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Traveling to Iceland in Winter | A Four-Day Itinerary

four days in Iceland
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Last year I had the pleasure of traveling to Iceland in winter. I can honestly say Iceland is one of the most beautiful and other-worldly countries that I have ever visited. My personal point of view is that it is best to visit Iceland during the winter, when you have the opportunity to experience the Northern Lights. They are just as amazing and majestic as you’ve heard!

In this post I will walk you through a four-day itinerary for a winter visit to Iceland. This is a relatively short time in this island full of so many things to do/see, but will allow you to hit a few highlights. Also, at the end of this post, you’ll find some overall tips for traveling to Iceland in winter.

The Itinerary | The Best Things to Do in Iceland in Winter

Day 1 | Exploring Reykjavik and Viewing the Northern Lights

One of the best ways to get yourself acclimated to a new city (especially one in a new country) is to take a walking tour. I really like to check out free walking tour options, as the tour guides have the incentive to provide a great experience as the price for these tours is tip-based.

We took the Free Walking Tour Reykjavik (History and Culture Walk) on my first day there. The tour guide was a lot of fun and provided us with interesting information on the past and the present of Iceland. This tour will take you to many of the major landmarks in the city as well. Reykjavik has a very walkable downtown area and we had no problems getting around after the tour. If you do take this tour on your visit, don’t forget to bring cash and tip generously if you enjoy it!

Woman leading tour in iceland
Our awesome guide for the walking tour!

After an afternoon of catching up on sleep / trying to overcome jet lag, we went on a Northern Lights tour. Most tours will offer another excursion for free if the lights don’t make an appearance the evening of your tour.

We didn’t see a major Northern Lights “storm” while there, but were still able to see them before the clouds rolled in and capture some cool shots. To be totally honest, we did not have a great experience with our tour guide, but here is a link to a highly-rated Northern Lights tour.

View of Northern Lights
The Northern Lights!

RELATED: Packing for Iceland in March

Day 2 | The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle was one of my favorite parts of our quick trip to Iceland, despite the high number of tourists you can expect to see on this excursion. For those of you who are new to this term, the Golden Circle refers to a tourist route where one will visit the Þingvellir National Park (The Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs through here!), the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, containing the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. We took the “Golden Circle Afternoon” tour booked through Get Your Guide which was just delightful.

Gulfoss Waterfall
Gulfoss Waterfall – Isn’t it breathtaking?!

In addition to the stops mentioned above, we also stopped at volcanic crater at Kerið Lake. In my opinion, the best part of the Golden Circle is the Gullfoss waterfall, which is completely breathtaking.

Quick Tip: There is a large tourist center with a cafeteria-style restaurant and souvenir shop at the Geysir stop. This means you don’t need to bring your own food along with you, unless that’s your preference.

Volcanic Crater
Volcanic Crater at Kerið Lake

Book your Golden Circle Tour Now!

Day 3 | ATV Tour and the Blue Lagoon

For those of you who are a bit more adventurous, I recommend checking out an ATV tour. We took the “Mountain Safari” tour by the Safari company that provided us with amazing shots of Reykjavik while we ventured up the Hafrafell Mountain Summit. All ATV gear was provided and the ATVs even had heated handlebars!

ATV tour
On the ATV tour!

After your ATV tour, take some time to relax in one of Iceland’s famous heated pools – The Blue Lagoon. This site is pretty commercial, so if you’re not interested in spending time with a lot of tourists, you can check out one of Iceland’s many other heated pools, such as Laugardalslaug or Vesturbæjarlaug.

If you are set on visiting the Blue Lagoon, I highly recommend booking your tickets at least a month in advance. This will provide you with the largest amount of open time slots (earlier times book up fast!) My friends and I booked the Comfort package on our visit, which we found to be just right for us, but if you are interested in either more or less amenities, you may find the full list of packages at the Blue Lagoon website.

woman at blue lagoon
Swimming in the snow at the Blue Lagoon!

Day 4 | The Settlement Exhibition and Shopping

On your final day in Iceland, I recommend taking it a bit easy and hanging around Reykjavik before heading back home. One place that my friends and I really enjoyed visiting in downtown is the Settlement Exhibition. Here you can visit one of the first Icelandic settlements and learn more about the history of the island. This is a small, but interactive museum that you can visit even if you’re limited on time.

In downtown Reykjavik there are several souvenir shops, but keep in mind that the items are in Icelandic prices, which means they may be a bit high :). If you’re looking for something reasonably priced and unique, check out one of the different types of salt you can find in these shops. These will certainly take your cooking up a notch!

