I recently returned from a trip to Iceland in December with my sister, which surprisingly is a great time to go! It seems to be the calm before the more invariable winter storms. We did A LOT of research prior to going on this trip, and to make it simple for all of you, below is an aggregate of the research and experience itself. Enjoy!!
Just as a bit of background I have traveled significantly over the years including 15 countries in Europe, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, China and Argentina. Because of these experiences and the research I conduct myself prior to traveling, I thought it would be super helpful to provide you with a detailed description of everything you need to know for traveling to Iceland in Winter (tips to traveling to Iceland in winter).
Before you go:
We read a lot about needing to book tours and trips prior to arriving in Iceland, unlike traveling to most other places I have been before. We found, however, that flights, hostels, and Blue Lagoon are all that really need to be booked further in advance. Though we had most all of our trips booked already, there seemed to still be openings on our trips and we were able to book and reschedule trips while we were there!
What to pack for Winter in Iceland:
This is probably my favorite topic, shocking, I know! If you did not already know from my posts, I am into packing what is comfortable, affordable, versatile, and of course fashionable. While beautiful, Iceland in the winter can be unpredictable, therefore you have to be prepared for it all, at all times. In this section I provide a detailed description of what I packed and what I would recommend packing based on my experience. The key to packing is being able to LAYER. Click here for the full section on what to pack for traveling to Iceland in the Winter.
Day Trips from Reykjavik:
We ultimately chose to do day trips from Reykjavik that were all led by tour companies as opposed to driving
or doing overnight trips. We read a lot about driving in winter conditions and decided it was not worth taking the risk.
We chose to do day trips as opposed to overnight trips because we wanted to have more flexibility with moving
things around based on weather changes. This section includes day trips to the following places:
Golden Circle, Snorkeling in Silfra, Blue Lagoon, Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and the South Coast.
These are the best day trips from Reykjavik. Click here to read the full section on Day Trips from Iceland.
Cheap eats in Reykjavik:
Every night we were researching cheap eats in Reykjavik. The cheap eats / budget eats needed to also be top rated! Just as a warning...your average meal will be about $20 per person. Yes, that is for the cheap eats in Iceland. I am from Chicago and I was traveling with my sister from NYC and we both consider Reykjavik very expensive. You do not have the variety of cheaper options like you do in the states and most other countries. Fun fact: eggs are about $10 for a dozen! We did our best to find the top rated, budget dinners in Reykjavik. Click here to read the full details on Cheap Eats in Reykjavik. Click here to read the full reviews on top budget restaurants in Reykjavik.
Places to stay in Reykjavik:
Reykjavik is expensive and that includes the hotels and hostels. We traveled at the ages of 24 and 27, so we decided to stay in hostels for a more social atmosphere. Though we did choose private rooms in the hostels for a bit more privacy. We chose two different hostels to stay at so that we could get different experiences and be in two different parts of the city. Our choices were based on the top rated hostels from various hostel review websites. Overall we were happy with this decision, but a private room, even in a hostel will cost you about $150 per night. We stayed several nights in the Downtown Reykjavik Hi Hostel and then Kex hostel. These were the best hostels to stay at in Reykjavik. Click here to read the full details on places to stay in Reykjavik. Click here to read the full reviews on best places to stay in Reykjavik.
Other general tips for traveling to Iceland in Winter:
Traveling to Iceland in winter is one of the most beautiful times to be there- you can really embrace the whole land of Fire and Ice concept. You have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights in winter, and with only around 4 hours of daylight each day you get to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and sunsets!
Renting a car is a great way to see more of the country and save money, but it might not be the best idea unless you are confident and experienced in driving in all types of winter conditions and fine risking issues that might occur along the way (stranded on the side of the road if conditions are awful). We only had a week in Iceland, so we decided to stick with just day trips from Reykjavik with reputable tour companies. We spoke with several groups of people that did rent cars and each group had a story about sliding of the road. Iceland takes driving in the winter conditions very seriously, so if you decide to rent a car in Iceland in the winter, do some research on what the signs on the side of the roads mean for weather conditions.
To get from the Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik and from Reykjavik back to the Keflavik Airport, I would suggest Grayline.is. They are the most affordable option with frequent buses running to and from the city. We chose the option that brought us directly to our hostel, note that you transfer at the central bus terminal in Reykjavik to a smaller bus that will then take you to your destination. Depending on the location of where you are staying, you might still have to walk a bit.
I travel every week for work and read a lot about WOW Air before deciding to purchase my ticket with them from Chicago to Iceland. I would recommend reading this review prior to booking your WOW Air Flight. Click here for the full review of WOW Air.
Photography in Iceland:
I consider myself a well-researched photography enthusiast (no I am not a professional photographer). Click here for my overview of photography in Iceland. The goal of this page is to provide you with some simple advice that will be helpful as you explore Iceland. This section is meant for photography beyond your phone. If you're not into photography, then your phone will do wonders! Just make sure to buy a waterproof case on Amazon and you should be good to go. Click here for photography in Iceland recommendations.