Reykjavik in winter is a great time to visit – Iceland is magical and Reykjavik is a great place to base yourself. From there you can easily do some fun day trips and explore other parts of the country.
Reykjavik in winter is interesting. So, plan in some time for Iceland´s capital and check out these unique things to do in Reykjavik in winter. Some of the activities mentioned here can also be done in the summer months.
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TIPS FOR VISITING REYKJAVIK IN WINTER
This post is about what to do in Reykjavik in winter – including some travel tips for your trip.
Weather in Reykjavik in Winter
Reykjavik in winter is not perfection. I actually struggled quite a bit. Especially the weather was a problem for me – and I do not mean that it was cold.
Reykjavik is quite rainy in the winter months. I stayed 12 nights in Reykjavik and it rained on – probably – 6 or 7 out of 12 days. So, keep that in mind.
Apart from the rain, winter in Reykjavik is not as bad as you might think. Temperatures are similar to Central Europe – often ranging between 3° / -2° degrees Celsius. Not too old, I´d say.
Snow in Reykjavik is common, though it doesn’t stay for long. To experience winter wonderland, I highly suggest doing a few day trips from Reykjavik.
Also, the days are extremely short in the winter months. You only have 4-5 hours of daylight. This was my main problem with visiting Reykjavik in winter. It is not really weather related but I still want to mention it here.
How to Get Around in Winter
Public transportation in Reykjavik is okay. It is just okay if you want to use it for a few stops. I used it a few times to get around but mostly I walked to most attractions.
Though public transportation is not great, you can explore many places via guided tours. If you book guided tours, you normally will be picked up from your hotel or from a pick-up station near your hotel.
So, renting a car is not essential for the winter months. However, if you rent one you can quite easily get around via car. Driving in Reykjavik in winter is better than driving in other parts of Iceland. If you rent a car and plan to visit areas outside of Reykjavik, be aware that driving can be quite tricky and dangerous if you are not used to these bad weather conditions with a lot of snow and ice (especially in the Northern parts or the Highlands).
BEST THINGS TO DO IN REYKJAVIK IN WINTER
It is time to talk about the best things to do in Reykjavik in winter – check out what to do in December, January, or February.
Experience Flyover Iceland
Let´s start with one of my favorite activities in Reykjavik.
Flyover Iceland is so much more than a 4D movie. It’s a passion project that celebrates the unique beauty of Iceland and its history.
In the simulation, you’ll fly over Iceland’s mountainous landscape and rough coastline, feeling the wind in your hair, and the twists and turns. It was designed to feel like mankind’s greatest dream fulfilled; to feel like you’re flying. With over 200 hours of aerial videography, and years of work put into it, I’d say it was successful!
You’ll also learn about how Iceland was formed, its long history, and Icelandic culture. So not only is it a great deal of fun – but you’ll also go away with a much better understanding of your surroundings and the Icelandic people.
It was one of my most favorite activities – it made me feel happy. I was excited and fell in love before I had seen much of Iceland in real life. However, some other people I talked to criticized the short movie and the quite high price. The “flight” is just 10 minutes – the rest of the time you´ll watch short movies and get some information. Not really spectacular – but the flight was great! For me, it was worth the money.
Also, this is the perfect thing to do on a very cold day in Reykjavik in winter as it is indoors (once you book your tickets, email them and agree on a time slot). Check out prices and more here.
Marvel at Hallgrímskirkja Church
A trip to Reykjavik would be incomplete without a visit to its most recognizable building – Hallgrimskirkja Church.
This Lutheran parish church is one of the tallest buildings in the whole country. It’s striking and unusual, totally different from churches you’ll find anywhere else in the world.
The church has a truly massive organ and an austerely beautiful interior. Be sure to venture in for the full experience, and admire the immense effort put into this structure.
From here, you also have some of the best views in Reykjavik from the church tower.
Entry to the church is free.
To get to the church tower, there is an entry fee of 1000 ISK (around 7€). You can buy the tickets at the church. No worries, you do not have to climb all the stairs up but can take an elevator.
Opening hours: From October to April, the church opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. The tower closes at 4:30 p.m. From May to September, the church opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. The tower closes at 8:30 p.m.
Bathe in Geothermal Pools
Iceland in December and the winter months can be daunting. But the locals have been making it comfortable for a long time now.
The country is famous for its geothermal pools. These warm outdoor pools have long since been a large part of the culture in Reykjavik. Particularly in winter when the water contrasts so strongly with the frigid air. You’ll even find locals chatting away in a rainstorm.
The geothermal pools are fed by underground hot springs. You can laze in the naturally warm waters of the main pool, before tiptoeing across to the hot tubs to luxuriate in even warmer conditions.
When you visit, be sure to follow etiquette, and shower with soap before getting into the water. This helps them keep the pools clean with minimal chlorine.
And feel free to hop into a sauna before or after your swim, to really round out the experience. No matter the weather around you, you’ll feel snug for hours after leaving the pools.
Because Reykjavik is a city, it has more light pollution than the Icelandic countryside. This means you’ll see the aurora more vibrantly far outside the city, where the Northern Lights is the only thing brightening the sky.
If you’re lucky, you don’t even need to leave Reykjavik to catch a glimpse of the iconically beautiful Northern Lights. If the aurora is active and the sky is clear, you should be able to see it. HOWEVER, it is better to leave the city for better views.
If you’re trying to spot the Northern Lights within the city, head down to the coast. There’s less light pollution in this part of the city, and no buildings obstructing your view. You can simply stroll along the coast and admire the fantastical display. Alternatively, you can set sail on a 2-hour boat tour off the coast.
Even though I stayed in Iceland for about 12 nights in winter, I did not get to see the Northern Lights. Neither in Reykjavik nor when I did Northern Lights tours as they do not appear that often. I just got to see a glimpse of it but it was not what I expected or hoped for.
You can take a half day tour from Reykjavik for a better chance at this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Visit Harpa Center
One of the best things to do during Reykjavik’s winter months is to see a performance at Harpa.
This unique landmark is a concert hall where you’ll see some of Iceland’s top musical performances. It is also a massive sculpture reflecting everything around it – including the gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and ocean.
Even if there are no performances during your visit to Reykjavik, Harpa Center is well worth a visit. One alternative option is to enjoy a meal at one of the Harpa restaurants, where the center’s innovation is applied to Icelandic ingredients and exciting cuisine.
Spot Street Art
The streets of Reykjavik are full of impressive social and political commentary, as well as just fun art. The Old Harbor area boasts some of the city’s best work.
You can also find some street art in the town center.
Spend a few daylight hours (between about 10 am and 4 pm) strolling through the streets and spotting as many of the artworks as you can. It’s like an outdoor museum, full of exhibitions and open to interpretation.
Go Ice Skating on Tjörnin
Ice skating on the lake is a Reykjavik tradition. It’s referred to as a pond by the locals because it’s so shallow. Thankfully, this means the water quickly freezes over in winter and can be safely enjoyed throughout the season.
If you’re not really into ice skating (read: keep falling on your butt every time you try), it’s still a lovely place to spend a few hours. You can watch locals and foreigners gliding on the ice, and even see an ice hockey or football match.
Unfortunately, there are not any ice skate rentals around the pond, as it’s geared towards locals. So you’ll have to either bring along your own skates, or take to the ice in your boots for a clumsy but fun time.
Reykjavik also has some lovely indoor skating rinks, where you can actually rent out ice skates. Some favorites are Egilshöll and Ice Rink Laugardalur.
See the Stars at the Perlan Planetarium
Reykjavik’s Perlan Planetarium is another fun experience. This world-class planetarium allows you to witness the Northern Lights and Iceland’s other wonders. All while snug and warm in the city.
The Perlan Planetarium show runs every hour and is thankfully in English. So you’ll have an opportunity to learn about the science behind the aurora borealis and much much more while you’re awed by the beauty.
You can also explore a man-made indoor ice cave and enjoy a 360° panorama of Reykjavík from the viewing deck.
I enjoyed the Perlan Planetarium a lot (though FlyOver Iceland was my highlight) – especially because I “got to see the Northern Lights”. I actually met a few people who said, this was their favorite indoor activity in Reykjavik.
Reykjavik combines traditional cuisine with modern twists and global fusions. Icelandic food is famous for being pure, with natural ingredients, often locally sourced.
While they’re well-known for many of their meat dishes, you’ll find the city surprisingly vegan-friendly. I really was in vegan heaven – who would have thought?
A recent cultural and ideological shift has made veganism popular among younger Icelanders. This shift means you’ll find some fantastic, creative food, from noodle soup and vegan burgers to gazpacho.
Visit the cafe Ecstasy’s Heart-Garden for some tasty vegan and vegetarian treats, or splurge on fine dining at Burro.
Explore the National Museum of Iceland
Leave the chill outside chill for a few hours and head into Iceland’s National Museum. You’ll learn about the country’s fascinating history, from Viking settlements to contemporary civilization.
The museum hosts some wonderful historic artifacts and medieval engravings. You can stroll through the exhibitions, and marvel at the strength and perseverance of a culture that developed here, long before aircon made the chill more manageable!
Just a note: the museum is closed on Mondays during winter, so plan your itinerary accordingly.
Go on an Icelandic Horseriding Tour
Icelandic horses are they are not as gracious as Arabic horses but these chubby little animals are one of a kind.
Icelandic horses are short and stocky, with long shaggy hair. They’re a great joy to ride for all ages. But more excitingly, the area around Reykjavik is an incredible place to explore on horseback.
Spend a few hours riding through lava fields and along the startling green (or white) hillside. It’s one of the best things to do in Iceland, and totally unique to the country.
In addition to the actual riding, horseback riding tours include rubber boots, helmets, rainwear or warm clothes if needed, and a guide. You can even request transport there if you’d prefer.
I am allergic to horses and so I stay away from them, but Icelandic horses are really iconic!
Do Day Trips
Reykjavik in winter is a beautiful place and as you can see, there are fun things to do in the winter months in and near Reykjavik.
Reykjavik in winter is an interesting place to visit. It is far away from being the perfect winter city destination in Europe, yet it offers quite some beautiful places and fun activities. So, if you plan a trip to the city, then you have something to really look forward to!
HOW TO SEE ICELAND IN 5 DAYS (ANY TIME OF THE YEAR)
Are you planning your 5-day Iceland itinerary and wondering about what to do and see in Iceland in 5 days? Then this post is for you. Here I share my tips for your Iceland itinerary.
