Winter in Iceland | Personal Post

So, Ben and I went to Iceland. This seems to be a pretty trendy location as of late so I decided to write a blog post about our journey! This was, weirdly, on Ben’s top places to visit. We have a pretty extensive travel list that we actually made on our honeymoon in June comprised of the top 10 places we both want to go that overlapped. We want to complete this list before trying to have kids (in like a decade). 

I really believe that travel is the only thing that makes you richer. It can enrich your life and open your eyes to the world around you. Before marrying Ben, I was lucky enough to backpack through Europe, live on a boat in the Bahamas, volunteer as a teacher in both Vietnam and Tanzania and visit 31 states. My ultimate dream is to one day own/live on a boat and travel the world with my husband and cats. But for now, I am sneaking these trips in between paying our mortgage and student loans.

We went to Iceland for 5 days over Thanksgiving break. Our friends and family thought we were insane for going there in winter but, actually, it was lovely. The sun rose at 10AM and set around 4:30PM. The weather was actually the same as New York City while we were there; plus, we got to see the Northern Lights which you can’t do in summer. The only thing I feel we missed out on is seeing lavender fields an puffins… but that’s about it.

Below is our itinerary day by day as well as advice for those of you wanting to do the same! 

Day 1: DRIVE TO VIK

We flew out of IAD and took the red eye to land the next morning. The flight wasn’t that bad and all we needed was a small nap to get acclimated. Once we landed, we rented a car that we booked beforehand and drove to Vik. Driving was very easy but renting a car in a foreign country scared the crap out of us, honestly. We rented from Green Motion and they were amazing. A major thank you goes out to Ashley Herrinton for this advice! We bought all the insurance on it because it is quite common for gravel to fly up and hit the windshield… which it did. Buy the insurance. They also talked about sand storms potentially blasting your car and wind so strong that buckles the door backwards but we didn’t have any issues with that! You should also get a 4WD and be SURE you get automatic if you can't drive stick shift. 

The drive was about 2 hours and 45 minutes. We packed a BUTT load of snack (bars, goldfish, Poptarts etc.) because we were told the food in Iceland sucks. Much to our surprise, it didn’t suck it was just expensive as all get out and mostly fish, burgers or dogs. The drive is stunning. You feel like you’re in another world. You can stop and pet horses and sheep on any stretch of the drive. On the journey, we stopped at our first waterfall Selandjafoss. It was sort of rainy so we continued on to our Air BnB to nap. Our Air BnB was awesome and more like a little hostel. We explored the VERY small town of Vik and grabbed dinner at Sudur-Vik.

DAY 2:  BLACK SAND BEACH, AIRPLANE CRASH, SKOGAFOSS, NORTHERN LIGHTS

This was our big adventure day. We woke up at 9 and got on the road back towards Reykjavik. Our first stop was the black sand beach of Reynisfjara (which I still can’t pronounce). There, we got to climb some basalt towers and freeze our tails off. We were later told not to get too close to the water because of “sneaker waves” that sneak up and kill you by taking you out to sea. Yikes! We then drove on to Iceland’s famous plane crash, Solheimasandur. This is a hike people. It is about 2 miles there and 2 miles back with no cars allowed and no bathrooms so be prepared! After snapping ample photos and crawling around, we headed to Skogafoss waterfall. There is an EXCELLENT fish and chips stand right there that we definitely recommend. We hiked up to the top and even saw a rainbow. It was perfect. After returning our car, Green Motion dropped us at Air BnB number 2 right near City Center. We were then picked up by Super Jeep tours at 8PM to be taken to see the Northern lights. I would 100% recommend this company (thanks to Rachel Gotke). They will refund your money if you don’t see the lights and will cancel due to weather. Weirdly, when Ben and I were there, this was the only day with high visibility (talk about lucky!). If you want your own Northern Lights pictures, bring a tripod and a flash light to help focus (I did not have a flash light and our phones died haha). 

Day 3: EXPLORE REYKJAVIK

This was our chill day. We got to explore Reykjavik and I was able to photograph a couple (that blog post to come soon). We walked around the city and ate our weight in pub food. The main things you want to see are The Solfar Sculpture (AKA Sun Voyager), Hallgrimskirkja (the big church, you should go to the top!), and the Harpa conference center. We also enjoyed the city hall and little shops on the main drag. The street art was dope. You can also go to the docks and take a boat to go whale watching or puffin seeing in summer. I will say that one of the highlights for me was Lebowski Bar. The Big Lebowski happens to be one of my favorite movies so  I was a super nerd when we ate dinner there (and a massive tourist). The city at night was beautiful because all the Christmas decorations were out! A major win for going to Iceland in winter. Lastly, when in Reykjavik you should eat at Baejarins, the famous hotdog stand. 

Day 4: GLACIER HIKE

This may have been Ben’s favorite day. We went glacier hiking with Arctic Adventures (another stellar piece of advice from our friend Rachel). We did the intermediate day. It wasn’t that difficult but it was cold. If you do this day, you need waterproof clothing and you should rent the boots through the company. I brought my DSLR but to was very difficult to keep it dry so I also took a ton of photos with my GoPro. The drive to Solheimajokull is long so this was pretty much our entire day.

Day 5: BLUE LAGOON

The final day we went to the Blue Lagoon. We were told to do this either on the way to or from the airport and I am so glad we did. We used the bus and ticketing system through Reykjavik Excursions. Everything was super easy and they dropped us at our flight after. The blue lagoon is a lot like a spa but like nowhere I have ever been. You can rent towels and bathrobes and it is not that cold jumping in and out.  It was actually a very romantic scene and there were tons of couples around us with their own GoPro setups. You wear bracelets that let you in and out of lockers and you can also buy beer with them at the swim up bar! Definitely try the facial mask and don’t get your hair wet; the water strips it completely. 

There you have it folks! That is all the advice I can offer! There were of course things that we would have done had we had more time. Mostly, we would have rented a car to drive the whole island to see Strokkur, Gullfoss, Hvítá Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. We also heard renting snow mobiles is cool and doing the snorkel between the plates (all of which can be booked through Arctic Adventures in advance or at a tourist booth once you arrive. Mostly, Ben and I will just have to go back in summer! 

Please feel free to email me with any questions if you’re planning your own trip! Below is one final graphic I will leave you with that I found through The Rising Tide Society that maps out some great photo locations! 

Good luck with planning and I hope you enjoyed the photos!