Trips

Thinking of Iceland in January? Read this first

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Thinking of Iceland in January? Read this first

Iceland had been on my bucket list for many years, and is consistently mentioned on top 10 lists annually. As luck would have it, in early January, I ended up taking a last minute trip to Iceland with my fiancee.  We had an absolutely wonderful time, but there are some things I would do differently on my next visit. If you’re thinking of visiting Iceland in January, have a quick gander at my thoughts so you can best prepare your expectations and itinerary.

a stuffed animal sitting on a table next to a menu

We’ll also have the following reviews:

  • Getting to/from the Iceland Airport to Reykavik
  • How long to spend at the Blue Lagoon
  • Hilton Curio Collection Konsulat
  • Radisson Blu 1919
  • IcelandAir 767 economy
  • Where to eat in Reykavik

a building with windows and a street light

The Weather changes very quickly

Case in point. We went to a fantastic coffee spot on the Harbor named Rost. Great coffee, yummy food, highly recommend. You can sit at a table, booth or window and enjoy a wonderful view of the harbor overlooking the water and distant mountains.

We visited 3 days straight, and one day we we sat at a window for roughly 90 minutes. When we arrived the sun was shining, it was a crisp 30ish degrees, and a 10 to 15 mile an hour wind. By the time our sandwiches were served the entire harbor was dark, people were having trouble standing upright in the wind as they walked past, hail showered, and within minutes the furthest you could see was the end of the pier.

15 minutes later the wind had died down, the sun was out, and you’d never have guessed what had just happened unless you looked further to the south. Waves of torrential weather is extremely common and something we experienced each day we were there.

a building with lights on the side

Tours get canceled frequently and last minute

We arrived around 8pm, and consulted the Konsulat front desk as to a reputable tour company for the Northern Lights and Blue Lagoon. We booked tours for the next day to see the Blue Lagoon, and the following night for the Northern Lights.

Around noon, we arrived at the Blue Lagoon to a sea of people running to the bus as we were getting off. The wind was very high and we could barely keep our heads up as we entered the welcome center to find out all busses had been canceled for the rest of the day back to Reykavik. What?!

a sign on a road

We learned that these cancellations lift quickly once the weather changes, but we shouldn’t count on a ride back to town until 6pm. Luckily we were supposed to leave at 5pm so it wasn’t much of an inconvenience, but be prepared for things to change quickly.

Example two was the night of our first Northern Lights tour. Usually tours will start a couple hours after sundown and we learned ours had canceled around 3pm the day of. We extended our 3 night trip to 5 nights, and this continued to happen each and every day due to weather. We even booked Golden Circle tours hoping to take advantage of the 5 hours of sunlight to have those canceled as well. Needless to say…we ate at a lot of different restaurants in downtown Reykavik.

Don’t count on seeing the Northern Lights

This is one of the biggest draws for Iceland, but don’t count on them. On one hand, you’d think because the days are so short, and the night sky is properly dark, that it would be an opportune time, but the weather…oh, the weather.

This applies year round, but if you’re contemplating a trip to Iceland in the winter, specifically January, I wouldn’t put any money on seeing them. We purposely stayed in country for 2 extra nights with hopes of a tour heading out, but alas, it was always canceled.

Each day, around 3-4pm we received a call alerting us that solar activity was ok, but visibility was minimal and our 8pm departure was canceled.

With this said…I highly appreciated the fact that they didn’t just take groups out with the knowledge that the odds of seeing the lights were exceptionally low. They constantly monitored the Solar forecasts, and if the odds were too low, below a 3 on the scale of activity, or visibility was overcast, they called and canceled.

If you’re heading to Iceland in the summer, you should be aware that it’ll be too bright to see them, so I’d recommend a late October to early December time frame. Or, late Feb/ early March.

Overall

Iceland was an experience unlike any that I’ve had before, but I really wish we would have been able to see more in our 5 nights there. The Blue Lagoon was such a fun, unique, and memorable experience that you’ll be able to fully witness via a future YouTube video, but I can only imagine what the Secret Lagoon, Geysers, and Northern Lighst would have been. Each and every one of our Northern Lights tours were canceled and twice our Golden Circle was canceled. If you visit during this time of the year be prepared to face similar situations.

a city with snow on it

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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5 Comments

  • […] of staying at few Curio hotels and I must say…they are fantastic. One in particular was the Konsulat hotel in Reykjavik, and I’d highly recommend […]

  • […] could use it at the Conrad Bali, Waldorf Hilton Dubai,  or visit Iceland and stay at the Konsulat like we […]

  • Kanika Bakshi February 25, 2020

    Thank you so much for sharing such great content with us, I was about to plan my trip to Iceland in January but for some reason, it was cancelled but now after reading this I feel happy that I cancelled it, and will plan it soon, Will also share this with my friends and family as well for their future reference.

  • Rob February 4, 2020

    Very helpful review Zach. Bookmarked for future reference. It’s funny that as a family we often come back from a great trip and we like immediately want to go again because we flagged a few things that weren’t perfect and we’re convinced we can do it perfectly the next time. “If only we stayed closer to x” or “if we just spent an extra day at this place” or “I wish we discovered that restaurant earlier” etc. So it made me laugh because it reminded me of many similar post-mortem conversations in our house.

    • Miles February 4, 2020

      Hey Rob – thanks so much and hopefully it’ll be of some assistance! I’ve had the great fortune in seeing many places on own and then bringing back my family later and do the same exact thing. This time I was fortunate to have my fiancee along as it was cold, dark, flights cancelled, and snowed in?!

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