Of all the places Paul and I have seen on our travels Iceland is probably the least likely of locations we would visit. Although some of our trip Canada is a very outdoorsy with a mountainous landscape it was that time of year when the sun shone and the weather was mild. December in Iceland is exactly how you imagine it – cold and snowy. But with the right packing list we were left with a winter wonderland.
Airport to Hotel
Before you travel, book yourself a Flybus from the airport to your hotel. This is MUCH cheaper than getting a taxi. Once you leave the airport you should see a line of coaches waiting to pick up passengers. Show your ticket, say which hotel you’re staying in and get cosy on the bus. It will then take you to the bus station where you will be directed to a mini bus that will drop you at your hotel.
Hire cars in Iceland aren’t cheap. Especially when the car you need should be able to drive on different road surfaces. Which is why we picked a Chevrolet Captiva – perfect for off-roading and icy roads. With six of us on the road a 7 seater was the only option but this did leave some room in the back for our bags, snacks, towels, blanket and shovel. It’s always wise to keep things in the car in case you are stuck in the snow! Our car also had wifi, which was used primarily for sat nav purposes (extra cost).
If you’re wanting to stay in the city of Reykjavik then I couldn’t recommend the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina more. As soon as you walk into the hotel lobby you are immediately welcomed by warm Icelandic designs. It’s a quirky hotel with friendly and helpful staff.
Our room was a little small but the rest of the hotel has so much space, you probably won’t want to stay in your room anyway! The beds were incredibly comfortable and the accommodation as a whole was clean and perfect for our two night stay.
- Free wifi
- Gym (two treadmills, weights, cycling machine, climbing wall)
- Bar and restaurant (breakfast not included with room)
- Plenty of seating areas
- Cinema (plays Icelandic movies with English subtitles)
If you are travelling with a larger group and you have a hire car (a must for when you stay outside of the city) then Björk‘s house couldn’t be any better for you. This three-bedroom summer house, also perfect for winter, is situated within a stunning landscape complete with incredible interior design.
The kitchen, dining room and living room create a social atmosphere, all open plan to allow everyone to congregate together and enjoy the design that Björk and her husband clearly worked hard to achieve.
The beds are all comfortable, the shower is powerful, the floors heated and I cannot say a single bad thing about the property or it’s location. We were also able to see a powerful wave of the Northern lights from the house.
Get £14 off Airbnb rentals here
As vegetarians it can appear pretty tricky to find a good place to eat which didn’t contain lamb, fish, whale or horse but there are choices available to you which contain veggie choices as well as the previous species.
After setting your bags down at the hotel why not head outside to a burger bar which is literally 1 minute from the Marina hotel? We, as always, had the veggie burger with fries and a chocolate shake, all of which were delicious nomnomnom. Frank Sinatra, Sopranos and Johnny Cash covered the walls and the music was right up my street also. It’s a super cool place which isn’t too costly (about £25 for two people).
Another eating location close to the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina is Casa Grande. Feeling rather peckish Paul and I ordered a pizza each (sharing half and half) with french fries and sweet potato fries (don’t judge). No dessert was needed as we were so full and completely satisfied. The service was great and the food spot on. Like with the burger bar, the restaurant was also well decorated with Spanish wall art and had an overall great atmosphere.
Cafe Paris has a great choice of Icelandic delicacies as well as salads, sandwiches and snack foods. Paul and I shared cheesy garlic bread, nachos followed by some apple cake (highly recommended). The payment system is also pretty darn amazing as it is all done via a computer allowing you to split the bill easily.
Game of Thrones Film Locations Tour – Want some information on Game of Thrones, the cast, filming spots as well as the history of Iceland, Vikings and the natives? This is a great tour, even in winter.
Visit Reykjavik – As well as the Icelandic shops, cafes and restaurants it would be a shame to miss Hallgrímskirkja church, Reykjavik’s main landmark. Also visit Harpa, a spectacular piece of architecture and design.
Golden Circle – Take in the sights of the Geysir Hot Spring, Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park rift valley. This is the best way to see some of Mother Nature’s wonderful work. There are plenty of tours available with Viator.
See the Northern Lights – If you’re lucky and the cloud cover is non-existent and the ratings for the Northern Lights are high, then you may be able to spot them dancing in the sky. I wouldn’t advise booking a tour as you won’t be given a refund. Instead they will just rearrange your booking so a hire car is the best option. Also be sure to bring your camera, tripod and warm clothing.
Visit The Glacier Lagoon – Although it’s a long drive to Jökulsárlón the Glacier Lagoon is a sight to see, especially at sunrise. The winter means less icebergs but you may spot a few ice blocks and seals whilst there.
Visit the wreckage of the Sólheimasandur Plane Crash – In November 1973 a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. Luckily all crew members survived the crash, but the airplane’s fuselage was abandoned. You can find more information and directions here.
See Sólheimajökull glacier (a part of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier) – Not far from the plane crash wreckage, there is a road which leads you to the Sólheimajökull glacier, a beautiful natural wonder. Snow grips are definitely required here!
- Bring spare clothes including socks, jumper and trousers in case you get wet and cold
- You can pick up cheap snow grips from service stations, don’t spend lots on spikes
- You can use card in Iceland
- Download the XE Currency app so you can get an idea of what you are spending
- Keep receipts as you can get your VAT refunded at the airport
- Be sure to keep track of day light hours for your trip
- If hiring a car, put a shovel in the car in case you get caught in the snow
- Book tours in advance and be aware that weather could affect the trip
- Water is safe to drink from the tap
- The eggy smell? That’s sulphur!
- Don’t drive off the road
- You won’t see the Northern Lights in summer as the sun doesn’t set
- Bring spare batteries as the cold will make them lose power quickly
- The landscape changes very drastically. Bring decent walking shoes and layer up!