Best Iceland winter day trips from Reykjavik

Best Iceland Winter Day Trips from Reykjavik

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Are you traveling to Iceland in winter, but don’t want to deal with the stress of driving in winter conditions? I am getting so many questions from readers just like you, people who are keen to discover Iceland by taking organised day trips from Reykjavik. While you cannot expect to visit the whole country from just one location, you can still see quite a lot of Iceland by taking organised tours and day trips from Reykjavik, also in winter. In this post I want to share my hand-picked selection of the best day trips from Reykjavik in winter. Even if you are making a short stopover in Reykjavik, you can still see some of the main highlights of Iceland. Find out!

Best Iceland winter day trips from Reykjavik

Below you will find a selection of the best and most popular organised winter tours from Reykjavik. For each of the excursions I picked the very best options available based on the length of the trip, the group size, and of course the trip itinerary.

You will see that most of the tours I recommend here are bookable through GetYourGuide, rather than e.g. Viator or directly with a company. The reason is simple – GetYourGuide offers easy cancellation option with a full refund if cancelled 24 hours in advance. And that is a nice insurance to have in Iceland in winter. I did lots of research and listed only the best available tours. So all you have to do is pick one that fits your itinerary, way of travel, and your budget and enjoy your trip to Iceland.

*** If you are visiting Iceland in warmer months, you may want to check our hand picked selection of the best guided tours in Iceland for all seasons.

 

Hand-picked selection of the very best Iceland day trips from Reykjavik in winter #Iceland #winter #travel

 

Golden Circle

Golden Circle is the most popular day trip from Reykjavik any time of the year, and it can easily be visited in winter as well. What can you expect to see? The three main highlights of the Golden Circle are the spectacular Geysir area with the incredibly active Stokkur geyser that goes off every 5-10 minutes, Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.

The most popular Golden Circle day trips from Reykjavik take about 8 hours, but there are somewhat shorter afternoon trips available as well, or you can opt for a combination trip with for example snorkelling, Blue Lagoon, etc. For the best combination day trips from Reykjavik, see further down. And here are the best Golden Circle tours from Reykjavik:

Make sure to check the best 2-in-1 tours below, as Golden Circle can easily be combined with e.g. a visit to geothermal pools nearby. It’s a good way to relax after the busy day AND you see more in the same day without having to pay for transportation twice.

Southern Iceland: Waterfalls, Glaciers, and Beaches

If you have a chance, try to see at least some of the South Coast of IcelandWhat can you expect to see? The main highlights of these tours are the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and black sand beach of Vik (Reynisfjara). The description often mentions a glacier as well, but these tours don’t actually go on the glacier – you will see it in the distance, or in the best case drive up to one of the glacier tongues. You can find my selection of the best glacier and ice caving tours further in this article. In the meantime, here are the best Reykjavik day trips to the South Coast of Iceland.

South Iceland – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

I have to be honest with you. I have really mixed feelings about taking a Jökulsárlón day trip from Reykjavik and certainly in winter. To me, the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is nr. 1 among the best must-see places in Iceland. However, it’s such a long drive from Reykjavik! You are going to be sitting on the bus the entire day.

If you have some extra time, I strongly advice to do a 2-day South Iceland tour  or even a 3-day tour instead. Most Jokulsarlon day trips don’t even run in winter as the daylight hours are simply too short. But for those who are short on time and absolutely want to see Jokulsarlon, here are the two best (and only) options for Jokulsarlon winter day trips from Reykjavik.

Northern Lights Tours

Seeing the Northern Lights was one of the main reasons why I travelled to Iceland in winter. On a good day, you might be lucky and see the auroras in Reykjavik too, but the light pollution makes it more difficult. That’s why you have bigger chances to see the Northern Lights outside of the city. There are many tours available, some go by big bus, some others offer a private 4WD experience (this can be really pricey), or you can even take a boat and watch the Northern Lights from the water.

However, nobody can guarantee that you will actually get to see the Northern Lights. You might think that it’s better to wait to book a tour till you see how the aurora forecast looks like, but the best (= small group) tours actually sell out pretty quickly. So it’s up to you to decide if you want to take the risk. You may want to book your Northern Lights tour at least a couple of days in advance in order to avoid disappointment. Some tours offer a sort of no-aurora guarantee that gives you an option to do a second tour free of charge the next day.

