Winter in Iceland travel plan is a tailor-made plan for an intense seven-day journey on the island. There will be a city tour of Reykjavik and a visit to the SPA Blue Lagoon. The schedule will include time for the attractions of the Golden Circle, waterfalls, cliffs, geothermal fields and craters. There will also be time to see Black Beach, Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. There will be a short visit to Vik and the opportunity to swim in the oldest pool on the island.
I wrote this itinerary to meet my own expectations and in line with my financial possibilities. The trip happened in winter, so my story will contain many references to changeable and difficult weather conditions. There will also be time to rest, enjoy tasty lunches and watch the Northern Lights.
Day 1 – Winter in Iceland and overnight stay in Reykjavik
We arrived in Iceland late in the afternoon and it was already getting dark outside. It was 4:30 p.m. when we met with the company, we rented a car from. That was our second stay in Iceland, and the second time we rented a car from the same company “ICE POL”. They took us to their headquarters in Keflavik. We picked up our car, went to the gas station and then – straight to Reykjavik.
The road along the entire route is white and slippery, and there is a thick layer of snow on the roadside. The cars are equipped with spikes, and everyone moves carefully on the road, so driving in these conditions does not cause us any major problems. We reach our destination without any major adventures.
Winter in Iceland and Reykjavik by night
We arrived at the hotel in the evening. It was completely dark in the city. It was the second half of March, and a thick layer of snow was covering the city. There were no free parking lots in front of the hotel. Fortunately, on Saturday, we could leave our car in the nearby private parking lot. During weekdays, a private company owns it, but on weekends it is empty and fully available. However, the large amount of snow caused us some problems.
We had a problem with entering the parking lot and parking the car, as the wheels stuck in the snow. We also had trouble getting out from the parking lot to the sidewalk, as it was so slippery that it was easy to fall over.
After checking in at the hotel, we went out for dinner. We went down the road towards Faxafloi Bay. There is a wide promenade and several restaurants. We stayed at Borg29 for dinner. It is a Food Court with eight small restaurants inside, with Icelandic and international cuisine. You can eat on the spot or take it away. It is quite a new place on the map of Reykjavik, eagerly visited by locals, groups of friends and families with children.
After dinner, we went to the bay. We passed the historic wooden Hofdi House, where Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met on October 11-12, 1986. In the past, Hofdi House was also visited by many famous personalities, including Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich.
At the end of the day, we stayed by the Sun Voyager sculpture. This sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason is described as a “boat of dreams” or an “ode to the sun”.
On the horizon, we could still see the shadow of the sunset. We took quick pictures and returned to the hotel – fully cold and with frozen hands.
- 22 Hill Hotel, Reykjavik
- The ICE POL company – this car rental company in Iceland is trustworthy and recommendable. They have been operating in Iceland since 2014. The company is headquartered in Reykjanesbaer (Keflavik), only a few kilometres from the airport, from which they pick up customers on request, at any time. They also deliver the car to the agreed location.
- Hofdi House – more information about its history can be found at icelandtravel.is_Hofdi House
- Food Court Borg 29. It is worth coming there for lunch or dinner, a trendy place on the map of Reykjavik Borg29 Reykjavik, Iceland.
Day 2 – Winter in Iceland – attractions of the Golden Circle
Pingvellir National Park
It’s cold and snowing (typical winter in Iceland day) since early morning. On this day, we plan to visit famous Golden Circle attractions: Pingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall. Despite the poor weather conditions, Road No. 36 leading to Pingvellir National Park is open. We dug the car out from a deep layer of snow and hit the road.
There are a few tourists on that day in the park, so many free parking sports are available. There is a device in the tourist information office where we pay for our parking. We go outside fully clothed and buttoned up to the neck. A thick layer of snow is everywhere – it is beautiful, so we cannot wait to walk through the park. Since the start of the road, we realize that crossing the park and reaching the waterfall requires support on shoes. We take the crampons out of our backpacks, quickly put them on our shoes and set off briskly down the valley through the Almannagja fissure.
With crampons on shoes, the road is easy for us to walk.
We come to the Oxararfoss Waterfall, which looks fabulous in its snow and ice version. Partially frozen, wrapped in snow, great frozen blocks of ice lie all around. It is cold, and the icy mist floating over the waterfall, makes us feel the low temperature with double strength.
We go for a quick walk through the park, to see other attractions.
The morning snow has already turned into freezing and pouring rain. Walking in the park is no longer fun. We return to the car and go to see Geysir in its winter version.
Þingvellir GPS Points N64° 14′ 49.058″ W21° 7′ 28.372″
There are plenty of free spaces in the car park. On the way from Pivgvellir Park, the rain picked up. It was pouring! The wind was so strong that it was impossible to open the car door. We gather our courage and get out of the car. We enter the Geysir area – a famous hot spring in the geothermal area of the Haukadalur Valley. In the geothermal park, we see fumaroles with hot steam rising above them. The combination of the hot steam with snow and rain looks stunning.
However, as it is cold, the rain is pouring, and the wind is blowing – we are not waiting for the geyser to erupt, especially since we have seen it before during our summer visit.
We go back to the parking lot. On the way, we also visit the Tourist Information Centre, where you can eat something warm, drink coffee/tea, buy souvenirs, and use the toilet. We take advantage of the fact that you can have a good time in this place, warm up and dry slightly before continuing your journey.
