12 Days Iceland Winter Itinerary for €2.3k or S$3.6k
There are many reasons for travelling to Iceland during winter. A chance to see the auroras (see also: how to spot auroras in Iceland), the dreamy winter landscapes, the beautiful natural formations, and to avoid the crazy summer crowds. But the best thing is that it’s significantly cheaper in winter!
While it isn’t exactly a budget destination, it also isn’t as expensive as people think. Especially in winter where accommodation and car rental prices are 2-3 times lower. So don’t let your dreams of Iceland get foiled because you think it’s expensive.
For the 12 days we were there (14 days including flight time), we spent only €2.3k plus flights without having to rough it out. We had to make conscious decisions, but we didn’t have to sleep in the car, stay in dorms (which was perfectly fine), nor eat bread everyday. We even indulged in food and accommodation every now and then!
Here’s our Iceland winter itinerary, summary of costs, and tips on how we did it.
All prices are listed in the currency we paid per pax, but I will convert them to Euros and SGD at the end.
The generic itinerary can be downloaded in pdf at the end of the post. :)
Plotted the main sights in Reykjavik and along the South Coast.
D1-3: Reykjavik and around
We arrived on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. After settling in at our Airbnb apartment, headed out for some food before joining the Icelanders to celebrate New Year at Hallgrímskirkja Church!
Pro-tip: Even though winter is the low travel season, avoid the Christmas and New Year period unless you plan early.
Many people from Europe fly over for a quick getaway and we almost couldn’t get accommodation last minute. Most restaurants were also either closed or fully reserved so there was no place to eat even if you were willing to pay.
We ended up with an expensive convenience store meal. Epic New Year’s Eve dinner man. Thankfully we had wine from duty-free. :P
Spent the next two days exploring the capital. For us city dwellers, Reykjavik feels more like a hip town rather than a metropolis, which makes it very pleasant to walk around.
Bird’s eye view of downtown Reykjavik from Hallgrímskirkja Church.
Night view of Hallgrímskirkja Church. Our Airbnb apartment was just beside the church, which was very convenient.
Lake Tjörnin in downtown Reykjavik. Most of the lake was frozen so the animals all had to gather at one spot!
The iconic Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. Check out their website for event listings. This reminds me of the Esplanade back home in Singapore.
At a small park near Harpa. It was super nice chilling here. Parents were bringing their kids here for a little snow sledding from the top of the hill. If only it wasn’t so cold!
The super talked about hotdog stand in Reykjavik! You have no idea how good this is during winter in Iceland. The fresh and fried onions at the bottom are the best. Not to mention that this is probably the cheapest thing you can eat in Reykjavik.
Couldn’t help not trying potatoes in a foreign country. :P
We eventually got our rented car and headed to the Blue Lagoon before starting our road trip. Do buy your tickets online early to get the best slot and discount. We couldn’t get the day slots and had to settle for the evening ones. They have recently expanded so it should be nicer too!
Blue Lagoon is really close to the airport, so you can easily do it when you first land or leave as well. That said, Blue Lagoon is pretty overpriced and touristy. If this isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other more rustic hot springs throughout Iceland. Will be talking about them later.
– Blue Lagoon Entrance, €40
– Hallgrímskirkja Lookout point entrance, €5
– Groceries, ISK1,883
– Famous Hotdog, ISK400
– Random Kebab Restaurant, ISK2,240
– Reykjavik Fries, ISK750
– Waffles near Hallgrimskirkja Church, ISK890
– Random Fish of the day near the pier, ISK 3,000
– Sandra’s Airbnb Apartment, [S$232(2 nights) + S$116(additional 1 night)] / 2pax = S$174
Other recommendations can be found on the downloadable generic pdf itinerary at the end
– Flybus airport shuttle from airport to downtown Reykjavik, ISK2,200
– Refer to section on self-drive below for vehicle rental and petrol cost.
D4-6: Vik and around
Kind of spent the first day rescuing our vehicle. We somehow got ourselves stuck in the snow despite being on a 4WD and having spikes on our tires. Thankfully after an hour of shovelling and the help of a farm tractor, the car was pulled out!
Pro-tip: Don’t go off road unless you are really experienced and know what you are doing. Be smart, don’t be like us!
Well at least the view was good. Actually the entire Iceland is beautiful.
Farmer to the rescue!