Iceland – the land of ice and fire. Yes, that intro might sound cliché, but it is actually true. Visiting this country will allow you to experience why the country was given this moniker.
Iceland is probably one of the most unique countries in the world and so it does not surprise it has become incredibly popular.
Whether you visit in spring, summer, fall, or winter – this 5-day in Iceland itinerary can be used at any time of the year. You will also find many travel tips for your 5-day trip.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product (at no extra cost for you) after clicking on my link. More about it here.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR 5-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY
Iceland might have less than 400,000 inhabitants, but it is a – geographically seen – big country.
While it would be great to spend more than 5 days in Iceland, most of us do not have unlimited time to spend there. So this itinerary will help you to find out about the main sights and attractions. And 5 days in Iceland are better than nothing, right?
The good news is that this post not only offers you the best sights, but you will also find out about the best ways to get around. This itinerary is great whether you do guided tours or plan a road trip.
I have visited Iceland twice: once in the winter (December/January) and once in summer (July). I was lucky enough to have different experiences over the course of 21-22 days. I created this 5-day in Iceland itinerary for any time of the year with the travel highlights of my Iceland trips.
Here are some quick travel tips for your trip to Iceland before talking about the best things to do.
Best Time to Visit Iceland in 5 Days
Whether you visit Iceland in winter or summer – or even fall and spring – each season has its charms.
I loved visiting Iceland in the summer. It might be busy, and the prices for accommodations are high (and attractions are very crowded), but the many, many hours of daylight helped me to squeeze in many activities in a day. I saw about three or four times as much as I did in winter.
In winter you will have much less time to visit the sights. Honestly, you will just have a few hours each day as it really gets dark very early (and quickly). Keep in mind that winter in Iceland can be very extreme – and you might not be able to road trip. Check out my Iceland in Winter guide to see if that is the perfect time for your trip or not.
This is also why I will share some of my winter and summer pictures in this post – so you can imagine yourself better for when to use this Iceland itinerary for. I have a detailed post on the “best time to visit Iceland,” where I compare the winter and summer seasons.
To find out why winter can be tricky, check out my guide on what I really think about visiting Iceland in December.
IMPORTANT: Keep in mind, that you have to pick a few places for each day. Even in the summer months, you might not be able to see all stops unless you travel fast. I saw A LOT when I visited in July and loved my long days of exploring. This Iceland itinerary was feasible for me.
I visited in the winter, I did not see much. So, you have to pick those attractions that you find the most interesting and leave out a few other sights.
You can pay everywhere with your credit card, even if you just want to use a toilet to pee. However, if you camp, you need cash because you might need coins for using the shower (though not necessarily) or pay cash.
Language in Iceland
People speak English everywhere in Iceland. If you speak English, you are good to go. Given that Icelandic does not seem like an easy language to learn, this is one of the best news.
How to Get to Iceland For Your 5-Day Trip
Iceland has several airports. Most likely, you will fly into the Keflavík International Airport which is near Reykjavik. A smaller domestic airport in Reykjavik (Reykjavik Airport) is close to the city center, but that is not the one you will fly into.
Keflavík International Airport is about 50 km from the city center of Reykjavik.
One of the best ways is to get a rental car from the airport and then drive to the city center. In summer, I road-tripped Iceland and picked up my little camper van from the airport. The process was very smooth and I assume the same goes for all rental cars.
I read somewhere that a taxi for that distance will cost you more than 200€ – and given how expensive Iceland is, this sounds believable. There is no uber in Iceland.
You can either buy a ticket for the shuttle bus once you are at the airport or book your shuttle bus ticket in advance. The buses normally drop you off in the city center. Then you can get to your hotel by bus/taxi or walk. I used it in winter and really enjoyed the smooth transfer.
On my way back to the airport, I stopped at the Blue Lagoon close to the airport. So, if you plan to visit the Blue Lagoon, either on the day of your arrival or your departure, keep that in mind. Then you can combine that.
How to Get Around Iceland For 5 Days
So this 5-day itinerary for Iceland is perfect for anyone. You can do a road trip or do day trips from Reykjavik.
Day trips tours will not allow you to see all places mentioned here, but the main attractions are included, so it really is up to you what you prefer.
Road tripping Iceland is pretty fun and easy (with good roads and only a few cars except at the hotspots), but I did not dare to road trip in winter. I did some research and got scared of the conditions of the roads with all the snow.
Both options have advantages/disadvantages, so it is about personal preferences.
Renting a Car/ Campervan: Driving in Iceland is pretty easy. At least, if you visit in summer (or as long as there is no snow and ice, and the roads are open).
F-roads (roads that access the highlands of Iceland) are probably a bit trickier, but I haven’t driven them myself. You need (and have to have) to have 4-wheel vehicles (at any time of the year) if you want to drive them. So, it really makes sense to plan your Iceland itinerary and then rent an appropriate car.
On my second trip, I rented a caravan – for the first time in my life – and I loved it. Iceland is perfect for getting around via camper van (roads are big enough, not too much traffic once you leave the main hot spots), and finding a camping site is quite easy.
If you have ever though about traveling via camper – then it should be Iceland.
Wild camping is illegal in Iceland, and though there are very few exceptions (like written permission if you stay on private land), it is highly advised to accept Icelandic law and just stay at campsites.
Campsites are pretty affordable and cost around 9-12€ for most campsites (per person, no extra charge for your vehicle).
Where to Stay For Your 5-Day Iceland Itinerary
This 5-day Iceland itinerary is perfect for any time of the year – whether you road trip or do day tours from Reykjavik. Check out my guide with the best places to stay in Iceland, and if you road trip, it really depends on how much you get to see in one day.
In winter, you will not be able to see all places mentioned on this Iceland itinerary because hiking routes are closed and days are short.
With a camper/motorhome, it is easy. You can spontaneously decide where to park. Campsites normally are not get fully booked, and there are plenty in Iceland, so you just arrive and pay – even late at night / after midnight.
So, enough talking. Here is how to spend your 5 days in Iceland:
DAY 1 OF 5 DAYS IN ICELAND
Let us start with an Iceland classic.
GOLDEN CIRCLE + HRUNALAUG + BRUARFOSS WATERFALL – 1 DAY
While you could start with the Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik, I actually suggest saving these destinations for your last day.
Reserve one day of your 5-day itinerary for the most famous and popular area – namely, the Golden Circle, which has several attractions. The name “Golden Circle“ was derived from Gullfoss, which means “golden waterfall” in Icelandic and is one main attraction for day 1 in Iceland.
The Golden Circle covers about 300 kilometers, looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. There are three main stops on the route – the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur.
THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
Thingvellir National Park is often the first stop. It is a historic site and national park known for the Alþing, Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th century.
You’ll also find the Þingvellir Church and the ruins of old stone shelters, but most people are probably fascinated by the fact that the park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures.
Personally, I only visited in winter, and it had lovely scenery. If you want to take a stroll (or do an easy hike), you can spend a few hours here. Otherwise, 30-60 minutes is probably all you need before continuing your journey.
There is no entrance fee, but there is a parking fee.
Gullfoss might be the next attraction on your Iceland itinerary. If you do a guided tour, the stops might be in a different order. If you drive yourself, then it makes sense to stop here now. This famous waterfall is located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland.
It is easy to drive here, and you can visit at any time of the day – there is not much walking required to get here from the (free) parking slots.
And there it is – the impressive Gullfoss (“foss“ in Icelandic means waterfall). The water cascades down in two stages, one 11 meters high and the other 21 meters, into the 2.5 km-long crevasse below.
I visited in winter and summer and liked it in winter better. However, in summer, you can take walks and stroll the area (which in winter is mostly forbidden).
Since there is no entrance fee or anything, I do highly recommend it as a must-see (though it isn’t my favorite waterfall in Iceland).
I would suggest spending 30-90 minutes in that area.
It is free to visit, with no parking fees.
Tip: If you want to take a snowmobile tour, then you can start here. Again, it depends whether you road trip or do guided tours. I booked my tour in December and was picked up from Reykjavik and brought to the waterfall before continuing our trip to the Highlands. However, due to extreme snowfalls, once we arrived at the camp, the tour was canceled. I am sure it is an amazing experience, and if you are up for it, you can check out tours starting from here. Check out prices and options.
Strokkur in Haukadalur
It is then time to see the geyser, which is periodically spouting hot springs. The Strokkur is an active, fountain-type geyser, which typically erupts every few minutes.
Its usual height is 15–20 meters, but it can sometimes erupt up to 40 meters high. So, even if you have just a few minutes, you will see it erupt – it is quite loud and I was startled by it every time.
This again is a popular sight, and since it is on the way to the other attractions, it is definitely a must-visit place.
I probably spent around 45 minutes here because I wanted to see the eruptions more than 2-3 times.
It is free to visit, no parking fees.
TIP: All of the above-mentioned places have at least one restaurant/cafe and restrooms (which you might have to pay for).
At this point, you have seen the three main sights along/near the Golden Circle. However, there are a few more places worth visiting. Most guided tours do offer one or two additional stops. You just have to decide which one is the most attractive to you.
If you road trip during the long summer days, I suggest adding at least two more places to your itinerary for day 1. In the short winter months, you might not be able to squeeze in more attractions.
Kerio Volcanic Crater
Kerio Volcanic Crater is a volcanic crater lake that is a popular stop off the Golden Circle. It is not far from the attractions at the Golden Circle.
You can get up and even walk around the volcano. Due to its location – close to the Golden Circle – it can get busy. However, it is not the country’s most beautiful crater.
I can’t say much about that one because I did not visit, but the reviews are good.
There is a small entrance fee, so have some cash with you. If you booked a guided tour, it might be included in the price. I list several day tours at the end of “day 1”.
Another popular spot off the typical Golden Circle is the Secret Lagoon.
It is a man-made pool fed by naturally occurring hot springs located at Hverahólmi, which is the geothermal area next to the village of Flúðir.
It is the oldest pool in the country – but nothing is secret here anymore and it is surely not a hidden gem. However, it is great after a day out to hop into the hot spring.
I visited in winter with a guided tour, and it had the entrance fee already included. Tickets for adults are around 20€ ($23). I would plan in around 60-120 minutes.
There is no parking fee.
If you do guided tours, then check out these options (I, personally, use GetYourGuide when I book tours and I also used the website for my Iceland tours).
