The perfect four day Iceland winter itinerary for a road trip you won’t forget
As one of my favorite destinations in the world, Iceland is full of natural jewels that should never be left undiscovered by those who have a sense of wanderlust. Iceland is the perfect destination for those who love to follow a good winter road trip itinerary and the great outdoors!
The land of fire and ice features picturesque waterfalls, enchanting mountains and rolling hills, beautiful horses, dreamy coastlines, wonderful greenhouses and an endless amount of adventure. With 4 days in Iceland, you can experience some of the best stops on a road trip around the island with this Iceland winter itinerary.
In January 2017, I spontaneously booked a budget trip to Iceland with some of my close friends as a belated New Year’s getaway.
During that time of the year, we went during a three-day work weekend so that we wouldn’t have to take many vacation days. (Yes, this was when I was still working a corporate job.) We left on a Saturday night and returned back home on Wednesday night.
We took a South Coast Iceland road trip as it is too much to fit the entire ring road into 4 days in Iceland, especially in the winter with road conditions. The country became one of my favorite destinations!
I am excited to share the perfect 4 day Iceland road trip itinerary for winter that you too can follow along with your friends or even by yourself.
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Traveling to Iceland:
Thankfully, flights from New York City to Keflavik International Airport, outside of Reykjavik, are fairly reasonable. You can also find other great flights from various parts of the United States and Europe.
If you are from the New York City area like I am, the flight to Iceland is fairly short. (I flew from Newark International Airport.)
You will most likely depart at 5 or 6 pm in the evening and arrive in Keflavik at 4 or 5 am the next morning, which leaves you with plenty of time to get on the road and start exploring. Other ways to travel to Iceland and follow a memorable winter itinerary is by doing a cruise!
Tips for an Iceland Road Trip in Winter
If you are doing an Iceland road trip like I did, I highly recommend renting an SUV to get around and see it all.
When you travel to Iceland during the winter months (and even during the summer), it is extremely important to know that the weather conditions throughout the country are extreme, rapidly changing and unpredictable.
One minute it is clear out where you can see every star or mountain crevice. Then the next moment, visibility is gone. It is also important to note that some areas will have a lot of snow. Other areas have no guardrails, so it is imperative that you or the driver of your vehicle drive with caution.
In Iceland, it is required that the vehicle is a 4 wheel drive. All cars are also required to have quality winter tires to endure the extreme weather conditions that Iceland usually has.
It is important to fuel up on gas before you head out on a major adventure. When you venture outside of Reykjavik or the surrounding towns, you will notice that you enter into isolated areas where it is difficult to find rest stops, gas stations, etc.
Even though gas is expensive in the country, it is always worth it to have a full tank. A helpful hint to save money is by doing your Iceland road trip with a group of people like I did so that you can split gas costs.
Where to Stay in Iceland for 4 Days
Since my friends and I were on a tight budget, we booked a hostel that was located in a town 10 minutes outside of Reykjavik city center called Hafnarfjörður (pronounced Haaf Narf You Dor).
The Reykjavik area is the best place to base yourself for seeing the most in Iceland in 4 days, especially if you aren’t renting a camper van and are mainly exploring the South Coast.
Here are the best places to stay in Reykjavik:
Luxury Accommodation: The Reykjavik EDITION
Boutique Accommodation: Tower Suites Reykjavik
Mid-Budget Accommodation: Sand Hotel by Keahotels
Budget Accommodation: KEX Hostel
Iceland in 4 Days: Day-by-Day Iceland Winter Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Tour Waterfalls and the famous Black Sand Beach
Right after we landed and checked into our hostel outside of Reykjavik, we hopped into our SUV and started our Iceland road trip.
Since we traveled to Iceland in the wintertime, the short days Iceland gave us meant we had to use our daylight hours wisely.
(If you read my blog post on Finland, where I traveled in December 2017, I only experienced a few hours of daylight there. In Iceland though, you will receive more sunlight than in Finland. That is because Finland’s Lapland is actually located in the Arctic Circle.)
When we got on the road that day in Iceland, it was still dark out, but the daylight started to come through around 10:30 to 11 am.
During our first day on our Iceland winter road trip, we made our way to the southernmost coast of the country.
During our Iceland winter vacation, we first stopped at a beautiful waterfall right off the main highway (Route 1) called Seljalandsfoss (pronounced as sell-ya-lon-foss).
When we got out of the car, the wind was strong, but that didn’t stop us from taking in all of the natural wonders around us. When we were there, the weather ranged from 25-40 degrees Fahrenheit. It felt WAY cooler because of the wind chill, but wasn’t unbearable since we were covered in layers (lots and lots of layers).
At Seljanlandsfoss, there are different hiking trails for you to view the waterfall. You can also include a lot of these trails in your Iceland winter itinerary for 4 days.
