Think winter is the worst time of the year to visit Iceland? Think again. Fewer crowds and the chance to see the northern lights make Iceland in December one of the best times to go!

Still not convinced? Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so how does 55 sound?

I spent 5 days in Iceland in December last year and had the absolute time of my life. From Christmas cheer (and curious child-eating Christmas cats) to sights that took my breath away by simply being there, Iceland is a land like no other. Here’s 50+ pictures of Iceland in December that prove it.

Iceland in December: Northern Lights Pictures

The Northern Lights dancing in Iceland

By far the thing that Iceland in December (and the rest of winter) is best known for is the Northern Lights. Of course, you’re not guaranteed to see the Northern Lights, as it is a naturally occurring phenomenon and highly dependent on the weather, but there’s still a really high chance that you’ll see them if you visit Iceland in December.

the northern lights in Iceland in December

One of the best ways to see the Northern Lights in Iceland in December is to go with a tour company out of Reykjavik, like this one. You’ll hop in a small van and your super knowledgeable driver-guide will take you where the best chance is for a Lights spotting that night. And if that spot changes, you’ll change spots too.

The first night I went out on a Northern Lights tour, we didn’t see anything. But the next night – my birthday – we saw them. And it was straight up amazing.

The northern lights just north of Reykjavik, Iceland
The northern lights just north of Reykjavik, Iceland

I don’t think I ever really thought about how crazy it would be to finally see the Northern Lights. They’re something that everyone dreams of seeing so much that, once you finally do see them, it’s hard to believe they’re real. Of course, it helps that they’re so magical in the first place as well.

Reykjavik Pictures

the sun voyager sculpture in reykjavik

If you’re visiting Iceland in December, I highly recommend basing yourself in Reykjavik and taking day trips with tour companies (you can read my full itinerary for this here). That way, you don’t have to deal with driving on the sometimes crazy roads of wintertime. Additionally, you get the chance to explore the incredibly charming capital city of Reykjavik!

Some of the best things to do in Reykjavik, Iceland in December include wandering around the interior of the Harpa Concert Hall, which was built to look like an iceberg, and heading up the Hallgrímskirkja, which was built to look like a mountain (anyone sensing a theme here). At the top of the Hallgrímskirkja you’ll be greeted with those famous views of tiny downtown Reykjavik, colorful houses smiling up at you.

Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik in December
colorful houses of Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja

Perhaps one of the best parts of Iceland in December, though is that it’s Christmas season! That means that there are loads of lights and decorations up all over Reykjavik, which make for the perfect way to light up the long, long nights.

Oh, and don’t forget to catch the 11am sunrise…

hallgrimskirka in reykjavik

Iceland in December: Golden Circle Pictures

One of the most popular day trips from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle, and it’s equally amazing in December! 

The Golden Circle is the name for the tourist route in southern Iceland which loops around for about 300 kilometers and hits 3 of the top sites: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

Thingvellir National Park is home to the first Icelandic parliament and is also the spot where you can literally stand on the plates of two different continents! How amazing is that?

There’s also a hidden waterfall – Öxarárfoss – which no one seems to know about and is absolutely jaw-dropping.

Thingvellir National Park - the parliament lit up in the dark

Geysir is, well, the geysir that all other geysirs are named after. It actually only erupts once every few hours, but the one right next to it, Strokkur, erupts every 6-10 minutes. So you can stay for just a short amount of time and be guaranteed to see a geysir erupt!

Gullfoss Waterfall is by far one of the most awe-worthy waterfalls in all of Iceland, which is really saying something. It is absolutely MASSIVE, and so, SO gorgeous during Golden Hour.

Addie staring out at Gulfoss lit up during Golden Hour
The stunning Gulfoss waterfall on the Golden Circle in Iceland

Of course, there are other things to do on the Golden Circle as well which a lot of people don’t know about. I went on an amazing tour with EastWest Iceland (read my full review here) which included awesome off-the-beaten-path sights on the Golden Circle like a dairy farm ice cream shop, geothermally baked bread, and an indoor tomato farm restaurant (ok, I was mostly excited about the food…).

Addie smiling and holding her salted caramel ice cream
Addie standing next to two Icelandic horses, hugging one of them

Snaefellsnes Peninsula Pictures

If you’re not going to be road tripping around the whole of Iceland in December (which, again, I don’t really recommend due to road conditions), then you should be sure not to miss a road trip out to “Iceland in Miniature” – Snaefellsnes Peninsula!

From the Insta and Game of Thrones-famous Kirkjufell Mountain to hidden black sand beaches, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula really does have a little bit of everything to offer.

waterfalls in front of Kirkjufell in Iceland
Addie sitting on a bench staring at a black sand beach in Iceland in december
otherworldly rocks
Black sand beach on the snaefellsnes peninsula

Although it is a bit of a trek from Reykjavik, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is a day trip not to be missed. Go with a guide and you’ll hear stories of elves and Christmas cats, and maybe even a joke or two about Icelandic forests 😉

I went with EastWest Iceland again and loved it! You can read about my experience in this post.

Iceland in December: South Coast Pictures

If you want black sand beaches and loads of waterfalls, then the South Coast is absolutely the place to head in Iceland in December.

Start driving south from Reykjavik and you’ll soon come upon the much-loved Skógafoss waterfall, which makes for amazing Instagram pictures.

skogafoss waterfall from afar

Keep heading south all the way down to the village of Vík and its stunning black sand beach. You’ll be joined by many others, but it’s stunning all the same.

Black sand beach on the south coast of iceland, a must-see during 5 days in Iceland

Next up, take a visit to Sólheimajökull glacier for a view of what global warming can do. This was honestly the most heartbreaking part of my trip, as our guide pointed out where the glacier had once been compared to where it is now. It’s a worthy place to stop as a sobering reminder of how important it is to travel responsibly – especially in Iceland!

the melting Sólheimajökull glacier

Finally, don’t forget to stop by Seljalandsfoss waterfall on your way back! This is the second of two famous waterfalls on the South Coast, and my personal favorite 🙂

Addie standing on a bridge by Seljalandsfoss waterfall in iceland in December

Every stop on the South Coast of Iceland in December is worth 1000 pictures and all your time.

Iceland in December: Blue Lagoon Pictures

Addie in the Blue Lagoon, a highlight of 5 days in Iceland

It’s not a trip to Iceland in December (or any time of the year) if you don’t go to the Blue Lagoon. Yes, it’s touristy and overpriced, and if you have the chance you should visit other geothermal hot springs as well. But it truly is a fun experience, and a great way to spend the day before or after your flight!

Be sure to bring a waterproof case for your phone or camera, so it doesn’t die if you drop it in the water. And if you’re traveling solo (like I was), just find someone else who’s traveling on their own and have a photoshoot together (like I did)!

For the best pictures of the Blue Lagoon, be patient and move out towards the edges where there are less people 😉

Final Thoughts on Iceland in December

Iceland in December is an absolutely other-worldly place and the perfect time to visit the much-loved country! There are fewer crowds, Northern Lights, and the Christmas spirit. It really can’t be beat!

Heading to Iceland? Here are a few more posts you might find useful:

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Addie Gray is a recent college grad and a passionate solo female traveler. Having traveled to more than 20 countries, she now shares her knowledge on budget travel, solo female travel, and travel photography.

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