Iceland In January – A Four Day Road Trip

New to our blog this year will be a series of guest posts from our daughter who is becoming an experienced and knowledgeable world traveler. From a weekend in Paris to five days in Italy she offers compact itineraries and insights that will benefit even the most seasoned traveler, from Millennial to Boomer. This week Morgan shares tips for visiting Iceland in January.

Here is what She has to Say…

January is considered to be ‘off season’ in Iceland, but I think it is a magical place to visit this time of year. Who wouldn’t want to see a beach covered with ‘diamonds’, walk inside an ice cave or take a dip in a hot springs? In addition to those, one of the most compelling reasons to visit Iceland in January is the increased possibility of seeing the Northern Lights.

My top ten list of things to do in Iceland in January will get you moving within minutes of your arrival at Reykjavik airport and keep you moving until your return flight.

  • Blue Lagoon hot springs
  • Explore Reykjavik
  • Drive the Golden Circle
  • Gullfoss Waterfall
  • Kerid Crater Lake
  • Seljalandfoss
  • DC Plane Crash at Sólheimasandur
  • Vik’s Black Sand Beach
  • Diamond Beach
  • Explore an Ice Cave

Getting Started

We booked the 105 A Townhouse Hotel for one night in Reykjavik before heading out to explore sights along Southern Iceland’s Golden Circle. The room was spacious and well equipped with a small kitchen, which was perfect for our one night stay. It would be very comfortable for longer stays which would allow for taking a few meals there.

With the exception of the Blue Lagoon, everything on my list is based on personal experience. The Blue Lagoon is a tourist hot spot and Instagramers flock there for the photo op. I’m not a big fan of sacrificing the experience to get the photo, so we took a pass. It is near the airport, so you might want to start or end your trip there.

My one regret from this trip is that we did not spend enough time in Reykjavik. If you use my itinerary, plan at least one additional day to see this city.

Drive Day 1

  • Begin your drive of the Golden Circle and visit Thingvillur Park – have your camera ready and be prepared to stop often.
  • Kerid Crater – tours are available, but you can visit this picturesque crater lake on your own for a modest fee
  • Gullfoss – this stunning waterfall is one of many, but should not be missed
Kerid Crater Lake
Gullfoss
Gullfoss Waterfall

Hotel Accommodations

Ion Adventure Hotel

This is a beautiful property close to the Golden Circle that we highly recommend.  If you have the time, spend a couple of nights here as the amenities are top notch for Iceland.  Due to their remote location, the hotel offers a “northern lights wake-up call” when the lights are visible from the hotel. 

not the best photo, but happy to have seen this

NOTE  route 435 is closed during the winter from October to May –  beware that your GPS may still route you in this direction. Use Road 36 from Mosfellsbaer and turn right towards Nesjavellir on Road 360 to get to the hotel.

Drive Day 2

  • Seljalandfoss – walking behind the falls is a nice treat here
  • Skogafoss Waterfall
  • Drive South to Vik
  • Diner at Sudur Vik – this restaurant has a variety of options including cheeseburgers and panang curry. Local delicacies were not appealing to us, so we ate here a lot!

Hotel AccommodationsIcelandair Hotel Vik

Drive Day 3

  • DC Plane – this is the wreck of a plane that crashed in 1973 because it ran out of fuel. Everyone survived, but it still looks eerily haunting, especially in the early morning fog. It is about 2 mile walk on flat terrain to reach the wreckage.
  • Vik’s black sand beach
  • Drive East toward Diamond Beach
worth the hike

Hotel Accommodations

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon

Day 4 Adventures

  • Diamond Beach
  • Ice Cave Tour
Diamond Beach
Surrounded by walls of Blue Ice

The Ice Cave Tour is an absolute must when visiting Iceland in winter and by far one of my personal highlights. We booked our tour through Arctic Adventures who picked us up just outside our hotel. We chose a light/easy glacier hike and cave tour and were able to hike through two beautiful caves, one blue and one black. The company also offers more strenuous glacier hikes, photography tours, and other winter adventures.

I will admit to being skittish about walking on ice, particularly on the inclines, but we were given helmets and clamps for our boots which helped me to relax and feel safe.

Hotel Accommodations

Ion Adventure Hotel

Day FiveHeading Home

After a day of driving and sightseeing, we went back to our favorite hotel, the Ion Adventure Hotel, for our last night in Iceland and were so glad we did. Being greeted with a glass of champagne and falling snow was the perfect ending to a perfect trip.

Note: We restricted our visit to the Southern portion of the Golden Circle as daylight is very limited in Iceland, (10:30 – 3:30 while we were here) in the winter and access further North will likely be prohibited due to hazardous conditions. Plan activities and driving time with that in mind. Most points of interest are located just off the circle and easy to get to. With just one main road, our entire route was easily navigated.