This day trip from Reykjavik additionally includes the Secret Lagoon
Here is a day trip that includes photo stops at the three main places along the Golden Circle plus a snowmobile tour.
If you just want to focus on the three main attractions along the Golden Circle (the first three ones I mentioned here), you should check out this tour.
Another place you could visit – also instead of the Secret Lagoon – is Hrunalaug. This hot spring is privately owned and is quite small, but the views are amazing.
The road there is a bit bumpy but my rental car was not a 4wheel drive but rather a 2wheel drive and I still got there quite easily. It takes some time to get there as you can’t drive fast.
The owner normally sits in front of the pool and you have to pay an entrance fee. It is either 1,000 ISK, 10€ or $10 and in cash only.
Parking is free.
Before paying the entrance fee, I would ask how many people are in already. If there are already more than 5-10 people, then I honestly would not enter.
I read complaints that the water was low, so ask the owner before you pay whether it is busy or if it has water.
Depending on how much time you have, this stop should take about 1-2 hours.
If you road trip Iceland and are flexible, I suggest paying Bruarfoss Waterfall a visit. Since its location is a bit off the Golden Route, it is not often offered when doing guided tours.
However, it was one of my favorite places in Iceland, and if you can visit, then go for it. After parking your car, you can do a 7 km “hike“ (in total) and will see several waterfalls along the way.
The waterfalls come in an incredible color of blue – the color is insane, which makes it worth a visit. It is not a real hike, but more like a beautiful stroll with some steps in between (and probably some mud puddles, so wear appropriate shoes).
This stop should take around 1-2 hours.
No entrance fee, free parking.
Google sent me to the wrong parking lot – which is no parking lot any longer and I had to drive back to find the right spot.
One day of your Iceland itinerary should be reserved for exploring the south coast of Iceland – together with the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, one of the most popular places to visit.
If you do guided tours, you have to pick the one that is the most appealing to you. I have not seen any tour that offers to stop at all of the places mentioned on day 2 in Iceland. You will find the tours at the end of this day.
SOUTH OF ICELAND – 1 DAY
One day for the South of Iceland is not a lot – if you visit in the winter, you will only see some places because daylight is not your friend then. You can easily visit all of them in the summer months, though it will be a busy day.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the stops you can’t miss – actually, it is literally impossible to miss this high waterfall.
The waterfall drops 60 meters and is part of the Seljalands River, which has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. This waterfall is special as you can walk behind it and have a unique view. In the winter months, the walking path is most likely closed.
There is not much other hiking to do, so 15-60 minutes is enough.
There is no entrance fee, but if you have some change, you can donate something, and there is a parking fee.
If you do a guided tour, you will most likely continue your journey. However, if you road trip, make sure to add the two more waterfalls I describe below close to your 5-day Iceland itinerary.
Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is just a ten-minute walk away. You have to leave Seljalandsfoss and get on the “main road“, then head towards the camping site and then follow the directions – it isn’t even a hike, just a stroll.
There you will see this waterfall and you can reach it by climbing some steps. It is definitely worth the few extra minutes you have to spend to reach it.
Your feet might get wet so proper footwear is great (also to avoid slipping).
If you have more time, I highly suggest taking your car and driving about 7 km to another, hidden, waterfall.
This stop should take between 15-45 minutes.
No entrance fee, but still parking fee.
From these to waterfalls, continue your journey and drive to this secret waterfall. You can drive with your 2-wheel drive, though you should drive slowly because it is a dirt road but nothing spectacular or scary.
I have not heard from guided tours visiting this waterfall, so you might only be able to see it if you are road tripping or have a private guide.
There are some parking lots where you can leave your car and then you continue to the ravine. Don‘t hike up that hill – I did by accident – just walk towards the ravine.
To get to the waterfall, you definitely need sturdy shoes, and there is some climbing required. However, it is a short, maybe a 10-minute and easy hike and you will be rewarded with this pretty waterfall.
This second day in Iceland is a lot about waterfalls – before visiting other attractions, you will most likely then pass Skogafoss, one of the most famous landmarks in Iceland.
It is one of the biggest waterfalls – with a height of more than 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. It will be one of the very crowded places – but you should still stop here and either walk right up to the waterfall (in winter it will be very slippery though) or when the stairs are open, you can walk up and the see the waterfall from above.
This stop can take between 10-60 minutes.
No entrance fee and free parking.
Then, continue your trip to this glacier – especially with guided tours, this is very popular. If you are short on time, I suggest skipping this one and visiting another glacier (more on that later).
Sólheimajökull is about eight kilometers long and two kilometers wide and is one of the most accessible glaciers from Reykjavík, which makes it a popular place to visit.
You can also book glacier walks (also with guided day tours).
If you just want to see it – without the glacier walk – I think spending about 30-90 minutes here is fine.
There is no entrance fee and no parking fee.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
This is another popular spot that I, however, skipped both times. In 1973, a United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, near the town of Vik.
You can still visit the place, but have to park your car and walk around 4 kilometers (one way) to get there. There are also buses you can take to get there.
You aren’t allowed to climb on the plane anymore and this, in combination with the time to get there, was why I decided to skip this attraction. But I felt that I should at least tell you about it.
No entrance fee, no parking fee but taking the bus to get there does cost some money.
Then, head to Dyrhólaey, which is the southernmost point of mainland Iceland and offers some beautiful views of the surroundings – you can even see the black beaches in Vik.
I – personally – do not consider it a must-see, but decide for yourself. They recommend driving only with a 4-wheel drive. I, and many others, drove with our regular cars and it was fine. However, there were some moments that got tricky, so be super careful and go slowly when driving up.
This stop should take about 30-90 minutes of your time
No entrance fee, no parking fee.
From Dyrhólaey you are fast to arrive in Vik, which is a small village known mostly for its church and the black sand beach, Reynisfjara.
While walking on the beach, the color a result of volcanic explosions, you will find basalt stacks on one side and have views of the Atlantic Ocean on the other – Reynisfjara is one of the top places to visit in 5 days in Iceland.
You could walk there for quite a while, but this is a busy place, so you should take a look and get on the basalt stacks before continuing your journey.
The water – even in the summer – is too cold to swim in here, and the waves can be quite strong as well, so it is better just to enjoy the scenery.
In Vik, you will also find the famous church up on a hill which is a popular photo motif, but other than that I did not really like Vik that much.
Uhhh, this stop can be from 15 minutes to several hours.
There is no parking or entrance fee.
I highly recommend visiting Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, though it is not open all year-round. The canyon is about 100 meters deep and about two kilometers long.
Due to its popularity and its sensitive flora, they close it once in a while, so make sure to check out opening hours beforehand.
It is near the main road and though it‘s mostly a gravel road, you can easily drive there with all kinds of cars (also with a 2-wheel drive) in the summer months.
From the parking area, it is a short and easy walk up a hill. And from there, you have some of the best views in all of Iceland. There are several vantage points, and if you like mountains, this is the place to visit.
Walking in the canyon is not allowed any longer, but the views from above made this stop one of the highlights of my Iceland trip (plus, the weather was in my favor, which probably played a role, too).
This stop should take around 30-90 minutes.
No entrance fee, no parking fee.
If you drive yourself, you will find many more waterfalls along the way. It would be almost impossible to name all of them. However, there is one particular highlight waiting for you: Jökulsárlón.
If you do guided tours, try to book a tour that brings you all the way here as well. It is a stunning glacial lagoon dotted with icebergs from the surrounding Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, part of the larger Vatnajökull Glacier.
The black sand beach sand nearby is also known as Diamond Beach because the ice chunks – even in summer – look like diamonds (well, kind of).
It is an absolutely magical place – though in normal times, extremely busy. My tip: try to visit at sunset – it gets even more magical at that time of the day.
This stop takes a minimum of 30 minutes, but I could have spent hours (and probably did so) just looking at the ice.
Free to visit, no parking fees.
Vatnajökull is the largest and most voluminous ice cap in Iceland and you can combine a trip to Diamond Beach with a boat tour (in summer only) and ice caving from within Vatnajökull Glacier.
This place is full of icebergs. Climbing on top of any of the icebergs without a guide is not advised and neither is swimming (it is not warm nor safe). I did not do ice caving – and I really regret it. Check out tours here.
And with these places, you have already filled 2 days of your Iceland itinerary.
To see all places mentioned here on day 2, you have to visit in late May, or in June, or July where you have long days. And you have to road trip, because I have not seen any tour offering all stops in one day.
If you visit at another time, you have to pick those places most appealing to you.
With these activities, you could actually fill all 5 days, but I do have some more suggestions for day 3, 4, and 5 and recommend doing some of the places mentioned above in 3 or 3.5 days before heading back – not to Reykjavik directly, but past it, heading to the west coast of Iceland.
The west coast is a beautiful and popular place in Iceland, though much less crowded and less visited than the Golden Circle or the South Coast.
If you do day trips from Reykjavik (guided tours or on your own), you can spend a full day on the west coast.
If you road trip, and spend the night before on the South Coast, then you have less than half a day because it takes about 4-7 hours to get there (depending on if you made it all the way to Diamond Beach or not). You have to drive back to Reykjavik and then head north.
SNAEFELLNESS PENINSULA – 1 DAY
One full day (or two days) on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula would be better but even this half-day is great to see the main places.
On Snæfellsnes Peninsula, start with Ytri Tunga. It is a small, beautiful beach area where you will find seals resting and chilling.
It is perfect for leisurely walks and spending time outdoors before continuing your journey.
Free entrance, no parking fees.
Then, stop at the cute fishing village Arnarstapi and go on easy hikes along the coast – the views are impressive.
Just watch out for the evil birds that do attack people if they feel like it. If I wanted to spread rumors, I would say they inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds”. I watched the movie as a child and ever since that day, I am scared of birds (and butterflies because they are also really dangerous animals). I really had a bad time walking this one street when all the birds attacked me. Take an umbrella with you, so you can scare them away.
Free parking and several cafes/restaurants.
Then, it is time to visit one of the most famous sights in the country: Kirkjufell Mountain, which is a 463-meter-high mountain on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
You can either hike up the mountain or do what is definitely more popular – go to the waterfalls and see the waterfalls with the beautiful mountain as a backdrop.
There is not much more hiking to do, but you can walk around the waterfall and enjoy the scenery. In winter, take some crampons and put them on your shoes with you so you can walk all the way to the waterfall.
