I visited Iceland in 2015 with a group of friends. I wanted to visit Iceland in winter for two main reasons. One to see the Northern Lights, and the second to visit the Glacier Caves. We were there for a week starting on February 24th 2015.
I am from Canada and most of the flights to Iceland from Canada is directly to Reykjavik Airport, Iceland. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and about two third of the population of Iceland lives in Reykjavik. We rented a car from Sixt Rental near the airport. They were kind of enough to upgrade us to an SUV with snow tires at no extra charge!
We choose to drive in Iceland in winter due to the following reasons:
- We needed to drive to Jokulsarlon Lagoon which is about four hours from Reykjavik for the Glacier Cave Tour. There were no day tours available from Reykjavik, and there were four of us. It was more economical to rent.
- The car also saved us money on transfer from/to airport.
- The car also gave us more flexibility in terms of driving out to see Northern Lights at different times ( not during a specific time of a tour)
- It also allowed us to go into downtown and to different parts whenever we decided to do something spontaneously. Gave us a lot more flexibility.
- We were worried about the driving conditions in Iceland. However, we were from Toronto and Ottawa in Canada and was used to driving in heavy snow and ice conditions. One of the things we did not expect was the heavy wind in Iceland. It made for some scary drives during our trip
- Also you would read on some forums that the area near Reykjavik is flat . Not fully true. Even within 15 – 20 minutes of Reykajivk there are some mini hills and slanted roads in which you need to be careful in winter driving conditions.
In hindsight, I would still recommend driving in Iceland in Winter. You may have a few steering wheel griping moments, but all the flexibility and cost savings will make up for it. I believe the driving makes the whole experience richer. One of my favorite memories in Iceland is driving from Reykajivk to Jokulsarlon. I have covered this experience in another post.
We stayed at the Grand Hotel Reykjavik. It was a very nice hotel, with clean well decorated rooms and lobby. The staff at reception was very helpful. Daily breakfast was included in our stay, and the breakfast was good. Had lots of choices and tasty food. One day I was able to see the Northern lights from my bed in the hotel! Parking was included in the stay, and there was always parking available. This hotel is about 15 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, but not an issue for us since we had a car. We always took the car into the city. We were able to find free parking in the city whenever we went in.
For food, we had a heavy breakfast (included with our hotel stay), for lunch we did grocery shopping and made sandwiches and had snacks, and for dinner we mainly ate out at different places in Reykjavik and near Reykjavik. Since we had a car, we had the flexibility to drive around find different places to eat at.
We were prepared in terms of clothing. We dressed in layers and had snow pants and parkas for most of the trip. We all had winter boots. We were never cold. Important to dress for the weather, or else your experience will be ruined from the cold.
I loved Iceland. The ruggedness of the landscape and the kindness of the people left a lasting impression.