Hello, world! My absence on Instagram, and here on my blog, doesn’t mean I have stopped thinking about traveling. Though life is crazy at the moment, to say the least, I have another project in my mind that revolves around travel.
Besides lots of research, I haven’t actually started, but my project will be quite big and I can’t wait to actually start physically working on it.
Wondering what it will be? Let me tell you: I will be converting a van! Well, most likely.
No, it wasn’t the #VanLife that is floating around Instagram that got me here. There are many reasons why I want to travel with a van.
I love cliches, that is why I plan to do it. Another solo female traveler who is about to travel the world (or let’s say Europe to start) in a van. With a little dog in tow.
No, seriously, there are many solo female travelers out there who inspired and eventually motivated me to also walk this path.
BUT, of course, I am a bit careful after all, so I have done my research and I tried out traveling in a van, too. And I loved discovering Iceland in a van on my own. I visited Iceland twice and in the summer months, I rented a small camper van (without a toilet, shower or anything luxurious) and spent 10 days in Iceland – and in the van. And I loved it.
BUT, of course, I am a bit careful after all, so I have done my research and I tried out traveling in a van, too. And I loved discovering Iceland in a van on my own. I visited Iceland twice and in the summer months, I rented a small camper van (without a toilet, shower or anything luxurious) and spent 10 days in Iceland – and in the van. And I loved it.
And while I will not be living full-time in my van, I still have big plans for it.
After years of traveling in a car (with some sleepovers when I did not book a hotel on time and had to sleep in the driver‘s seat of my car, which was too uncomfortable to plan on doing it again), I finally will take the plunge and just get a van.
If you have ever wondered why people, including solo female travelers, travel in vans – or you still need an argument to convince you, here is why I think van traveling is an amazing way to explore the world.
Before I share my personal reasons, I will also share a bit of my background.
As some of you might know, I work full-time as a teacher here in Germany. This means… a lot of vacations for me. This allowed me to do many road trips in Europe, whether I road tripped Switzerland (many, many times), Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany or many other countries. So, I am okay with driving long-distances and with so many weeks off, I can continue doing it.
In total, I have more than 12 weeks off (2 weeks around Easter, 6 weeks for the summer holidays, 2 weeks in fall, and 2 weeks for the Christmas holidays, plus a few long weekends here and there).
So, besides my Christmas holidays, I plan to travel with a van throughout Europe. However, I do not plan to live full-time in my van.
It will be a van for my travel only. This is probably one main difference that will make a huge difference.
Why do I want to so solo female travel in a van?
Spontaneity and Freedom
If you have ever followed one of my trips, you probably know how spontaneous (some might call it unorganised) I am and how much I love to decide spur-of-the-moment where I want to stay.
If I like place and enjoy the weather, I want to stay longer – whether it is just a few hours, a few days, or even longer.
I know many people love to plan weeks or months in advance.
I am definitely not such a person and you might be able to relate if you like to go with the flow.
If I visit a place, especially an expensive country like Switzerland, I do not want to be stuck in a city with bad weather. If the weather is better further south or up in the north, I want to be flexible.
With hotels, this can be tricky.
Of course, if you travel during the high season and want to stay at campsites only, planning might be necessary, too. But if you want to camp in the wild, then you have a lot of freedom – a freedom I am looking for and which is my main reason to travel in a van.
I will try to stick to local rules and not break them – and whenever I can (and feel safe), I will camp wild. Because not planning much ahead means freedom to me.
A van is – or can be – quite expensive. The initial costs are quite high. Of course, you can also find very low-budget vans, but most often, they are more expensive than “regular“ cars.
But not only is the purchase price high, insurance is higher than for regular cars, and they have higher fuel consumption.
However, once the van is bought, it gets much cheaper to travel.
Especially if you visit expensive countries like Switzerland, Austria, Southern Germany, or other places in Central or North Europe, where you will pay a fortune on accommodations. Even if you stay in budget hotels, it can take a big chunk of your budget.
So, in those countries, it can actually save you tons of money traveling in a van. But before you just go out and randomly buy a van, calculate the costs for yourself.
Since I haven’t bought my van yet, I cannot say how much I will save in the end.
However, if I travel in Europe for 12 week a year (which is realistic with my job), I would have to pay accommodations for more than 90 nights.
In Switzerland, I sometimes paid more than 100€ for a quite basic room (that allowed dogs and was centrally located) during the high season. I am talking about 2 or 3-star hotels that were very simple.
Of course, there were times I paid less. Especially in Southern or Eastern Europe, hotel rooms are cheaper and I paid around 20-40€ for a basic room.
So, it is hard to really come up with a figure, but accommodations could cost me up to 5000€ annually.
I hope that van life, even with higher petrol costs and insurance, etc., will help me save money!
I often travel with my now 7-year-old dog, Puppygak. Luckily, he loves staying in a car and traveling is very easy with him…
But staying with dogs in hotels or Airbnbs can be… difficult.
Even dog-friendly countries often do not have many dog-friendly accommodations. In countries like Germany – according to my research – only about 50% of the hotels allow pets.
In countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina, the number of hotels that allow dogs were less than 30%.
In the high season, it can be tricky to find a good hotel that is not too expensive.
Plus, many hotels charge extra for having a dog, and unfortunately, the extra fees for dogs are not always very transparent.
As much as I love traveling with my dog, I hate booking accommodations, so I am looking forward to easier traveling once I travel in a van.
I am a picky eater, yet I love the food I prepare myself. No, I am not cooking fancy stuff – actually basic and simple food, and yet, I enjoy preparing my own food when I travel for more than a week.
This is for several reasons: First, I am trying to eat vegan as much as possible. While I still eat milk chocolate and eggs here and there, I try to reduce that consumption, and in countries like Switzerland, southern Germany, and many other parts of Europe, finding plant-based food is not very easy.
I love food, but I do not want to spend a lot of time researching restaurants that have plant-based dishes.
However, I do always think about food and delicious food to eat.
And though I do book Airbnbs with kitchen access once in a while, it isn’t always possible. And if you move every other day, it is difficult to travel with groceries. In my van, I will have a fridge, my spices, and my staples (spelt pasta, oats, legumes, etc.) – and of course, my vegetables and fruits.
While many of you guys probably enjoy eating out, I am looking forward to dining out only occasionally while cooking my own food most of the time…
And while I might never cook as good as my mom, I still often think to myself, “very well done…“ 🙂
Okay, I said that I am not about Instagram trends. BUT great views are not about Instagram, great views are what I live for.
Whether I do this terrible thing called hiking or pay a bit extra for a hotel room with a good view – a great view is what can make my trip!
And having the chance to wake up many mornings with great views… it is so worth it!
I even enjoyed waking up after my daily naps in Iceland and seeing the views…
So, there are some more reasons why I want to travel in a van as a solo female traveler (or despite being one?), but the above-mentioned arguments for buying a camper van are my main personal reasons for getting one.
What camper van will I get? I am not sure yet. I have been looking online for used Sprinters, Transits, Ducatos, and other models, but in the end, I will decide based on the price and offer. I most likely will not get a VW Bullie because they are a bit too small but right now, I am just like, let’s see what I will choose.
I plan to convert a van on my own (with 100% help for my electrics and minor help with other jobs), but if I find a great van that is already converted, then I will buy that one.
My decisions on the length and height also aren’t set in stone yet – I would love a high roof, but not a very long van.
I do have some things that I definitely want in my van – like a toilet and a “real“ kitchen – but other than that, I am flexible. I will be spontaneous.
So, if you are also toying with getting a van – or if you would love to find out how my van story will continue – stay tuned and find out about it here on my blog.
I am looking forward to sharing the progress – which van model will I end up with, posts on how I convert the van (probably including the many fails), and of course, where I travel with my van.
It might take several months until the van is bought and converted, but I hope to take you with me on my journey to become a part-time van dweller.
5-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY (SUMMER AND WINTER ITINERARY)
Headed to Iceland and wondering about a fun and yet easy 5-day Iceland itinerary? Then this post is for you as I am sharing my tips on how to spend 5 days in Iceland – along with many travel tips for your trip.
Iceland – the land of ice and fire. Yes, that intro might sound cliché, but it is actually true. Visiting this country, even if you are only 5 days Iceland, it will allow you to experience why the country was given this moniker.
Iceland is an amazing country to visit. It is probably one of the most unique countries in the world and so it does not surprise it has become incredibly popular.
Iceland might have less than 400,000 inhabitants but it is a – geographically – big county. While it would be great to spend more than 5 days in Iceland, this time will allow you to see some of the best sights in the county. And since most of us do not have an unlimited length of time to spend in Iceland, this 5-day Iceland itinerary will help you to find out about the main sights and attractions.
And 5 days in Iceland is better than nothing, right?
The good news is that this 5 days in Iceland post not only offers you the best sights and how to spend your days in the country, but you will also find out about the best ways to get around (so, this Iceland itinerary is great whether you do guided tours or plan a road trip), where to stay, and more Iceland travel tips.
I, myself, have visited Iceland twice: once in the winter (December/January) and once in July. So, I was lucky enough to have different experiences over the course of 21 days. And I can tell you: Whether you visit Iceland in winter, spring, summer, or fall, this 5-day Iceland itinerary has you covered and you can use it for any time of the year.
Travel Tips for 5-Day Iceland Itinerary
Here are some quick travel tips for your 5-day trip to Iceland before talking about the best things to do in 5 days in Iceland.
Best Time to Visit Iceland
Best time to visit Iceland: Whether you visit in winter or summer – or even fall and spring – each season has its charms. However, it is very important depending on what you want to do.
I loved visiting Iceland in summer. It might be busy (if it weren’t for Coronavirus) and prices for accommodations are high (and attractions are very crowded), but the many hours of daylight helped me to see more.
If you want to see a lot in a short amount of time (and do not mind long days of traveling), I suggest visiting in June, July, or August. While these are the summer months, you really do not have to worry about heat. That does not happen in Iceland.
In winter you will have much less time to visit the sights. Honestly, you will just have a few hours each day as it really gets dark very quickly.
If you prefer shorter days and less crowds, visit in fall or spring.
