December is absolutely one of our most beautiful months of the year in Iceland. It’s hard to beat icy cold crisp winter days, with snow everywhere you look and only warm Christmas lights to light up the day. Then, of course, after the lights go out, you might see the dancing aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) above you to keep the night lit up as well.
Weather in Iceland in December
December is when we have our shortest days. In other words, December is the darkest month of the year in Iceland. Since our beautiful northern most capital of the world is located so close to the arctic circle, the days get very short in the winter. And of course, it’s the opposite in the mid summer with 24 hours of daylight! With that being said, the days in December consist of very limited daylight – Normally only a few hours per day. The 21st. of December is our winter solstice. The shortest day of the year – Or the longest night. Normally the amount of actual sunlight hours from rise to set is around 4 hours, from around 12pm to 4pm, although the daylight hours are a little longer as the sun takes a long time to rise and set. For some people, this long night might sound a little terrifying, but all doubt goes away if you are lucky enough to have the night lit up by snow or the magical Northern lights!
Now we enter the full winter month. December is one of our coldest months in Iceland and the 21st of December the darkest day throughout the year. The sunrise takes place around 11:30 am and sunset is around 3:30 pm. In the Westfjords many say no light is seen as the high mountains cover the little light trying to shine through and the sun never reaches high enough in the sky to shine over them.
Daylight doesn’t change a lot during December, on the 1st of November you will have about 5 hours of daylight but the 30th about 4 hours. This is very important to keep in mind when making your travel plans for December in Iceland.
Temperatures in December in Iceland are usually very cold but as everything concerning the weather in Iceland, it’s quite hard to predict. The average low is about -2°c or about 28 F and the average high is about 4°c or 49 F. It’s important to note though that these are numbers for Reykjavík and anything out of the city will be colder and windier. Even though these numbers might not sound freezing don’t be fooled, when the constant breeze is added to it, it feels a lot colder!
What to do in December
If snowmobiling is on your Icelandic bucket list then why not go zooming across the infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier? The meeting place for this incredible ride is right by Seljalandsfoss waterfall’s neighbour, the hidden little canyon dweller Gljúfrabúi.
Southcoast Adventure will take you in their powerful super jeep to the ice cap where you can gear up and jump on a snowmobile to zoom across the glacier.
This tour is a total of 3-4 hours, depending on the season, with an hour on the snowmobile riding across the glacier. However, that’s only a part of the experience as the view from atop Eyjafjallajökull is quite incomparable with the entire south coast with the Westman Islands on one side and the central Highlands on the other.
Scheduled departure is twice a day at 10:00am & 2:00pm every day. We recommend arriving an hour earlier to check out the waterfalls before meeting SouthCoast Adventure at their Gljúfrabúi base 20-30 minutes before departure. Their groups are small so make sure to book in advance. If you are interested in a private departure this can be booked below with flexible departure times.
Þórsmörk Super Jeep Tour
“Þórsmörk has a spot in every Icelanders heart. There’s just nothing like it…”
Þórsmörk is an incredibly beautiful nature reserve, situated in the heart of South Iceland nestled among the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull and Tindfjallajökull.
This tour is one of our most popular ones, with so many spectacular hiking options and adventurous rides over various unbridged glacial rivers. This is the perfect tour to explore the wonders of Þórsmörk while experiencing an adventurous 4×4 Super Jeep drive!
Þórsmörk is magical all year round. Winter can be an incredible experience. When the landscape is covered in ice and snow, the only access to Þórsmörk is by highly-modified super-jeeps, as part of a guided tour.
After our scenic drive, you will see Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is breathtaking enough from the front, but it gets better. You’ll have the chance to follow a path behind the cascade and see this natural beauty from a unique angle. Make sure that you bring a raincoat, though, because you are definitely going to get wet.
