Traveling to and wondering what to pack for Iceland in January? Then you have come to the right place. Iceland can be a tricky place to pack for no matter the season you are visiting but Winter is especially so. In this guide will tell you EXACTLY what to wear in Iceland in January for attractions, road trips, outdoor activities during the day and night as well as other essentials to pack. .
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Iceland Weather in January
There are a few things you have know about Iceland weather no matter the month, and that is that you can experience four seasons a day.
In fact there is a famous Iceland saying which says “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” And this is especially true in January.
However the main thing you should expect in January is cold weather – but how cold is it in Iceland in January?
Note: It is worth noting that the weather in Iceland changes dramatically between months especially at this time of year. If your visit spans two months be sure to check out our other seasonal guides:
And for more specific guidance on local places in Iceland be sure to check out our more specific guides:
- What to wear in Reykjavik
- What to wear whale watching
- What to wear to spot the Northern Lights
- What to wear on the Golden Circle
How cold is Iceland in January?
Iceland in January is obviously cold but the average temperatures tend to hover between -3C / 26.6 F to 3C / 37.4 F. Reykjavik can be slightly warmer, and the far North tends to be the coldest area.
And you shouldn’t forget that Iceland can get some seriously strong winds. And these winds can make the temperatures feel much colder so be sure to factor this into your packing list.
How rainy is Iceland in January?
Firstly in answer to is Iceland rainy in January I can say yes it definitely is. In fact January is one of the rainiest months in Iceland and on average there are around 14 days of rain in January.
But on top of rain you can also experience rain and sleet in Iceland in January.
Therefore you will definitely need some waterproof wear with you, especially shoes and trousers, as well as something that can cope with snow if you are visiting in this month.
Is it snowy in Iceland in January?
Iceland is very snowy in January and you will find that most of the country is covered in snow.
On the higher ground and the North the snow can be quite deep. Even Reykjavik is likely to have snow in though not as deep as in the North..
Also some of the roads will not be open in January. You are only really guaranteed that the Golden Circle will be drivable and only with a 4WD car.
Due to the weather too, snowmobiling is a great activity to do in Iceland in January.
What to wear in Iceland in January
When I normally put together packing lists I usually split them up into a female and male list. However this really isn’t necessary for Iceland. The reason for this is that you are dressing practically for the weather and activities rather than fashion.
But before we get onto the specifics of what to wear in Iceland in Winter for women and men, we wanted to reiterate that we think it is a great idea to pack a capsule wardrobe.
It means you are less likely to lose your luggage when traveling and prevents you from overpacking. For help in packing a capsule wardrobe check out these posts:
Also it is worth thinking about what items are most important and how to prevent loss while traveling .i.e. what your winter airport outfit for Iceland will be.
Waterproof and Wind Resistant Coat
January is a cold month without doubt. And a good coat is a good idea no matter when you travel however it is absolutely an essential for January.
We recommend packing something that is water proof and wind resistant to cope with the weather you will experience outdoors in January.
Some of our favorite brands of coats for Iceland include:
Thermal Base Layers
A thermal base layer comprising of leggings and a long sleeve top are an absolute essential for Iceland in Winter. I recommend packing merino base layers for a number of reasons.
Firstly merino wool is one of my favorite fabrics to include in any Winter capsule wardrobe. It is a fabric that provides extra warmth as its insulating bit it also wicks away smells and moisture so it can be worn multiple times during your vacation. Also unlike chunky and thick knits it packs down easily and doesn’t take up a lot of space in your case.
If you are spending 5 days to a week in Iceland we recommend having at least two sets of thermal underwear with you.
Waterproof trousers aren’t the only trousers that we have on this Iceland in January packing list, however they are probably the most important ones you will pack.
That is because even on a dry day in Iceland at some of the most famous attractions you can still get wet i.e. at waterfalls such as Skogafoss and black sand beaches for instance.
We recommend getting a pair that can be packed down and therefore be put on and off as you require in certain places.
To protect your extremities be sure to pack a warm merino wool hat or beanie to take with you for use both during the day and night.
Going Northern Lights hunting i.e. looking for the Aurora Borealis, is an activity where you can get very cold especially on your extremities so a good hat is an absolute must!