Keep in mind that winter in Iceland can be very extreme – and you might not be able to road trip. Check out my Iceland in Winter guide to see if that is the perfect time for your trip or not.
This is also why I will share some of my winter but also summer pictures in this post – so, you can imagine yourself better for when to use this Iceland itinerary for.
To check out why winter can be tricky check out my guide on what I really think about visiting in Iceland in December.
Costs of visiting Iceland
Iceland can be expensive, but does not have to be. Surely it will never be a budget-friendly destination, but if money worries you, it does not have to in Iceland. Check out my post on how expensive Iceland is to find out more.
People speak English – luckily, since Icelandic does not seem like an easy language to learn.
You can pay everywhere – even if you want to use a toilet to pee – with your credit card. Only if you camp will you need cash because you might need coins for using the shower (though not necessarily).
To find out how expensive Iceland is check out my post where I tell you exactly how much I spent on my second trip to Iceland.
But even if you visit in summer, you need to pack warm clothes, including pullovers, (waterproof) jackets, gloves, scarves and headband.
Road Trip or Day Trips
Road tripping in Iceland is pretty fun and easy (with good streets and quite few cars except at the hotspots) but I did not dare to road trip in winter.
So this 5-day itinerary is perfect for anyone – you can do a road trip but also do day trips from Reykjavik. Day trips will not allow you to see all places mentioned here but the main places are included so it really is up to you what you prefer.
Both options have advantages/disadvantages so it is about personal preferences.
Renting a Car/ Campervan
Driving in Iceland is pretty easy – at least, if you visit in summer (or as long as there is no snow and ice, and the streets are open).
F-roads and highland roads are probably a bit trickier, but I haven’t driven them myself. You need to have 4-wheel vehicles if you want to drive them. So, it really makes sense to plan your itinerary and then rent an appropriate car.
On my second trip I rented a caravan – for the very first time in my life – and I loved it. Iceland is perfect for getting around via camper van (streets are big enough, not too much traffic once you leave the main hot spots) and finding a camping site is quite easy.
If you have ever though about traveling via camper – then let Iceland it should be.
Wild camping is illegal in Iceland, and though there are very few exceptions (like written permission if you stay on private land), it is highly advised to accept Icelandic law and just stay at campsites.
Campsites are pretty affordable and are around 9-12€ for most campsites (per person, no extra charge for your vehicle).
Where to Stay in Iceland
This 5-day Iceland itinerary is perfect for any time of the year but also whether you road trip or do day tours from Reykjavik – so, if you stay in Reykjavik, check out my guide with the best places to stay in Iceland and if you road trip it really depends on how much you get to see in one day.
In winter, you will not be able to see all places mentioned on this Iceland itinerary because hiking routes are closes and days are short.
With a camper/motorhome it is easy, you can just spontaneously decide where to park (campsites do normally not get fully booked and there are plenty in Iceland, so you just arrive and pay – even late at night / after midnight).
5 Days in Iceland
So, enough talking. Here is how to spend your 5 days in Iceland:
Day 1 – Golden Circle
While you could start with the Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik, I actually suggest saving these destinations for your last day – just to make sure not to get stuck anywhere and be close to the airport on the day of your departure.
Reserve one day of your itinerary for the most famous and popular area – namely, the Golden Circle, which has several attractions. The name “Golden Circle“ was derived from the name of Gullfoss, which means “golden waterfall” in Icelandic and is one main attraction.
The Golden Circle covers about 300 kilometers, looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back.
There are three main stops on the route – the Þingvellir National Park, the Gulfoss Waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur.
Pingvellir National Park
Pingvellir National Park is often the first stop. It is a historic site and national park known for the Alþing, the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th century.
You’ll also find the Þingvellir Church and the ruins of old stone shelters, but most people are probably fascinated by the fact that the park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures.
Personally, I only visited in winter and it had lovely scenery. If you want to take a stroll (or an easy hike), you can spend a few hours here. Otherwise, 30-60 minutes is probably all you need before continuing your journey.
There is no entrance fee but there is a parking is fee.
Gullfoss might be the next stop on your Iceland itinerary – the waterfall is located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.
It is easy to drive here and you can visit at any time of the day – there is not much walking required to get here from the (free) parking slots.
And there it is – the impressive Gullfoss (“foss“ in Icelandic means waterfall). The water cascades down in two stages, one 11 meter high and the other 21 meters, into the 2.5 km-long crevasse below.
I visited in winter and summer, and liked it in winter better. However, in summer, you can take walks and stroll the area (which in winter is mostly forbidden).
Since there is no entrance fee or anything, I do highly recommend it is a must-see during 5 days in Iceland (though it isn’t my favorite waterfall in Iceland) and I would suggest spending 20-90 minutes in that area.
Tip: If you want to take a snowmobile tour, then you can start here. I had my tour booked in December and was picked up from Reykjavik and brought to the waterfall before we continued our trip to the Highlands. However, due to extreme snowfalls once we arrived at the camp, the tour was cancelled. I am sure it is an amazing experience, and if you are up for it, you can check out tours starting from here.
It is free to visit, no parking fees.
Strokkur / Haukadalur
It is then time to see the geyser, which are periodically spouting hot springs. The Strokkur is an active, fountain-type geyser, which typically erupts every few minutes.
Its usual height is 15–20 meters, but it can sometimes erupt up to 40 meters high. So, even if you have just a few minutes, you will see it erupt – it is quite loud and I was startled by it every time.
This again is a popular sight, and since it is on the way to the other attractions, it is definitely a must-visit place.
It is free to visit, no parking fees.
All of the above-mentioned places have at least one restaurant/cafe.
However, most tours do offer one or two more stops, you just have to decide which one is the most attractive to you. If you road trip during the long summer days, I suggest adding at least two more places to your itinerary for day 2.
Kerio Volcanic Crater
Kerio Volcanic Crater is a volcanic crater lake that is a popular stop off the Golden Circle.
You can get up and even walk around the volcano. It is supposed to be a popular sight, yet it is not known as the most beautiful crater in the country.
I visited another in the north of the country and I can’t say much about that one, but the reviews are good and it is different from the rest of the country (here you have the fire – though not literally anymore).
There is a small entrance fee, so have some cash with you (if you booked a guided tour, it might be included in the price).
Another popular spot off the typical Golden Circle is the Secret Lagoon.
It is a man-made pool fed by naturally-occurring hot springs located at Hverahólmi, which is the geothermal area next to the village of Flúðir.
It is the oldest pool in the country – but nothing is secret here anymore and it is surely not a hidden gem.
However, it is great after a day out to hop into the hot spring.
I visited in winter with a guided tour and it had the entrance fee already included.
Another place you could visit – also instead of the Secret Lagoon – is Hrunalaug. This hot spring is privately owned and is quite small, but the views are amazing.
The drive was possible with my 2-wheel car, though it takes some time to get there as you can’t drive fast.
I read complaints that the water was low, so ask the owner before you pay whether it is busy or if it has water.
The owner normally sits in front of the pool and you have to pay an entrance fee (either 1,000 ISK, 10€ or $10) in cash only, parking is free.
If you road trip Iceland and are flexible, I suggest paying Bruarfoss Waterfall a visit. Since its location is a bit off the Golden Route, it is not often offered when doing guided tours.
However, it was one of my favorite places in Iceland, and if you can visit, then go for it. After taking your car, you can do a 7 km “hike“(in total) and will see several waterfalls along the way.
The waterfalls come in an incredible color of blue – the color is insane, which makes it worth a visit. It is not a real hike, but more like a beautiful stroll with some steps in between (and probably some mud puddles, so wear appropriate shoes).
No entrance fee, free parking (Google sent me to the wrong parking lot – which is no parking lot any longer and I had to drive back to find the right spot).
Day 2 – South Iceland
One day of your 5-day Iceland itinerary should be reserved for exploring the south coast of Iceland – together with the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, one of the most popular places to visit.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the stops you can’t miss – actually, it is literally impossible to miss this high waterfall.
The waterfall drops 60 meters and is part of the Seljalands River, which has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. This waterfall is special as you can walk behind it and have a unique view. In the winter months, the walking path is most likely closed. There is not much other hiking to do, so 10-30 minutes is enough.
No entrance fee but if you have change you can donate something, and there is a parking fee.
If you do a guided tour, you will most likely continue your journey. However, if you road trip, make sure to add two more waterfalls to your itinerary.
Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is just a ten-minutes-walk away. You have to leave Seljalandsfoss and get on the “main road“ and then head towards the camping site and then follow the directions – it isn’t even a hike, just a stroll.
There you will see the other waterfall and you can reach it by climbing some steps. It is definitely worth the few extra minutes you have to spend to reach it.
Your feet might get wet so proper footwear is great (also to avoid slipping).
If you have more time, I highly suggest taking your car and driving about 7 km to the other, hidden, waterfall.
No entrance fee, but still parking fee.
From these to waterfalls, continue your journey and drive to this secret waterfall. You can drive with your 2-wheel car, though you should drive slowly. It is a dirt road but nothing spectacular – however, I have not heard from guided tours visiting this waterfall.
There are some parking lots and then you continue to the ravine (don‘t hike up that hill – I did by accident – just walk towards the ravine). For this part, you definitely need sturdy shoes, and there is some climbing required. However, it is a short (maybe a 10-minute hike) and easy hike and you will be rewarded with this pretty waterfall.
No entrance fee and free parking.
This day is a lot about waterfalls – before visiting other attractions, you will most likely then pass Skogafoss which is one of the most famous landmarks in Iceland.
It is one of the biggest waterfalls – with a heigh of more than 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. It will be one of the very crowded places – but you should still stop here and either walk right up to the waterfall (in winter it will be very slippery though) or when the stairs are open, you can walk up and the see the waterfall from above.
Then, continue your trip to this glacier – especially with guided tours, this is very popular. If you are short on time, I suggest skipping this one and visiting another glacier (more on that later).
Sólheimajökull is about eight kilometers long and two kilometers wide, and is one of the most accessible glaciers from Reykjavík, which makes it a popular place to visit.
