GuidesBest SeasonsFestive Charm: December Adventures in Iceland
Honeymoon winter vacation in iceland
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Aron Freyr
By Aron FreyrJun 5, 2024 • 12 min read

Festive Charm: December Adventures in Iceland

Imagine a winter wonderland, complete with snow-covered landscapes, mesmerizing Northern Lights, and heartwarming Christmas traditions. This magical setting can be found in Iceland in December – the perfect time to visit and experience a truly unique adventure. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the best attractions, activities, and tips to make your Iceland in December trip unforgettable.

Key Takeaways

  • Experience the magic of December in Iceland with its breathtaking attractions and activities, including Northern Lights tours and glacier adventures.
  • Enjoy unique Icelandic Christmas and New Year’s traditions while exploring Reykjavik for festive lights, markets, museums & outdoor activities.
  • Capture stunning photos of Iceland’s beauty even in winter by packing essential items & following tips on wildlife encounters & photography.

The Magic of December in Iceland

There’s something enchanting about visiting Iceland in December, when the land of fire and ice transforms into a winter paradise. Snow-covered landscapes create a picturesque backdrop for Iceland’s natural wonders, while the festive spirit sweeps through the cities and towns with Christmas lights and decorations. The long winter nights offer ample opportunities to:

  • Chase the elusive Northern Lights
  • Go ice caving
  • Take a dip in the geothermal hot springs
  • Explore ice caves and glaciers
  • Visit the famous Blue Lagoon

Iceland in December is a truly unforgettable experience, making it the perfect time to visit Iceland.

This magical season offers a chance to:

  • Dive into Icelandic culture and festivities
  • Discover the stunning South Coast
  • Indulge in thrilling glacier adventures
  • Witness the awe-inspiring Northern Lights

So, what are you waiting for? Bundle up and join us on a journey through the wonders of December in Iceland.

December weather and Daylight Conditions

Iceland in December: A view of Reykjavik during winter season with snow

December in Iceland is marked by windy, and dark conditions. You’ll need to pack warm clothes and prepare for some chilly adventures and possibly some extreme weather conditions. Despite the winter weather, the beauty of Iceland’s snowy landscapes is well worth braving the cold.

The limited daylight of December, marked by the winter solstice as the shortest day of the year, facilitates an excellent opportunity to witness the Northern Lights during the winter season. The extended darkness creates optimum conditions for spotting the elusive aurora.

As the month progresses, the daylight hours begin to disappear even more. December in Iceland has an average of only five hours of daylight. You can expect the sun to rise around 11:00 AM and set at 4:00 PM at the beginning of the month, with the hours getting even shorter as the month goes on.

While the limited daylight may require some careful planning, the stunning sights and experiences awaiting you in Iceland more than make up for it.

Average Temperature in Reykjavik in December

Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, maintains slightly warmer temperatures than the rest of the country in December, averaging between 34°F and 39°F (1°C to 4°C). In contrast, Akureyri, the capital of north iceland, can experience temperatures as low as -7°C. Despite the chill, the milder conditions make Reykjavik an excellent hub for exploring Iceland’s winter wonders.

Average temperature in December Reykjavík, Iceland

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Average wind speed in December Reykjavík, Iceland

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Top Attractions and Activities

A view of downtown Reykjavik city center with Christmas decorations, white christmas and city lights

Photo Credit: Kjell Jøran Hansen

Reykjavik, Iceland’s charming capital city, is a must-visit destination during your trip. The city comes alive with festive lights, Christmas markets, and a joyful atmosphere that is sure to put you in the holiday spirit. Some highlights of visiting Reykjavik in December include:

  • Strolling through downtown Reykjavik, where you’ll find beautiful Christmas decorations
  • Ice skating at Ingólfstorg Square
  • Sampling an array of delicious local food

For a more cultural experience, visit Reykjavik’s many fascinating museums, such as the National Museum of Iceland, Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871+/-2, and the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Or, if you’re looking for some indoor activities to escape the cold, check out the Perlan museum and the magnificent Harpa concert hall.

Regardless of how you decide to spend your time in Reykjavik, this vibrant city and its festive spirit will undoubtedly captivate you.

Glacier Adventures

A view of an ice cave with blue light inside

Iceland’s stunning glaciers offer a thrilling playground for the adventurous traveler. Embark on exhilarating glacier hikes, explore mesmerizing ice caves, or whiz across the icy landscape on a snowmobile for an unforgettable experience. These unique and exciting activities are best enjoyed during the winter months, making your trip all the more special.