Follow Morgan’s adventures in travel on Instagram at captain_morgan_v

45 Comments on “Iceland In January – A Four Day Road Trip

  1. Iceland has been one of the favorite places I have ever visited. Like you I wished I had more time in the Capital, since I had not expected to like it so much. Your photos are gorgeous, great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Completely agree! You need a full day to explore Reykjavik! Such a charming town with more to offer than we could fit into our half day there.

      Like

  2. Hello,

    Great post. Coincidentally, Iceland may be my next destination in 2021 for my sister and I to celebrate her retirement along with our daughters. We put all our four heads together and came up with Iceland. I love natural beauty and outdoor experiences so Iceland would fit the bill. The four of us celebrated my retirement in 2019 with a cruise to Alaska and found we traveled well together so we wanted to come up with another stunning place to celebrate my sister’s retirement from a 45 year career in nursing.

    A couple of people have told me that Iceland is very expensive, is that true? We were thinking of going in March and yes the northern lights is on our “hope to see list” but we realize there’s no guarantees.

    What were temperatures like in January?

    If I go, I plan to definitely do the blue lagoon even though it’s a touristy spot. I love water and hot springs so it’s a must for me.

    I’m going to pass this post to my niece who’s looking into logistics. So, this post is most timely!

    Thanks for the great recommendations and photos!

    Susan Grace

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Susan, Reading through the comments and I have added mine at the end re: a coincidence and more info on Iceland. My husband and I would like to return there sooner than later. I love everything about Morgan’s post! She is a natural writer and photographer, just like her Mother. She has reinforced how my husband and I should start planning our return trip. I like all of the specific information and the beautiful photos!💕

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan,

    Thank you for your questions! Iceland is expensive, but prices peak in the summer months. Booking early helps as there are limited accommodation options. Dining is also very expensive. It’s smart to stop at a local grocery store before you leave Iceland in order to limit meals out. We were very lucky with weather in that it was about 32-35 F the entire trip; however, the weather was unpredictable and would transition from sun to rain to wind to hail with no warning. It’s best to pack for the worst and be flexible. You will have a wonderful time no matter what!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Morgan – Your post brought back fun memories of Iceland for me. I went there a long time ago and am returning this spring. The colours around Kerid Crater Lake are beautiful. I also like the photo of you surrounded by the blue ice wall. Thanks, Suzanne, for introducing Morgan to us.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Hi Morgan, Iceland seems such a magical place to me and recently my husband and I have been discussing trying to see the Northern Lights. Of course, it is on the opposite side of the world from Australia and would take a long flight to get there but your photos are beautiful and I love the open spaces. I enjoyed your travel tips and look forward to your next adventure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I definitely recommend making the trek out as it is truly a magical experience! The Northern Lights are a bit tricky as the conditions need to be very clear in order to see them. All of the hotels we stayed at offered a wake up call if the conditions were right. We had no luck until the last night of our trip. Interestingly enough, my blurry green picture is significantly more vibrant than what my human eye could see that night. To me, the sky looked more foggy than green. When I took the picture of the sky, we were shocked to see the blur of vibrant green!

      Like

    • It was definitely a highlight for us! One thing we did not realize before arriving is that Diamond Beach and glacier bay are in the same place. Standing on a strip of land, the glaciers are to your left and diamond beach is to your right. Our ice cave tour picked us up and dropped us back off in this area, so beginning and ending our day surrounded by such beauty was a real treat!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Morgan, it’s lovely to meet you. My Kiwi bestie has just come back from a January holiday over there & her (and your) photos have been magical. Great post, by the way…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nice to meet you too and thank you for the photo love! I am certainly not the skilled photographer my mom is, but Iceland is so beautiful it’s hard not to capture a little magic. Tell your bestie she needs to bring you along on the trip next time!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful! Thank you for the Iceland information. We are planning a trip to coincide with the marathon and half marathon on the longest day in June. Not sure whether we will go in 2020 or 2021, but it is definitely on the list.

    Like

    • Wow! That will be an incredible experience. For summer, definitely book as early as possible! The accommodations book up fast and prices peak in the summer.

      Like

  8. Hi Suzanne, Thank you for introducing Morgan to us. I know I will enjoy this series.

    Hi Morgan, I am immediately very interested in your post. I am a guest on Leanne’s Crestingthehill blog site Feb.20th (Australia time zone). A huge coincidence is my story is about the significant impact Iceland had on my life. We camped there for one month June, 2017.

    You covered a lot of area in the time you were there. You must have spent a great deal of time doing your research. I love how you gave us specific information on hotels and the lists. My husband and I would like to go back and explore another time of year.