You can also book glacier walks (also with guided day tours). If you do not do a glacier walk, I think spending about 50-90 minutes here is fine.
There is no entrance fee and no parking fee.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
This is another popular spot that I, however, skipped both times. In 1973, a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur near the town of Vik.
You can still visit the place, but have to park your car and walk around 4 kilometers to get there (one way – though there are also buses you can take there).
You aren’t allowed to climb on the plane anymore and this, in combination with the time to get there, was why I decided to skip this attraction. But I felt that I should at least tell you about it.
No entrance fee, no parking fee but taking the bus to get there does cost.
Then, head to Dyrhólaey, which is the southernmost point of mainland Iceland and offers some beautiful views of the surroundings – you can even see the black beaches in Vik.
I – personally – do not consider it a must-see, but decide for yourself. They recommend driving only with a 4-wheel vehicle. I, and many others, drove with our regular cars and it was fine. However, there were some moments that got tricky, so be super careful and go slowly when driving up.
No entrance fee, no parking fee.
From Dyrhólaey you are fast to arrive in Vik which is a small village known mostly for its church and the black sand beach, Reynisfjara.
While walking on the beach, the color a result of volcanic explosions, you will find basalt stacks on one side and have views of the Atlantic Ocean on the other – Reynisfjara is one of the top places to visit in 5 days in Iceland.
You could walk there for quite a while, but this is a busy place, so you should take a look and get on the basalt stacks before continuing your journey.
The water – even in the summer – is too cold to swim in here, and the waves can be quite strong as well, so it is better just to look.
In Vik, you will also find the famous church up on a hill which is a popular photo motif but other than that I did not really like Vik that much.
One must-see that I highly recommend though is Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. The canyon that is about 100 meters deep and about two kilometers long.
If you road trip, make sure to check out Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Due to its popularity and its sensitive flora, they close it once in a while, so it might not be open year round.
It is near the main road and though it‘s mostly a gravel road, you can easily drive there with all kinds of cars (in summer only).
From the parking area, it is a short and easy walk up a hill. And from there, you have some of the best views in all of Iceland. There are several vantage points, and if you like mountains, this is the place to visit.
Walking in the canyon is not allowed any longer, but the views from above made this stop one of the highlights of my Iceland trip (plus, the weather was in my favor, which probably played a role, too).
No entrance fee, no parking fee.
If you drive yourself, you will find many more waterfalls along the way, but there is one particular highlight waiting for you: Jökulsárlón.
If you do guided tours, try to book a tour that brings you all the way here as well. It is a stunning glacial lagoon dotted with icebergs from the surrounding Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, part of the larger Vatnajökull Glacier.
The black beach sand nearby is also known as Diamond Beach because the ice chunks – even in summer – look like diamonds (well, kind of).
It is an absolutely magical place – though in normal times, extremely busy.
My tip: try to visit at sunset – it gets even more magical at that time of the day.
Free to visit, no parking fees.
Tip: If you have time, you can do a boat tour (in summer) and go ice caving from within Vatnajökull Glacier.
Climbing on top of any of the icebergs without a guide is not advised and neither is swimming. This place is full of icebergs, so it is it is neither warm nor safe to do so.
And with these places, you have already filled 3 days of your Iceland itinerary.
Actually, you will not be able to visit all of the above-mentioned places – unless you take advantage of the 24 hours of daylight in June and don’t sleep. With these activities, you could actually fill all 5 days, but I do have some more suggestions for day 4 and 5 and recommend doing some of the places mentioned above in 3 or 3.5 days before heading back – not to Reykjavik directly, but past it, heading to the west coast of Iceland.
Day 3 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The west coast is a beautiful and popular place in Iceland, though much less crowded and less visited than the Golden Circle or the South Coast.
So, after some hours of driving from Vatnajökull Glacier to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you will have a full day.
Start with Ytri Tunga – a small, beautiful beach area where you will find seals resting and chilling at the beach.
It is perfect for leisurely walks and spending time outdoors before continuing your journey.
Free entrance, no parking fees.
Stop at the cute fishing village Arnarstapi and go on easy hikes along the coast – the views are impressive (just watch out for the evil birds that do attack people if they feel like it).
Free parking and several cafes/restaurants.
Then, it is time to visit one of the most famous sights in the country – Kirkjufell Mountain, which is a 463-meter-high mountain on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
You can either hike up the mountain or do what is definitely more popular – go to the waterfalls and see the waterfalls with the beautiful mountain as a backdrop.
There is not much more hiking to do, but you can walk around the waterfall and enjoy the scenery (even in winter, but take some crampers with you so you can walk all the way to the waterfall).
Free entrance, no parking fees.
With all the driving from South Iceland, I would call it a day. For the last two days, I recommend visiting some places close by and preparing for heading back to Reykjavik/airport.
Day 4 – West Iceland
This day is a bit of off-the-beaten path (not really but kind of) and it can be visited in winter as well as in summer. I visited in both seasons and I am not sure which one I liked more.
Barnafossar and Hraunfossar Waterfalls
These beautiful waterfalls are actually a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of almost 1 kilometer out of the Hallmundarhraun (which is a lava field that flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull) – and it is one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland.
You can do a bit of walking and visit several waterfalls – which come in an intense color – but there is not that many other activities to do around here.
Thus, I recommend combining it with another activity in the area.
No entrance fee, no parking fee.
Another activity you could do is to visit Raufarhólshellir, which is the fourth-longest lava tube in Iceland. This lava cave is just 15 minutes away from Husafell Hotel.
You can witness the inner working of a volcanic eruption and walk the path where an eruption flowed more than 5,000 years ago. A guided tour will allow you to learn about the volcanic eruptions and their effect on the environment before heading back to the capital.
Hot pools at Húsafell Hotel
If you have time (getting to Reykjavik does take time and plan to arrive too early rather than too late), add Húsafell Hotel – with its hot pools – or a lava tour to your 5-day Iceland itinerary.
The pools at Husafell Hotel are beautiful – visiting in winter, I was the only one there, though it probably is much busier in summer. It is a great place to visit if you are into hot pools with beautiful views.
There is an entrance fee, parking is for free.
Day 5 – Reykjavik / Blue Lagoon
So, for your last day, take it easy and so some sightseeing in the capital before resting at the Blue Lagoon.
Reykjavik, actually, it is a town rather than a city, is small and interesting.
However, with only 5 days in Iceland, I would not spend too much time on the city and not plan in more than half a day for Reykjavik.
In Reykjavik, you can visit FlyOverIceland (my favorite), head to the top of the church, stroll the town center, or head to Perlan.
Reykjavik is also known for its food scene. Even I, as a 95% vegan eater, had some pretty amazing dishes. And I am afraid the food scene in the rest of the country is not that great, so here is the place to eat your weight in delicious meals.
The Blue Lagoon is a popular first spot for many Iceland visitors but I suggest visiting at the end, so you can relax before you get on the plane again.
It is a geothermal spa located in a lava field and actually it is not a natural pool – it is supplied by water used in the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station and it has become one of the most popular, but also busiest, places in the country.
Due to its proximity to Kevlavik Airport, you can make it your first or last stop during your 5 days in Iceland.
If you book a guided tour to the Blue Lagoon, they normally will pick you up from the airport and then drop you off at your hotel, which is very handy.
I visited the Blue Lagoon on my last day in December – but do I wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon?
Yes and no. I am not a big pool fan, so I did not spend much time here. However, I am well aware that this place is unique. If you are not on a very tight budget, and especially if you love pools or won’t be visiting any other pools/hot springs, then I say go for it.
Tip: Book in advance as slots fill up quickly.
CONCLUSION: HOW TO SPEND 5 DAYS IN ICELAND
5 days in Iceland will give you a good glimpse of the country and you can see what all the fuss is about. I recommend staying longer, but know it is not always possible.
However, I hope that this 5-day Iceland itinerary will allow you to make the most of your trip and you will see many of the stunning places that Iceland has to offer and the best is that is Iceland itinerary is perfect for any time of the year. So, whether you visit in winter or summer – this Iceland 5-day itinerary will hopefully be very helpful to you!
Iceland is known to be an amazing travel destination – but also expensive.
And unfortunately, it is true that Iceland is not very budget-friendly. It is not the most expensive country I have been to (hello Switzerland, hello Norway), but costs can add up and the trip can be pricey.
And since my followers on Instagram kept asking, “how expensive is Iceland?“ and “how much money do I need for an Iceland road Trip / van trip?” I tracked all my expenses (which, as a travel blogger, I do anyhow) and listed them here for you.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS ICELAND
I visited Iceland twice – in winter (December/January 2020) and in summer (July 2020). In December, I stayed 12 nights, and in July, 7 nights.
And I did something for the very first time: I rented a camper van in Iceland and traveled around the country for 8 days.
So, in this post, you will find out about how expensive accommodations – and also campsites – are in Iceland, as well as gas prices, food prices (whether you cook for yourself or dine out), and the cost of activities.
So, first I will focus on my 1-week Iceland camper van trip and the costs I incurred, including some activities.
But I will also add prices/costs that I had on my first trip – where I did guided tours and stayed in hotels and hostels, and ate out much more.
So, let‘s start with the costs of one week in Iceland in a camper (or better, 7 nights).
I traveled solo, so I paid all the expenses myself and could not share them with anyone. Also, I did many activities on my first trip, so keep reading until the end to find out more about activity prices in Iceland.
GENERAL MONEY TIPS FOR ICELAND
Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK) – 1000 ISK is about 6,20€ or $7,30
Card is king – you basically pay with card everywhere (cash is accepted but not as common as debit/credit card. The only time I was asked to pay cash was at some campsites for showers and for one hot pool.
COST OF RENTING A CAMPER VAN / CAR
Of course, the price of a rental car depends on several factors – size, automatic/manual, 4×4 or regular car, insurance, and a few more.
4-wheel cars are more expensive. You will need one for sure in the winter months when there is a lot of snow and ice. You will also need one for sure if you plan to visit the Highlands (or off-road streets that are not well maintained).
The size of the car also matters and camper and motor homes are more expensive than regular cars.
