As you probably saw on Instagram, we travelled to Iceland last month… for the second time this year! The first time was over Memorial Day Weekend, and we drove along the east coast of the country. This time we stayed outside of Reykjavik and did day trips from there. We loved our first trip, but we loved winter in Iceland even more. We knew what we could expect and it was so much more relaxing having a home-base instead of constantly being on-the-go. Not to mention, winter in Iceland is just breathtaking!
We left on a Friday night and woke-up early Saturday morning in Reykjavik (well, technically Keflavik). Like most tourists, we headed straight to Blue Lagoon to take a dip in the infamous geothermal water. It was the perfect way to freshen up post redeye. To avoid crowds we booked the first slot at 8 am when the lagoon opens. If you are planning a trip to the Blue Lagoon, make sure you buy your tickets well in advance, especially in peak season. We reserved our tickets about a month ahead of our trip and got the “Premium” because we wanted a robe and slippers. I definitely recommend going with the “Comfort Package” at a minimum since you don’t get a towel with the “Standard Package,” and I bet you weren’t planning on packing one!
Once we got our towels and robes, we did a quick sprint from indoors into the lagoon. It was only about 20 degrees outside and we only had on our bathing suits. The water was surprisingly not as hot as I had expected, but I heard that the temperature varies depending on what part of the lagoon you’re in. We swam around, exploring the different caves and bridges and then wandered over to the other side of the lagoon to put on our silica and algae masks. It was practically empty and pitch black outside. We stayed a couple of hours and watched the sun rise, which was truly a magical experience!
One thing no one tells you about winter in Iceland is the sun’s brighteness. We knew that we would only be getting 4-6 hours of sunlight a day. We did not know just how blinding the sun would be. It made driving challenging, but it was gorgeous to look at as the passenger. The sky was in this constant sunrise/sunset stage and full of colors.
We made Ion Hotel our home-base after we had a positive experience there our last trip. The hotel is about an hour away from Reykjavik, seemingly in the middle of no where. It was actually a great location for the activities we had planned. It’s right near Thingvellir National Park, one of the stops on the Golden Circle, and not too far of a drive to the glaciers where we went snowmobiling and hiking. Plus, the hotel has amazing amenities like their Northern Lights lounge and outdoor hot pool. Despite the snow fall, we spent some time in the outdoor hot pool. It was like our personal mini Blue Lagoon, and we loved it!
For the following day, we didn’t book any activities so we could have a slow morning as we weren’t yet adjusted to the time difference. We had planned to search for natural hot springs, but instead we drove the Golden Circle. We had hoped to do that the first day but ended up napping – whoops! Along the way, we stopped at Fridheimer for lunch, which was a highlight of the trip.
Fridheimer is a tomato and horse farm that has a restaurant right inside their greenhouse. Since we were first-timers, we went with the classic endless tomato soup and freshly baked bread option. It was such an experience eating right in the greenhouse. The staff explained every detail to us, and you could taste and see how fresh everything was. There was even a potted basil plant on the table that we were able to cut from.
After lunch, we stopped by the geysir and Selfoss waterfall. With the wind picking up, it was starting to feel like the winter in Iceland I was imagining. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland this time of year, make sure you bring a great pair of winter boots. Prior to our trip, I had purchased these Sorel Tivoli boots because I knew my Uggs weren’t going to cut it. They truly kept my feet warm, which is pretty miraculous. They’re waterproof, have a microfleece lining, and actually have decent grip. I wore them every. single. day.
After de-frosting, we headed into Reykjavik for dinner like we had done the night before. Our first trip we were pretty unimpressed with the food, but this time we were hitting it right. We found less touristy restaurants and the food was fantastic! It is worth mentioning though that the food in Iceland is pricey. Even at more casual restaurants, dinner entrees are typically $40-$50. With drinks and appetizers, you can quickly rack up a bill!
We had a quiet evening because the following two days we had booked tours to go snowmobiling and glacier hiking. Stay tuned for a Winter in Iceland Itinerary Part 2 coming next week! In the meantime, you can get the full itinerary with details delivered to your inbox right here.