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A weekend in Iceland – 2 days in Iceland itinerary in winter

A weekend in Iceland – 2 days in Iceland itinerary in winter

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Iceland is one country that is high on many adventure lovers’ travel lists. It’s been high on mine for a while and we finally managed to squeeze in a weekend in Iceland as part of the Iceland Air stopover on the way back from the UK. We booked 2 days in Iceland in March and planned an itinerary that would allow us to see some of the best spots in Iceland.

Our Iceland itinerary in winter didn’t exactly go to plan since the road we needed to travel on was closed for 24+ hours. At the time it was more than annoying, but in hindsight, I’m glad it closed just as we were the first people stopped from continuing. Had we been allowed to pass and carry on towards Vik, we would’ve missed our flight the next day.

This also meant that we could fit in a quick trip to Reykjavik, which we hadn’t previously planned for. In total, we had about 36 hours in Iceland and I definitely want to go back and spend longer exploring the otherworldly landscapes in Iceland. If you’re planning a weekend trip to Iceland, here’s an Iceland itinerary for 2 days that’ll take you to some amazing places!

iceland 2 day winter itinerary pin

A weekend in Iceland – Iceland itinerary for winter

iceland winter landscape

This itinerary for a weekend in Iceland is based on spending 2 nights in Iceland. For some people that means you’ll have slightly more time than others depending on the flight situation. Our flight from London – Keflavik didn’t land until about midnight, and then we left in the afternoon a few days later. In total we only had around 36 hours but (had the road not been closed) we got to see what we wanted.

Here’s an outline of what we got up to in Iceland in 2 days with our self-made Iceland stopover itinerary. There’s more information on each of the places mentioned further down this article.

  • Arrival: Pick up the hire car, check into the hotel / drive around to see if the Northern Lights are out! The Northern Lights weren’t out for us but we drove south from Keflavik to Grindavik and then north on the 42 towards Reykjavik. The full moon was shining so brightly so we could still appreciate the landscape and it truly felt like we were on the moon!
  • Day 1: Leave Reykjavik and head east towards Vik. Stop at Kerid Crater, Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui and Skógafoss waterfall on the way. Then drive to Vik, explore the black sand beaches.
  • Day 2 and departure: Head up to Fjaðrárgljúfur and then back to the airport at Keflavik. Stop at Reykjavik if you’ve got time before the flight!

Is Iceland expensive?

There’s not really any way around this, Iceland is expensive. Having lived in London and now Vancouver, two cities renowned for their high cost of living I thought I’d seen it all, but Iceland is something else. A few top tips for saving money in Iceland are:

  • Book self-catering accommodation or accommodation with breakfast included at the very least.
  • Accommodation in Iceland is cheaper in winter than in summer.
  • Stock up on snacks and cheap dinners and lunches at supermarkets.
  • Alcohol is crazy expensive; if you must drink buy what you need at duty-free before leaving the airport. We noticed all the locals doing this while waiting to pick people up.

How many days in Iceland?

You could very easily spend more than 2 days in Iceland. Many people would argue that 2 or 3 days in Iceland is too short. While I would agree that 2 days in Iceland is too short to see the whole of the country, it is enough to get a taster. If your main reason for visiting Iceland is as a fun stopover to another holiday destination, then 2 days is plenty. If you’re planning your entire holiday around Iceland then 1 week or more would be easy to fill!

How to get to Iceland

house with red roof infront of waterfall iceland

The only way to get to Iceland (unless you own a ship!) is by flying there. There are several airports in Iceland including both international and domestic only. Both the Keflavik and Reykjavik airports serve international flights. Iceland’s Keflavik airport is the one you’re most likely to land at as it’s the largest.

Getting between Keflavik and Reykjavik is easy. There are many options for airport transfer in Iceland (this airport bus in Iceland is one of the most recommended). Some hotels will also do airport pickups and drop-offs.

This itinerary for Iceland is best done by renting a car. This means you can drive from Keflavik airport to wherever you’re staying.

