My e-mail inbox has been full to the brim lately with inquires from people who are going to visit Iceland this fall and winter. The questions are as varied as the e-mails are many but a lot of people seem to be having problems with putting together a sensible itinerary for their stay in Reykjavík, especially people that are traveling solo and maybe don’t have the biggest budgets. In order to help these folks (and myself by not having to answer the same questions over and over again) I thought I’d just share an example of how a solo traveler can spend 5 days in Iceland in winter.
Before we go any further I should mention that when I came up with this plan I was basically thinking about myself about 10 years ago when I was traveling the world on my own. For accommodation I chose hostel accommodation because hostels offer the best bang for your buck and they are very social so it’s easier to make new friends. I also chose smaller affordable tours that offer great value for money and opportunities to connect with your fellow travelers.
Because the majority of my customers are Americans and Canadians I assume you are arriving in Iceland early morning from North America (sorry rest of the world: I love you too but it’s just more difficult to generalize when it comes to your flights since it’s not quite as regular as the North American flights). Finally, the ice cave tour on day 4 is only available from November to March, when the conditions allow for it. If you are traveling outside of that time or the weather is not cooperating you will do a glacier hike instead.
5 days in Iceland in winter for budget minded travelers
This 5 day itinerary is great for:
– solo travelers or friends want to meet new people
– first time visitors
– those who would like to see a lot without spending too much
Day 1: Exploring Reykjavík
6:30 – Arrival
Most of the North American flights land between 4 am and 7 am. If you are flying in with WOW air you are usually landing between 4 am and 5 am whereas the Icelandair flights mostly land between 6 am and 7 am.
7:00 – Flybus from Keflavík Airport to Reykjavík
After every flight you’ll find a Flybus right outside of the arrival halls at Keflavík Airport and they leave every 20 minutes or so.
There are two types of tickets available: The normal Flybus ticket that will take you to the BSÍ bus terminal or a Flybus + Ticket that takes your to your hotel or guesthouse.
If you are staying close to the BSÍ it’s probably worth it to take the cheaper Flybus ticket that will get you to the BSÍ and walk or take a taxi from there (especially if there’s more than one person traveling together) but if you are staying a little out of the city center the Flybus + is a better deal.
Please keep in mind though that you will read everywhere that this only takes 45 minutes but that actually just refers to the driving time between Keflavík Airport and the BSÍ bus terminal – the whole process from when you sit inside the bus until they drop you off at your hotel (if you have a Flybus + ticket) can take up to two hours.
I wrote a post about this issue with the Flybus a while a go that might be worth the read.
10:00 – The I Heart Reykjavík Walking Tour
On our walking tour we will tell you all about why we heart Reykjavík and why we think you’ll heart it too. On the tour we’ll tell you a little bit about the history of Reykjavík, show you a few of our favorite places and point out restaurants and bars you might want to enjoy during your stay in Reykjavík.
Although we often have people coming straight from the airport to our tour without any problems you can still experience delays with your flight in which case we cannot refund the tour but we try our best to book you in on the next available tour that fits your schedule.
Book the Reykjavík Walking Tour here
14:00 (2 pm) – Check -in at Loft Hostel
This itinerary assumes you will stay in a 8-bed dorm at Loft Hostel as this is the cheapest option available. You can upgrade to a smaller dorm or a private room and pay the difference in price.
I chose Loft hostel for this itinerary because the location is excellent, the value is great and they have an excellent bar where you can socialize with your fellow guests and make new friends.
Loft hostel is my top choice for solo budged-minded travelers in Reykjavík.
Book Loft Hostel here
14:30 (2:30 pm) – Free afternoon in Reykjavík
You are going to be tired after a long flight and lack of sleep so I recommend you don’t plan anything big on your first day. If you have the energy you can go and check out some of the things you learned about on the walking tour or you can simply take a little nap to have some energy for dinner and such.
If you do take a nap – remember to set an alarm so you don’t sleep too long and completely turn your body clock upside down.
21:00 (9 pm) – Northern Lights Bus Tour
If you are up for it and you take a nap in the afternoon you can do a northern lights tour in the evening of your first day.
Because you get to go again if you don’t see them the first time it’s good to schedule this tour early on in your trip to maximize your chances of seeing the lights.
If you absolutely can’t do this on the first night, due to fatigue and general laziness you can combine it with the Golden Circle tour the next day.
Please also keep in mind that the northern lights are a natural phenomenon and there are no guarantees that you’ll see them. So no being mad at me if you don’t see any – I’m just a blogger who’s trying to help you making the most of your stay!