However, it also depends on whether you choose a manual or automatic car. Manual cars in Europe are quite common and also cheaper. If you have only driven automatic cars, you might struggle with a manual. Iceland – maybe – might not be the best place to try out driving manual cars.
You also need to think about the insurance. Normally, the cars come with a basic insurance that covers theft. Then, you normally have different packages – if you rent a 2-wheel car and drive streets that are only meant for 4-wheel cars, the insurance will not cover at all. So, this is very important to think about beforehand.
Also, if you plan to cross rivers with a car (sounds weird, but it is not so uncommon in the Highlands), you need to make sure the car is suited for it and the insurance is fine with it.
MY CAMPERVAN COSTS
680€ for 8 days.
On my first trip, I only did guided tours, and on my second trip, I rented the smallest camper van I could find for 8 days. I traveled solo, so I did not need a big one, and I am also not used to driving big cars so I went with the smallest one offered.
I chose the company Campervan Iceland – and was only semi-happy with the car. They work with RentIs and I probably would not book with them again but look for a rental company with better cars.
It was an old one (though it was not but it felt like a 15+ year old car that has been used a lot) and had more issues than I have and many smaller things did not work (like charging my electronics via USB and so I had to deal with that), but it got me around the Ring Road safely and that was the most important thing.
I drive manual in Germany, so I rented a car with a stick, which is cheaper than renting an automatic car.
However, I got the highest insurance package, which did cost me a lot extra (about 250€ more for 8 days).
The camper van had the essentials, like a mini gas stove (which did not always work), a small “fridge,“ and one gas bottle that lasted me one week (since my stove didn‘t always work, I did not have to rebuy it, but you might have to pay around 5€ to get another one if you cook a lot). It also includes:
Sleeping room and seats for 2 people
Double bed (140 x 190 cm or 110 x 190 cm)
Free chairs & camping table
Automatic heating system for the sleeping area
Kitchenware & Camping Gas
CDW Insurance and Final cleaning (included)
It did not have any kitchen or toilet/shower and really was the most basic campervan out there.
The camper van plus premium insurance and essential camping equipment (chairs, dishes, sleeping bag, etc) cost me about 680€ for 8 days. With the basic theft insurance, I would have paid only around 440€ or so.
Also, this was during high-season. But also during “Corona high-season” so prices in July might be higher but for the shoulder season that sounds realistic, where prices drop to about 40-50% (for the car only, not for the insurance).
Renting the van was also my highest expense during my campervan road trip.
If you are looking to rent bigger camper vans – that has beds/seats for 3 or more people you will have to pay much more and a fancy Campervan 4×4 VW California does cost about 300€ a day.
GAS PRICES IN ICELAND
180€ for gas
Gas: Gas prices in Iceland change often, similar to other countries. Prices drop and increase on a regular basis. In summer 2020, gas prices all over the world were pretty low compared to the previous years.
In July 2020, one liter of diesel cost around 1.30-1.40€ (for my US readers, that is about $6 per gallon).
Please keep in mind that prices do change quickly, but as a reference value, you can use that.
I drove the whole Ring Road and also did a few detours – about 1400 kilometres – and paid a bit less than 180€ for gas (diesel is slightly cheaper than gas).
Another main expense that most people have is accommodations – and accommodations in Iceland are really expensive.
So, whether you stay in Reykjavik or in more remote areas, do not expect bargains. Also, hostels are quite pricey.
So, if you do not have a campervan/motorhome, this will probably be your main matter of expense.
ACCOMMODATION PRICES IN ICELAND
Around 100€ for accommodation
Accommodations in summer (June, and especially July and August) are particularly expensive. And in winter, Christmas and New Years Eve are more expensive. So, if you need to watch your budget, you can save money by avoiding those months.
3-star hotels easily cost up to 100€ during that time – and dorm rooms can cost around 27€ – while 5-star hotels are more than 200€ a night.
Since I stayed at campsites, I did not have to pay much for accommodations, but I spent one night in a hostel because the USB charger in my car did not work and I had to recharge all my electronics.
This cost me about 28€ (a lovely hostel with a great view) and I had the room all to myself by chance even though it was a dorm. However, normally, a dorm with 3-6 people cost that much
Other than that, I stayed in camping sites and I paid around 10-12€ per night (one person, no extra fee for the campervan/tent).
Depending on where you stay, it may include warm water/shower – some charge an additional 1-2€ for showers, but I never had to pay extra.
In Reykjavik, I paid more because it was a more luxurious campsite that costs about 15€.
But 10€ for camping is probably the cheapest accommodation option you will have and if you stay for more than 12 days in Iceland (or travel with more than travel partner), you might want to check out the Camping Card which might save you money.
FOOD PRICES IN ICELAND
60€ for food and drinks
One main expense will probably be food – but it doesn’t have to be. I eat mostly plant-based (meaning I avoid animal products but still, very rarely consume diary or eggs). I do not do it to save money but it actually saves me tons of money. Plant-based food is very cheap and so eating in Iceland was not a big issue for me.
I tried to cook every day but my cooker did not work 100% after a few days, so I ate food which was easy to prepare.
So, I had pasta and tomato sauce and some veggies several times. I also bought rice, but did not eat it as the stove did not work after a few days. And I had chickpeas in a can with veggies. I bought toast and made sandwiches with hummus and veggies, or just had toast with plain Nutella.
I also got an avocado once and had it with toast and salad (I bought a lot of local cucumbers and tomatoes, but also canned corn and chickpeas or beans).
For breakfast I often had oat milk with cereal and a lot of chocolate and chips for snacks.
The bananas I got once did not taste great, so I did not buy a lot of fruit on this trip, which are quite pricey since there is no real local fruits in Iceland.
I mostly bought my groceries at Bonus, which is also one of the cheapest grocery stores in the country.
For 8 days, I paid around 60€ for groceries. It was not the healthiest diet I have had, but also not very unhealthy, so if you eat healthier with even more veggies and fruits and legumes, you might pay a bit more (but not much).
If you buy meat or meat substitutes (which Iceland has plenty of), you will need to pay much more since meat is expensive in Iceland.
Water is free – and since I mostly drank water I did not have to pay. Tap water is fine but you often can get your water from rivers/waterfalls as well.
If you enjoy alcoholic drinks you will have to pay more – while prices for coffee is reasonable, alcoholic drinks are not the best drink to go for if you are on a budget.
20€ for dining out
I only had lunch/dinner out once on my second trip.
At Husafell Bistro, I had a vegan burger with fries for about 20€. This was the only time I sat down and ordered food. Since it was not that great, I did not feel tempted to eat out more.
However, I dined out more often on my first trip and think that 20-30€ is pretty standard for a (vegan) burger.
Though I do not eat meat/seafood, I checked out prices and I believe that this is what you typically have to pay for one meal. In a better restaurant (though not very fancy), you might pay around 30-35€ for a meal. Steaks or fancy seafood will costs you more in many restaurants.
Cheaper foods are hot dogs or soups (for less than 10-15€), and if you have take-away burgers at gas stations, you will pay less than 15€ for a burger with fries.
So, for my camper van trip I just paid around 20€ for eating out.
On my first trip, I had either lunch or dinner in a restaurant each day, and had breakfast and one meal in my hotel/hostel. So, I paid around 25-30€ a day for eating out and maybe 5€ for preparing my own food.
25€ for snacks
I had coffee every other day, but also bought some snacks like ice cream and paid around 3- 3.50€ for one coffee/cappuchino.
In total, I paid about 20-25€ for snacks and coffee on my second trip.
In total, I paid around 100€ for food for 8 days.
ACTIVITY PRICES IN ICELAND
27€ for activities
Many sights in Iceland are actually free. You can visit most natural landmarks and won’t have to pay a dime for anything, which makes visiting these stunning places even more fun.
Interestingly, often these attractions are on private land, but they are open to the public – some ask for a donation to maintain the place and some charge money. But most top outdoor attractions are free to see/visit.
Waterfalls, hiking in natural parks, visiting outdoor attractions like the Red Chair, and even many hot pools are free.
Commercial places like the Blue Lagoon, of course, do cost money (and not a little). If you road trip though, you will not have to pay a fortune on paid activities.
I did not do many paid activities this time, as I did many main “expensive activities“ on my first trip.
So, I paid 10€ for a hot pool, 17€ for the Myvatn Bath (which is normally twice as expensive, but I guess the prices dropped because of Covid-19), and I just paid 27€ for attractions on my second trip.
Here are more prices for activities I did on my first trip:
Blue Lagoon – around 80€ (there was a slightly cheaper option, but I chose the “premium“ option)
Secret Lagoon – around 17€
Glacier Tours (depending on where you are picked up and which tour you choose) – around 100€
So, if you want to spend a fortune on activities, you easily can – especially if you do private guided tours and want to do whatever Iceland has to offer.
But even Iceland on a budget is totally possible. You do not need to spend a lot on activities to have a great time.
OTHER COSTS IN ICELAND
Here are some other costs had on one of my two trips or you could have.
Bus tickets: Unfortunately, public transportation in Iceland is not fantastic. Getting to main attractions only by bus is very hard (I do not want to say impossible, though it probably is). You will have to rent a car or pay for guided tours, but within Reykjavik, you can get around by bus.
You can also take several buses to Northern Iceland or other areas. They are cheaper than guided tours, though at the end, you will have to book tours again or rent a car.
Within Reykjavik I used public transportation and I paid around 3€ for one ticket. Bus tickets from the airport to the city center of Reykjavik costs about around 13€ (keep in mind, that the international airport is the Keflavík Airport and that they dont run that often so the – more expensive – airport shuttle costs around 30€ one way (thus, I highly recommend renting your car from the airport).
More expenses for my Iceland road trip:
There is a toll fee for using the Hvalfjarðargönginn Tunnel (Northern Iceland), which is about 10€.
I did not pay any money for parking, but there are some spots where you have to pay a bit (most parking is free though).
Water is free in Iceland, so never spend money on it and refill when you see streams, etc. (You get tap water if you eat out.)
I had to pay about 56€ for a Coronavirus test upon arrival – the test is no longer compulsory for Germans, but you might still have to pay for it.