Here are the best Northern Lights tours from Reykjavik. All these tours offer free cancellation up to 24hrs in advance, so if the weather is bad or aurora activity is really low, you can cancel it the day before.

Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, and Laugarvatn Fontana Lagoon

Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular attraction. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes, it’s busy. But there’s nothing better than to soak in a hot geothermal pool after a long cold winter day. Blue Lagoon is located about 45min drive from Reykjavik and if you don’t have a car it’s best to book Blue Lagoon bus transfer from Reykjavik. Note that you have to pre-book Blue Lagoon tickets in advance as well – see their website for more info. Or you can book a trip that combines Blue Lagoon with a day trip to the Golden Circle.

Secret Lagoon is a smaller, less crowded, and cheaper alternative nearby. Here you can book Secret Lagoon admission tickets or Secret Lagoon admission tickets together with a transfer from Reykjavik.

Another less known, but beautiful geothermal pool is Laugarvatn Fontana Lagoon. Its location close to the Golden Circle, make it a perfect day trip from Reykjavik in any season. Here’s a highly-rated tour that combines the Golden Circle with Fontana Lagoon.

Glacier hiking and ice caving

Glacier hiking is one of the year-round excursions that you can do in Iceland. Whereas visiting a natural ice cave can only be done in winter, usually not before November – December. Some excursions are more adventurous and offer ice climbing as well. I don’t know about ice climbing, but glacier hiking and ice caving can be done by anyone in a reasonable physical condition. Kids under certain age are not allowed (varies per tour). As for older people, we had a couple of 70 year olds in our group on a glacier and despite their concerns they had no difficulties with it. Safety equipment is provided, but you have to wear sturdy waterproof walking shoes to fit the crampons on.

And since I sometimes get this question – no, it’s really not a good idea to walk on a glacier without a guide. You may also want to read our complete guide to glacier hiking in Iceland.

Here are the best glacier hiking and ice caving winter day trips from Reykjavik:

Snæfellsnes National Park

Snæfellsnes National Park is located North of Reykjavik. The roads here are usually even more unpredictable than on the South Coast. So taking an organised day trip is probably the best way to visit Snaefellsnes Peninsula in winter.

Best 2-in-1 combination winter tours from Reykjavik

Sometimes it might be interesting to combine several excursions in one. It not only saves you time, but money as well. Below are some of the best combination tours that you can do from Reykjavik in winter. Just beware that the daylight hours are short in winter. While it’s perfectly ok to enjoy the Secret Lagoon in the dark, some other combinations may not be ideal during the darkest winter months.

More winter day trips from Reykjavik

Here is a small selection of other popular winter day trips from Reykjavik:

So, this is my hand-picked selection of the best tours, excursions and day trips that you can do from Reykjavik during the winter months. If you are visiting Iceland in winter, make sure to also read our guide on what to pack and what to wear in Iceland in winter. Right or wrong clothing can make or break your trip so travel well prepared. And before you leave on a trip – don’t forget your travel insurance!

If you are looking for accommodation for Reykjavik, take a look at our guide to the best accommodation options in Reykjavik and along Iceland’s Ring Road.



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Best Iceland winter tours, excursions and day trips from Reykjavik #Iceland #winter #trip

Best winter day trips and tours from Reykjavik in Iceland
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Comments

  1. Hi Jurga.
    I am planning my trip to Iceland, and I found so many great tips at your blog!
    So I just want to say thank you and congratulations for such a good and helpful content.
    This will definitely be my guide.
    And double congratulations being able to make this trip with your kids, plus having time to register everything. That’s a lot of effort!