I always use Skyscanner to book my flights as they make it super easy to find the best deal. I also recommend signing up to Iceland Air’s mailing list to be alerted when they’re doing sales. That’s how we managed to get our flights back to the UK, via Iceland, with a 2 day stopover for less than a flight would normally cost between Vancouver and London.

For more hacks on how to find cheap flights check this post out!

Getting around Iceland in winter

While Iceland does have public transport, especially within the city of Reykjavik and between Reykjavik and Keflavik, you’ll likely find it much easier to rent a car and go at your own pace.

Public Transport in Iceland

If renting a car in Iceland is not an option, you can use the public transport available. Bear in mind that this is more useful if you’re visiting Iceland in summer, rather than Iceland in winter. Due to weather conditions and tourist numbers, many of the bus routes don’t run in winter or run at a much-reduced service.

You can see a map of all the Iceland bus routes here.

Where there are bus services available in winter, you may be able to use them instead of booking a day trip in Iceland. The buses tend to spend a few hours at their final destination before turning back around, or they may stop for 30 minutes or so to allow you to look at the sights on route.

There are several bigger bus station sin Reykjavik and outside of the city petrol stations or camping grounds tend to be the bus stop. However, make sure to double-check; you don’t want to be stuck outside in the icy winter wind for too long!

Driving in Iceland in winter

driving iceland in winter

“blowing snow” was an accurate weather forecast!

We rented a car for our two days in Iceland and were very glad we did. This meant we could go at our own pace and didn’t need to wait outside for a bus in the VERY strong wind that was battling Iceland during our visit.

I booked through RentalCars.com and got a great deal on a 4×4 Dacia Duster. Pretty much all rental companies will offer 4×4 rental in Iceland and I highly recommend paying that bit extra to get one. The Dacia Duster seemed to be a popular choice (it’s the cheapest!). Sure, it wasn’t the fanciest of 4x4s by any means but it did the trick. We definitely put it to the test on our first evening when we had to tackle some snowdrifts! There are lots of airport car rental options in Iceland and if their stall isn’t directly in the airport they’ll usually send someone to pick you up.

Whatever time you visit Iceland, the following two websites will be useful, especially in winter.

  • Road.is: Gives you the up-to-date conditions of all the roads in Iceland.
  • Vendur.is: – for the Iceland weather forecast.

Where to stay in Iceland

For the itinerary outlined above, it makes sense to stay just on the outskirts of Reykjavik on the first night so it’s easier to hit the Iceland ring road the next morning. The following night we had a room booked just past Vik but since the road was closed we stayed at this guesthouse by Skógafoss. It ended up being a great last-minute decision since the road didn’t open until midday the following day and our room came with a view of the waterfall!

Hotels near Reykjavik

These hotels and guesthouses in Iceland are near the ring road which is what you’ll be travelling on for this Iceland travel itinerary. This makes it easy to get out in the morning and start discovering Iceland without sitting in lots of traffic.

  • Route 1 Guesthouse: This is where we stayed and it had everything you need for one night. Our room was large with blackout windows, a private bathroom and self check in so it didn’t matter that we arrived at 2 am. There’s also free parking and free breakfast in the morning which consisted of cereals, toast, fruit and ham/cheese. It was also super close to several supermarkets which were great for getting lunch and road trip snacks.
  • First Hotel Reykjavík Kópavogur:  With free parking and self check in, this budget-friendly hotel in Iceland has great private rooms with ensuite facilities. There’s an onsite gym, a bar and free breakfast are offered too.
  • Hotel Vellir: This hotel has some great views and is just 350 metres from the biggest thermal pool in Iceland: Ásvallalaug Thermal Pool. Breakfast is included in the price and this cheap hotel near Reykjavik has everything you’d need such as toiletries, tea & coffee facilities in the room and private bathroom.

Hotels in Vik and nearby

For accommodations in  Vik, Iceland, you can’t go wrong with these.

