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Iceland is a true winter wonderland if you know how best to spend your time. Explore our itinerary highlights and top tips for planning the most exhilarating three days in Iceland during the winter season.
Long weekends are becoming more popular as the world is better connected.Three days is plenty of time for a city break in winter, but is it enough time to make a visit to Iceland worth it? This curious island nation is packed with adventures and excitement around every corner. Outdoor enthusiasts will thrive here, with so much to discover within easy reach of the capital city.
Visiting Iceland during winter and summer is like seeing two different worlds.The activities on offer and the hours of daylight differ drastically, so you should do your research before booking your winter escape here. If you’re searching for a sun-kissed destination, Iceland may not be the ideal long weekend break for you.
Reykjavík in December
Should I Visit Iceland During Winter?
Iceland is a year-round destination but for very different activities and experiences. In Iceland’s winter months, daylight hours are scarce, and this isn’t just due to cloud cover. You may have heard of the midnight sun in the height of summer, but the winter months are the opposite. Daylight hours in January average at just six hours, but in February this can stretch up to nine hours.
While this may not suit everyone, it has its advantages for certain activities. For example, the Northern Lights benefit from dark skies, which are found in abundance during this season. Some other things to do in winter are:
Note that the F-Roads will shut in the fall and won’t re-open until the warm weather returns. This means that the Highlands are inaccessible during the winter months. If you were planning on heading to Landmannalaugar to see the colorful rhyolite mountains, this is best done in summer.
What is Iceland’s Winter Weather Like?
Another important thing to consider when visiting another country during winter is the weather. Iceland is no exception. While it is known as the land of fire and ice, temperatures are actually fairly mild. However, winds can be strong, clouds and rain are common, and chances of snow cannot be ruled out. Weather can also change in an instant, so it’s crucial to check for updates before embarking on longer journeys.
Myrdalur on Iceland’s South Coast in winter
Winter Itinerary in Iceland
While there are countless options for how to spend three days in Iceland, we’ve come up with a suggestion for the perfect winter itinerary.
Day 1: Explore Reykjavík
Whether you arrive in the morning or the evening before, your first day is always well spent exploring everything that Iceland’s capital has to offer. While it’s a small city, there is plenty to see, learn and eat around Reykjavík.
There is an abundance of delicious bakeries and cafes to enjoy a healthy breakfast around the city. After fuelling up, it’s time to explore. Whether it’s souvenir shopping, exploring the town’s old harbor area, or hitting one of the many museums around the city, there is something to suit all interests.
If the colder temperatures are getting to you on your first day, it’s time to hit one of Iceland’s most coveted attractions: a geothermal pool. Swimming pools and hot springs are popular among locals and tourists alike. Some popular options near Reykjavík include the famous Blue Lagoon or the more low-key Secret Lagoon.
Once darkness sets in, it’s the perfect time to set out on a hunt for the Northern Lights. If the forecast is good, with clear skies and a high KP Index, you stand a good chance of seeing nature’s greatest light show. Many of our aurora tours, such as the Northern Lights Super Jeep tour, offer pick-up from various locations in the capital, making it an incredibly convenient tour for your first day in Iceland. Remember to wrap up warm for your tour, as when the sun sets it can get rather cold.
Waterfall in Thingvellir National Park
Day 2: Golden Circle in Winter
For your next day, it’s time to hit Iceland’s most popular route. The Golden Circle in winter is an absolute must. While summer may bring brighter skies, the dramatic landscapes at Thingvellir and beyond are made even more dramatic with the possible addition of snow! Plus, you’ll escape the swarming crowds that flock to this accessible loop and snap pictures from angles no one else has.
The first stop on your Golden Circle tour from the capital will be Thingvellir National Park. This is the location at which you can clearly see two tectonic plates moving apart from one another, creating more land every year. What’s more, you’ll also find the famous Silfra Fissure! The glacial water is icy cold year-round, but the addition of dry suits means you can dive and snorkel here even when the sun isn’t shining. In addition, find the stunning Öxarárfoss Waterfall completely frozen in Iceland’s winters, a truly magical sight to behold and one unique to colder temperatures.
Following your exploration of Thingvellir, the rest of your Golden Circle expedition awaits. The Geyser Geothermal Area is up next, offering an incredible chance to see Strokkur erupt before your eyes. The steaming boiling water against a frozen backdrop is like nothing you’ve ever seen, and should you get sprayed, it might help warm up cold fingers! As you move on to Gullfoss, your final Golden Circle stop, it’s time to behold the power of the “Golden Falls”. If visibility is good, you’ll take in the enormity of the canyon while also seeing the partially frozen falls.
On your second evening, you can rest up in the capital and find some warming traditional food to provide energy for tomorrow’s adventures. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from through Reykjavík’s streets, from lamb to seafood, and vegetarian and vegan options too! If you’re visiting during the festive period, there are a myriad of Iceland Christmas dishes to try out.
Vík church in South of Iceland
Day 3: South Coast & Vík
Your final day in Iceland during the winter can be spent at some lesser-known attractions, taking you and your family off the beaten track for a more unique experience. However, you’ll still be in awe of the destinations that feature on our day three itinerary.
If you’ve searched for waterfalls in Iceland, without a doubt, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss will be on your bucket list! Seljalandsfoss offers a unique experience of walking behind the waterfall, which may well be frozen at your time of visit. Frozen waterfalls are beautiful, with the trickling water creating stunning formations that are unique every year. Always be careful of slippery steps and paths, especially when temperatures are low and ice is likely to form.
Next up on your final day is to head to Reynisfjara, the famous black sand beach on the South Coast. The beautiful landscapes here and naturally-formed basalt columns make for an unusual backdrop. Wrap up warm to fight the elements, as this beach can get incredibly windy! You’ll be in awe of the dramatic dark sand, like no beach you’ve seen back home.
Depending on how much time you have left to explore, your evening can be spent finding your final meal in the town of Vík. This charming village is small but famous, with the iconic red-roofed church standing out. This southernmost village in Iceland has everything you might need before a trip to the airport, including services, restaurants, and traditional souvenir shops.