Due to the difficult weather conditions, we will not ride to Gulfos waterfall that day. We will see it another day. Return to the car and drive to the hotel in Reykjavik. We do not leave the hotel till the end of the day because our jackets and shoes are still completely wet. We stayed for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.
You can read more about the attractions of the Golden Circle in my post: Golden Circle – treasures of Iceland
Geysir Geothermal area GPS Points N64° 18′ 49.512″ W20° 17′ 58.160″
- Parking in Iceland online payment
- Map of Pingvellir Park car parks
- Map of Pingvellir Park hiking trails
- Pingvellir Park – official website
Day 3 – a full day in Reykjavik
Sunday is the perfect day to visit Reykjavik. You can drive to a few places by car because parking zones are switched off on Sundays, so you can park wherever you like. The weather on that day is good, so we walk around the city from morning until sunset. I have prepared a self-prepared sightseeing plan for this day.
Reykjavik 1-day itinerary. There are ten attractions along the route, including a short stop for lunch and one out-of-town attraction.
- Laugavegur Street and Rainbow Street
- Hallgrimskirja Church
- Tjornin Lake
- City Hall
- Parliament Building
- The Old Harbour
- The best hot dogs in the town – Bæjarins Beztu
- Icelandic Phallological Museum
- Harp Concert Hall and Conference Centre
- Solfar – Sun Voyager sculpture
- For volunteers: Grótta lighthouse
Laugavegur Street and Rainbow Street
Laugavegur is one of the oldest streets in Reykjavík. Its name can be translated as “Road of Hot Springs” because it ran along the area where women did their laundry in hot springs. The street was built in 1885. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to suit all tastes. Also, there are numerous boutiques, second-hand shops, shops with products from local producers, and shops with cheap souvenirs for tourists. There are art galleries and jewellery stores, numerous bars, restaurants and cafes. Along the street, there are interesting buildings. An example of the oldest wooden house is under number 21, from 1884. The house under number 32, from 1904 – represents the chalet style. There are also several typical concrete buildings from the 1920s nearby.
The growing interest in Iceland among tourists means that the street and its immediate surroundings are constantly changing. There are also more and more hotels and accommodation places.
At the end of the road, behind the Selva restaurant, after turning left, you will reach Rainbow Street. It is one of the most popular streets in the city, most often visited and photographed by tourists. Rainbow Street in Reykjavík is a sign of joy and support for diversity. The initiative is organized by the City of Reykjavík in partnership with Reykjavík Pride.
It is the second tallest building in Iceland, and there is a viewpoint from its tower. Hallgrímskirkja is 74.5 meters high and named after the Icelandic poet and Lutheran priest Hallgrímur Pétursson. The church was built for over 40 years, between 1945-86. Today, it is considered a symbol of Reykjavik and one of the most characteristic landmarks of the capital city.
The church is open daily. Monday to Saturday, from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., on Sundays, from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Entrance tickets for the elevator and church observation deck cost 1000 ISK (approx. 7,2$). More information is on the church’s official website Hallgrímskirkja.
Reykjavik’s city centre is in the northern part of the city, and its landmark is Tjörnin Lake. The residents often visit this famous Reykjavik City Pond due to the numerous (about 50) species of birds inhabiting the lake.
It is one of Iceland’s most beloved and iconic inner-city features. The domestic Reykjavik airport is nearby, and one of the landing runways runs over the lake’s surface. In winter, the lake can partially freeze. All the ducks and swans living there gather in the only place where the lake does not freeze, right next to the bridge leading to the town hall. Crowds of city residents are gathering there as well, as during winter, they are willing to feed the birds with bread and (more and more often) grains.
The City Hall stands on the shore of the lake. The building is postmodern, modern – built of concrete, glass and lava.
Inside the building is a large-sized 3D map of Iceland. The model is on a scale of 1:50,000, but the height scale is double and is 1:25,000. The total area of the model is over 76 sqm. There is also a café inside the building and public free toilets.
There is an interesting monument in front of the entrance to the City Hall. It symbolizes a city official overwhelmed with responsibility and a multitude of duties.
You can read more about the events at the town hall here: the official website of the city of Reykjavik_reykjavik.is
Also nearby is the neoclassical building of the Parliament of Iceland – Alþingishúsið, which opened in 1881. Right next to it, stands the Lutheran cathedral Dómkirkjan, built in the 18th century.
The Old Port is a place worth visiting not only for lovers of old cutters and trawlers but also for lovers of seafood.
There are many bars and restaurants here, and queues of guests outside their doors. There are also headquarters of those companies, which offer various boat trips around the bay (e.g. hunting for the Northern Lights or Whales Watching trips).
The best hot dogs in town – Bæjarins Beztu
While exploring the city, you cannot forget about food. For dinner, of course, it is worth going to the restaurant and warming up inside. But for a little something, it is worth visiting the most popular hot dog stand in Reykjavik. “Bejarins beztu” (The Town’s Best Hot-Dogs) is a chain of hot dog stands dotted around Reykjavik.
The chain has been operating continuously since 1937 when the first stand was opened on Austurstræti Street in the very centre of the city. It was opened by the grandfather of the current owner – Guðrún Kristmundsdóttir.
