Iceland in January

Iceland in January
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Hi NerdWallet!

I made the simultaneously exciting and potentially foolish decision by booking a trip to Iceland for next month (January) with a friend. The roundtrip flight (BOS-REK-SFO) was only 32,000 Chase points :tada: , and I’ve wanted to go for years. However, I’m often cold in my hometown of San Francisco, so the weather and short days will be an adjustment.

Wanted to ping the community and see if anyone has any suggestions for must-dos in Iceland, especially if anyone has been in the winter and has winter-friendly ideas. :snowflake:

We want to see the northern lights (#1 goal) and the blue lagoon, and anything else we can manage in a 6-day trip in the dead of winter. I assume there will be a lot of nights drinking wine by fireplaces so any suggestions at all (restaurants, pubs, lodging, etc.) would be SUPER helpful!


OOOH, Iceland! I went there in June and loved it. You’ll love it, too :slight_smile:

First thing to note is your questions about the temperature - I learned on a tour that it actually doesn’t get that cold in REK in the winter. If our guide is to be believed, it’s colder in NYC in January than it is in REK, if that’s any comfort. So it’ll be cold, but not as cold as you might think.

Next thing is re: food. Plan to pay a lot for it. Food for two people for a week in REK was more expensive than the Airbnb was. Of course, that could have probably been managed better, but food is just plain expensive there, so be sure to budget a lot for it. Pick up breakfast stuff at Bonus if you’re able to - that’ll help save a bit of $.

As far as specific recommendations go, I would suggest:

  • Booking a Golden Circle tour. It’s tourist-y, yes, but the sites are so beautiful. You could also rent a card and go see them yourself without the guide, but I personally prefer to have someone doing the work for me (research, driving, etc.). Tourism is a big industry in Iceland, so the guides are typically top-notch.
  • I’m not sure if it will be too cold for this at this time of year (probably), but if you happen to catch a warmer day, a whale watching tour is really cool. We saw so many whales!
  • Definitely get a hot dog from this vendor: So good, and the only cheap thing we had the whole trip!
  • REK has a lot of really good bakeries - they seem to take baked goods very seriously (my kind of people). I’d suggest this one - I think there’s more than one location:
  • This is going to sound weird, but this hostel has amazing food and a cool vibe, and they do some happy hour deals (at least, they were during the World Cup):
  • Visiting as many hot springs as you can! They’re such a special thing about Iceland, and so relaxing.

I’m blanking right now on some of the other restaurants we went to, but will follow up as I remember them!


I’ve been to Iceland twice, but not in the dead of winter, so not sure how relevant all of these tips will be. But here a few things I loved:

  • Snorkeling at Silfra (Thingvellier National Park) - you snorkel between two continents! It’s freezing, but they give you a full suit on top of your wool socks and thermal layers.

  • Reynisfjara Beach

  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

  • Myvatn Nature Baths (this is in the Northern part of Iceland. Way better and more affordable than the Blue Lagoon in my opinion!)

You can see almost all of Reykjavik in two days, so I’d encourage you to go out and explore (if weather permits).

I also wrote about these five stops I liked around the Ring Road:

Side note: Loved all of the complimentary breakfast buffets at the hotels, and the food is so ridiculously expensive in most of the country, so definitely fill up at breakfast! I was pretty unimpressed with most of the restaurants I tried, so we ate a lot of hot dogs and fast food to be honest. (I think there are some good restaurants but they tend to be $$$.)