For the last two days, I recommend visiting some places close by and preparing for heading back to Reykjavik/airport.
DAY 4 OF 5 DAYS IN ICELAND
This day is a bit off-the-beaten-path (not really but kind of). It is an absolutely gorgeous area that is accessible in the winter as well as in the summer. I visited in both seasons and I am not sure which one I liked more. I just loved it both! I really, really love this area.
WEST ICELAND – 1 DAY
These attractions are not from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, so you will not be spending too much time in the car. But you can also do it as a day trip from Reykjavik.
Again, if you do guided tours this exact tour might not be available. When I visited in winter, I found a tour offering all the places mentioned below. Now, the exact same tour is not offered anymore. So, it changes and you might have to alter your own itinerary if you do guided tours.
Barnafossar and Hraunfossar Waterfalls
Barnafossar and Hraunfosssar waterfalls are actually a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of almost 1 kilometer out of the Hallmundarhraun – which is a lava field that flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull. And it is one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland.
You can do a bit of walking and visit several waterfalls – which come in an intense color – but there are not many other activities to do around here.
Thus, I recommend combining it with another attraction in the area.
Another activity you could do is to visit The Cave – Viðgelmir which is the fourth-longest lava tunnel in Iceland.
You can witness the inner working of a volcanic eruption and walk the path where an eruption flowed more than 5,000 years ago. A guided tour will allow you to learn about volcanic eruptions and their effect on the environment, before heading back to the capital.
This lava cave is just 15 minutes away from Husafell Hotel (which could be your next stop).
Hot Pools at Húsafell Hotel
If you have time (getting to Reykjavik does take time and plan to arrive too early rather than too late), add Húsafell Hotel – with its hot pools – or a lava tour to your itinerary.
The pools at Husafell Hotel are beautiful – visiting in winter, I was the only one there, though it is probably much busier in summer. It is a great place to visit if you are into hot pools with beautiful views. What a perfect place to end the day!
There is an entrance fee, parking is for free.
GUIDED DAY TRIPS FROM REYKJAVIK
If you plan to do a guided tour, this one offers a stop at almost all attractions mentioned above. It does not stop at Husafell Hotel – and the day tour I did is not offered anymore, so this day trip sounds like the best option.
DAY 5 OF 5 IN ICELAND
So, for your last day in Iceland, take it easy and do some sightseeing in the capital before resting at the Blue Lagoon.
REYKJAVIK + BLUE LAGOON – 1 DAY
This last day would also make a great first day of your 5-day Iceland itinerary. Plan your trip according to the time of your arrival and departure. In general, I like to be close to the city/airport on the day of my departure, so this is why I suggest it for your last day in Iceland.
Reykjavik is a small and interesting town. However, with only 5 days in Iceland, I would not spend too much time in Reykjavik – half a day is enough in my eyes.
Reykjavik is also known for its food scene. Even I, as a 95% vegan eater, had some pretty amazing dishes. I am afraid the food scene in the rest of the country is not that great, so Reykjavik is the place to eat your weight in delicious meals.
THINGS TO DO IN REYKJAVIK
Visit FlyOverIceland (believe it or not, it was my favorite activity in Reykjavik) – find out more here
The Blue Lagoon is a popular first spot for many Iceland visitors but I suggest visiting at the end, so you can relax before you get on the plane again.
It is a geothermal spa located in a lava field and actually, it is not a natural pool. It is supplied by water used in the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station
The Blue Lagoon has become one of the most popular, but also busiest, places in the country.
Due to its proximity to Keflavik Airport, you can make it your first or last stop during your 5 days in Iceland.
I visited the Blue Lagoon on my last day in December – but do I wholeheartedly recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon? Yes and no. I am not a big pool fan, so I did not spend much time here. However, I am well aware that this place is unique. If you are not on a very tight budget, and especially if you love pools or won’t be visiting any other pools/hot springs, then I say go for it.
If you book a guided tour to the Blue Lagoon, they normally will pick you up from the airport/city center and then drop you off at your hotel/city center/airport, which is very handy.
I probably spent 2 hours max. here – I heard people spent a full day at the Blue Lagoon.
Parking is free.
Tickets can either be bought directly via the website or here. Tickets sell out quickly!
In case, you have to twist your Iceland itinerary, check out this guided tour that includes a visit to the Blue Lagoon + a few more attractions.
CONCLUSION: A PERFECT 5-DAY ICELAND ITINERARY
Iceland is an amazing country – it might be busy at some of the main attractions but given its uniqueness, it is easy to understand why! You have volcanos and lava fields, you have waterfalls, you have icebergs, you have hot pools…
5 days in Iceland will give you a good glimpse of the country and you can see what all the fuss is about. I recommend staying longer, but know it is not always possible.
However, I hope that this itinerary will allow you to make the most of your trip at any time of the year. So, whether you visit in winter or summer – this Iceland 5-day itinerary will hopefully be very helpful to you!
Today, let’s talk about two beautiful waterfalls in Iceland – Hraunfossar Waterfalls and Barnafoss Waterfalls – that are often overlooked in a country full of waterfalls.
Iceland is extremely rich in waterfalls – there are apparently around 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland. So, how can a waterfall stand out? There are different reasons why waterfalls become famous and tourist attractions.
Dettifoss waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Iceland (in terms of volume of water). Seljalandsfoss is famous as you can walk behind the waterfall. The highest waterfall in Iceland is Glymur.Brúarfoss has the “most beautiful watercolor”, and then there is this hidden waterfall.
So, why do Barnafoss and Hraunfossar Waterfalls stand out? Why should someone visit Barnafoss and Hraunfossar Waterfalls?
Hraunfossar Waterfalls is a relatively small yet overly beautiful waterfall that can stand up to the gigantic competition. It looks absolutely pretty and is easily accessible at any time of the year. And Barnafoss..well, it is just next to Hraunfossar, so why not visit it, too?
TRAVEL TIPS FOR HRAUNFOSSAR AND BARNAFOSS WATERFALLS
Here are some tips: why visit Hraunfossar and Barnafoss, how to get there, what to do and see near the waterfalls, and a few more tips for your visit.
Disclaimer: This post might contain affiliate links which means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product (at no extra cost to you) after clicking on my link. More about it here.
HOW TO GET TO BARNAFOSS / HRAUNFOSSAR
The waterfalls are located in Borgarfjörður in the West of Iceland. It is about 120km away from Reykjavík.
It’s easy to access from the parking lot. Parking is free but limited, so during the high season, get here early or later the day.
Once you park, you just have to walk a few meters, and you will see the waterfalls already.
If you road trip Iceland, it is very easy to visit yourself. If you do guided day tours from Reykjavik, check out this tour (I did this, or a similar, tour that included a trip to Hraunfossar and the lava cave.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING
There is no hiking required. The walking path around the waterfalls are well marked.
Please stay on the path and do not leave it.
As everywhere, but especially in nature, do not leave any trash behind and take everything with you.
In the summer months, there is a cafe at the waterfalls.
Wear appropriate footwear in winter (crampons are my tip).
BEST TIME TO VISIT HRAUNFOSSAR WATERFALLS
WINTER: I visited in early January and experienced beautiful scenery – the watercolor looked amazing and so did the waterfalls themselves. I had booked a guided tour (definitely did not want to drive in winter in Iceland) and chose a tour that focused on the lesser-visited areas like these waterfalls. Our bus was the only bus around – and it was cold. Really cold. But it was worth it. Most people in my group just looked at the Hraunfossar and quickly went back to the bus. I was probably the only one who made it to Barnafoss. During the winter months, you cannot do much around the area. It was worth it. I loved winter wonderland at Hraunfossar in January.
SUMMER: The second time I visited was in July. And it looked gorgeous. Meadows surround the waterfalls with many flowers, and the contrast of green, yellow flowers, and blue waterfalls looked pretty. It gets busier in the summer months, but it was still not overly crowded. You cannot do a lot of hikes around the waterfalls – not even in summer. Some paths are closed to protect nature and to protect ourselves. However, given its beauty, I think also summer is the perfect time to visit the waterfalls.
SPRING/FALL: Normally, fall is a good time to spend outdoors. But as you might know, there are hardly any trees in Iceland (you can count the trees you will see!) and so, the fall foliage is not as impressive as in other countries. I have not visited in fall myself but looked up images from fall and spring and it looks beautiful in spring and fall, too.
However, I believe that summer and winter are the best times to visit. But it is a good attraction in Iceland to visit all year round.
Actually, Hraunfossar consists of numerous springs that emerge under the edge of the lava field Hallmundarhraun. Hallmundarhraun, however, consists of pillow lava and was probably created 800AD.
The water is from Langjökull glacier, the second-largest glacier in Iceland. You might know that the famous Gullfoss waterfall is also fed from the same glacier. The water running between the lava layers created the Hraunfossar Waterfalls (hraun= lava and fossar= waterfalls), which are almost 1000meters wide. THIS (and the watercolor) make Hraunfoosar a special Icelandic waterfall. From there, the water flows into the Hvita River.
It really depends on when you visit Hraunfossar – the watercolor can change. After rainy days, it does not look as clear and beautiful as in the pictures here. I visited in summer and winter, and both times, the watercolor was incredible.
From there, head to Barnafoss.
Above Hraunfossar, there is another waterfall – Barnafoss. It is just a 2-minute walk max. Despite its proximity to Hraunfossar, it is completely different. Hraunfossar is the elegant, lovely waterfall, while Barnafoss is a wild, fast and powerful waterfall. Its average flow rate is 80m3/s, but there were times it has reached 500m3/sec (then the area gets flooded).
Here is where the channel of the Hvita river narrows – the river carved out stone bridges and arches with its power.
It is best known for its dark history in folklore – and its name derives from it (Children’s Fall). There are several versions, so I stick with the one I read at a sign at the waterfall.
On Christmas Day, the parents of several children left home for church one morning. Two kids were to stay home. But the children decided to follow their parents, but they took a shortcut to the church via a stone bridge that arched over the nearby rapid waterfall. And to make it short: They fell into the water and died! Apparently, the parents were devastated. The grieving mom then had the stone bridge destroyed to prevent further death.
So, there are different story versions, but while many myths and legends often are very…adventurous to say the least, this story might even be true. So, these days, the natural bridge is gone.
There is now a pedestrian bridge across the river from the year 1891, which was renovated in the late 20th century.
