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
- DC Plane Crash at Sólheimasandur
- Vik’s Black Sand Beach
- Diamond Beach
- Explore an Ice Cave
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
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.
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 Accommodations – Icelandair 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
Day 4 Adventures
- Diamond Beach
- Ice Cave Tour
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.
Ion Adventure Hotel
Day Five – Heading 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