I am home from Iceland safe and sound! What a freaking trip!! The most beautiful country I have ever been to and definitely in my top 3 of favorites (along with Hungary and a TIE of Croatia/Dominican Republic). I went on this trip with 2 of my best friends from high school, one of their boyfriends and Kyle, and to be honest there is not much I would change from our Iceland experience. We seriously got so lucky with the weather we were given, especially because we went at the end of January. Weather can change in an instant in Iceland and we were only met with that once. Where it literally went from bright and sunny to blizzard in 5 mins with a forecast of 0% snow. SO THERES THAT.
We were in Iceland for four days/three nights and decided to stay in Reykjavik for all three nights (Airbnb) and rented a car. To start I highly recommend renting a car. There is so much to see outside of the main city and relying on tour companies to get you everywhere can be tricky. Also in the winter there are things you will want to pop out and see, or photos you will want to capture on the side of the road, that you won’t be able to do unless you are in full control. With that being said – I would definitely recommend traveling with a good driver and someone that feels comfortable driving in the snow! We overall had no issues, scares or accidents navigating Iceland – it is very easy!
Looking back I think I would maybe change staying in Reykjavik all three nights and instead stay in the town of Vik one night. I will get into further detail about this below but we ended up doing a lot of back and forth driving that we could have potentially spread out easier with staying in different towns. However! We all did LOVE Reykjavik and Iceland can be pretty desolate outside of the capitol city, so being surrounded by people/locals at night was very comforting!
OKAY. So now to get into a day by day breakdown!
We took a direct flight from Newark, NJ to Iceland (KEF airport) and my friends from high school flew from Cincinnati and met us in Newark where we all took the same flight to Reykjavik. With the time difference we took off at 5:30pm EST and landed at 6am in Iceland. So we definitely had to try and get some sleep on the plane lol. Once we landed we rented a car from Orange (Geysir) Rental Cars, which is an Iceland based company, and had a TERRIFIC experience with them. They had four wheel drive and automatic cars all for a great price. Almost about $200 less than Budget.
Since we landed early we had to try and find a restaurant that was open to eat however traveling in Iceland in the winter there is only about 6 hours of daylight. Sun rises at 10:30am and sets at 4:30pm. Therefore many places do not open until about 10am, except for a Subway which was randomly open for 24 hours. This ended up being our first food experience of the trip and we were absolutely fine with that because we were starving! From there I highly suggest visiting the Blue Lagoon, if it is on on your list. If you fly into KEF the Lagoon is only about a 15 min drive from the airport and opens at 8am. We got there right when it opened and were greeted with about 2 hours of darkness before the sun rose around 10:30am which was absolutely beautiful. Many blogs will tell you this but make sure to not get your hair too wet as the lagoon can damage/dry it out due to the minerals!
I really LOVED the Blue Lagoon! We got there early enough that we beat the tourism busses and were able to enjoy it without feeling crowded. I also read that the Blue Lagoon is not that warm which I found to be very false. I thought the Lagoon was HOT, some parts even maybe too hot. Which is saying a lot because we were there in freezing temperatures! For a first timer in Iceland I definitely think you should make this a stop on your trip. It is super relaxing and there is even a swim up bar and mask bar that we took full advantage of! If traveling there for a second time I find this to be something we could skip and hitting up another natural Iceland hot spring instead – there are lots!!
From the Blue Lagoon we were a short 30min drive to our airbnb in Reykjavik which was right downtown and in a PERFECT location. We could walk absolutely everywhere. We walked around the town and had lunch at BRASS which we all loved. It is mostly burgers, but the staff was so sweet and the food incredible. I would definitely go back. That night we went to the Lebowski Bar which was recommended by a friend and offers a HUGE White Russian menu! We all got the cocoa puff one and loved it! We ended the night listening to live music at an Irish pub called Irish Man and making friends with locals – who are all SO NICE. Couldn’t get enough of them!
The next morning we had breakfast at Sandholt Bakery which opens up at 7am for those looking for early dining spots in Reykjavik, as there aren’t a lot. We then decided to venture south hitting up a few spots we had found on a map. We started driving in daylight because we were still a but nervous about the roads which ended up being a good idea because of the snow drifts that are caused by the high Icelandic winds! We drove out to the Black Sand Beach which was about 2.5 hrs away from the city of Reykjavik! The weather became super intense when we reached the beach when the snow/wind picked up but it was still a fabulous experience and something I would recommend! The only rule there was to not get near the water as the current is crazy intense!
From there we travelled to 2 waterfalls that we really wanted to see which were Skogass and Svartifoss! Skogass was my absolute favorite of the trip and I highly recommend walking up the steps to the top of this waterfall, there are a lot, but it is worth it to see the view from above! All which are pictured below.
We ended the day by stopping for Iceland’s famous hot dogs and watching the sunset from the Svartifoss Waterfall. Looking back on this day I would have loved to have driven a bit further to have reached the town of Vik and stayed there for the night, because of the amount of hours we drove that day there and back. However it was an amazing experience with no regrets and we were able to make it back to Reykjavik for a great seafood meal at Harry’s!