In the 1960s, he moved the stand opposite the Harpa Concert Hall, where today’s flagship booth still stands. In August 2004, it was visited by former US President Bill Clinton during his visit to Iceland for a UNICEF conference. This visit boosted the popularity of the stand because it was described in Icelandic travel guides. Two years later, in August 2006, the British newspaper The Guardian named Bæjarins Beztu the best hot dog stand in Europe.
In 2022, hot dogs were priced at KR 600 (approx. 4,4$).
Icelandic Phallological Museum
The Phallological Museum is the only museum of its kind in the world. In this small room, visitors can see the penises of mammals, and there are about 280 of them in the museum. The biggest attraction is the penis of a whale and a polar bear. The sperm whale’s penis weighs “only” 70 kg and is 170 cm long. On the other side, the smallest penis belongs to a hamster and measures only 2 millimetres.
This museum is a great attraction. The exhibition has many great ideas. It is arranged chronologically and is interactive. The visit to the museum is gripping, intriguing and full of fascinating objects. Some sections are with a grain of salt and a great sense of humour (such as an exhibition dedicated to characters from local legends).
That is a must-see attraction!
The entrance ticket costs 2750 ISK* (approx. 20$) but is worth every penny. The museum is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. You can find out more about the museum at Phallus.is
*prices from 2023.
Harpa Concert Hall
The building that stands out from the traditional port buildings is Harpa Concert Hall. The shape and structure of the walls resemble a honeycomb. Harpa walls sparkle with many colours: during the day, the rays of sun refract on them and at night, the colourful lights of the port.
Harpa is not only the pride of Reykjavik residents but also a great tourist attraction. Its modern form delights and stands out against the background of the city’s architecture. In 2013, Harpa was honoured with the Mies van der Roche Awards, awarded by the European Union to a building that impresses with its originality.
Currently, Harpa is multifunctional. Its interiors include the National Opera and the Philharmonic, concert halls, a conference centre, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop. It is worth seeing its stunning architecture inside as well.
Solfar – Sun Voyager Sculpture
The Old Port and Harpa are also ideal places to start a walk along the city promenade leading along Faxa Bay. This avenue is not tempting by any attraction, there are no tourist “fireworks” here, but a walk along the bay shore is a perfect place to relax. Along the way, it is worth stopping at the Solfar – Sun Voyager Sculpture. It is also called a “dream boat” or an “ode to the sun”. Made of steel, it shimmers with many colours both, during the day from the sun’s rays, at night in the moonlight, and during winter nights surrounded by the northern lights.
At the end of the day, we drive to see the lighthouse and nature reserve. Grótta is a tiny island located on the west coast of Iceland in Faxaflói Bay. It is in Seltjarnarnes city, on the west coast of its centre, which is part of the Greater Reykjavík urban complex.
The island is connected to the mainland by a stone causeway, which can be reached on foot, but only at low tide. Be careful in this place, because the stones can be very slippery, and it is easy to fall into the water. Grótta has been a nature reserve since 1974 due to the occurrence of numerous species of birds, e.g. arctic tern. With little luck, it is possible to spot seals basking in the sun on the shore.
The first lighthouse, Gróttuviti, was built on the island in 1897. The one you see there today dates from 1947. It was connected to the electricity grid in 1956 and has remained almost unchanged up to this day. The island cannot be accessed during bird breeding season (usually from May to the end of June), but during other months (including winter), it is possible to enter it. There are only a few sources of outdoor light around Grótta, making it one of the most popular places in the Reykjavík area to see the Northern Lights.
A foot spa
An interesting fact: near the parking lot, at the beginning of the road to the lighthouse, right on the ocean shore, there is a small hot spring – a foot spa. You can only dip your feet in there, but the place is so popular that almost always fully occupied.
You can read more about Reykjavik in my other post: Reykjavik Iceland’s capital city.
Reykjavik can also be explored on a sightseeing bus. The bus will take you not only to all the most interesting places in the city centre, but you can also take it to the Perlan Museum. Reykjavik Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Here you can check when the tides are high and low in Iceland and plan your visit to Faxaflói Bay and Grótta Lighthouse accordingly.
- You can read more about Reykjavik Pride at Visit Reykjavik – Rainbow Street.
Day 4 – Blue Lagoon, cliffs, geothermal field, and northern lights
That day starts nicely, as it is not raining, and the roads are passable.
It is Monday morning, so we hope the weekend tourists have already left, and the roads outside Reykjavik are empty. We are going to the Reykjanes Peninsula, where hot springs are one of the biggest attractions of the region.
SPA Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular and “anticipated” tourist attractions. It is also a world-renowned SPA that offers hot spring baths. To be precise, the water in the lagoon is brought to the surface by geothermal wells. The water flows out enriched with silica, algae, and minerals – bioactive elements that have healing, rejuvenating and nourishing properties. Blue Lagoon is an unusual place, offering perfect relaxation. Unfortunately, during a peak season, it can be extremely crowded and expensive. However, we came there at the end of March, so early in the morning, the parking lot was almost empty, so we did not expect many people inside.
We did not have to stand in line for the tickets. We just bought them on the spot. In high season, however, I advise buying tickets in advance, as it is hard to get there without a prior reservation. As we enter the lagoon, the weather starts to change rapidly. It is getting cold, wet, and foggy.
