This post (probably) contains affiliate links, including Amazon Associates links, and I may receive a small commission if you click one. This is at no extra cost to you and allows this site to keep running.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous about a trip as I was boarding the plane to Iceland in January. I don’t deal with cold well at the best of times, so I was apprehensive about heading to a cold country at the coldest time of year.
Eek! Just writing that is giving me the chills.
If you’re planning a winter trip to Iceland, you might be feeling equally anxious. But don’t be – winter is one of the best times to visit Iceland so you’ve made a great decision.
A notoriously popular tourist destination, Iceland isn’t half as flooded with visitors in January as it is at other times of the year. And that means you can actually enjoy it!
Well… Provided you go prepared and pack suitable clothing, that is. But that’s what this blog post is for. Here’s what to wear in Iceland in January if you want to keep warm.
READ NEXT: Check out these European hidden gems for your next summer trip!
Packing for Iceland in January
If you plan on travelling around Iceland – something I highly recommend! – you’ll want to keep your luggage as light and compact as possible. That’s no easy feat when you’re packing bulky winter clothing!
Focus on the cold weather essentials and just enough “regular” clothing to layer under and over them.
Even if you’re not planning on travelling around much, there are only really a few things you need. You just want to make sure you have them! You’re going to be wearing the same layers and outerwear for the entire trip to Iceland, so you don’t need to put too much thought into what’s underneath.
I’m not one to splurge on new clothes for a trip – hey, I live out of a suitcase! – but I did buy new things to pack for Iceland. If you don’t own quality cold weather clothing, it’s worth investing a little. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did once you come face to face with the harsh winter weather in Iceland!
Clothing to pack for Iceland in January
This list of clothing is all you’re going to need for your January trip to Iceland. Since it’s cold and you’ll be layering, you can easily wear each item more than once. Aim for half the number of items you’d usually pack for a trip of equal length elsewhere.
I’ve divided every you need to pack into clothing category, so you can make sure you’re prepared from head to toe. Here’s what to wear in Iceland in January!
I was SO reluctant to buy a pair of waterproof trousers for my trip to Iceland. Let’s face it… they’re neither pretty nor comfy.
But boy am I glad I did.
My waterproof trousers became my best friend by the end of the trip and saved me from numerous uncomfortable journeys in wet trousers.
Choose a quality pair of waterproof trousers that you can layer over the top of regular trousers or jeans. You’ll be so glad you did when you get back to the car/bus/hotel room and can quickly slip them off!
Thermal leggings are the kind of thing that seem pretty pointless. I don’t know about you, but I can never imagine my legs feeling that cold.
Well, they’re definitely going to feel pretty cold if you travel to Iceland in January without a pair!
I bought a few of pairs of Uniqlo’s”Heattech” leggings and, despite being ultra thin, they made SUCH a difference. Plus, they fitted easily under my super tight skinny jeans. For the extra cold days, I also packed a pair of fleece lined leggings from Eddie Bauer – so cosy!
In-between your thermal leggings and waterproof trousers, you’ll want to sandwich a pair of normal trousers. Not only will it mean you can strip off those uncomfy waterproof trousers as soon as you’re safely indoors, but it’ll keep you even warmer. Plus, it will just make you feel more normal.
I packed two pairs of jeans for my 10 day trip and they did the job nicely. Anything more would have been excessive because I was basically never without a pair of thermal leggings underneath.
Again, layering is key! Start with a thermal base layer, such as a vest or long sleeved t-shirt. I bought a few from Uniqlo’s “Heattech” range because they’re super thin and they made as massive difference.
On top of the thermal layer, you’ll want to wear whatever you usually do. I stuck to t-shirt and thin jumpers because I found them easiest to layer, but you can wear whatever you want. Remember, this is what you’ll be seen in at dinner etc, but will be hidden most of the time.
RELATED READ: The best hiking backpack for women.
When you’re thinking about what to pack for Iceland in January, a jumper is probably the first thing that comes it mind! Skip the regular sweater, though, and invest in a cosy fleece. It’ll keep you much warmer than anything else and will help keep the wind out.
Packing for Iceland in winter is as much about protecting yourself from the wind as it is about keeping dry. A down jacket can be layered underneath a bigger coat and can be folded down into your luggage while travelling.
You definitely won’t want to visit Iceland without a waterproof coat! Ideally you’ll want one with a big hood and that dries quickly. If you can, bring one that’s long enough to cover the top part of your trousers.
Wellies (gum boots)
If you only pack one pair of shoes to wear in Iceland, make it a pair of wellies. If you’re visiting Iceland in January, it’s going to be WET and the snow could be halfway up your shin at times.
Get yourself a good pair of gum boots to keep your feet dry and warm when out and about.
It’s almost guaranteed to be snowing in Iceland in January, but it’s not the wet days you need to worry about. It’s when it’s a little milder and there’s no fresh snow around that paths become extra slippery. Make sure you have a pair of shoes that can handle the ice and have good grip, so you can avoid slipping and taking an injury home with you.
TRAVEL TIP: Do you have travel insurance? Here’s the one I recommend for adventurous breaks.
Warm shoes aren’t going to be enough in Iceland – you’ll also want the warmest socks you can find. Go for quality thermal socks and layer them when need be to ensure your feet don’t freeze in the snow.
You’re not going to need a whole of accessories in Iceland in January, but you won’t regret packing a cosy hat of some kind. In fact, you’re going to need it! It may also be worth packing a spare one in case the first one gets wet, dirty or blows away.
It’s impossible to travel Iceland in winter without a good pair of gloves, and I’d recommend the warmest ski gloves you can find. Make sure you buy some that have ample room for those little hand warmers – you’re going to need those, too!
Sunnies aren’t just for warm destinations – they’re pretty essential in Iceland too! All that dazzling white snow makes it hard to see without them, so pack a quality pair of sunglasses. My go-to brand for protecting my eyes is Ray-Ban.
Other clothing to pack for Iceland in January
Another piece of clothing you might associate with sunnier climates, a swimsuit will come in super handy for saunas and hot tubs – of which there are plenty. There’s nothing quite like coming home after a long, cold day and jumping into a hot sauna.
Most of the time you’re going to be layering, but there’s one time you’ll want to wear lighter clothing in Iceland: in bed. Since it’s so cold outside, the hotels are usually pretty toasty inside. Heavy pyjamas will make you too hot (yes, really!) so pack a lighter set instead. Plus, there’s not shortage of hot water since it’s heated using geothermal energy, so you’ll always be able to warm up.
READ NEXT: What to pack for Iceland in winter (+ FREE downloadable packing list!).