Unfortunately, since it was the middle of the winter, many trails were too icy to hike up. If you have crampons, a traction device that you attach to your shoes for ice climbing and hiking so that you don’t slip and fall, you can then explore underneath the waterfall and head up the cliff.
Visit Vík í Myrdal Village:
After exploring Seljalandsfoss, our winter road trip itinerary took us 45 minutes to the southernmost village in Iceland called Vík í Mydal, also known as Vík (pronounced as veek).
The drive to Vík was a little foggy, but when it cleared up, the views were unreal. If you watch the show Game of Thrones, then you will get a déjà vu.
Vík is a beautiful and cozy seashore town filled with picturesque mountains, beach homes, cafés, churches and nature you cannot find anywhere else.
The world-famous Reynisfjara Halsanefshellir shore is where the famous Reynisfjara black sand beach is situated. Everything at this beach is breathtaking, historical, impressive and eerie.
This shoreline consists of stacks of basalt rocks that, according to Icelandic folklore, are former trolls who tried to drag their boats out to sea only to be caught by the rising dawn.
Another interesting fact about this shoreline is that there is no landmass between Vík and Antarctica. What makes this beach eerie is that it is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. Because of the shore’s high winds and rainy weather, the tides are always high and very rough. There is actually a monument dedicated to the memory of drowned seamen.
Vík is south of the Myrdalsjökull (pronounced as meer dal ya skull) glacier, which itself is on top of the Katla volcano. The volcano has not erupted in a while, but there has been speculation that an eruption may occur soon.
If there was an eruption, the lava could melt enough ice to trigger an enormous flash flood in the entire area. The town’s local church is believed to be the only building that would survive. The people of Vík practice drills regularly and are trained to rush to the local church in case of an eruption.
The black sand beaches in Vík are a great place to take pictures, explore the beautiful cliffs overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean and collect sand you won’t find anywhere else.
If you visit Vík in the summertime, you can see adorable puffins flying around. Unfortunately, it is rare to see one in the winter.
Right near the beach is The Soup Company where you can order a warm cup of soup or savor a sandwich. That is where we had lunch that day. It must be included on your Iceland winter itinerary for 4 days.
If you want to make it out to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach, you can base yourself out of Vik. It is another two and a half hours each way, but worth the trip. While you are there, you can also visit Skaftafell National Park and hike out to Skaftafellsjökull glacier.
Walk around Skógafoss:
After our unforgettable time in Vík, we drove back west onto Route 1 and stopped at another beautiful waterfall on the south coast called Skógafoss (pronounced as sko ga foss).
This beautiful waterfall is one of the biggest in the country! According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area buried a treasure chest behind the waterfall. Legend claims that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grab a ring before the rest of it disappeared.
The eastern side of the waterfall has a beautiful hiking trail and a staircase that takes you up to the top, between two glaciers. The hike is a pretty steep trail and can be very tiring, but the views make up for it!
Enjoy a Cozy Winter Dinner in Reykjavik:
When we came back from our south coast road trip, we took some time to shower and rest before heading into downtown Reykjavik to grab a delicious local dinner and a well-deserved Icelandic beverage.
My good friend from college did an Iceland summer trip and recommended a wonderful and classic Scandinavian restaurant called Lækjarbrekka , where you can get a delicious Viking dinner.
Since my friends and I were all starving, we split the 4-Course Set Meal, which consisted of citrus-marinated smoked salmon, slow-cooked dried cod, lamb fillet, and hákarl, also known as “treated shark”.
Hákarl is a national dish of Iceland, consisting of Greenlandic shark, which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung dry for a few months. This Icelandic delicacy has a strong ammonia-rich smell, but is delicious if you are a seafood lover like myself.
It is served in a jar for preservation and is supposed to be washed down with a shot of Brennivín, which is an Icelandic liquor that has a similar taste to vodka.
In addition to our 4-course dinner, we all ordered the catch of the day. It was a delicious Icelandic white fish served in a scampi-like sauce with veggies on the side. This Viking dinner was the best way to end our first day.
(I also want to note that this was the only expensive meal we had during our time in Iceland.)
Here are other great restaurants in Reykjavik:
- La Primavera Ristorante (Italian Restaurant)
- Matur og Drykkur (Icelandic Restaurant)
- The CooCoo’s Nest (Health Café)
- Dill (Scandinavian Restaurant)
- Flately Pizza (Pizza Restaurant)
- Mathús Garðabæjar (Icelandic Restaurant)
Day 2: The Golden Circle Tour and Night Out in Downtown Reykjavik
The great thing about the Iceland Golden Circle tour is that you can see Iceland’s most stunning and popular sights, first-hand, within an 8-hour time frame.
