Over the last decade, Iceland has grown tremendously in popularity with visitors not only from Europe but the USA and Canada due to affordable flights and breath-taking scenery. This short guide on how to make the most of just 4 days in Iceland – the perfect Iceland in Winter itinerary, should help you plan your trip and hopefully to do it on a budget despite high restaurant and hotel costs across the country.
Trust us, you’ll freeze your precious bits if you stay much longer!!
4 days in Iceland Itinerary For Winter (+ Travel Tips)
For our first trip to Iceland, we decided to got for just 4 days. 4 days in Iceland isn’t enough time to see everything, but it is enough time to see the highlights of Iceland (and is perfect if visiting Iceland in Winter). It’s also enough time to decide if it’s a place you may want to return to for longer in the future. Personally, after just 48 hours in Iceland we knew, regardless of the cost, we knew we would return in the future…many times!
Weather in Iceland in Winter
Iceland is likely to require some specific clothing due to it’s colder and varied temperatures. In wintertime, Reykjavik is likely to be around 1 degrees celiac, however, this can drop as low as -10 degrees. It can get even colder in other areas of the country so pack very warm clothes, decent boots, and maybe even spare blankets incase you get stuck in your rental care during a snow storm. Yes, this has happened!
Remember that winter in Iceland means very few hours of daylight, so you really need to get out and make the most of every single hour. If you’re looking for the northern lights, it can be a good time as there are more hours of darkness. Whether you’re visiting Iceland in October, or February, it’s important to be prepared.
4 days in Iceland itinerary map
This map should help you plan your 4 day itinerary as it lists all the places we went to over 4 days, including the museums we stopped off at in Reykjavik and the main sites along Iceland’s famous Golden Circle. You can also plan your own itinerary based on these stops – and you can do it more efficiently if you have your own rental car.
Doing tours makes things easy but sometimes it involves doubling back on some areas you’ve already been to – such as The Blue Lagoon which is technically right next to the airport.
Renting a car in Iceland
While it can be a little expensive, renting a car in Iceland is one of the best ways to get around the country and would certainly ensure you see as much as possible in just 4 short days. Many people opt to do tours, especially solo travellers, as it works out cheaper, but if you have 2 people or more then I honestly believe renting a car is your best option.
If you’re only planning to stick to The Golden Circle, then you don’t need to spend loads of money on a. four wheel drive or any fancy cars. My friend and I just rented a fairly basic Ford Focus one of the times we were there, and it did the job just fine.
Be sure to book your car before you arrive as Iceland is a crazy popular place for tourists and cars can get booked up weeks in advance. Unless you have a US credit card that covers car insurance excess, then I recommend going for the full insurance policy as you never really know what can happen ton your car on the roads of Iceland – especially if travelling in winter!
Be sure to fill up with gas / petrol at any and every given opportunity as you really don’t know when and where the next station will be.
If you’re renting a car in winter, you’ll need to be a lot more careful as road conditions are not good and many mountain roads actually close. So consider your options carefully depending on what month you’re travelling and how much snow and ice there will be!
Iceland itinerary day 1: Reykjavik
Arrive into Keflavik Airport nice and early and take the 45-minute bus transfer from the airport to the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. Once you’ve dropped off your bags at Icelandair Hotel, it’s time to head out into the city.
Hallgrimskirkja will be your first stop. This is the Church of Iceland, standing at 74.5 metres high it’s without a doubt one of the tallest structures in the country and can be seen for miles when in the capital. The church was founded in 1945 and completed in 1986, as well as a tourist attraction it’s still a highly popular Parish church that locals will visit to pray. The beautiful external architecture of this church is just one reason we’re visiting it on our first day in Iceland, the second is that it acts as an observation tower.
Visitors can pay a small fee to take a lift up to the viewing deck which provides breath-taking views of Reykjavik and the surrounding mountains of Iceland.
Now it’s time for lunch. Take a short stroll to the vegetarian and vegan speciality café; Café Gardurinn. Here you’ll find an array of affordable and beautiful food including soups, breads and dips on a menu that changes daily. The food at Café Gardurinn is the perfect way to keep warm as you battle the blistering winter chills of Iceland.
After that, it’s time to start exploring the sights of Reykjavik once more. This time in the Tales From Iceland museum. Entry to the museum is complimentary with the Reykjavik City Card, alternatively, you can pay the one-off entry fee of 2,200 ISK per adult.
Reykjavik Card: The Reykjavik card can be purchased in advance online or at a variety of hotels and attractions in Reykjavik. The card is available for either a 24, 48 or 72-hour period and provides you with free and discounted entry into a number of major attractions within Reykjavik. Ideal if you’re spending more than 4 days in Iceland and want to experience more of Iceland’s capital.
The tales from Iceland Museum is a video museum, each video is 3 to 4 minutes in length and from the perspective of either the locals or visitors of Iceland. It covers the many aspects of Iceland including its musicians, fishermen as well as the landscape and the history.
After all that history, it’s time for dinner. For this we recommend the affordable Krost which has been given the title of ‘best burger in Iceland’. Krost is located inside Hlemmur Food Hall, so you can be sure that if there’s nothing on the menu that takes your fancy there’s plenty more places to eat to choose from.