TOTAL EXPENSIVES FOR ONE WEEK IN ICELAND – CAMPERVAN TRIP
So, how much did I pay for one week in Iceland in a camper van?
In total, I paid around 1100€ for my one week road trip in Iceland (no flight tickets included, but the test is included). Most of it was for my rental car – if you have a campervan yourself and bring it over (and pay for the ferries only) you could save tons of money. However, it was also the smallest camper van they had (and thus the cheapest). If you want something more comfortable or bigger, expect to pay a few hundred € more.
Since I did a couple of main attractions during my first trip, it saved me money. I guess if it had been my first trip, I would have ended up paying closer to 1500€ or so.
But if you split rental and gas costs with a travel partner, you can probably do a similarly fun and amazing trip like I had for 600-1000€.
Surely, it was not a luxurious trip and I had more luxury for less money in other destinations, but 1100€ for eight days doesn’t sound too bad to me. I did not feel I missed out on anything or that I sacrificed, but I also did not feel that I indulged. I got what I wanted and that was a fun trip for me.
If you really wanted to, you could probably travel Iceland for 900€ solo (assuming you do not take the premium package with your rental, budget even stricter with food and activities, and do all the fun free things in the country).
With 1200-1500€, you would be doing quite well and could eat out a bit more often than I did. And with 1500-1800€, I probably would have had an even more comfortable trip (especially dining out), but I did not feel it was needed.
If you stay in hostels or even good hotels, this drastically changes the total and you would have to add at least 50-120€ per night (especially if you travel solo). Check out my accommodation guide for Iceland.
Iceland surely is not the most budget-friendly destination, but it is still possible to have an amazing time without breaking the bank, as my list proves.
Amsterdam in winter is a great to experience this unique city.
Amsterdam is known for its rich heritage and booming arts scene. It is one of the coolest cities in Europe (and not only because of the coffee shops) that makes it easy for visitors to fall in love and enjoy the vibe of the city.
Many of the buildings date all the way back to the 17th century, leaving plenty of historical areas to be explored. These are made even more captivating under the winter sun.
If you visit Europe in December or in generally in winter then add Amsterdam to your bucket list. Winter is a great time to visit Amsterdam, and runs from mid-December to mid-March. So, while Amsterdam is not winter wonderland – nor the best city to visit if you are into Christmas Markets – it is a vibrant and cool city to visit. And even in the winter months Amsterdam has plenty to offer.
While I had visited Amsterdam mostly in the summer months, it was my first trip to Amsterdam in winter – and it was a fun city because it is also so different to other cities I have visited in winter like London, Vienna or Zurich.
If you are wondering what to pack for Europe in winter, check my guide so you know what to wear and how to dress in the cold winter months.
Anyhow, here are some of the best things to do in Amsterdam in the winter.
The Canals Of Amsterdam
Amsterdam is known for its beautiful canals that flow through the city.
Every once in a while the canals freeze over and are cleared to allow people to ice skate across the once flowing waters. If, however, the canals do not freeze while you’re in Amsterdam, there’s another great way to experience the canals.
Taking a canal cruise allows you to see the beautiful city from the perspective of the water. It’s also an opportunity to see the historic district and learn about its fascinating history.
If a skating experience is what you’re after, there are plenty of other places to enjoy an outdoor skating experience. ICE Amsterdam is located on the Museumplein and is an outdoor skating rink that is open every winter. Grab a warm cup of cocoa and skate around the rink in a cozy manner.
Anne Frank House
Anyone with a fair knowledge of World War II will have heard of Anne Frank. Anne Frank House is the former residence of the famed writer, whose diary was published shortly after WWII.
A visit to the historic site is a must for anyone traveling to Amsterdam. You’ll learn about the events that took place in the city during this tragic time in history, as well as about the writer herself.
Visiting the Amsterdam Ice Bar is by far one of the ‘coolest’ experiences you can have in Amsterdam. Dress warmly for this experience, as it can get quite chilly. Although extra coats are provided at the door to make sure you stay warm.
At this bar, you’ll get the chance to sip on cocktails out of a glass made of ice. But that’s not the most interesting thing about the experience. The bar is actually made from 35 tons of natural ice and kept at a temperature of 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius).
If you’re looking for a ‘chilled’ experience with your travel buddies, this is it. You may not be escaping the cold of wintery Amsterdam, but you’ll surely be getting the full winter experience.
The Royal Palace
Spend an afternoon walking in the footsteps of queens and kings of years gone by in the Royal Palace. Take in the magnificent architecture, the grandeur of the space, and the well-preserved furniture that was used by the Netherlands Royalty.
You’ll see paintings by the famed artists of the Dutch Golden Age. As well as chandeliers and ornaments from Napoleon’s time.
It’s a great way to get a glimpse of the past. The audio guide that you’ll receive at the entrance allows you to learn a great deal about the royals from the history books and the way they lived.
While Amsterdam may not be the hub of Christmas markets in Europe, it does have a few worth visiting. The main Christmas market that takes place in Amsterdam is the Ice Village in Museumplein.
It takes place around the ice rink and provides a fairly magical atmosphere. It should be noted that it’s not nearly as extravagant as many of the other Christmas markets in Europe. That being said, it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Amsterdam over the Christmas season.
Art fanatic? There’s no better way to escape the cold of Amsterdam in winter, than heading into the Moco Museum. As most people know, the Netherlands has been an artistic hub for hundreds of years, producing some of the world’s most famed artists.
With the rise of contemporary art, Amsterdam has continued to be a hub for creatives. You’ll find incredible artworks from artists all over the world like Banksy, Arsham, Basquiat, Haring, KAWS, Hirst, JR, Koons, Kusama, and more.
Oliebollen is a traditional Christmas/New Years’ Eve snack in Amsterdam. During the winter months, you’ll find oliebollen stalls popping up all over the city. These scrumptious snacks are fried balls of dough, similar to doughnuts, that are served with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Be sure to eat them while they’re still warm as this is when they’re most delicious!
Stroll Along the Canals
Even though it does get a little chilly during the winter months, that shouldn’t stop you from heading into the great outdoors. In fact, some of the most beautiful sights await you during the colder months.
Take a stroll next to the canals, and be sure to take your camera with for the excursion. You’re sure to come across some of the most picture-perfect scenes. The inner canals are often quite busy with pedestrians. If you head to the outer canals such as Herengracht you’ll get the chance to walk in peace and quiet.
If you’re in Amsterdam between the beginning of December and mid-January, you’ll get the chance to take part in the Amsterdam Lights Festival. Beautiful light shows are artfully hung over the canals making for a breathtaking sight, especially at night.
The Rijkmuseum is the biggest museum in the country. So you can easily spend an entire day exploring its many pieces. The museum is dedicated to art as well as history. You’ll not only see artworks by famed artists like Rembrandt but also historical artifacts dating back hundreds of years.
Another bonus is that there are two other great museums nearby. The Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam are in close proximity, making for some great rainy day activities.
Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder
Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder has got to be one of the most fascinating museums in Amsterdam. It’s located inside a 17th-century canal house. What makes it so interesting is the top three floors of this canal house were converted into a Catholic Church. It was a secret church as the only religion that was allowed to practice in the Netherlands during the 17th century was the Dutch Reformed Church.
It’s now been turned into a museum that gives you insight into how people lived in the 17th century, as well as the secrecy in practicing their own religion.
Final Thoughts On Things To Do In Amsterdam During Winter
Winter is a magical time of year in Europe, and Amsterdam is no different. Although winter can get very cold in Europe, Amsterdams winters tend to be a lot milder than many of the other major European cities. So you’ll be able to get out and about even in the middle of winter.
And luckily for you there are plenty of indoor activities to indulge in during the wintertime in Amsterdam. Museums, cultural attractions, and ice bars await you at this exciting destination – so add Amsterdam in winter to your bucket list.
If you plan to spend one day in Geneva this post is for you – with this Geneva itinerary, you can find out about the best things to in Geneva in one day. However, if you plan to stay a little longer, you will also find some travel tips for how to spend 2 days in Geneva.
Along with the top attractions, you will also find some travel tips for your one day – or two day – Geneva trip.
Geneva has its own international airport so you can arrive by plane from almost anywhere.
One of my favorite ways to explore Geneva is part of a Switzerland road trip. Though Geneva is not centrally located – it is in the very south-west of Switzerland – it is great to include in a road trip.
Alternatively, you can reach the city by train, bus or boat. Switzerland’s public transportation is amazing and you can hop on a train and enjoy the ride from places like Zurich or Lucerne (or any other city in Switzerland).
How to Get Around Geneva in One Day
Public transportation in Geneva is good – you can buy single tickets if you do not have the Transport Card (that you will get for free if you stay in an official accommodation in Geneva).
Or you can get around Geneva with a Geneva Pass. This will give you access to free transportation for 24 hours while allowing you to visit over 50 attractions (and you’ll save some money while doing so).
However, most sights are close to each other and you won’t need public transportation much if you stay in Geneva for one day.
If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, you can use public transportation on Geneva – including boats – for free.
Where to Stay
You can see a large portion of Geneva’s attractions in one day. But if you want a little more time to experience this stunning Swiss city, it might be worth extending your stay.
I have had my own experiences with hotels in Geneva – and I must say, there were quite some bad experiences amongst them. They are very, very expensive and also standard was not always what I expected.
However, there are some stunning hotels close to all the main attractions that won’t break the bank. My personal favorite is Hotel Manotel N’vY.
I definitely recommend staying in the old town or just at the shores of Lake Geneva in the city center.
Tip: If you stay in an official hotel, hostel or campsite you get a Transport Card that will allow you to use public transportation for free.
I am aware that not everyone loves Geneva – Geneva is different to the rest of Switzerland. It doesn’t feel Swiss – personally, I love Geneva. It is not my favorite city in the country and if you have only 10 days in Switzerland, one or two days in Geneva is surely enough.
Geneva is considered to be the global hub for diplomacy and banking.
But there’s also plenty to do for tourists. One day in Geneva is enough time to see the most exciting attractions in this incredibly clean and well-maintained city.