Highly recommended ice caving tours include a small group tour in Skaftafell Nature Reserve and an ice-caving and glacier hiking tour at Katla Volcano in Myrdalsjokull, with convenient transfers from Vik. Remember to book these popular activities in advance to secure your spot and make the most of your December adventure.

Northern Lights Hunting

A view of couple watching aurora dancing in the sky during a cold weather on a road trip at a black sand beach

One of the main reasons travelers flock to Iceland in December is the chance to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights. The long nights and limited daylight hours create ideal conditions for spotting the aurora, making December a prime time for a northern lights hunt. To maximize your chances of catching a glimpse of this natural wonder, consider joining a tour led by experienced guides who know the best locations for viewing the aurora away from light pollution.

Capturing the perfect photo of the aurora can be challenging, but with a little patience and the right equipment, you can create stunning images to remember your trip to Iceland in December. Don’t forget to bring a tripod for steady long exposures and keep an eye on the Aurora Forecast for the best chance of spotting the dancing aurora borealis.

Sky Lagoon

Whoever says it is too cold in December to visit Iceland has not spent time at Sky Lagoon. December is the perfect time to go here! “Get Lost Within The City” and soak in a geothermal pool that overlooks the ocean.

You can spend your whole day here by signing up for the 7-Step Ritual, which highlights the Iceland bathing culture.

First, you will enter the lagoon through a stunning cave-like entrance. Which will bring you into the warm waters which range from approximately 38–40°C or 100–104° F. Then you will go from hot to cold quickly by taking their polar bear plunge, also known as cold therapy. This will stimulate your immune system while decreasing blood flow in your body.

Then warm back up by spending some time in the relaxing sauna. You can gaze out of the large windows that provide views of the neverending sea. As soon as you leave the sauna, lose yourself in the cold fog-mist that will wash over you and awaken your skin.

This is followed by the luxurious The Sky Body Rub! A refreshing scrub that will make your skin glow, thanks to the salts of the sea. Which will help your body get rid of any dead skin cells. While your skin is still tingling, go to the steam room. The Steam will open your pores up, allowing the scrub to enter even further. Take a deep breath and unwind for a while.

The seven-step ritual comes to a close with a return trip to the lagoon. Don’t feel rushed when enjoying the lagoon either. The recommended soaking time is 2 hours. So take your time and appreciate every moment of it.

Driving and Safety Tips

A view of weather and road conditions with cars driving on a road during winter month on during Iceland weather

Driving in Iceland during December can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. Icy roads and unpredictable weather conditions require extra caution and vigilance, but the breathtaking snowy landscapes make the effort well worth it.

For a safe and enjoyable journey, it is advisable to check the Icelandic Meteorological Office for the latest weather information and road conditions before heading out.

If you prefer not to drive yourself, consider joining guided tours or booking a winter package that includes transportation. This way, you can focus on the incredible sights and experiences Iceland has to offer, without worrying about navigating the winter roads.

A view of a car driving on a road in Iceland during winter

When visiting Iceland in December, it is advisable to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle for safer navigation on icy roads and potentially challenging weather conditions.

We recommend options such as the Toyota Rav4 or Subaru Forester for their excellent performance in winter conditions. All rental cars provided by Go Car Rental come equipped with studded winter tires during December, ensuring maximum grip and safety.

For those who want to be super prepared for everything that Iceland could throw at them, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the perfect winter rental car.

With a reliable vehicle, you can explore popular routes like the Ring Road, which circles the entire country, and the Golden Circle, taking you to some of the most iconic attractions in Iceland.

For those who prefer not to drive, guided tours and winter packages offer a convenient alternative for exploring the stunning Icelandic landscapes. No matter which option you choose, your December adventure in Iceland is sure to be a memorable experience.

Accommodation Recommendations

A view of a hotel in Reykjavik with festive decorations during winter months

When it comes to accommodations when visiting Iceland, Reykjavik and South Iceland are great options due to their better road conditions and easy access to popular attractions. You can find a variety of hotels, guesthouses, and hostels to suit your budget and preferences.

For a more immersive experience, consider staying at a cozy guesthouse or farmstay in rural Iceland, where you can enjoy stunning views of the snow-covered landscapes and have a higher chance of spotting the elusive aurora. No matter where you choose to stay, you’re sure to find a warm and welcoming atmosphere that perfectly complements your December adventure in Iceland.

