HOW EXPENSIVE IS A VAN TRIP IN ICELAND

How expensive is Iceland via Campervan

COSTS OF ICELAND TRIP

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.

Road trip costs of Iceland

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

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).

campervan costs in Iceland

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:

  • Unlimited km
  • 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
  • Sleeping bags
  • Refrigerator/Cooler
  • Kitchenware & Camping Gas
  • Radio/CD/MP3/USB
  • 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).

Caravan life in Iceland cost

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

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 miles – 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

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).

Caravan views in Iceland_

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

Food (self-prepared):

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.

Food costs in Iceland

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.

Food snacks in Iceland are not expensive

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.

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.

Vegan burger at Husafell Bistro in Iceland costs around 20€

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.

Coffee/ 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

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.

How expensive is Iceland, not very with free activities

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€

Snow mobile tour – around 200€ 

Northern Lights Tours – around 40-50€

FlyOver Iceland – around 27€

Perlan – Wonders of Iceland & Áróra – about 27€

Hallgrimskirkja church tower – about 5.5€

Horseback riding (I did not do it myself) – 70€

Whale Watching – 80€

Horseback riding in Iceland

Find out more about things to do in Iceland by clicking here.

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.

Public Transportation

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.

Safe Travels, Arzo

WHAT TO WEAR IN ICELAND IN WINTER

What to wear in Iceland in winter

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.

For travel tips in summer, read this post.

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS – THIS MEANS I MIGHT EARN A SMALL COMMISSION WHEN YOU BUY A PRODUCT/SERVICE (AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU). MORE ABOUT IT HERE.

Places to visit in Iceland in winter - and what to wear

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.

Skógafoss Waterfall in winter in Iceland

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.
Crampers - What to wear in Iceland in winter, crampers

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.

Stay safe and enjoy!

WHAT TO PACK FOR EUROPE IN WINTER

What to pack for Europe in winter

PACKING LIST FOR EUROPE IN WINTER

If you are want to find out what to pack for Europe in winter, then this post is for you.

While you might have to think about which places to visit in Europe in winter, you will also need to plan what to pack for the cold winter months in Europe.

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.

First ski experience in Verbier, Switzerland what to pack in winter

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 do in Alicante, Costa Blanca

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
  • Tissues
  • Deodorant
  • 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
  • Hair ties
  • 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)
  • Guides
  • Medicine (headache pills etc.)
Cycling in London in winter

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.

December in Iceland, Golden Circle with Arzo Travels

Everyday Attire Essentials For Europe 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. 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. 
Verbier in Switzerland in the winter

Winter Sportswear

One of the best top reasons to visit 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.

Stay safe and enjoy!

Safe Travels, Arzo

Travel Tips for Reykjavik in Winter + What to Do

Best things to do in Reykjavik in winter

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.

HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA CHURCH in winter one of the top things to do in Reykjavik

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.

View from HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA CHURCH in Reykajvik in winter

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.

Northern Lights in Iceland in winter
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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. 

Harpa Center in Reykjavik in winter

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.

Street art is one of the best things to do in Reykjavik in winter

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?

Amazing vegan burger in Reykjavik

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 - horse back riding in Reykjavik in winter
@Shutterstock

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!

Safe Travels, Arzo

ICELAND IN SUMMER – TRAVEL TIPS AND BEST THINGS TO DO

What to do in Iceland in summer

Heading to Iceland in summer? Then read on and find out about the best things to do in summer + travel tips for your summer trips.

As I have visited Iceland in December/January, I have asked some fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite activities for a summer trip to Iceland.

Important Travel Information for Iceland in Summer

written by Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear

Iceland is one of the most beautiful places in the world, it’s got amazing landscapes and scenery. It is gorgeous throughout the year in many different ways.

In the spring, you get some ice along with greenery and a chance at the northern lights; in the summer, there will be tons of green, pretty blooms, and the midnight sun. Fall greets with you autumnal foliage and the northern lights which continue on into the winter along with the snow and ice.

The best time to visit is highly dependent upon what you want to see in Iceland. Each season has its charm – here are some travel tips for your trip to Iceland in summer.

How to Get Around in Iceland in Summer

While Iceland in winter isn’t the perfect time to drive, summer is perfect for a road trip.

So get a rental car because it is the best way to get around, driving is easy since there aren’t too many cars once you leave the Reykjavik and Golden Circle area.

If you want to make Reykjavik your base and do some day trips, you cannot rely on public transportation. In this case you will have to book guided tours – this is a great option if you stay near Reykjavik and do not plan to visit the North of Iceland for the East Coast.

Language

Everyone speaks English. Technically, the national language is Icelandic, but they all learn English in school. You might run into the older generation who don’t always speak English, but everyone’s super friendly so don’t worry about it!

How to Pay in Iceland

Credit is king! I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “Cash is king!” but in Iceland all of the stores, restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, etc. take credit cards. Just make sure your card has no foreign transaction fees!

Where to Stay in Iceland

If you road trip Iceland you will have to change locations accordingly. Check out this detailed guide on where to stay in Iceland.

WHAT TO DO IN ICELAND IN SUMMER

Here are some of the best summer activities in Iceland (many can be done throughout the year but some can only be done in the summer months).

Blue Lagoon

Recommended by Alexis and Bertaud from World Travel Adventures

Visiting the Blue Lagoon is one of the best places to visit in Iceland. This milky-blue geothermal spa is one of the 25 wonders of the world and is the top bucket list travel experience for millennials.

Top Things to do in Iceland The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the best places to visit in Iceland in winter
@Shutterstock

You cannot visit Iceland without soaking in the Blue Lagoon!

It is the perfect place to visit in Iceland – there’s no better way to enjoy a break from the freezing cold temperatures in winter.

It is also very romantic, so grab your lover or find one there and blissfully soak the day away. Get a glass of prosecco from the swim-up bar and you’re in heaven! Lose the crowds by wandering to the outer edges of the Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is only about 30 minutes from the airport, so it makes sense to visit after you land or on your last day before heading to the airport. Give yourself plenty of time- we spent about 4 hours there but could have easily stayed all day. There are buses that will take to from the airport to the lagoon, or you can rent a car and drive yourself.

Make sure that you book your Blue Lagoon tickets well in advance – the Blue Lagoon has become one of the main tourist attractions in Iceland and so  this does not surprise it is so busy. 

Tickets start at $50 which includes a silica mud mask for silky smooth skin. Bring your own towels, bathrobes, and flip flops if you want to buy the cheapest package.

Don’t forget to bring your camera to snap photos of the famous blue water that seems to glow thanks to its mineral content which reflects the sun.

