Exploring Iceland in Winter

Iceland is one of the most magical countries I have ever visited. I simply fell in love, I want to go back! We planned 7 days: 3 outside of Reykjavik and 4 in Reykjavik, mainly because we arrived on New Year’s and were not sure how our trip was going to kick off. In retrospective, I would have added 1 or even 2 more days outside of Reykjavik, particularly because in winter days are so short that it’s hard to do everything you want to do.

Iceland is a country for nature lovers and adventurers, especially in winter where there weather changes constantly and you don’t know if there will be rain, snow, wind, sun, or all of the above. So be prepared and flexible in your plans.

We started our trip on December 31st, here’s my first tip, if you are arriving on this same day, stock up with wine, beer, whatever you want to drink on New Year’s because EVERYTHING will be closed. Also, in Iceland they don’t sell alcohol everywhere, only on alcohol-specific stores. If you want to go out for dinner, be sure to make a reservation, most of the good restaurants have the possibility to do it online on their websites.

New Year’s eve in Reykjavik is an unbelievable experience! They go crazy on fireworks! The fireworks last for hours and even days! (until they run out of stock haha!) This happens outside Hallgrimskirkja Church. January 1st, was the perfect day to relax at the Blue Lagoon! It is very touristy but worth going! Make sure to buy your tickets online with anticipation.

On our 3rd day, we went to pick up our car rental (you can ask for a pick up from your hotel) and began our roadtrip towards Vik. On the way to Vik, these are the wonderful things you can see:

We stayed at a cute guesthouse called Vellir about 10km before the town of Vik. We went into town for dinner but apart from that, there is nothing to do at night, the town is really small. The next day, we had a “long” day, we visited the black beach near Vik:

Black Beach Vik Iceland

Black Beach Vik

After that, we moved on to the Golden Circle. We went to see the Geysirs and the plan was to move on to Gulfoss Waterfalls but because our GPS screwed up, we thought it was far away, but they are REALLY close! So watch out, don’t trust 100% the GPS (even though it was pretty good the rest of the trip), it’s always important to check out where things are when you have wifi.

Stori Geysir

Stori Geysir

We slept at the Ion Hotel, which is beautiful and located within the Golden Circle area, it was a dream to be there. Even though we  had hoped to see the northern lights, the whole experience exceeded our expectations and the skies are so amazing, that it was ok. (Leave a reason to return, right?)

Ion Hotel

Ion Hotel

Our last day exploring the outskirts of Reykjavik, we visited Kerið crater, which was covered in snow, it’s probably prettier in the summer, Gullfoss waterfalls (AMAZING!) and Thingvellir national park where you can see the plate tectonics that are drifting away from each other.

This was the end of our roadtrip. Then we had two more days in Reykjavik . One of those days we did the walking tour, which I highly recommend. Iceland is full of fun facts of which you can read more in my post 10 Unique things about Iceland (click here).

A quick example, this is a picture of an Elf’s home, construction workers were not able to remove this rock because when they tried, the bulldozer broke. The conclusion was that it happened because the elf was not willing to relocate.

Elf Home Reykjavik

Elf Home Reykjavik

Finally, I will leave you with a couple of pictures of Reykjavik so you can see how beautiful it is.

Travel Tips:

General:

  • In winter, sunrise is around 10:30am and sunset around 4:30pm, plan your day wisely.
  • The most beautiful thing is that daylight is like a constant sunset or sunrise.
  • It’s not as cold as one would imagine, the temperature oscillates between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The northern lights are hard to see, for Icelanders, they are “normal” but for tourists, it’s not as easy, conditions have to be right. We spend 7 nights and could not see them, but the week before, they appeared everyday. Even though we didn’t see them, our trip was simply amazing, this just gives us a reason to return.
  • Walking Tour

Hotels:

  • Guesthouse Vellir
  • Ion Hotel

Restaurants:

  • Torfan
  • Vegomot – for brunch
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