Europe, Iceland, Waterfalls

Iceland 8-Day Winter Itinerary

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In December 2019 I traveled to Iceland for the second time.  Though I’ve blogged each day separately, I’ve decided to compile more of the practical details (stops, restaurants, accommodations, tours, etc) into one post to share with anyone else who is planning a winter (specifically, New Year’s Day-centered) trip to Iceland!  Blog posts were the foundation for all my Iceland trip planning, so I am all about giving back and hope some of this information is helpful to someone out there.

I traveled December 27th – January 3rd, so needless to say, daylight hours were very limited!  I’m talking about sunrise about 11:20am and sunset around 3:30pm!!  This greatly limits what can be done outside (but can provide an opportunity to visit places like museums, restaurants, etc).  Traveling in February and March gives significantly more daylight.  I just really wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Iceland, so had to deal with the darkest time of year.  Just something to keep in mind when planning activities in the winter.

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Búðakirkja during sunrise… at about 11:30am!

A word about this itinerary… I am a very experienced winter driver from a place that has winters with similar conditions to Iceland.  Therefore, I had the skills and comfort level to tackle 1500km/932mi of driving in the winter in Iceland.  But I don’t believe every visitor should attempt this, especially if they are not use to driving in very high winds, ice, and snow.  Please use common sense and either book guided tours, stick to a single location, or consider travel during another time of the year if you are not experienced in winter driving (and I mean WINTER driving… deep heavy snow, ice, and very high winds).  Each day when I woke up I would check weather and road conditions, and sometimes throughout the day to make sure it was safe to travel.

Good websites to regularly consult are:

Flight
Icelandair from Denver

Rental Car
I rented a Dacia Duster from Blue Car Rental.

Day 1:  Arrival, Reykjanes, & Golden Circle

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Gullfoss

Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Bridge Between Continents
  • Gunnuhver geothermal area
  • Kirkjugarðurinn Aðstað
  • Strandarkirkja
  • Hveragerði
    • Bónus for groceries
    • Almar Bakari
    • Post Office
    • ^^^ those places are all located the same shopping center that has a small display about earthquakes in the area, and has a plexiglass floor over a tectonic rift.  Quick and easy to take a peek, and free!
  • Faxi waterfall
    • 700ISK entry fee
  • F35 Kjalvegur exploring
  • Gullfoss
  • Geysir/Haukadalur

Food:

  • Bónus
    • Groceries!
  • Almar Bakari
    • Latte and hverabrauð (traditional Icelandic rye bread cooked with geothermal heat)
  • Gullfoss cafe
    • Icelandic meat soup for lunch
  • Efstidalur II
    • Hlöðuloftið Restaurant
      • “Farmer’s Hamburger” with elf potatoes for dinner
    • Íshlaðan Ice Cream Barn
      • The best ice cream on the planet!

Accommodation:

  • Efstidalur II Farm Hotel
    • 801 Bláskógabyggð
    • Practically next door to trailhead for Brúarfoss!
    • Working farm with restaurant and ice cream barn
    • Twin room with shared bathroom
      • I had a sink and mirror in my room.  Toilet and shower room was down the hall.
    • Breakfast is offered… and it is AMAZING!  Homemade skyr, do I have to say more?!

 

Day 2: Silfra Snorkeling & Borgarnes

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Scuba crossing sign near Silfra

Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Þingvellir National Park
    • 750ISK parking fee
  • þórufoss
  • Akranesviti
  • Borgarnes

Tour:

  • Snorkeling at Silfra
    • Tröll Expeditions
    • 17610ISK (~$125 USD)
    • 10:00am tour
      • The ones later in the day were sold out.  This wasn’t a bad time, as the sun had risen by the time we got in the water.

Food:

Accommodation:

  • Egils Guesthouse
    • Brákarbraut 11, Borgarnes
    • Double room with shared bathroom
    • Next door to Settlement Center
    • My favorite accommodation of the entire trip!

 

Day 3: Snæfellsnes

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Búðakirkja

Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Geirabakari Kaffihus
  • Búðakirkja
  • Rauðfeldsgjá
  • Arnarstapi
  • Hellnar
  • Fróðárheiði emergency hut
  • Bjarnarfoss
  • Staðastaðakirkja
  • Súgandisey

Food:

  • Geirabakari Kaffihus
    • Quick morning coffee
    • “Papa John’s” in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Accomodation:

  • Höfðagata Guesthouse
    • Höfðagata 11, Stykkishólmur
    • Queen room with shared bathroom (Room #1 specifically)
    • Centrally located in Stykkishólmur, with bars/restaurants within walking distance

 

Day 4: Snæfellsnes & Akranes

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Kirkjufellsfoss

Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Stykkishólmskirkja
  • Stykkishólmur harbor area
  • Kirkjufellsfoss
  • Grundarfoss
  • Berserkjahraun
  • Sheep’s Waterfall
  • Gerðuberg
  • Rauðamelskirkja
  • Kolbeinsstaðakirkja
  • Daníelslundur
  • Borgarnes coast

Accommodation:

  • AirBnB in Akranes
    • Private room in house
    • Twin room (the “Orange Room”) with shared bathroom
    • Helped cured my homesickness a bit, as it’s so homey feeling!
    • Well equipped kitchen, laundry, large bathroom
    • Personal refrigerator in my room

 

Day 5: Reykjavík New Year’s Eve

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New Year’s in Reykjavík

Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Brautarholtskirkja
  • Reykjavík
    • All over!
    • Bonfire: Ægisíða
    • Fireworks/Midnight Celebrations: Hallgrímskirkja

Food:

  • Kattakaffihúsið
    • Bergstaðastræti 10a
    • The cat cafe!!
    • Serves vegan food
    • Latte and the most amazing avocado toast for lunch
  • Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
    • Tryggvagata
    • The famous hot dog stand
    • Cheap, but the lines were long (about 30 minutes of waiting!)

Accommodation:

  • AirBnB in Downtown
    • Large private room in a house
    • Baldursgata 19
    • Five minutes from Hallgrímskirkja!

 

Day 6: South Coast

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The black sands of Reynisfjara

Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi
    • 700ISK parking fee
  • Brekkukot bra fence
  • Eyjafjallajökull Erupts
  • Loftsalahellir
  • Skeiðflatarkirkja
  • Reynisfjara
  • Reyniskirkja
  • Vík
    • Víkurkirkja
    • Krónan
  • Dyrhólaey
  • Skógafoss

Accommodation:

  • Hrútafell Guesthouse
    • On Ring Road minutes from Skógafoss and Sólheimajökull
    • Queen bed with shared bathroom
    • Large kitchen/dining area
    • Simple breakfast offered in morning
    • Helpful, friendly host
    • Location is unbeatable

 

Day 7: Sólheimajökull

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Sólheimajökull

Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Eyvindarhólakirkja
  • Skógafoss
  • Kvernufoss
  • Sólheimajökull

Tour:

  • Ice climbing on Sólheimajökull
    • Tröll Expeditions
    • 17010 ISK (~$120 USD)
    • 1:00pm
    • Absolutely amazing!  Ice climbing followed by a hike, and surprise ice cave

Accommodation:

  • Cora’s House and Horses
    • Bjarnastaðir, 816 Ölfus
    • Double room with garden view, shared bathroom
    • Great kitchen
    • Horse farm with riding tours available

 

Day 8: Horse riding & departure

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Full details HERE!

Stops:

  • Horseback riding at Cora’s House and Horses
  • Hvalsneskirkja
  • Keflavík airport 😦

Tour:

 

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