A large number of attractions along the South Coast can be found along this area. The best part is that they are all free and just off the main Ring Road (Highway 1), which makes it very easy to visit on a road trip. There is free parking near the attractions as well.
While most people can usually complete all these in 1.5 days, we took much longer cause we wanted to travel slower. Actually we had no choice because other than the accident, our bodies moved really slowly in cold weather. Like seriously. It’s like your mind and body both decided to go on strike.
If you’re not cold resistant, I’ll suggest setting aside more time for exploring. You never know when bad weather might hit as well.
Selandjafoss waterfall. There’s a path that leads you to the back of the waterfall that’s pretty cool. Imagine how epic it would be in summer with more light and rainbows.
Horse riding at Skalakot. We wanted to do a full day tour, but unfortunately it was too icy for the horses. Icelandic horses have a very unique way of gaiting that prevents the rider from bouncing up and down. Ask about it if you’re trying!
You can easily spot them while driving cause Icelandic horses stay outside during winter! Hardy fellas.
The iconic plane wreck. Abandoned since the 1970s, this US navy plane crash landed on the black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur. It’s a little out of the way, and you’ll need to drive on black sand, but the photo opportunities make it well worth it. It’s easier to find now, but here’s the GPS Coordinates (63.459523,-19.364618) in case.
UPDATES (submitted by user Timothy): The C3 plane wreck is located on private property and has been fenced up/closed to prevent access by vehicle since a couple of months ago – as there were too many visitors who did all kinds of things at the crash site, like setting fireworks and generally making a mess . You can still access it by parking around 2.5 km away at the side of the Ring Road and walking all the way inside but it may not be advisable in winter in bad weather.
A less common view of Skogafoss.
Lookout point at the top of Skogafoss.
Dyrhólaey near the town of Vik. It’s very beautiful spot, but also insanely windy.
The basalt columns and cave of Reynisdrangar. Surrounded by the black sand beach, this is one of the most unique non tropical beaches you’ll ever see. Great views of Dyrhólaey from here too.
The skies were clear when we were here, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see the auroras on this occasion. At least we got some nice night shots while hunting for them!
At a spot near the church in Vik. f/2.8, ISO800, 20s exposure.
Along the black sand beaches of Vik. f/2.8, ISO800, 30s exposure.
– 1hr+ Horse riding at Skalakot, ISK6,000
– Everything else was free to visit!
– Lamb/Fish Cheap Restaurant Dinner, ISK2,325
– Groceries, ISK 3,558
– Vik HI Hostel Private Double Room ISK12,800 per night x 2 nights / 2pax = ISK12,800
– Vagnsstaðir HI Hostel Private Double Room ISK12,700 per night / 2pax = ISK6,350
D7-8: Vagnsstaðir & Höfn
Continued driving along the South Coast of Iceland towards the East.
Our main stop here was Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, which was pretty cool. Parts of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier break off and head towards the sea here, letting you get up close to the icebergs. Batman begins, and a couple of James Bond movies were filmed here too! Sadly, global warming has caused the glaciers to recede a lot in the last few years.
Very cool place (pun intended).
Fooling around on the mini icebergs from Jökulsárlón Lagoon that got washed ashore. This beach is just on the other side of the main lookout point and carpark!
Night view from outside our hostel before the storm hit. f/2.8, ISO1000, 30s exposure.
Originally we had planned to drive further towards the eastern fjords, but unfortunately a storm prevented us from doing so. The winds were so strong that we turned back halfway and took shelter indoors instead. Better safe than sorry.
We did however get to Höfn, which was famous for their lobsters. Funny thing was that half the restaurant we were at was filled with Singaporeans. And we hardly met any before this point! Evidence that Singaporeans really love to eat.
– Langoustine/Lobster Pasta & Burger at Restaurant in Höfn, ISK4,725
– Groceries, ISK2,808
– Höfn HI Hostel Private Double Room ISK12,500 per night / 2pax = ISK6,250
– Vagnsstaðir HI Hostel Private Double Room ISK12,700 per night / 2pax = ISK6,350
D9: Vatnajökull Ice Caving
Weather finally cleared and we were able to go on an Ice Cave tour! Ice caves form naturally over summer and are best visited in winter when the walls are sturdier. It was a 50min easy glacier hike to the cave, which was surprisingly very enjoyable.
Hiking in snow checked.
The routes were well maintained and there were 2 guides making sure everything was ok.
View of the entrance to the cave. A little climbing involved which was fun.
Simply awed. They do however look better in photos though.