IS HRAUNFOSSAR AND BARNAFOSS WATERFALLS WORTH VISITING?
I visited the waterfalls the first time in winter – and it was one of the highlights of my winter trip. I revisited in summer and was worried to be disappointed. But I was not. Hraunfossar and Barnafoss look beautiful in summer and winter. Given its accessibility and other attractions close by, like Husafell or Víðgelmir Cave, Deildartunguhver Hot Spring, it makes a perfect day trip from Reykjavik or stops for an Iceland road trip.
Have you added Iceland to your bucket list and are now wondering about the best time to visit Iceland? Are you wondering whether Iceland in summer or winter is the best time for an amazing Iceland trip? Then read on, as there are things to know about the best travel time for Iceland. I share my tips on whether you should visit Iceland in winter or summer (and which months are the best for your Iceland trip).
HOW TO DECIDE WHETHER TO VISI IN WINTER OR SUMMER
Iceland is truly a magical place. With its many volcanos and glaciers, Iceland is known as the Land of Fire and Ice. It is also rich in many more natural attractions like hot springs, waterfalls, geysers, and more. So, this all is no secret. However, to experience Iceland at its best, you should carefully plan when to visit Iceland.
Iceland is located near the Arctic Circle. This location has many, many benefits – but also some “disadvantages.” You have a winter wonderland in winter with concise days, while in summer, you have endless days with 24 hours of daylight.
SEASONS IN ICELAND
There are actually four seasons in Iceland.
Summer in Iceland – June, July, August, and September
Fall in Iceland – September, October, November, and December
Winter in Iceland – December, January, February, and March
Spring in Iceland – March, April, May, and June
However, for this post, I refer to summer from May-September and to winter from November-March (just leaving some months out).
After visiting Iceland in winter (December and January), I knew I had to revisit. So, I revisited in the summer months. And both trips were unique and unforgettable – but could not have been more different.
Do I have a favorite time to visit Iceland? Yes and no. Visiting Iceland in summer or winter was extreme – both times. So, I have created a couple of categories that should help figure out the best time to go to Iceland.
ICELAND – WEATHER AND DAYLIGHT IN SUMMER AND WINTER
This category will be the longest because it is quite important.
SUMMER WEATHER AND DAYLIGHT IN ICELAND
Summer in Iceland is perfect if you want to experience long days.
Temperatures in Iceland are not comparable with temperatures in Central Europe or even Southern Europe. Temperatures can rise to 20-25 °C (68-77 °F), but most of the time they are about 10-15 °c (50-59 °F) with strong winds on the coast and a lot of rain (especially in Reykjavik).
The best about visiting Iceland in summer is the looong summer days – you might have heard about the magical Midnight Sun in the nordic countries.
So what is the midnight sun? It is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the summer in places south and north of the Antarctic Circle – including Iceland. The Earth rotates at a tilted axis relative to the Sun, and near the 21st of June, the north pole is tiltedtoward the Sun, and the northern hemisphere experiences summer solstice. For several weeks, the Sun never sets above the Arctic Circle, and the Sun remains visible even at Midnight.
The peak of Iceland’s Midnight Sun is usually the 21st of June
You can experience the Midnight Sun in Iceland between mid-May until mid-August
You can see the Midnight Sun everywhere in Iceland
Iceland’s daylight hours on the longest days of the year are 24 hours per day (May-July)
Iceland’s daylight hours increase by 1-3 minutes every day between the 21st of December and the 21st of June, and then it decreases every day by 1-2 minutes.
So, what does it mean for visitors? Endless days that allow you hours of hours and hours of exploring. You can start your days very early and avoid the crowds – you can do all the “sightseeing” during the night and sleep during the day. And have places all (or almost) to yourself.
WINTER WEATHER AND DAYLIGHT IN ICELAND
Iceland in winter is not as cold as many think (and I thought) because the Gulf Stream flows along the west and south of Iceland and brings some “warmth”.
Reykjavik is in the southwest part of the country, and the average temperature is around 1-2°C (33-35°F) – but it can also drop to -10°C (14°F) in winter.
The further north you go, the colder it will get. Isafjordur, in the Icelandic Westfjords, can be inaccessible due to heavy snowfall at times. Isagjordour is just one of several places which gets isolated.
But the weather is something you can prepare for – dress accordingly, and you should be fine. However, short days are something that might be troublesome.
Short days in Iceland in the winter because of the country’s high latitude
The shortest day of the year is the 21st of December – there are only around 4 hours of daylight (depending on where exactly you are)
The longest day in the middle of December is only 5 hours of daylight. Sunrise is around 11 am and sunset between 3 and 4 pm
Iceland’s daylight hours increase by 1-3 minutes every day between the 21st of December and the 21st of June, and then it decreases every day by 1-2 minutes.
So, how exactly does that impact exploring Iceland? I had known about short days, but nothing prepared me for THAT short days. After nine or ten days in Iceland, my mood went down rapidly. If you start your day at around 9 or 10 am, you cannot see much. If you sit in a car/bus and want to enjoy the scenery…you just cannot see much. The picture above is shortly before 11 am and the reason you can see a little bit, is because the street is lightened by the car lights. It just starts getting lighter before 11 am. You cannot do any outdoor sightseeing before 11 am, and you have to finish at around 3 pm. That honestly sucked.
Given Iceland’s vastness, it will be impossible to see a lot in winter in 5 days just because of the little daylight. I loooooved the long days. This way, I could see much more of Iceland – I did not feel the need to hurry. Usually, I woke up at around 6 am and did some exploring, went back to my van, took a nap, explored again in the afternoon, and then continued my journey and arrived at the campsites only before Midnight. I mean, that is a perfect life for me.
I heard from people not being able to sleep because of the long days. Though I visited in July in a camper van, I slept well and had no issues with the long day. I loooooved the long days and think summer is an amazing time to visit Iceland.
ICELAND SCENERY IN WINTER OF SUMMER
Iceland’s scenery is impressive. But is Iceland more beautiful in summer or winter? This time, I will show you mostly photos and keep the talking to a minimum.
ICELAND SUMMER SCENERY
Iceland in summer means you have almost 24 hours a day to explore the country. See the greenery, moss-covered waterfalls, and more (only trees are a rarity in Iceland).
WINTER SCENERY IN ICELAND
Iceland is a winter wonderland – snow-capped mountains, frozen waterfalls, and more. Iceland in winter and summer could not be any more different – I visited places in summer and winter. Compare yourself.
CONCLUSION: IS ICELAND MORE BEAUTIFUL IN WINTER OR SUMMER
I have to say that Iceland in winter looks better than in summer, much better. It is more magical and special.
Polls of my Instagram followers, however, showed a tie for most places. So, like most things, it is just about your personal preferences, but I 100% root for the scenery in winter.
BETTER ICELAND ACTIVITIES IN WINTER OR SUMMER
Summer and winter offer both wonderful activities throughout the year. Most main sights in Iceland can be visited throughout the year. The Blue Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Gullfoss Waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, hot pools, and more – so, regardless of the time of your visit, there is no lack of attractions to visit and activities to do.
SUMMER ACTIVITIES IN ICELAND
See puffins, visit Glaumbaer, see Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, do a boat Tour on the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, go whale watching…There are a few attractions/activities you can only do in the summer months. Also, hiking in the summer months is possible. It will be too icy and dangerous to visit some of the beautiful attractions. This beautiful waterfall can only be visited in the summer months (if you do not want to risk your life). So, bring your hiking clothes and plan some epic hikes for snow-free hiking paths.
WINTER ACTIVITIES IN ICELAND
See ice waterfalls, celebrate NYE in Reykjavik, see the Northern Lights… for some attractions, it is best to come in winter. The Northern Lights might be the main reason for many to visit Iceland in the winter months. My take on it is: If the Northern Lights are your main reason to visit, then re-consider. I stayed in Iceland for 12 nights and just saw a very thin light…In pictures, they still looked amazing. Because the camera is able to catch the Northern Lights, the eye is not that great. So, in Iceland, you might experience wonderful lights dancing, but chances are much better in other parts of the world.
CONCLUSION: SUMMER OR WINTER ACTIVITIES
So, Iceland has some fantastic places and attractions to visit year-round. But if you want to experience a lot and do many attractions/tick off bucket-list items, then the summer months would be the better time to visit because more places are accessible and more unique activities are offered. So, in summer, add places like the secret Nauthusagil Waterfall, the pretty Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, or Bruarfoss Waterfall to your Iceland itinerary.
GETTING AROUND ICELAND IN SUMMER AND WINTER
Iceland is quite extensive, and its attractions are spread throughout the country. The bad news is that public transportation is pretty bad in Iceland. You can use it for Reykjavik or some other towns, but it is challenging to use it as the only or the main mode of transport.
There are basically only two ways to get around in Iceland: booking guided tours or doing a road trip.
HOW TO GET AROUND ICELAND IN SUMMER
Summer is the perfect time to explore Iceland on your own. Rent a var (and bring your own over) and do a Ring Road road trip (if you have at least 7-10 days) or a Golden Circle Tour plus a few detours if you have less than seven days. Many streets are in good condition, it is easy to drive and navigate, and there are sooooo many stunning stops along the way (that you have not even heard of). It might be a bit busy during the summer months, but if you leave the Golden Circle and Southern Iceland, fewer people are on the streets. This makes road tripping in summer even more fun.
Some parts of Iceland – especially the highlands (the famous F-roads) and some dirt roads- are only accessible via 4WD. But in summer, most places are accessible with a regular car, and if you want to drive the F-roads, you can.
As great as guided tours are, there are not comparable with driving yourself and stopping whenever you want.
You do not enjoy driving? Then do guided tours. I did a handful of guided tours in winter, and because it was dark until 11 am, I could not enjoy the scenery, but in summer, you can have fantastic window views if you do guided tours.
GETTING AROUND IN WINTER IN ICELAND
Winter is a challenging time to drive – while Reyjkavik is still pretty okay to drive ( I saw cars sliding a couple of times, though). Outside of the capital and main routes like the Golden Circle, driving is not an easy task. Heavy snow and icy roads are only for experienced winter drivers. I did a lot of research on driving in winter (because road tripping in winter was my initial plan). It is possible to drive, but most people (especially locals) do not advise road tripping Iceland in winter.
Also, many streets and towns can become isolated and cut off from the rest of the country – meaning you might be stuck in a place for days.