Palais des Nations / United Nations Headquarters
Start your day at the United Nations headquarters which is not located directly in the city center of Geneva.
Switzerland is known for its neutrality, so it makes sense that the United Nations offices are located in Geneva. Throughout the year, the building sees thousands of meetings between global governments in its conference rooms.
However, it’s also open for guided tours in an array of different languages. The tours usually last around an hour and the parts of the building you’ll get to see will depend on any meetings taking place.
One of the highlights of the tour is the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room. This room was decorated by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelò and is absolutely magnificent. Look up and be awestruck by the brightly painted ceiling.
You’ll also be able to see the largest room in the building, The Assembly Hall, and The Salles des Pas Perdus, the main concourse of the Palais.
If you’re lucky, the tour will take you to The Council Chamber where many paramount historical negotiations have occurred. In this room you’ll also find gold and sepia murals created by Catalan painter, José Maria Sert.
Check out tours in advance – but even if you do not do a guided tour, you could visit the headquarters and look at it from far.
Also it is where you will find the Broken Chair which was made in 1997 – standing at a height of 12 metres, this work of art has been dominating the Place des Nations and it has a simple message: to remember the victims of landmines and to urge governments to promote a ban on landmines.
International Committee of the Red Cross
From there, you can walk to the International Museum of the Red Cross.
The International Committee of the Red Cross houses an incredible museum that is largely considered one of the best in Geneva.
The permanent exhibition takes you on a moving journey through the experiences of people throughout history. It documents some of the important work done by the Red Cross over the past 150 years.
In the museum you’ll explore three major challenges facing the world including Defending Human Dignity, Restoring Family Links, and Reducing Natural Risks. The Red Crescent Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that showcase current humanitarian efforts
A trip to the Red Cross is a worthwhile experience that’ll show you the best and worst of mankind. Parts of the exhibition are quite shocking, so it might not be ideal for young kids or sensitive viewers.
Lake Geneva (and the Jet d’Eau)
From there, take public transportation or your car and get to Lake Geneva (it is about 4 kilometers).
One of my favorite things to do in Geneva is to visit Lake Geneva. Not only is this the largest lake in Central Europe but it’s also one of the most beautiful. Amateur and professional photographers will be captivated by the sparkling waters.
The lake’s most impressive feature is the enormous fountain that spouts water 140 meters into the air, the Jet d’Eau. It’s one of the city’s most famous landmarks and is one of the tallest fountains in the world.
While walking along the edge of Lake Geneva offers impressive views, the best way to experience the lake and the awe-inspiring landscape of Geneva is from the water. With an hour-long boat tour of Lake Geneva, you’ll be able to see everything up close, including the Jet d’ Eau.
If you have more than one day in Geneva, you could do longer boat tours (I have a ridiculous thing for boat trips, so I have done the long tours which take hours).
Make sure you go all the way to Mont Blanc Bridge – the water color is extremely beautiful there, and you often have some local swans you can say hello to.
Tip: It might be time for lunch, so I recommend looking for a nice spot where you can have lunch with a Lake Geneva view.
Then it is time to explore the old town.
A trip to Geneva would be incomplete without visiting the Old Town. This part of the city is filled with interesting buildings and squares that’ll lure you in. Along the maze of small streets you’ll find some boutique stores and cozy restaurants.
The Old Town (or Vieille Ville) is filled with places to visit, including the Maison Tavel, a museum that commemorates Geneva’s history. You’ll also be able to see the luxurious Hotel de Ville and the Old Arsenal, five interesting cannons that were used up until the 19th century.
Within Geneva’s Old Town you’ll also find St. Pierre’s Cathedral. Founded in the 4th century, this stunning historical site took over a century to build and is worth a visit.
You will also find many cafes and restaurants and could have your dinner here. Whether you’re a foodie, history buff or avid shopper, Geneva’s Old Town will keep you busy.
Tip: Make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes to walk in, as the Old Town has many cobbled streets and uphill roads. Or take an Old Town Segway tour which will save you a little time (and blisters) while allowing you to experience a lot more.
Next to the St. Pierre Cathedral you will find one of Geneva’s most famous landmarks: The International Monument to the Reformation, more commonly known as Reformation Wall is one of the top places to visit in 1 day in Geneva.
Geneva was one of the key places during the Reformation that took Europe by storm in the 1500s.
This gigantic wall features some of Geneva’s most famous reformers, namely John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Knox, and William Farel. These four figures played an integral role in the revolution. It’s conveniently located close to Old Town and is perfect for a quick stop during your day in Geneva.
Near the Reformation Wall, you’ll also find The International Museum of the Reformation. This is a great place to learn more about the history of Geneva. It’s also an incredible photo opportunity.
To end the day, I recommend heading back to Lake Geneva and watch the sunset there.
More Things to do in Geneva in 2 Days
If you happen to stay 2 days in Geneva, I recommend doing some day trips. You could either hop on a train or on a boat and visit beautiful places at Lake Geneva.
Montreux is a perfect day trip as is the little town of Yvoire – which lies in France and can be best reached by boat.
You can also do a day trip to stunning Annecy – which is probably one of the most beautiful towns in France and quite close to Geneva.
Of course, there are also many other excursions you can take. A day trip to Mount Blanc is such an option – it is still on my own bucket list though.
CONCLUSION: WHAT TO DO IN 1 DAY IN GENEVA
Geneva is an interesting and fun city to visit in Switzerland – though it surely is not THE top place to see in the country, it has many beautiful places. Especially for those who are into politics, history or watches Geneva is a must-visit.
So, with one day in Geneva you will have enough time to check out the main attractions and if you can add a day and stay 2 days in Geneva, even better.
Iceland in winter is a magical time – a real Winter Wonderland.The scenery is one of world’s most extraordinary at any time of the year – and the snow-capped mountains and hills, plus frozen waterfalls, make this country even more beautiful.
Winter weather in Iceland is – surprisingly – not as cold as many might think. Yes, there is a lot of snow and ice. But it isn’t the coldest country in Europe and especially in Reykjavik or the South Coast have a quite mild climate.
Iceland actually enjoys a much milder climate than other Nordic countries. This is partly because of the Gulf Stream which flows along the West and South of Iceland, and that brings warmth all the way from the Caribbean.
But the mild Atlantic air gets mixed with the cold Arctic air coming from the north – this leads to sudden and frequent changes in the weather.
But this also means, that there is a lot of wind and stormy weather in the country and that the south part of the country gets more rainfall than the north. The north, however, is much colder and heavy snowfalls might traveling to the north or Icelandic Westfjords difficult.
While I do not want to tell you to pack light skirts and dresses, I just want to say, that it is not necessarily freezing.
In winter, the average temperature in Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, is around 1-2°C (33-35°F) during the day – with quite a lot of rain.
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WHAT TO WEAR IN ICELAND IN WINTER
If you’re planning to travel to Iceland during the winter months, the key is dressing in layers.
The temperature can reach freezing levels. Dressing in layers allows you to keep warm without compromising on comfort.
But your items should be versatile in function. For example, pack a jacket that is both waterproof and warm. In addition, comfortable walking shoes are essential.
So, read on to find out what to wear in Iceland in winter.
Everyday Attire Essentials For Iceland In Winter
Here are a few items that you should pack – whether you visit Iceland in winter or summer.
Tops: If you dress in layers, tops are essential. If you do day trips from Reykjavik, buses can be really hot and thus you do not want to wear to warm clothes.
Cardigans: Perfect if you want to dress in layers – tops and cardigans are my way to go whenever weather conditions change during the day.
Warm Pullovers – Iceland is famous for its sweaters made 100% from Icelandic´s wool sheep. Personally, I avoid products from wool and recommend bringing your own warm pullovers. The Icelandic´s pullovers are very expensive but they are popular and they might keep you warm.
I brought some jeans with me and did not regret it. There were not the only pants I wore but they were the best option on a cold day, when I wanted to “dress up”.
Sweatpants – for longs days in the bus, plane etc. – and yes, you can look great in sweatpants.
Footwear: Flip flops are a must – yes, even in Iceland in winter. You will need them for the days in the geothermal pools.
Bikini: Iceland in winter is the perfect time to visit geothermal pools – so bring at least one.
So, after some more general things to pack for Iceland, here are items to wear in Iceland in winter.
At the top of your packing list should be the following versatile, essential items. Using these items to dress in layers will keep you both stylish and warm.
Coat – warm And waterproof: A warm, waterproof jacket should be one of the very first items that you think to pack. I brought my super warm Wellensteyn jacket – bulky but warm and with many pockets. I did not need an extra scarf for most of the time. However, if you have a lightweight, trench raincoat that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable better bring that because a bulky jacket can make you feel uncomfortable when you have layers underneath.
Hat: Apparently, we lose up to 10% of our body heat through our heads, meaning that it’s essential to keep this area warm. A knitted beanie will keep you toasty warm whether you’re outdoors sipping coffee, or exploring the sights.
Gloves: Have you ever tried to use your phone with frozen fingers? Yes, it isn’t that easy. A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. This makes it one of the most important items on your Iceland winter packing list. When selecting your options, it’s worth investing in a pair that can dry quickly and are touch-screen compatible.
Scarf: A warm scarf and/or turtleneck sweater are key items for keeping your neck covered. Not only do these items keep you warm, but they also prevent you from getting ill (and thereby ruining the fun). While my jacket was very warm and kept my neck warm, I still brought my scarf – especially on the bus or plane.
Turtleneck: A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily.
Leggings: Leggings are perfect to wear underneath your jeans as an extra layer of warmth. Unless you really like cold, I do not recommend wearing them without any jeans or ski pants though. They are both comfortable and snug. Leggings are an essential item to pack as you can dress them up or down. You can even wear them underneath your denims as an extra layer of warmth.
Socks: When it comes to packing socks for your Iceland winter trip – the thicker the better. Chances are that you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow and cold, and you’ll want your feet to be warm and cozy. I bought myself some pairs of ski socks and they were a great investment.
Thermals: BEST. INVENTION. EVER. A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. They provide the extra layer of heat that will allow you to spend an extra hour outside instead of excess clothing. If you asked me for my top 5 items to wear in Iceland in winter, then surely thermals are among them.