Depending on how serious you are about your hair, bring something to pull it up or even a swim cap if you plan to get under the waterfall. The minerals dry out your hair, so slather it with tons of conditioner when you shower prior to entering the lagoon. Enjoy this epic experience in Iceland!

Visit Glaumbaer

Recommended by Shoba from Just Go Places

Glaumbaer is a traditional turf farmhouse which is now being operated as a museum – is one of the best places to visit in Iceland in summer.

Glaumbaer is one of the best things to do in Iceland in summer
@Shutterstock

Located in the north of Iceland, the farmhouse that you see was built in the mid 18th century. Building turf houses with sod roofs and little windows was an Icelandic tradition that dates back to the time of the Vikings.

There has been a house in this location since the 11th century when the land was farmed by Snorri Porfinnsson. Porfinnson was probably the first European born in North America because his mother accompanied her husband on the expedition to Vinland with Leif Ericsson.

Porfinsson is also created with helping to spread Christianity in Iceland. There is a statute to Porfinnson and his mother in the church next door to Glumbaer.

Visiting Glaumbaer was like stepping back into time. You have newfound respect for the hardiness of the Icelandic people who created homes in this inhospitable climate. The turf houses look like hobbit houses from the outside but the inside is spacious if somewhat dark.

Everyone who worked on the farm would have lived in this house from the owner and his family to the servants and the farmhands.

Trip Around the Famous Ring Road

Recommended by Natascha and Cameron from The World Pursuit

A trip around the famous Ring Road is a another great activity in Iceland in summer. In winter, parts of the streets might be closed – or at least not easy to drive due to snow. But summer is perfect for driving here.

Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland - best things to do in Iceland
@Shutterstock

There are so many magical stops right off it to venture to it will be hard to see everything without years of exploration. However, one of the best sights literally right off “Route 1” is Skógafoss waterfall.

Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most iconic waterfalls in Iceland at 15 meters wide and 60m high and if you are wondering what to do in Iceland this has to be on your Iceland itinerary.

It is located in the Southern part of Iceland near the town of Vik. It has even been featured in a number of movies like “The Secret Life of Water Mitty” and Thor”.

You really can’t miss the stop here as the waterfall can easily be seen from the road. Once at the waterfall just park your car and walk right up to see natures beauty – you cannot visit Iceland without seeing it – there is a reason why this is one of Iceland´ top attractions

You can either venture under it or climb up to the very top of the waterfall on a nearby staircase. If you want to stay overnight there is a campsite and restaurant at the site!

Go on a Boat Tour on the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Recommended by Cindy from Travel Bliss Now

Jökulsárlón is one of the most otherworldly places in Iceland you have to see – so if you want to visit the best place in Iceland this might be it.

JÖKULSÁRLÓN GLACIER LAGOON one of the best things to do in summer
Pic: adrenalinerushdiaries Shutterstock.com

The name means “glacial river lagoon” and that’s exactly what it is.  Due to climate change, icebergs are breaking off the glacier next to the lagoon and slowly floating out to sea.  It’s a new phenomenon – the lake didn’t exist 80 years ago.

If you want to see the icebergs and the glacier up close, the best thing to do is the one-hour zodiac tour that runs from May 1st to the end of September (longer if weather permits).  They get as close to the ice as safely possible and you may even see it calve off the glacier.  The boats are small, so be sure to make a reservation.

For a tamer approach, you can take a 30 to 40 minutes amphibious boat tour that starts on land and floats among the icebergs.  The tours run frequently during the May to September season, but if you don’t like waiting, it’s best to reserve ahead.

Don’t miss Diamond Beach across from the lagoon.  It’s where polished chunks of ice wash up along the wild ocean shoreline.

The Glacier Lagoon is easy to find on the ring road on the south coast of Iceland.  It’s about 400 kilometerss from Reykjavik. The drive is stunning so if you want to enjoy the scenery along the way, consider making a 2-day trip out of it.  One and two-day tours from Reykjavik are also offered and are one of the top things to see in Iceland.

Check out Best Rates for a Day Trip to the Glacier Lagoon from Reykjavik

See the Gullfoss Waterfall

Recommended by Rene from Together We Roam

Iceland’s iconic Gullfoss Falls in the well-trodden Golden Triangle tourist route is hardly visible on approach, as you wind along the cliff edge; the largest waterfall in Iceland reveals itself, tumbling between two rugged rock faces, like the earth has opened up releasing a magnificent mass of water.

Gullfoss Waterfall which places to visit in Iceland in summer
@Shutterstock

You hear Gullfoss before you see it, and even in the cold embrace of Iceland’s winter there’s a promising roar. There’s no real difference when the temps plummet past zero, the cool brings less crowds, a sense of calm and a distinctly beautiful landscape.

The unbridled force of the Olfusa river emptying into the canyon is replaced with a less urgent rush, yet still as magnificent. Add this place to your Iceland itinerary as it one of the most beautiful places in Iceland.

It’s as if the tumbling falls have been snap frozen, creating spider-like icicle tentacles that creep up the 32 meter falls and consumer the cliff faces, which can tower 70 meters high.

Below the surface the water fed by Langjokul, Iceland’s second largest glacier still stirs and at the very center of the falls, the falls are at its most fierce, evident with a plume of white mist rising to the surface, like a reverse snow storm.

Gullfoss Falls in the winter offers a spectacular wintery scene of snow and ice against the crisp blue sky and much more exciting than the familiar ‘Golden’ brown hued tumbling body of water and hoards of snap-happy tourists in the summer.

Go Glacier Hiking in Iceland

Recommended by Ryazan from Everything Zany

If you are heading to Iceland in summer, you might want to consider to travel down to the Southern coast of the island to experience of the best things to see in Iceland.

Glacier Iceland top things to do in Iceland
Myrdalsjokull Glacier @shutterstock

A few hour drive from Reykjavik is the Solheim Glacier (Sólheimajökull).  The word “jökull” means glacier in Icelandic and it is one of the best tours to do in Iceland.

You can take a group tour bus to pick you up from your accommodation in Reykjavik or its an easy drive down via Route 1, you can also stop along the way to see the beautiful waterfalls, Seljandafoss and Skogafoss.

The glacier hike in Iceland was one of the most memorable experiences and best activities in Iceland.

Our guide was very experienced hiking in the icy conditions and shared very valuable stories and information about the Global warming and climate change and its harmful effects to our world.

The hike took us about a couple of hours, we started at the campsite at the edge of the glacier to do our safety briefing and instructions. Since the glacier preceded in such an alarming rate, the entry to the glacier was now around 30minutes trek from the campsite unlike before that is only a stone throw away.