As I mentioned above, it is important to protect your extremities when traveling to Iceland in Winter. Therefore gloves are an absolute essential.
Our preference for gloves for Iceland are the type that allow you to be able to use your electronics while wearing gloves like the ones below. That is because you won’t want to take off your gloves to use your phone or take pictures becuase it is so cold especially at night.
And if it is exceptionally cold you may want a thicker pair of gloves such as ski gloves over the top to help keep your hands extra warm. Then you just have to remove this top layer to take photographs.
For when it gets extra cold a scarf is brilliant to protect you from the wind or can be used as an extra layer in an emergency.
For scarves it doesn’t matter whether you pick a traditional scarf or a snood.
Ear Muffs or a head band
If you are visiting in January then you may want to add some ear muffs or a headband on top of your beanie hat to help cope with the wind especially if you want to go out at night.
Jumpers, Hoodies, and Sweaters
Layers are the most important part of your Iceland December packing list. Now depending on the activities you are doing will depend on the best layers to pack. But we recommend having a mixture such as:
- Casual hoodies
- Sweaters / Jumpers – these are good for evenings for dinner as well as the day
- Merino wool items
I personally never travel in Winter without a merino wool sweater. Merino wool is one of my favorite fabrics to include in a Winter capsule wardrobe for the reasons I outlined above.
Also one of my favorite souvenirs from Iceland is a traditional Icelandic jumper. However these are expensive so you don’t want to rely on these as your layers for Iceland.
On top of the above layers we also recommend you having one microfibre fleece with you. These are very compact so easy to add to your Iceland day pack but also cope well with wind and rain, as well as drying very quickly which can be a bonus when trying not to overpack.
Iceland is a place best explored on foot and through outdoor adventures even in January, therefore you need the right trousers with you.
Make sure whatever walking trousers you bring with you are waterproof. And if you like me have a tendency to feel the cold then we recommend having a pair of fleece lined trousers such as Ski pants.
Jeans are usually on my what not to wear hiking in Iceland lis. That is because when they get wet they become very uncomfortable and cold.
However although they are not good for hiking in Iceland they are great for evenings and restaurants in Reykjavik.
Thick Thermal Socks
The fact that you will need hiking boots means that you will also need thick socks. Be sure to have several good pairs of thick walking socks with you.
There would be nothing worse than having sore feet in boots and thick socks will go a long way to help prevent this.
We also recommend having thermal socks as in the Icelandic weather your feet can get cold quickly. Or another great pick are merino wool socks. These aren’t quite as bulky but are very warm.
T shirts are a staple on any packing list. These won’t replace your thermal base layer but they are a good addition to go on top before your sweater, fleece or other layers.
While it may seem counterintuitive to be packing swimwear for a cold weather destination such as Iceland you will definitely be wanting swimwear for Iceland.
In my opinion one of the best things to do in Iceland, even in Winter, is to visit some of the geothermal pools and natural hot springs.
Obviously the most famous of these is the Blue Lagoon in Keflavik, however there others around the country i.e. The Secret Lagoon and Krauma baths.
The blue lagoon and many other the hot spring dress codes do not have a rule over what type of swimwear you have to wear so just pack the swimwear you feel most comfortable in i.e. one piece or a bikini. However for some other natural hot springs you may also need towels and robes.
For a full hot springs and Blue Lagoon packing list check out our what to wear to the Blue Lagoon post.
Goes without saying.
The weather is so cold in Iceland that you will want to make sure the pyjamas you have are warm.
Best Shoes for Iceland in January
Normally I hedge my bet when answering the question what is the best shoe for a destination. However there is no need for Iceland as there is a clear winner.
My number shoe for Iceland has to be:
Waterproof Hiking Boots
Iceland is a country where the outdoor activities are unrivalled even for and maybe especially for visitors in Winter.
Even in Winter you will be doing a lot of walking and many of the locations you will be walking maybe on icy, snowy or slippery surfaces.
Therefore you will definitely be needing shoes with a good sole that can cope with these conditions. In our opinion the best types of hiking boots for January in Iceland are absolutely hiking boots.
Whichever pair you pick you need to make sure you have a thick sole with a good grip as well as a pair with good waterproofing.
Just be sure if you buy a pair for Iceland that you wear them in before travel and have thick hiking boots and blister plasters with you.
