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