Despite the bad weather, we spent over 3 hours in the lagoon. We walk around a hot pool immersed in water up to the waist or sometimes up to the neck. We are looking for where the warmest currents are. It is cold, so the warmer the water is, the better.
Good to know
- The lagoon is large and has many fascinating places to visit. There are wooden platforms around the pool where you can walk, take pictures, or bask in the sun when it is warmer.
- There are several places in the pool where spring water flows out. You can drink it directly from the tap.
- Depending on the package purchased, face masks are provided on-site.
- There is also a bar with drinks that you pay for with a bracelet (the one you use to open the clothes lockers). When leaving the lagoon, the content of the bracelet is peaked and – if necessary, you pay for the purchased items.
- There is also a hotel, several restaurants, massage rooms, and a souvenir shop on the spot.
It is a great place, an attraction worth its price, although I would not go there in the peak of the tourist season.
More to read on the site SPA Blue Lagoon.
Despite the bad weather, we want to see again the cliffs we remembered from our previous visit in the summer. We follow Roads No. 41 and 43. At the end of the road, you must pass the lighthouse (sometimes invisible through the thick fog) and continue to the end of the road ending with a “wild” parking lot.
The cliffs are very picturesque, and the ocean in this place is always very agitated. The waves hit the cliff walls with great force, causing very spectacular splashes of water.
It is worth a walk around the area. We have noticed that since our last visit (2 years ago), part of the cliff has broken and slipped into the ocean. A phenomenon is as fascinating and beautiful as it is dangerous. This place is not secured, so you must be careful where you step so that the cliff does not break away with you.
Recently, this place has become popular and often visited by tourists. In 2019, scenes for the Netflix movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga Band” were recorded here. Since then, the organs used in the movie and on the poster advertising the movie have been standing there. You can of course take a picture with them.
Watch out for signs along the way that inform tourists that parking in this area costs 1000 ISK. Do not pay here, as this tourist attraction has free parking. You can find an article on the website Nord.news_misleading signs about parking fee that warns about fraudsters.
Road No. 443 leads to the cliffs (you must pass the lighthouse), the GPS data: N63° 48′ 44.426″ W22° 43′ 0.770″
Reykjanesfolkvangur Nature Reserve and Geothermal Wonders of Nature
On the way back, we pass another very picturesque Road No. 427, running along the ocean coastline. It is worth getting lost here, even during the winter 😊. We continue along Road No. 42 along the Reykjanesfolkvangur Nature Reserve.
We stop at the Seltun/Krýsuvík geothermal field.
In the geothermal area, there are marked paths, wooden platforms, and stairs, which allow crossing safely, right next to the bubbling mud. One of the paths leads to a small wild river and another to the top of a high hill.
The views are surreal, out of this world, delightful, gripping, and worth seeing.
In winter, fortunately, you do not smell as much sulphur (rotten eggs) as in summer, so visiting at this time of year is easier to bear.
National Road No. 42 runs through the middle of the reserve, which is very picturesque and “forces” a stop at almost every car park by the road. We pass the picturesque Kleifarvatn Lake, surrounded by mountains on all sides. It is a great place to see (especially in summer), with breathtaking views. Be sure to plan your route in a way, that you can drive along this road.
You can read more about the curiosities of this region of Iceland in my other post about Reykjanes Peninsula South West Iceland.
Northern Lights – winter in Iceland
Seeing the Northern Lights is an extraordinary experience. In Iceland, the Northern Lights can only be seen from September to March. However, you must be lucky to see the Aurora Lights. The sky cannot be covered by clouds, and in the winter months, there are only a few such days. To be able to see the Northern Lights, it is best to take a boat trip at night, which sails to the darkest place, away from the city lights.
You can also go on a night tour by coach, which takes tourists to darkened areas. We bought a boat trip from Reykjavik, and for two days in a row, the trip did not happen due to heavy clouds.
It was not until the third night that we managed to cruise to the open sea and see the aurora. It is worth planning this attraction ahead. Even though only a few tourists were there in March, we had many people on our ship. It is worth adding, that in March, it was extremely cold to stay outside, on the open water. Therefore, the ticket includes warm overalls that guests can put on over outer clothing while on the ship. Without it, watching the aurora from the ship deck would not be possible.
Some examples of the Northern Lights tours by bus are listed below.
Day 5 – Gullfoss waterfall, Kerid crater and waterfalls
We start this day by checking out of your hotel in Reykjavik. We are going east, where our destination will be Vik. The weather is quite good in the morning. We are starting with the hope that maybe today will be the first day we will not get wet and freeze.
We begin from the Gullfoss waterfall, which we originally planned to see on the second day as part of the Golden Circle attraction. However, we did not get there due to heavy rain.
Gullfoss lies on the Hvítá River and is the third most popular attraction in Iceland, visited as part of the Golden Circle tour. Also, it is called Golden Waterfall because the high content of glacial water in the river makes it reflect the sun’s rays and shimmer with gold.
The waterfall can be visited all year round, around the clock. Free entrance. There is a gift shop on the spot, a tour operator’s office, and a cafeteria. Due to safety reasons, in winter, the road leading along the river is closed. The waterfall can only be seen from a distance but seeing it at this time of year is just as impressive as in summer. The true winter in Iceland is worth seeing here.