It was my first time to trek on a glacial ice and it feels so surreal. The beautiful landscape of Iceland was truly mesmerizing as if you are on another planet.

I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone during the glorious summer days in Iceland, just remember to wrap up warm (yes, even in summer).

Check out Prices for a Glacier Hike in Iceland

Visit Seljavallalaug

Recommended by Kay from Jet Farer

One of the most spectacular geothermal swimming pools in the world is tucked away between the mountains in Southern Iceland and if you are asking yourself where to go in Iceland then visiting this place is your answer.

Seljavallalaug one of the best things to do in Iceland in summer
@shutterstock

Seljavallalaug, this hot mountain spring, is surrounded almost entirely by mountains and is a beautiful place to go for a warm dip.

Dipping your feet in, and soaking in the surrounding mountain views – this is a perfect place to chill. Because it requires straying a bit from the main Ring Road and hiking for a few minutes, this hideaway is significantly less tourist-filled than the nearby waterfalls or the Blue Lagoon.

While there, you can relax in the warm geothermal waters, or just dip your feet in and explore around some of the nearby hiking trails. Either way, Seljavallalaug is worth a visit for the sheer beauty and seclusion of this unique swimming pool.

Located within a few hours from Reykjavik, it’s an easy day trip from the city, or a nice stop on your Ring Road itinerary in Iceland.

To get to Seljavallalaug from Reykjavik, drive east on the Ring Road past Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Turn onto road 242 – Raufarfell.

Drive into that road for a few minutes until you see a gated pool area and a parking lot marked Seljavellir (this is not the pool). From the parking lot, hike on the dirt path towards the mountains about 20 minutes until you see the pool.

Swimming in Seljavallalaug is free of charge.

CONCULSION: PLACES TO VISIT IN ICELAND IN SUMMER

Iceland in summer is a perfect time to visit – though there might be crowds, it is great for road tripping the country. It is perfect for hikes, to chase waterfalls and spend time outdoors. Given the weather in summer, it is the so much fun to spend time in hot pools after a day of exploring and to enjoy the endless summer nights.

Stay safe and enjoy!

BEST & EASY DAY TRIPS FROM REYKJAVIK IN WINTER

Best day trips in winter from Reykjavik Cover

BEST REYKJAVIK DAY TRIPS IN WINTER

Headed to Iceland in winter and wondering about the best day trips from Reykjavik in winter?

If you head to Reykjavik in winter, you surely will be amazed by its stunning nature. While Iceland in summer is also breathtaking, winter is a totally different world.

Besides the short days (which wasn’t always easy on me to be honest though), Iceland in winter was just beyond magical. And while I based myself in Reykjavik, I did quite a few day trips and I am happy to share my favorite day tours in winter from Reykjavik.

Beautiful Iceland scenery winter

I did not rent a car because of the weather conditions, instead I just booked day tours from Reykjavik. And I must say, that was a smart decision. Booking tours in Iceland are easy – cancelling is easy as rescheduling is (I had to reschedule a few times due to weather conditions).

However, as already mentioned, the short days in Iceland in winter, can be challenging. At least the short days were for me.

I mean, it is cool to just sit in a bus and relax and be warned that you will not be able to enjoy the scenery to the fullest because it is dark. Most of the time it is just dark.

So, while the Reykjavik day trips are a lot of fun, make sure to bring a neck pillow and to download some music or audio books so you can enjoy that – because when you look out the window, you won’t see much except some darkness.

However, once you arrive at the destination there normally is daylight and you should be fine exploring the places.

What to PAck for Your Day Trips

Though Iceland in winter is not as cold as many think, it is still important to dress warm. Or better to dress in layers.

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: A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm wherever you are.

Gloves: A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. 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. A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily. 

Leggings: 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 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. 

Thermals: My favorite winter clothes are thermals. A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. You have to wear them on a cold day to believe what a wonderful invention it is!

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. 

Crampers: I bought my crampers in Iceland. I really thought I could make it without crampers but I was wrong. If you want to be able to walk and see places from different angles, then you will need crampers. They were a lifesaver and while I fell many times on my first day, I didn’t fall after I got them (and only got to see other people falling) because they help walking on ice.

Neck Pillow: Since you will sit in the bus for quite a while, I highly suggest getting yourself a neck pillow so you can sleep/relax in the bus.

So, now, without further ado, here my favorite winter day trips.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula 

If you ask me about my FAVORITE day trip from Reykjavik, then this will be my answer.

Snæfellsnes has earned the nickname ‘Iceland in Miniature’ because it’s home to many of the country’s classic sights and attractions. It’s a narrow peninsula in the North Atlantic Ocean, filled with spectacular scenery.

And it’s just a couple of hours’ drive north of Reykjavik.

Here, you’ll find gorges, waterfalls, lava fields, and black sand beaches. Along with the ancient and famous Snæfellsjökull volcano and a myriad of quaint Icelandic villages – here you have everything. You’ll even come across some golden sand beaches – a rare sight in Iceland.

The area is gorgeous during Iceland’s frigid winters. Freshly fallen snow blankets the dramatic landscapes, while the sunsets are long and beautiful.

A typical day trip to Snæfellsnes Peninsula includes stops at a few charming fishing villages, such as Arnarstapi and Grundarfjordur.

West of Iceland in December

And often, visitors will stop to admire Djúpalónssandur’s black sand beaches. 

A visit to Kirkjufell is also a popular choice. This 463m tall mountain is said to be the most photographed in the country, thanks to its striking and unique shape. It’s a particularly beautiful sight when capped with fresh winter snowfall.

Best day trips from Reykjavk, Iceland

Along the way, you’ll be able to take in stunning views of the surrounding fjords, cliffs, and lava fields. Making this a magical Icelandic day trip.

Tip: I was one of the very few of my group who was able to walk all the way to the waterfall. It was so icy and other people slipped before they even got there…Thanks to my crampers, I could carefully walk around and see more than most others.

Hraunfossar Waterfall, Deildartunguhver, Lava Cave, and Thermal Pools

The original tour I had booked git canceled and instead I was offered this one – and looking back, it was the best that could have happened because that day was one of my highlights. So, depending on what tour you book you could see all the places in one day.

Hraunfossar is a stunning waterfall a couple of hours’ drive northeast of Reykjavik. And it’s surrounded by a selection of other amazing attractions.

