glacier and ice cave tours are also at their peak. The only important thing is to pack all your winter gear on this trip!

Traveling to Iceland in December

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland covered in snowThere are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning a trip to Iceland in December. You’ll want to keep an eye on the weather and pack plenty of warm clothes. As you schedule tours and sightseeing, remember that December is when the daylight hours are the shortest. 

But the most important thing to be aware of is driving in Iceland in December.

Driving in Iceland in December

The temperature means that the roads are often icy. Therefore, if you plan on renting a car in Reykjavik or picking a rental car from Keflavik Airport, it's highly recommended that you choose a rental car with four-wheel drive. If you want to drive out of the capital and into the country, it's essential.

If you've never driven in snowy or icy conditions before or aren't comfortable doing so, it may be worth skipping a rental car and instead taking tours around the country, letting more experienced drivers take the wheel.

Hopping onto a tour is undoubtedly the easiest, safest, and most stress-free option. You can even find easy transport from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik!

Icelandic horses braving a snowstorm

To fully immerse yourself in the country without driving, you could book a guided winter package, which will take you to all the sites. If you're happy driving, there's also a wealth of winter self-drive packages to consider.

If you choose to drive yourself around Iceland in December, make sure that you know the exact route you're going to take before you depart and that you let somebody know beforehand. The roads into the Highlands and around the Westfjords will be closed, and you don't want to become stranded or snowbound. We recommend always checking the road conditions before you head out to drive.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office will give you all the information you need to know about the weather in Iceland in December. For example, some roads, like Route 1 along the South Coast, are very vulnerable to high winds. Others are susceptible to avalanches after heavy precipitation, so make your plans accordingly and be flexible if you can see that the roads could compromise your safety.

Weather in Iceland in December

Woman in heavy snow in ReykjavikDecember is one of the coldest months of the year in Iceland. Iceland is also very windy during this month. The same low-pressure system that moves through Iceland in autumn continues into winter, so remember to wear warm clothing and sturdy shoes wherever you go. However, the weather in Reykjavik in December is usually more temperate because of the shelter from the wind provided by the city's buildings.

It's also quite dark. And the combination of dark, cold, and wetness can be a real downer. It's essential to set a strict time to wake up in the morning and go to bed in the evening to avoid a seasonal slump. And keep your eyes peeled for the lights – both the beautiful Christmas lights that adorn the city streets and the northern lights. 

The Temperature in Iceland in December

How cold is Iceland in December? In the winter, the temperature generally hovers around freezing— ranging between 34 F and 39 F (-1 C and 4 C). December is one of Iceland's wettest months, with 3.8 inches (97 mm) of precipitation.  

Does It Snow in Iceland in December?

Snowfall is common in December. To prepare for this, ensure you have warm headwear and gloves, thermal undergarments, windproof and waterproof outer layers, and warm clothes in between. You'll also need sturdy hiking boots if you're planning to do some exploring. If you don't have such winter clothes at hand, you can also buy them in the many winterwear stores on Laugavegur shopping street in Reykjavik's city center.

Be sure to check Iceland's roads and weather before exploring the countryside

Reykjavik Weather in December

While the rest of the country might be covered in snow, possibly, Reykjavik won't be. The capital's climate is warmer than the rest of the country, and it tends only to be covered in snow sporadically between January and April. Many streets in Reykjavik are heated underneath, melting the snow and preventing them from becoming icy and slippery.

Where to Stay in Iceland in December

Reykjavik is the top choice to enjoy the festivities in Iceland in December. The weather can affect the roads to North and East Iceland and the Westfjords, making the capital and South Iceland the two best options.

You can find our recommended accommodation in Iceland and hotels in Reykjavik, as well as an overall guide on where to stay in Iceland.

Romance in Iceland in December

The aurora borealis are very romantic in Iceland.

December is also a popular month for romantic getaways. With the festive spirit, a sprinkling of snow, northern lights, and a wide variety of tours, the country becomes a romantic winter wonderland that lures couples worldwide.

Additionally, the holiday season means that the city and surrounding towns are at their most beautiful, decked in lights and decorations, brightening up the nights and creating a fairytale ambiance.

