Surprise Surprise!! Despite its name, Icelandic winters are milder compared to those in Canada and NewYork. Definitely, Iceland is cold due to the high latitude, but gets tempered by the mild Gulf Stream that flows in it, and also by the ocean.
Average temperature in Iceland during winters is:
The Southerly lowlands: around 0 °C (32 °F),
The Highlands: −10 °C (14 °F)
The Northern part of Iceland: −25 to −30 °C (−13 to −22 °F).
There are so many Advantages of visiting in winter: Low-budget friendly(ier), less crowded, perfect light for your pictures, magical landscape, possibility to see northern lights, walk into the glaciers, hot springs, hot pools…
Iceland is full of mesmerizing waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, beautiful highways and roads. Every place and every photo in Iceland is a National Geographic photo and deserves to be seen. Iceland is rightly called the land of Fire and Ice! Plenty of active volcanoes surrounded by plenty of ice! Over the years, volcanic land formations have given rise to the most unique landscapes you’d ever come across!
It is a place that is truly unlike any other in the world.
Majestic lava fields mingle with snow-capped mountains to create a world that will constantly leave you wondering.
“Is this real? How can such a place exist?”
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Itinerary for 5 days
This was my 5-days itinerary, which I ended up being super happy 😊 with:
Day 1: Blue Lagoon and Reykjavík
After early morning arrival to Keflavík airport, I went straight to Blue lagoon to dip myself in the geothermal water spa and relax. Then, I took a shuttle bus straight to Reykjavík. I checked in to my apartment and went to explore the capitol of Iceland. We were then picked up by our guide at around 9 pm to, guess what, see northern lights! That night we barely slept after we saw our first northern lights!!! Whooooa! To read more about Northern lights please click here.
While on my way back to Keflavík airport flying back to London, I resolved to be back one day! Iceland created a very special place in my heart!
If you want to read more about Iceland tours, here’s a detailed description of all the day trips with all the stops and important tips. I have also mentioned some budget tips at the end of the blog.
Yay🤸♀️!!!! LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN!
Day 1: Blue Lagoon and Reykjavík
Blue lagoon is a man-made geothermal spa, water features majorly three active ingredients: Algae, Silica, & Minerals. The water temperature is 37-40°C (98-104°F), year-round. I avoided renting a car, due to difficult icy conditions on the roads. If you wish to do the same, and relax after a long flight– you can consider taking this transportation option. If you want to travel from Reykjavík to Blue Lagoon, I recommend taking this ticket to Blue Lagoon, this entry ticket to Blue Lagoon has bus transport included in it!
Solfar (Sun Voyager) Sculpture: This is one of my favorite sculptures in Reykjavík. It is sketched as an ode to the sun or a dreamboat. The artist’s intention was to portray freedom , progress and a dream of hope.
Hallgrímskirkja Church: It is a tallest man made structure in Iceland. You can pay to see the incredible view from the top. Views from the deck offers heart warming views of distant mountains, colourful Icelandic rooftops, and the bay.
Statues outside the Pearl Perlan: Pearl Perlan is a rotating glass dome built on top of six water tanks that together store 24 million litres of Reykjavík’s hot water.
There are many different types of activites to do in Reykjavík when weather is not good such as Harpa Concert Hall, Aurora Reykjavík- Saga Museum, Local Swimming Pool, Þjóðminjasafnið National Museum and many more…
Day 2: The Gateway to Wonderland – Golden Circle
The road journey to the Golden Circle is mesmerizing – you drive through the picturesque snow covered vast stretches of landscapes. The gleaming sun rays off of the mountain slopes feel like a mirage full of diamonds! Most of the locations covered in Golden Circle trip are FREE ENTRY except Kerio Volcanic crater.
Kerið Volcanic crater lake- The Kerið caldera is composed of red volcanic rock. Kerið was formed by a cone volcano that erupted 3000 years ago. It is believed that this crater lake is formed by ground water, not rainfall, as it sits at the same height as the water table. Absolute bliss to take the stairs to the bottom and feel the frozen bed!