The next stop is Þórsmörk, which is the “valley of Thor” in Icelandic. This beautiful valley is surrounded by glaciers and mountains, among which is Gígjökull, a glacier tongue. You’ll also get the chance to approach the edge of the famous Eyjafjallajökull that you were able to see from the vehicle earlier. The eruption of this glacier-volcano in 2010 interfered with air traffic all over Europe, making itself and Iceland famous at the same time.
Stakkholtsgjá canyon is next on our tour. The cliffs in this breathtaking canyon tower 100 meters (328 feet) above all that lies beneath them. For the Game of Thrones fans out there, this canyon was one of the filming locations for the HBO show, so come and check it out for yourself!
Driving further into Þórsmörk valley, we’ll have to cross through some rivers in our jeep to arrive at the campsite. Here we’ll stop to give you the chance to go enjoy some short hikes, relishing the fantastic views of the glacial river beds along with the backdrop of the surrounding glaciers and mountains.
There will be some additional stops, depending on the time remaining as well as the weather conditions on the day of the tour, of course. One possibility is a visit to Nauthúsagil, a beautiful ravine with a waterfall at the end.
Winter is celebrated for it’s snowy landscape, Northern Light filled nights, and beautiful blue ice caves.
No matter what, the new COVID-19 regulations appear to allow us to keep our cases low and still let people travel, although in much smaller numbers. We are sure when the time is right that the restrictions will be eased slightly to allow travel to be easier, for instance a ‘softer’ quarantine between the two tests.
Maybe you have decided travel isn’t for you right now. But planning for the future should definitely be considered.
If you’re looking for a tiny bit of reassurance before you start putting plans in place, know that Iceland is the best you can do for a family vacation.
Iceland is one of the safest and least polluted countries in the world. It has a very low crime rate, clean air and water. These all point to Iceland being the perfect destination for a family trip.
The eve before December 12, everyone who believes in the Yule Lads will put a shoe on the window sill and keep it there for 13 days. This very specific number has to do with the number of Icelandic Jólasveinar.
Every night until Christmas, a new Yule Lad will visit the window and place a small gift in the shoe. For many, the Yule Lads are the best part of the days leading up to Christmas Day.
The family actually consists of the 13 Yule Lads (who are all brothers), their mother Grýla, their father, Leppalúði, and then there is the cat.
And it’s no extraordinary cat
The Mother of the Yule Lads. A scary troll-like mother, you know the type. She has the uncanny ability to detect when children are not behaving all year around!
During Christmas, she leaves her home in the mountains to hunt the naughty children and makes stew out of them. According to legend, there’s never a shortage of food for this feisty troll-ess.
From a relatively young age Icelandic children are told the story of Grýla the ogress living in the Icelandic mountains. She is a dreadful character, described as part troll and part animal and the mother of 13 precocious boys (the Yule Lads). Grýla lives in the mountains with her third husband, her thirteen children and a black cat. Every Christmas, Grýla and her sons come down from the mountains: Grýla in search of naughty children to boil in her cauldron and the boys in search of mischief. She can only capture children who misbehave but those who repent must be released.
Grýla’s husband and father to the Yule Lads. Known for not doing much around the house. But not much else is known about this big-nosed man. He’s never been seen kidnapping or cooking children, but he does eat what Grýla cooks.
The Christmas Cat
A vicious black hairy animal that hunts children who don’t receive something new to wear for Christmas – and then EATS them!
Make sure you get at least a brand-new sock this merry eve.
On to brighter things….
Now as this extraordinary and strange year comes to a close, we would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to all of you for your support this year in what has been tumultuous at times with circumstances challenging. However, we have a very positive feeling and are sure of better times in the future.
We are eagerly looking forward to brighter times and a continued good working relationship. If you have any questions regarding the situation in Iceland or want to take full advantage and start planning your trip to Iceland 2021, you can get in touch with your travel expert today. Our team of local guides cannot wait to show you our country’s unforgettable natural beauty and adventures.
We would like to thank you all for a really enjoyable partnership in the past year. We appreciate your confidence in the company and hope that our co-operation will remain beneficial and faithful. We wish you a merry Christmas and look forward to a successful new year!
Southcoast Adventure Team