 

Final Tips for Traveling to Iceland in Winter

That concludes my itinerary for Iceland in four days, but before you go, here are a few additional tips for traveling to Iceland in winter:

Sunrise/Sunset

Towards the end of December / beginning of January there are points in time when the sun does not rise at all. Keep this in mind as you select the month you travel to Iceland. I traveled there in March, and the days were already back to a normal length (sunrise ~7 and sunset ~8), and was still able to see the Northern Lights.

Weather

Iceland was not as cold as I thought it was going to be, with temperatures in the mid-30s (F) during the day and the mid-20s (F) during the evening in March. These temperatures are pretty consistent for the majority of winter in Iceland. For those of you living in the mid-west or north-east of the US, these temperatures are actually not too bad :). What will get you is the wind chill, which can be brutal, so pack appropriately. Check out this post for some tips!

Icelandic countryside
Otherworldly views out in the Icelandic countryside

Getting There

We flew Wow Air direct from Baltimore to Iceland, for only about $400 USD. There are a lot of cheap flight options on carriers such as Wow Air or Iceland Air, so be sure to monitor flights using sites such as Skyscanner or Momondo for the best deal.

Lodging

We stayed at this very cute AirBnB while there, which only cost us about $120 USD/night. It was in a great location – just a short 7-minute walk to downtown. I recommend staying at or very near to downtown while in Iceland if you are visiting for a short time to avoid spending too much time traveling.

Photo Cred: AirBnB

*If you are a first time Airbnb user, use my link to get $40 off your first stay!*

Eating

We ate like royalty the whole time we were in Iceland – it seems that almost every restaurant is Michelin-star quality. The downside to this is that the food is also pretty expensive. It cost us about $70 USD for dinner, on average. If you are on a budget, check out the Bonus grocery store, which has great prices. Here you can pick up the essentials and make your own food, saving quite a bit of money in the process.

For those of you interested in checking out a few restaurants, here are a few options that we enjoyed:

  • Forétta Barrin – The “Smokey Bay” 4-course set menu is delicious!
  • Tapas Barrin – Spanish Restaurant with an Icelandic flair
  • Coocoo’s Nest – This place offers very hearty dishes in a place that has that hipster vibe
  • Geysir Bistro – Restaurant that has really great seafood options
Dinner in Iceland
Delicious codfish balls that I had for lunch at Geysir Bistro

I hope you enjoyed this brief Iceland travel guide! Have you been to Iceland? If so, put your tips in the comments section below!

Packing

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when packing for a trip to Iceland in Winter. Visit my post Packing for Iceland in March for a complete packing list!

#travelwandergrow

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22 Comments

  1. Wow what stunning pictures. Though I am not a fan of the cold, your blog is a great way to ‘experience’ some of the beauty of Iceland.

  2. Wow! Sounds like you had an amazing trip! I love your pictures and have wanted to visit Iceland since I was a little girl! Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Great post! Iceland is somewhere I’ve been looking at visiting especially in winter as it is actually not as cold there in winter than it is where I live! Crazy, right? Go to Iceland to warm up! LOL Anyway, I’ve been thinking of either a stopover trip, or a short trip like yours. Iceland Air has a neat feature that you can stopover for up to 5 days en route to another destination in Iceland for no extra flight fees. I thought that might be a great way to see more than one place so your article is awesome in that it covers a short amount of time there! I am wondering, however, what do you think of Iceland with kids? Is this a good destination?

    1. Hi Jeannie – I do think that Iceland is a great place to travel with kids. There are plenty of fun museums to check out and I am sure they would love the beautiful nature as well :). The only things that may not work for them (depending on size) is the ATV tour and the Blue Lagoon, but everything else is very family friendly :).

  4. This is amazing!! Iceland is on my short list and 4 days would be perfect! We are dying to see the northern lights and Iceland will be the ideal location to see them!

    allison @lookslikehappy.com

  5. Great review of Iceland! I went this past June so it was interesting to read about Iceland in the winter as opposed to the summer. I would definitely like to go back in the winter to see the Northern Lights but maybe only for two days because I hate the cold!

  6. Glad I came across your site and looked into your Iceland trip, my brothers and sister and I are planning for my parents to go see the Northern Lights and we were not sure what else they could do out there LOL. We have read a couple other blogs on Iceland but nothing as specific as yours giving us pricing info for restaurants so that was awesome, gives us another idea of how much more we should be saving.
    Thank you!

    1. So glad you found this post! There is definitely a lot of them to do besides the Northern Lights, which are still awesome btw. If you need some additional pointers as you plan your trip, just let me know.

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