Tour Friðheimar’s Greenhouse:
The majority of Iceland’s food is imported from other nearby countries, hence why it is so expensive. Luckily, that is soon changing due to the expansion of local greenhouses.
Our first visit on the tour was to the Friðheimar greenhouse. I was happy to be able to visit one while I was there, and Friðheimar’s was awesome! When you enter the greenhouse, you can learn from Friðheimar’s owner about the magic behind growing delicious, pesticide-free tomatoes with the aid of Iceland’s geothermal heat.
After the tour, you can purchase homemade tomato soup and freshly baked bread. In addition, Friðheimar’s also has beautiful Icelandic horses that you can pet outside.
Catch the Geysir Erupt:
The next part of our Golden Circle journey was to the Geysir geothermal area where the Strokkur geyser shoots water every 4-8 minutes. What is awesome is that you will be sure to catch the geyser erupt during your time there.
This was my first time seeing geysers in real life and these natural pools are so powerful! It was one of the coolest natural wonders I’ve ever seen.
Our tour director informed us to stay on the manmade walking trails and to respect nature because you can accidentally fall into a boiling hot geyser if you start to venture off.
Geysir also has a visitor center where you can get delicious homemade meat soup (made with lamb) and shop for souvenirs. I bought a warm Icelandic wool shawl that I live in all winter. Discover what to pack for Iceland for no matter what season you choose to adventure there!
Admire the Gullfoss Waterfall:
After spending a few hours at Geysir, we hopped back on the bus and headed to Gullfoss waterfall, which is considered the Golden Falls of Iceland. The water plunges into a crevice that is 105 feet deep into the Earth.
Overall, Gullfoss had to have been one of the best and most stunning waterfalls I have ever seen in my life. It shouldn’t be missed on an Iceland road trip.
Since I visited Gullfoss in the winter, we watched the beautiful falls flow into a winter wonderland, but if you go in the warmer months, you can feel like Dorothy in the Emerald City and catch beautiful rainbows over lush greenery.
Explore Þingvellir National Park:
We ended the Golden Circle Tour by visiting the historical and geological Þingvellir National Park (pronounced as thing ve leer). Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iceland.
Here, you can walk over the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters per year. I was excited to tell everyone back home that I was on two continents at once!
At Þingvellir National Park, you can walk up a trail that leads to an overlook where you’re able to view gorgeous snow-covered mountains, a fresh-water lake, mini waterfalls and even get the chance to watch the sunset. Do not miss out on seeing this beautiful national park during an Iceland road trip.
If your 4 days in Iceland are in the summer, you can also go scuba diving in the continental divide. The water is crystal clear, but freezing cold, even in the summer.
Do a Night Out in Downtown Reykjavik:
Later at night after our amazing tour, we headed into downtown Reykjavik to explore the nightlife.
Before we went to the bars, we stopped at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates to “best hot dogs in town”. It is the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland.
The hot dogs are made with mostly grass-fed lamb and are organic and hormone-free. They are even served with crispy fried onions and are topped with a remoulade sauce. I am normally not a hot dog eater, but I just had to try them during my 4 days in Iceland.
Although downtown Reykjavik does have a few nightclubs, they are mainly known for their great pub culture that serves amazing craft beer.
We started the night at Gaukurinn, which is a two-story comedy club. The comedians were hilarious, and I thought it was awesome how much they knew about American culture.
After spending a couple of hours enjoying a few beers and laughing, we bar-hopped around the area and met friendly locals. Exploring Iceland’s nightlife must be included in your 4-day winter itinerary!
In Iceland, as well as a few other European countries, it isn’t surprising to see people bring their children and even puppies out to the bars. At one of the bars, we got to play with a cute German Shorthaired Pointer!
You don’t have to worry about slipping on ice when you bounce around Reykjavik because the streets are heated! Isn’t that so cool?!
Day 3: Explore Reykjavik, Dog Sled and Watch the Northern Lights in Iceland
After our fun night out in Reykjavik, I wanted to explore the city more the next day. Overall, I highly recommend exploring Reykjavik during an Iceland winter itinerary. Discover the best Reykjavik city tours.
When we woke up, we headed to Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran church. This iconic church is also known as Reykjavik’s main landmark and it can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.
One of the many interesting facts about this church is that it is fairly new. The construction was completed in December 1992.
In addition to exploring the church, you can take the elevator all the way up to the tower where you can access 360-degree views of beautiful Reykjavik. When we went, it was still dark out, but you could even catch the sunrise from the tower if you stay long enough.
When we finished touring the church, we stopped at a café called Eldur og Ís to eat some delicious Icelandic crêpes and then toured, Harpa – Reykjavík’s famous and iconic concert hall and convention center.