Ice cave photos credit: PeterAmberTravel
Drove for the rest of the day towards Reykjavik and ended up at Selfoss, which was near The Golden Circle.
– Vatnajökull Ice Cave Tour, ISK19,500
– Lunch at Restaurant, ISK1,850
– Groceries, ISK3,114
– Gesthus Cabin that sleeps 3 at Selfoss, ISK9,500 per night / 2pax = ISK4,750
D10: Golden Circle
No trip to Iceland will be complete without visiting these. The Golden Circle is an imaginary tourist route to the most iconic sights in Iceland. The 3 main ones are Gullfoss Falls, Thingvellir National Park, and Strokkur Geysir. It’s pretty close to Reykjavik, so many people go there on day trips. As with the rest of Iceland, it’s super easy to do this yourself.
Gullfoss or better known as The Golden Waterfalls. There are two big drops, and this is the view of the second one down a narrow ravine.
Strokkur the geyser erupting. There’s an epic slow mo video on Instagram
Thingvellir National Park. I suggest getting here earlier though. We arrived just as the skies were getting dark and could not hike around much.
Partially frozen Öxarárfoss. Never knew waterfalls can freeze!
Accommodation this night was a real treat. We literally slept under the stars in a bubble away in the woods. No light pollution, and no people nearby. Called the Aurora Bubble, it’s like camping but with a super comfortable bed, in an insulated bubble that keeps you away from the elements. The Aurora Bubble is really new, and we were literally the first people to sleep under the stars there.
A 5 Million Star Hotel.
Imagine going to bed with a view like that.
(Review & more pictures: The Aurora Bubble Iceland – A 5 Million Star Hotel)
This was also the night we saw the aurora borealis. While it didn’t happen above our Bubble, it was a relief to finally catch them after hunting for them the entire trip!
I honestly didn’t expect it to evade us on so many nights! Learn from our mistakes and experiences in our guide to spotting auroras in Iceland.
The lights danced and we watched. My camera happened to be taking a time-lapse in the right direction so I didn’t have to do anything. :)
Second viewing of the night. The camera captured it way better than our eyes on this occasion. It was only a faint green glow but still awesome.
– Pork Ribs at American Restaurant, ISK3,900
– Aurora Bubble ISK24,900 per night / 2pax = ISK12,450
D11-12: Fludir to Reykjavik
Started the day with a good soak at The Secret Lagoon hot spring in Fludir. It’s very close to The Aurora Bubble, so perfect for the morning. Those finding the Blue Lagoon too touristy will enjoy this a lot more. We were soaking/chilling for about 2hrs (no time limit on entrance), and the number of people in the hot spring ranged from just the 2 of us, to maybe about 20 at one point. This is loads better than the crowds at Blue Lagoon.
We prefer The Secret Lagoon cause you kind of have your own space.
There was also a free small hot pool along the South Coast called Seljavallalaug that we didn’t get a chance to check out due to time constraints. It’s supposedly really local and surrounded by beautiful nature. Most people don’t make it there in winter because it’s a 15-20min walk along a trail from the car park to the pool (this is why it’s cooler). Ping me if you get there! I’ve marked it in the map above too.
It was then basically heading back to Reykjavik to return the car before preparing for our flight the next day. For our final meal, we treated ourselves to the Icelandic Gourmet Feast at Tapas Barinn in downtown Reykjavik! It’s pretty pricey, but it gives you a taste of the popular Icelandic dishes.
From left to right, top to bottom: Smoked Puffin, Icelandic Sea Trout, Lobster Tails, Blue Ling, Minke Whale, Icelandic Lamb. There was a shot of Brennivin and a Skyr based dessert as well.
Secret Lagoon Entrance, ISK2,500
– Icelandic Gourmet Feast + Main at Tapas Barinn, ISK13,400 / 2pax = ISK6,700
– Famous Hot Dog, ISK400
– Sandra’s Airbnb Apartment, S$116 per night / 2pax = S$58
Iceland Budget Tips
Self drive vs Tours:
Most of the sights in Iceland are free and easily accessible on a self drive. Unless it is an activity tour like ice caving or horse riding, there is no real reason to spending extra on a tour.
A typical basic Golden Circle Tour cost €75 (ISK10,500/S$114) per pax, which is about the average price of renting a car for a day. If you have a group to share costs (we were two), having a car makes so much more sense even if you include petrol.
