April 6 2023
Iceland has been on the top of my bucket list for years, and I am SO grateful I got the chance to go this winter, and I am so excited to share my travels with you too!
I did not go for a week, so I just covered the west coast, but this guide will still give you some great insight if you want to also go for a few days, or if you are looking for perspectives on what to see and do on the west coast.
You could do tours for each thing.you want to see, but if you want to keep it more budget friendly I would 100% recommend renting a car. Since Iceland is already known for being super expensive, renting a car can really help you stay in your budget compared to doing multiple tours. Since I grew up and learned to drive in Canada, the thought of driving in Iceland didn’t worry me as I was already used to driving in snow. There is also one main highway in Iceland that wraps around the country (ring road) so it is not too difficult to follow, and easy to stay on the right path and find your way back.
Below you will find my map with all of the destinations we visited, colour coordinated by the day we visited each destination; day is purple, day 2 is blue, and day 3 is green.
We crammed a lot of stuff into our second day because everything was within a 30 minute to one hour drive from each other, making it actually super doable; and since it was so close together and we were already in the area, it made sense to just do it all in one day to save on gas (and especially since we were only there for a short time!).
We really wanted to see the famous glacier lagoon, also known as diamond beach, and it was over a 5 hour drive from reykjavik so we dedicated our third day to visit it.
Let’s get on with the itinerary…
I would recommend spending the first day exploring Reykjavik and visiting the blue lagoon, which is an absolute must! this way, you can get adjusted to the time difference and settle in all while having a relaxing time at the lagoon. I will write a separate post about the bloke lagoon, with tips and everything you’ll need to know before visiting.
As far as Reykjavik, you can easily see the entire city in a few hours. There are many cute cafes, I would highly recommend (cafe name). There are also many little shops where you can stop and have a browse.
Day 2 is our busiest day, where we see sights along the south west coast. There is so much to see, but it’s great because everything is within a half hour drive from each other which makes the driving a breeze for you.
The first stop is Seljalandsfoss, one of Iceland’s most well known waterfalls. In the summer months you can actually go behind it, however this area is roped off in the winter months (for safety of course). This waterfall is about a two hour drive from reykjavik, but the drive is quite easy and remains on roads the entire time.
The parking is 6 Euros, but there is a parking lot so once you park you can walk right up to the waterfall without having to hike. I would recommend budgeting yourself half an hour here to take in the waterfall, and get your pictures.
Next up, we are going to visit Skógafoss, which is one fo Icelands most famous waterfalls (if not the most famous one). Just like at Seljalandsfoss, there is a parking lot at the foot of the waterfall so you can park and walk right up to the foot of the falls; the good news is the parking is free here! I would also recommend budgeting yourself about half an hour here.
Expect this waterfall to be quite touristy all year round, but please don’t let this deter you from visiting as it is so amazing and you can definitely still have a great experience even with many people around. Once you are at the foot of the waterfall, you can climb up the stairs that go up the hill to the top of the waterfall if you want; at the top you get a birds eye view of the waterfall and the surrounding area.
After Skógafoss, we are off to Dyrhólaey to see the black sand beaches! You will drive up a big hill and find parking at the top, near a red and white lighthouse. From here there is a walking trail that you can walk along for about half an hour, that stretches along the coast. Along this trail you’ll see the beaches, as well as a rock with a ole through it. At the end of the trail there are washrooms and another view point. I would recommend doing the hike as the scenery is gorgeous, just make sure you have hiking shoes as the path is a bit rough. Dyrhólaey is amazing to see all year round, but if you go in the summer mo the you have an amazing chance of seeing the offing as this is the main coast in Iceland where they like to hang out. Sadly though, they will not be here in the winter as they fly to the nearby island (name).
Next up we are headed to Reynisfjar black sand beach, which is known as the most dangerous beach in Iceland! This is because the waves are absolutely massive and can come up quite high randomly, thus pulling people back into the ocean with them. There is a wall of rocks in quite a unique arrangement that you can climb, but watch out for the waves ass they quite often wash right up to the foot of these rocks.
Once you are done here, the drive back to Reykjavik is about 3 hours. If you are travelling in the winter moths, I would recommend getting an early start to day 2 and heading out around 8am, so that you can arrive at Seljalandsfoss by abut 10:30am when the sun is ups and be done your day round 2-3pm; this will give you enough daylight to get back to reykjavik and strip be able to drive back when it is bright. If you are worried about bathrooms, they have them at each of the destinations we are visiting today, so no need to be worried about being stranded without one!
Today we don’t have as many stops, but the drive is LONG! It is definitely worth it though, and is a great way to see Iceland along the way.
First we are headed to diamond beach. This beach is famous for it’s black sands and clear glaciers along the beach that look like diamonds. There is parking right at the foot of the beach that is free for you to use; there is also no hike from the parking lot to the beach. When I visited, it was February and sadly there were no “diamonds” in sight as they had all melted; this was upsetting as this beach was definitely on my bucket list, after doing research I also learned that they were not supposed to melt ever, and it was a global warming issue. It was also quite misleading because there were multiple tour busses full of people who were bringing them to visit the beach- this seemed like such a scam as the company definitely knew there were no diamonds, yet they still bring people and act as if all is fine.
Right across from diamond beach, you can walk to Jökulsárlón (also known as glacier lagoon). Just like diamond beach, the lagoon was supposed to be filled with huge blue glaciers, although there were only about 3. I would suggest spending about half an hour here, as you can check out diamond beach and then all to glacier lagoon.
Next up, on our way back to reykjavik, we will stop at another glacier lagoon, called Fjallsárlón. This lagoon had more glaciers, and also had a trail where you could walk along the side. Be prepared though because it is COLD! This was the coldest I was in Iceland because of the freezing winds from the lagoon. You can get really close to glaciers here, and even walk on them if you want. I would give yourself 30 minutes to an hour here.
Iceland of course is known for its amazing northern lights, and I would 100% recommend you try to see them! Northern light spotting is the perfect nighttime activity in Iceland, and I’d recommend trying to go find them each night to increase your chances. If you want to see them, you can either take a tour or go yourself; I would definitely recommend going yourself to try and find them because you realistically have the same chances of seeing them as if you went on a tour, and I will teach you how here.