Book the Northern Lights bus tour here
Day 2: Geysers and waterfalls and the wonderful Secret Lagoon
10:00 – The Hot Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is to Iceland what the Empire State and the Statue of Liberty is to New York: Very touristy but you kind of have to do it.
On this tour you will visit the three big places of the Golden Circle: Þingvellir National Park (where Iceland’s parliament was founded in 930), the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir geothermal area (with the ever chipper Strokkur that bursts with excitement every 5-8 minutes or so).
We always recommend this tour (it’s by far our best selling partner tour) because the groups are small, the guides really nice and it includes a visit to the wonderful Secret Lagoon. All that without being stupidly expensive (it only costs marginally more than the cheaper big bus tours). Plus it leave a little later than most of the tours which allows you to sleep in (score) and you escape the biggest crowds at most places.
Book the Hot Golden Circle Tour here
21:00 (9 pm) – Northern Lights Bus Tour
If you were too tired the night before to do a Northern Lights tour you can it on this night instead. Or if you went and didn’t see anything you can try again.
Book the Northern Lights bus tour here
Day 3: Day one of an exciting overnight adventure of the south coast
8:00 – Check out of Loft Hotel for your trip around the south coast
If you have any luggage that you don’t want to bring on your trip you can store it at the hostel for a small fee.
8:45 – South Coast adventure including the main sights, an ice cave, Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
On this 2-day tour you will explore the south coast on a smaller bus (max 16 people + guide) but you will be picked up right next to your hostel.
On day one you will catch a glimpse of Eyjafjallajökull (that volcano that nobody can pronounce that caused all the havoc in 2010), you’ll get some time to get up close and personal with Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, visit Reynisfjara beach and make a short stop at Vík village.
After a great day of exploring you’ll head to your accommodation (which varies depending on departures) to chill and post all your gorgeous photos to Instagram. In the evening there will be an opportunity to hunt for the Northern Lights (the chances are better out in the country side away from the light pollution).
Food is not included on the tour but you’ll get some chance to buy lunch on the way and you can buy dinner where you spend the night.
Book the 2 day South Coast adventure here
Day 4: The Second day of your south coast adventure – including a visit to an ice cave (eeek!)
After getting up and eating breakfast you will head to Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon to marvel at the icebergs and maybe some seals.. Next you will do an ice caave tour with certified guides who will ensure your safety and enjoyment.
After the ice cave tour you will start to make your way back but before you drive back to Reykjavík you’ll make a stop at the beautiful Skaftafell national park. On the way back you will also be on the lookout for the northern lights and other natural beauties.
21:00 – 23:00 (9 pm – 11 pm) – Drop off in Reykjavík and checking in at Loft hostel again.
If they return you early, and you’re not dead from the travels, you could get a night cap at the lovely Loft Hostel bar
Day 5: Last day in Paradise
08:00 – Check-out from loft hostel
Don’t forget to say good bye to all your new friends and the fabulous staff at the hostel.
09:00 – The Blue Lagoon (with transfer)
It’s a great idea to visit the Blue Lagoon on your way back to the airport. The main reasons for this is a) the Blue Lagoon is on the way to the airport where you are headed anyway and b) you are going to be a bit tired from all the traveling so soaking in a hot pools is just what the doctor ordered.
There are many different packages you can book at the Blue Lagoon but if you want a little luxury without paying a stupid amount extra I recommend the premium package that includes a towel, bathrobe and a face mask. For a departure at 09:00 you would book your Blue Lagoon ticket at 10:00.
The bus will pick you up from the hostel and take you to the Lagoon where you can store your luggage for a small fee while you enjoy the lagoon. Then when you are ready you take the next transfer to the airport. Just make sure you are at the airport at least 2 hours before departure.
If you are flying out at 17:00 you can leave Reykjavík a little later or you could splurge on one last nice meal at the Lava Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon. .
17:00 (5 pm) – Leave Iceland (with a tear in your eye already counting the days until you can come back – with all your friends)
If you are flying with Icelandair to the US you are likely to leave around 17:00 – if you are flying with WOW on the other hand you are likely to fly between 15:00 and 16:00.
You need to be at the airport at least 2 hours before departure and I recommend you take advantage of checking in online in advance or that you uses the self-service kiosks at the airport. That way you can just drop off your luggage and head straight to security.
Download this itinerary as a PDF here
If you enjoy this sample itinerary (or the blog in general) I hope you will consider booking these tours through us. We make a small commission of everything you book through us but you don’t pay anything extra. This small commission allows us to carry on providing excellent, relevant and free travel advice for you and everyone else traveling to Iceland.
If you want us to take care of your booking for you (which is super easy and convenient for you because we take care of everything) you can also send us an e-mail and we’ll get to it ASAP.