So, in summer, road trips are excellent, in winter not so much. But how to you get around in Iceland in winter then?
Guided tours in Iceland are pretty good. Tours to most attractions are offered, and you can relax and enjoy the scenery while you are on a bus. I did a good number of guided tours. There was Wifi in all buses, knowledgeable guides and we visited the main places. But it was also a hassle – waiting for people of my group, not seeing all the places I would have loved, spending too much or too little time at a place…
CONCLUSION: HOW EASY IT IS TO GET AROUND IN SUMMER AND WINTER
In winter, tours are the best option to see the country. Tours have their advantages but also their disadvantages (at any time of the year). In summer, you can do guided tours or road trip Iceland. Winter in Iceland makes it really hard to get around on your own. Either you are brave and rent a car or you do guided tours only. So, Iceland in summer is the winner in this case.
P.S: There are tours for several days where you can see more of Iceland.
PRICES IN ICELAND
Iceland is expensive. Like really expensive. At any time of the year. BUT, Iceland is cheaper in the winter months.
PRICES IN ICELAND IN SUMMER
The summer months, especially June, July, and August, are the most popular months to visit Iceland, spiking prices for accommodation and rental cars e.g.
PRICES IN ICELAND IN WINTER
Visiting Iceland in winter is usually cheaper. However, visiting in December can be pricy because many people come here for NYE. If you visit in November or January/February you can save tons of money. For more info on costs, check out my post with how much I paid for my Iceland trips.
CONCLUSION: IS IT CHEAPER IN SUMMER OR WINTER
Iceland will always be a costy travel destination. Avoid June, July, and August and also December. The shoulder season is the best time to visit for a budget-friendly trip (even if it is in spring or fall). So, this time, an Iceland winter trip wins against an Iceland summer trip.
BEST MONTHS TO VISIT ICELAND
Iceland is a fantastic country to visit year-round. However, it feels like two different countries in summer compared to winter.
Above mentioned categories might have helped you decide whether you should visit in the summer months or winter months (or even in “Spring” or “Fall”).
Personally, I think Iceland looked MUCH better in winter compared to summer. It had something more magical and more unique. I will never forget the winter trip because it was extreme. The good and the bad were extreme.
However, considering all the factors, especially daylight, summer is the better season to visit Iceland. It is more accessible and welcoming. The long days make it a perfect country to see.
You see, I am struggling making a final, an ultimate decision because Iceland.
If you want to visit Iceland in the summer, I suggest visiting in June/July (despite the crowds and prices, just for the midnight sun) or late May or August. I recommend visiting November, January, or February (the days are longer, prices drop, and it is still winter wonderland) for the winter months.
HOW TO SEE BRUARFOSS WATERFALL – A QUICK TRAVEL GUIDE
Iceland is rich in natural attractions. Whether we talk about natural springs, volcanos, black sand beaches, or the waterfalls (and all the other attractions) – there is no lack of natural sights Mother Nature provided in Iceland.
One of these natural sights is the Bruarfoss Waterfall.
If you are in Iceland, you will see many of these “foss“ – the Icelandic word for waterfall. What makes the waterfalls so unique?
Well, the color is probably the most distinctive feature. It really is gorgeous! In this post, you will find tips about Bruarfoss Waterfalls – how to get there, what to know, and more.
Bruarfoss means Bridge Waterfalls. It doesn’t have much to do with the waterfall itself but with a stone bridge that crossed the river. That bridge got destroyed many centuries ago, but the name has stayed.
LOCATION OF BRUARFOSS WATERFALLS
Bruarfoss is in the west of Iceland, about 80 minutes east of Reykjavik.
It is located between Laugarvatn village and Geysir geothermal area and can be combined with trips around the Golden Circle (like the Thingvellir National Park or Gulfoss Waterfalls).
Bruarfoss Waterfall is fed by the river Bruara – its origins lie in the Hvita River, which runs from the second-largest glacier in Iceland glacier (Langjökull).
The best time to visit is actually in the summer months.
In the winter months, the path is inaccessible due to snow.
Though it is not the most popular place in Iceland, it probably gets busier during the day. If possible, come early and then you will have the place (almost) all to yourself.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SEE THE BRAURFOSS WATERFALLS?
It took me 2 hours in total to see the waterfalls.
This includes all the photo stops to see the waterfalls.
Since I was in the area and around Gullfoss Waterfall, it was not a big detour. It took me only a few more minutes (and kilometers). So, in terms of driving, it did not take much extra time.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING BRUARFOSS
Wear sturdy shoes
There are no toilets
Parking is free
Do not litter (take rubbish with you)
Stay on the path
HOW TO GET BRAURFOSS WATERFALLS
There was a direct walking path to the waterfalls. However, it closed because of some visitors who destroyed the flora and littered.
This is when a few ruin it for the many.
You can still see the waterfalls! These days, you have to do some walking to get there. So, you have to do the detour, but though it takes more, it is worth it! This is an advantage for those who actually visit. There are fewer crowds because many people avoid the “effort” to see it. Also, you will see some smaller waterfalls along the walk.
Type into your GPS “Bruarfoss Waterfall Official Parking.“
I headed to the wrong – old – parking space (of course) and realized quickly that I had to drive back 2km or so).
There is no bus stop, so you need to drive there.
There is a parking space where you can park for free.
Most guided tours, do not offer a visit to Bruarfoss Waterfalls
HIKING TO THE WATERFALL
Apparently, the “hike” scares some people away. I was the only one around when I arrived at about 9 am and did not have to share the place with anybody else. On my way back, I met a couple of other visitors.
You need to walk around 3,5km to see the main waterfall and then walk back another 3,5km.
A sign says it is an intermediate hike. However, it is maximal a medium walk. There is no hiking included, just a pleasant stroll with very little up- and downhill hikes. You might have to walk through mud on/after rainy days, but what in Iceland is considered “intermediate” is probably called a “baby hike” in Switzerland. I totally made that up, but whenever I hike “an intermediate hike” in Switzerland, I am dead for 2 days. So, this was the easiest “intermediate” hike I have ever done.
If you have gotten curious about “intermediate hikes” in Switzerland check out my Oeschinensee post.
Most of the walk is very easy – the path is flat, and you have a river view. Only some parts will have slight uphill (and downhill) walks through the forest.
From the parking lot, stay on the left side (at the beginning, you can either walk on the right or left side) and then walk along the river. You will see a couple of very tiny – yet beautiful – waterfalls like Gongustigur, Hlauptungufoss and also Midifoss. These small waterfalls are lovely, but the best is yet to come.
BRUARFOSS: The waterfall is stunning! Not the waterfall itself but the color! Wild and powerful shimmering in that unique color!
There is a wooden bridge to cross, that allows you to see the waterfalls from different perspectives.
However, there is not much else to do and see around Bruarfalls Waterfalls.
CONCLUSION: IS BRUARFOSS WORTH?
Iceland’s Bluest Waterfall, Bruarfoss Waterfall, is really unique! I did not care about the lack of water volume or its small size… the color made me fall in love!
Personally, Bruarfoss has become one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland. It is pretty tiny, but its color is outstanding! I probably have never seen a more suited watercolor for a waterfall.
The hike is very easy. Though it is not possible to pass with a stroller, I do believe that even smaller kids can do the walk (just keep away from the river) or people who are not into hiking.
It will take about 2-4 hours, including the drive from other main attractions in that area. Many other waterfalls present themselves on a silver plate in Iceland – where there is no need to do any hiking. Bruarfoss Waterfalls however are less accessible. This might be a turn-off for some. So, all those who eventually visit will benefit from fewer visitors.
There is no shortage of impressive waterfalls in Iceland. Often, they present themselves on a silver plate to you. If you drive along the main streets, you will often see one of these stunning waterfalls. You do not even have to search for them. This is sightseeing made easy.
However, there are a few waterfalls that like to hide – waterfalls that want to be discovered. Hidden waterfalls. Stunning hidden waterfalls. And one of these waterfalls is the Nauthusagil Waterfall, which is close to some of the country’s main attractions. And yet, it is a hidden gem.
The waterfall is hidden, and to see it, you have to hike through an ancient, moss-covered canyon – the Nauthusagil Ravine.
Find out more about Nauthusagil Waterfall: its location, how to get there, the difficulty of the hike, and more tips for seeing this gem.
LOCATION OF NAUTHUSAGIL WATERFALL
The waterfall is in the south of Iceland. You can easily combine it with a trip to one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland: Seljalandsfoss.
After visiting Seljalandsfoss, you do not head back to the main street, but instead pass the camping site and drive the F249 heading towards Þórsmörk for about 7 km.
It is a dirt road, but if you drive slowly, it is super easy to drive. It is, more or less, a straight street with no uphills.
I did NOT have a 4WD, and it was absolutely fine. Just take it slowly.
In front of the ravine is a car park. Parking is free, and there is no entrance fee for seeing the waterfall.
I have not seen any guided tours going to the waterfall.
BEST TIME TO VISIT NAUTHUSAGIL WATERFALL
I visited the waterfall in summer – on a “sunny” day in July. The best day might be in the summer months. I could not find any info, but I am pretty certain that it is impossible to hike in the winter months.
After a rainy day, the waterfall might be more powerful and even more magnificent. But I recommend visiting regardless of that.
You should be fine with doing some climbing on wet surfaces
My pictures do the waterfalls no justice: Normally, I take tons of images but because of the circumstances (focusing on the hike), I did not take many images.
HIKING TO NAUTHUSAGIL WATERFALL
Once you park your car, walk along the river. Do not go up the hill. For some reason, I thought I had to walk up. But I was wrong because there is no uphill hike required at that point.
Stay on the left, walk along the river, and get into the gorge. Very quickly, you will be in the ravine.
The ravine is deep and narrow, but you can walk along the river even if you are a bigger person.
Keep walking for a few minutes, and then you will pass a 2-3 meter waterfall. This waterfall is interesting, but not what you are here for. So, you need to pass the waterfall and climb the rock beside it. Then there is another waterfall…
I would not say it is a dangerous hike, but it takes concentration not to slip and fall. The chains and ropes will help you to climb the rocks.
But I also waded into the river as it was sometimes easier than jumping from one wet stone to another. With proper shoes, it should all be fine, though. I had to put my camera away for most parts so I would not slip.
