Iceland is incredible. Scratch that. Iceland is MORE than incredible. It is worth all the hype and more! Ian and I wanted to see Iceland as a winter wonderland. We went in the heart of their winter to see Iceland blanketed with snow and to better our chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
The first part of our trip was the road trip. We covered all of Iceland except the Northern region as it is unsafe to drive these roads during the winter. I encourage you to read Planning Your Trip to Iceland to help you plan out your best Icelandic adventure!
We landed at 4AM from our WOW flight. We enjoyed their services because we did our research. There is no WiFi aboard the plane and no entertainment. Food will cost you a leg and an arm so come prepared with pre-downloaded movies to watch and munchies. Prepay for any checked or carry-on luggage. Ian and I rented a Suzuki Jimny from Go Iceland. We added on gravel protection to our package (THANK GOODNESS) then were on our way. We knew of a coffee shop that would be open for Christmas Eve so we headed to Reykjavik to caffeinate and explore the city. This day was scheduled as our most relaxed day. We wanted to get used to driving the car, used to the darkness, used to the road conditions, and stock up on road trip snacks. The first site we decided to go to was Kerid Crater Lake. On our drive up, it began to blizzard with 25mph winds. It is important to remain flexible in Iceland. Weather can change at the drop of a pin. If you have a set itinerary, be prepared for unanticipated changes and not making your reservations. Flexibility is key. Our intention was to make it to Pingvellir National Park to car camp for the night. Unfortunately, we did not make it there and had to find a hotel to crash in because of the weather. We enjoyed the hotel’s thermal hot tub during the blizzard and got a solid night’s sleep.
The next day was Christmas! Ian and I exchanged books, an Icelandic Christmas tradition. We woke up early and went straight to the Geysir to dodge the buses of tourists being unloaded. A short drive from the Geysir is Gulfoss Falls…the Niagara Falls of Iceland. You would be silly to skip either of these sites on your trip. There’s a reason so many tourists flock to them! It is incredible to see what nature can form. Keeping up with the water/waterfall theme of the day, we took a road less traveled to Seljalandsfoss. In the summer, you can walk behind this waterfall. This waterfall was so big, we could barely capture it in the photo frame! The last stop of the day was Skogafoss. This was our favorite waterfall. Skogafoss was framed with icicles making it the perfect picture of a Christmas waterfall. One of our boldest decisions ever was to car camp at Skogafoss. We packed subzero sleeping bags and hand warmers for this very purpose. Ian had the incredible idea of capturing the Northern Lights over the falls. Annnnnd, he did! This method of sleep isn’t for everyone (it isn’t even for me) but it is the best way to see the Northern Lights. You are constantly on ready fire if they decide to come out! Not to mention, you are seeing them over one of Iceland’s most prized gems!
We woke up the following day, parked our car, and hiked to the Solheimasandur Plane Crash. We made it there to catch the sunrising through the airplane’s windows. Luckily, there weren’t too many tourists there, mainly because nobody wants to hike 5 miles in freezing cold weather! The plane was eery and beautiful at the same time.
This day was catered to black sand beaches! We then drove through the most precious town of Vik. As the mountains part and open to the ocean, you see the cutest town with a red church on the hill. We explored Reynisdrangar black sand beach and then Reynisfjara black sand beach. If you are crunched for time, only do Reynisfjara. You can see Reynisdrangar from there. Reynisfjara is unlike anything I have EVER seen. There are the most unique column rock formations leading into caves. My advice is to wear sunglasses. As the wind picks up, chunks of black sand are thrown at your face! My favorite part about this beach was that there were pockets of snow covering the black sand. We got a hotel in Vik where we saw the Northern Lights after dinner.
The next day we continued our drive East. The first stop was Fjadrargljufur Canyon for the sunrise. Seeing this canyon covered in snow was something most don’t get to experience. It isn’t the most popular Iceland tourist destination, but I think it deserves recognition. Our big outing of the day was a glacier hike to an ice cave. It is important for me to point out the different ice caves in Iceland. If you want a baby blue ice cave (that is what I wanted) you must go to Vatnajökull National Park. All the other caves are normal ice/snow colored. We had wanted to hike to Svartifoss before our glacier summit, but didn’t have enough time. The tour company set us up with crampons and ice picks and we were on our way. I can’t tell you which part I liked best, the hiking or the cave. This experience far exceeded my expectations. It is a MUST do for anyone traveling to Iceland. After our epic afternoon, we drove to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon to car camp so we could see the Northern Lights. And guess what? They came out more vibrant than ever!!! The aurora borealis danced for us for almost an hour.
This seems like a packed trip, but there was more. To keep reading head over to Iceland Part 2.
*Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. I do not own any of the following songs: I do not own any rights to the following songs:
Winter White Hymnal-Fleetwood Foxes