Iceland itinerary day 2: South Shore Adventure
Private and group tours are extremely popular in Iceland. With hundreds of tour companies and tours to choose from there’s something for everyone. We went on two during our time in Iceland but our favourite has to be the South Shore Adventure hosted by Gateway to Iceland. The tour starts at 8.30am and is likely to last until 6pm depending on the weather and the traffic.
There are many breathtaking waterfalls in Iceland, but one of my personal favourites has to be Seljalandsfoss as you’re provided with the opportunity to actually walk behind the waterfall.
As you might come to expect, you’re going to get wet. However, when else are you going to get the chance to walk behind a waterfall right?
After this you’ll take a short stop at the largest dairy farm in Iceland before heading onto your next waterfall, Skogafoss. By now you’re probably thinking… 2 waterfalls in one trip… don’t waterfalls get old? Let me answer that in one word… No.
Honestly, each and every waterfall in Iceland is unique, beautiful and breath-taking. Over our 4 days in Iceland we saw more than 10 waterfalls and everyone was totally amazing! It’s by far one of the top things to do in Iceland and is a must-visit regardless of how long you’re in the country.
Skogafoss waterfall is 60 metres tall, and has no barriers protecting you from the sheer drop which means you can get as close as you like (or dare!). The water from the waterfall runs down into a river and provides some amazing rainbows that make for the perfect photo opportunity.
Around midday, you’ll visit Solheimajökull glacier. While you won’t actually walk on the glacier during this trip (although this can be booked separately) you’ll have the chance to see the environmental impact on the glaciers caused by climate change. It’s one thing being told how much our lifestyle is impacting the environment, it’s a totally other thing seeing how over the period of just 10 years the Iceland landscape has changed as a result.
A short drive later you’ll arrive at Vík i Mýrdal village for a lunch break. We prepared food in advance for this trip but there are lots of meal choices available should you wish to bring some money and purchase your dinner upon arrival at the village. After lunch you’ll head to the black sand beach.
While many bask in its beauty, you should be warned that this beach is highly dangerous and has killed many Iceland visitors in the past due to what is known as sneaker waves. I WOULD NOT go swimming here!
After spending almost 2 hours on the black sand beach you’ll begin making your way back from the south of Iceland back up to the capital of Reykjavik. This journey is likely to take upwards of 2 hours and will provide you with amazing views of Iceland scenery. Upon arrival back in Reykjavik, you’re likely to be hungry and in need of some dinner.
For this, I suggest heading for traditional Icelandic food at the Icelandic Street Food Kitchen located on Laekjargata by Frikirkjan in Reykjavik. This affordable fast food dining experience is designed to provide you with the chance to taste traditional Icelandic food without spending a fortune. If you only have 4 days in Iceland, the the Golden Circle is an absolute must!
Day 3: Blue Lagoon & Golden Circle
Speak to anyone who’s previously visited Iceland and they’ll tell you how you NEED to visit the Blue Lagoon, one of the most romantic places in all of Iceland. It’s Iceland’s number one tourist attraction and features naturally warm water in a handmade lagoon. Luckily the tourist company NICETravel offers it alongside the most popular tour of Iceland; The Golden Circle in an 11 hour jam-packed exploration.
Your day will start with The Golden Circle tour where you’ll visit the UNESCO World Heritate Site Thingvellir National Park. This venue was the location for Icelandic Parliament from 930 until 1798 and is where the tectonic plates of both America and Europe meet. Here you can quite literally have one foot in each country.
You’ll head to the hot spring of Geysir for lunch where you’ll have the chance to see nature at it’s finest with Strokkur. Erupting to heights of 30 metres every couple of minutes. This is just one of the many hot springs in Iceland where you can enjoy the view and take a dip in the relaxing water.
Finally, you’ll head to Gulfoss known many locals as the golden waterfall. Here you’ll see how the water impacts the rugged canyon of 32 metres. Before heading to the Blue Lagoon to relax. Due to the popularity of this tour and the small tour sizes of around 19 people I’d recommend booking the tour in advance wherever possible to avoid disappointment.
You’ll get back into Reykjavik around dinner time once again, and this time I suggest heading out to SALT Kitchen & Bar on the harbour footsteps from the popular tourist attraction Volcano House. Here you’ll be able to dine on some of the freshest seafood in the world in a super relaxed environment, with wonderful décor.
Day 4: Whale Watching in Iceland
Sadly, it’s your final day in Iceland. By now you’ve probably come to realise that while 4 days in Iceland is about all most people can afford, it’s somewhere you need to come back to explore further. Depending on the time you fly back home you might have time for one final attraction. In which case I suggest going whale watching.
There are a number of whale watching tours in operation within Iceland. The majority of which leave from Faxaflói Bay in Reykjavik. Tours leave every hour and are likely to last around 2 to 2.5 hours. The likelihood of you spotting any whales is going to depend on the weather, sea conditions and time of year so consider all this prior to booking.
Of course, whales aren’t the only thing you might see in the Faxaflói Bay. Other animals include; white-beaked dolphins, minke whales, humpback whales and harbour porpoises. Some tour companies will offer a pickup and drop off service from your hotel, while others will require you to get to the bay independently so keep this in mind when booking.
That concludes our 4 days in Iceland. As always we’d love to know what you think of Iceland, or if there’s something you believe everyone should see or do in Iceland that we’ve not included above.
Let us know in the comments below. In the meantime, if you’re planning a trip to Iceland and have any further questions that you think we might be able to help you with, feel free to contact us.