Hello – Are you still doing travel research? You helped us out in the summer for our Austria/Hungary trip. I was wondering if you would be able to do about an hour of research for a trip we haven’t booked yet. We are thinking of doing Iceland in December. Likely we will have to rent a car and it will be from 4-6 days. Big priority is definitely of course the Northern Lights if possible and also the Blue Lagoon. But that’s all I have so far We have two children (8,5) so child friendly is a must for everything. We also are vegetarian, which I know will be very hard there (so maybe grocery stores are better for us). I need help with the itinerary – where to drive, etc. as well as possible places to stay. Please let me know if you are able to take this on. Thanks a lot!
Itinerary / Driving:
If you are looking at 4-6 days I have a couple thoughts:
Option 1 – An Easy and Relaxing 4 days:
Day 1: Blue Lagoon / Nap or walk around Reykjavik / Northern Lights Tour
Day 2: Golden Circle / Northern Lights Back up Tour
Day 3: One Day on the road to avoid the crowds. Either head S.E. to Vik to see the formations and black sand beaches; drive N.W. or fly to the Arctic Circle or Greenland
Day 4: Sights in Reykjavik before your flight
Option 2 – Drive the Ring Road – 830 miles / 16 hrs of driving (Iceland is all about the scenery and this will be a beautiful drive. But the days will be long, it will get dark early, and the snow/winds can be unpredictable).
Day 1: Stop at Blue Lagoon after your arrival and then head West along the ring road. (There is no reason not to head East I have two reasons for recommending West. That will make the Golden Circle earlier in your trip so in case something goes wrong later in the trip you don’t miss it. It also means you be North earlier in your trip in case you have to turn around. I have read lots of blogs of those who have driven the ring road year round with no problems, but it is still December in Iceland and anything can happen with the weather.)
Day 2: Continue N.W stopping along the way
Day 3: You should be in Northern Iceland
Day 4: Start to head South
Day 5: Head west past Skaftafell Glacier and Vik (black sand beaches and rock formations). Spend the night in Reykjavik (take a Northern Lights cruise if you didn’t already see them)
Day 6: Spend the day in Reykjavik before your flight
Option 3 – More relaxing 6 days that is a hybrid of option 1 and 2 – where you can relax but also have several day drives (or even overnights) outside of the city.
Regardless of which option you pick. Up to date conditions on the ring road can be found at vegagerdin.is
Blue Lagoon: Blue Lagoon is a popular destination for people with kids. It is right next to the airport, so for the sake of time, this is a great stop as soon as you arrive or the day you leave. http://www.bluelagoon.com/
Plan a Northern Lights boat tour your first night in town. If you don’t see them they will provide a pass for the following night. I used Special Tours but really I think all of the companies are the same. Tours depart at about 9 pm. http://www.specialtours.is/northern-lights-by-boat/
Reykjavik sights (you really only need 1 day but there is more than enough to fill 2 – 3 days)
You can also do a Whale Watching Tour during the day.
National Museum: http://www.visitreykjavik.is/national-museum-iceland
Settlement Museum: (there were lots of school groups when I was there). http://www.visitreykjavik.is/settlement-exhibition
Hallgrimskirkja church – iconic spot in Reykjavik
Golden Circle: Plan on 1 full day doing the Golden Circle. This is easy to navigate on your own and consists of several stops so you are never in the car too long. Geyser (after which all other Gyser’s are named), Gullfoss Waterfall and Pingvellir National Park to see the Parliament sight from 960 AD and the rift between the North American and Eurasian plates (our favorite stop). Also recommend a short stop at Kerid Crater which is on the way to the Golden Circle.
Other options: Iceland Air has some day trips above the Arctic Circle or even to Greenland. https://www.airiceland.is/
Skaftafell Ice Caves at Vatnajokull National Park (take a tour to visit the ice caves)
Langmannalugar – gorgeous scenery of multicolored mountains and lava fields
Car Rentals and Hotels:
Off of a recommendation I used Lagoon Car Rental. They are a new company and a small independent company. I thought they were much cheaper than anyone else and very friendly. https://lagooncarrental.is/ If you want to go with a more traditional company, Europcar is also located at the airport.
Black Pearl are centrally located apartments in Reykjavik. http://www.blackpearlreykjavik.com/
Website for other apartments in Reykjavik (may help with vegan options if you can prepare your own meals). http://www.reykjavik4you.com/
Hotel Laxnes – outside of the city limits but it has a thermal pool, you could see the Northern Lights and it is a great price. They also have some family rooms and rooms with cooking facilities. http://hotellaxnes.is/
Trip advisor best family hotels list: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotels-g189970-zff4-Reykjavik_Capital_Region-Hotels.html
Ion Hotel looks amazing for getting out of the city and seeing the N. Lights. http://ioniceland.is/
Hotel Ranga is another luxury option outside of the Reykjavik. https://www.hotelranga.is/northern-lights
Hotel Glymur is about 35 mins North of Reykjavik (Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor favorites). This could be a great option regardless of which itinerary option you pick. You have a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights outside of the city. You could stay here after the Golden Circle, your first night in town instead of Reykjavik or as a first night as you head North on the Ring Road. http://hotelglymur.is/home-2/
My mom and I stayed at Hotel Budir in West Iceland (near Snaefellsnes which is the setting for Jules Vernes Journey to the Center of the Earth). This is an expensive hotel but is one of those amazing places that stays on a short list of favorites for a long long time. (They also do a Northern Lights wake up call) http://www.hotelbudir.is/
Be forewarned, food in Iceland is expensive. For vegetarian options and to keep the prices down, you may want to stop at a grocery store once you arrive and pick up some staples, snacks etc…
I did find a couple of good websites with some options:
Vegagerdin.is (ring road conditions)
Visiticeland.com (Official tourism site)
Guide to Driving the Golden Circle: https://expertvagabond.com/golden-circle-iceland/
Driving the Golden Circle: http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/2014/12/drive-it-yourself-the-golden-circle/
Ring Road: Lonely Planet article attached
Check out a book on Iceland Folklore, Sagas or Jules Vern to read as a family before or during the trip. Icelanders are very proud of the Viking heritage and their folklore/sagas.