As we bundle up for the winter, the thought of warm sun, sandy beaches or a hot fire with a cup of coco sound inviting. However, if you are feeling a little more adventurous and ready to embrace the cold, Iceland is the place to be. I’m so excited to finally start sharing my incredible trip with you as it was easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to (and for anyone that knows me, knows I get cold very easily so promoting a cold place means it must be good!).
Iceland is known for its contrasting landscapes and actually is one of the most volcanic regions in the world. We had an amazing time exploring this beauty of an island (and when I say beauty – my photos do not do this place any justice!).
We visited Iceland in March and boy it was cold. When researching, I saw people had mentioned it was really cold, but nothing can really embrace you for the cold that aches your bones (don’t worry I’m writing another post on “what to pack for Iceland”). Iceland is only a 5 hour flight (we took the red-eye) from New York and even a shorter route from London. It is part of the EU, so please check visa requirements when booking your travel. I researched what to see in Iceland and we planned a 4 day travel plan over a long weekend getaway.
This is a colorful, cultural capital, filled city with cute buildings, impressive street art, designer boutiques, quality restaurants, lively bars and many museums. Whether you visit in summer or winter, it’s a great place to start. We stayed in Reykjavík for 3 nights and used this as our base when traveling around Iceland.
You only need a day or so to actually explore the city itself. We visited Hallgrímskirkja Church, Harpa and had brunch at Prikid. Another awesome vegetarian place is Gló, a recommendation I picked up from reading other blogs.
We also visited the famous Blue Lagoon spa. It’s a heated manmade outdoor pool with a bar and other spa facilities. The water was surprisingly not as hot as I anticipated but there were pockets of warmer water which we found and stayed in.
The blue lagoon is right near the airport so I advise you to go as soon as you arrive (especially if you arrive early). We went late afternoon and it was crowded and not such a fun experience. Lots of people were drinking in the pool. So I highly recommend going first thing in the morning and ensure you book your tickets in advance.
Finally we dined at Austur Indian Restaurant. Yes, Indian food in Iceland and it was pretty decent! I certainly enjoyed my warm cup of masala chai!
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to observe the Northern Lights. During one of the evenings we ventured out on a tour in hope to get a glimpse however we actually weren’t sure if we would get to see it as we visited at the end of March and the Northern Lights appear between September and April.
We booked a tour via our hotel which picked us up around 10pm. We drove for about an hour and then we had to stand in the cold for about 2 hours waiting for the Northern Lights to appear. After a little while, green magic rays (like a Harry Potter movie) began to appear in the sky.
I didn’t have my SLR (wish I did) so it was very difficult to capture the glimpses of green. Looking back, it wasn’t such a bad thing as I got to experience it in the moment without taking too many pictures (however below is all I managed to capture with frozen fingers and an iPhone). It was super super cold and we did freeze our bottoms off, but it was all very worth it!
Exploring the Golden Circle & Southern Iceland
Now there are many tours you can join which take you around to all of the main sites in the Golden Circle. It’s a stress free option if you have time.
However, if you want to be a little more adventurous, then do what we did! We hired our own 4- wheel-drive SUV (picked up our car at the airport when we landed), took a map, planned our journey for the day and we were on our way!! We actually combined Golden Circle with Southern parts of Iceland and fit it all into one very long day. This allowed us to spend less or more time in places we saw and we were able to skip things we didn’t have time for.
We had to be prepared snow, wind, hail, wind gushes of up to 50-60 mph and bitter coldness, as the weather changed very quickly. This also made traveling around Iceland a little more challenging. The only way to really combat this is to bundle up and plan your journey carefully!!
On our journey, we saw beautiful Icelandic ponies on the side of the road. I couldn’t stop without taking a photo! In fact, while planning our trip, we significantly altered our route to make sure we saw the Jökulsár Lagoon, located in Southeastern Iceland. We also stopped by the Gullfoss waterfall, Spouting geyser of Strokkur, Skógafoss, drove through Þingvellir National Park and ended our journey at Reynisfjara Beach (Black beach).
It was a very long and tiring day, but one of the best experiences I ever had had. I advise leaving super early (as its a full 8 hour day or more of exploring), so you can fit it all in. The roads are windy, it was extremely cold, the road names were very long and sometimes hard to understand and there are no road lights once it fell dark! But who doesn’t like a bit of adventure!??!
The scenic drive, the gorgeous snow mountains, the gorgeous colors coupled with breathtaking views – we really felt spoilt with beauty. You can see from below, it was an epic journey. It was very cold (to the point I had ear ache), but that didn’t stop me from taking in the beauty of this place!
After spending 3 days exploring Iceland, we used the forth night to check into the Ion Adventure hotel for a little luxury and relaxation. The hotel itself feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere and was a bit tricky getting there but it was worth it as we warmed up with a cocktail in the beautiful Northern Lights Bar once we arrived.
Ion Adventure hotel is a little more upscale in price but totally worth it. It’s a quirky and modern hotel with huge windows for amazing views. We had great food and also decided to go for a hike on the mountain right next to the hotel. Yes a freezing cold hike! It was steep (I am scared of heights) but so much fun. It took us well over an hour to climb and my sister and I was over the moon once we reached the top!
If you have any questions, or need help planning an Iceland trip get in touch!