The Ultimate Guide to Iceland in Winter

Now that you’ve read the full experience from our adventures in Iceland, here is your Ultimate Guide to Iceland in the Winter!  Here all all the helpful links and tips to plan your own Icelandic adventure!  Make sure to come back and tell me all about your adventure, I know your going to have an awesome time!

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Where To Stay:  This will largely be based on what you want to accomplish during your trip.  For a winter visit you will most likely want to see the Northern Lights, for that I recommend the following hotels:

  • Frost and Fire Hotel – while this isn’t in total blackness the restaurant is awesome and is very close to many great viewing locations for the Northern Lights.
  • Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon – brand new hotel with nice rooms and an awesome restaurant.  Highly recommend especially if you are going to be by the Diamond Beach.
  • Borealis Hotel – the favorite of all the hotels.  The location was awesome the rooms were large and the breakfast really good.
  • Northern Light Inn – During the research phase this hotel really caught my eye but wasn’t in the right location for my plan.
  • Hotel Laki – Another hotel we would have stayed at but the price was too high when I was booking early.  Closer to the date the rates was really good but I had already made my plans.
  • ION Adventure Hotel – I wanted to stay here so bad but it was out of my price range.

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What to Do:  I love the dramatic landscapes of Iceland in Winter.  Here is what we did that I recommend putting on your must see list.

  • Gullfoss waterfall (free to see)
  • Thingvellir National Park – we didnt get to go here but its a beautiful place to see the Nothern Lights (free to see).
  • Glacier Hike @ Sólheimajökull glacier (link here, about $200/person)
  • Dyrholaey and Vik Beach (free to see)
  • Glacier Cave Hike @ Vatnajokull (Ice cave tour, link here, about $200/person)
  • Jokulsarlon Iceburg Lagoon (free to see)
  • Diamond Beach (free to see)
  • Horse Riding at Hestheimar (link here, about $80/person)
  • Hunt for the Northern Lights (see full guide here)
  • Vik Lighthouse (free to see)
  • Laugarvatn Fontana (link here, about $70/person)

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Transportation:  It is highly recommended that you rent a car.  There isn’t any real public transportation to speak of and you will pay a premium for a fully guided tour.  Renting a car was pretty inexpensive and gave us the freedom to do whatever we wanted.  We did not get an AWD vehicle but did go with a small SUV to feel a little bulkier on the road.  I would not recommend a manual transmission unless you are very experienced in driving in snow/ice conditions.  All cars come equipped with snow tires and very strong anti-freeze wiper fluid.  I also highly recommend getting the rental company’s GPS.  Its relatively inexpensive, the maps are pretty up to date and you don’t have to use your data.

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Advice on Food:  Everything is A LOT more expensive then you think its going to be.  Plan for minimum $200 per day for food for 2 people.  Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious, some of the best seafood I’ve had, but it doesn’t come cheap so plan accordingly.  Some of the local specialties are:

  • Lobster Soup
  • Horse (we never saw it on the menu but that’s what the locals say)
  • Lamb stew
  • Birch Liquor
  • Fish

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What to Pack:  As you can imagine, things get pretty cold in Iceland.  Its not as bitter cold as you might think but its still good to go prepared for the conditions.

  • Waterproof pants / top layer / gloves.  This is essential when going on hikes and horse back riding tours.  We did not have this and paid for in for sure.
  • Goose-down jacket.  I did a lot of research and I got the Patagonia jacket (link here).  Its not the absolute best but it was perfect for the price and did a great job keeping me warm.
  • Hand/Foot warmers (link here)
  • Snow Boots (for the ones I loved, link here)
  • Thermal layers for under your shirt/pants
  • Beanie and scarf
  • Ski socks (for the ones I loved, link here)

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Things You Could Skip:  There were some items on our list that felt a little lack-luster and if we has less time would have been fine if we skipped.

  • Blue Lagoon.  For the price paid, you are better off visiting one of the many other hot springs around Iceland
  • Geysir.  Old Faithful in Yellowstone is much more impressive so skip if you dont have enough time.
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
  • Skogafoss Waterfall
  • Vik Beach/Black sand beach.  Its on both lists because I did like seeing it, but with all the tourists I could have skipped it and been fine.

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General Advise:  I don’t claim to be an expert but from our week in Iceland we learned something that might come in handy!

  • When they say it gets dark early they mean it!  By about 5pm each night it was pitch black.  Don’t plan on going to any outdoor sights after 4pm otherwise you will miss out on the beauty as everything is dark.
  • Weather conditions can change in a minute.  One day we had sunny skies, then rain, then snow, then hail then back to sunny skies.  Be prepared!
  • Every local we met was very friendly and helpful.  If you need help, I’m sure they will be more than happy to help you.
  • Cities are spread out and there isn’t anything in between cities.  Plan your gas and meals accordingly.
  • Reykjavik if the major international airport.  Keflavick is about 45 minutes away and is the “regional” airport.  Make sure you pay attention to which airport you are at when booking your rental car.
  • I’ve said it once but it bears repeating, the Northern Lights are not guaranteed.  No outdoor activity is in Iceland.  When traveling try to give yourself enough of a window that the chance of you seeing the lights is higher.
  • Stop when you want to stop, chance course if you want to change course.  Enjoy everything Iceland has to offer.  Its a beautiful country!

Now the question is, when will you be visiting Iceland?!  Remember I’m a vacation planner and can book your next winter vacation!  Just send me an email to rachael@dreamcometruevacations.com to get started!

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CHIME IN!!!  Have you ever been to Iceland?  Do you like winter or summer vacations?  Where are you traveling to next?

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