Also even if your hiking boots have a great sole that is good for walking on all surfaces you may also want some ice spikes to add to your boots.
These provide extra traction and grip on ice. However whether or not these are an essential for Iceland depends on your itinerary or whether you are going on excursions with a company who may supply these.
Pair of Shoes for evenings
If you plan on eating out at night and like to change of dinner you may want a change of shoes with you. At this time of year a pair of flat ankle boots would be perfect. However some places hiking boots will be appropriate too.
Generally speaking a change of shoes will not be required for all restaurants unless there is a specific dress code.
If you are visiting the Blue Lagoon, hot springs or even plan on using your hotel hot tubs in January the floor can be very cold when you are getting in and out of the water and walking to and from the changing rooms. For this reason we recommend packing slippers with you.
A good alternative if you don’t have slippers are flip flops. But again these should only be used around the pools, hot tubs and hot springs.
What to pack for Iceland in January (Non Clothing)
So now you know what to wear in Iceland in January we will turn our attention to what to pack for Iceland in January other than clothes.
Essentials to pack in my opinion are:
Back Pack with Rain Cover / Waterproof Outer Shell
To keep everything you will need for a day out in Iceland you will need a backpack with you. I also recommend bringing a rain cover for your back pack in Iceland to help protect your electronics, towel and clothes you have.
Waterproof phone case
If you plan to visit places like the Blue Lagoon and other geothermal pools there is no doubt that you will be wanting to take lots of photos. To do this from the water you are going to need a waterproof case like the above for your phone.
This is also useful if you plan on walking near some waterfalls such as Gullfoss waterfall or plan on going on a trip to see humpback whales it may come in handy then too!
Quick Dry Towel
This is another one for geothermal springs in Iceland. While you can rent towels at these locations and the Blue Lagoon provides towels in its ticket prices not all hot springs will provide these.
Bringing your own quick dry towel can save money on rental (and let’s face it Iceland is an expensive country to visit). And be sure it is a quick dry one as it can be difficult to dry wet towels in Iceland in Winter. Click hree to shop quick dry towels.
If you have plenty of space you could add a dry robe to your Iceland packing list.
Food and drink in Iceland is expensive, a reusable water bottle is a great way to cut costs and is better for the environment. Shop travel water bottles here!
Iceland is an expensive country and one of the biggest lines on your Iceland budget will be food. Iceland allows you to bring certain foods into the country with you – no raw eggs, raw meat, or milk, up to 3kg in weight.
To save money, if you are bringing a checked luggage we recommend using your 3kg of food allowance to pack snacks and food to help reduce your costs.
Days in Iceland require early starts to get to most of the sights and beat the crowds. To help me get up and at them I always take a thermos which I can fill with my morning coffee before heading out for the day. Click here to shop travel thermos.
If you are traveling to Iceland you will need a electrical travel plug adaptor. Iceland uses European C and E sockets. Click here to shop travel adaptors.
You will be using your phone a lot in Iceland for sat navs, cameras and more and just me this drains your battery quick. Therefore if is worth having a battery pack charger with you as well as a USB cable for charging in your car. Click here to shop battery packs.
Iceland is a stunning place bring the best quality camera you have with you.
The sun in Iceland is low and when it hits the snow and Ice it can be pretty dazzling. For this reason we recommend packing sunglasses even in Winter.
Ice Scraper (optional depending on car hire)
One of the best ways to see Iceland is by renting your own car. If you are renting your own car then you may want to bring an ice scraper / deicer with you. This way you can clear your windows and head off early in the morning.
Iceland has amazing wildlife from humpback whales to birds. If you plan on doing some nature excursions be sure to pack some binoculars with you.
While usually we advocate buying budget versions of things for vacation, binoculars are something I would buy the best version you can afford as you will notice a difference in quality. Click here to shop binoculars.
Normally I leave toiletries off my packing lists. That is because you either have to restrict volume for carry on or need to pack them carefully for hold bags.
Note: be sure to check liquid volume restrictions if you are traveling with carry on only. preferring to buy them on arrival. However Iceland is an expensive place for food and toiletries.
However I always bring toiletries to Iceland from home. Iceland is an expensive place for food as well as toiletries. Therefore you will save yourself both time and money by bringing them with you.
