Thinking about Iceland? You don’t have to wait for the summer. Iceland is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination with cheap flights and unlimited stop overs. We took advantage of this on our way to Germany for Christmas.
Below are some of our favorite spots to give you some ideas of what to do in Iceland over the winter.
Note: When we were planning our trip, we were expecting to only have 3 hrs of sunlight to do stuff while freezing our fingers off. To our pleasant surprise, you can plan for double the time at temperatures hovering around 0°C. This was especially nice for pictures because you have a 2 hrs of sunrise conditions and 2 hrs of sunset conditions that made the sky light up in pink. So enough about what to expect; let’s talk about what to do.
1. ENTER AN ICE CAVE
We had a lot of fun taking a super jeep over glaciers to find an ice cave. These caves are the result of pressure from thousands of years pushing the ice melt through canyons in the glacier to finally surface only to disappear after the winter. This temporary nature of “frozen” time brought me to awe.
2. GLACIER LAGOON
Do I need to say more? It was awesome seeing the excitement every time the geyser erupted. Although there is only one active one, don’t worry if you miss an eruption when you get there because it erupts every 10–15 minutes. We had a ton of fun watching the eruptions and even got splashed on once — we survived.
4. VATNAJÖKULL GLACIER TONGUE
Although we couldn’t do a hike on the glacier due to weather, the walk to this tongue was a very good alternative and the views were stunning. We were told that it was featured in many movies.
7. ALTHING — ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
This UNESCO World Heritage site sits at an accessible spot where the European and North American tectonic plate separates.
There is a nice path that you can take between the plates to get to the historical assembly area. And if you come during warmer weather, you can even dive between the plates.
8. BLACK SAND BEACH
This stop was one of our favorites! I could stand here for hours listening to the roar of the ocean.
9. BLUE LAGOON
Going to Iceland in the middle of winter: base layer — check, gloves — check, swimsuit — check !?!? Yes, you read it right, swimsuit. No matter what time of year you are visiting Iceland, swimsuit is a must pack item. Situated between the airport and Reykjavik on a lava field, the Blue Lagoon hot bath is a great way to begin a vacation.
Soaking in the 38°C blue water will make all your worries go away. Although there is a rotten egg smell from the sulfur, it is all worth it! Plus, there is a bar in the middle of the pool to clench your thirst. 🙂
Hint: if you can, I would get there a little before 10am to avoid the line. Nevertheless, if you get there after 10am, you can always pay for the higher priced package to skip the line. The good thing with the package is that you also get 2 drinks in the pool and a welcome bubbly at the fantastic restaurant. This time around, we learned our lesson and got to the restaurant early to get the best seat in the house and ate a delicious lunch before heading to our next spot.
Although there’s plenty of natural beauty to checkout in Iceland, it would be a shame to visit Iceland without strolling around Reykjavik. It’s a great city with many cute cafe’s and shops. For a great view, you can head up to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church.
ESSENTIALS — WHERE TO FEAST
Hands down our favorite – a modern Icelandic restaurant.
If you are foodies like us, you probably heard of a variety of “unique” Icelandic dishes. We tried to get a taste of them all. Some I want to have again (whale and horse), while others were more of a once in a lifetime thing to know how it tastes (fermented shark — they had to serve it in a sealed jar, that should have given us a hint).
You can get a taste of all 3 at this traditional Icelandic restaurant with a nice, cozy atmosphere.
The fish was so fresh at this hip Icelandic Asian fusion restaurant. You can even have puffin there!
SEA BARON (SÆGREIFINN)
Stop in for some lobster soup and grilled fish at this low key local restaurant.