Iceland in the Winter...Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
If you are looking for a relaxing sun-filled getaway, then Iceland in the dead of winter might not be for you. However, if you are looking to experience an amazing once-in-a-lifetime adventure, then I highly recommend that you put winter in Iceland on your bucket list. Iceland may be a small country, but it has so much to see and do that you would need at least two weeks to drive around the country to experience it all. My four-night, five-day adventure consisted of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, Vik, the Black Beach in southern Iceland and finally the world-famous Blue Lagoon. Below is my visual journey.
First stop: Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital and the most populous city in the country. It is located on the west coast and is about a 45-minute drive from the Keflavik International Airport. Reykjavik is at the center of Iceland’s political, cultural and arts worlds. Some must-see spots below include the striking modern cathedral of Hallgrimskirkja, the beautiful and modern Harpa Concert Hall and the classic steel boat sculpture “The Sun Voyager.”
“The Sun Voyager” by Icelandic sculptor Jon Gunnar Arnason was completed in 1990.
Harpa Concert Hall is one of the coolest buildings in Iceland. Its beautiful glass facade is inspired by the country’s basalt landscape.
The church of Hallgrimskirkja can be found at the center of Reykjavik and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Opened in 1986, it is the tallest church in Iceland.
Second Stop: The Golden Circle
If staying in or around Reykjavik you have to take a day and drive Iceland’s most popular route, called the Golden Circle. It is a 190-mile drive that loops around some of the most sought-after tourist attractions in all of Iceland. I made three stops on my journey. Strokkur is a fountain geyser right along the strip. On our next stop we went to one of the grandest and most beautiful sites in Iceland, the Gullfoss Waterfall. Finally, we wrapped up the drive at its southernmost spot, the Kerid crater.
Strokkur is one of Iceland’s best-known Geysirs. It erupts about every 6-10 minutes.
Gullfoss Waterfall is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country and is well worth the trip.
Kerid crater is one of the only natural wonders that has an entry fee. It is 400 krona ($4) but well worth it.
Third Stop: South Iceland
After two days in Reykjavik we drove south to explore more of Iceland’s most notable attractions. This time we stopped at Seljalandsfoss on our way to Vik. We then traveled to the black beach of Reynisfjara, and we decided to hike to the abandoned plane that crashed in 1973 in the middle of nowhere at Solheimasandur beach.
Seljalandsfoss is beautiful from the front, but one thing to note is that you are not able to walk behind it in the winter.
Vik, the southernmost village in Iceland, is adorable.
Reynisfjara is the most impressive black sand beach in Iceland. If it looks familiar you might have seen it in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
In 1973 a U.S. Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black sand beach of Solheimasandur.
Final Stop: The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Iceland, and I can see why. It is open year-round, but it is an especially awesome winter experience. Who wouldn’t want to be in a geothermal bath when it’s 30°F outside? Swimming in the bluest water ever against an amazing background of snow and ice is surreal. The feeling of being warm in such a frigid and stark terrain. It is almost like being on another planet with the icy mountains and steaming lakes.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with an average temperature of 102°F.
I can say the Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap for a reason. It is only a 20-minute drive from Keflavik International Airport, and it is an absolutely must-have experience on your way in or out of Iceland.
Iceland sure was an amazing trip. If you are at all a fan of hiking, nature or photography you have to put it on your list. Here is a final list of tips for your trip.
- Do not pin all your hopes on seeing the northern lights. They were not visible the whole time I was there.
- Embrace the cold and prepare for all types of weather. Bring a raincoat for possible heavy rain and a warm coat for possible heavy wind, but most important, bring comfortable boots that have good tread for ice.
- Be careful both driving and walking. Roads and trails can be treacherous. Also, buy a prepaid gas card. U.S. credit cards do not work at gas stations.
- Iceland is expensive in general, but the food is next-level pricey. Two beers and a few apps cost me $90. So if you are on a budget, make sure to stay somewhere you will be able to cook.
- If you properly prepare ahead of time, you will have a wonderfully unique experience.