Definitely, it is worth coming here!
Gullfoss Waterfall GPS Points N64° 19′ 38.220″ W20° 7′ 8.135″
Faxi, also called Vatnsleysufoss, is a large and serene waterfall. It is in the south of Iceland, 12 km from Geysir and 20 km from Gulfoss. It is on the Tungufljót River. The waterfall is 80 meters wide and 7 meters high.
We found this place by coincidence.
By Road No. 35, there was a sign informing about a nearby waterfall. We turned into a small parking lot with a gate. The price for parking is 700 KR (approx. 5$).
After leaving the car park, you go through a small forest with wooden platforms. At the end of the road, there is an unusual waterfall. Not as spectacular as Gulfoss, but just as beautiful. The river where this waterfall is placed is full of salmon. So, it is a popular place among anglers. There is also a Vid Faxa restaurant and camping sites on site.
The Grímsnes-Kerið volcano crater is over 6,500 years old. It is part of a group of volcanic hills called Tjarnarhólar. Kerið has an oval shape, 270 m long and 170 m wide. The crater is 55 meters high, and its bottom is filled with water, forming a small lake. The lake’s depth varies between 7 and 14 meters, and the water never runs dry.
You can walk around the crater along its upper edge or use the stairs and go down to the very bottom – straight to the lake’s surface. That is a fascinating attraction mainly because of the beautiful colours of the crater. The rocks surrounding the crater, are coloured fiery red and orange. In summer, the crater is overgrown with moss, and black and green bands are forming around it. Kerid crater also attracts attention because it is easily accessible. Also, you can descend to its bottom, and the steep circular slopes of the volcano resemble an ancient amphitheatre.
In winter, you can still walk around the crater.
You can also go down the stairs to the frozen lake’s mirror. However, it is worth considering that in winter, the stairs are very slippery or partially covered with snow. You must be careful not to hurt yourself.
In winter, we only walked around the crater, without going down to the lake’s surface. Stairs covered with a thin layer of ice and frozen snow did not convince us. We did not want to risk injury, so we did not go down.
It is a picturesque place, regardless of the season.
Good to know
- There is a large parking lot near the crater. Before entering the crater area, you must buy a symbolic admission ticket for 400 ISK (approx. 3$).
- It is worth booking about 45-60 minutes for sightseeing in this place if you plan to walk around it and go down to the lake surface.
Kerið Crater GPS Points N64° 2′ 27.611″ W20° 53′ 5.599″
We head back along Route 35, towards the intersection with Route 359. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a place we had missed since our last visit two years earlier.
The farm and greenhouses belong to the Friðheimar family. The secret of their success is the use of geothermal energy. It allows them to grow crops under artificial light and harvest them all year round, despite Iceland’s harsh climate. Both the water for watering and greenhouse heating comes from renewable energy sources. The farm mainly specializes in the cultivation of several types of tomatoes, but they also have several other vegetables in their greenhouses.
What distinguishes this family from other farms is that they have opened their doors to tourists. In one of the greenhouses, there is a restaurant that serves unusual dishes. Their menu bases are tomatoes and freshly baked bread.
The menu includes traditional items: tomato cream soup served as an appetizer or Bloody Mary drink. In the restaurant, you can also order less obvious tomato dishes, such as mussels with tomatoes, tomato beer, tomato ice cream or tomato jam.
The magic of this place is that the tables are inside the greenhouse where the tomatoes grow! In the alleys next to it, there are employees of the greenhouse who do all the daily activities: planting, caring, and picking tomatoes. While waiting for a table, you can walk around the greenhouse and take a closer look.
GOOD TO KNOW
- There are plenty of tables in the restaurant, but it is hard to get a seat without booking in advance. The restaurant is open every day, all year round, but only open for 4 hours, between 12.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m.
- There is also a small company shop on site, where you can buy family preserves. On the Fridheimar website, you can order all products online, book a table, or have a guided tour of the greenhouse. Table reservation: Phone number (+354) 486 8894, Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Be sure to plan a visit to this place!
The Merkjá River has some beautiful waterfalls, but the most notable is Gluggafoss or Window Falls (also known as Merkjárfoss).
The river flows under a stone arch at the very top of the waterfall. Because the rock is relatively soft, the waterfall has changed over time. In the past – half of the waterfall was almost invisible because the water flowed into a vertical tunnel behind the cliff. It could only be seen through three windows, one above the other. Significant changes occurred when the eruption of the Hekla volcano in 1947 caused the river to carry a layer of volcanic ash 20 cm thick downstream. The vertical tunnel formation almost disappeared as it filled with ash. The waterfalls took nearly 50 years to return to their former glory.
That is a fascinating place. It is worth using the path that leads almost to the top of the waterfall because there are lovely views from this place.
A decent size parking place is available nearby. Its location is at the intersection of Roads No. 261 and 250.
Gluggafoss GPS Point N63° 43′ 14.111″ W19° 53′ 32.433″
Seljalandsfoss and Gljufurarfoss
The last attraction of the day on our way is the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, 65 m high.