Comfortable Walking Shoes: If you can only pack one pair of shoes, then make sure that they are a trusty pair of waterproof snowshoes. Break them in before you visit Iceland for the first time. If you will do a lot of hiking and and snowshoe walking, then consider buying snowshoes that allow you to enjoy a variety of activities while keeping your feet warm and dry.
Crampers: I wore my hiking boots – and bought some crampers for them while I was in Iceland. It will almost be impossible to stroll some sights without the crampers because it is very icy in the winter months.
Winter Sportswear for Iceland in Winter
While Iceland is a winter wonderland, it is not known for offering the best winter sports opportunities. However, you can do some winter sports + winter sport clothes are just amazing to keep you warm while allowing you to be comfortable.
Ski Jacket: When choosing the perfect ski jacket, you need to consider warmth, level of waterproofing, and freedom of movement. A jacket that is adjustable in fit, seals effectively, and dries quickly is the perfect apparel for snowboarding, skiing, and other winter outdoor sports.
Ski Pants: My best friend, next to my thermals, were my ski pants. They cost a fortune but a trusty pair of insulated ski pants are the next essential item to keep you warm. Make sure that your choice of pants is breathable, warm, and waterproof. These details will keep you dry, warm, and comfortable – whenever the weather forecast wasn’t too bad, I didnt even wear thermals and just my beloved ski pants and they kept me more than war,
Umbrella: Iceland in winter tends to be very rainy. Especially Reykjavik was very rainy – so pack a foldable umbrella. It can be the difference between a leisurely stroll in the city streets and getting caught in a flu-inspired downpour.
Sunglasses: Sunglasses aren’t really an essential in Iceland in winter – daylight and thus sun is not “a big thing”. But I still packed a pair of polarized sunglasses – you never know!
So, if you dress appropriately and if you know what to wear in Iceland in winter, you can enjoy a fantastic trip to this unique country.
While Europe might not be the biggest continent, weather conditions strongly vary. So, it does make a big difference whether you visit North countries like Iceland or Norway, Central Europe like Switzerland or France or Southern Europe with places like Valencia in Spain.
If you head to Southern Spain you will not need all the super warm winter clothes – and you will be happy with some warm pullovers and jeans. In the Nordic countries you will definitely need to pack differently.
In this post, you will find one general part of what to pack in Europe for winter. Then you will find out about what to pack for warmer countries like Spain or Malta, but you will also find out what to pack if you visit countries like Switzerland, Estonia or Iceland in winter.
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Winter Weather in Europe
Before talking about what to bring to Europe in winter, we should talk weather in Europe in winter. Because your packing list depends on where you visit.
Southern Europe is much milder and warmer than Eastern Europe or Northern Europe. While you could wear a light jacket in Southern Spain in the winter months, you surely have to dress very warm in countries like Norway or Iceland.
If you come to Europe in winter – come prepared.
Be advised that the average temperature can reach as low as -10° degree Celsius in countries like Iceland and Norway and while it gets up to 15° degree Celsius in other countries.
Climate change has lead to much warmer climate in many countries – I remember the years – as a little child – where we had many days with freezing temperatures in Germany. And a lot of snow – but nowadays, snow is no longer the rule for many parts in Europe. But it can be.
What to Bring to Europe in Winter – General Items
So, the first part of the post is a general packing ist. Then you will find an additional packing list for winter.
Luggage for Europe
Here is what luggage/bags you might need for your winter Europe trip.
Suitcase: Though it depends, where exactly and for how long you travel, I recommend taking a good, light, and quality suitcase with you where all your clothes and most of your toiletries fit in.
Carry-On: If you visit for longer and aren’t a minimalist, then you might need an extra carry-on luggage.
Laundry bags: They are great if you travel for longer and don’t want your dirty and clean clothes to mix up. I prefer them over plastic bags.
Packing Cubes: They are the new must-items when it comes to traveling, they are very handy and they also come in cool colors. I recommend using packing cubes because it makes packing and organizing easier.
For my handbag, I choose a cross-body handbag with a zipper (just to be safe) and several extra pockets. My tip: The size of the handbag is important: do you carry a camera with your? A water bottle? Keep that in mind when you decide on one handbag.
Passport Holder, since I have become more minimalistic, I prefer not using a passport holder but if you need a passport (and an ID is not enough) you might want to have one.
For a day at the hotel pool or for some shopping, I recommend a beach bag or a cotton bag. Plastic bags – fortunately – do costs money in many parts of Europe…and plastic you use only once, sucks anyway, so with a cotton bag you use for years, you do the environment a favour (and it looks much better than to carry your shoppings in a plastic or paper bag).
Toiletries to Pack for Europe in Winter
Lately, I have reduced the care products. Less is better if you ask me. However, in winter our skin is also subject to stress. Here you will find a detailed list – even if I do not use all products below throughout the year, you might use more products.
If I travel for 10 days or shorter I take travel sizes toiletries which I refill with my natural and organic beauty products from home. To pack light, shampoo, conditioner, hair masks, cleaning water and cleansing milk is all in small bottles.
Of course, you could buy toiletries in Europe as well, but if you do not want to waste your time in drug stores or supermarkets, use this checklist for Europe.
(TSA Approved Clear) Travel Toiletry Bag (if you fly)
Sunscreen (even in winter – depending on where you travel to. If you go for a ski trip, then take it but you most likely will not need it for most other winter trips).
Travel bottles to refill – I refill them with my own organic products that I normally use (I do not use shampoo & conditioner provided by hotels)
Electric Hair Removal Epilator (only if you stay longer than a week or if you remove your bidy hair with it) – otherwise a razor or whatever you prefer
Face cream – (which I also use as a hand cream, so I do not have to take another cream).
Refillable Travel Size Perfume Bottle
Toothbrush and toothpaste and mouthwash plus Dental floss
Magnifying make-up mirror
Nail polish and nail polish remover + glass nail file
My favorite hairbrush (especially for longer hair) – or if you have less space take a comb
A small cosmetic bag with the following items: Mascara / Rouge / Eyebrow powder (Taming & Shaping Kit For Brows) / Tweezer / Eyeliner and Eye Shadow / Make-up brushes/ Cotton swabs
Here are a few more items which I personally do hardly use but which might be important to you, so I added them here:
hair spray, hand cream, foundation, powder, lipstick, sanitiser
Tech Stuff to Pack for Europe
I have my laptop with me whenever I fly – however, I do work online while traveling and I also watch Netflix on it.
My phone is without a doubt one of my most useful and important (travel) items.
My camera is a must – because Europe has so many great spots that need to be photographed.
I have to admit, that I still don’t have a kindle, so a “real” book is often an essential
Power Charger – how long does your phone battery last? Not long? Neither does mine, so this is an essential
Do you need an adapter? It depends on where you travel to in Europe, so please check if you need one for your destination.
Random Things to Pack for Europe
Umbrella (in many countries, like Germany, Switzerland, or England is can still rain quite a lot in the winter)
Medicine (headache pills etc.)
What to Pack for Europe in Winter
The key is dressing in layers for Europe in winter. The temperature can reach freezing levels, and yet the sun can be deceptively strong. Dressing in layers allows you to keep warm without compromising on comfort.
Also, it really depends on where exactly you travel – as I mentioned before, Southern Europe has mild weather in winter where you will not need a super warm jacket and gloves plus a hat.
Depending on where you travel, the wind might make you feel much colder than the temperature actually says.
In worst case scenario, hypothermia and frostbite will be a result if If you’re wet and not appropriately dressed.
Your items should be versatile in function. For example, pack a jacket that is both waterproof and warm. In addition, comfortable walking shoes are essential.
Everyday Attire Essentials For Europe In Winter
At the top of your Europe winter packing list should be the following versatile, essential items. Using these items to dress in layers will keep you both stylish and warm.
Coat – Warm And Waterproof: A warm, waterproof jacket should be one of the very first items that you think to pack. Avoid choosing a bulky jacket that takes up a lot of space. This can make you feel uncomfortable when you have layers underneath. Instead, opt for a lightweight, trench raincoat that will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable.
Hat: Science tells us that we lose up to 10% of our body heat through our heads, meaning that it’s essential to keep this area warm. A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm whether you’re on the slopes, sipping coffee, or exploring the sights.
Gloves: Have you ever tried to use your phone with frozen fingers? It’s a nearly impossible task. A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. This makes it one of the most important items on your Switzerland packing list. When selecting your options, it’s worth investing in a pair that can dry quickly and are touch-screen compatible.
Scarf Or Turtleneck: A warm scarf and/or turtleneck sweater are key items for keeping your neck covered. Not only do these items keep you warm, but they also prevent you from getting ill (and thereby ruining the fun). A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily.
Leggings: There’s a reason that almost every woman owns a pair of leggings. They are both comfortable and snug. Leggings are an essential item to pack as you can dress them up or down. You can even wear them underneath your denims as an extra layer of warmth.
Socks: When it comes to packing socks for your Switzerland trip – the thicker the better. Chances are that you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow, and you’ll want your feet to be warm and cozy. If you plan on hitting the slopes at any stage, then you’ll want your socks to be extra-thick or padded for increased comfort.
Thermals: A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Switzerland. They provide the extra layer of heat that will allow you to spend an extra hour on the slopes, or to pack fewer items on your road trip instead of excess clothing.
Comfortable Walking Shoes: If you can only pack one pair of shoes, then make sure that they are a trusty pair of waterproof snowshoes. You’ll want your shoes to be as versatile as possible. Snowshoes allow you to enjoy a variety of activities while keeping your feet warm and dry.
One of the best top reasons to visit e.g. Switzerland during the winter months is winter sports opportunities. While most ski resorts will offer rental equipment, there are a few essentials to pack for yourself.
Ski Jacket: When choosing the perfect ski jacket, you need to consider warmth, level of waterproofing, and freedom of movement. A jacket that is adjustable in fit, seals effectively, and dries quickly is the perfect apparel for snowboarding, skiing, and other winter outdoor sports.