For me the essential toiletries for Iceland include:
- Moisturiser – the wind and rain in Iceland along with the salinity in the hot springs take the toll on your skin. A good moisturiser is therefore a must.
- Conditioner – again the salinity in the hot springs and blue lagoon can damage your hair therefore we recommend packing a good quality conditioner with you for visiting Iceland.
- Toothbrush and tooth paste
- Hairbrush and Hairbands – Iceland gets windy even in Summer so tying your hair up can be essential, especially for photographs.
- Make Up – I am normally quite minimalist with my makeup in Iceland due to the activities I will be doing. The key however for all makeup you bring to Iceland is that it is waterproof.
- Medicines – as required.
- Lip Balm – And as well as protecting your skin also protect your lips with a lip balm that has sun protection. Our favorite brand at the moment is Sun Bum.
- Blister Plasters – wearing new hiking boots or getting your feet wet can lead to blisters. This would certainly ruin your Iceland trip. Have a good supply with you just in case.
- Travel first aid kit – no one wants to get injured on vacation but it is worth having a small travel first aid kit with you just in case.
Iceland Winter Packing List
So just to recap here is our complete list of what to add to your Iceland Winter Packing List
- Waterproof and Wind resistant Coat or jacket
- Scarf, Gloves, Hat and ear muffs
- Thermal base layers – preferably merino wool
- T shirts
- Walking trousers
- Trousers or out for evening
- Hiking Themeral socks
- T shirts
- Layers such as sweaters, fleeces, jumpers and hoodies
- Waterproof trousers and top
- Warms Nightwear
- Hiking Boots with optional spikes depending on itinerary.
- Ankle Boots (optional)
- Slippers or flip flops (optional)
- Medication and Documentation
- Back Pack and waterproof cover
- waterproof phone case
- Quick Dry Towel
- Water bottle
- Food i.e. snacks from home
- Travel Adaptor
- Battery Pack
- Ice Scraper
FAQS about What to wear in Iceland in January
Should I pack a dress for Iceland in January?
Not matter where I am traveling I usually. have a dress on my packing list for nights out. However what about for Iceland in January? In my opinion dresses are not appropriate for most daytime Iceland activities and tourist attractions which will usually require some physical activity.
However if you like me like to change your clothes for dinner then a dress can be appropriate addition to your packing list.
Just remember to pack tights or even some thick fleece lined thermal leggings to paie with your dress otherwise you are likely to be cold.
And when choosing the dress to pack pick something like a wool sweater dress or something with long sleeves instead.
What to wear to Reykjavik in January?
January in Reykjavik is cold, but often warmer than other parts of the country.
But the good news is that Reykjavik is actually a pretty casual city. For January most people will feel perfectly comfortable in jeans or other thick trousers, some base layers and a sweater (my favorite is an Icelandic wool jumper for nights).
Note: I only recommend jeans for days when you are doing indoor attractions in Iceland. If you plan on spending time outside jeans should be avoided as they get uncomfortable when wet and in the wind.
Layers are your best friend in Reykjavik as you can take off and add layers as you need when you are outside or in the city attractions.
This is even suitable for most restaurants in the city and the main city attractions.
But you still will need your thick coat / warm jacket with you especially on the iconic Reykjavik seafront.
But if you are planning on doing lots of day trips from Reykjavik or planning to go out at night to hunt for the Aurora Borealis then you will need all of the items we listed above.
Should I bring a winter jacket to Iceland in January?
Yes, you should absolutely bring a winter jacket to Iceland in January. I would never dream of doing an Iceland Winter vacation without a winter jacket.
Do you need sunglasses in Iceland in January?
Sunglasses are needed in Iceland throughout the year. In the summer, the sun in bright and the day is long however in the Winter the sun hangs low in the sky and can be dazzling on the ice and snow. Therefore sunglasses are needed 365 days a year in Iceland which means to pack them even in January.
DoI need thermals in Iceland in January?
Yes you absolutely need thermals for Iceland in January. But what type of thermal underwear should you pack?
We recommend picking thermal underwear or a thermal base layer made from Merino wool. These are the most compact but also the most insulating. And as an added bonus they tend to repel smell more than other thermal base layers.
Have you been to Iceland in January? What did you wear? Leave us a comment and tell us about your favorite Iceland in January outfit.