The waterfall has a large cave and a marked path, that is hidden behind the water cascade. Thanks to this, it is possible to walk around the waterfall. It is also one of the favourite places among photographers. In the winter, this path is closed. The entire road around the waterfall is covered with a thick layer of ice, so due to safety reasons, it is not allowed to walk there.
300 meters further from the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, there is another waterfall, Gljúfrafoss or Gljúfrabúi. This small waterfall, 40 meters high, is partially obscured by cliff rock, so many people do not know about its existence. You can get close to this waterfall, hidden in a small canyon. You can enter the canyon by following a narrow stone path that runs along the rapid stream of the river. Inside the canyon, a waterfall is falling into a small basin. The waterfall branches into two streams, which is very impressive up close. Inside the canyon stands the giant boulder Franskanef, which means French nose.
When we were there in the summer, the water level in the stream was low enough to try to go inside the canyon. I tried it and fell into the stream – so I walked around in wet shoes all day. In the summer, however, this was not a big problem. In March we did not want to go inside the canyon due to the risk of having wet shoes in the middle of winter. This risk effectively discouraged us from making such an attempt.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Both waterfalls are located within Katla Geothermal Park. More information can be found at katlageopark.com – Seljalandsfoss.
- There is paid parking on-site, at the price of ISK 700 (approx. 5$). As part of the parking ticket, you can use the toilet at no extra charge.
It is getting dark. We drive to Vik, where our next hotel is located. Accommodation: Volcano Hotel, Vik
Day 6 – swimming pool, cave, waterfall, Black Beach and Vik
Pool – a mysterious hot spring
In the morning, we set off on Route 1 to find a mysterious hot spring. We turn onto Road No. 242 to find a “wild parking lot” at its end. According to local guides, the pool can only be reached on foot, along a trail through the mountains and across rushing streams. This whole area is privately owned, but everyone is welcome here.
Seljavallalaug is an outdoor swimming pool, one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, built in 1923. Pool classes started as part of compulsory education in 1927. The swimming pool is 25 meters long and 10 meters wide, and until 1936 it was the largest swimming pool in Iceland. In 1990, a new pool was built about 2 km closer to the valley. However, you can still swim in the old pool, just at your own risk. The pool is free to use, and there is a small room on site where you can change before and after swimming.
The pool is filled with water flowing from a nearby hot spring.
On the way to the pool
We visited the pool during the winter, in mid-March. From the place where you can leave the car, you must walk towards the valley for about 20 minutes. The road in winter is quite demanding. The nearby river has a strong current and is quite wide, it is difficult to cross it without soaking your shoes up to your ankles. Then you follow a path leading through the mountains. It is worth coming here and seeing this place because the valley is very picturesque.
Unfortunately, we were unable to enter the pool. The pipe bringing water from the hot spring to the pool was disconnected, and the hot water poured directly into the torrential river that flowed nearby. The water in the pool was about 4 degrees – for us, it was not enough for a bath.
A small group of tourists from Norway came with us. They jumped into the pool without hesitation. They told us that the water was even a bit too warm for them because they swim in lower temperatures on a daily basis.
It is a place worth visiting.
Seljavallalaug swimming poll GPS Point N63.5655°, W19.6079°
On the way to the waterfall, a gripping tourist attraction draws our attention. We stop at a nearby parking lot and follow the marked path. It is the Rutshellir Cave, also known as Rutur Cave, which is one of the largest man-made caves in Iceland.
The area of the cave is surrounded by a fence. We do not see the gate through which you can enter its premises. Our attention is drawn to the information board with information partially available in English. Right next to it, we see that a ladder is placed above the fence. After a moment’s thought, we conclude that this is the entrance we were looking for. We go up the ladder to the other side and enter the cave. We are delighted with the picturesque landscape of the area, the high mountains surrounding us and the moss-covered rocks.
Outside the caves, there was a room where hay and sheep were stored. It is 20 meters long. After passing through its interior, you come to a cave hollowed out in the rock. It is said that there used to be a forge inside it.
This is a unique place, and it is worth stopping here for a 10-15-minute break.
No one is guarding it, no admission tickets, but there is a sign inside asking to keep order inside.
It is worth adding that in southern Iceland, you can now find over 200 such sea caves, that are placed on 90 farms. More than 40 of them have been declared as protected areas. In other parts of the country, these types of caves are virtually unknown.
We return to Road No. 1 near Skogar, where one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland is located. Skogafoss waterfall is 69 m high and 30 m wide and is on the cliffs of the former coast.
On sunny days, Skogafoss is often decorated with a rainbow. Sometimes there are even two of them, which makes it a popular place for tourists. In the summer season, it can even be densely crowded. The waterfall can be seen from its bottom and from the top, as there are metal stairs leading to its top. Getting to the top is not difficult, and the way up will take you about 10 minutes.
Skogafoss can also be visited in winter. The road to the top is also open most of the year, but in winter, you must be especially careful with ice on the stairs.
The power of the waterfall is impressive up close. You cannot get too close to it. There is a strong gust of wind that as a wall of finely dispersed water droplets hits painfully the face. If you want to get close, it is worth wearing a cape, otherwise, you will be completely wet.
There is free ample parking on site.
Interesting fact: the Skogafoss waterfall is often visited by film crews. Among other movies, starred in the 5th season of the series – “Vikings” and in the winter instalment of the film “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of the Fire Saga Band”.