    A great post! I love all of the photos. When I leave here, I will check out your Instagram photos. I know I will enjoy following your travel adventures.🙂 Erica

    Like

    • Hi Erica, you are welcome. I am glad she suggested it followed through. She has sooooo many great trips under her belt already and I can’t wait to share more. I’m looking forward to your post on Leanne’s Blog in February. I can only imagine the impact the natural beauty of Iceland must have had on you.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Morgan
    Nice to read you. I have always wanted to go to Iceland but we have not made it there, yet. If and when we do, this is great information. The photos of the blue and black! ice caves are quite amazing. What an incredible adventure.

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you’ve added Iceland to your bucket list! The ice caves were the highlight of the trip. They’re also a winter-only experience, so it was a special thing to do during our January trip. The caves change all the time, so whenever you go, you’ll have your own unique and special experience there.

      Like

  10. Loved reading this Suzanne. Morgan is a very good writer and I look forward to this series. I haven’t been to Iceland, but is most certainly on my ever growing list. Looks like a great trip 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks Donna, we have considered Iceland time and again for years, but she did it and her photos and her stories have convinced us to put it back on the list. She suggested the series and of course I jumped on the opportunity knowing that #1 she can write and #2 she knows how to compose a photo!! Getting her to respond to comments is another story – darn day job gets in the way!

      Like

  11. How lovely to see the extended family on your blog today Suzanne. Iceland looks like an amazing place – I’ve seen a few posts from other bloggers about their adventures there and the photographs are always spectaculare (as are all of these that Morgan has shared).
    I’m not sure I’ll ever get there (it’s a VERY long way from Australia) but I never say “never” so who knows???
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    Like

  12. Hi Suzanne and Morgan, I’m so glad to have found your blog. I did a little reading about your background. It sounds like you and your family have had similar experiences to ours. We lived in Florida, for many years with our two children, before moving to Maine. Then in 2009, my husband retired from the USPS, at age 52, and we moved to Ecuador. My daughter was still living with us at the time. For the last 10 years we’ve been traveling Europe, and as you know, just bought a property in Chiatura, Georgia. Our daughter is a writer and she and her husband live in the Netherlands. I found this blog post to be so interesting and professionally done. The photos are beautiful, and I especially love the descriptions of the caves. I know what you mean about being skittish on the ice. I had my first fall on black ice when we first moved to Maine. Thanks for sharing. I look for ward to reading about more of your adventures. Sharing to FB.

    Like

    • Hi Christina, thanks for introducing yourself to us at Picture Retirement. We have had a fairly ‘tame’ life compared to your adventures, but I think you will be entertained by our simplicity, so please visit any time. You certainly have an adventurous spirit and I look forward to reading more about your new life in Chiatura.

      Like

  13. Hi Suzanne and Morgan, I loved reading this mainly because we did a similar trip in 2018 but in the summertime. We loved it all and would go back in winter next time. We went to Blue Lagoon and did enjoy the atmosphere and didn’t feel the need to take photos! I actually wrote a post about the 10 reasons why you shouldn’t visit Iceland! Visiting from #mlstl

    Like

  14. Well, you can see that your talent for words and imagery has rubbed off on Morgan. Iceland has never been on my list no matter what anyone has said in the past. This post has made me reconsider it :-). That is saying a WHOLE lot! Thanks for that, and l’m pretty sure l would skip the Blue Lagoon as well.

    Like

    • Hi Kem, she is a good writer and of course I love that she has an interest in photography. She is teaching the boyfriend to use her Sony Mirrorless, so between the two of them they get some really good photos when they travel. I can’t wait for her to share her trip to Italy (July) and the most recent one when she visited London, Munich and Prague.

      I’m glad her post is making you reconsider what you thought about Iceland. It definitely made me want to go.

      Like

  15. Oh the pictures are so fab, Morgan. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever get to visit Iceland from India, but I would love to see the Northern Lights! I’m glad you and your family had such a wonderful visit.

    Like

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the photos! The northern lights are very tricky but a real treat if they make an appearance.

      Like

  16. Love the guest post Suzanne, and thanks for all the good info and fantastic pix Morgan. I have friends who have visited Iceland – in the summer, though – it’s an easy (with affordable airfare) from Boston. But understand everything else is expensive once one gets there! Visiting during winter is an interesting twist, and one I’d not thought of doing.

    Like

    • Nancy, if we go, I think we will choose winter over summer,just for the ice caves alone. There isn’t much daylight and it can be very cold, but I think I’d be willing to bundle up for sights like these. Thanks for catching up.

      Like

  17. Did Morgan buy her Sweater there? I’m a knitter and Icelanders design gorgeous traditional sweaters. A fascinating post that makes this Northerner want to chill in Iceland.

    Like

  18. Pingback: 4-Days in Positano – Picture Retirement

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