Hraunfossar waterfall tour from Reykjavik

A trip to the falls can comfortably be combined with stops at the Húsafell thermal pools, the Deildartunguhver hot spring, and the Lava Tunnel – Raufarholshellir,

In practice, the Hraunfossar is more like a series of smaller falls than one large one. The water flowing over them is glacial melt, pouring into the Hvita River. It’s a picturesque scene, and the striking azure of the water looks spectacular against the stark, black volcanic rock. In winter, the surrounding greenery turns to crisp white.

Though it is not the most popular place – and surely not one of the most famous and most popular day trips – I loved it. Every second (at least when I had daylight). This is the more a Iceland off-the-beathen-path day trip in winter – but the water color was just so striking, so I highly recommend it.

Nearby, you’ll find the outdoor thermal pools and hot tubs of Húsafell. Here, you can escape the winter chills by soaking in the wonderful, naturally heated waters.

Hot tubs of Húsafell

There are different tours offered – and most of my group decided on something else for this part of the day. So, I had all the pools there for myself. Seriously, no one was there in the winter time (that, of course, isn’t guaranteed though).

Then, head over to Raufarhólshellir which is the fourth-longest lava tube in Iceland. This lava cave is just 15 minutes away and I enjoyed the drive so it was worth it.

The cave is the chance to witness the inner working of a volcanic eruption – you can walk the path that flowed an eruption more than 5,000 years ago. And the guided tour will allow you to learn about the volcanic eruptions and its effect on the environment.

Though this part wasn’t my highlight it was interesting because it was completely different to the rest of the day.

Depending on the exact itinerary, you might add another stop on that day.

En route back to Reykjavik, you can stop at Deildartunguhver, which is considered to be Europe’s most powerful hot spring. It pumps out 97°C water at a rate of 180 liters/second and provides heating to a pair of Icelandic towns.

Wooden walkways lead visitors around the springs and through the rising steam. This stop normally will be short – but its again shows how stunning the country is.

If you find this tour or a similar tour – go for it. It is a beautiful, lesser-known day trip from Reykjavik in winter even though it was breathtaking.

Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon

The Golden Circle is a sightseeing route that is deserving of its name. It’s among the most popular things to do in Iceland and easily one of the best day trips from Reykjavik.

It’s basically a route that leads between 3 of Iceland’s most celebrated attractions, with some stunning scenery along the way.

The journey is roughly 230km in length, and can easily be driven in one day.

From Reykjavik, it winds east toward Thingvellir National Park, before continuing on to the Geysir Geothermal Area. And, finally, arriving at the Gullfoss waterfall before completing the loop by heading back to Reykjavik.

Thingvellir National Park at sunrise in Iceland_

Thingvellir National Park is a stunning area that has earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The park combines spectacular natural scenery with a rich history. Its geography is unique, and it was the site where Iceland’s civilization began.

The next stop, Geysir, is a hot spring area. It’s home to roughly a dozen geysers that blast hot water and steam high into the air. In fact, this site is where the term ‘geyser’ originated. And it’s a classic Iceland experience and since they erupt every few minutes you will see its eruption.

Geysir Geothermal Area as a day trip in winter from Reykjavik

The next stop, Gullfoss, is a roaring waterfall that’s a sight to behold.

December in Iceland, Golden Circle with Arzo Travels

Though this is a very touristy tour, I think, it is a must in winter. You can’t visit Reykjavik and skip the Golden Circle in winter. Also, these tours are offered very often and chances they might get canceled are very low.

Then after a wintery day of exploring, indulge in the gorgeous thermal pool at Secret Lagoon – the oldest of its kind in Iceland.

Some tours, however, make some additional stops en route – I joined the one with the Secret Lagoon. I have to admit that I am not the biggest pool person though it was an interesting experience. Alternatively, you can choose a tour without an additional stop or other stops.

Secret Lagoon in Iceland - less crowded than Blue Lagoon

Let´s continue with a few more recommendations for day trips from Reykjavik in winter.

The South of Iceland

The area surrounding the southern coast of Iceland is a beautiful region that boasts a range of spectacular attractions. I guess, that the South of Iceland is almost as popular as the Golden Circle.

Black Sand Beach with Arzo Travels

Most of these tours are easily accessible from Reykjavik. On a day trip here, you can head to the ocean to see the black sand beaches and dramatic cliffs of the south coast.

While you’re there, pay a visit to Vik, the most southerly village in Iceland. It’s quaint and gorgeous, set to the backdrop of rugged coastal cliffs and rock formations.

Black Sand Beach in Vik, a day tour from Reykjavik

There are also some spectacular waterfalls in the area. The amazing Skógafoss falls are a popular sight, with a wide torrent of water pouring over a 60-meter cliff.

Skógafoss Waterfall in winter in Iceland

The Seljalandsfoss falls are equally impressive, but they also allow you to step into a cave behind the cascade of water – if it is not too icey. The raw power of the falls and the spray that rises make for quite the exhilarating experience!

Another popular stop is the Sólheimajökull glacier, where you can explore a frozen wonderland made of white and blue ice. 

Solheimajökull in Iceland is one of the best day trips from Reykjavk

While touring the south of Iceland, you’ll undoubtedly pass a range of stunning mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and glaciers. So keep your eyes peeled.

As mentioned, the South of Iceland is one of the most visited areas and tours from Reykjavik are extremely popular. I – to be very honest – liked the West of Iceland better. Full stop.

Okay aaybe I should, however, add that it is still a beautiful day trip – even if I enjoyed the first two day trips much better.

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is easily one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. It’s a naturally heated, geothermal lagoon, that’s renowned for its striking blue color – giving the attraction its name.

Blue Lagoon in Iceland, where to stay
@shutterstock

4 out of 5 tourists to Iceland flock to soak in the wonderfully warm waters that are filled with a range of minerals. And it’s just a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, making it a crime to miss out on.

The blue water stands out perfectly against the dark volcanic rock that surrounds it. And the steam rising up from the surface just adds to the charm, making it a stunning scene and an otherworldly experience.

Winter is actually the best time to visit the lagoon, as that’s when it’s least crowded. The contrast of being in the silky, warm water with the icy winter conditions around you is an incredible experience, too. And you might even be fortunate enough to see the northern lights while you’re swimming if you go after dark (I didn’t but you might be one of the very few lucky people).

The lagoon even contains a swim-up bar area where you can get your fill of drinks right from the water. And all guests can make use of the silica mud masks that are included in the ticket price.

Just a side note: I did not see any real effect – after I spend time at the Dead Sea in Jordan my skin really glowed but here…not so much.

I enjoyed my time at the Blue Lagoon but it was NOT The highlight of my trip – I visited at the very last day of my trip (often, it is fully booked several weeks in advance and so you need to book early) and I had visited two other beautiful pools before.

