Cost: £££ – if you don’t have an amazing Icelandic friend to stay with and drive you around then it’s going to be very expensive
Rating: 10/10 – if you do it right you’ll have an unbelievable time
Trip length: you can pack it in 2 days but would ideally have 3/4 full days
I’ve been to Iceland twice in the last few years – once in January & once in May. Most of my pictures are from the January trip as the light was stunning, snow was on the ground & we crammed 3 days (2 nights) with so many activities! I’d suggest going to Iceland for 3/4 nights but if you want to pack a weekend, read on…
*DISCLAIMER* – we had particularly good weather when we were there… it’s not always sunny – keep your fingers crossed.
Flights (from London to Reykjavik) were £120 per person not including hold luggage. Booking in advance is key (check SkyScanner).
We stayed at my friends house just outside of Reykjavik in the middle of nowhere which was beautiful.
If you don’t have the luxury of an Icelandic friend, to stay in Reykjavik you’re looking at £100+ per night for an apartment for 2 (Airbnb)
Hiring a car is a must so you can see everything you want to and aren’t waiting around for a tour bus for hours on end. If you’re jam-packing a weekend I would suggest you have 2 drivers so you can take turns napping between destinations! I had a quick look online and you can hire a car for around £20 per day. (£60 for 3 days)! The advantage of having a car is that you can spend as long / as little time as you like at each location.
They use Icelandic Krona (ISK) – 1000 ISK = about £7 / £10 is just under 1500 ISK.
What we did…
I’m going to list what we did in the order we did it as our amazing Icelandic friend organised our itinerary in geographical order.
1 – Kerið
This is a volcanic crater along the Golden Circle which was snowy and iced over when we were there. In warmer weather you can properly see the crater and the lake inside! It costs 400 ISK (£2.75) to walk around it! You only need about 30 mins here even when you’re trudging through snow.
2 – Horse riding
We went to Skalakot farm to ride adorable Icelandic horses (which are a lot smaller than the ones we know in the UK!) You can book an entire day tour if you’re there for longer but during the winter I would suggest a 1 hour easy ride is perfect. It costs 7000 ISK (£48) per person. They gear you up with helmets and protective trousers / tops if you need.
3 – Skogafoss
Skogafoss is a stunning waterfall – one of the biggest in Iceland and you can get very close to it! If you’re lucky on a sunny day you’ll see a rainbow! You only need a short time here to take it all in (especially if you’re freezing like I was).
4 – Reynisfjara
Reynisfjara is a famous black-sand beach on the South Coast. It looked incredibly dramatic and beautiful when we were there with the powerful waves crashing onto the black sand.
The Reynisdrangar are basalt (volcanic rock) sea stacks under the mountain Reynisfjall. Lots of people were climbing up them which I would not advise but you can certainly pose for photos on the lower ledges!
The sand is black because it’s formed from eroded volcano rocks (which are black).
5 – Eyjafjallajökull
We quickly stopped off at Eyjafjallajökull as we were passing it on the way to our next location. It’s the volcano which erupted in 2010 causing chaos around the world. It looks pretty small and unassuming in reality!
6 – Northern Lights
You have to be incredibly lucky to catch the Northern Lights. On the May trip to Iceland there was no sign of them but on our January trip we saw them as the plane was landing as the night was so clear. We also went on a pre-booked a Northern Lights tour (around £40) – you hop on a coach from the bus station in Reykjavik and basically drive into the middle of nowhere. The lack of light pollution allows you to see the lights far more clearly but seeing them is not guaranteed!
Even if you do see them, the pic on the left is what my iPhone camera picked up and the pic in the middle is an image I found on google which looked pretty much like what we saw. Some Northern Lights images you see online are taken with super duper cameras which process the light better than our eyes can and so look far more stunning than the reality – don’t be fooled!
1 – National park at Þingvellir
This is the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries so full of history and the landscape is incredible. If the weather is warm then I think it would be a great place to hike and take it all in!
We did this on the May trip and the water was freezing (despite being geared up in warm clothes, a dry suit & a wet suit) so no way we would’ve been able to do it in January when snow was on the ground! It’s situated in the National Park mentioned above and is absolutely stunning. You snorkel between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates which drift apart about 2cm every year & the waters are one of the clearest in the world!
It costs ISK 15,900 (£110) to do it but I would definitely recommend as a once in a life time experience. You do a cliff jump at the end too.
2 – Geysir
We quickly stopped here on our way to our next activity – watched the Geysir erupt twice then back into the car. I would fear on a tour you’d spend hours and hours here when you really don’t need to.
It’s a hot spring on the Golden Circle route and near to the national park. It spouts water around 100 feet in the air every 3-5 mins. It is very, very, very hot so don’t go too near!
3 – Gullfoss
Gullfoss is another stunning waterfall and also the pick up point for our snowmobiling trip. The pic on the right is from the snowmobiling adventure & I’ll explain more below…
4 – Snowmobiling
Snowmobiling was a highlight. You’re picked up from the car park at Gullfoss in a monster truck (above) and driven about 30 minutes into the middle of nowhere (Langjökull glacier). It costs ISK 24,990 (£172) per person and includes all the gear to keep you snuggly and safe as well as 1 hour snowmobile ride.
You drive one way for around 30 mins where you go into the glacier (pic I mentioned above) and then you switch drivers and head back to base. When we were there the light was so beautiful and the landscape was unbelievable! The world is amazing!
5 – Blue Lagoon
On the January trip I booked to go to the Blue Lagoon (around £50) during the evening as I thought it would be lit up beautifully. I was disappointed. They didn’t do anything to light it up so it just looked like murky water! If you’re going to the Blue Lagoon definitely do it during the day (pics below). It is absolutely remarkable in daylight and your skin feels wonderful afterwards!
We had such a tight schedule that we had to eat (and sometimes sleep) on the go – this really kept costs down. We would pick up breakfast from an incredible bakery called Mosfellsbakari & buy food for the day at a Kronan (like Tesco). Our diet mainly consisted of cookies, rolls, salami and pastries!
Oh… and ice cream! If you’re in Reykjavik you have to go to Ísbúð Vesturbæjar for delicious ice cream!
Of course, if you have the time you should explore Reykjavik itself but I think what makes Iceland amazing is its stunning landscapes.
I can’t do exact costs (as we stayed with a friend and didn’t have to hire a car ourselves) but flights and accommodation can be reasonable if you book far enough in advance. Hiring a car is cheap (especially if there are 4 of you sharing) and if you eat on the go you can keep your spend down. Obviously if you choose to pack the days with paid activities then it’s going to be expensive, but many of the beautiful landscapes are free to go to! It’s a once in a lifetime experience so I would suggest going all out 🙂