Ski Pants: A trusty pair of insulated ski pants are the next essential item for all winter sports fans. Make sure that your choice of pants is breathable, warm, and waterproof. These details will keep you dry, warm, and comfortable on the slopes.
Winter Protection: There are a few items that will make your winter vacation all the more comfortable. The last thing that you want is to be soaked on your first day, or get a migraine from snow blindness.
Umbrella: Regardless of what time of year you visit Switzerland, it’s always a smart move to pack a foldable umbrella. The nifty item doesn’t take up too much space. It can be the difference between a leisurely stroll in the city streets and getting caught in a flu-inspired downpour.
Chapstick: Visiting Switzerland in winter will most likely find you spending hours of fun on the snow-covered slopes. This can quickly dry out your lips and burn your skin. In this instance, you’re going to be grateful that you’ve packed your moisturizing stick of Chapstick.
Sunglasses: The best days on the slopes are the ones accompanied by clear, sunny skies and good conditions. These circumstances also increase the glare of the sun on the white snow, making it close to unbearable on your eyes. A pair of polarized sunglasses or ski goggles can protect your eyes from the wind and bright light.
CONCLUSION: WHAT TO PACK FOR EUROPE IN WINTER
Europe in winter is a fantastic travel destination. Whether you come for a ski trip in Switzerland, explore the Christmas markets in London or want to have a weekend trip to a warmer place like Valencia – Europe is so diverse and has something for every taste.
Just be aware of what to pack for Europe in winter and you can enjoy some fantastic time in Europe.
Reykjavik in winter is a great time to visit – the country is magical and Reykjavik is a great place to base yourself. From there you can easily do some fun day trips and explore other parts of the country.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR REYKJAVIK IN THE WINTER
However, but even Reykjavik in winter is interesting. So, plan in some time for Iceland´s capital and check out some activities. Many activities in Iceland – and Reykjavik – can be done throughout the year. This post is about what to do in Reykjavik in winter – including some travel tips for your trip.
Weather in Reykjavik in Winter
Reykjavik in winter is not perfection – I actually struggled quite a but. Especially the weather was a problem for me – and I do not mean that it was cold. Reykjavik is quite rainy in the winter months. I stayed 12 nights in Reykjavik and it rained on – probably – 6 out of 12 days.
So, keep that in mind. Apart from the rain, winter in Reykjavik is not as bad as you might think. Temperatures are similar to Central Europe – often ranging between 3° / -2° degree Celsius.
Snow in Reykjavik is common though it doesn’t stay for long – to experience winter wonderland, I highly suggest doing a few day trips from Reykjavik.
How to Get Around in Reykjavik in Winter
Public transportation in Reykjavik is okay – I used it a few times to get around but mostly I walked to most attractions.
If you book guided tours, you normally will be picked up from your hotel or from a pick-up station near your hotel.
So, renting a car is not essential for the winter months. However, ff you rent a car you can easily get around via car. Driving in Reykjavik in winter is better than driving in other parts (especially in the Northern parts of the Highlands).
BEST THINGS TO DO IN REYKJAVIK IN WINTER
After so much talking it is time to talk about the best things to do in Reykjavik in winter – check out what to do in December, January or February.
Experience Flyover Iceland
Flyover Iceland is so much more than a 4D movie. It’s a passion project that celebrates the unique beauty of Iceland and its history.
In the simulation, you’ll fly over Iceland’s mountainous landscape and rough coastline, feeling the wind in your hair, and the twists and turns. It was designed to feel like mankind’s greatest dream fulfilled; to feel like you’re flying. With over 200 hours of aerial videography, and years of work put into it, I’d say it was successful!
You’ll learn about how Iceland was formed, its long history, and Icelandic culture. So not only is it a great deal of fun – but you’ll also go away with a much better understanding of your surroundings and the Icelandic people.
It was one of my most favorite activities – it made me feel happy. I was excited and fell in love before I had seen much of Iceland in real life. However, some other people I talked to criticised the short movie (about 10 minutes, the rest is just blablabla) and the quite high price. For me, it was worth the money.
Also, this is the perfect thing to do on a very cold day in Reykjavik in winter as it is indoors (once you book your tickets, email them and agree on a time slot).
Even though I stayed in Iceland for about 10 nights in winter, I did not get to see the Northern Lights. Neither in Reykjavik nor when I did Northern Lights tours as they do not appear that often.
Marvel at Hallgrímskirkja Church
A trip to Reykjavik would be incomplete without a visit to its most recognizable building, which can be seen from anywhere in the city.
This Lutheran parish church is one of the tallest buildings in the whole country. It’s striking and unusual, totally different from churches you’ll find anywhere else in the world.
The church has a truly massive organ and an austerely beautiful interior. Be sure to venture in for the full experience, and admire the immense effort put into this structure.
From here, you also have some of the best view points in Reykjavik.
Bathe in Geothermal Pools
Iceland in December and the winter months can be daunting. But the locals have been making it comfortable for a long time now.
The country is famous for its geothermal pools. These warm outdoor pools have long since been a large part of the culture in Reykjavik. Particularly in winter when the water contrasts so strongly with the frigid air. You’ll even find locals chatting away in a rainstorm.
The geothermal pools are fed by underground hot springs. You can laze in the naturally warm waters of the main pool, before tiptoeing across to the hot tubs to luxuriate in even warmer conditions.
When you visit, be sure to follow etiquette, and shower with soap before getting into the water. This helps them keep the pools clean with minimal chlorine.
And feel free to hop into a sauna before or after your swim, to really round out the experience. No matter the weather around you, you’ll feel snug for hours after leaving the pools.
See the Iconic Northern Lights
If you’re lucky, you don’t even need to leave Reykjavik to catch a glimpse of the iconically beautiful Northern Lights. If the aurora is active and the sky is clear, you should be able to see it.
If you’re trying to spot the Northern Lights within the city, head down to the coast. There’s less light pollution in this part of the city, and no lights or buildings obstructing your view. You can simply stroll along the coast and admire the fantastical display. Alternatively, you can set sail on a 2-hour boat tour off the coast.
Because Reykjavik is a city, it has more light pollution than the Icelandic countryside. This means you’ll see the aurora more vibrantly far outside the city, where the Northern Lights is the only thing brightening the sky.
You can take a half day tour from Reykjavik for a better chance at this once in a lifetime experience.
Visit Harpa Center
One of the best things to do during Reykjavik’s winter months is to see a performance at Harpa.
This unique landmark is a concert hall where you’ll see some of Iceland’s top musical performances. It is also a massive sculpture reflecting everything around it – including the gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and ocean.
Even if there are no performances during your visit to Reykjavik, Harpa Center is well worth a visit. One alternative option is to enjoy a meal at one of the Harpa restaurants, where the center’s innovation is applied to Icelandic ingredients and exciting cuisines.
Spot Street Art in Reykjavik in WInter
The streets of Reykjavik are full of impressive social and political commentary, as well as just fun art. The Old Harbor area boasts some of the city’s best work, though.
But you can also find some street art in the town center.
Spend a few daylight hours (between about 10 am and 4 pm) strolling through the streets and spotting as many of the artworks as you can. It’s like an outdoor museum, full of exhibitions and open to interpretation.
Go Ice Skating on Tjörnin
Ice skating on the lake is a Reykjavik tradition. It’s referred to as a pond by the locals because it’s so shallow. Thankfully, this means the water quickly freezes over in winter and can be safely enjoyed throughout the season.
If you’re not really into ice skating (read: keep falling on your butt every time you try), it’s still a lovely place to spend a few hours. You can watch locals and foreigners gliding on the ice, and even see an ice hockey or football match.
Unfortunately, there are no ice skate rentals around the pond, as it’s geared towards locals. So you’ll have to either bring along your own skates, or take to the ice in your boots for a clumsy but fun time.
Reykjavik also has some lovely indoor skating rinks, where ice skates actually can be found. Some favorites are Egilshöll and Ice Rink Laugardalur.
See the Stars at the Planetarium
Reykjavik’s Perlan Planetarium is another amazing immersive experience. The world-class planetarium allows you to witness the Northern Lights and Iceland’s other wonders. All while snug and warm in the city.
The Perlan Planetarium show runs every hour and is thankfully in English. So you’ll have an opportunity to learn about the science behind the aurora borealis and much much more while you’re awed by the beauty.
Taste Rekyavik’s cuisine
Reykjavik is a modern metropolitan, combining traditional cuisine with modern twists and global fusions. Icelandic food is famous for being pure, with natural ingredients, often locally sourced.
While they’re well-known for many of their meat dishes, you’ll find the city surprisingly vegan-friendly. I really was in vegan heaven – who would have thought?
A recent cultural and ideological shift has made veganism popular among younger Icelanders. This shift means you’ll find some fantastic, creative food, from noodle soup and vegan burgers to gazpacho.
Visit the cafe Ecstasy’s Heart-Garden for some tasty vegan and vegetarian treats, or splurge on fine dining at Burro.
Explore the National Museum of Iceland
Leave the outside chill behind for a few hours and head into Iceland’s National Museum. You’ll learn about the country’s fascinating history, from Viking settlements to contemporary civilization.
The museum hosts some wonderful historic artifacts and medieval engravings. You can stroll through exhibitions, and marvel at the strength and perseverance of a culture that developed here, long before aircon made the chill more manageable!
Just a note: the museum is closed on Mondays during winter, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
Go on an Icelandic Horseriding Tour
I am allergic to horses and so I stay away from them but Icelandic horses are iconic. Yes, they are not as gracious as Arabic horses but these chubby little animals are one of a kind.
Icelandic horses are short and stocky, with long shaggy hair. They’re a great joy to ride for all ages. But more excitingly, the area around Reykjavik is an incredible place to explore on horseback.
Spend a few hours riding through lava fields and along the startling green (or white) hillside. It’s one of the best things to do in Iceland, and totally unique to the country.
In addition to the actual riding, horseback riding tours include rubber boots, helmets, rainwear or warm clothes if needed, and a guide. You can even request transport there if you’d prefer.
Reykjavik in winter is an interesting place to visit. It is far way from the perfect winter city destination in Europe, it offers quite some beautiful places and fun activities. Stay safe and enjoy!