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A Guide for Planning a Trip to Iceland in the Winter

By December 9, 2015September 29th, 20212 Comments

Iceland in the Winter:

Next month, we will be leaving rainy London for colder Boston. Then from there, we’ll take full advantage of a week-long ‘layover’ via IcelandAir to fulfill a dream. Seeing Iceland’s natural beauty and wild terrain up close is an unforgettable opportunity in group travel experiences to be had over the wintry season.

At this stage though, I’ve only seen incredible photos of the Northern lights and lots of snow. So what can we do for a full week in this country? And especially, how should I plan a trip to Iceland in the winter?

I’m not always one to plan everything out perfectly, but for managing wild terrain and an unfamiliar environment for everyone in the group, coming up with a game plan first seems key to a successful adventure, By using our trusty Iceland travel guide and some forward-thinking ingenuity, I bet our trip to Iceland in the winter will be one for the record books.

I also enjoy using some trip calculators and seeing options beyond the hotel on TripHobo, which works great for groups and various budgets.

How to get there and get around

The flight is covered. From Boston, MA to Iceland is about five hours, or less time than it takes to get to California. We’ll spend five total days in country then fly home to London, UK from there in another three hours.

What needs in-depth thought is ground transportation in Iceland. It seems many people opt for a road trip-style sightseeing tour either self-driven or with a larger tour group. We’re road trip people and look forward to the freedom of a car rental, but have been advised to get something four-wheel drive for the weather. There seems to be a few independent rental companies, but most likely we’ll go with a well-known brand.

Campervans also come to mind as a worthwhile transportation option in light of winter driving conditions in Iceland. You can start your search for 4×4 campers at Cozy Campers. The rental company’s winter camper rentals are equipped to enhance your safety while traveling around Iceland. Comfort is a top priority for these campers too.

Where should we stay in Iceland?

Although I want to experience several kinds of accommodations, I hope not to get too tired from moving around. For four nights we plan to stay at three places maximum and more likely only two. As our trip is fairly short, we plan to be around the city and within only a few hours’ drive, mostly in the south and west. Some of the places that top my list include Hotel Ranga and Ion Iceland, both in the southern part of the country. I did discover the most famous hotel, Blue Lagoon, will be undergoing renovations for a few weeks this January. It’s always key to check in advance when going somewhere during the off-season – a trip to their spa and finding it closed would have been a disaster!


Northern Lights, Winter in Iceland: hofudborgarsvaedid-nott-nordurljos-5-1

Everyone’s activity wishlist

I am gunning for a day (or five) at the spa. Iceland is known for its scenic thermal pools and pampering services at are unparalleled anywhere else. I also am in love with music from this destination, like the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. So I’d enjoy finding some live music or performance art in the capital city of Reykjavik. Art interests me as well so visiting the Kirsuberjatréð gallery featuring female creatives is a must. On the other hand, my husband hopes to truly get lost in Iceland’s back country by exploring waterfalls, wild thermal pools and the shoreline.

To find a middle ground, we will spend a day or two in the capital for museums, cultural classes and points of interest, then hit the road to do part of the Ring Road route, stopping in cozy towns like Selfoss and Borgarnes. We’ll check out the fissure stone in Þingvellir National Park and if there’s enough time, stop at the ‘Golden Waterfall’ in Gullfoss. Of course, any place we roam will be dark early enough to hopefully catch the Northern lights dancing across the sky at these natural hotspots – or just outside or hotel window.

What else is needed for a trip to Iceland?

While crowdsourcing advice on Iceland, the number one thing people said was to invest in sturdy shoes. Although there will be much relaxing and sticking to the car, when we do trek through snow and ice for good views of the sea and sky, we’ll need great boots. I also plan to bring hand warmers as my extremities are always frigid. Having the day ruined because of the cold isn’t a fun way to spend time in Iceland. I also have heard food can often be adventurous, so I might grab a granola bar or two for the longer drives in case we are feeling picky about choices.

As the trip gets closer, I can’t wait to share everything about this incredible place, so stay tuned!

Photos courtesy of Iceland Tourism. This post is in partnership with Guide to Iceland and as always, all opinions are my own.

Eileen Cotter Wright

Author Eileen Cotter Wright

Eileen Cotter is a freelance travel journalist and owner of Pure Wander. She's our resident expat extraordinaire and falls down a lot in yoga class. Follow her on Instagram @Pure_Wander.

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