  • Guesthouse Skogafoss: This is where we ended up staying at it was great. The guesthouse is self check in and has 5 rooms with a shared dining/kitchen area and 2 bathrooms. We had a room with a view of the waterfall and you’re within walking distance of the waterfall and a couple of places to eat too.
  • Hotel Katla by Keahotels: This hotel just 5km east of Vík has stunning views of the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. Guests also get free access to the outdoor geothermal hot tubs! Breakfast is included and Vik’s black sand beaches are just a 5-minute drive away.
  • Volcano Hotel: This hotel has lovely bright rooms just 10 minutes from Vik. All rooms have a seating area, TV with Netflix in case the weather keeps you indoors and some have sea views. It’s also a great place to see the Northern Lights!

Best things to do in Iceland in 2 days

With so many places to see in Iceland, it’s really hard to narrow it down to fit into two days. This was my biggest struggle when planning our Iceland vacation! If you’re looking for what to do in a long weekend in Iceland, use the ideas below as your starting point.

Call me biased, but I think this is one of the best Iceland itinerary options for people who have already done the Golden Circle or are looking to see some of the other Iceland highlights.

Kerid Crater

kerid crater iceland in winter

Our first stop on our winter Iceland trip itinerary was the Kerið volcanic crater lake. This is a popular stop as part of the Golden Circle (one of the most popular tours in Iceland) and, while we didn’t see the other stops on Iceland’s Golden Circle route, this one was pretty impressive.

It was also incredibly windy. So windy that I’m surprised we managed to walk along the top of the crater without falling in and I’m not exaggerating.

Kerið is believed to be around 3,000 years old which makes it one of the younger craters found in Iceland. When not covered in snow, the slopes are red in colour because the iron in them is pretty fresh (geologically speaking!), and hasn’t been out long enough to turn black.

The crater is about 55 metres deep, 170 metres wide and 270 metres in circumference. You can also walk down towards the water in the crater lake but I’d advice against it in winter as the steps are covered in solid ice making them very slippy.

  • Cost: 400 ISK ($3US)

Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrabui

These two waterfalls are virtually right next door to each other, but much fewer people make the short walk to Gljufrabui from Seljalandsfoss.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in iceland in winter

Seljalandsfoss is an Iceland waterfall on the South Coast of Iceland along the Ring Road. The waterfall is 60 metres high and is one of the most popular places to stop on an Iceland road trip in winter.

One of the features of this waterfall that sets it apart is that it has a pathway running around the cascading water. However, you won’t be able to walk this in winter. Very sensibly it had been closed off due to the slippery, snowy conditions.

Gljufrabui

girl inside Gljufrabui waterfall iceland

Another waterfall, just a few hundred metres walk from Seljlandsfoss, Gljufrabui was our favourite stop of our 2 day tour in Iceland. This waterfall is partially hidden behind a rock face and you can walk into the narrow canyon and get up close to the waterfall. Although not exactly an Iceland “hidden gem” anymore, we managed to get this waterfall all to ourselves for a good 5 minutes.

Wear waterproof boots and a raincoat as you’re going to get wet!

  • Cost: Parking at Seljalandsfoss costs 700ISK ($5US) and lasts the entire day.

Skógafoss

girl by Skógafoss waterfall in iceland

As one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, Skógafoss is also one of the most popular. It’s along the ring road not far from the village of Vik on Iceland’s south coast. It was also where we stayed on our second night in Iceland.

Skogafoss is 25 metres wide and the water falls from 60 metres high. In winter you can get up pretty close to the roar of the waterfall and feel the refreshing spray on your face. In summer, there are stairs which take you to the top of the waterfall. A lot of the time you’ll also be able to see a rainbow in the spray (unfortunately not while we were there!).

  • Cost: Free!

Kvernufoss waterfall

Kvernufoss waterfall is not far from Skogafoss at all but, like Gljufrabui, it’s usually missed by most visitors. The waterfall tumbles from 30 metres high and is partially hidden due to the moss-covered cliffs of lava rock.