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences.
    Kind regards

  2. Hi Jurga,

    I am planning to reach on 12th December around 1 PM and would be staying in Iceland for three nights and would like to cover Jokulsarlon d south coast n d golden circle , but really clueless as how to wrap up considering the time I have….can you please guide

    1. Author

      That’s a really short time, taking into account that the days are very short. On your first day, by the time you’re out of the airport and on your way to Reykjavik, it will probably be getting dark already… So on your first day I’d just stay in Reykjavik and maybe take a Northern Lights tour in the evening.
      That being said, one of the options – the best one in my view – would be to join a 2-day tour that goes all the way to Jokulsarlon. So you can start on Dec 13th and see the nicest places along the South Coast. Advantage of a tour like this is that you sleep along the South Coast, thus driving less in the dark, and sightseeing more when it’s light. It also includes ice cave excursion and gives you a good chance to see the Northern Lights as you stay outside the city.
      This means, however, that you wouldn’t have a chance to see the Golden Circle, but in my opinion South Coast is worth it more.
      If you still rather see both places it’s also possible, by taking two separate day tours from Reykjavik: Jokulsarlon day trip on one day and Golden Circle day tour the next day. This option, especially the day when you go to Jokulsarlon, will have A LOT of driving in the dark.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Hi Jurga,

        thanks a ton for your inputs but would it be wise to cover golden circle with blue lagoon considering it will be pitch dark when I reach there n would be cold ….Any suggestions.

        1. Author

          While you can easily visit and enjoy Blue Lagoon (or any other geothermal pool, like Secret Lagoon or Fontana Lagoon) in the evening, you won’t see much on the Golden Circle in the dark. But Blue Lagoon has nothing to do with the Golden Circle, actually, it’s not even in the same direction…
          What you can do is go to the Blue Lagoon on the day you arrive in Iceland (can even take a bus there straight from the airport). Alternatively, when you are looking for a day trip of the Golden Circle, you can book one in combination with one of the geothermal pools (see the 2-in-1 tours section in this post), and that way visit it all in one day.

  3. My husband and I are making our first trip to Iceland in September and are finding lots of helpful info on your site, so thank you for that! We intend to drive to Jokulsarlon from Reyjavik and spend the night so we can explore the area more at our leisure. Can you suggest a good, nearby town to spend the night in that is convenient to Jokulsarlon, but does not go far beyond it? Thanks so much,

    1. Author

      Hi Ursula, there aren’t really any big towns next to Jokulsarlon, the closest small town is probably Hofn. As for where to stay, check this Iceland accommodation guide – Jokulsarlon section – where I listed a couple of hotels that are closest to the glacier lagoon. The best-located hotel in the area is Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon.

  4. Very helpful information about Golden Circle in Iceland. The natural beauty of Gullfoss Waterfall is so attractive for all. Yes, Geysir Hot Spring Area is another tourist attraction in Iceland. Before three months I have visited to Iceland with my husband. We travelled and stayed there 5 days and used your post to guide us. Thank you for this great post.

  5. I dont hve any comments but would like to know what are some of the day tours your company offer in May this year

    1. Author

      Hi Jenny, we don’t offer any tours 😉 – this is just our travel blog where we share our travel experiences and tips. Most of the trips mentioned in this post are actually year-round activities, except for the Northern Lights, snowmobiling, and ice caving. The ‘musts’ are the Golden Circle and the South Coast and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Glacier hiking can be done the whole year. If you have more time, Snæfellsnes peninsula is nice too. See the links above for more details. You can book the tours through GetYourGuide and there you always can see the dates that are available.
      In May you could also try to do a whale watching tour and also go looking for puffins if you like wildlife.
      Hope this helps.

  6. Looks awesome. I’m adding this to my list of things to do when we make it to Iceland.

    1. Author

      Great. Good to hear you found this useful, Piers.

  7. I am so jelly! Iceland is like TOP bucket list for us! This guide is awesome and we need to visit soon!

  8. This is a fabulously detailed itinerary of things to see and do in Iceland. It is great to know that you can still visit and enjoy a destination like Iceland in winter,

    1. Author

      You definitely can, Sharee! I loved Iceland in winter, it’s a true winter wonderland.

  9. Hi, Jurga! Yet another great article I really enjoyed reading! You put an impressive list here. There is something for anyone. I can only imagine how many people appreciated this guide of yours, it can really simplify logistics of this trip. Great job with all the details and your opinion on each place, so one can choose what suits their needs the best.

    1. Author

      Thank you, Nigel. I always put lots of time and effort to research my blog posts and hope that it truly helps others to plan and make their dream trip.

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