As I sat at work staring hopelessly at the clock, during one of those dreadful Friday mind-numbing meetings, I thought to myself, “Could this day drag on any longer?” Half way through the meeting, I received an email from my beloved friends at Travelzoo – “2 for 1 special from Iceland Air to one or more of your favorite European destinations.” I politely excused myself and raced to my desk. Just like that, I began planning one of the most epic adventures in my book of travel.
Bright and early Saturday morning, I found myself shivering and clenching my leather jacket that seemed useless against the arctic chill. As I desperately shimmied my way through Keflavik Airport, it was only then I realized – wow, I’m in Iceland!
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a true winter wonderland. Despite the constant snowfall and minimal hours of sunlight during the winter season, it’s hard not to fall in love with the city. From the quirky locals to the colorful village atmosphere, Reykjavik immediately left a lasting impression.
Accommodation can be quite expensive if you wish to stay in the center of Reykjavik (assuming you rather not spend your stay in a hostel). For a less expensive, yet comfortable visit, I rented a studio at The Castle House Luxury Apartments right in the heart of the city, just a stones throw away from the nightly pub crawls, cozy cafes, and art galleries.
For tours and transfers, I highly recommend booking your activities with Reykjavik Excursions. Here are five must do attractions close to the city center of Reykjavik:
The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s popular geo-thermal spa located 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik. The naturally heated blue water against the Icelandic landscape is quite the experience. For the day, spoil yourself with in-water massages, mud facials, lounging underneath waterfalls, and making frequent, but necessary trips to the wet bar!
If one of the greatest joys of travel is getting beneath the surface, the glaciers of Sólheimajökull is a great place to start. The hike through Sólheimajökull took approximately four hours. The frigid temperatures, lifeless toes, and that leather jacket I assumed would be a fashion statement, made my first 30 minutes unbearable.
What appeared intimidating at first sight, turned out to be the most exciting adventure I’ve been on in a long time. Our tour guide took us through caves and various ice tunnels. Many of us fell through crevasses – thankfully they were shallow. At one point, even the sun and the moon appeared at the same time. There’s something you don’t see on a regular basis.
The Golden Circle
A tour through the Golden Circle will take you through 3 highlights Iceland has to offer:
Geysir Geothermal Area where the geyser shoots up water 98ft into the air every 5-8 minutes!
The Gullfoss Waterfall created by the River Hvita, plunging 105 ft deep.
The last stop, the geological wonder of Thingvellir National Park!
The Fontana Wellness Center boasts a variety of hot tubs and steam baths naturally heated by Icelandic hot springs!
You don’t travel to Iceland without making various attempts to see one of the world’s most impressive natural phenomena, the Northern Lights! Also known as the Aurora Borealis, this natural spectacular display of beams take place during the winter months only. I highly recommend arranging your tour during the first night of your visit to ensure you have several opportunities to see the Northern Lights in the event it doesn’t appear during the initial visit. Most tours offer an free second visit if you’re unsuccessful the first time.
Things to Know During a Winter Visit:
- Book/organize your tours well in advance to avoid sold out activities.
- Dress with layers! The weather is very unpredictable.
- The hours of sunlight are very short.
- Bring your swim suit.
- In order to see the Northern Lights, you must do an overnight visit.
What were some of your favorite highlights in Iceland?