Prices are high – and the crowds are there, so keep that in mind when you plan your Iceland itinerary.

CONCLUSION: EASY DAY TRIPS FROM REYKJAVIK IN THE WINTER MONTHS

Iceland in winter is stunning – and while Reykjavik is a great city to explore, I highly recommend to book yourself a few days trips and discover more of Iceland.

And since I am not a fan of driving in the winter months (at least in a country like Iceland) a road trip was not an option and doing different day trips from Reykjavik in winter are the best way to explore the country.

Stay safe and enjoy!

Safe Travels, Arzo

Travel Tips: Iceland in December

Visiting Iceland in December

Iceland in December?! What to Know Before Visiting

Iceland in December is…..interesting!

Iceland is probably one of the most stunning countries in the world, with a scenery so unique-looking that it’s hard to find its equal. And it looks as amazing in the summer months as it does in the winter months.

However, visiting Iceland in December also comes with some problems, and while I don’t say visiting in December is – per se – a bad idea, here are a few things to know when visiting in December. There are many amazing things to do in winter.

As a teacher, I cannot choose my holidays (yes, we have a lot of time off, but are not really flexible), so as I wanted to visit Iceland in winter, I had to go with December and here is what I realized.

December in Iceland, Golden Circle with Arzo Travels

P.S. The images in this post are not necessarily related to my written content 🙂

WHAT TO PACK FOR ICELAND IN DECEMBER

Though Iceland in the December is not as bad as many think, it is still important to dress warm. Or better to dress in layers.

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: A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm wherever you are.

Gloves: A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. 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. A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily. 

Leggings: 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 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. 

Thermals: My favorite winter clothes are thermals. A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. You have to wear them on a cold day to believe what a wonderful invention it is!

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. 

Crampers: I bought my crampers in Iceland. I really thought I could make it without crampers but I was wrong. If you want to be able to walk and see places from different angles, then you will need crampers. They were a lifesaver and while I fell many times on my first day, I didn’t fall after I got them (and only got to see other people falling) because they help walking on ice.

Check out my post on “what to wear in Iceland in winter” for more tips.

Aurora/ Northern Lights in December 

Yes, Aurora, the Northern Lights, do happen and they are not a myth.

Aurora is a natural light display in the Earth´s sky – mostly seen in the high-latitude regions. Iceland is one of the countries where Aurora shows quite well. 

Mountain Kirkjufell and Aurora in Iceland Northern Lights in Iceland
@shutterstock

In countries like Iceland, you can normally see them from late August to the beginning of April. 

But though I stayed in Iceland for 12 nights, I never really saw them. I booked a Northern Lights tour in Iceland that was cancelled several times because the sky was not clear enough and the chances of seeing them were very low. And when I finally went, I just saw greenish stripes – known as the Northern Lights.

And since I am a very chatty person, I kept asking people in Iceland if they happened to see them.

NONE really saw the Northern Lights (unless they were locals or people who had been staying in Iceland for a while).

You know who saw the lights? People´s cameras. Yep, the camera is much better at spotting and REALLY seeing the lights than our naked eyes. The Northern Lights always look much better on camera than in real life.

It does not mean you cannot see them at all, but they have to be very strong to see them – especially, if you expect them “dancing in the sky”. So, visit Iceland in December but don’t expect to REALLY see the Northern Lights. Though the lights can never be really predicted – that is the beauty of nature – there are better months to visit Iceland (probably September or late March/early April).

If you are happy with your camera spotting and photographing them, go for it and visit Iceland in December (though there is not even a guarantee for that). 

Places to see in December

Driving

Road tripping in Iceland is probably one of the best ways to experience the country and the Ring Road is one of the best road trips to take.

Driving in December in Iceland

In the summer. Not so much in the winter. Driving in Iceland in winter can be tricky

The Ring Road (or Route 1) is a national road in Iceland that runs around the island and connects most of the inhabited parts of the country, and has a length of about 1,332 kilometers.

Along the way, you will pass many of the main attractions in Iceland – and also get to see the lesser visited places in the north and east of the country. 

Most of the street is paved (with few exceptions where you only have gravel) – so it’s really perfect for anyone who likes to travel independently and see a lot of a country.

Then we have the F Roads that go through the highland of the country – in which you are only allowed to drive with 4×4 vehicles. It is not part of the Ring Road and a place that is well liked by those who actually drive it (not too many though).

BUT, these streets are closed in the winter months, which is, of course, for most of us, reason enough not to seriously consider driving them.

Driving the Ring Road sounds pretty amazing though – who needs to drive the F Roads if you have a perfect street that runs along the coast? 

Well, in winter, even the Ring Road might be very challenging.

No one really knows whether you can drive it or not – it all depends. On the weather, on the east route, on the day, on your car, on your driving skills, on your courage, and on many other things.

I have hardly ever done as much research for a trip as I did for my Iceland winter trip. And I read different opinions on whether you should/can drive the Ring Road or not.

As an experienced mountain driver myself – with little experience with driving in snow – I was still determined to drive before I was warned that it could be really dangerous.

Could.

And that is the thing with the extreme weather conditions in Iceland – while the area around Reykjavik and the Golden Circle (plus South Coast) are mostly fine to drive in December, it is hard to predict whether streets of the Ring Road will be open in December or not.

Sure, of course, heavy snow fall can also happen in other winter months, but December is probably one of the worst months to drive yourself around in Iceland.

So, 10 days before my arrival, there was a very heavy snowstorm, which cut many places in the North of Iceland off from the rest of the country. Streets were completely closed and there was no way of moving at all – so, even if you drive yourself, you might end up being stuck.

So, if you drive in Iceland in December, be aware that sticking to a schedule might be impossible and you might get stuck – but driving in the capital and in the south is normally fine.

Hot pools in December in Iceland

Tours and Activities 

Iceland is very touristy in the forms of tours and activities, and you can basically do any tour to any place you want.

Snow covered on glacier in December

Golden Circle Tour? South Coast of Iceland including the Diamond Beach? Secret Lagoon in winter? Everything is possible. Theoretically.

If you don’t drive yourself, you should book yourself into different activities because Reykjavik is interesting, but surely NOT the best place to see in Iceland. So, make sure to check out great Reykjavik day tours in winter.

And, since I only did guided tours myself and did not drive, I have gotten my share of experiences with tours in Iceland. 

The good news: all the companies I used were pretty good and everything went smoothly. I was allowed to reschedule tours – often very spontaneously – change pick-up locations, and more. 

 I can’t complain here. BUT….

Book yourself all the tours you are interested in, but be prepared that they will be cancelled. Not only the Northern Lights tour got cancelled a few times (because the sky was not very clear and the prediction of seeing them was low), but also other activities were cancelled.

