Iceland is beautiful in both the winter months and in the summer. It has wonders that you can appreciate throughout the year and during any weather conditions, but it would depend on what you want to see when visiting the beautiful country that will determine when you go. We opted to visit the country during the snow months so our experience of the scenic country is snow-white. Summer brings beautiful green colours and grassy fields.
You can easily spend two weeks or more in Iceland but if you're like me and your time is limited there are a few things that I would recommend you tick off your list while in the country. So, if you are up for a fast-paced adventure then this is a great holiday. All three days are interchangeable and you don't have to follow this order. I would recommend flying in the day before starting any tours (the weather is sometimes unpredictable) and booking your Northern Lights tour for the beginning of your stay so that you increase your chances of seeing them.
Day 1: Reykjavik, Northern Lights and Stargazing
Reykjavik and the surrounding areas is home to more than two-thirds of the entire Icelandic population so there is plenty to do in the city. Start your day off right with a healthy meal and coffee at Gló Restaurant. Gló is located in the main shopping street Laugavegur, so take a stroll down the street and peruse some of the shops after breakfast. After shopping, head to Hallgrimskirkja - one of Iceland's most iconic landmarks. It is a working Lutheran church and one of the tallest structures in the country.
After Hallgrimskirkja, get yourself a drink and some dinner. Happy Hour in Iceland is everyday between 5pm and 7pm, and if you're stuck for choice, download Appy Hour (Android/iOS). Imagine every happy hour in Reykjavík in your pocket? The prices of alcohol in Iceland can be steep and Appy Hour helps you find a Happy Hour bar closest to you.
Make sure you get a few hours of sleep before heading out to chase the Northern Lights. It's important to note that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and their appearance relies heavily on a lot of natural factors aligning perfectly before the auroras shine bright enough for you to see. In short, they are unpredictable. But... You will be able to chase them until you see them. I would recommend that you book your excursion for the night of your first full day in Iceland. Reykjavik Excursions, the main Northern Lights tour provider, will allow you to come back each night until you see these beautiful auroras.
If you don't get to see them on your first night, prepare yourself for minimal sleep - the tour starts at around 10pm and returns at 2am. Northern Lights season in Iceland starts in October and lasts through March.
Day 2: Golden Circle Tour and Secret lagoon
The Golden Circle tour starts at 8am and will return to your hotel by 4pm. We had a shuttle pick us up from our hotel the morning of but there are also shuttles that will take you to a bus terminal for bigger group tours. The tour that you purchase will determine your starting point. The Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon Tour stops at all the main stops along the Golden Circle and ends with a dip in the Secret Lagoon. A few of the main stops on the Golden Circle Tour include:
Vatnsleysufoss (Faxi Waterfall): Faxi is a rugged, wide waterfall not far outside of Reykjavik.
Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir National Park): This is a historical and geological wonder of Iceland where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. An interesting fact that your tour guide is bound to share with you, these tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters a year. It is also famously know for Alþing (Althing) which is the sit of the Iceland's parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries.
The Great Geysir: Here you will witness the Strokkur geyser shoot water 30 meters into the air, but do prepare yourself for a very strong smell of sulphur in the air.
Did you know that the English word Geyser is actually derived from the Icelandic word Geysir?
Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall: This is by far the most beautiful sight of the day. The Golden Falls is a waterfall created by the river Hvítá which plunges in two stages into a crevice some 32m deep.
Secret Lagoon Hot Spring in Flúðir: Ready for a dip in water that stays between 38 and 40 degrees Celcius year round? The Secret Lagoon is a unique and natural hot spring for that true Icelandic experience. The pool's natural surroundings gives the pool a magical feeling.
Day 3: South Island Tour
The South Island tour is one of the best ways to see the true Iceland. The South Coast of the country boasts magnificent waterfalls, black sand beach, glaciers and more! Along your route you will see typical Icelandic farms and volcanos, so get ready for a jam-packed 10 hour tour of the South that starts at 8am. A few main stops include:
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: Have you ever wished you could walk behind a waterfall? Well here is your chance to walk behind a gigantic one. Unfortunately, you cannot walk behind the waterfall during the snowy months as the slippery ice poses a danger.
Skógafoss Waterfall: This waterfall flows over the cliffs of the former coastline and is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. It is 25m wide and falls over 60m. If you think this waterfall looks familiar, it's because it is one of the locations used in Game of Thrones Season 8.
Sólheimajökull Glacier: This is an outlet glacier of the mighty icecap of Mýrdalsjökull. It is one of the most easily accessible glaciers to reach.
Reynisdrangar: Another Game of Thrones filming location, this beautiful black sand beach is a unique place to visit in Iceland. Do be wary of what's known as sneaker-waves - the waves of the beach are particularly violent and travel a lot further up the beach than one would expect.
A Few of My Top Tips for Iceland:
Do not worry about what season you go in or what the weather will be like. Iceland can be appreciated at any time of year and in any conditions.
Do not catch a taxi from the airport to Reykjavik – this is extremely expensive! The airport is a considerable distance from the city and taxis are not common. Instead, book a bus transfer or even hire a car if you are in Iceland for longer than a few days.
Try book most of your tours in advance – Iceland has become an extremely popular tourist destination and spots for activities, such as the Blue Lagoon, sell out very quickly. It's worth noting though, that all tour companies will take you to the same sights for around the same price so don't fret if the first tour company you book with has no space. A quick Google search will bring up a number of tour companies that you can pick from.