Faxi Waterfall: It is a beautiful waterfall placed in a wonderful and peaceful landscape.The waterfall is 80 m wide and 7 m high.
Geyser hot spring area- in Haukadalur: Another magical experience from Iceland. Geyser in Haukadalur is the most active geyser in Iceland and erupts naturally every 4-10 mins, it usually erupts up to 15 or 20 mts but in history it is said to have gone up to 40 m. There is NO ENTRANCE FEE to Strokkur- Geyser.
The Geysir: An extra-ordinary display of our mother earth!
Gullfoss: Our next stop was Gullfoss. I never realised how huge this waterfall was until I saw it myself. It is the largest volume falls in Europe, with the average flow being 1400 m³/s in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the wintertime. The water cascades down in two stages, one 11 m (36 ft) high, and the other 21 m (69 ft), into the 2,5 km (1.6 mi) long crevasse below. It actually felt like WONDERLAND!
The National Park of Thingvellir (Þingvellir): This is one of the few parliament sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Yes! Iceland parliament presides here!
Iceland is one of the very few places in the world where you can see two adjoining tectonic plates (Eurasian and the American plates), as the TECTONIC PLATES normally meet underneath the sea.
In a few billion years, Iceland will be split into two. Tectonic plates runs straight through the middle of the country and are very visible. Here, you can even go diving or SNORKELING between the two continents!
What would you prefer? Flying or swimming between 2 continents? I’d prefer Snorkelling 😉
Price: I recommend you to book through Icelandadvice. They capture your photos as well as take you in small groups. There is a small charge for car parking in Thingvellir. While going to Silfra, you will also notice the Scuba divers crossing! Unusual Road sign. This is my favorite picture. Thankfully we didn’t run over any scuba divers ;):)!
You must have also seen Thingvellir National Park in most popular TV series of Games of Thrones Season 4. Both when Arya Stark and the Hound are on their way to the impregnable Eyrie, and during the battle of Brienne and the Hound.
Day 3: Vatnajökull Ice Caves, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Vatnajökull is Europe’s largest ice cap, with active volcanoes and mountains resting beneath. In this area, you can find all the ice and glaciers you need. You will be amazed and surprised by blue and white ice chunks. For Skaftafell Glacier walking: I recommend you to book ahead.
After you had your fun walking the glacier, move on to the Svartifoss waterfall.
Svartifoss waterfall: Svartifoss waterfall is a unique sight as you witness the 20m tall waterfall carve its way down, flanked by the majestic black hexagonal basalt columns that surely give you the rarest of landscapes.
Vatnajökull Ice Caves: Visiting the crystal ice cave in Vatnajökull Ice caves is something I will never forget, it left me totally speechless! We spent an hour inside the cave and when we left I felt elated – this is such an unique experience.
It was the highlight of the day for me.
Price: If you want you can book Ice caving and glacier walking together.
After spectacular experience of the ice caves, you can head towards the glacier lagoon called Jökulsárlón. It was formed only 60 years ago and it is truly beautiful.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Jökulsárlón is one of the best places in the world to relax and listen to the sound of icebergs floating by and bumping against each other. You can really clear your mind and watch the seals swimming under and aside of the icebergs.
A view you’ll never forget!
Hang on, we’re not done yet! Just follow the icebergs floating towards the sea. Here you’ll find Diamond Beach.
Diamond Beach: You’ll encounter big blue icebergs or small shiny diamond like ice blocks along the coast line. It is possible to walk between them and see the huge ice blocks up close.
Day 4: Wonders of Snæfellsnes Peninsula- West Iceland
Before going to more details about our trip. I would like to tell you that one of my favourite movie Journey to the Centre of the Earth from 2008 was filmed here besides the glacier. Hope you find it exciting too. Our first stop was Berserk lava field.
Berserk lavafield: In this field lava is approximately 3600-4000 years old. This beautiful area is ideal for recreation, hiking, angling and mountain climbing. You can also book guided hiking tour.
Bjarnarfoss waterfall: Bjarna means “bear”. It falls from 566m high Mælifell mountain, the river Bjarnaá drops down more over 80m in the Dritvíkurgrunn and ends in the sea.