Icelandic Christmas and New Year's Eve Traditions

Santa in the sky

Visiting Iceland in December not only offers breathtaking landscapes and thrilling activities, but also the opportunity to experience unique Icelandic Christmas season and New Year’s traditions. This season is filled with joy and excitement, as locals prepare for the arrival of the Yule Lads, mischievous trolls who visit children during the 13 days leading up to Christmas, bringing gifts or playing pranks.

New year fireworks in Reykjavik near Hallgrímskirkja.

New Year’s Eve in Iceland is a truly spectacular event, with fireworks lighting up the sky as thousands of people take to the streets to celebrate. Reykjavik is the center of the festivities, with various parties, concerts, and events taking place throughout the city. Don’t miss the chance to ring in the New Year in true Icelandic style, surrounded by the warmth and cheer of the holiday season.

Packing Essentials for December

A list of things to pack with you to iceland

Packing for a December trip to Iceland requires careful planning to ensure you stay warm and comfortable during your adventure. Be sure to pack warm layers, such as thermal undergarments, fleece or down jackets, and waterproof outer layers to protect against the cold and wet weather. Don’t forget essential accessories like hats, gloves, and scarves to keep you cozy in the chilly Icelandic climate.

In addition to warm clothing, a swimsuit is a must-pack item for your December Iceland trip, as you’ll likely want to take a dip in one of the many geothermal pools and hot springs found throughout the country.

Finally, pack a durable pair of waterproof boots with good traction to navigate the icy and potentially slippery terrain.

Sample Itinerary for a December Trip

While planning to visit Iceland in December it may appear daunting, a well-planned itinerary can help you make the most of your 8-to-9-day holiday. Start by exploring the vibrant city of Reykjavik, taking in the festive atmosphere and visiting its many museums and attractions. From there, venture out on a thrilling glacier adventure, followed by a Northern Lights tour to witness the mesmerizing aurora.

For a more structured experience, consider booking a guided tour or winter package that includes transportation, accommodations, and activities tailored to your interests and budget. Some popular options include:

  • A 6-day self-drive tour of Iceland’s South Coast
  • A 2-day self-drive tour to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
  • An 8-day winter wonderland package with a variety of exciting activities like ice-caving, horse riding, and snowmobiling.

With a well-planned itinerary, you’ll be able to experience the best of Iceland during your December trip.

Wildlife Encounters in December

Iceland’s wildlife is another draw for visitors during December, with opportunities to see whales, seals, and other marine life in their natural habitats. Whale-watching tours are available year-round, with Faxafloi Bay in Reykjavik being a popular destination for spotting various species such as harbor porpoises and even orcas.

A view of a person observing wildlife in Iceland during December

While puffins are best spotted in Iceland between May and August, you can still enjoy the beautiful scenery and rich marine life during your December trip. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as you’ll want to capture the incredible wildlife encounters and unforgettable memories of your Icelandic adventure.


In conclusion, a December Iceland trip offers a unique and unforgettable experience filled with breathtaking landscapes, thrilling activities, and heartwarming traditions.

From chasing the mesmerizing Northern Lights to exploring ice caves and celebrating the festive season, Iceland in December is truly a magical destination. With careful planning, the right gear, and a spirit of adventure, you’ll create memories to last a lifetime. So, pack your warm clothes and embark on an extraordinary journey to the winter wonderland of Iceland.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is December a good time to go to Iceland?

December is a great time to visit Iceland, where you can experience a beautiful winter wonderland full of Christmas decorations and NYE celebrations, plus the chance to see the northern lights.

Can you see Northern Lights in Iceland in December?

December is an ideal month to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights. With longer and darker nights, you have more chances of seeing the aurora borealis and can even relax in a hot pot while admiring the night sky. Going on a tour is also recommended to maximise your chances of witnessing this magical phenomenon.

How cold is it in Iceland in December?

December in Iceland isn't as cold as you might expect, with average low temperatures of around -2 degrees Celsius (28 F) and highs of 4 degrees Celsius (39 F). The gulf stream helps to keep temperatures relatively mild.

Is the Blue Lagoon warm in December?

Yes, the Blue Lagoon is warm in December - its temperature is a pleasant 38°C or 100°F!

What is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

December is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, as the long winter nights give you plenty of opportunity to witness the breathtaking beauty of the Aurora Borealis.