Skogafoss GPS Point N63°31’28.19″, W19°30’29.99″
Reynisfjara Black Beach
Continuing drive along Route 1, it is worth going to Reynisfjara Black Beach – an area known for its intriguing volcanic formations, characteristic basalt cliffs and “rock needles” that jut out of the ocean just offshore.
It is a place worth visiting even in the bad weather. In 1991, the American magazine “Islands Magazine” recognized Reynisfjara Beach as one of the top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world. Being on the beach, it is easy to see the Reynisdrangar rock pillars emerging from the water. The height rock reaches up to 60 meters.
One of the legends says that these high rocks are trolls. When the trolls were pulling ships out of the water, they did not manage to hide before sunrise. When the sun came out, the rays turned them into the rock. On the beach, it is worth visiting a small cave built of basalt columns. You can also climb to the top of Reynisfjal Hill.
Reynisfjara Beach is worth knowing
- The beach is fascinating but dangerous. Ocean waves can suddenly crash into the beach, have great strength and can be dangerous. It is recommended that you never stand with your back to the beach within 30 meters. In 2023, a special warning system was installed at the entrance to the beach, signalled by coloured lights. Pay attention to these markings.
- Black Beach has also been noticed by filmmakers. Scenes for the 7th season of the HBO series “Game of Thrones” were filmed here.
- Reynisfjara is also a favourite breeding ground for local bird species. In the summer months, you can find there: puffins, fulmars, and guillemots.
Access to the beach parking lot
Coming from National Road No. 1, from Reykjavik, there will be a large sign on the right side of the road, indicating Reynisfjara Beach. After the sign, turn right onto Road No. 215 and drive to its end, where there is a large, free car park, a restaurant, and paid toilets. Parking is almost right at the entrance to the beaches.
Reynisfjara Beach is also worth seeing from above. A great viewpoint is on the Dyrholaey peninsula, 12 km from Vik and Mydral. Although this place is not well marked on the maps, it is easy to get there. From Ring Road No. 1, turn onto Road No. 218 and follow it to the very end. This road leads to the top of a hill, 120 meters high. At the end of the road, there is a small, free car park.
Right next to the car park, the lighthouse, built in 1927, attracts attention. The lighthouse is 30 meters high. It is worth going through the lighthouse area because from here, the view of the Ocean is worth seeing.
After passing the lighthouse, a narrow path leads to a viewpoint, where at the end of the road, you can see the entire Black Beach from above. It is worth planning your stay in this place and the appropriate time of about 45-60 minutes on the spot because only the walk along the path to the viewpoint takes about 15-20 minutes one way.
Good to know
- The road leading to the top of the hill is gravel and can be very icy in winter. It is recommended, that during the winter months, only 4WD vehicles are allowed up the hill.
- The viewpoint on the Dyrholaey peninsula can also be reached directly from Black Beach. The way uphill takes about 40 minutes one
At the end of the day, we go to Vik and Myrdal, which is the Bay of the Swamp Valley.
The village of Vik is inhabited by just over 300 people. It is a small settlement but strongly focused on serving tourists. In Vik and nearby Mýrdal, there is a large selection of restaurants, bars, a small brewery, hotels, guesthouses, and private accommodations. There are also gas stations, a small shopping mall, a wool factory that you can visit and an open-air municipal swimming pool.
In the central part, on a small hill, there is a white church with a red roof. The church was built in 1930, and a small cemetery. It is worth coming to this place because there is a wonderful view of the whole town and the Ocean. It is worth coming here.
A major tourist attraction in the area is the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, as well as the puffin populations on the nearby shores. It is also worth walking to the beach, which is a continuation of the Black Beach, seen from the other side of the Reynisfiall mountain. The views from this side of the hill are also worth seeing.
- Katla Woolen Knitting Factory
- Swimming Pool in Vik
- visitvik.is – official website
- Vik Culture walk map
Day 7 – Glacier Lagoon Jökulsárlón, Diamond Beach, and return to Reykjavik
On the last day of our winter in Iceland trip, we are going to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.
On the way to Jökulsarlon
Along the way, we stop at several places at viewpoints or where hiking trails begin.
The first is the point from which hiking trips around the cap of the Vatnajokull glacier used to start. We stop at the information board and the Djupa River. The views are amazing here. I love these unscheduled stops.
The next place where we make a short stop is Mount Lomagnupur, whose peak towers right next to National Road No. 1.
Mount Lomagnupur is a colossal rock on the south coast, known as one of the most recognizable mountains in Iceland. Its highest peak is 764 meters high, while its shorter cliffs reach just over 670 meters. It is not the highest mountain in Iceland, but it stands out clearly on the South Coast of the island.
One of its most unusual features is the flat top, estimated to be over a million years old! The top of the mountain consists mainly of a volcanic mineral called palagonite (basalt tuff), which is a product of the transformation of the interaction of water with volcanic glass with a chemical composition like basalt. Palagonite can also be formed by the interaction between water and molten basalt. These events may have occurred during the Ice Age when volcanoes erupted beneath the glaciers.
The lower layer of the mountain is even older. Its moss-covered base, built of a layer of lava and sediment, is about 2.5 million years old.