Continue your hike, and after some more minutes, you will see that waterfall – looking all pretty! But since it is a hidden waterfall, you will just see a small glimpse first before you see it in its full glory!
If you are lucky, the sun will shine and lighten the waterfall, making it even prettier. Or it will be all foggy, adding some more myth to this waterfall.
There are some more hiking options around the waterfall but I guess, this short hike is the best way to see the waterfall and get the best glimpse of the ravine and its wonder!
It took me less than one hour in total – including the photo stops but it will be a stop, I will remember for a while!
IS NAUTHUSAGIL WATERFALL WORTH IT?
Though my feet and shoes were soaking wet and I was exhausted, hiking to that waterfall was one of my highlights in Iceland. I was awe-struck by this waterfall – which is such an underrated place! Yes, it does include some hiking, and the drive might scare people away.
Even though I drove in my 2WD, I was happy I went anyway. It was a detour of about 1.5 hours maximum. Though I lost one of my hiking boots later that day when I wanted to dry it (do not ask), it was one of the trips that made my Iceland trip even more special.
This place is one of Iceland´s gems that is still not overrun and so I highly recommend visiting (because eventually, also this place will be popular with visitors).
Are you heading to Iceland soon and wondering about where to stay in Iceland? Lucky you! Iceland has become incredibly popular and with all the country has to offer, it’s no wonder!
Winter months bring an ideal location to spot the Northern Lights, and during the summer months, you can explore the gorgeous green countryside and black sand beaches. Whether you visit Iceland in winter or Iceland in summer – you will surely have a unique experience.
Iceland can be pricey, but there are ways to travel for all budget types. Whether you like the city or the countryside, prefer luxury or need somewhere more simple to sleep at night there is a wide range of options of accommodation to choose from!
Today, it is all about the best places to stay in Iceland – here are tips for your Iceland itinerary.
Luxury Hotels in Iceland
Let us start with some of the best luxury hotels in Iceland.
Hotel Ranga in Hella
Hotel Ranga is about 1 ½ hour from Reykjavik. This is an option in Southern Iceland for those who are looking to spend more time in nature.
If you’re visiting to see the Northern Lights in December or spend time doing outdoor activities, this is the place for you. With the best of both worlds, you have access to the beautiful outdoors without having to rough-it.
Renowned for their stargazing, they actually have a mini observatory on-site! Only150 meters from the hotel, you can enjoy spectacular views from their telescopes.
This 5-star option lies about 2 ½ hours north of Reykjavik in the beautiful coastal countryside.
All rooms have a lovely view of whether it’s of the ocean, mountains, glaciers,s or lava fields.
Their 5-star restaurant is all locally sourced fresh foods, and their rooms have a traditional style, so you truly feel immersed in Icelandic culture. Enjoy your outdoor excursions and beautiful night skies without sacrificing any luxuries.
They will assist you in booking excursions and provide a wake-up call during the night if the northern lights appear!
If you plan to drive throughout Iceland and explore other areas of the country on your trip, I recommend the Kea Hotels Chain as a good luxury option that has several properties spread throughout Iceland.
Boutique/Unique Luxury Option
Here are some very unique hotels in Iceland.
The famous Blue Lagoon of Iceland! Chances are you will be visiting here on your trip, so why not stay here?
If the Blue Lagoon is on your Iceland itinerary, then Hotel Silica is a great choice.
Hotel Silica has its own private thermal pool, “Silica Lagoon,” for its guests with a poolside waiter. Your stay also includes a complimentary premium admission to Blue Lagoon (only a short walk from Silica Lagoon), a fitness center, and daily breakfast.
This is the best way to experience the thermal pools of Iceland, hands down.
The Radisson Blu is also located in central Reykjavik, with their restaurant 1919 on-site serving locally sourced foods.
This is another great option for travelers looking for a mid-range option with walking distance sights, shops, and restaurants.
Close to the national art gallery and old harbor. They have a fitness center on the property if you like to keep in shape while traveling! They also have a convenient app that displays hotel specials as well as must-see nearby spots.
Their motto is “Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds,” located only about 20 minutes from Reykjavik, you are close enough to enjoy but also far enough to have some more seclusion, quiet and better viewing for night skies.
They have an outdoor hot tub perfect for relaxing under the night sky and free parking on-site, making it a good starting point for an Iceland road trip. They serve breakfast daily and have a bar on the property as well.
Laxnes also offers their own day tours to explore the area and night tours to go out and hunt for the Northern lights.
If you plan to drive throughout Iceland and explore other areas of the country on your trip, I would recommend the Iceland Air Hotels Chain as a good mid-range option with several properties spread throughout Iceland.
Boutique/Unique Moderate in Iceland
Here is a boutique hotel in Iceland for the mid-range hotel.
Ion Adventure Hotel in Nesjavellir
This property is perched about 1 hour east of Reykjavik. This is a stunning and uniquely designed hotel.
Even the drive there will have some beautiful scenery to enjoy along the way. This is a great spot to enjoy nature’s beauties and the northern lights if you go over the winter season.
The hotel is done in a modern design, and they have a delicious restaurant too. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors and seclusion of Iceland without being terrible far from Reykjavik’s drive making it a nice stop after spending some time in the city.
They also have a lovely spa on site where you can enjoy facials and massages using Icelandic herbs.
Known as the “5 Million Star Hotel,” Buubble is a unique inflatable igloo style accommodation in the great outdoors.
This gives you an amazing view of the night skies during winter. You can lay under the Northern Lights with completely unobstructed views watching from the bed or in the summer under a star-filled sky.
These are set up as a single-night stay at the end of a full-day tour (either Golden Circle or Southern Coast). What an amazing and fun way to spend the night after a day of visiting gorgeous sights in Iceland!
This is a great central option for budget travelers. Reasonable pricing without sacrificing a good walkable location!
They are simple apartment-style lodging rooms with daily breakfast served and free wifi. They also have a Scandinavian restaurant and bar on-site and parking available, which is perfect if you plan to take a road trip and continue exploring the country after Reykjavik.
This option is a little farther- just outside of Reykjavik but only a 5-minute walk to the bus stop for easy transportation in and out of the city.
Walkable distance to several restaurants and a food market as well. Arctic Comfort Vik also has free parking, free wifi, and a daily breakfast buffet making it convenient and having all the necessities available.
Here is an amazing and unqiue place to stay on a budget.
The best way to see Iceland outside of Reykjavik on a budget is camping. Kuku Campers is an awesome option offering campers (so you don’t need to completely rough it), and you can explore the country freely.
They also provide their own hand-drawn maps so you can see where you need to stop on your way around Iceland! Perfect pairing with is a “Camping Card Iceland” this is a card that gives you entry and access to tons of campgrounds throughout the country so you can stop and relax at night and have showers etc., all available to you.
It is very popular to travel this way in Iceland, and you’ll meet plenty of fellow travelers along the way enjoying the gorgeous nature Iceland has to offer!
Hopefully, this post has helped you find the perfect accommodations for your trip to Iceland! Have a wonderful time in this unique place!
Iceland is known to be an amazing travel destination – but also expensive. It is not the most expensive country I have been to (hello Switzerland, hello Norway), but costs can add up, and the Iceland trip can be pricey.
And since my followers on Instagram kept asking “how expensive is Iceland?“ and “how much money do I need for an Iceland road trip /van trip?” I tracked all my expenses (which, as a travel blogger, I do anyhow) and listed them here for you.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS ICELAND
I visited Iceland twice. In winter (December/January 2020) and in summer (July 2020). In December, I stayed 12 nights. In July, 7 nights.
And I did something for the very first time: I rented a camper van in Iceland and traveled around the country for 8 days.
So, in this post, you will find out about how expensive accommodations – and also campsites – are in Iceland, as well as gas prices, food prices (whether you cook for yourself or dine out), and the cost of activities.
So, first I will focus on my 1-week Iceland camper van trip and the costs I incurred, including some activities.
But I will also add prices/costs that I had on my first trip – where I did guided tours and stayed in hotels and hostels, and ate out much more.
GENERAL COSTS FOR VISITING ICELAND
So, let‘s start with the costs of one week in Iceland in a camper (or better, 7 nights).
I traveled solo, so I paid all the expenses myself and could not share them with anyone. Also, I did many activities on my first trip, so keep reading until the end to find out more about activity prices in Iceland.
GENERAL MONEY TIPS FOR ICELAND
Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK) – 1000 ISK is about 6,20€ or $7,30
Card is king – you basically pay with card everywhere (cash is accepted but not as common as debit/credit card. The only time I was asked to pay cash was at some campsites for showers and for one hot pool.
COST OF RENTING A CAMPER VAN / CAR
Of course, the price of a rental car depends on several factors – size, automatic/manual, 4×4 or regular car, insurance, and a few more.
4-wheel cars are more expensive. You will need one for sure in the winter months when there is a lot of snow and ice. You will also need one for sure if you plan to visit the Highlands (or off-road streets that are not well maintained).
The size of the car also matters and camper and motor homes are more expensive than regular cars.
However, it also depends on whether you choose a manual or automatic car. Manual cars in Europe are quite common and also cheaper. If you have only driven automatic cars, you might struggle with a manual. Iceland – maybe – might not be the best place to try out driving manual cars.
You also need to think about the insurance. Normally, the cars come with a basic insurance that covers theft. Then, you normally have different packages – if you rent a 2-wheel car and drive streets that are only meant for 4-wheel cars, the insurance will not cover at all. So, this is very important to think about beforehand.
Also, if you plan to cross rivers with a car (sounds weird, but it is not so uncommon in the Highlands), you need to make sure the car is suited for it and the insurance is fine with it.
MY CAMPERVAN COSTS
680€ for 8 days.
On my first trip, I only did guided tours, and on my second trip, I rented the smallest camper van I could find for 8 days. I traveled solo, so I did not need a big one, and I am also not used to driving big cars so I went with the smallest one offered.
I chose the company Campervan Iceland – and was only semi-happy with the car. They work with RentIs and I probably would not book with them again but look for a rental company with better cars.
It was an old one (though it was not but it felt like a 15+ year old car that has been used a lot) and had more issues than I have and many smaller things did not work (like charging my electronics via USB and so I had to deal with that), but it got me around the Ring Road safely and that was the most important thing.
I drive manual in Germany, so I rented a car with a stick, which is cheaper than renting an automatic car.
However, I got the highest insurance package, which did cost me a lot extra (about 250€ more for 8 days).