Snuggle up inside warm cafes, stroll the streets, explore the impressive countryside, and admire the northern lights at night. 

Suggested Itinerary for Iceland in December

The auroras over Jökulsárlón

You can enjoy an eight-or-nine-day holiday to Iceland in December in many ways. Some may prefer to base themselves in Reykjavik, while others may wish to see as much of Iceland's nature as possible. 

Different travelers have different interests, ability levels, and budgets. Therefore, the suggested itinerary below can be adjusted and tweaked to suit the individual but has an overall allure that should appeal to most visitors.

A waterfall in North Iceland.

The most important thing to decide before arriving is whether or not you'll rent a four-wheel drive vehicle and drive yourself. There are a wealth of self-drive winter packages that could get you to the most popular destinations easily within a week if you so choose.

There's a two-day self-drive tour to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, which involves ice caving, or you can take the longer amazing 6-day northern lights winter self-drive tour on Iceland's South Coast that also has ice caving. You'll be able to see this beautiful part of the country in about a week and, if you are staying longer, enjoy the Reykjavik festivities, too.

The ambitious could even extend the trip with a nine-day winter self-drive tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and South Coast.

The icebergs of Jökulsárlón.

Driving in Iceland in winter is only recommended for experienced and confident drivers. So the itinerary below outlines a trip consisting of tours and packages instead.

The most obvious choice for any traveler coming to Iceland is this eight-day winter wonderland package. In just over a week, you'll get to see the Golden Circle, the South Coast, Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, the Snaefellsnes peninsula, and you have the choice either to use a free day to explore Reykjavik or to fly to Akureyri and see the sites around Lake Myvatn.

You'll go ice-caving, take a complimentary northern lights bus tour or cruise, and choose between horse riding, snowmobiling, or snorkeling.

As December is the festive season, you may want to linger in the capital. In that case, combining a few packages will allow you to create a perfect combination of city and nature.

Harpa in Reykjavík is likely to have some sort of Christmas show going on.

You'll arrive at Keflavik Airport on day one, jump on the Flybus, and start your holiday in the most relaxing way possible: in the Blue Lagoon. After resting in the tranquil waters until you're fully recharged from your flight, you'll settle into your accommodation in Reykjavik.

After that, you'll have loads of free time to spend in downtown Reykjavik, taking in the Christmas spirit. The main street, Laugavegur, and the downtown area will be fully decked in lights and decorations.

You'll spend more time in Reykjavik later on your holiday, but first, you'll head out into the countryside. With this two-day South Coast tour, you'll explore waterfalls and other sites along the way to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon on the first evening. If you're lucky, you'll see the aurora borealis dancing above the icebergs. On the second day, you'll get to go ice-caving before returning to Reykjavik.

The beauty of an ice cave.

You'll spend your fourth day in Iceland further exploring Reykjavik. You can start in the morning by learning about Iceland's fascinating history at the Reykjavik Maritime Museum or by having a giggle at the world's only Phallological Museum before heading to the Arbaejarsafn Open Air Museum when it opens at 1 PM.

The Christmas spirit here is infectious, and it's a great place to shop for some unique presents. That evening, enjoy and amazing dinner in Reykjavik or check out the nightlife at one of its many bars.

On days five and six, you'll take a two-day tour of the West Coast and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. You'll have the opportunity to see its many diverse features and landscapes, such as Mt. Kirkjufell, Snaefellsjokull glacier, and the Londrangar sea stacks, as well as the chance to go seal watching and lava caving.

Kirkjufell in the depths of winter.

On day seven, you'll see the Golden Circle. Because this will be your last opportunity to immerse yourself in the Icelandic countryside, however, you can combine it with another tour, like horse-riding, snowmobiling, or snorkeling. The choice is yours.

On day eight, you'll head back to Keflavik Airport for your flight home. If you have a more extended holiday, you can spend extra time seeing more of Reykjavik and finishing up your Christmas shopping.

Are you planning to go to Iceland in December? Are you hoping to see the northern lights or go ice-caving? Have you experienced the Christmas season or New Year's Eve in Reykjavik? Let us know if the guide was helpful and which tours you are most interested in! And if you have been to Iceland in December, how was it?

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