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 doesn’t go to sleep during the winter season! Instead, it comes alive, dressed in white.
What is the best way to experience the true Nordic winter on your 5 day winter stopover in Iceland? Below 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! A snowstorm can turn to sunshine in a matter of minutes, and vice versa. It’s 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 (32°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 should be the word of the day when packing. Bringing good layers that you can take on or off depending on the activity will allow you to feel comfortable no matter the weather. A merino base layer, a fleece mid-layer finished with a warmer outer layer of prima-loft or down jacket is a good combo. For the coldest days you’ll need a winter jacket instead of the prima-loft.
The key to keeping warm is also 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. 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 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 it can be worn together or on its own. You can also shop (tax free) in their stores on Laugarvegur shopping street!
Bring good shoes!
I can’t stress this point enough. There is nothing worse than spending your day exploring with wet and cold shoes. We recommend a good, water resistant hiking boot ideally one that goes above your ankles. Preferably with good wool socks too. You can hire hiking boots with us on our trips but make sure to get in touch ahead of schedule as we can’t always guarantee sizes last minute.
For a little more detail on what to pack for your winter holiday? Read our packing guide here.
Now, on to the trip! 5 Magical days.
DAY 1 | ARRIVE IN ICELAND & EXPLORE THE CITY
If you are flying in from the states, your flight will likely land in the early morning. First of all, transfer into the city. This gives you the opportunity to ease into the Icelandic culture and get over jetlag. When tyou are ready, make your way downtown for a wander and grab a bite or two. Maybe look to join our friends from Wake up Reykjavík for their Reykjavík Food Walk. This is a great way to get to know the culinary culture of Reykjavík as well as getting to know the city better. The 3.5 hour tour includes food from 5 of the best restaurants in Reykjavík. You won’t walk away from this tour feeling hungry!
DAY 2 | 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 the Friðheimar geothermal greenhouse for lunch. This hidden gem is known for all things tomato! Be it tomato soup with their delicious homemade bread, tortilla pizza or freshly made pasta. Our reserved table is situated within the growing tomatoes. It’s hard not to be impressed by the work that they are doing in the greenhouse! If you are happy to spend a little extra then Bloody Mary and Healthy Mary are a great addition to the delicious food.
After lunch it’s time to witness some of the most spectacular sights within the golden circle region.
The Gullfoss waterfall showcases glacier water plummeting into a deep, broken canyon. Next up is the site of the bubbling mud pools and erupting hot springs at Geysir geothermal area. There is still one geyser that erupts regulalry, Strokkur. Every 5 to 10 minutes in fact. Each eruption is a little different with heights ranging from 6 to 60ft. Finally, it’s on to the scenic and historically significant Þingvellir National Park. Here you can literally stand on ground between two tectonic plates and walk on top the ruins of the original Icelandic parliament, believed to be buried underground.
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.
DAY 3 – 4 | GLACIERS, WATERFALLS & DIAMOND BEACHES
It’s time to introduce the star of the show! These two days highlight the most spectacular sights along the entire south coast of Iceland in their winter uniform. It’s our Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 day tour.
We set out in the early winter morning with Seljalandsfoss waterfall as our first stop of the day. This 60 meter high waterfall can be viewed from many angles and on warmer days if it’s not too icy you can walk behind it. Afterwards, we continue chasing waterfalls as we make our way to Skógafoss waterfall measuring 25 meters wide and 60 meters high.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 is the famous Reynisfjara black sand beach, whose basalt columns will charm you off your feet. The tall waves along the stretch of the beach are ferocious and deadly, and yet beautiful. From the beach, it’s onto to the gorge with the impossible name, Fjaðrárgljúfur. As the sun lowers in the sky we take an easy walk along its rugged ridges for the spectacular view of the canyon in the golden hour.
We then continue our journey further east as we start making our way close to Skaftafell National Park with it’s towering mountains and glaciers. After settling into our accommodation for the night a delicious farm to table style dinner gives us the fuel we need for the night. Because, if the aurora activity forecast is promising, the guide will go out with you to view them and take photos.
The following morning we rise early, to visit the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon at sunrise. This lagoon is home to giant icebergs that have broken off from the Breiðarmerkjurjökull glacier nearby. The icebergs float past as they make their way down the river and into the ocean.
Luckily, a large amount of the icebergs get washed up on the shore of the Diamond Beach. This is another black sand beach where we can walk between the blue sparkling ice.
Finally, when our eyes can’t take the beauty any longer we meet up with our partners from Local Guide of Vatnajökull, to take us on our ice cave adventure. Local Guide of Vatnajökull get us to remote parts of the glacier in their amazing super jeeps so we can access one of the ice caves in the region. Depending on the year we may need to do a glacier walk to get to the ice cave too. Other years, the cave can be right at the edge of the glacier. Whichever way we discover the ice cave you can be sure the cave we enter, with its blues and textures, create a natural works of art.
Once you have experience all you can we start to make our way back towards Reykjavik. We’ll have a late lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in the area. As the light escapes us on the drive home we make one last quick stop at the Eldhraun, moss covered, lava fields from the devastating Laki eruption in 1783 where our guide will tell you the story of Iceland’s explosive past.
We arrive back into Reykjavík after dark, but in time for a late dinner, after two days of countless adventures.
Book your Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Ice Cave 2 day tour with us here. Accommodation is included in this trip, bingo!
DAY 5 | ALL GREAT THINGS MUST COME TO AN END
Departure day! Transfer from Reykjavík to KEF Airport for your outbound flight using Icelandic Taxi Tours private transportation. If you have the time you can still explore the city with its countless museums and sculptures. The Hallgrimskirkja Church and the Perlan Museum are just two incredible attractions that will fill your day before flying home.
Thank you! 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, Reykjavík-dweller, mother, designer and co-owner of Hidden Iceland. I love getting lost in nature, coffee and easy Sunday mornings.