(At night, there are lights shining off Harpa that resemble the Northern Lights!)
The city also boasts great shops and boutiques to purchase gifts for loved ones back home! I fell in love with Reykjavik’s Scandinavian charm and architecture.
If you are up for a seafaring adventure, head out from Reykjavik on a whale watching tour. They are offered in the winter and the reward of braving the cold weather is getting up close with the wildlife. When looking for the best whale watching tour, always do your research! Learn all about the developments in Iceland to promote sustainable whale watching.
Go Dog Sledding in Iceland in Winter:
Whenever I think of Arctic countries, like Iceland, I always get a cute picture of a Husky dog in my head. My friends and I looked into places where we could go dog sledding, since none of us had ever done it before.
We found Dog Sledding Iceland a little over an hour southeast of Reykjavik in a town called Gaulverjabæjarhreppi. We took our car there and proceeded with a highlight of our Iceland winter trip.
During this awesome experience, we got to play and take pictures with these beautiful Siberian, Alaskan and Greenlandic huskies. It is one of the best things to do in Iceland in the winter.
They were all friendly and, even though I felt bad for them, they apparently love taking people around this beautiful coastal area. After our fun sledding adventure, we were able to pet the Husky puppies and enjoy homemade hot chocolate.
In all honestly, if you are looking for a true Arctic dog sledding experience, I recommend doing it in Finland.
See Urriðafoss – A Hidden Gem in Iceland:
After our fun day playing with the huskies, we stopped at Fjorubordid, a delicious seafood restaurant where we all enjoyed a nice bowl of homemade Icelandic lobster soup.
We then ended our day visiting a hidden waterfall nearby called Urriðafoss (pronounced as your eda foss). It was nice to be near a natural wonder without dealing with tourists.
I highly recommend adding this waterfall to your Iceland winter itinerary. We stayed there for a little while because it was relaxing and then headed back to Hafnarfjörður.
See the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights):
One of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Iceland in the winter was to catch the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights.
You can see the Northern Lights in places like Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Faroe Islands, Canada and Alaska. Seeing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list for many years, and I wanted to make sure I saw them before my trip ended.
There are a ton of Aurora and weather apps that you can download on your mobile device. They let you know when the skies are clear and the percentage of how likely you are to see the Northern Lights.
My personal favorite app that I used in both Iceland and Finland was Aurora. That night, there was a high percentage of seeing the lights southeast to where we were between the hours of 3 am – 6:30 am.
We went to bed around 7:30/8 pm at night, set our alarms for 1 am, had some coffee, packed some snacks and then hit the road! Being able to catch the Aurora Borealis was definitely one to remember on our Iceland itinerary for winter. We all were in a great mood, listening to good music in the car and enjoying the nightly stars.
We hung out at a few places, hoping to catch the lights, and around 6 am, we started to faintly see them. They started out really light and then turned into their blue and green swirly colors. It was awesome!
Day 4: Relax at The Blue Lagoon and Fly Home
Spend a Morning at The Blue Lagoon in Iceland:
The best way to end my winter road trip in Iceland was a spending a day at one of the 25 Wonders of The World, The Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal experience was one to remember. It was snowing out while we were there, but the warm geothermal aqua waters made it seem like we were in paradise!
I was there for a few hours because I had to catch my flight home, but I could have easily stayed the whole day. While relaxing, I received a silica mud and algae mask and a refreshing alcoholic beverage from the bar located right in The Blue Lagoon.
I love how big The Blue Lagoon was. There were little caves for you to swim under, bridges, mini pools and so much more!
Please note that you will need to shower before you enter the lagoon. When you arrive, you’ll be given a robe and some extras (based on what you paid for when you got your ticket). Then, you are required to take a shower.
The locker rooms are split by gender and there is a European shower for you to wash off. (The showers have stalls, so you do have privacy.) In addition, there are specific body washes, shampoos, conditioners, and oils for you to use before and after you get out of the lagoon.
Please be aware that the lagoon water will leave your hair feeling gritty for a few days, but it is all good for you since the water is filled with nutrients.
The Blue Lagoon is located 20 minutes from the airport, so it is definitely a great place to visit when you first arrive in Iceland or when you are about to leave.
I personally recommend ending your trip at The Blue Lagoon and believe everyone deserves a relaxing and memorable day there before they leave to go back home to reality.
In addition to relaxing at The Blue Lagoon, you can also stay overnight there at the amazing Silica Hotel!
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my 4 days in Iceland and that you now have a better idea of what you could do for an Iceland winter itinerary. Visiting Iceland for a four day weekend getaway was the perfect introduction to a country I want to explore more of in the future.
If you have any questions about my trip, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Basic Facts of Iceland:
Currency: Icelandic Króna, Capital: Reykjavik, Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time
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