There is something magical about experiencing Icelandic winter outside of the city. Racing against the few hours of daylight, staying up to hunt for Northern Lights, walking in the freshly fallen snow and exploring the frozen sights. Iceland sure does not go to sleep during the winter season, rather it comes alive once again. How is the best way to experience the true Nordic winter on your 4 day winter stopover in Iceland? Here is the perfect itinerary for those looking for a compact trip of the magical land of fire and ice.
BUT FIRST, WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?
Have you ever experienced all four season within the span of one day? We have, and not only once or twice. A snowstorm can turn to sunshine in the matter of minutes and vice versa. It’s a thrilling to witness the power of the weather! The forecast changes from day to day, with winter temperatures hovering just a few degrees below or above 0°C (30°F). The wind in Iceland can be quite harsh, making it feel much colder. Precipitation is also to be expected, hopefully in the form of snow.
WHAT DO I PACK FOR ICELANDIC WINTER HOLIDAY?
Layers is the answer here, bring good layers that you can pack on or take off depending on the activity you are partaking in and time of day. A merino base layer, fleece mid layer and a warmer outer layer of prima-loft or down jacket. For the coldest days you’ll need a winter jacket instead of the prima-oft. The key to keeping warm is keeping dry, so we recommend that your outer layer is at least water resistant.
The Hidden Iceland team of guides wear 66 North whilst guiding no matter the season or the weather. 66 North has kept Icelanders warm since 1926 with their outdoor wear that takes you from a casual walk in the city to the mountain top. A good one in for winter is their Tvíoddi 3-in-1 Gore-Tex parka, where you can layer up or down, with a down inside and a waterproof outer shell that can be worn together or on it’s own. You can shop (tax free) in their stores on Laugarvegur shopping street!
Shoes, I can’t stress this point enough. Bring good shoes! There is nothing worse than spending your day exploring with wet and cold shoes so we recommend a good, water resistant hiking boot ideally one that goes above your ankles. And good wool socks. You can hire hiking boots with us on our trips, make sure to get in touch if you need a pair!
Now, on to the trip!
ARRIVING IN ICELAND & EXPLORE THE CITY
If you are flying in from the states, your flight likely lands in the early morning. This gives you the opportunity to ease into the Icelandic culture and correct your body clock to tick in the right hour if coming from far away. After coming into Reykjavík and settling into your accommodation make your way into downtown for a wander and grab a bite or two. A visit to Safnarhúsið (The Culture House) housed in a stunning white building for their Points of View exhibition is a good introduction into Icelands close relationship with nature, followed by a warm cup of coffee and homemade cakes in the museum café Julía & Júlía. Entrance to the Culture house also gives you entrance to the National Museum of Iceland.
Gain a fresh perspective over the city by going to the top of Hallgrímskirkja church or visit Perlan for their rotating 360 degree café and restaurant.
After dinner, go Icelandic and visit one of the public swimming pools like the recently re-opened Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, Icelands oldest public swimming pool with it’s original charm or Vesturbæjarlaug, the small and friendly neighbourhood pool within walking distance from the city centre.
BATHE IN HOT POOLS & LUNCH IN A GREENHOUSE
On our Golden Circle: Platinum day trip we have found the ultimate combination of relaxation and exploring. We start the day by warming up in the Secret Lagoon, Iceland’s oldest geothermal hot pool since 1891. Once we are out of the pool we make our way to Friðheimar geothermal greenhouse who are famous for all things tomato, be it their tomato soup with their delicious homemade bread, tortilla pizza or freshly made pasta. Our lunch table is situation within the growing tomatoes. It’s hard not to be impressed by the work that they are doing in the greenhouse!
After lunch it’s time to witness some of the most spectacular sights within the golden circle region. We visit Gullfoss waterfall where glacier runoff waters ? glacier plummets into a rugged canyon, from here we visit the site of the bubbling mud pools and erupting hot sprints at Geysir geothermal area where they geyser Strokkur erupts 10-40 meters in the air every 6-10 minutes. Even so, it always catches you by a surprise and that perfect capture can be difficult to get! Then it’s on to the scenic and historically important Þingvellir National Park situated on the moving tectonic planes.
We get back into Reykjavík just in time for dinner and have a nice evening in the city before embarking on two adventurous days the following morning. If you are lucky, you may be able to see the Northern Lights while walking to your accommodation after dinner.
Book your Golden Circle: Platinum tour with us here.
GLACIRS, WATERFALLS & DIAMOND BEACHES – TWO DAYS TO REMEMBER
It’s time to introduce the star of the show, who highlights the most spectacular sights along the entire south coast of Iceland in their winter uniform. It’s our Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 day tour.
Here we set out in the early winter morning with Seljalandsfoss waterfall as our first stop of the day where the 60 meter high waterfall falls from the cliffs. We continue chasing waterfalls as we make our way to Skógafoss waterfall measuring 25 meters wide and 60 meters high, plummeting into the ground below. You can get quite close to the waterfall, feeling the power as it rumbles down. The story goes that Þrasi Þórólfsson who was one of the Viking Settlers at Skógar farm, hid a chest filled with gold and other treasures behind the waterfall in the year 900. We can see why it is a good hiding place! A short drive away we visit Reynisfjara black sand beach whose basalt columns charm you off your feet as equally as quickly as the tall waves along the stretch of the beach which seems to go on forever! From the beach it’s onto to gorges with the impossible name, Fjaðrárgljúfur. We hike along it’s rugged ridges for the spectacular view of the canyon in the golden hour.
We continue our journey further east as we start making our way close to Skaftafell National Park with it’s towering mountains and glaciers. We settle into our accommodation for the night and have dinner. If the aurora activity forecast is promising, the guide will go out with you to view them and take photos.
After a good nights rest we set sails once more, visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon at sunrise, witnessing the giant ice bergs who have broken off Breiðarmerkjurjökull glacier float on as their make their way down the river and into the ocean. A fair amount of the ice bergs come back to shore on the Diamond Beach on the other side of the road where we walk amongst the blue ice on the black san beach.
From here we set off to Falljökull glacier for our glacier hike which is our highlight of every trip that we do. Stepping onto the glacier is like an otherworldly terrain where we explore the incredibly blue glacier ice, it’s bottomless crevasses and captivating textures and glacial features on these moving giants. Falljökull translates to the falling glacier, it’s name is very accurate as you’ll see when we walk all the way up to the ice fall of this incredible glacier.
After the glacier hike we start to make our way back west towards Reykjavík. We stop by the Eldhraun moss covered lava fields from the devastating Laki eruption in 1782 where our guide will tell you the story of Iceland’s explosive past.
We will be arriving back into Reykjavík for a late dinner in the city after two days of countless adventures.
Book your Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 day tour with us here. Accommodation is included in this trip, bingo!
We hope to welcome you on our Golden Circle: Platinum and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 day trip on your stopover to Iceland this winter! Get in touch if you have further questions about how to go about your Iceland holiday planning or if you’d like to do these trips as private!
Hi I’m Dagný Björg, a twenty-something Reykjavík-dweller, mother, designer and freelance journalist who loves getting lost in nature, coffee and easy Sunday mornings.