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  • Jordan Hinsch

4 Nights in Iceland (Winter) - All You Need to Know

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

Bucket List #7


My trip to Iceland in 2017 was booked in typical last-minute fashion. I usually fly back to New York for Thanksgiving and thought I'd extend my stay this time. I researched numerous countries and trip scenarios and finally decided to fly to Iceland, then Amsterdam. PS: I plan on going back once more in the winter and once in the summer for an extended stay.


A view of Engey island in Reykjavik

Iceland Notes


Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK) is the native currency and credit/debit cards are accepted everywhere. Most stores will accept Euros and some will accept US Dollars, from what I saw. FYI, Iceland is very expensive and locals love living there.

Language: Icelandic, most people are fluent in English.

Population: 358,780

Population Density: 8 people per square mile, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

Daylight: This varies of course, but the winter days are very short with as little as 4 hours of daylight.

Fun Fact #1: Iceland ranks #4 on the world's happiest countries.

Fun Fact #2: All produce is imported from mainland Europe. Iceland is, however, able to grow their own crops using naturally powered geothermal greenhouses!


Based on my personal experience, here are my recommendations if you have 4 nights in Iceland:

Flights


There weren't many options, but I chose to fly from JFK to KEF with Delta. I took a red eye and arrived at about 7:30am.


Accommodations


CenterHotel Thingholt


I stayed at CenterHotel Thingholt for the first 3 nights. It's in a great location in Reykjavik's city center. It's a mere 5-10 minute walk to lots of bars and restaurants and only 15 minutes from the beautiful Hallgrimskirkja. I came across the hotel through TripAdvisor and booked directly through the hotel website.


Silica Hotel at Blue Lagoon


This is where I stayed my final night in Iceland. It was an easy decision since Blue Lagoon is an absolute must-see attraction on just about every blog. It's not cheap, but here are some other reasons why you should stay at Silica Hotel:


  • As a guest, you gain free premium access to the famed Blue Lagoon.

  • You have access to a private silica lagoon. Blue Lagoon is bombarded with hundreds of people at a time.

  • It's a great place to either begin your stay in Iceland or end it, because it's about 20 minutes from the airport via taxi.

  • The restaurant on-site is incredible and features unique yet traditional Icelandic cuisine.


Tour Company


Gateway to Iceland

www.gtice.is


This was my first time ever booking something through a tour company. I used a company called Gateway to Iceland (there are many others, but I chose them based on reviews). Their customer service is excellent with quick responses via email. The Norwegian tour guide I had on my final two days was fantastic. Read on to see which tours I booked with them.


Tours


Northern Lights Tour


Unfortunately, this was a failed tour due to cloud cover. But, it's all the more reason to go back! Dress very warm and bring hand-warmers. You'll be standing outside for a while waiting for the lights to appear. Be sure to bring a tripod for your camera. No noteworthy photos from this one, sorry!


Hot Golden Circle Tour

www.gtice.is/trips/day-tours/hot-golden-circle-tour/


The Hot Golden Circle Tour is exactly what it sounds like. It takes you to the hottest points in Iceland. On this tour, you'll see geysirs, waterfalls, þingvellir national park, and secret lagoon. The weather wasn't too shabby!


Gullfoss Waterfall

Secret Lagoon hot spring nature bath

Þingvellir National Park

South Coast Tour


The South Coast Tour takes you south of Reykjavik (no pun intended). On this tour we get to see an impressive glacier, two waterfalls, and a black sand beach. The weather was absolutely terrible, but we certainly made the most of it!


Reynisfjara shore and black sand beach

Solheimajökull Glacier

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Skogafoss Waterfall

To Do in/around Reykjavik


Hallgrimskirkja


Gorgeous cathedral with a viewpoint atop overlooking the entire city of Reykjavik to the North, South, East, and West. Bring your camera and be sure to be there for sunrise or sunset. You're in for a real treat. Entry was about 8 USD per person.


Hallgrimskirkja

Blue Lagoon


This is the most commercial geothermal spa in Iceland. It's very crowded but is still a place you need to visit. While on your tours, you will visit other, less-crowded geothermal spas. Be sure to get a silica mud mask and visit the sauna/steam room. If you go in the winter, you're in for very bold yet refreshing feeling when you step out of the water!


Outside Blue Lagoon on the Silica Hotel side!

Food & Drink


The tours listed above all stop at relatively generic places for lunch at crowded tourist hot-spots. When I was on my own in Reykjavik, every culinary experience was top-notch, along with some very fun bars listed below:


Lebowski Bar


I'm a fan of "The Big Lebowski". If you have ever seen the movie, or even know what it's about, then you must check out this bar. It's completely themed from head to toe with many funny references. I think I went there two nights and one night was trivia night. Lots of fun and a great staff.