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Comprehensive Guide to December in Iceland: Tips and Info

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Fancy exploring an ice cave, hiking through a snowy canyon, and taking a boat ride in a glacier lagoon? If this sounds like your perfect winter escape, Iceland in December is the place to be! Get all the best travel tips to explore this winter wonderland in our comprehensive article. Here's our guide to visiting Iceland during December.

December in Iceland

Visiting Iceland in December

Traveling to Iceland in December is certainly a magical experience. There are many chances to see the Northern Lights during the long winter nights. And let's not forget the snow-covered natural wonders that this unique island is famous for.

Wrap up warm and hit the road to discover the true spectacle of Iceland in December. From panoramic views of otherworldly mountains and glaciers, to steaming hot springs amongst the snow, there's plenty to discover!

Explore the beauty of the Land of Ice and Fire during the Christmas and New Year season. You'll get a unique glimpse into festive Icelandic traditions and natural landscapes that look like a Christmas card brought to life! So, why not give your festive celebrations a little extra spark? Plan your Iceland adventure for the winter month of December!

Weather in Iceland in December

The average temperature in Iceland in December might not actually be as cold as you expect, with average lows of -2 °C and average highs of 4 °C, or around 28 °F to 39 °F.

Weather in Iceland is famously changeable; you might be able to experience all four seasons in one day! However, during the winter month of December, you’re more than likely to experience harsh winds and cold. The winds in particular make the air feel colder.

Why Go To Iceland in December? Pros and Cons List

Are you trying to decide that time of the year to go to Iceland? Our pros and cons for visiting Iceland in December will help you work out whether a winter Iceland trip is right for you.

Pros of Visiting Iceland in December

  • Cheaper prices - In the low tourist season of December, you’ll most likely find cheaper prices for flights, accommodation, and even activities in Iceland. Helpful for sticking to your budget, these cheaper prices during December may allow you to do more while you’re in Iceland.

  • Chance to see the Northern Lights - December is a brilliant month to spot the Northern Lights in Iceland. Head out to a remote campsite away from the city lights for the best chance to see this dazzling light show for yourself.

  • Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations - Visiting Iceland in December will allow you to see traditional Icelandic Christmas and New Year celebrations. That includes shopping on Laugavegur Street, festive Icelandic food, and festivals and fireworks in the capital.

Visiting Iceland in December

Cons of Visiting Iceland in December

  • Winter weather - With average temperatures of between -2°C to 4°C, or around 28°F to 39°F, December in Iceland can be very cold due to harsh winds and snow. Weather in Iceland is often changeable, with the chance to experience all four seasons in one day! However, during December, temperatures regularly drop to -20°C in Northern Iceland and stay around 0°C in Southern Iceland.

  • Road closures - There are sometimes roads closed across the island in December and throughout winter. That's particularly common for some of the Iceland F-roads in the Highlands, due to extreme weather conditions. Make sure to check up-to-date road conditions in Iceland, including which roads are closed, before you set off on your journey.

  • Short days - Winter in December sees only four hours of daylight in Iceland, from around noon to 4pm. So, you’ll need to plan your sightseeing during these hours. These aren’t true polar nights in Iceland, as it’s not dark for a full 24 hours. However, there are some villages in Iceland where the sun doesn’t rise high enough over the horizon. Its habitants barely see the sun at all during deep winter, apart from some scattered light in the sky.

Driving in December in Iceland

During winter, you’ll generally find it easier to drive in South Iceland, rather than North Iceland. That’s because the southerly routes are more popular and tend to have more traffic, meaning that they are kept in good condition.

South Iceland is also much more populated than North Iceland, meaning that there’s likely to be someone nearby in case you need any help. Weather conditions are also milder in the southern regions of the island, meaning there are generally less road closures, too.

Here's our top recommendation for driving in December in Iceland: Follow Iceland’s Ring Road. That's Iceland’s main highway, along the South Coast to some of the country’s most spectacular geological marvels.

We also recommend enjoying the beautiful, easy-to-drive Golden Circle route in Iceland during December. It is close to the capital and takes you to some wonderful sights. The most remarkable ones are Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.

Traveling to Iceland in December

Camping in December in Iceland

Exploring Iceland by campervan during December is definitely possible. You just need to consider some important factors when planning your journey. One of the main factors to consider is the small number of daylight hours, so you’re able to plan your driving and sightseeing accordingly.

The weather in Iceland during December is probably not as cold as you might think. Temperatures hover around 0 °C along the popular Iceland South Coast route. Still, you’ll need to wrap up warm and make sure you have enough blankets and a thick duvet or sleeping bag for camping in December in Iceland.

Can I see Northern Lights in Iceland in December?

With dark skies for around 20 hours per day, December is an ideal time to spot the Northern Lights in Iceland. As long as you’re lucky enough to have a clear night, you can watch this spectacular light show for yourself!