Snowmobiling on a glacier was like a big dream that I paid a fortune for. Has that dream come true? 

No. It was one of the tours that I started taking (we went all the way up to the glacier), but once at the glacier, the weather conditions got so bad that there was no way of actually doing the trip.

So, if you do come to Iceland in December, be prepared that not all tours will take place – especially the more “exotic“ ones. 

So, you could do yourself a favor and plan in a buffer, so any cancelled tour(s) can be done on your spare day.

Don´t worry about money though – if tours are cancelled, you will be reimbursed (and if you go to a Northern Lights tour and don’t see them, then you will normally be offered a chance to do another tour the next day or get a voucher which is valid for 2 or 3 years).

Crowds

Like me, many people get off during Christmas and that is good for them. And it does not get any more romantic than spending a cozy night in a snow-covered little hut, and taking long strolls in a winter wonderland, right?!

Wrong.

Iceland in winter, Arzo Travels

Well, since many people somehow have the idea to visit Iceland in December, especially around Christmas, it gets busy.

It is not comparable with the crowds in the summer months, but if you visit the main attractions, like Gulfoss Waterfall or the Black Sand Beach, you will meet the crowds.

The good news is that many people don’t walk around a lot (as often there is some ice and places get extremely slippery), and so you just have to walk a few extra meters (crampers are the answer) and you will have the place to yourself.

If you don’t walk the extra steps, well, then you have to share the place with many others.

The amount of visitors quickly drops after New Year’s Eve and also in the other winter months, so if you don’t like crowds, don’t come in December.

Things to dknow about visiting Iceland in December

Expensive

Iceland is such a beautiful country and so budget-friendly. Said no one ever. Iceland is surely one of the most expensive countries in Europe (and probably in the world).

A taxi ride from the International Airport in Reykjavik to the city center can easily cost up to 200€ for 50 km – and that is no scam.

Food = expensive.

Tours = expensive

Peeing = expensive (oh, of course you can “pee for free,“ but in case you use paid toilets, you have to pay a fee – around 1.50€, which is twice as much as German paid toilets).

Souvenirs = expensive

Renting cars= expensive

Dining out= expensive

Oh, let´s not forget accommodations, which are…of course, also expensive.

So, you get my point. Iceland is an expensive country, but guess what? December is the most expensive winter month in which to visit.

West of Iceland in December

With the crowds, the prices increase – I probably don’t have to explain too much about that here. But if you can visit in November or January, you will automatically save quite a bit (or a lot) on accommodations (and if you rent cars, then there, too).

Weather

None of us expects bikini weather in Iceland in December, right? Good news: many people actually wear bikinis and swimwear even in December because it gets really hot. At least in the hot pools, which are all over Iceland and popular at any time of the year.

But of course, we have the rightful expectation of cold weather (probably with some snow and ice ) in December. 

So, expect snow and ice in the Icelandlic winter months.

And I must say that weather in December is actually more pleasant that I expected it to be. It was cold (around 0 degrees Celsius), but not freezing cold. At least, not for Reykjavik. And not compared to winters in Canada for example.

Weather in December in Iceland

At times, we had -8 degrees celsius plus cold wind – BUT even that was okay.

Weather can never be predicted and that is okay. Just be prepared that it CAN be extremely cold in December (locals told me, that they had -20 degrees few days prior to my visit).

And with the cold, there also came storms and a lot of wind – especially so if you are in front of a stand waterfall or at the coast it can be pretty tough, so make sure to dress warm.

And since icy streets and icy paths are common, I highly recommend the crampers I mentioned before.

However, what I did not expect was THAT much rain. For several days, it rained without much break – maybe the rain came with the English people who work in larger numbers in Iceland. They surely brought the rain as it is quite uncommon to have that much rain in Iceland (felt more like a British winter). So, a day in th ehot pool is definitely one of the best things to do in Iceland.

Though rain can happen at any time of the year, cold in combination with a lot of rain is quite frustrating and something I did not expect. But that was not actually the worst….

Waterfalls in December in Iceland with Arzo Travels

Daylight

From now on, I will forever cherish and appreciate daylight! Because this is something you will hardly come across during Icelandic winter days.

And this was the biggest struggle for me….

I did my research. I knew that days are short in December – but I didn´t know that days in December are short!

December is the month with the shortest days, and the shortest day is the 21st of December. But unless you have visited a country with days THAT short, you don’t really know what to expect.

Again, I did my research and yet I was shocked by HOW short the days are.

So, what does it mean in terms of traveling to Iceland in December? 

When you wake up, it is dark (and I assume you wake up all before 11 am, or?). It slowly gets lighter before 11 am, but sunrise is normally around 11:30 am.

Reykjavik in December before sunrise
Reykjavik at 10:40….not pm but 10:40 AM

So, this means that if you do a tour (or drive yourself), you will miss out on all the amazing scenery Iceland has to offer.

Tours often start around 8 or 9 pm, and though I always stared out of the bus window, I could not see anything. I mean, I definitely deserve an A for trying, but still failed very badly to actually see something. 

Most people took a nap on the bus and I can’t blame them. Because there is not much else you can do on the bus. Often, it takes 2 or 3 hours to get from Reykjavik to the main attractions (Golden Circle, Vik, etc.). So, you are sitting in the dark and you know there is something amazing out there in the dark – and yet you still miss out on the amazing scenery.

And normally, by the time you arrive at the sights, daylight is there. Yes – daylight does not completely skip Iceland in December, but you have to be quick to see some of the places you want to see because the sun makes only short appearances. 

So, are you a slow traveler? Then December is surely not the time for you – you have to squeeze in as much as possible to see at least a bit of the country. I mean, where is the fun in seeing the mountains or waterfalls if it is dark? 

Then, on the way back, it is dark again because the sun sets around 3:30 pm, and after 4 pm, it is dark again. So, once again, you can look out of the window, but you won’t see much. Tip: Try to sit n the front seat, so at least you can see a bit thanks to spotlights.

Sunrise in Iceland in winter

Coming from Northern Germany, I am used to shorter days – but NOT that short.

If you plan to stay for more than 3 or 4 days, it can actually become depressing if you are not used to it.

So, of all the above-mentioned December problems, this was the hardest to deal with. With 1 or 2 more hours of daylight, my perception of Iceland and the scenery would probably be even better.

So, make sure to see as much as you can and make sure to bring your Vitamin D pills because that is surely something your body will need.

Winter in Iceland at suunrise

FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING ICELAND IN DECEMBER

While I still am amazed with Iceland – and think that my December winter trip to Iceland was unique and will always be one of my most special trips, I do not recommend visiting Iceland in December.