Our 3rd day we had booked in advance a snowmobiling and ice cave tour near the Gullfoss Waterfall through Arctic Adventures (exact link to the tour we did HERE). The tour started at 10:15am so to be safe we left our Airbnb in Reykjavik at 7:15am & Kyle drove us through the darkness to the town which was about an hour and a half outside of Reykjavik. We left earlier because we were nervous about the road conditions but they ended up being pretty clean only with a couple patches of ice, which was a huge relief! However we did run into the issue of getting there way too early with nothing opening in Iceland until 10am! Luckily we all bought LTE travel passes for our phones (highly recommend) and we were were able to find a little bistro that opened at 9am, which was right by the famous Golden Circle Geysir – Strokkur! The bistro is called Kantina (inside of Hotel Geysir) for anyone that finds themselves in the same position as us.
With the early call time however we were able to witness the most SURREL sunrise I have ever seen in my life right outside Gullfoss Falls. These pictures are hardly edited and the sky was about 4 different types of pinks and purples!
SHOP MY ICELAND LOOK
From there we hopped in an Arctic Adventures Super Jeep and headed towards the snowmobiling which took place on Europe’s 2nd largest glacier – Langjokull Glacier. The Super Jeep experience was SOMETHING ELSE. Thank god for our experienced driver as we got stuck about 3 times, 1 time him not knowing if we could make it through due to the snow being so deep there. (One tour company getting so stuck that a plow had to come rescue them!). Once making it to their base camp on the glacier we all were put in extra warm suits, gloves, and helmets because that day was sub zero temperatures. Which comes my advice of wearing your warmest boots (I made the mistake of fashion over comfort this day STILL REGRETTING).
The snowmobiling experience overall was incredible & the glacier is HUGE! We ended up riding over 35km on the snow mobiles and got to see so much untouched snow and mountain ranges. I felt like I was on another planet so many times, that it is almost hard to explain. This country is just so untouched my humans, which is something that I have never seen or witnessed before. I still can’t get over it! LINK TO OUR SPECIFIC TOUR HERE.
Halfway through we made it inside the ice cave which is technically inside the glacier. The stripe colors you are seeing in the pictures are made from snow in the winter and rocks in the summer compounding themselves together. The ice cave was also warmer than outside so it was nice to get a break from the cold!
After a perfect experience we were able to hop back in the car and head to a few spots along The Golden Circle that we wanted to see! The first being Gullfoss which is another famous waterfall in Iceland! This was the most crowded that we went to but also equally beautiful! Pictured below.
The second being the geysir, Strokkur! This particular geysir was dormant until the year 2000 when an earthquake that rocked the southern part of Iceland woke it back to life! It goes off every 8 mins so something worth checking out then heading back.
We then tried to see another waterfall on our list Bruarfoss – but note that this was closed down to public viewing in December. There is no way to get back there unless you hike as it is on private property and they even have a gate blocking the entrance now. 🙁 We read that it was closed because of tourists mistreating it, which really bums me out and sad that such a beautiful place will now be seen by so few.
Because we missed seeing this we stopped off the road at a picturesque mountain range to watch the sunset and to get a few pictures in this beautiful green dress I brought! It was of course freezing cold at this moment but I did it extremely fast and ran back into the car and changed.
That evening we did dinner at Sushi Social, which was delicious and then headed out of the city to try and see the Northern Lights! The Northern Lights are tricky because they come and go and you really have to have perfect conditions. We were told by locals that tonight would be a great night for them, because of the minimal clouds in the sky. We didn’t have a particular place in mind to stop at but we knew from our drive earlier that day that there were a few pull off stops along highway 1.
Once we were about 40 mins outside of Reykjavik you could 100% see the lights! They were more faint than what I thought they would be, but we were also still getting some city light. I also didn’t realize how much in complete darkness you had to be! Even a small light in our car would distract us from seeing them! Nonetheless they are such a beautiful sight and something that really is once in a lifetime!
We ended off the night having drinks at Dillon Whisky Bar in downtown Reykjavik! Which we all came to the conclusion of it being a great summertime bar, with a rooftop, a terrace etc!
Our last day was Sunday and there was still so much we wanted to see in the town of Reykjavik! We climbed to the top of the church and got a gorgeous view of the city, as well as visiting the Viking statue near the waters edge. Before heading to the airport we grabbed breakfast and cinnamon rolls from Braud&Co which is another picturesque storefront in the city!
It is a crazy thing because I already want to plan a trip back to Iceland and fully drive the Ring Road which takes you completely around the Island. It is such a stunning place to visit and somewhere you would need 2 weeks at least to fully visit everything it has to offer!
I really do hope that my trip may have encouraged or inspired you to travel to Iceland! It is a country that has so much to offer and I would go back in a heartbeat! If you are interested in anything that I wore on the trip – they are all linked below!!
SHOP MY ICELAND LOOK