However, the most fascinating thing is, that the front of the mountain, called “the nose of Lomagnupur mountain”, was formerly a sea cliff. Thousands of years ago, the sea was much further inland than it is now. Being here, you can see how the coastline has shifted over several thousand years.
Next, we stopped at a place where the tongues of the glacier and the tops of the mountains can be seen from the road.
Glacier Lagoon Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón is often called the “pearl in the Icelandic crown”, and there is truth in this statement. A lagoon is a must-see attraction! It has crystal clear water, enormous glacial mountains floating on the lake, seals living on the coast and breathtaking landscapes with a glacier in the background. That is the most incredible place I have visited in Iceland!
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon formed in 1934 as a result of the retreat of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Since the glacier has been retreating (melting) for many years, the area of the bay is constantly increasing. Since 1970, the Bay area has quadrupled, which only proves the rate at which the glacier is shrinking. In the past, the tongue of the glacier ended in the ocean. Currently, the lagoon is located 1.5 km from the ocean shore and has an area of 18 km2. In 2009, it was the deepest lake in Iceland (approx. 284 m).
One of the most intriguing attractions of the lagoon is the possibility of sailing on it by pontoon boats, but this option is only available from May to October.
Good to know
- At icelagoon.com you can book all Bay tours. The ticket price includes a warm suit, guide care and about 1 hour of swimming on the lagoon. Prices from ISK 13,900 (approx. 99$).
- Next to the large car park, there is a tourist information point, toilets and a small restaurant.
- Jökulsárlón Bay is easily accessible by car, all the way along National Road No. 1. It is 380 km from Reykjavik, so the journey takes about 5 hours. Along the way, it is worth stopping at a place with this view:
- Jökulsárlón Bay is not only one of the most gripping and most visited tourist attractions in Iceland. It is also extremely popular with filmmakers. In recent years, scenes for such films as James Bond – A View to a Kill (1985), James Bond – Die Another Day (2020), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), and Batman Begins (2005) took place here.
- Hiking route around the Jökulsárlón glacier. The path is 2 km long, and you should book about 1 hour to walk it. It is an easy route to follow and does not require a guide. The path around the glacier has seven signs. They inform about the changes that happened here since 1890 when the tongue of the glacier almost reached the ocean shore.
Since then, the glacier’s end has receded 8 km and lowered by 200-300 km. In the nearby tourist information office, you can receive a brochure with a map. You can find there a short description of the places you pass on the way.
Close to the Jökulsárlón lagoon is the black “diamond beach”, which is the perfect place for photographers. The beach can be reached on foot, approx. 15 minutes from the car park at Jökulsárlón Bay.
Giant icebergs drifting across the lagoon melt and, carried by the current, fall into the Atlantic. Along the way – ice blocks are exposed to the sun for a long time, which causes the light reflected in them to refract, creating almost transparent ice diamonds. Such lumps linger on a small black beach called Breiðamerkursandur before finally being swept away by the ocean waves.
That is truly a magical place, worth a visit. The diamond lumps of the crushed glacier lying on the beach can be touched and seen up close. This is not easy to find in other parts of the world. Some eat fragments of the glacier because they contain crystal-clear water. However, do not taste the glacier, if it carries volcanic ash. The Jökulsárlón lagoon is a popular spot for photographers and a great place to watch sunsets.
Return to Keflavik
We return to Keflavik in the late afternoon. On the way back, an unusual cloud attracted our attention. Like a “UFO ship” or a lens, is settled over one of the mountain peaks. It is said to be a rare atmospheric phenomenon. A lenticular cloud is a stationary lens-shaped cloud set at right angles to the direction of the wind and parallel to the line of the mountains. It is a typical symptom of the fen phenomenon.
We arrive in Keflavik. We go for dinner to the Duus restaurant – Kaffi Duus, which we know from our previous trip to Iceland. The restaurant faces a small harbour, so the view is calm and relaxing. They have tasty food here and specialize in fish and seafood dishes. I returned here with pleasure, and I recommend everyone visit this place.
We gave the car to the rental company and stayed at the airport hotel for the last night.
Last night at Aurora Hotel at Reykjavik-Keflavik Airport Terminal KEF.
Day 8 – winter in Iceland, time to back home
On this day, we only have a journey back home.
Our flight was at 7:40 a.m. in the morning, so the night was short. However, it turned out that the hotel offers early breakfasts for travellers, as the restaurant is open from 4:00 a.m. We eat a warm, tasty breakfast. Then, in the pouring rain and strong wind, hardly moving against the wind to the airport.
We leave behind winter in Iceland which is wet and cold. The Iceland we leave is windy, freezing cold, and with dark clouds hanging low over the airport. Nothing pleasant. And yet in our hearts, we feel, that we already miss this place. And I really can’t explain the reason why…
Iceland, my other post
I encourage you as well to read my other posts about Iceland
- Akureyri – northern Iceland
- Diamond Circle North Iceland
- East Iceland – the land of puffins
- Golden Circle – treasures of Iceland
- Húsavík Iceland – time for whales
- Iceland – tailor-made travel plan
- Iceland in winter – how to organise the trip
- Reykjanes Peninsula South West Iceland
- Reykjavik Iceland’s capital city
- South Coast of Iceland
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula West Iceland
- Troll Peninsula North Iceland
- Iceland photos
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