There are always pros and cons for each month and it is about how well you can handle certain aspects. If it weren’t for the very short days, I would not have minded all the other issues that traveling in Iceland in December brought along. As far as I can tell, the scenery was amazing – but so it is in other winter months, so take sure to visit at the right time for you!

If you are still looking for the perfect place to stay in Iceland, check out this accommodation guide.

Safe Travels, Arzo

Best Things to Do in Iceland in Winter

Best Things to Do in Iceland in Winter + TRAVEL TIPS

If you are planning your Iceland winter trip you might be wondering about what to do in Iceland – and this post will help you to find out about the best things to do in Iceland in winter and you’ll also find some travel tips for your trip to Iceland in winter.

Is there any travel destination hotter than Iceland right now? I doubt it, though literally, Iceland is anything but hot, this little island in the northern part of Europe has become one of the must-visit countries. So, while I visited Iceland in December/January, it is a great destination to visit throughout the year.

While I was super active in Iceland – and did quite a lot in 10 days – I did not get to see everything and so I have asked other travel bloggers to name their favorite thing to do in Iceland in winter.

So, here is what they have told us about the best Iceland winter activities – but you will also find my personal favorite activities to do in Iceland in the winter.

Beautiful Iceland scenery winter

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.

TRAVEL TIPS FOR ICELAND IN THE WINTER

I have written a very detailed post on visiting Iceland in December – where I have spoken about the very mixed feelings I have about visit during the time.

It is magical and amazing – but there was some ugly.

However, if you visit in the winter months, check out this winter travel tips for Iceland.

WEATHER IN WINTER IN ICELAND

In general, Iceland is quite cold. In summer, you do not have the hot summe day but surprisingly though, winter in Iceland is pretty mild and only a bit colder than countries in Western Europe.

Temperatures in Iceland´s capital, Reykjavík, ranges from about -10 °C – almost 10 °C. The average temperature is just above freezing which is surely bearable if you dress appropriately.

It does get colder in the North of Iceland.

However, when I visited Iceland in December/January I was surprised to see how often it actually rains. Though I was told that the amount of rain is not typical, be prepared for a lot of rain – especially in Reykjavik.

The winter season is quite long – and last from November until March.

Daylight in these months is…rare. So, short days mean less amount of time to do proper sightseeing in December (so keep that in mind when planning your itinerary). In December sun rises after 11 am and sun sets at around 3:30 pm…Yes, it is that bad.

WHAT TO PACK FOR ICELAND IN THE WINTER

Though Iceland in the winter is not as bad as many think, it is still important to dress warm. Or better to dress in layers.

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: A knitted beanie is a perfect solution for keeping the warmth in while you venture out. A hat will keep you toasty warm wherever you are.

Gloves: A pair of gloves can do wonders for your mobility, dexterity, and comfort. 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. A turtleneck sweater is perfect as a garment to wear underneath your jacket, while the scarf can be removed easily. 

Leggings: 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 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. 

Thermals: My favorite winter clothes are thermals. A quality set of thermals is your key to enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. You have to wear them on a cold day to believe what a wonderful invention it is!

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. 

Crampers: I bought my crampers in Iceland – I thought I could make it without crampers but I was wrong. If you want to be able to walk and see places from different angles, then you will need crampers. They were a lifesaver and while I fell many times on my first day, I didn’t fall after I got them (and only got to see other people falling) because they help walking on ice.

For a full guide on what to wear in Iceland check out this post.

HOW TO GET AROUND IN ICELAND IN WINTER

While road tripping is surely an amazing way to discover the country, driving in winter is challenging. I did a lot of research and decided against driving myself – so, if you are not an experienced winter driver (plus mountain driver) think twice – booking tours might be the best option.

Public transportation in Iceland is not amazing and you basically have two options: driving yourself or booking guided tours. My advice: opt for the second one.

WHERE TO STAY IN WINTER

Most activities listed here are in or near Reykjavik – you can visit most places here if you do day tours from Reykjavik. So, I recommend making Reykjavik your base and then head to most destinations.

However, you can also do a road trip and stay overnight in other areas. 

Check out the best places to stay in Iceland.

BEST THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND IN THE WINTER MONTHS

So, here are the best activities for the winter months in Iceland. 

Chill at The Blue Lagoon

Visiting the Blue Lagoon is one of the best places to visit in Iceland during the winter. And thus it can be busy (I highly recommend booking your experience in advance).

Top Things to do in Iceland The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the best places to visit in Iceland in winter
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It is the perfect place to visit at the end of your trip – when you can relax in the steamy hot mineral water. There’s no better way to enjoy a break from the freezing cold temperatures in winter while being warm.

There is a swim-up bar – so grab your drink and wander to the outer edges of the Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is only about 30 minutes from the airport, so it makes sense to visit after you land or on your last day before heading to the airport. Give yourself plenty of time – I spent about 4 hours there but if I had company I probably would have stayed all day. There are buses that will take to from the airport to the lagoon, or you can rent a car and drive yourself. This part is quite easy to drive – even in the winter. Check out the latest bus going to the airport because they do not run late.

Check out Prices for a Day Trip from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon

See Iceland’s Vik Beach

Recommended by Talek from Travels with Talek

Iceland’s Vik Beach is otherworldly and mysterious in the winter – and one of the best tourist attractions in Iceland.

The village it is named for is the southernmost town in Iceland about a 110 miles (180 km) drive southeast of the capital city Reykjavik.  The easiest and most efficient way to get there is by car or tour bus from Reykjavik. Even though it has a small population, Vik the is biggest town in the area and an important stopping point mostly due to its amazing beach with its black sand.

The sand is black in Vik Beach due to the volcanic eruptions that have deposited lava and ash over the centuries.  In the winter, the black sand and the white ice make for an eerie combination. Are you on earth or on a distant moon in a frigid and forbidding galaxy?

The otherworldly aspect of Vik Beach in winter is exacerbated by the ocean’s reputation for rushing up on the shore, grabbing unsuspecting visitors and dragging them into the cold waters of the North Atlantic. The nearby basalt rock formations and caves complete the picture of a ghostly yet beautiful landscape.

Iceland’s Vik Beach in winter is not a place you visit, it is a place you experience and one of the top places to see in Iceland.

Go Horseback Riding in Iceland

Recommended by Natascha and Cameron from The World Pursuit

Places to visit in Iceland
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Just recently we went horseback riding in Iceland and consider it one of the top things to do in Iceland.

