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Iceland in January, it worth the visit?

The period between mid-December and mid-January is one of the most strange when it comes to weather in Iceland. Not only is the darkest period of the winter, but the weather can be dangerous and really cold. 

But don’t be scared, the weather is not everyday moody and you will still have the chance to explore Iceland in the cold season.

Furthermore, if you are in Iceland in January you can take part in some traditional Icelandic festivals, eat traditional Viking food and so some unique and thrilling activities.

Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

Celebrating Þrettándinn with locals

On the 6th of January, Icelanders are celebrating the last day of Christmas. This day is celebrated with bonfires, fireworks and dances around the fire. In Icelandic folklore is called Þrettándinn (the Thirteen) and it is a pagan celebration from the old Viking tradition.

People believe that on this night strange things are happening: cows can talk, the elves are celebrating and the trolls appear around. 

Also on this night the thirteen Yule Lad, Kertasníkir leaves the town to go back to the mountains and only came back the next Christmas.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Enjoying the polar days

If in December the daylight is about 4 hours per day (with only 2 hours and 14 minutes on the shortest day of the year-winter solstice), in January the daylight is about 5 hours at the beginning of the month and is growing at 6 hours per day at the end of January. This means you will have more time to explore Iceland. 

Also, you will enjoy those polar days if you are a photographer because of the long golden hours. 

Photo by Esse Chua on Unsplash

Exploring an Ice Cave

Even if there are not so many hours of daylight, you can still do some memorable activities that are available during the winter season. Exploring a Blue Ice Cave is one of those activities and I can guarantee that is something you will never forget. Plan and book in advance your tour at the Blue Ice Cave as it is more comfortable to explore it during daylight. 

You can pair the Blue Ice Cave tour with a glacier hiking tour. You can choose a tour either on Vatnajökull which is the largest glacier in Europe or you can hike on Mýrdalsjökull located north from Vík í Mýrdal town. 

Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

Celebrating Þorrablót, the mid-winter festival with the locals

Þorrablót is the mid-winter festival that begins in mid-January (22nd) and ends in mid-February (20th). 

The name of the mid-winter celebration comes from the Þorri which many says is derived from the name of the Norwegian King Thorri Snærsson or the old Nordic religious God Thor the God of Thunder.

In Icelandic tradition, Þorri was portrayed as a powerful man with a merciless character epitome for the Icelandic winter. 

During this celebration, people are eating þorramatur. þorramatur include the famous rotten shark’s meat (hákarl), boiled sheep’s head, (svið), cured rolls of lamb flank, congealed sheep’s blood wrapped in a ram’s stomach (blóðmör).

More about Þorrablót festival you can read on our blog Þorrablót, the mid-winter festival in Iceland.

By The blanz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9380904
Photo By The blanz

Participating at Dark Music Festival in Reykjavik

Dark Music Festival in Reykjavik is a festival held annually in January in Reykjavik and it is an Icelandic contemporary music festival. The name of the festival comes from the fact that the festival takes place in the darkest period of the winter at the concert hall Harpa in downtown Reykjavík. 

Every year, at the festival, are presented the new pieces of music as well as the experimental ones for the purpose to acknowledge the “diversity and creativity of contemporary music.” (Dark Music Days)

This year the festival begins on 23rd January and ends on 29th January. Each day has a different program and you can check it on their official website Dark Music Days.

To enjoy the Dark Music Festival in Reykjavik you have to buy a ticket that can be found on their website. The tickets are available for sale starting one week before the event. 

Photo source: Darkmusicdays.is

Reykjavik International Games

According to the official website of Reykjavik International Games, the event is “a major sports festival where 15-20 individual sports are competed in. Most of the competition takes place in Laugardalur and its surroundings. The competition is divided into two competition weekends, but a conference is also part of the program.”

This year the competition is at its fifteenth edition and it is held from January 28th to January 31st, 2023.

If you are a fan of sports and want to participate or compete at the Reykjavik International Games then you have to come to Iceland in January. Check their website for more information. 

*At the moment of writing this blog, the information about the admission pass or tickets are not available, but if you are interested you can check their official website Reykjavik International Games

Photo source: rig.is

Hunting the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

Being the darkest month in the season, there is a higher chance to see the Northern lights as this is an important condition when you want to “hunt” them. So if you are travelling to Iceland during January, take many layers of warm clothes with you because during your stay you will most probably be outside in the cold chasing the Northern lights. It is not a thing to miss, right?

Photo by Julentto Photography on Unsplash

Experiencing a dog-sledging tour

A dog-sledging tour will be the cutest part of your trip. Our furry friends here in Iceland are ready to give you a memorable experience. There are also many other activities that are COOLer during the winter: snowmobile tour, enjoying a geothermal bath, enjoying museum exhibitions.

If you have planned your trip to Iceland in January do not be disappointed about the weather and try to have a flexible plan for visiting. Try to include some indoor activities as a backup plan and enjoy your Icelandic adventure no matter what. 

Plan your trip with our local travel designer for many useful tips and recommendations for travelling during winter. 

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