Taking a short trip out of the city to a relatively quiet and dark spot will give you the best chance to experience these colorful dancing lights. That's because you’ll be far enough away from the city’s light pollution to see the aurora. Due to the early sunsets, the Northern Lights may be visible in the skies above Iceland from around 3 or 4 pm in the afternoon.

You can check this handy Aurora Forecast to see how likely it is that you’ll be able to view the Northern Lights. Anything above a rating of 3 on the Kp-index, which indicates the current level of solar activity, is a good sign that you’ll be able to see the aurora.

Northern lights in Iceland in December

Packing for Iceland in December

Layers are the key thing to remember when packing for Iceland in December! To protect yourself from the wind and rain, you’ll need a substantial outer layer, as well as several inner layers. Here’s our packing list of essential clothes for Iceland in December:

  • Waterproof and windproof coat - This is necessary for outdoor exploring during the winter season in Iceland. Even more, if you will be visiting waterfalls and glaciers, or spending time in the mountainous areas.

  • Fleece top and/or sweaters - Depending on how much you feel the cold, we recommend bringing a fleece top and sweaters for your December Iceland trip. Pack both so you can layer up!

  • Thermal shirts - When packing your clothes for Iceland in December, include specially made thermal shirts. They are essential to help protect your body from the cold December chill.

  • Light undershirts or T-shirts - It’s always good to have some T-shirts for base layers. These will be especially useful for visiting the geothermal pools or hiking, when you might need to cool down a little.

  • Thermal leggings - Keep your legs warm with some thermal leggings, handy for your glacier hike or snowmobiling adventure!

  • Pants - Layer these over your thermal leggings to keep the heat in.

  • Hat, gloves, and scarf - These are essential to protect against the cold.

  • Swimsuit - Yes, your swimsuit is still a must during December in Iceland! If you plan to visit any of Iceland’s natural geothermal pools, including the Blue Lagoon, make sure to pack your swimsuit.

  • Sunglasses - Protect your eyes against the bright white glaciers and ice lagoons.

Clothes for Iceland in December

Activities During December in Iceland

When it comes to what to do in Iceland during winter, you’ll have a fantastic choice of some amazing outdoor activities in the snow and incredible indoor cultural experiences. Take a look through our top picks of winter activities to do in the Land of Ice and Fire during December and see what takes your fancy.

Jokulsarlon Ice Lagoon

The incredible glacial lagoon of Jokulsarlon is a winter paradise just waiting to be explored. Watch the floating icebergs and go on a glacier hike in this magical ice lagoon.

Snowmobiling tour

Want something a little more adventurous? A snowmobiling tour will take you across some of Iceland’s mammoth glaciers, like Lankgjokull or Myrdalsjokull. It will allow you to appreciate the vastness of these structures without exhausting yourself on a massive hike.

Explore Ice Caves

View a glacier from the inside on a once-in-a-lifetime ice cave adventure suitable for all ages.

Check out Reykjavík

Iceland’s capital is full of brilliant indoor activities and places to visit for any rainy day. Amongst them, the state-of-the-art Perlan museum and the amazing Harpa concert hall.

Warm up in hot springs

From the Blue Lagoon to the ‘People’s Pools’ at Landmannalaugar, Iceland is full of geothermally heated springs. These are undoubtedly perfect for warming up on a cold December day. Enjoy a hike in the brisk winter afternoon, before soaking away the day in one of the natural pools.

Hunt the Northern Lights

Ideal for spotting the Northern Lights, the December skies in Iceland are dark for many hours each day and night.

Skiing and snowboarding

Skiing in Iceland is a fantastic activity for enjoying the snow and mountains. And you'll get some exercise out in Iceland’s beautiful landscapes!

Golden Circle

Take a tour of the waterfalls, hot springs, rift valley, canyons and volcanic craters on the famous Golden Circle route.

winter activities in Iceland

Top Tips for Visiting Iceland in December

Wondering how to make the most of your December in Iceland? Here are our top tips for your December Iceland adventure to help you thrive in this wintry paradise!

  • Plan your itinerary ahead of time - Give yourself the best chance to see everything you want to during your time in Iceland. Just make sure to plan your itinerary ahead of time. This is particularly important in December, when the daylight hours are shorter.

  • Book your activities in advance - Although December is the slower season in terms of tourism in Iceland, there are still some popular seasonal activities. Ice cave tours and glacier hikes are in high demand during this season. We recommend booking these in advance to secure your place.

  • Travel by campervan for flexibility and freedom - Traveling by campervan will allow you to go on a DIY Northern Lights tour. You will also get to explore the beauty of Iceland’s South Coast and venture to remote natural wonders without worrying about making it back to a hotel at the end of the day. Get ready to go on your Iceland trip by reserving your campervan in Iceland ahead of time.

Get Ready for Your December Winter Wonderland Experience in Iceland!

Excited to experience the magical winter wonderland of Iceland during December for yourself? We don’t blame you! Make the dream a reality by planning your trip now, securing your campervan or motorhome in Iceland, and deciding on your itinerary. Exciting times lie ahead!

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