The camper van had the essentials, like a mini gas stove (which did not always work), a small “fridge,“ and one gas bottle that lasted me one week (since my stove didn‘t always work, I did not have to rebuy it, but you might have to pay around 5€ to get another one if you cook a lot). It also includes:
Sleeping room and seats for 2 people
Double bed (140 x 190 cm or 110 x 190 cm)
Free chairs & camping table
Automatic heating system for the sleeping area
Kitchenware & Camping Gas
CDW Insurance and Final cleaning (included)
It did not have any kitchen or toilet/shower and really was the most basic campervan out there.
The camper van plus premium insurance and essential camping equipment (chairs, dishes, sleeping bag, etc) cost me about 680€ for 8 days. With the basic theft insurance, I would have paid only around 440€ or so.
Also, this was during high-season. But also during “Corona high-season” so prices in July might be higher but for the shoulder season that sounds realistic, where prices drop to about 40-50% (for the car only, not for the insurance).
Renting the van was also my highest expense during my campervan road trip.
If you are looking to rent bigger camper vans – that has beds/seats for 3 or more people you will have to pay much more and a fancy Campervan 4×4 VW California does cost about 300€ a day.
GAS PRICES IN ICELAND
180€ for gas
Gas: Gas prices in Iceland change often, similar to other countries. Prices drop and increase on a regular basis. In summer 2020, gas prices all over the world were pretty low compared to the previous years.
In July 2020, one liter of diesel cost around 1.30-1.40€ (for my US readers, that is about $6 per gallon).
Please keep in mind that prices do change quickly, but as a reference value, you can use that.
I drove the whole Ring Road and also did a few detours – about 1400 kilometres – and paid a bit less than 180€ for gas (diesel is slightly cheaper than gas).
Another main expense that most people have is accommodations – and accommodations in Iceland are really expensive.
So, whether you stay in Reykjavik or in more remote areas, do not expect bargains. Also, hostels are quite pricey.
So, if you do not have a campervan/motorhome, this will probably be your main matter of expense.
ACCOMMODATION PRICES IN ICELAND
Around 100€ for campsites
Accommodations in summer (June, and especially July and August) are particularly expensive. And in winter, Christmas and New Years Eve are more expensive. So, if you need to watch your budget, you can save money by avoiding those months.
3-star hotels easily cost up to 100€ during that time – and dorm rooms can cost around 27€ – while 5-star hotels are more than 200€ a night.
Since I stayed at campsites, I did not have to pay much for accommodations, but I spent one night in a hostel because the USB charger in my car did not work and I had to recharge all my electronics.
This cost me about 28€ (a lovely hostel with a great view) and I had the room all to myself by chance even though it was a dorm. However, normally, a dorm with 3-6 people cost that much
Other than that, I stayed in camping sites and I paid around 10-12€ per night (one person, no extra fee for the campervan/tent).
Depending on where you stay, it may include warm water/shower – some charge an additional 1-2€ for showers, but I never had to pay extra.
In Reykjavik, I paid more because it was a more luxurious campsite that costs about 15€.
But 10€ for camping is probably the cheapest accommodation option you will have and if you stay for more than 12 days in Iceland (or travel with more than travel partner), you might want to check out the Camping Card which might save you money.
FOOD PRICES IN ICELAND
60€ for food and drinks
One main expense will probably be food – but it doesn’t have to be. I eat mostly plant-based (meaning I avoid animal products but still, very rarely consume diary or eggs). I do not do it to save money but it actually saves me tons of money. Plant-based food is very cheap and so eating in Iceland was not a big issue for me.
I tried to cook every day but my cooker did not work 100% after a few days, so I ate food which was easy to prepare.
So, I had pasta and tomato sauce and some veggies several times. I also bought rice, but did not eat it as the stove did not work after a few days. And I had chickpeas in a can with veggies. I bought toast and made sandwiches with hummus and veggies, or just had toast with plain Nutella.
I also got an avocado once and had it with toast and salad (I bought a lot of local cucumbers and tomatoes, but also canned corn and chickpeas or beans).
For breakfast I often had oat milk with cereal and a lot of chocolate and chips for snacks.
The bananas I got once did not taste great, so I did not buy a lot of fruit on this trip, which are quite pricey since there is no real local fruits in Iceland.
I mostly bought my groceries at Bonus, which is also one of the cheapest grocery stores in the country.
For 8 days, I paid around 60€ for groceries. It was not the healthiest diet I have had, but also not very unhealthy, so if you eat healthier with even more veggies and fruits and legumes, you might pay a bit more (but not much).
If you buy meat or meat substitutes (which Iceland has plenty of), you will need to pay much more since meat is expensive in Iceland.
Water is free – and since I mostly drank water I did not have to pay. Tap water is fine but you often can get your water from rivers/waterfalls as well.
If you enjoy alcoholic drinks you will have to pay more – while prices for coffee is reasonable, alcoholic drinks are not the best drink to go for if you are on a budget.
20€ for dining out
I only had lunch/dinner out once on my second trip.
At Husafell Bistro, I had a vegan burger with fries for about 20€. This was the only time I sat down and ordered food. Since it was not that great, I did not feel tempted to eat out more.
However, I dined out more often on my first trip and think that 20-30€ is pretty standard for a (vegan) burger.
Though I do not eat meat/seafood, I checked out prices and I believe that this is what you typically have to pay for one meal. In a better restaurant (though not very fancy), you might pay around 30-35€ for a meal. Steaks or fancy seafood will costs you more in many restaurants.
Cheaper foods are hot dogs or soups (for less than 10-15€), and if you have take-away burgers at gas stations, you will pay less than 15€ for a burger with fries.
So, for my camper van trip I just paid around 20€ for eating out.
On my first trip, I had either lunch or dinner in a restaurant each day, and had breakfast and one meal in my hotel/hostel. So, I paid around 25-30€ a day for eating out and maybe 5€ for preparing my own food.
25€ for snacks
I had coffee every other day, but also bought some snacks like ice cream and paid around 3- 3.50€ for one coffee/cappuchino.
In total, I paid about 20-25€ for snacks and coffee on my second trip.
In total, I paid around 100€ for food for 8 days.
ACTIVITY PRICES IN ICELAND
27€ for activities
Many sights in Iceland are actually free. You can visit most natural landmarks and won’t have to pay a dime for anything, which makes visiting these stunning places even more fun.
Interestingly, often these attractions are on private land, but they are open to the public – some ask for a donation to maintain the place and some charge money. But most top outdoor attractions are free to see/visit.
Waterfalls, hiking in natural parks, visiting outdoor attractions like the Red Chair, and even many hot pools are free.
Commercial places like the Blue Lagoon, of course, do cost money (and not a little). If you road trip though, you will not have to pay a fortune on paid activities.
I did not do many paid activities this time, as I did many main “expensive activities“ on my first trip.
So, I paid 10€ for a hot pool, 17€ for the Myvatn Bath (which is normally twice as expensive, but I guess the prices dropped because of Covid-19), and I just paid 27€ for attractions on my second trip.
Here are more prices for activities I did on my first trip:
Blue Lagoon – around 80€ (there was a slightly cheaper option, but I chose the “premium“ option)
Secret Lagoon – around 17€
Glacier Tours (depending on where you are picked up and which tour you choose) – around 100€
So, if you want to spend a fortune on activities, you easily can – especially if you do private guided tours and want to do whatever Iceland has to offer.
But even Iceland on a budget is totally possible. You do not need to spend a lot on activities to have a great time.
OTHER COSTS IN ICELAND
Here are some other costs had on one of my two trips or you could have.
Bus tickets: Unfortunately, public transportation in Iceland is not fantastic. Getting to main attractions only by bus is very hard (I do not want to say impossible, though it probably is). You will have to rent a car or pay for guided tours, but within Reykjavik, you can get around by bus.
You can also take several buses to Northern Iceland or other areas. They are cheaper than guided tours, though at the end, you will have to book tours again or rent a car.
Within Reykjavik I used public transportation and I paid around 3€ for one ticket. Bus tickets from the airport to the city center of Reykjavik costs about around 13€ (keep in mind, that the international airport is the Keflavík Airport and that they dont run that often so the – more expensive – airport shuttle costs around 30€ one way (thus, I highly recommend renting your car from the airport).
More expenses for my Iceland road trip:
There is a toll fee for using the Hvalfjarðargönginn Tunnel (Northern Iceland), which is about 10€.
I did not pay any money for parking, but there are some spots where you have to pay a bit (most parking is free though).
Water is free in Iceland, so never spend money on it and refill when you see streams, etc. (You get tap water if you eat out.)
I had to pay about 56€ for a Coronavirus test upon arrival – the test is no longer compulsory for Germans, but you might still have to pay for it.
TOTAL EXPENSIVES FOR ONE WEEK IN ICELAND – CAMPERVAN TRIP
So, how much did I pay for one week in Iceland in a camper van?
In total, I paid around 1100€ for my one week road trip in Iceland (no flight tickets included, but the test is included). Most of it was for my rental car – if you have a campervan yourself and bring it over (and pay for the ferries only) you could save tons of money. However, it was also the smallest camper van they had (and thus the cheapest). If you want something more comfortable or bigger, expect to pay a few hundred € more.
Since I did a couple of main attractions during my first trip, it saved me money. I guess if it had been my first trip, I would have ended up paying closer to 1500€ or so.
But if you split rental and gas costs with a travel partner, you can probably do a similarly fun and amazing trip like I had for 600-1000€.
Surely, it was not a luxurious trip and I had more luxury for less money in other destinations, but 1100€ for eight days doesn’t sound too bad to me. I did not feel I missed out on anything or that I sacrificed, but I also did not feel that I indulged. I got what I wanted and that was a fun trip for me.
If you really wanted to, you could probably travel Iceland for 900€ solo (assuming you do not take the premium package with your rental, budget even stricter with food and activities, and do all the fun free things in the country).
With 1200-1500€, you would be doing quite well and could eat out a bit more often than I did. And with 1500-1800€, I probably would have had an even more comfortable trip (especially dining out), but I did not feel it was needed.
If you stay in hostels or even good hotels, this drastically changes the total and you would have to add at least 50-120€ per night (especially if you travel solo). Check out my accommodation guide for Iceland.
Iceland surely is not the most budget-friendly destination, but it is still possible to have an amazing time without breaking the bank, as my list proves.