Kvernufoss sits in a gorge further back from the road than Skogafoss and whilst you do need to make a short walk to get there, it’s not a challenging hike! The walk takes around 20 minutes from a trail around the back of the Skogar Cultural Heritage Museum. Since it involves a little bit more effort to get there, it’s usually free of the crowds, unlike nearby Skogafoss.

  • Cost: Free!

Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

A short drive east towards Vik from Skogafoss and you’ll be nearing the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. This plane wreck remains largely intact on the black sand that surrounds it.

This abandoned plane in Iceland was the result of a DC-3 plane crash. It was a US Navy plane that was flying across the area in 1973 and ended up crashing. It’s believed the pilot has switched to the wrong fuel tank and needed to make an emergency landing when the plane ran out of fuel. No one was killed or injured but the plane remains here for now as it was deemed too badly damaged to be repaired.

Things to do in Vik – Vík í Mýdral

Vik is the southernmost village on mainland Iceland and is 186 km away from the capital Reykjavík (2.5 hours drive). It’s a great place to stop for the evening at the end of your two day trip to Iceland. It’s a small village with only several hundred residents but the surrounding landscape is beautiful!

Dyrhólaey Viewpoint

Just before you arrive in the village of Vik, there’s a great viewpoint which is popular with birdwatchers hoping to catch sight of the puffins which nest here from May to August. You can also see an enormous rock arch (the Dyrholaey Arch) which curves out into the ocean and makes for stunning photos of Iceland.

The arch is a result of centuries of erosion and it’s so large that boats can easily cruise through the archway and a pilot once flew through it in 1993!

Kirkjufjara Beach

This is the beach you’ll see from the viewpoint above. It’s one of the many black sand beaches in Iceland and it’s beautiful but also dangerous. It’s best to enjoy it from afar, especially in winter where storms are more likely. The beach gets extreme waves and it’s very easy to be swept away. If the tide is low and the weather is calm, you should be okay to take a walk on Kirkjufjara Beach, but head any warning signs.

Reynisfjara & Reynisdrangar

Reynisfjara black sand beach is one of Iceland’s most famous places and is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful non-tropical beaches. The Reynisdrangar sea stacks are perhaps the real highlight on this beach. The incredible rock formation here is something I’ve never seen before and it’s said to be two trolls frozen in the light of the morning sun as they tried to pull a ship to shore.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Just off the main road, Fjadrargljufur Canyon is a beautiful place to visit. You can view the 2km long canyon from up high, or walk down 100m to hike along the canyon floor and the glacial waters (though maybe not in winter!).

There’s a small grassy walking trail along the side of the canyon with incredible views of the green moss and the cool blue waters. Although in winter the area will be covered in snow, it’s nonetheless beautiful. If you do walk around the area in winter be careful as it will be very slippery.

Reykjavik

reykjavik statue church in Reykjavik iceland

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a pretty little city with colourful buildings and a nice waterfront trail. We visited Reykjavik for a few hours on the last day of our trip and enjoyed wandering around.

Be sure to visit Braud & Co for delicious pastries, climb to the top of Hallgrimskirkja for stunning city views, and wander along Rainbow Street.

The best Iceland tours

Wondering what to do in Iceland in one day? Or looking for the perfect Iceland day trip tour? These options provide transport from Reykjavik and take you to some of Iceland’s must see places.

What to pack for Iceland in winter – 2 day Iceland tour packing list

driving iceland ring road in winter

Besides the usual things you’d pack for a holiday, here are a few things you definitely shouldn’t forget to pack for Iceland in the winter!

  • Waterproof + windproof jacket: It’s windy and rainy and cold a lot in Iceland in winter so you’ll want this! My favourite is my Arc’teryx jacket but whatever you usually use will do!
  • Gloves
  • Wolly hat
  • Insulated jacket: Wear this under your outer layer to keep warmer
  • Fleece: My Patagonia one is my absolute fave
  • Hiking boots: Waterproof hiking boots mean you’ll be good on the snowy trails and will give you more traction than sneakers.
  • Yaktracks: These are what I use for winter hikes to give you extra grip on slippery services. They’ll make your life a whole lot easier if travelling in Iceland in winter!