15 Best Things To Do in Reykjavik, Iceland in The Winter

Winter in Reykjavik, Iceland is not as cold as you might think. January is their coldest month, with an average high of 3C and an average low of -3C. Nothing that will stop you from experiencing everything Reykjavik has to offer armed with an extra layer of clothes or two.

Iceland’s capital city offers plenty of activities all winter long. Warm-up inside with local cuisine or see Iceland’s spectacular nature covered in a blanket of white snow. Just keep in mind that sunlight can be in short supply, with the shortest days only getting a few hours. To make the most of your winter trip to Reykjavik, you will want to plan out your daily adventures to ensure you have enough daylight for all the activities you want to do.

Here’s our list of the top 15 things to do in Reykjavik during the winter.

See the Northern Lights

The northern lights in Reykjavik, Iceland during the winter

This is a popular activity and for good reason; Iceland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the world! A bus tour is one of the more popular ways to see the colourful, bright natural phenomenon as tour guides know exactly where to go for the best view.

If you’re heading to Reykjavik in the winter then you’re especially likely to catch a light show, as the best months for seeing them are between September and March. During the summer months, there is usually too much sunlight to see them at all.

Go on a walking tour of Reykjavik

Group on walking tour in Reykjavik, Iceland

There is no better way to get to know a new city than guided on foot by a professional tour guide. Learn the history behind the oldest areas of Reykjavik while taking in the magical winter scenery around you. Listen to stories of folklore and Iceland’s strong background of mythical creatures.

Taking a walking tour is a great way to make sure you don’t miss any must-see places around the city and an excellent way to get oriented for when you go exploring on your own.

Warm-up with a swim in the Blue Lagoon

Aerial image of a snow covered Blue Lagoon in Iceland

The famous geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. This man-made wonder is full of rejuvenating minerals that are known to improve and even heal skin. The beautiful blue water of the Blue Lagoon swimming area is naturally heated to between 37C – 40C; perfect for those chilly winter days.

The Blue Lagoon tour is a quick trip outside of Reykjavik and included in a variety of day tours from the city.

Explore a glacier by snowmobile

Two people snowmobiling on a tour near Reykjavik, Iceland

Take an exhilarating snowmobile tour of Iceland’s second-largest ice cap, the Langjökull glacier. Known as “The Long Glacier”, Langjökull glacier has a surface area of 950 square kilometers and can be more than half a kilometer thick.

Snowmobiling through the fresh snow is a unique, fun way to really experience a glacier and will leave you with an awesome adventure to brag about when you leave Reykjavik for home.

Go whale watching

Whale breaching in front of whale watching cruise

Get your camera ready for a 2.5-3.5 hour whale-watching cruise of Faxaflói Bay; a bay famous for its impressive variety of wildlife.

An expert tour guide will teach you all about the local environment, including what animals and sea life you may encounter. If nature cooperates on the day of your tour, you may see minke whales, humpbacks, dolphins, porpoises, and more.

Enjoy some Brennivin, the local drink

Group of people toasting in a restaurant during a food tour of Reykjavik

Brennivin is a local spirit that has been given a few nicknames including “The Black Death.” The name Brennivin comes from the word “burning wine.” Are you convinced yet? The strong, spiced drink is a favourite in Iceland on those long, cold winter days.

Try Brennivin during a food tour of Reykjavik for an unforgettable experience led by a local guide.

Ride an Icelandic horse

Icelandic horse drinking from stream during winter riding tour

Icelandic horses are an interesting breed known for being short, sure-footed, intelligent, and exceptionally tough. The Icelandic horse is a gaited breed that has 5 gaits instead of the usual 4. The 5th gait, the tölt, is a two-beat gait that’s faster than a walk and very smooth to ride.

Take a ride on one of these amazing animals on an Icelandic horse riding tour. Leaving Reykjavik, you’ll experience stunning Icelandic scenery including lakes and mountains.

Take a tour of the Golden Circle

Image of a waterfall during a Golden Circle day tour in Iceland

A tour of the Golden Circle is one of the best things you can do from Reykjavik in the winter if you want to pack as many beautiful stops as you can into a day. It’s a popular 230km scenic driving route that starts and ends in Reykjavik.

A professional tour guide will take you to three magical wonders: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir and Strokkur hot spring. 

Hike a glacier

Tour group hiking a glacier during the winter in Iceland

For the adventurous visitors to Reykjavik, a winter hike across a glacier may be the perfect activity for you. A glacier hike is an amazing way to get up close and personal with some of Iceland’s most dramatic landscapes.

Dress warm and head out on a tour with a professional guide where you’ll be taught how to cross a glacier safely using specialized equipment.

See Reykjavik, Iceland by helicopter

Helicopter on mountain summit during helicopter tour of Reykjavik

Make the most of the limited winter daylight by taking to the sky. During a helicopter tour around Reykjavik, you’ll see the colourful city from a new angle while also getting a bird’s eye view of the sea, mountains, glaciers, and more.

Some tours, like this one linked below, will touch down at the summit of a mountain. You’ll have a chance to get out, breathe in the crisp mountain air, and really enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.

Taste Reykjavik’s delicious cuisine on a food tour

3 people eating fermented shark and other food during a Reykjavik food tour

Iceland has a lot of traditional foods that may be intimidating to some tourists. Feel confident eating your way around the city with a tour guide by your side during a food tour of Reykjavik.

In case you’re wondering — oh yes, fermented shark is on the menu. So is lamb soup, smoked puffin, minke whale steak, and more. Don’t forget a drink of Black Death.

Go inside the Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel

Person taking a tour of the Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel in Iceland

The caving experience tour takes you from Reykjavik to the lava tunnel hidden below the Blue Mountains. If you’re looking for things to do in the winter that will allow you to explore the great outdoors, this is a fantastic option.

During your hike through the Raufarholshellir lava tunnel, you’ll see ancient rock formations and craters while being led by an experienced local guide.

Tour an ice cave

Walking through the man-made ice cave below Langjökull, “The Long Glacier”, is a stunning way to explore the ice cap. On an ice cave tour, you’ll walk through a tunnel of blue-hued ice while learning about the size and movement of the important glacier.

You’ll also explore the largest lava cave in Iceland, Víðgelmir, and see the beautiful area around Borgarfjörður.

Snorkelling in Silfra

Person snorkelling in Silfra, Iceland during the winter.

Snorkelling is probably not the first activity people think of when deciding what things to do during their winter Reykjavik trip. There is no denying, it will be cold. However, it’s an equally beautiful and exciting adventure for those ready to pull on a wetsuit and jump in.

Explore the crystal-clear underground pools and fissure between two tectonic plates during a snorkelling tour in Silfra.

Head out on an ATV tour

Two people on a sunset ATV tour near Reykjavik, Iceland

Get picked up from Reykjavik and head outside the city for an ATV tour into the mountains. It’s a fun way to race through the snow for unbeatable views of Reykjavik, surrounding towns, and the stunning Iceland landscape.

This midnight sun ATV tour will allow you to witness a breathtaking golden hue across the landscape.