National Park of Snæfellsjökull: In here, Arnarstapi is one of the place that should not be missed! The white-coloured Arnarstapaviti lighthouse is only 3 m high. After visiting the lighthouse, you can walk straight to the stone bridge called “Gatklettur”.
Gatklettur: It is an extraordinary columnar basalt rock arch. This breathtaking seaside cliff formation looks almost as though an artist had created it. It is also possible to walk above the bridge.
Best walking bridge in the world. Isn’t it mesmerizing?
Bárður Snæfellsás – the Protector of the Snæfellsnes peninsula: The big stone structure was made by one of the sculptors called Ragnar Kjartansson. You can also see his work in several places on the peninsula.
Djúpalónssandur Beach: It is magical but not the best location to practice sea-swimming in Iceland. In February 2017 a Slovakian tourist decided to swim in these waves completely naked. You should never attempt to do something like it.
Snæfellsjökull/Rauðarfellsgjá: The main attraction on Snæfellsnes tour is Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is a dormant strato-volcano, 1446 m high with a ca 200 m deep crater.
Day 5: Adventures of South Shore Tour
We drove from Reykjavík at 6 am in the morning to this charming town called Vik. We were leaving same day back to London. We wanted to utilize our day light time. So, we decided to drive in the dark and start from there.
Vik: Vik is the most charming town of Iceland. Legend has it that stacks on the black sand beach originated when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became rocks. There are many more stories about these 3 rocks. Not sure about the real story.
Then, we headed to explore the area called Dyrhólaey. It is a very interesting peninsula along route 1 in the south coast.
Dyrhólaey: Dyrhólaey has two parts, the higher and the lower. The higher part has panoramic views in all directions. The bumpy road itself is an adventure!
The lower part has it’s black sand beaches and view to various rocky cliffs along with Reynisfjara in the background is equally astounding.
This is one of my most favorite picture from Iceland trip.
Warning: Beware of sneaker waves! The currents off the shore are infamous for their strength and ability to drag people out into the freezing cold open ocean.
Reynisfjall: These dramatic black basalt columns of mountain formed natural. This is a spectacular site! After trying to unsuccesfully climb these columns, we headed to the beautiful waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.
Skógafoss: Famous waterfall 25m wide and 60m high with beautiful rainbows. It produces a lot of water splash then you will be able to see beautiful rainbows on sunny days. I do not have any nice picture of it.
Some Sunny days afford multiple rainbows at this waterfall!
Seljalandsfoss: It is 65m high waterfall on the Seljalandsá river. There is a path which leads you behind the waterfall, but it is generally closed during winter time.
Our next stop was Eyjafjallajökull: Famous 2010 eruption- This eruption halted air traffic in Europe for days, and its estimated that as many as 107,000 flights may have been cancelled during the week it lasted. Then we headed to our last stop Sólheimajökull glacier.
Sólheimajökull: It was a perfect day, cold but bright with no wind. We walked up a bit to the glacier in daylight and the sun began to set which made our experience much more beautiful.
Icelandic Horses: Finally, we stopped to see the Icelandic horse. It is a unique breed of smallish horses that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago.
Season: It is a fact that prices for accommodation and car rentals are higher in summer time, especially, July and August. if you want to save a significant amount of money, this is no doubt that the best time to go off-season.
Flights: The key is to book way in advance. The early bird catches the best fares.
Accommodation: Hotels are always expensive? I hear you! I believe apartments can be a great alternative to hotels! Let you cook your own food and you can also feel the local atmosphere.
Here are some more tips that can help.
– Goods at supermarkets are SIGNIFICANTLY CHEAPER than at convenience stores.
– Tap water is good to go.
– On tours you can bring your own lunch
It is very difficult to explain our trip in limited words. Our experience was really great and I am looking forward to visiting Iceland again in near future.
PC: Aditya Baraya, Shyam Gaurav Ramesh, Niveditha Manjunath, Jon Frosti and Me (Neha Bansal) 🙂
You can get to see more pictures of Shyam Gaurav Ramesh on his blog Chitra. Please click here.
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