Going on a road trip is also really fun. It’s flexible, you can go hunting for auroras at night, and you travel at your own pace. We easily spent 2hrs at each spot, which would have been impossible on a tour.
The only con I can think of is that you will miss out on all those interesting things that the guide will share on the bus.
We got our car through Europcars, and paid €791.88 (ISK112,212/S$1,223.09) for a Suzuki Jimny 1.2, Manual 4WD, inclusive of maximum car insurance for 8days. We were lucky and got upgraded to an Automatic Mitsubishi Outlander due to availability though!
Pro-tip: Car GPS is not necessary unless you plan to go off road and into the mountains. Google Maps is more than enough!
Overall petrol cost = €216 8 Days
Car Rental cost = €791.88
Total cost per pax = 1007.88/2 = €503.94 (ISK71,409.80/S$782.05)
It’ll be even cheaper if you have more people sharing the car! Do note that in summer, vehicle rental prices can be 2-3times more.
Eating in vs Eating out:
A simple cafe meal easily cost between €15-20 (ISK2-3000/S$20-30), so eating out is pretty expensive.
To keep costs low, we cooked as often as we can. We will make breakfast and dinner, while packing food for lunch on the go. Day light is short during winter (around 5-6hrs in Jan), so we wanted to maximise time and ate in the car while driving instead. It was also pretty fun getting creative with our meals.
Guacamole Ham & Egg Sandwich for breakfast.
Classic backpacker pasta with egg and awesome Skyr yogurt.
Chinese style meals
Salmon spinach baked rice with spinach soup. Yes we had too much spinach.
Pro-tip: The supermarket Bónus is the cheapest for food supplies! The logo is the one with the pig.
We did indulge every now and then though. The thing about Iceland is that the good restaurants cost only slightly more than the average restaurants.
Hostels and Airbnb will be your best bet for affordable accommodation. It’s usually just a place to crash so most of us don’t need all the extra frills that comes with the hotels. Most hostels and Airbnb apartments also comes with a kitchen, which means you can save money making your own meals.
Start searching early. I usually book flights last minute, but it pays to search for flights in advance for Singapore to Iceland. Flights easily cost €1k (S$1.5k) and above, but we got ours for €862 (S$1331). If you’re more prudent, I heard you can get flights for €776 (S$1.2k)!
I used Skyscanner, which has a “Cheapest Month” option that shows the most affordable flights. The “Price Alert” feature also makes monitoring easier as fluctuations in prices gets sent directly to my inbox.
Budget Summary (Per Pax)
Total for Activities: €45 + ISK28,000
Total for Food: ISK38,543
Total for Accommodation: S$232 + ISK48,950
Total for Transport: €503.94 (ISK71,409.80/S$782.05) + ISK2,200
Total for Flights: €862 (S$1331) TOTAL COST: €2,346 (SGD3,640)
Note: Euro to SGD exchange rate taken at 1Euro to 1.55SGD. We stayed in our friend’s house for 2 out of the 11 nights, but I added the cost of what it would have been if we had stayed in a single room hostel/Airbnb instead. Rest assured that the cost is still an accurate reference.
Other useful information
– Visas are not required for Singaporeans (and many other countries) for up to 90 days.
– Iceland time is GMT, which is 8 hours behind Singapore (same as London).
– The main language is Icelandic but English is very widely spoken. That includes the older folks!
– Credit cards can be used almost everywhere. Like seriously everywhere. Do set up your credit card pin if you plan to withdraw money though.
– There are only 323,000 Icelanders and most live in Reykjavik. That’s a lot of land for very few people.
– Iceland is cold though it’s the winds that are the real mischief makers. Make sure you have a very good wind proof jacket on top of your down jackets!
– Many Icelanders believe in elves and other magical creatures even if they may not admit it directly. We found out that instead of Santa Claus, they have 13 naughty trolls (Yule Lads) for Christmas instead! Ok this isn’t exactly useful information but it’s interesting.
Iceland Aurora Forecast – http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/
Driving Conditions in Iceland – http://www.road.is/travel-info/road-conditions-and-weather/
Iceland things to do – http://www.visiticeland.com/
Hope you found this post useful. If you want to increase your chances of spotting the northern lights, check out my how to spot auroras in Iceland guide too.
Piking at Skogafoss. 📷: @cheriesyw #TheTravelIntern #IcelandSecret #SkyscannerSG A photo posted by Hendric Tay (@pohtecktoes) on