While you’re driving around Iceland you will more than likely see hundreds and hundreds of horses everywhere you look. These Icelandic horses are a special breed that can only be found in Iceland. What’s so special about them? Well for one they are much smaller than a regular horse and many people confuse them for ponies – they are not.

They also have a very distinctive gait style called the Tolt. The Tolt is a natural and fluid gait that is decently fast and one foot is always touching the ground.

We decided we had to try horseback riding in the wild Icelandic countryside near Vamahlid to see what this Tolt was all about. For two whole hours, we were gallivanting through meadows, rivers, and even near some glaciers which were magical.

Of course, you can do this activity in the summer, but I prefer to go in the winter as you start to feel like you are really in ICE-Land and it is much less crowded! You can find horse riding stables all over the county.

Check out Prices for Horseback Riding in Iceland

Visit the Mývatn Nature Baths

Recommended by Siddharth and Shruti from Siddharth and Shruti

Iceland places to visit, Myvatn Naturebaths, a geothermal hot lagoon in Northeast Iceland. Places to see in Iceland
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Iceland is truly a winter wonderland and we are so glad that we visited in winter. One of the best experiences in Iceland in winter is to get into a geothermal pool at the end of the day.

It is not just soothing those sore muscles but it is also healing. Instead of the famous blue lagoon, we decided to try some alternate geothermal pools in Iceland and we narrowed down to Mývatn Nature Baths. After a day’s hike, we cannot begin to explain how amazing it felt to dip into the toasty 36 – 40°C pools.

There are two pools here. One is warmer than the other. If you are visiting in summer you can try the cooler one.

There is also a smaller hot tub nearby for that extra warm water that may make you want to just stay there for hours. The Mývatn Nature Baths are located in a geothermal area east of the Grjotagja (Game of Thrones fans will probably know this cave thanks to Jon and Ygritte) and west of Namafjall.

It is marked correctly on Google Maps, so reaching there is a breeze. There is parking within the premises.

What you need to know beforehand is that like most geothermal baths in Iceland, there are separate shower rooms for men and women. You are expected to take a shower naked in the communal shower. If you are a bit shy, just be mentally prepared for people strutting around naked without a care in the shower rooms.

There are lockers for your valuables and there is also a small restaurant if you feel peckish after your soak.

Mývatn Nature Baths was a fantastic experience and if you are super lucky you might even catch the northern lights while you are there in the winter!

Check out Prices for a Day Trip to Lake Mývatn And The Nature Baths

See the Northern Lights

Recommended by Hélène from Flight to Somewhere

Top 10 things to do in Iceland - Mountain Kirkjufell and Aurora in Iceland
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Iceland is a great place to go hunting for the Northern Lights between September and mid-April.

There are a few different ways you can do that – bus tour, boat tour, staying in a rural hotel with the option of a Northern Lights wakeup call or renting a car and going out on your own.

One of the key prerequisites needed for a display of Northern Lights is clear dark skies, which means that the tours take place at night and are weather-dependent – they will get canceled if the cloud cover is too thick.

You will also have to get away from the populated areas due to the light pollution they produce. If you want to book one of the tours, my recommendation would be to get a date at the beginning of your trip, so that you can rebook if you don’t see anything – most of the tours allow you to go again for free in that case.

Tip: Do not plan anything for very early the next day as you are unlikely to get back to the hotel before midnight.

Finally, if you are going in winter, dress warm – standing outside in the snow at night got very cold very quickly for me!If you are planning to explore on your own, make sure to check the Aurora forecast from Iceland’s Met Office before you set out, which will show you the cloud cover and the activity level.

Check out Prices for Northern Lights Tours

Visit Seljavallalaug

Recommended by Kay from Jet Farer

Places to see in Iceland - Seljavallalaug Iceland - Best places to visit in Iceland
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One of the most spectacular geothermal swimming pools in the world is tucked away between the mountains in Southern Iceland and if you are asking yourself where to go in Iceland then visiting this place is your answer.

Seljavallalaug, this hot mountain spring, is surrounded almost entirely by mountains and is a beautiful place to go for a warm dip. Although it’s open year round, the best time to go is the fall, since it’s outside of peak tourist season but still has good weather and sunny days.

I went in November and enjoyed spending a bit of time finding this hidden place, dipping my feet in, and soaking in the surrounding mountain views. Because it requires straying a bit from the main Ring Road and hiking for a few minutes, this hideaway is significantly less tourist-filled than the nearby waterfalls or the Blue Lagoon.

While there, you can relax in the warm geothermal waters, or just dip your feet in and explore around some of the nearby hiking trails. Either way, Seljavallalaug is worth a visit for the sheer beauty and seclusion of this unique swimming pool.Located within a few hours from Reykjavik, it’s an easy day trip from the city, or a nice stop on your Ring Road itinerary in Iceland.

To get to Seljavallalaug from Reykjavik, drive east on the Ring Road past Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. Turn onto road 242 – Raufarfell. Drive into that road for a few minutes until you see a gated pool area and a parking lot marked Seljavellir (this is not the pool). From the parking lot, hike on the dirt path towards the mountains about 20 minutes until you see the pool.

Swimming in Seljavallalaug is free of charge.

Experience ATV at the Black Lava Sand Beach

Recommended by Laura from The Down Lo

Called the “Land of Fire and Ice” for its glaciers and geysers, one example of Iceland’s fiery landscape is the black lava sand beaches.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is the most famous and one of the “Game of Thrones” filming locations. Located off Ring Road in South Iceland near the town of Vik, it’s about 110 miles from Reykjavik.

Not a beach to feel the sand between your toes, the ground is quite rocky, made of hardened basalt lava. In fact, the landscape looks more like the moon than paradise.

Giant angular columns called Gardar guard the cliffside like jagged walls, reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and there are two notable freestanding rock monoliths called Reynisdrangar that jut out from the sea.

Legend has it they’re trolls that got caught in daylight and were turned to stone.

You can visit the area on your own, but one of the best ways to explore is on an ATV-Quad safari. It’s a heart pumping, bumpy ride that’s quite wild at times, but definitely an unforgettable, otherworldly adventure.

It was one of my extreme outdoor challenges as part of a weeklong tour to become a Certified Viking – truly a unique thing to do in Iceland.

Check out Rates for ATV Tours in Iceland

CONCLUSION: WHAT TO DO IN ICELAND IN WINTER

Iceland surely is a winter wonderland – and yet so different than other winter wonderlands like Switzerland.

Okay, guys, these are the top things to do in Iceland in winter. I hope you have found enough reasons to add Iceland on your bucket list and got a good idea on what to do in Iceland and the best places to visit.

Safe Travels, Arzo

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