"Why on earth would you go to Iceland in January?!" was something I heard on repeat as I planned for my winter wonderland getaway. The truth was, I thought there was going to be something so magical and romantic about spending a week in Iceland and I imagined it would look like a real snow globe. Lucky for me, I was right.
We spent five days in Iceland traveling around the southern half of the island with planning help from Guide to Iceland (the inspiration of this blog!), and it was everything we could have imagined and more. It felt like one of those cheesy travel videos you see, except better.
Before we get into our recommended itinerary (where to go, what to eat and what to see), here are a few fun facts about Iceland:
Make sure to read to the end for a winter in Iceland packing guide. Now, on to our trip!
If you're looking to feel extra hygge, look no further than Sandholt Cafe. Breakfast at Sandholt was the perfect way to kick-off our stay in Iceland. The atmosphere was warm and cozy (I mean there were candles lit at the tables at 7:00 A.M.!), the pastries were flaky and the lattes rich and creamy. It was the best way to warm up and enjoy the dark Icelandic morning.
Ah... the Blue Lagoon. Just thinking of it on a chilly day warms me up. If you've never heard of/seen the Blue Lagoon, you may be wondering, "what exactly is so special about this lagoon?"
Envision a pool full of hot, milky, icy blue water set upon a backdrop of dark lava structures and jagged mountains. Delicate ribbons of silky steam rise out of the water and vanish into the crisp, winter air. Oh, AND, you get to hang out in the pool filled with antioxidant-rich water all while sipping on a chilled glass of champagne. This. Is. What. Dreams. Are. Made. Of.
A few things to remember when visiting the Blue Lagoon:
Efstidalur: Who would have known that a dairy farm in Iceland would end up being one of my favorite places in the world! Efstidalur is a quaint dairy farm on the top of a hill near the Great Geysir. The farm produces dairy products, mainly Skyr and ice cream, and is a great view into Icelandic culture. We were treated to a scoop of ice cream, which was creamy and satisfying even in the cold January weather, and were able to pet the friendly working animals.
Gullfoss Waterfall: Gullfoss was my favorite waterfall in Iceland. I've never seen so many magnificent colors of blue and green in ice, water and snow, and a year later, I still think about this wonderful spot daily. Make sure to bundle up because the wind and water spray is very strong!
Íslenski barinn: This is a wonderful, cosy restaurant for traditional Icelandic cuisine. Ben ate Kæstur hákarl which is FERMENTED SHARK, with it's traditional pairing, Brennivin, which is very strong Icelandic vodka! It's a must-do when in Iceland.
Day 3: Two-Day Southern Coast and Ice Cave Tour
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: Seljalandsfoss is one of Iceland's most famous waterfall. During the summer, you can walk behind the waterfall, but during the winter it's as equally stunning. We were lucky enough to arrive at the waterfall as the sun was rising, leading to the most spectacular scenes of pink, blue and orange skies behind the serene waterfall.
Hike of Vatnajökull: This magnificent glacier is due to disappear in the next century due to global warming. Being able to climb one of Earth's most pure pieces of land is something I'll never forget.
Day 4: South Iceland Coast and Northern Lights
Skógafoss Waterfall: This was one powerful waterfall! When we arrived at Skógafoss Waterfall, it was extremely windy and bitter as a wind storm was quickly approaching. The frozen spray from the waterfall had overcome the parking lot, which made for a silly walk of slipping and sliding from the parking lot to the waterfall. We laughed hysterically as we slid towards the waterfall and as we got closer, we lost it as all of us tourists were pushed over by the wind and the spray from the waterfall. It was a great reminder at just how powerful mother nature can be - she rules all!
Northern Lights Tour: Seeing the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis has always been on my bucket list. This show did NOT disappoint. Our tour was originally scheduled for our first night but was canceled due to poor "light" condition. We were so glad to have gotten the tour in on the last night as it was the perfect way to end our trip in Iceland. According to the tour guides, we had been treated to the best light show in months, which consisted of hours of green and purple fairy dust swirling over our heads as we gasped in awe. It's a memory i hope i never forget!
Day 5: Goodbye Iceland
Tales of Iceland Museum: Tales of Iceland is a new museum that tells the history and culture of Iceland through videos. The videos are high quality, through and accurate. We were able to reminisce on all the wonderful places we had seen throughout our trip as we walked through the museum and was the perfect activity to do before we said farewell to this special country.
iceland travel tips
From top left to bottom right:
Knee-length waterproof North Face Jacket with hood
Mitten gloves with touch-phone capabilities
Warm wool scarf
Waterproof Ugg snow boots
Under Armour thermal turtleneck
Pack of Hot Hands
Cheap bathing suit for Blue Lagoon
Note: I included links for any products I ordered that are still available.